May, June and July 2018

“Your lean process should be a lean process.”

Unknown

After reflecting on the delays between the last couple of posts, I have realised that batching them together should be an approach experimented with. By batching them together quarterly the process potentially becomes a little more streamlined, a little more substantial and just a little less intrusive.

As such, the last three months, May, June and July, are covered here.

May 2018

Copenhagen

IMG-20180520-WA0010

One of the elements of #Project20nine that I had been most excited about was taking part in Nordic Run in Copenhagen. The race would be the first time that I’d ventured to another country specifically for this kind of competition. It also had the added bonus of doing so with a friend. Yet, what transpired over the course of a few days was far more than just doing the run and hanging out with great people. From start to finish it was a trip that was a non-stop joy ride of all things awesome. Here are the major beats of this symphony of adrenaline and experience.

10am, Thursday – Coffee training session with Exmouth Coffee Roasters, London

Before leaving for Demark, there was coffee to be enjoyed. Let me begin by saying friends or not, the folks over at Exmouth Coffee Roasters are wonderful and, in my opinion, make some of the best coffee in the city.

Today I’d arranged to spend a few hours with Martin, the chief roaster, coffee expert extraordinaire and all-round Jedi with a coffee bean, to learn the basics of being a barista. That is, I was going to learn how to brew, and pour, the perfect coffee-base.

So, over the course of a morning, I learnt:

  • How many grams of ground beans make the ideal coffee and at what temperature and for how long;
  • how much pressure to tamp the grounds with;
  • how to begin to determine a good coffee from a bad one;
  • how to froth the milk and then pour it for Flat Whites and Cappuccinos.

The answers, forever etched into my brain, are there for the taking but it’s not here that you’ll find them. No sir. The answers are to be found during a lesson or two with Martin – the finest way of learning them.

9pm, Thursday – Land in Copenhagen; briefly catch up over chicken soup; bed

From coffee-making to luggage-packing, we headed home and left almost immediately for the airport and boarded a flight bound for Copenhagen where, upon arrival, we were quite literally jumped upon by Lina. Welcome back to Denmark!

7.30am, Friday – Quick grocery shop then First-day-of-holiday Breakfast followed by 4 hours of mountain boarding

Having turned up late on Thursday night we Four Musketeers hung out for an hour or so over Stefan’s tasty chicken soup before we turned in for the night. It was a school night and our hosts still had work on Friday. So we got up, hydrated and headed straight out for some groceries. The walk to the supermarket is about 20 minutes away so it was approaching 10am by the time we whipped up breakfast.

After breakfast it was back outside to make the most of the good weather and our time. We’d been left as the temporary custodians of a couple of electric mountain boards and there was no way we were going to flounder such a generous offering.

IMG_1442

What followed was more than 4 hours of zipping along the quiet backstreets, country paths and coastal walkways.

IMG_1466

4pm, Friday – Head down to the docklands for a bungee jump and a bite to eat

As a way of kicking the weekend off we’d planned on doing a bungee jump down at the docklands. Up until about a week before I’d always considered bungee jumping a no go – jumping from the Death Zone with nothing but a little string around my ankles to keep me safe? Hmm, that doesn’t seem quite sensible. But, when such opportunities to experience new things unexpectedly present themselves then there can be only one response: ‘when are we doing this?’.

IMG_1896

You might have caught the great little speech Will Smith gave about the life lesson he learned after jumping out of a plane.

“The best things in life are on the other side of terror, on the other side of your maximum fear, are all of the best things in life.” Will Smith

It’s true. Sure, bungee jumping isn’t skydiving (that’s for a future post) but skydiving is not the point: confronting fears and doubts and uncertainties is. There’s a moment, the space between holding on to the platform and falling towards the earth, that feels like a vacuum. In that moment there is a total clarity and a total awareness that washes over you: suddenly the crispness of the air is so much crisper, the peace of such a height is so much richer, the weight off one’s body so much more present and the focus of one’s mind so much sharper. In that moment fear falls away and even jumping out after it won’t bring it all back.

10am, Saturday – Nordic Run. Game on.

IMG_1511

This is what we came for. The Nordic Run first appealed to me, I confess, because the medal is so damn cool. Have you seen it??

IMG_1547

Doing the run also meant doing so with a buddy, getting a bit of exercise and, generally, having a blast doing something so physical. The majority of the course was set out along the beach, itself an undeclared obstacle (ever tried running a high intensity 5K on soft sand?), and was filled with around 30 different things to climb over, lift, climb under, climb through or generally traverse successfully in order to save oneself from time penalties and forfeits.

IMG_1515

The crowd was super focused and there was a sense that this kind of event is second nature to much of the population. Unlike Tough Mudder there’s a real sense of independence and zero emphasis on teamwork – seldom did I see anyone looking for help or support from anyone else and on the one occasion I offered a hand, it took a moment for the person to relent and accept it.

MVI_1519-ANIMATION

Despite remaining invested in our own progress, Stefan and I crossed the line with respectable times as a team. This is race I’d love to do again and again.

_MG_6219.jpg

1pm, Saturday – Viking re-enactment camp

This one was a little bit of a ‘will we, won’t we’ visit given that we’d run the race in the morning and didn’t know whether we’d all be in a fit enough shape to make it. But of course we were! Never doubted it for a second.

IMG-20180520-WA0001

The camp was exactly what it says on the tin: a Viking re-enactment camp filled to bursting with authentic camp sites, market stalls and food venders, people dressed in period-specific clothing and, the reason we came, Viking battles.

Stefan’s team had a number of matches that afternoon and so we dropped by to watch and cheer them on. I’d not fully anticipated such viciousness but having become familiar with the armour and equipment and rules and etiquette throughout the last few visits to Copenhagen, finally seeing the combat brought all of the pieces of the puzzle into place. Yes, it’s violent and people clearly do get hurt but pound for pound this doesn’t seem all that more dangerous that rugby or American Football. Or maybe it is… those swords, axes and maces do look a little bit scary.

IMG_1951IMG_1932

5pm, Saturday – Collect the rabbit, make a new best bud.

I’ll come right out and say it: I want a rabbit now. I mean, look at him…

IMG-20180519-WA0004

He did get a bit rough one time though and somehow managed to take me down and stand atop of me like the champ he is.

IMG-20180520-WA0002

By the way, if anyone knows the breed of this little guy I’d love to know. Hands down the coolest little rabbit I’ve ever seen!

10am, Sunday – Spend the day exploring Faxe

Wow. This place, in this weather, is startlingly beautiful for an old chalk pit. After the excitement of the last couple of days walking around Faxe offered something of a change in pace and a more laid back time to spend all together.

IMG_1577 (1)

9am, Monday – Wakeboarding

‘Hey guys, we’ve got, like, 2 whole hours before we need to jump back on the plane. I think we’ve got time to do something. Who’s up for wakeboarding?’

Boy, if there’s been a trip this year that has defined ‘fun’, it was this one. Rounding off a weekend packed full of adventure was a morning session down at the cable park. I’d never wakeboarded before and was excited to finally give it a go. The four of us turned up nice and early, so keen were we to make the most of our time that we had to wait 20 minutes for the crew to open up. Once we’d lugged the gear on site and paid for entry we changed into our suits and headed down to the water ready to rock and roll. Having been briefed by our resident wakeboarding pro I felt confident that I knew what I was doing. Only, knowledge does not equal experience, as I found out the hard way…

Stepping up to the edge of the platform, cable in hand and wearing a Big Boy board that was nicely strapped to my feet, I waited for the snap of the line to hoist me towards the water and a virgin’s glory. I’d glide around the course with the grace of a swan coming in to land on a calm boating lake and arrive back at the start to the wild cheers and applause of my friends and fellow boarders. And so it all happened in slow motion. The sudden tautening of the line, the micro bounce into the air, the hoist towards the water, the heart-skipping realisation that ‘yes, I’m doing it!’. But then, as if time itself realised there was some catching up to do, I raced from slow motion to super fast forward and slammed, face first into the water. I’d made it about a meter before faceplanting the frigid Danish waters and catching a mouthful of the seaweed reaching up for me.

