Tag Archives: fear

Wall builder or destroyer? Choose.

We were there in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down. Now the walls are going back up. – Bono, talking to the BBC in December 2016

Greetings, mesdames et messieurs.

I hope this toasty January finds you in scintillatingly cheerful humour.

That line by Bono has stuck in my craw ever since U2 did that gig with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in December.


They are everywhere.

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Pick your DNA. Before DNA picks you.

What’s going to happen to the world the day after you’re gone?

Whoa. Back up.

Do you care what happens to the world the day after you’re gone?

I meet a lot of people who are just drifting through life. Trying to stay out of trouble. Avoiding any kind of impact, good or bad, on anyone. Marking time at their jobs until they can retire, put their feet up, and “finally start living”.

One chap last year told me he had one year left to work.

“What will you do then?” I asked. “As little as possible” came the reply.

My prediction? He won’t last long.

Or, he’ll find himself henpecked and harried by those around him, who will happily use the time that he won’t.

He’ll be wondering how he ever found the time to work before. Almost every retiree I meet says that.

A car without an engine is a rusting hulk. The scrapyard beckons.

The only reason for the car, in fact, is to allow the engine, and you, to get around.

Human beings are not a true lifeform.

DNA is the lifeform. We’re all just carriers for our DNA.

Every human being is just another experiment being run by DNA. What, that person crashed and burned. Whoops, I guess that experiment was a failure. Let’s not repeat that one.

But there’s a twist.

A gold nugget that most people never learn:

You get to change your DNA.

Disclaimer: I’m not sure how true this is physically. I’m no geneticist. Although I am reading an increasing amount about how you apparently can switch certain of your genes on/off by your behaviour.

But mentally? You can alter, choose, change, adapt, tweak your mental and psychological DNA.

Most people never do.

Their DNA is, Survive. Stay alive. This life is a crock. Survive until tomorrow. Hang on until I retire. Life sucks, then you die.

They’re really just acting as carriers for other people’s DNA. Their own DNA forfeited the match and left town.

Last month, while in Toronto, I had an encounter I won’t forget in a hurry.

Pastor G, as he’s always been labelled, is Gerald Griffiths. Good old Welshman. With a name like that, what else could he be.

He inherited the label from his wife, Mrs G, the storyteller.

He a career clergyman, she a great storyteller. So great, in fact, that she started recording them and shipping them around the world to pastors and teachers in far-flung places where education was hard to come by. It turned into a tidy little business called A Visit with Mrs G.

Mrs G is gone now, but Pastor G was one day shy of ninety-six, and he stood and talked with me at the back of the church for twenty minutes.


For twenty minutes.

If he was in any pain or discomfort, he showed none. Seen many 96-year-olds stand for more than 60 seconds?

He’s a bit hard of hearing, and slightly stooped, but that’s it. His eyes are unchanged. Dark. Focused.

His eyes lock on you, and you realize very quickly: He’s on you. You have his full attention. He is listening.

And his mind? Razor-sharp.

I had not seen him since he officiated at my wedding 27 years ago. That had been his last official act as church pastor before retiring.

Retiring. Yeah, right.

He hasn’t retired.

“I’ve got five projects on the go. You know about the church in China? It’s an adult church, because the authorities make it difficult to teach the Bible to childen. But that’s changing. So we have to equip the people to be Sunday school teachers. We’re translating Mrs G recordings into e-books and podcasts and sending them over via the net. That’s just the biggest project, but there are four besides. What’s your email address? Here, jot it down for me. You used to work in wind engineering, didn’t you? How are those chaps that you used to room with? Are they still in the faith? Where in the UK are you? What do you make of Theresa May? I wish she’d do away with Boris Johnson, he’s a loose cannon.”

And with that, he walked away. Unaided. No cane, no wheelchair.


Met many 96-year-olds with an email address? Who know what an e-book is? A podcast?

That, folks, is great DNA. My mind was blown.

Note to self: Be like this when I’m 96. When I’m 106.

This engine is waaaaaay oversized. Well maintained, purring like a cat. It will eventually blow the body and chassis apart, but he doesn’t care. He’s tied up with the engine. He isn’t him, he’s the DNA.

What’s your DNA?

In the 1960’s, a young man, just graduated from Cambridge law school, returned to his island home and found it in political turmoil. The federal government resented the islanders, and declared them all persona non grata.

They didn’t want independence, it was forced on them.

The island had loads of disadvantages. Mostly uneducated peasants. A history of ethnic conflict. High population density. No natural resources. Hot, humid climate.

Only three advantages.

(1) Strategic location for trading.

(2) Human brains. Lots of ‘em. Uneducated, undeveloped, but loads of potential.

(3) One local bloke with a decent education, vision, optimism, natural leadership, and loads of pluck.

Go check the place out today.

Lee Kuan Yew had great DNA. Singapore punches waaaaaay above its weight.

When the Boxing Day tsunami hit Aceh and Phuket, the Singapore navy and air force scrambled. Ships sailed and aircraft flew in aid.

The tsunami-affected governments had two reactions:

(1) Gratitude. Obviously. They needed the help.

(2) Shock and fear. Who are these guys? Where did Singapore get this military capacity? The puny little flyweight we cut adrift fifty years ago is a potential threat. Living next door. Damn.

