14 years. Where has the time gone. I recently said on a podcast that the reason choosing my path in life has been so easy is because of Jai. Every year on this day I re-read a piece of Year 10 English homework I wrote on 7th May, 2007, six days after his transcendence. Each time I'm blown away by what an incredible human Jai was. Below is the homework description, and the unedited piece of writing from 14 years ago...
Section C: Writing to Inform, Explain, Describe
Describe a person who has impressed you or been a strong influence in your life, bringing out the key characteristics that make him or her special for you.
Heaven’s Missing Angel
1st May 2007, a truly inspiring gentleman’s fight against a brain tumour had ended, and heaven’s missing angel returned to the Promised Land, where he would rest in peace with God.
8th May 1988, Jai Vaghela was born, unaware of the difficult life he was about to face, and the influence he would cast above everyone involved in his life. Two years into his innocent life, he was diagnosed with a brain tumour - it was from here on we saw the bravery and courage which would exceed that of a lion.
During these early years, he was continuously undergoing chemotherapy in an attempt to overcome the cancer. Stunts were placed into his brain at the time, intending to help him live his life for another 10 years, instead extending his life to 18 years. His fighting spirit was outlined with his smile, which would be present throughout his life despite his feelings, with the word ‘complain’ not in his vocabulary. These characteristics made him special to everyone, and this can be shown as there was a 300 plus attendance at his funeral: family, friends, school teachers, nurses and the list goes on, as hundreds came to pay their respects to one of the greatest human beings I have known.
Art, swimming and cartoons were two aspects of his life which he was dearly fond of. He loved to draw, and would do so especially whilst watching cartoons, his favourite being ‘Scooby Doo’. The passion for art he shared caused him to dream of a career in art, which in my opinion would have suited him very well, after the experiences which he had been through during his life. Art Attack was a programme well-watched by Jai, as he was very much inspired by it. In 2006, he visited the Art Attack set, and watched the show in real-life. Not only did he visit this, but was also allowed to explore backstage of ‘Ready Steady Cook’. Regularly, he visited the Aspire swimming pool, where he would go with his two brothers: aged 12 and 22. ‘Cartoon Network’ was by far his favourite television channel as he loved to watch his favourite animation, most notably ‘Scooby Doo’. I remember when he used to ring me, asking to go and watch the latest film, such as ‘Shrek’ or ‘Toy Story’ and the other Disney classics.
Manners were a part of his life which everybody admired. His use of the simple ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ was perfect, and he never forgot to do so. There was even a rolling joke within the elders in the family, that all of our generation should take part in a course, with him teaching us manners and how to talk with respect. Jai was truly respectful, and in return was fully respected by the world. How a gentleman with such values should be taken away will be the biggest rhetorical question we may ever ask ourselves.
Jai was a devout follower of Hinduism, especially in Sai Baba. He used the values and teachings of Sai Baba in his everyday life - such as treating everyone with respect, and non-violence. It could be said that during his life he completed his karma, achieved moksha, when passing away, broke out of the cycle of death and rebirth, and his soul was now resting in peace in heaven.
Sport was also another hobby of his, as he would play and watch it, especially cricket. He loved cricket, and followed the Indian cricket team through their highs and lows. Wicket-keeper and batsman were his favourite positions and he would always want to be first in each category when we would all play at each other’s houses. Even when wheel chaired during his later life he still continued to play with us - he was a real fighter. Most people would say ‘I’m injured’, ‘I’m too tired and hurt’; Jai would say ‘Let’s play!’ His attitude was so positive, and he would never think or say anything negative. These characteristics made him the human being he was, and is the reason why we are all influenced by him.