I would have gotten right back to it if it hadn’t have been for the fact I’d almost dislocated a shoulder and would spend the next month waiting for full mobility to return to it. Should have worn the beginner board…

1pm, Monday – Flight home.

With that, and after the rest of the gang had officially shown me how the pros do it, it was back home for a quick shower and some dry clothes before hurtling off to the airport to catch the plane before it left without us.

Hero of the Month: Mark Cousins

Mark Cousins (1965 – present) is a celebrated film producer and director. His works include the incredible The Story of Film: An Odyssey and The Story of Children and Film. His books include The Story of Film: A concise history of film and an odyssey of international cinema (upon which ...An Odyssey is based) and The Story of Looking. Mark’s perception of, and passion for, cinema is second to none and inspiring for its range and depth. I first watched ..An Odyssey upon release in 2011 but had owned the book since first publication way back in 2004 – I would have been 15 years old at the time and this book made a particular impression on me and it remains an essential read for all cineastes.

His most recent film, The Eyes of Orson Welles, was released earlier this year.

Books

  1. Neil Gaiman – Norse Mythology
  2. Tim Ferris – Tribe of Mentors

June 2018

The Folks Got Remarried

About a year ago, on their 29th anniversary as husband and wife, my parents decided it was high time to do it all over again. To celebrate the 30th year together as a married couple, they chose to do so with their family and closest friends and invited us all to witness the renewal of their vows. For them it was about saying thank you for a life together and for the community of friends and family that has built up around them. The day was beautiful and really reminded me that love, actual, real love, is time immortal. I was even asked to give a little speech…

IMG_20180814_080918-01.jpg

Nida

This was a wonderful little 3-4 day adventure in Nida, an idyllic resort town nestled towards the southern-most part of Lithuania’s half of the Curonian Spit, which lies between the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea (the other half is a Russian territory). For half a week we visited the dunes, saw dolphins, explored historic sites, ate tasty food, splashed about in the sea (hey, if it’s only painful for a moment before your legs go numb then it’s good for a swim….right?), played ‘stupid’ (I’ll never be smart enough for this game), road bikes, went for runs and did typical, holiday things. I’d never been this far east of Lithuania before (it’s not possible to get any further east) and had never been away with the in-laws before either and both were a real treat and a highlight of the month.

PANO_20180612_185447PANO_20180612_155713PANO_20180612_155625PANO_20180612_155505PANO_20180612_154021PANO_20180612_152930PANO_20180612_095605-01PANO_20180612_094709-01PANO_20180611_174845PANO_20180611_124824PANO_20180611_120038PANO_20180610_220000

Completion of The Portfolio

Over the last couple of months I’d been piling time into this in the hopes of using it to secure a little bit of part-time writing work. Most evenings and a fair bit of time squeezed into the weekends resulted in the below 40 pages. The idea was that it would be a CV and portfolio rolled into a package just like an actual magazine. The reason it took the best part of 2 months was that alongside producing the content I was also getting to grips with learning how to properly use Adobe InDesign – a software that I’d never used before but have since built a substantial knowledge of and affinity for.

IMG_20180814_080849-01

That’s how it started out, a few doodles in a note book. Here’s the finished thing:

http://online.anyflip.com/hjgo/qvaj/

Building this from scratch, educating myself about the basics of magazine layout and construction and how to use a completely new piece of software was a fun learning journey and one which I’d like to continue developing into the future.

Hero of the Month: Anna Biller, Film Director

Anna Biller (?? – present), is the director of the unexpectedly charming film, The Love Witch. The film, which Biller has gone on record for stating how some of her crew had deliberately tried to sabotage it, currently holds a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. As a point of comparison, Oscar-winner The Shape of Water holds 92%

For those interested, here’s a trailer.

Fun fact: Biller’s partner is Robert Greene.

Books

  1. Christopher Ross – Mishima’s Sword
  2. A Geek In Japan – Hector Garcia

July

The Color Run

IMG-20180708-WA0013.jpg

Ah, The Color Run, you are not what you appear to be, my friend! Your name (officially spelt the American way, no matter which country you’re in) is misleading as only half of it is correct.

Whilst I cannot contest the amount of fun everyone seemed to have here I can’t help but feel a bit let down by it. First, the sheer volume of people, coupled with the number of them deciding not to run, resulted in a <25% run rate. The course, running through streets and pedestrianised areas, was inevitably tight, which only compounded the difficulty in finding space to run. For this reason I believe the run should be considered the ‘Most Laid Back 5k on the Planet’… In fact, whilst ‘The Color Run’ might be a snappy, marketing ploy, ‘The Happy Color Walk’ would be far more accurate. It’s lovely to do, once, with friends, for the experience of getting caked in colourful dust but for anyone expecting a nice little run should look elsewhere…

Spartan Race

Ok, now we’re talking. This is how we do social running and obstacle dodging. Vita and I had signed up to do this one together: our first one together! Nothing about this race was a disappointment: the weather was fantastic, the course was rewardingly challenging, the volume of people was just right and the overall atmosphere was lovely. Oh, and the medal was very cool too!

FB_IMG_1532595265538

The thing that made this course particularly tasty was that a lot of it was built on the side of a steep hill, and the starting line was positioned right at the foot of it. However, we quickly found a rhythm and hustled our muscles to push and pull us along the path. Along the way we climbed the obligatory cargo nets, traversed balance beams, climbed ropes, dragged sledges, threw javelins, hauled sandbags and generally beat ourselves up all in the name of personal growth and discovery.

By the time we got to the finish line, after jumping over flaming chunks of tree, we were buzzing for the next one…

5b4d5c19f39b875f10be47e6.jpg

Skydive Training

This has been part of #project20nine since before it even became official and the experience was gifted to me by Vita. So finally, after making it to the glory of summer and finding a free weekend to book in, I headed down to Redlands Airfield in Swindon for 6 hours of pre-jump training and, hopefully, good enough weather to complete the experience – after all, this year the UK had been subjected to one of the hottest, driest summers on record, was it really going to start storming now?

The answer, unfortunately, was yes. But the afternoon was a lot of fun and has set me up for a future jump when the weather is kind enough to allow us to do so!

IMG-20180730-WA0008-01

Hero of the Month: Tony Robbins, the ‘why guy’

Tony Robbins (1960 – present), life coach and philanthropist (among many, many other things) has proven to be a hugely enlightening individual for me over the last 18-24 months. Yes, he has a huge following and has been at the top of his game for the last 4 decades, but the way he explains his approach to life, the values he holds and how others can shift the perspective on their problems is nonetheless incredibly motivating.

Books

  1. The Legends of Luke Skywalker – Ken Liu
  2. The Food and Cooking of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – Silvena Johan Lauta

And with that, we’re here in August for the final Quarter of being a 20-something. The next 3 months have some pretty significant things lined up and I’m very much looking forward to experiencing them all…


This post is part of an ongoing account of the final 364 days of being a 20-something. 

In The Blink of an Eye

“Time passes so slowly if you are unaware of it

and so quickly if you are aware of it.”    