Lee Kuan Yew saw it all in his mind long before it happened. He had a vision for what his little island home could be. Even after he was gone.

Have you picked your DNA yet?

If you don’t pick your DNA, someone else’s DNA will pick you.

What your mind can imagine, you can create. What you do not imagine, never happens.

Pick your fear. Make it a Smaug.

I’ve just come up with a cool business idea.

The Fear Store.

Buy your fears here. Learn how to be scared in new and more interesting ways. Then buy some fears to give to your loved ones for Christmas.

Think it’ll work?

Sigh. Well, it was fun dreaming.

Most of us don’t have a shortage of fear. It’s not a highly priced commodity. We won’t pay to get some when we run out, because, incredibly, it seems to reproduce itself with amazing consistency.

Every. Blasted. Day.

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The joy of uncomfortable conversations

I made a cool discovery this year.

Or more accurately, made a cool re-discovery.

Success is a function of your willingness to have uncomfortable conversations.

Last week, I quit my contract job. Without another one to go to.

I had been working flat out for a year, with only a couple of short breaks. My mental health was suffering. I wasn’t enjoying the work at all. My weekends were spent recovering from the week, just in time to go back in for more punishment Monday morning.

A confluence of unexpected family circumstances meant that, if I quit before the end of the contract, I’d be able to recharge, do some much-needed DIY around the house, and enjoy a holiday with my youngest daughter before she shoots off to start university.

And I’d be able to rethink what I do, and why I do it. I’d have some time to write posts like this one.

I had to bid farewell to colleagues I’d been working with for a year. One or two of them, I’d grown quite fond of.

A voice in my head was saying, Are you nuts? Continue reading

“What the hell is going on?”

Ah. Remember that line? The Donald?

I have this desperate, innate desire to feel that everything is under control.

My control.

I desperately want to feel like I have my finger on the pulse of the world. Nobody’s going to come along and upset my apple cart. God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world, yadda, yadda. (My world, at least.)

I desperately want to feel like I know what’s going on.

Desire is the wrong word. More like, a guttural, animalistic urge.

And when this urge is unsatisfied for long enough, when there’s too much change that I hadn’t foreseen, my instinctive reaction is, What the hell is going on?

You have this same urge.

The Idiot in you says, Somebody DO something. Continue reading

My forecast for your life: Bad stuff. Do you want the details?

I have a brother who has a thankless job.

He’s a severe weather warning meteorologist, covering southern Ontario in Canada.

Whenever there is severe weather, be it expected or unexpected, I can find him in the news. He’ll get interviewed and quoted by journalists (most recently, at time of writing, here).

Tornadoes, lightning strikes, blizzards, hurricanes . . . . . for all of them, he’s the face of Environment Canada’s weather forecasting service.

Get the forecast right, and he doesn’t get thanked, he’s just doing his job. Get it wrong . . . . . and he gets it in the neck.

What peeves me about this most recent blizzard event in New England is not that the forecasters got it wrong. They didn’t. They predicted a blizzard, and there was one. It just wasn’t as severe (in New York City, at least) as their mathematical models and scientific judgement predicted.

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Fear! The city is rife with it!

Fear is really just a chronic disease that we’re all afflicted with.

Potentially, but not necessarily, fatal. No cure, but plenty of treatment for the symptoms. You can develop terrific coping strategies, if you listen to the right specialists and advisors.


(Hint: That might mean ditching your current specialists in favour of new ones.)

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Damn the journalists, full steam ahead

The radio comes on in my bedroom at 6am.

It usually takes 30 minutes before the irritating sound of BBC 4 finally moves me to haul my carcass out of bed. Lately it’s been only 20 minutes, as I’m now having to chauffeur one offspring unit to a new school, which calls for a 10-minute sleep-in deficit. (Growl)

This morning, it only took 15 minutes.

Cause I was mad at the flippin’ radio.

Doom. Gloom. The markets have fallen again. Politicians wringing their hands and covering their backsides. Commentators pessimistic about the economic data, short-term and long-term. All of them hopeless, and focussed on money, money, money.

Oh shut up, the bunch of you.

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Five Suggestions for Happiness!

I got to musing this week about the Five Rules for Happiness that I posted a while ago. It occurred to me that, while admirable, they are very general platitudes, and therefore easy to argue away.

So I thought I’d make them a little more specific, to make it easier to identify when I have (or haven’t) applied them.

An appropriate thing to do on the eve of a New Year.

1. Seek to develop a relationship with someone you would ordinarily avoid. What kind or person makes you uncomfortable or fidgety? For no rational reason? This year, identify someone with those characteristics, and go out of your way to find out how they think, what makes them tick, why they do what they do. You will surely gain an education, and possibly even a new friend.

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The Five Rules for Happiness

OK, these are not my invention. I’m not even sure who came up with them. I got them from my brother’s colleague, but I don’t think he penned them. (If you do know their origin, please post a comment; I’d like to give credit where credit is due.)  All I know is, these rules are good, and they are true. Here they are:

  1. Free your heart from hatred.
  2. Free your mind from worry.
  3. Live simply.
  4. Give more.
  5. Expect less.

What’s cool about these “rules” is they will work for anyone, any faith (or none), any nationality or language. Ican’t think of anyone whose life wouldn’t be better off without these.

I hope they are a help to you today.