Family was very important to him and it was due to the family, he kept fighting to live another day. His unconditional love allowed us to support him right to his very end and this helped him to continue living. As his parents flew all around the world in search of treatment for his brain tumour he never complained, but just continued. It was like his motto: ‘Keep going forward, don’t look back’. February 2007 was the time he was hospitalised as the brain tumour began to worsen and grow, and numerous operations took place in an attempt to save his life. Unfortunately, after one of the operations, he went into a deep coma, in which he never woke up from. His last words being said to his father, ‘Thank you for looking after me’. It lasted three months, before a heart attack put an end to his life. Hundreds of people gathered at the funeral, where tears were shed in memory of the great man, and when cremated - Heaven’s missing angel had returned. Jai Vaghela will in no doubt rest in peace, after his truly inspiring and impressive life. Myself as his first cousin, I will never forget him, and will aspire to the values he followed.
The writer aches, so writes. The less ache, the less to write. The writer instead shifts, digs and mines, for more to write. To develop the craft.
Otherwise, the writer stalls, and waits. As time passes, the drain clogs, and the writer’s words get stuck.
Until, the writer realises, the writing is happening inside, subconsciously, and writing the story yet to be told.
The writer embraces renewal, so writes about it. The writer only then realises, the heaviness of its earlier writing, now serving as a catalyst for change.
The writing was a crutch to cope everyday, yet after renewal, a crutch that transformed to a spark, a hope and an idea, with a refreshed desire to drive positive change.
The renewal is written here:
>> Quarterly Insights, Part One: The Renewal
Inside, musings of hustling, Queen, Toggl, Rubix cubes, heaven and hell, and the beauty of real friendships.
The chains, tight and heavy for an age, start to lose their grip.
What once weighed down heavy on the feet, now allows a faster pace.
A walk turns to a gallop.
The man is set free.
In every season, the man is tested by a new shackle. A new chancer tries to add weight.
A person, a product, an idea; a force that stretches beyond, and weighs heavily.
The man must remain strong to fight the distraction.
And fight to keep the shackles off.
For when the man is without the shackle, the man is free, powerful and a force to change his world.
My feet are damp. The muddy water continues to sieve through my Asics. I’m walking back and forth on the same patch of muddy grass.
At the foot of a hill that I can’t dare look up towards. A hill so big, so testing, yet so fruitful.
The start of a journey. The time everything feels overwhelming and exciting. Yet, the muddy water makes my socks heavy.
I know this climb is going to be a test. Hot and cold. Wind and rain. Light and dark. The swirling path circles around the hill, with a clear, yet ambiguous path to the top.
Will I make it?
I have no doubt. The climb begins.
There’s an interesting shift that I see evolving in the next decade. It’s starting in some areas already. But it’ll only continue to grow as we move into the future.
The rise of Artificial Intelligence, or AI. The movies paint an exciting picture. The reality I feel will reside in automating, replacing and controlling all our functional work and jobs. I've been thinking about the implications on the fitness world in particular, and I can only see positives coming out of it - enabling those in it to do even better, more meaningful work.
Which leaves creativity. If we have a world run by AI, could this be what is needed to unleash the growth and creativity that is bubbling inside us all? No more of the functional, basic and mundane (even if delegated). Only the creative spark to power growth and change.
Here's a couple books I read in March:
Tattooist of Auschwitz - Heather Morris. A real page turner that grips you right from the start. The story behind the creation of the book is remarkable. The lead character, Lale, had a story to tell and waited a long time and the right person to tell it. Heather does it fantastically, and in a gripping fiction read.
Cylka’s Journey - Heather Morris. A follow up on the above, with the life of another character explored in yet again, thrilling fashion. A fiction tale following Cylka’s life in the Soviet Gulags, directly after a few years in Auschwitz!
Four Agreements - Don Miguel Ruiz. A nice easy read with deep truths based on ancient Toltec wisdom. A lot of valuable advice on dealing with Muck, or the parasite as he refers to it as, and how simple agreements can make a profound difference, if implemented.
Brown Baby - Nikesh Shukla. An interesting memoir of a father writing to his daughter explaining difficult themes around family, grief, race and big topics in the world that are often hard to discuss.
Skin In The Game - Nassim Taleb. This is one of the best business books I’ve read in a long time, and it’s not actually a business book. Filled with models of thinking, framing, and understanding behind how so much of society works, it’s probably a book I need to re-read a few times to truly understand. The key point: beware of anyone with no skin in the game. I thought of the fitness industry a lot when reading this.