Marc Bolan

Wow, talk about blinking and missing it. It’s May already and having missed the last few monthly updates, there’s a LOT to catch up with. It looks even worse than the November/December update! Unfortunately the reason for the lack of posting is valid, but that’s all there is to be said of it. I haven’t been slacking…


January 2018

Goals

  • Flotation Tank
  • Pedicure
  • Book a massage
  • Swimming: Malta
  • Begin new training
  • Blog posts
    • Monthly weigh-in and muscle-in: Going into #project20nine what are my baseline stats?
    • 29 Things to be Grateful for in 2017
    • How Much Coffee is Too Much Coffee?
    • Where’s my concentration? The disappearance of the human attention span
    • How to make the most of a long weekend in Reykjavik
    • How to Meditate With Purpose
  • Contact a new hero: Tim Ferriss

Summary of the Month

The flotation experience was the first I had ever had and I loved it. If my expectations were speckled with a dusting of ‘oh, this is going to be a bunch of new age mumbo jumbo’, that limited oversight was dispelled pretty quickly. I visited the London Floatation Centre over on the Isle of Dogs which took me around 45 minutes to reach and a little bit of exploring once out of the station. But I found it quickly enough and hung out in the waiting room for the 20 minutes or so before my session, chatting with the guy on reception and a fellow floater.

First though, here’s a brief overview of what a floating experience is all about:

  • The tank itself is filled with a dense combination of water and 525kg of magnesium rich Epsom-salts. At 25cm deep, the ratio of salt to water is very high and slightly greasy to the touch.
  • The temperature of the salty solution is raised to skin temperature (35.5°C) and the environment inside the tank, when the lid is closed, also matches that of skin temperature. This creates the odd sensation of not actually being able to really feel the water or the air: everything is in sync with the body.
  • The salty solution also means that you’ll float: helplessly so. The body naturally sinks into the kind of position it would be should it be reclined on an arm chair. Except…there’s no chair!

Once the pod had been prepared, I was given a brief tour and explanation of the following 60 minutes before being left alone in the dimly lit room. I showered, to rinse myself of dirt and ‘impurities’, but of course, being someone with the biological disposition to take a long time a-washin’, took around 7 minutes to do so.

I took too long….

Now, the interesting thing about floating is that the experience is pretty much set to a schedule. Once the doors to the room are shut, the process works like this:

  • Person showers and gets in the pod, closing the lid behind them
  • Room lights go out completely so as to contribute to the sensory deprivation (can’t be running the risk of light sneaking into the pod and diluting the experience)
  • Inside the pod, sensory lights swirl and tinkle whilst you get into position and slowly begin to relax. Nature sounds play too.
  • Lights and sound are shut off and the world is black and silent.
  • The float experience, for real, commences.

Obviously, having taken longer than was typical to wash I ended up showering in the dark and shuffling towards the low glow of the pod. But. once I was in the magic began. As I bobbed around, helpless against the might of the dense water, my body relaxed and as it settled in its weightlessness various joints cracked back into their natural positions and a ridiculous sense of peace washed over me. The fact that I could not see anything, hear anything but the invisible swish and swoosh of water, feel anything (the water and pod both matched body temperature perfectly), taste anything (‘water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink…’) or really smell all that much (maybe there was a slight whiff of saltiness, maybe…) really did confuse my brain as to whether I was awake, asleep or somewhere dreamily in between. Time passed both slowly and quickly and by the time the dim lights switched back on and the gentle chirrup of birdsong drifted from the sound system I knew one thing: I’d never felt so restored and relaxed. This, I decided, has to be experienced as much as possible.

This month is also Vita’s birthday month and so I booked us a weekend break to Malta – a country that I’d long heard about from my mum who had lived there some years ago, but had never taken the opportunity to visit it. Until now.

The thing about Malta is that it is as if the retiring population of the UK, for any given year, had all decided to up sticks and relocate with the following agenda:

  1. no foreign languages
  2. driving on the left-hand side of the road
  3. lots of sun
  4. in fact, I just want the UK with more sun…

IMG_1175IMG_1219

Arriving there, it was quite surreal in that so many people spoke with such thick British accents. Cockney? Check. Scouse? Check. Brummie? Yup. Once the novelty of this wore off [pretty quickly] it was easy to see why Malta is such an attractive option for so many – it really is like a laid-back Britain in the sun. It’s also very small, so upon making the final descent it’s not unreasonable to make out the entire island, coast to coast. So, we spent our time exploring the island, hoping over to Gozo and generally having fun. The hotel even had access to an offsite pool which was cosey.

IMG_1203-01

Making posts…Ok, we’ll keep this short: posting this month has been a non-starter. There, I said it. Posting took a backseat.

Though I had initially thought it would be fun to give my gratitude to Tim Ferris, the hero I actually contacted was Anna Hart, and the reason for this is that I wanted to increase my likelihood of interaction. And she replied pretty quickly. At the time of emailing she was on the cusp of releasing her book, Departures, and I was keen to talk with her about it. Unfortunately, despite the conversation going well and a seemingly agreeable idea to meet for a coffee to talk about the journey of becoming a writer, the line went dead. Nevertheless, I remain an admirer of her work and hope the book has sold well.

The other thing about this month is with regards to training. One of the goals for this year is to run several races [see below] so in preparation for them I needed to begin incorporating more cardio into my workouts alongside endurance work, more mobility drills and, unfortunately, cold water acclimatisation (I’m looking at you Nordic Race). The training has incrementally increased the incorporation of each of these elements – the biggest test regarding the hardest part (cold water, yikes!) recently happened in Baden Baden, so I feel confident that the body is becoming a little more acclimatised to it. But that’s the thing with training – it’s ever present and never ending.


February 2018

Goals

  1. Travels: Northampton
  2. Hero: Michael Booth
  3. Swimming: London x 2
  4. Books:
    1. Spies – Michael Frayn
    2. Gone – Michael Grant
  5. Other:
    1. Sunrise yoga at the shard
    2. Hammilton
    3. Snow!
  6. Blog Posts: none

Summary of the Month

No big travels this week, just a nice little jaunt back home for a long weekend and a bit of reading, which was built around the English lessons I deliver. Spies is a typical school text which I always think, in a way, is a shame because being made to read a book doesn’t often do much for one’s appreciation of it. Spies is a great read concerning an old man’s memories of his life a child during WW2 and deals a lot with memory and the perception of it. Gone, on the other hand, is firmly a YA thriller set in a world where everyone over the age of 15 disappears, leaving the kids to figure out what on earth has happened. It’s a bit Lord of the Flies meets The Maze Runner. It’s a fun read even if it does happen to be a bit forgettable.

And speaking of books, Michael Booth has been an author I’ve long admired, in particular for his book Sushi and Beyond – a charming account of a trip through Japan with a focus on its culinary offerings. As a long-time Japanophile it was the first book of its kind that I’d read about the country so it also has a bit of a sentimental value to it too. I reached out to him after noticing he’d followed it up, almost a decade later, with The Meaning of Rice and I wanted to talk with him about it. Michael and I exchanged a few nice emails and I came away with the opinion that he really is a decent, down to earth guy with a talent and curiosity that both inspires and educates me.

This month was also good for theatre because, having waited for over a year, the day finally arrived for our showing of Hammilton and boy, did it deliver. Ever since first hearing about it, loving the video of Lin-Manuel Miranda delivering a knock out performance of The Hammilton Mixtape at the White House Poetry Jam 2009 and being knocked over by the incredible soundtrack, and then waiting the 14 months since buying the tickets for the London show, I’d been expecting something special and cautiously apprehensive about it too. After all, it’s not everyday something truly deserves its hype. But, Hammilton does. Everything about it was worked to precision and seeing the soundtrack performed (the entire performance is set to music; all spoken words are lyrics) was a transformative experience. Needless to say, the soundtrack has been worn out this month.

It was also Valentines this month and for it, Vita had arranged a surprise treat: sunrise yoga up at the Shard. Somehow we’d managed to get incredibly lucky: not only was the teacher great and the location within easy walking distance, the weather was so perfect, and the room so well positioned, that watching the sun rise on London was a bit distracting!

