The Power of Travelling

“The world is a book, and those who do no travel read only one page.”

Living in the 21st century the opportunity to see the world has never been greater. A quick search now tells me that the furthest city from my home town of Edinburgh is Dunedin, New Zealand. For less than £1000 I could go. Not that I have a spare grand lying around, but it’s very much saveable. For that price I would be able to see the full influence of travel in the world with Dunedin taking its name by the old name for Edinburgh and actually being modelled on Scotland’s capital. The perfect opportunity to see the real influence of human adventure over the years. Around 60’000 years ago humans first ventured out of Africa to all corners of the globe. With this brought visible changes to the world and the start of how we can change our planet; for good and for bad. Since then we have seen the rise and fall of many, many empires and changes in power and religion but this is all done by the natural human impulse to travel and explore.

Working for Tree of Knowledge allows me the opportunity to see parts of my country I would have never seen before. Couple with my personal travels, I am now lucky enough to have visited places like Laurencekirk and Los Angeles, Dunblane and Durban, Shettleston and the Shetlands or even Bradford and Bangkok. The incredible thing about this is that no matter where I venture, these places go back to how they were after the briefest of moments in each other’s company.

Or do they? I’ve always been a believer that places and travelling changes who we are but we also change the places we go. Seeing the extreme poverties in a South African township allowed me to experience a level of empathy previously unknown. The affluent Orange County in California afforded me a heightened, and slightly materialistic, ambition usually out of character for me. These places have undoubtedly changed me but they’re just places. Some of them have long lasting cultures, all weird and wonderful in their own way but you just have to look at Dubai over the last 20 years to see the massive impact humans continue to have on the world. So instead of this idea of going through life to try and ‘find yourself’, why not go through life and build who you are? Allow yourself to take small parts of the places you go to learn and grow. Leave your mark and take from it what you can.

Beyond this, remember that you shape the places you visit too, so think about how you do this and the effect this has on the next visitor. Above all, don’t litter.

 

Stuart Fenwick (@StuFenwick7)

Motivational Speaker at Tree of Knowledge (tree_of)

Anti-Fragility

My favourite villain is probably The Joker from Batman. Specifically, Heath Ledger’s famous performance in The Dark Knight. There is just something captivating about his obsession with chaos, disorder, and anarchy.

That positive impression of disorder is very much limited to the movie. Outside of that, most of us will agree that we prefer a more straightforward, ‘normal’ life.

This is mainly because when some sort of shock happens to an object or a person there are various paths it can take. If someone manages to come through an impactful event as strong as they were before, this is called resilient. And it is praised.

But we can also grow weaker due to a shock and this is what we would label fragility. However, there was (until recently) no terminology for something that benefits from shocks; to thrive from volatility.

Whilst there is a lot to be taken from resilience, there is no doubt that growing stronger is better than staying the same. So, we needed a word for it.

Various things happened on November 27th 2012. Micky Baker, the American guitarist, passed away. I turned 24 (and definitely felt fragile the next day). And Nassim Nicholas Taleb released a book titled ‘Antifragile: Things that gain from Disorder.’

 

“…a property of systems that increase in capability, resilience of robustness as a result of stressors, shocks, volatility, noise, mistakes, faults, attacks of failures.”

 

The official definition above represents Taleb’s background in the financial trading industry. A lot of his previous work tore up many of the automatically accepted beliefs of the world of money and stocks. He was the Little Red Riding Hood to the big, bad wolves of Wall Street.

This work was a continuation of his previous books, but this time with an excellent crossover with life outside of the financial world. It represented a philosophy we could apply to everyday life. Although he does not see himself as a philosopher or as a poet he describes economics as a tragedy.

There are many examples of anti-fragility throughout history. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Thomas Edison claimed he didn’t invent the light bulb straight away. Instead he found ‘10’000 ways that don’t work.’ After 30 rejections, Stephen King threw the manuscript of his first novel in the bin. It was his wife’s retrieval that gave us Carrie.

If you want more feel free to search for stories about Elvis Presley, Vincent van Gogh, Oprah Wimphrey, Fred Astaire, Albert Einstein… The list goes on.

It’s an old cliché to talk about bouncing back from failure and demonstrating resilience. However, staying the same isn’t enough for a lot of us who really want to achieve something in life. Even after a big event in life, we want to move forward.

Bad exam results, not getting into university, failing to get a promotion, or ending a relationship can all seem upsetting at the time. With enough determination and the proper attitude, we can genuinely turn these things on their head. It’s a step beyond resilience. Resilience 2.0 if you like.

As manager of the English football club Crystal Palace, Iain Dowie was once ridiculed for using the word ‘bouncebackability’ to praise his players’ staging a dramatic comeback. There was a campaign launched to get the word added to the dictionary resulting in a lot of laughs from football fans. Little did Dowie realise that the concept he was eluding to was one of great significance.

Life can be difficult, throwing up various obstacles along the way. There’s no reason we can’t run faster after jumping a hurdle.

And yes, yes, I’m well aware Little Red Riding Hood didn’t actually beat the wolf. It was the woodsman. However, having read the story for the first time since childhood recently, it’s really quite gruesome. Fortunately for me, despite the impact of the story, I was able to get over it and come out stronger afterwards.

 

Stuart Fenwick (@StuFenwick7)

Motivational Speaker at Tree of Knowledge (@tree_of)

Book review: Csikszentmihalyi – Flow

Have you ever been so engrossed in an activity that all sense of time and self has completely disappeared? Maybe your 90-minute football match has felt like five. Or perhaps you practised the guitar for so long you hadn’t even noticed that your fingers were bleeding. Or maybe even that book review you were forced to write was smashed out in a few short Friday morning hours. With this euphoric state of productivity, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi suggests we are experiencing a state known as ‘Flow’.

Back in the days of Sigmund Freud or Arthur Schopenhauer, the term positive psychology was interpreted as not suffering, or not being miserable; to strive to reach zero. One of the best elements of the Flow theory is that it goes beyond zero. It discusses this phenomenon of maybe actually enjoying life! Csikszentmihalyi discusses not only what this concept is but also ways we can approach life to help achieve this state.

 

“Despite the fact that even the least affluent among us are surrounded by material luxuries undreamed of even a few decades ago . . . people often end up feeling that their lives have been wasted, that instead of being filled with happiness their years were spent in anxiety and boredom.”

Csikszentmihalyi, M, 1990

 

The question of what makes us happy is not answered in the physical items that surround us; it is a deeper-rooted motivation within us (also spoken about by Dan Pink in Drive amongst other books). Whilst Csikszentmihalyi is certainly not alone in writing about this concept, his theory to the everyday person is so simple it introduces psychology that can actually have a tangible benefit to our lives.

 

I am hesitant to give too much away as it is obviously encouraged that you read the book. However, to address one of the concerns I had, it is certainly not just yet another self-help book about ‘being at one with the music’. Flow offers the opportunity to review and reflect on our current state of productivity and to take control of how we reshape it. Applied to life in and out of work, this is a more conscious approach that guides the reader not only to the next level but provides the invigorating revelation that, as humans, we will enjoy the challenges on the way.

 

The book is titled Flow simply because that is the main channel we are aiming for. However, as we progress, increasing our skill or the challenge to achieve this, we will naturally fall into other categories on occasion. Boredom, apathy, anxiety and worry (amongst others) are all part of the journey – and that’s okay. There is a reassurance with this book that combines the main aim of improving who and what we are with the awareness throughout that we remain human. It is human-being meets human-doing.
Go and find your flow.

 

Stuart Fenwick (@StuFenwick7)

Motivational Speaker at Tree of Knowledge (@tree_of)