The Almanack of Naval Ravikant - Eric Jorgenson. I was gifted this book a few weeks back and read it twice on a weekend. It’s a fantastic resource and collection of Naval’s thinking on navigating business, health and happiness.
I’m currently reading Think Like A Monk by Jay Shetty (non fiction) and Da Vince Code by Dan Brown (fiction).
I’m asleep in the depths of the savanna.
Under the shade of a tree that lets a bit of sunlight through the gaps of the leaves.
I’ve been asleep for about 8, 10, maybe 12 hours.
My stomach is hungry, it’s time to find my prey.
So I get up, stumble my way past my pride, and head out.
I’ve got my strategic hat on, as I catch my eye on a few lone wildebeests.
My mane is itchy, but I’m ready.
I skirt around the outside, and without giving the wildebeest a chance, pounce.
Without hesitation, I bite his neck, cut his windpipe off, and kill him for my dinner.
Luckily, I’m not far from the pride, who are overjoyed at some extra food tonight.
My pride is happy. My stomach is settled. And my hard work is done. Time to rest and go again tomorrow.
It’s sort of like a market cycle. Or an ECG graph that turns fatal.
It hits peaks, then troughs, then equalises. Or corrects itself.
I’m learning irreversible decisions (or close to, as nearly all can be otherwise) bring with it similar cycles.
The emotional highs, that it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Then the thought that it’s the end of the world.
And then, something interesting happens. Usually about 30 days later. The rollercoaster calms down, the knee-jerks are out the window, and clarity ensues.
That’s the time to decide on moving and shaking big rock. Everything up till then may be a little too risky, or emotionally charged. And may only fire right back.
Laying back in my armchair, I’m looking out the window into the sky.
It’s a cloudy day, with the possibility of future blue skies.
On one cloud, I notice a little gift.
A beautiful wrapped gift in red paper, with a golden ribbon on the top.
My lucky day.
I transport out through the window, and onto the cloud; eager to see what’s inside.
I rip the paper off and there lays an onion with a memory photo and a tag: “peel me”.
Curious, I peel each layer, with each layer revealing yet another memory photo and tag: “peel me”.
I peel and peel till I’m exhausted, with nothing to show for it except the exhaustion.
So I transport back into my chair, and seconds later, spot another cloud with a gift.
This time, I think twice, and let it go past. I know that trick.
An hour passes, and clouds with tempting little gifts continue to pass by. Then, all of a sudden, blue skies dominate, and the clouds have all disappeared. Bliss.
It’s crazy how scarily reliant we are on Mr. Zuck’s crew.
On 8th January I wrote this piece: What If Mark Pulls The Rug.
By the time I publish this, Mark may have put the rug back under our feet, but the outage across the main media channels (WhatsApp, Instagram & Facebook) got me thinking if this may be a pending reality at some point in the near future. It'd certainly be interesting to see it play out.
Maybe not in a few years, but who knows in a decade or two.
The funny thing was, my first reaction was to check my WiFi, put 4G on and off, before I just Googled: Is WhatsApp down?
With how many billions (or trillions?) of dollars at stake, I keep having this recurring thought of what media may look like in a generation or two.
Yet, who knows, that new technology may be coding in this very lockdown, somewhere in the world..
Drayton Fencing is fixing the fences.
A few young mothers are walking their prams.
An old man is keeping his blood flowing.
A few trees are starting their spring blossom.
A rugby player is doing drills to keep his game sharp.
A few birds are playing their soundtrack.
A couple walk by texting into their phones.
A few kids are playing on the seesaw.
Every other person is walking their dog, letting them roam and smell the other dogs nearby.
A personal trainer is adapting with a few kettlebells and rings, with the hard working client.
And there I am, downloading what I see, another typical day in the local park.
A glimmer of light.
A train, with the old school set up of passengers riding on top, had been stuck moving slowly through a tunnel.
Hope relinquished at the moment of the glimmer.
Eyes opened, high fives all around. Small smiles brightening the ambience.
The glimmer is held onto.