IMG-20180305-WA0069-01

And, of course, this month also brought the snow! I do love a good bit of snow every once in a while 🙂

IMG-20180305-WA0005


March 2018

Goals

  1. Travels: Whitstable, Broadstairs and Canterbury
  2. Hero: Amelia Allen
  3. Swimming: no swimming!
  4. Books:
    1. The 28 Day Alcohol Free Challenge – Andy Ramage and Ruari Fairbairns
  5. Other: Complete first assigned sporting event of the year: March 24th, Tough Mudder @ Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
  6. Blog Posts:
    1. Tough Mudder

Summary of the Month

The weather had started to warm up this month, at least sporadically, and so being able to start the year with a run in relative comfort was a real treat. I’ve posted about the run already but to summarise it here: far better than expected!

This month was also the last month of the film course I put together at Imperial College London and I really can’t believe how quickly it all went by. The Wednesday night sessions were always one of the main highlights of the week and it was sad to have to wrap things up for the year. Everyone who attended the classes really helped to make the 2 hour sessions enjoyable and I feel lucky to have had such a great group of people to work with every week. Delivering the course offered me a lot of new perspectives and I’m pretty sure it was me who ultimately ended up learning the most! A teacher can deliver the material but it takes a class to transform the experience. My thanks and gratitude are forever theirs.

The book reading this month was a little slower (in part due to that issue alluded to at the top) than I intended and I managed to only get through two: The 28 Day Alcohol Free Challenge by Andy Ramage and Ruari Fairbairns. The book was chosen as a matter of inspiration and proved to be very helpful in further shaping some of my own ideas and whilst it is not particularly a fun read, it is highly visual with a sharp, clean geometric layout. Maybe that sounds boring…

This month I also achieved a 2x bodyweight deadlift with a 160kg single repetition. See here. Not fantastic form but an acceptable PB nonetheless.

This month’s hero, Amelia Allen, is a local photographer who came to my attention after a few pieces about her work hit the headlines and I wanted to reach out to her regarding it. Her work dealt with the perception of public nudity within British culture but it was the fact that it was garnering so much attention that interested me. Amelia’s work is tastefully shot and compiled with grace, respect and intimacy. I did, however, see that the media had latched on to a quality that placed her work second: content. Nudity in the UK is subject to endless association with sex and titilation so a relatively high profile project about a rarely exposed element of British culture was bound to be note worthy for the media. Amelia had tackled the spotlight well and she was equally gracious enough to make a few email exchanges with me. Her work can be found here.

The final note to be made about this month is with regards to the trip to the south east with Vita and her aunt, Lina. It was the last weekend that Lina would be in London with us after spending a couple of months her, brushing up her English and getting familiar with London. I’d suggested we explore a more quiet corner of England and Broadstairs, Canterbury and Whitstable, to my mind at least, seemed to tick a lot of boxes. So we started early and started north, working south before looping back up to London at the end of the day. We drank coffee in the picturesque town of Whitstable, took afternoon tea in the cosiest of Canterbury’s tea rooms and enjoyed a fish dinner on the Broadstairs coast. And between it all we explored the towns, each distinctly their own, and experienced an utterly joyous Sunday.

IMG-20180315-WA0017.jpg


April 2018

Goals

  1. Travels: Northampton, Vilnius, Baden-Baden
  2. Hero: Mark Manson
  3. Swimming: Baden Baden x2
  4. Books:
    1. Armada – Ernest Cline
    2. You Were Never Really Here – Jonathan Ames
    3. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F@!K – Mark Manson
  5. Other: Circus School – Acrobalance Level 2, TedxLondonSalon
  6. Blog Posts:
    1. Baden Baden
    2. Social Nudity and the Germans

Summary of the Month

IMG_20180422_095820.jpg

April was an interesting month for it’s variety and was also particularly fun for the travel opportunities that it brought about. I’ve written about Germany in a couple of posts but there was also a wonderful trip to Lithuania and an extended weekend stay back home with the parents.

Lithuania has certainly become a home away from home and so whenever I go back now it always feels a little bit like going home. This time, alongside the various things that had to be done, we trundled over to Druskininkai for night, fired up the BBQ, saw friends, saw family, went for lovely spring walks and I even got my hair cut. I know, big deal.

Being in Lithuania also meant that we had to skip out on this year’s London Coffee Festival although earlier this week I did get to be a lot more hands on and behind the scenes at a genuine coffee roastery.

IMG_20180507_123546

More about that in the next update though.

This month Vita surprised me with a ticket to TedxLondonSalon where the theme was ‘Tales From the Unexpected’. TED, for the uninitiated, is a fantastic organisation concerning ‘ideas worth spreading’ and the TedXLondonSalon event is one of the many locally curated opportunities to see such inspired presentations first hand. This one was held at the Piccadilly Theatre and had talks from:

  1. DR JULES MONTAGUE Consultant neurologist, author, journalist and storyteller
  2. KAJAL ODEDRA UK Director at Change.org, STEM leader, creative writer and bookworm
  3. SHOSHANA GOLDHILL AND FARAJ ALNASSER Family lawyer, mother and change maker; student, refugee and eternal optimist
  4. DR DARREN SCHREIBER Neuroscientist, lawyer, politics lecturer and rock climber
  5. ADAM ALL Singer, dancer and Drag King extraordinaire

Only realising where we were going as we exited Piccadilly Station, I did not do any background reading regarding any of the guests and so had the benefit of taking everyone at face value. All of the speakers offered insightful perspectives, ranging from dealing with Dementia (Dr. Jules), escaping a life as a refugee (Shosana and Faraj) and how the brain is hardwired for politics (Dr. Darren) but the most impressive story, for me, was from Adam All. I’ll leave it up to you to do a little research but I’ll say this: wonderful, honest talk about identity and sexuality. The organisers had also struck relationships with several book publishers and so were able to offer 1 of 14 different books to every attendee, which I thought was a nice touch, and I received David Adam’s The Genius Within. It’s on the ‘to read’ shelf.

IMG_20180429_144625.jpg

See if you can spot us, twice, in the highlights video.

The books this month were comprised of 2 fiction and 1 non-fiction. Ernest Cline’s Armada was a considerable let down following the joyride of his previous book, Ready Player One (a title I read on first release so have been able to follow its rise from cult favourite to mainstream behemoth, as well as the development of Spielberg’s fantastic adaptation, from the get-go) and ended up being the first book I refused to waste my time on for quite a while. Admittedly I began by listening to Will Wheaton’s audiobook and felt very uncomfortable with his style immediately. Perhaps I couldn’t shake his presentation and still somehow connected it to the book even when I was reading it for myself, but maybe not. I found the story inconsequential, uninvolving and ultimately very forgetful and I think this is a result of trying to bottle the magic of RPO. Unfortunately the story of a gamer-geek recruited into a real-life version of a computer game is built on a foundation of incredibly niche gaming references and whilst the abundance of pop culture references in RPO was undoubtedly that book’s USP it’s quite the opposite here.

Jonathan Ames’ You Were Never Really Here, on the other hand, is a fantastically lean, muscular thriller much in the vein of Taxi Driver, should it have been crossed with James Sallis’s Drive. It’s a novella concerning a war vet who has built a reputable career of returning kidnapped victims safely home. He’s slightly unhinged, clearly suffering from PTSD and completely at home dishing out all manner of violence when necessary but is driven by a fundamental clarity of vision and a belief in the virtue of his life’s mission. Lynn Ramsay turned this one into an equally muscular film starring Joaquin Phoenix last year. After the let down of Armada, this one was a relief.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F@!k, Mark Manson’s boldly titled ‘contemplation of how to live a good life’ is one part a genius piece of marketing and another part actually worthwhile treatise on 21st century, western attitudes to life. Manson has built a very solid reputation for himself through his witty, often intelligent blogging and the book is, by and large, more of the same: if you like the blog, you’ll probably like the book. Here, he argues that we all care too much about the wrong things and that ultimately in order to be truly content and happy we need to reconfigure our mindset to focus of the important things in life and not all the bullshit the media heaps on us every waking second. It’s the kind of book you can read cover to cover one sunny afternoon as you lounge about in the sun or, if you like a bit of attention when you’re riding that tube to work, dip in and out of it during your commute: it’s a bright orange-covered book with a gregarious title… Mark’s also won the coveted prize of being this month’s hero.

This month also saw a return to the National Centre for Circus Arts for the second level of Acrobalance and, so far, the few lessons have been a ridiculous amount of fun. Turning up each week to do some sort of climbing, rolling, inversion and/or acroyoga really enjoyable. The thing about this circus-y stuff is not that it’s ‘circus’ but the reconnection it develops between mind and body and the child-like appreciation for them both. It fosters a deep respect for simple pleasures and unashamedly reminds and encourages us to leave pretensions at the door. This kind of physical activity is also incredibly good for functional fitness and core strength, flexibility and generally building a more complete awareness of one’s own body.

Overall, a cool month with a number of highlights.


Looking Forwards

May 2018

Goals

  1. Travels: Denmark
  2. Hero: Mark Cousins
  3. Swimming: London x2
  4. Books:
    1. Neil Gaiman – Norse Mythology
    2. Tim Ferris – Tribe of Mentors
    3. Christopher Ross – Mishima’s Sword
  5. Other: Nordic Race
  6. Blog Posts:
    1. Nordic Race

Sporting Events

May

  1. Red Bull 400
    1. Finland: May 12
    2. Not applicable. This race sold out way before I had a chance to sign up.
  2. Nordic Race
    1. Copenhagen. 19 May. £70. 5KM.
    2. Booked
  3. Vitality Westminster Mile
    1. London. 27 May. £8. 1mile.
  4. Vitality London 10k
    1. London. 28 May. £35. 10KM.

July

  1. Queen Elizabeth Park Monthly 10k
    1. London. 7 July. £18. 10KM.
  2. Colour Run
    1. London. 8 July. £23. 5KM.
    2. Booked
  3. Spartan Race
    1. Market Harborough. 15 July. £79. 5KM.

This post is part of an ongoing account of the final 364 days of being a 20-something. 

November & December Overview

“How did it get so late so soon?”

Dr. Seuss

I’d apologise for being late but, like Antoine de Saint-Exupery said:

“The time for action is now. It’s never too late to do something”

Ok, I apologise. No excuses.

In a previous post I set a number of goals to accomplish for November. Launch date was 5th November and, in general, it was a healthy start to monthly goals and check ins. There were a couple of set backs but ultimately most goals were accomplished. 

Here’s how things stand:

  • Book a floatation experience @ London Floatation Centre or Floatworks
    • Booked: @ London Floatation Centre. Due to the rather busy last few weeks  and now being in Vilnius attendance will be in January so as to make the most of it. See below. 
  • Contact a new hero/inspiration: Ella Frances Sanders
    • Emailed: 12th November, after several read-throughs of both ‘Lost in Translation‘ and ‘Speaking in Tongues‘. Both of which are beautiful books and both come highly recommended.
  • Join a class @ Foundry Fit
    • Joined: NOT ACCOMPLISHED
      • I managed to pick up a delightful helping of De Quervain’s tenosynovitis [the swelling of the tendons on the inside/thumb-side of the wrist] after getting a bit carried away with handstand practice. This repetitive strain injury is a very annoying and painful niggle that means weight-bearing exercises wherein the wrist is flexed and pressure applied (yup, handstands, but also press ups, military presses etc.), or reaching movements coupled with extension of the thumb (even grabbing the bar for a pullup is a bit tasty), are particularly troubling. I’ve taken to wearing a wrist restraint in order to accelerate recovery but given the nature and location of the injury, it will be sometime in the new year that I’ll be able to get back to normal. For now, workshops, classes and handstand practice will have to go on the back burner. The good news is that the wrist is clearly on the mend. 
  • Go swimming at least twice; consider Sunday afternoons.
    • First Swim: 26th November
    • Second Swim: Missed. Dammit.
  • Finish reading The Slaughterhouse Five and then read The Year of Living Danishly.  
    • Slaugherhouse Five: Completed 11 November 2017
      • Witty, sharp and relevant then, now and tomorrow. Super short read. It’s filled with hilarious lines like:
        • ‘Montana was naked, and so was Billy, of course. He had a tremendous wang, incidentally. You never know who’ll get one.’
      • …and cynical ironies like:
        • ‘That’s one thing Earthlings might learn to do, if they tried hard enough: Ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones’
      • Note to self: watch the movie now and see how it compares. 
    • The Year of Living Danishly: Completed.
      • Loved it for its charm, inspired by its image of Denmark [I wouldn’t mind a year of living Danishly myself now…] and encouraged by Helen’s bravery to up sticks and embrace a new culture with wide open arms. 
  • Learn 300 new Lithuanian words
    • Video: Technical difficulties
  • Book in for a deep tissue massage
    • Booked: Royal Spa, Birštonas. 30th December.
  • Post a blog for each of the following:
  • At the end of the month upload a video detailing the success/failure of the above
    • Technical difficulties
  • Other accomplishments:
    • UKAD accredited adviser

Difficulties

A couple of things happened during the month that threw a bit of a spanner in the works. The first was a wrist injury. Despite having a slight twinge for a few months it became significantly more debilitating at the start of November and it became clear that I had De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. I’d had this before and recognised it immediately after waking up and feeling the tendon ping during the regular morning stretch. It’s not a particularly uncommon condition and though the causes are not precisely documented it is most likely to stem from repetitive actions.

De Quervains tenosynovitis affects the tendon/s on the inside of the wrist that facilitate thumb movement. It makes thumb flexion (i.e. thumbs up and grasping the thumb in one’s fist and rotating the hand downwards) painful and consequently renders anything like pinching, grabbing, making a fist and internal rotation very uncomfortable. It also makes excessive flexion painful too, hence the difficulty with pressups and handstands. Also, say good by to screaming guitar solos.

As the tendons in the wrist are protected beneath a sheath there is a somewhat restricted area for them to move through. In this instance as the tenosynovitis is ultimately inflammation of the synovium sheath (which is further protected by the tendon sheath), that space becomes less and so whereas once the tendons could slide smoothly beneath it that movement will continue to irritate it.

In most cases simply resting the wrist is the best way to deal with the condition although in more extreme circumstances it is possible to have steroid injections or minor surgery to release the pressure.

Whilst resting the wrist there are a few things that can be done to help, all of which can be done whenever and wherever is most convenient:

  • Limit and avoid activities that may promote further stress on the tendon and therefore increase pain and discomfort
  • Wear a wrist brace or a splint to restrict movement and lock the hand into a more consistently stable position
  • Apply ice packs for 5-15 minutes, several times a day
  • Adapt necessary lifting activities [like lifting babies, super cute puppies and bags of delicious, fresh vegetables]
  • Do rehabilitation exercises such as those below:
    • Thumb lifts and opposition stretches
    • Manual thumb flexion
    • Self massage
    • The Finkelstein stretch
    • Wrist flexion and extension
    • Ulnar deviation (with and without resistance)
    • Finger spring
  • For pain relief anti-inflammatories such as aspirin and ibuprofen can help but I’m not a big advocate of any kind of drug use. So, this one is here simply by way of acknowledging a relatively obvious remedy.

The Other Mighty Pain in The Buttocks

My phone contracted a serious battery illness and I had no choice but to admit it into a specialist care centre for a transplant. That was at the start of December. This meant that for most of the time I was without a conveniently sized camera to record daily life. That’s put a bit of a spanner in the works for goals 20-22. So, either I need to reconsider how I can achieve them (currently I have no idea as to when I can expect the phone back as my emails to the tech centre are being ignored) or retrofit those 3 spaces with other exciting items. 

In apprehension of retrofitting them, I propose the following amendments to the Developmental section:

  • #20 – Start a blog and commit to it
  • #21 – Schedule a self-development day before the end of February 2018 and schedule one for every month that follows
  • #22 – Do something painful, scary and/or both every day [post on IG once we’re back in the 21st century and have a phone to do so with].