Before, and all of a sudden, beautiful swarming rays of sunlight hit the roof.
Small smiles turned ear to ear.
The train, which for so long treaded carefully on the tracks in the dark, now hits full speed, gliding in space, air and time.
I’ve always known I’m someone that needs a lot of sleep. For the past four years though, since I stopped personal training (where you have no choice), I’ve chained myself into believing I need to be up at the crack of dawn, no matter what.
A typical week has always been to wake up 5-5.30am Sunday to Friday, getting about 6.5 to 7 hours sleep, then on Saturday, with no alarms, sleeping for 11-12 hours. Not as bad as it could be, but clearly, something wasn't right if that was the weekly requirement.
That was the cycle for years. This past Christmas, I flirted with the idea of stopping the alarm clock. For two weeks, I slept with no alarm and was sleeping 10-11 hours a night. As January came round, I thought to myself there’s no way I can get anything done sleeping this much.
Of course, I was in a pretty deep recovery hole, and needed to go through the initial long nights of sleep to settle on a 'normal' routine. But I resisted, and instead, went back to the grind.
Then I took a full week off everything about 4-5 weeks ago, and this time, told myself I’d persist through the initial recovery. For the first 7-10 days it was 10-12 hours a night, then ever since, it’s settled on a regular 8.5-9 hour rhythm.
And I’m amazed at the results. I’ve always known the power of sleep - but because I slept on average 7 hours, I thought I was ticking that box. The problem was, I was always fighting my body.
Now, I know I have the luxury of working online with no real schedule (I can start my work day at any time), and I don’t have young kids (which will screw all this up when the times comes!), but the big lesson for me has been to finally, listen to what my body has been telling me for years.
No more guilt, and no more thinking the only way to move forward is to wake up at 5am; I’ll only ever do it now if my body says so, which, as daylight savings kicks in, may just happen. Incidentally, I’m probably more productive than I’ve been, and I thought I already was!
The sleep hustle is well and truly broken.
It’s one thing being the main lead in your movie, it’s another watching it. When you’re the main lead, you have one set of eyes. You only ever see, feel and hear what filters through to you.
When you stop playing the lead and start watching, you start seeing things a little differently. You become the observer. You start noticing new emotions, motives and actions. Across all the characters, scenes and screens.
The lens expands, and the narrow path you may have been walking down transforms into vast fields.
Pulling the plug to extract yourself from the movie feels obscure, yet the level head that often arrives brings with it freedom, poise and intricate balance.
Imagine taking a birds-eye photograph of what you’re doing right now.
Then zoom out 100x. Then 1000x. Then 10000x.
What do you see?
I caught myself thinking about Buzz Lightyear on a walk this morning.
His famous remark, “To Infinity and Beyond!” isn’t something to be taken lightly.
In geometry (I think), it points to the idea of a return to your starting point from the opposite direction.
But I feel mathematics may be attempting to make sense of something which is difficult to comprehend. Like, the idea of Buzz Lightyear taking off into nothingness, and continuing.
Infinity symbolises no limits. Never-ending, yet never beginning too.
A friend of mine asked me last week, “What would happen if we were in a rocket and just kept on going, where would we end up?”
That planted the seed for my wonder into Toy Story. My only answer for now is, “To Infinity and Beyond!”
If you go to the arcades, you’ll probably see a few kids playing Whac-a-mole.
At any moment, you gotta smash the mole down.
If you don’t strike it within a certain time or with enough force, it will eventually sink back into its hole with no score.
At first it starts off slow, then it gets faster.
Less moles inside, and more moles outside their holes.
As time goes by, the harder it gets. The more overwhelming it feels.
The more skilled and sharper you need to be to catch the mole.
Though, I wonder what would happen if we decide to let the moles go up and down. Come in and out.
And just be okay with that.
Would we be losing, or will we have cracked it?
One of my team always spoke of starting his days with lots of activity and self-care before any work.
I always found the idea of him starting work at 10am a bit strange. I used to think to myself, “Does he not enjoy it so much he wants to leap out of bed to do it?”.
Secretly, I wanted him to come try this method. He never did, even at the most obvious of hints. Now I know why.