Sorted.

Now, as we’re already in January it’s pertinent to outline the goals that I set myself at the end of November for December before slipping into the plans for January. Many have already been acted upon.

December

  • Tough Mudder
  • Nordic Race
    • Signed up. 19 May 2018. Strandparken
      • In a beautiful twist of a fate a very good friend, who happens to live right by Strandparken, is also running the race. Hurrah for race buddies. 
  • Blood Work [including RBC, cholesterol, testosterone, Vitamin D]
    • Completed, waiting on results.
      • Fun fact: I can only get my blood test results through the GP I initially requested them through. I did not know this. Having lived in London for 3 years I only signed up to the local GP surgery in December… in order to request the blood tests. Here’s the process: 
        • Call surgery to arrange registration then attend surgery to complete paperwork.
        • Make appointment to have initial consultation with doctor. Expect to wait approx. 2 weeks.
        • Visit doctor and chit chat about this and that. Ask to have a blood test and receive a document to take to nearest blood test centre.
        • Plan not to eat and drink (except H2O) for 12 hours.
        • Arrive at blood test centre and take a ticket. Wait to be seen. 
        • Have blood taken (by a very professional phlebotomist – I’m not a fan of blood tests. It’s not the sight of blood but rather the cringe-inducing image of a sharp object being inserted into the tender, tender crook of my elbow. Yeuch) and head to work.
        • Wait a week for results. 
        • Make another appointment to see the GP. Expect to wait another 2 weeks.
        • Wait for phone call but doctor never calls.
        • Make new appointment, wait longer. 
      • But, I jest. I completely understand the need for a GP in the process of collecting results: a blood test is a blood test no matter the reasons it went ahead and the test may very well throw up some unexpected, and potentially distressing results.
  • Skydive
    • Provisionally pencilled in for June
  • Swimming
    • First Swim @ Impuls. Vilnius. 23rd December
    • Second Swim @ Impuls. Vilnius. 28th December.
    • Third Swim @ Royal Spa, Birštonas. 29th and/or 30th December.
    • Fourth Swim @ Impul. Vilnius. 31st December.
  • Blog Posts
  • Read
    • Artemis – Andy Weir
      • I’ll say this: Artemis proves The Martian wasn’t a fluke but it might take a few chapters to appreciate the language style. Jazz’s first person narration is even more chatty/mate-y than Watney’s vlogs.
    • The Book of Dust – Philip Pullman
      • Welcome back, Mr. Pullman. 
  • Contact a new hero: Helen Russell
    • Contact: 31st December 2017
  • Have a manicure
    • Done. What a dream! Who knew? 
  • Application to NFTS Diploma in Script Development
    • Submission pending.

December was unexpectedly more busy than planned. Hence the serious lack of posting. I did a lot of getting stuff done, but finding the time to make substantial posts was a bit too tricky. 

Perhaps the biggest surprise in relation to the above goals was the manicure. As a (I like to believe) relatively typical male, nail care hasn’t, historically, been near the top of my list of concerns. But now that I’ve had one. Oh boy. It’s just skipped a few places closer up that list. For the first time since birth my nails looked sharp and tidy. There’s no before picture as evidence but Operation Clean Up T’s Nails resulted in something special. Observe:

IMG_0966IMG_0963IMG_0965

Ok, enough of the nails already because then December screamed into January…

I love new year. It’s a blank canvas if you want it to be, a fresh stage upon which to be someone new or try something different. Or, it’s simply a new space on the calendar. I posted a recent blog about it. 

I’m still feeling excited about the year. Here are some of the chief goals:

January 

  • Flotation Tank
    • Booked and scheduled for 22nd January
  • Porchester Spa
    • Scheduled for Friday 19th January
  • Pedicure
  • Book a massage
  • Swimming
  • Begin new training
    •  In preparation for the runs I need to incorporate more cardio into my workouts alongside endurance work, more mobility drills and, unfortunately, cold water acclimatisation. Expect to see a post for this shortly (and see below).
  • Blog posts
    • Monthly weigh-in and muscle-in: Going into #project20nine what are my baseline stats?
      • To be posted on 14/01/2018.
    • 29 Things to be Grateful for in 2017
      • To be posted on 15/01/2018
    • How Much Coffee is Too Much Coffee?
      • To be posted before end of Jan
    • Where’s my concentration? The disappearance of the human attention span
      • To be posted before end of Jan
    • How to make the most of a long weekend in Reykjavik
      • To be posted before end of Jan
    • How to Meditate With Purpose
      • To be posted before end of Jan
  • Contact a new hero: Tim Ferriss

That’s it. Happy new year: make January count!

Over and out until the next one…


This post is part of an ongoing account of the final 364 days of being a 20-something. 

The First Week of #project20nine

“If you have a dream, you can spend a lifetime studying, planning, and getting ready for it. What you should be doing is getting started.”

Drew Houston, founder and CEO of Dropbox.

The year began in London but quickly moved to Reykjavik before the day was out and what an absolute delight that was. I’ll be posting a separate, Iceland-specific post soon, suffice to say that it has been one of the countries I dreamed of visiting for a long, long time and the opportunity to start this particular year with a trip there seemed like the perfect thing to do. And despite all of the planning, something I didn’t really expect happened too…I came home even more pumped up about #project20nine.

Perhaps it was the Icelandic water and the fresh air they’ve got up there, or maybe it was the fermented shark, but having spent the first 4 days of the year in Reykjavik, I came home to a week that was as full and as productive as I had hoped and planned:

Wednesday

Up at 6am as a final holiday treat. Wash, breakfast and stretch. Head to work at 7am.  Spend the day in the office playing catch up after some time off. Clock out at 5pm and make my way to Imperial College London take take the Intro to Film course; study 10 Lithuanian words on the way. Wrap at 8.10 and return home. Eat, wash and love every second of the final hour of the day in the company of Vita. Hit the hay, 10pm.

Thursday

Up at 5am, get some fresh air. Go home, wash, eat and leave for work. Spend the day in the office. Clock out half an hour late and walk home. Meet V, grab a quick bite and leave for Acro with these cool cats. Practise some hand to hand. Finish class and sneak in a quick gym sesh: pullups and core. Go home, wash and cook dinner: baked eggs in tomato, mushroom and spinach. Served with salad and mackerel. 10pm, wind down and lights out.

Friday

V’s away from early tomorrow so I take the opportunity to have a final snuggle and so skip the gym. She’ll be gone for the best part of 2 weeks and I’m a cuddler. Coffee, breakfast and leave for el worko. Spend the day in the office and get home by 6.30pm. Prepare dinner but don’t cook it yet. Spend a couple of hours researching for the year ahead and TwoFit. Put the second season of Stranger Things on in the background and feel satisfied that all is right with the world. Call The Mother to check in, remind her that I love her and to give her the lowdown on Iceland and the week in general. Chat for 50 mins. V comes home, I cook and listen to all the fun she had in the day. The astrologer she spent the evening with says she has a good year ahead. The astrologer says she found a good match in me. I like this. The astrologer says that 70-80% is a good match. I do not like this. 10.30pm, bedtime.

Saturday

Up at 4.30am to drop Vita at the train station. Back home by 5am to clean the house, then breakfast and prep for my weekly English literature lesson with Ollie. 30 minutes of reading The Slaughterhouse Five before taking a morning stroll to meditate. Back to the flat for a quick tea and to pack the day bag with books and laptop; head to the train station for the 9.34. Begin lesson at 10.30, back on the train at 1.20pm and get back home by 3pm, due to delays on the trains. All of them. Grab a bite of Fage as the fridge is empty before jumping in the car and picking up the groceries. Back again by 5pm and after the early start, have a few relaxing hours.

Sunday

Up at 7am and immediately begin crushing the day. Reward myself with a mid-morning walk through the city for coffee then back to the flat for a bit more work. Gym at 4pm, home for 6pm and meal prep for the week. Put together clothes, bag etc. ready for the new week and the pattern to begin all over again.


The week has been a great start and a precedent setter. I feel extremely motivated and am very grateful for the first week of the year. But now it’s November and the #project20nine plan for the month looks like this:

  • Book a floatation experience @ London Floatation Centre or Floatworks
  • Contact a new hero/inspiration: Ella Frances Sanders
  • Join a class @ Foundry Fit
  • Go swimming at least twice; consider Sunday afternoons.
  • Finish reading The Slaughterhouse Five and then read The Year of Living Danishly.  
  • Learn 300 new Lithuanian words
  • Book in for a deep tissue massage
  • Post a blog for each of the following:
    • How to wake up early and conquer the first 90 minutes of the day;
      • My daily fitness routine and how to stay focussed and motivated;
    • How to meditate with purpose;
      • The questions that often form the focus of my meditation;
    • The year’s reading list [titles that will be included for certain];
    • Monthly weigh-in and muscle-in: Going into #project20nine what are my baseline stats?
    • Where’s my concentration? The disappearance of the human attention span;
    • How to make the most of a long weekend in Reykjavik.
  • At the end of the month upload a video detailing the success/failure of the above

#project20nine in full swing!


This post is part of an ongoing account of the final 364 days of being a 20-something. Today is Day Eight and the author doesn’t feel a day older than he should. In fact, if you asked him how he does feel, he’d probably tell you he feels no different to the way he felt at the beginning of being a 20-something. He would also tell you how much he enjoys being however old he is at any given moment and that he feels hungry. But then again, he’s always hungry. 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Make the Most of a Year: What to Do in the Last Year of One’s 20’s. Part 2: The List.

Today is Day Zero. It’s October 28th 2017 and I’ve woken up one day older than when I went to bed. It’s also now 29 years to the day that I entered the world and so, if #project20nine is going to get off to its right and proper start, it’s time to get down to business.

Say hello to…

The List

Twenty-nine goals is a lot. Even across the year that averages one for every 12.55 days, supposing that they can be completed in that time. The approach I took when considering what these goals might look like was to define a handful of categories that, when taken together, might look like a fuller representation of life.

As such, those categories are:

  • Physical [health, exercise, nutrition, physical skills]
  • Experiential/ Pleasure [the simple joy of doing something new/novel i.e. the things that I’d want to do for the thrill of it]
  • Financial [money driven; job/career related]
  • Developmental [the things that can better help push/challenge/encourage a broader perspective and self-awareness; outward appearance]
  • Educational [general learning/self-study, qualifications, languages, certificates]
  • Emotional/Spiritual [mindset; emotional well-being and satisfaction]

I chose to omit specifically categorising things like Love & Relationships [family and friends]Character, Public Service/CharityArtistic and Quality of Life as these are things that flow through all of the above as well as remain consistent considerations irrespective of goal-setting. Most will be observable in one, or more, of the goals outlined below in any case.

Physical

Our bodies are a gift and, treated well, they’re a gift that will keep on giving. It can be so, so easy to take the for granted or be afraid to putting in the hard work to make them even stronger. It is a zero-sum game: if we work hard for our bodies, our bodies will work hard for us.

Goal Measurable Outcome
1 Squat 2x bodyweight, bench 1.5x bodyweight and and deadlift 2x bodyweight Video evidence.
2 Complete a series of sporting events: The medal for each event.
Tough Mudder [April]
Survival of the Fittest  [June, London]
Red Bull 400
Nordic Run [September]
Colour Run [June, London]
Spartan Race [May]
Bonus: 7th race in another country
3 Experience a flotation tank Vlog.
4 Have regular, i.e. monthly or more, deep tissue massages Vlog.
5 Go for a manicure and/or pedicure. Photo evidence.
6 Reach 90kg with 8% body fat Photo evidence. Digital body analysis.
7 Remove the subway from the equation: use underground public transport only when absolutely necessary Monthly Oyster Card report.
8 Be able to hold a 20 second handstand. Video evidence.
9 Master the muscle up. Video evidence. Fluid movement from the hang the to press. 5 or more reps to qualify.
10 Have full blood work analysis done for:

·       Cholesterol

·       Testosterone

The report

The Blood Work

To begin, I want to know what exactly is going on inside me at a cellular level and my baseline questions are: What are my testosterone levels looking like and how can I use a reading of them to push them higher? And, does my cholesterol sit at the lower end of the spectrum, and if not, how can I get it there and how quickly can I do it? For health in general, but particularly for male health, these two are key. There are a number of additional readings that can be taken from blood tests (FBC, blood sugar, electrolytes etc.) that will likely also be explored.

Heavy Lifting

Lifting double (and 1.5x for the bench press) one’s bodyweight is not particularly unusual or attention-grabbing, and I don’t desire being able to do so for social credits or bragging rights. It’s generally considered above average, but if I was looking for that kind of attention, I’d be shooting for a much larger ratio than this. For me, the ability to squat, press and deadlift these weights is a realistic, targeted and practical ambition. For one, developing that strength will be a safety net: I will be better protected, and better able to protect myself, should I fall. It will also make daily functionality that much easier and efficient. Training with goals is also a form of meditation for me. I feel good when I see progress and in terms of bang for buck the overall benefits of becoming stronger at these compound exercises has many practical applications. Not least of which includes helping me more quickly work towards the muscle up and handstand, and all of the other awesome calisthenics exercises. Both of these abilities are supremely impressive and both indicate a genuine mastery of one’s bodyweight which, in turn, offers further, significant functionality. Even though I’ve listed the muscle up as an achievement already, I want to master it. Simply getting above the bar was one of last year’s goals. It wasn’t a pretty sight. In fact, I’m pretty sure I caught a couple of people recoiling at it. But heck, I got up there!

Bodyweight

The desire to reach 90kg bodyweight at 8% body fat is on here because I’m an ectomorph and historically putting on lean mass (any kind of mass, really) has proven very slow and difficult for me. This goal is 10kg above my current weight and about 4-5% below my body fat today. This goal is here to force me to train differently and to push me further outside my comfort zone. It’s also a bit of an experiment for me in terms of exploring perceptions of masculinity and physicality, especially in an age where physical aesthetics amongst all of us who are not elite athletes appears to be so much more of a concern.

The Sporting Events

Running sporting events such as those listed above is a little bit of an antidote to my desk-bound lifestyle at present. Typically, my day jobs keeps me sat at a desk, over a computer, for 8-9 hours a day so whilst these endurance, obstacle races may seem like an extreme antithesis to this, I enjoy the challenge and thrill of pushing myself in as many ways as possible. More curious is the number of races I’ve outlined for the year and the reason for this is simple: the value of consistency. Training for a single event that will occur on one day of one year is reductive. I want to establish a new, higher baseline for my fitness and so signing up for multiple events that are regularly spaced out throughout the year will provide great motivation to keep working hard. It’s also a socially and financially incentivised decision. If I don’t train well or fail to attend and give it a shot, not only will it be public knowledge I’ll have also wasted the entry fees.

The Races

**subject to availabilty

Re-balance

I’ve set myself a number of physically demanding challenges but I’m a great believer in balance and so to offset the physical stresses are a number of recovery/rebalance items. Sensory deprivation has been an interest of mine for some time but I’ve yet to experience the flotation tank. Likewise, the effects regular deep tissue massage has never been in dispute and, in keeping with the outlined approach to training, would be hugely beneficial to my goals.

Removing the Subway from the Equation

Currently I still live in London and the air up here, it ain’t fine. As a cyclist I tend to avoid public transport in general, but sometimes I’ll whip on the tube if it’s more convenient, if I have a class to attend/teach and/or the airport to get to. Of all the times that I might resort to using the London Underground, I expect only about 75% of that time is truly essential. A small goal for this year to is to bring that figure up to 100%. I only want to use the tube, which is not only filled with polluted air but super expensive for the pleasure of breathing it in, when absolutely necessary.