Earlier today I told him that for the past few weeks I’ve been trying his way, and that I can’t see myself going back.
With it, I’ve stopped rushing the following:
I’m shocked I didn’t do this earlier. But what I’m also learning more and more is that only I can come to these realisations, and it'll come at the right time.
People can prod, coach and ideate, but it’s only when I'm ready, that it calls to me.
Ironically, my biggest fear of not working straight away was not having enough time to work. What’s happened instead is a higher output, less stress, and better thinking.
Now, all the hard work is done subconsciously while I’m vividly present in training, walking and reading.
So when I arrive at my desk, the typing is merely a formality.
Like salt in a pond of water.
You quickly dissolve into the mix.
The music fades.
The guard drops.
You’re left with undivided attention.
And a pleasant sound, keeping you in rhythm.
I like to repeat Nocturnes in B Flat Minor.
As I let myself dissolve with absolute focus.
In Feb I read a few books, and all of them were quality. Here's a quick review on each, all highly recommended:
Red Notice - Bill Browder. This one surprised me. Started off as a business memoir, turned into a political thriller, finished as a human rights campaign. Real page turner. And shocking that it’s a true story.
Forty Rules of Love - Elif Shafak. I loved this book, couldn’t put it down. Really clever writing, with a book within a book, along with plenty of lessons and learnings to soak in and absorb. I particularly enjoyed her push to explore the depths of old scriptures, rather than reading at face value.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo - Christy Lefteri. A moving fiction read about a family’s journey from Syria to England, and the impact trauma has on us at the deepest level.
The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho. A short tale with many philosophical lessons intertwined into it, with the core addressing why people don’t achieve what they truly want in life. I like his writing style a lot - clear and concise.
Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens. Another page turner that explores themes of loneliness, rejection, hope and survival, all with a captivating story and a great twist at the end. I hear it’s being made into a film!
It’s a hard reality to face.
Yet, the ultimate accountability.
When you’re naked in front of the mirror, your accumulated thoughts, actions and behaviours all lay in front of you.
The amalgamation of your past decisions.
Good or bad.
Love him or hate him, MJ had a few good words to say about it:
I'm gonna make a change
For once in my life
It's gonna feel real good
Gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right
It all starts with the (wo)man in the mirror.
Take it all away and listen.
Listen to the soft, sweet silence of nothing.
Maybe a few tweets, maybe some cars driving by.
But otherwise, just you and the silence.
No touching, no listening. Only feeling; with all of your heart.
The soft, sweet silence of nothing.
An opportunity to look within and have a dialogue.
To feel the nakedness of nothing.
To stare into the abyss.
The soft, sweet silence of nothing, may quickly turn to a scary silence.
A scary silence, with so much to give.
For a long time, I’d journal and forget about it. I’d continue with the day with no consideration for what was written.
Introspection with no implementation.
And it cost me. A lot.
When reviewing 2020, I read through all my entries. What I found were gems that told me everything I needed to know in that specific moment of time. Right in front of me.
But I missed it, because I rushed it, and never soaked it up. I skimped over my raw gut instinct that comes alive in the weird, lovely subconscious state that my body is in shortly after waking.
The gut never lies. The question is more, will we listen to it?
I write. Then I delete it all.
I write again. Then I delete it again.
I stand up, sit down. Go for a walk. Make a coffee. Read a random article.
I take a break.
I then try again.
I write. Then I delete it all.
I take a step forward, then two steps back.
Waiting for a giant leap with persistence.
I read on average one or two books a month.
Some I finish, most I don't. Even more I skim.
90% of the books on my shelf, I'm ashamed to say, were read on the toilet.
Apparently the reason for this misgiving.
More recently, I’ve flipped this switch to carve out time in my day to just read.
I’m not sure how, as an author, I’ve never appreciated or cherished this time. There’s nothing more magical than words strung together to make beautiful sentences, to then combine them into powerful messages that educate, inspire, and/or entertain.
I can’t say I'll stop reading on the toilet. But I can say I’ve definitely made that time the minority!