Experiential/ Pleasure

Life is for living and even though all twenty-nine goals are personal, a lot of them are result driven. That’s all well and good, but simply joys and the fun stuff (however we want to define these terms) should feature in all of our lives. The items below are here for their visceral thrill as well as to provide me with opportunities to test my mettle and understand how I might respond to new and potentially (to me at least) scary situations. They’re also, absolutely, about the simple joy of just going for it.

Goal Measurable Outcome
11 Write a new song and record it An audio upload.
12 Drive a Mustang Photos/vlog.
13 Fly a plane Photos/vlog.
14 Fire a handgun Photos/vlog.
15 Get professional headshots done, submit to an agent and get an audition for a film or TV drama The photos and a vlog.
16 Eat in a Michelin-starred restaurant Photo
17 Skydive Photo/video

New Song(s)

The last song I recorded sounds like this: It’s just been a few years since I sat down and put the time into this channel of creativity. This year I’d like that to change. I love making music but somehow, and somewhere along the line, it became less of a priority.

Flying and Driving and Skydiving

Let’s not dwell on the why’s and wherefores just yet, suffice to ask: how can flying,  driving and gliding through the sky be anything other than thrilling?

Firing off a Round

…specifically from a handgun. Firing handguns, or any firearms in fact, in the UK is not a common experience. We don’t have firing ranges in abundance and owning and using personal firearms is a long, long series of bureaucracy and assessment. I don’t contest this for a second and wholly support it – I would feel very uncomfortably should this ever change. However, it does make the idea of handing a handgun that much more novel and appealing, especially for someone who grew up making his sister play Cowboys and Indians with him.

Headshots and Auditions

I’m a cineaste through and through and would love to try my hand at acting for the screen. I live in one of the most opportune places to do just that and all I need is a picture and bit of wherewithal to at least be in the race. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? But to be clear, I’m not in this for anything other than the experience of stepping behind the curtain.

The Restaurant

Another joy of being in a city like London is the access to world-class dining. Sure, there is a smorgasbord of countries on another of my lists I’d love to have more dining experiences in but there is a lot on offer in London too: Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, Brett Graham at The Ledbury, Dinner By Heston…  There is also a lot going on outside of the city too.

Developmental

Goal Measurable Outcome
18 Reinvent my image Before and after photos
19 Read 2 books per month (and put together a reading list) Brief account/overview/discussion of the books in the blog
20 Take a photo of life everyday Digital record: Instagram a/c
21 Take a self-portrait everyday Digital record: Instagram a/c
22 Take a camera everywhere The above evidence

Our image, our outward appearance, is intrinsic to our identity. I definitely feel that I’ve not put as much effort into my image as I once did. With the exception of being focussed on my health and the inevitable effects on my body physically, my wardrobe, hair, shoes etc. have grown tired and neglected. This is undoubtedly the most superficial item on the list, but how we appear is a reflection of how we feel, our sense of identity and our personality. In the coming year it is my intention to sharped up, and have fun doing it.

Reading

As part of the emphasis on self-development I mentioned above, reading books is a cornerstone of this ideology. I’ve loved books and loved reading forever so putting this into the project might seem a little wasteful of any entry, but there’s a reason for it. Lately, I just haven’t been doing a whole lot of reading because time is being used up on a lot of other things in the day. I wonder if I can take a leaf out of someone else’s book.  I’m fascinated by the influencers (Tai Lopez, here’s looking at you) who claim to read a book a day/ every other day etc. because to me and, I suspect, anyone with their foot in reality, doing so seems infeasible, unenjoyable and, frankly, illogical. Think about it. If I’m reading a book a day, there’s only a few things that can mean:

  • I don’t have anything else to do in the day (Even at a page every 30 seconds, which is roughly double the average speed of 200-314 words per minute, a 300-page novel will take 2.5 hours. Which isn’t so long, until we factor in the rest of our average-person’s day: sleep for 7.5 hours, wash, cook and eat for two hours, work for 8 hours, gym for another 1.5 hours, socialise/evening class/play with kids/walk the dog etc. for 2 more, travel and commute for the other 2. That’s 24 hours for most of us. Maybe the commute and lunch breaks will afford those 2.5 hours of intense reading time, but then again maybe not.)
  • The books I’m reading are either novellas of about 100 pages, or kid’s books,
  • I’m turning the pages but not really engaging with, or savouring, the content or, if I am, I’m not really retaining it,
  • I’m using book summaries/book overviews, and mistakenly calling it ‘reading a book’, or listening to audiobooks in the background,
  • I’m not being entirely honest because I want to look cool/sell a product

Of course, that’s a pretty cynical way to look at it, especially given how I’ve not yet tried to read a book a day for any prolonged period of time. It may well be completely possible for an average Joe such as myself. So, 2 books a month is a book a fortnight. For the first month this is my first step. If at the end of that month I’m two books down and feeling like I can push it further, I’ll recalibrate and go for 3 in the following month, 4 the following and so on. At that rate, by the end of the year I should be flipping through a book every other day, or more accurately, 13 books a month! The only rule: the reading experience must always be enjoyable.

Photography

The photography element of this section is twofold. It will mean that I can visually document the year and record the changes that occur to my body over 364 days of aging. Coupled with this a catalogue of every day images and I’ll have a pretty well-rounded image of the year. Plus, I think this will be a lot of fun. I’ve never subjected myself to this kind of thorough examination. Looking in the mirror briefly each day reminds me that I’ve not changed a single bit in the last 10 years, but every new passport photo and driver’s license reissue abruptly tells me otherwise.

Educational 

Goal Measurable Outcome
23 Attain a L4 Diploma in Pre & Ante-natal Exercise The certificate
24 Apply for funding for NFTS Diploma in Script Development Notice of application
25 Learn 10 Lithuanian words per day Weekly examination results/vlog

I’m a complete advocate for learning. This isn’t just an advocacy for qualifications, because we learn by doing, talking, reading irrespective of whether we get to sit an exam somewhere down the line to prove we learned something. However, in this instance goals 23-25 are qualifications that, regarding #23 and #25, do not require much time and #24 is intrinsically tied to my current, primary career focus. The Level 4 diploma is, effectively, building my skillset and evidence of it for any prospective employer/client, whilst the Celta qualification will help facilitate English tutoring opportunities in foreign-speaking countries. This is another experience I would very much enjoy having and also provide me with a fall back option should I be looking for work should I find myself in, say, Lithuania learning Lithuanian for a spell.

Learning 10 Lithuanian words per day is for my own benefit and as my partner, Vita, is Lithuanian, for the benefit of my Lithuanian family and friends too. I want to be able to talk with them in their own language. Simple as that. 10 words a day is a small, attainable goal that, with consistently, will provide me with an even larger word base than I have today. In fact, 10 words a day is low-end in terms of practical quantities (Gabriel Wyner suggests 30 words as a starting point, Benny Lewis suggests 400 hours/1-2 hours a day as an alternative measure) and using an app like Anki*, where I can build my own flashcard catalogue, will make the learning convenient and involving. Learning languages is also hugely fun and rewarding. Even just swapping out mindless scrolling through Facebook and Instagram feeds for the same amount of time with a language learning app, phrasebook or study guide, will take you places. This is possibly the most exciting item on the list for me, because I know that it will deepen my relationships so much more.

*not an affiliate link, it just happens to be the app that I use.

Emotional/Spiritual

Goal Measurable Outcome
26 Contact a new hero/inspiration every month Blog post about that person
27 Move out of London to somewhere completely new Proof of relocation: image/video

Heroes and Inspirations

I think reaching out to an inspiring person, whoever they are and for whatever reason, is a great thing to do and something that I want to do much more of. The last person I reached out to was Paul Katis, director of the incredible Kajaki, simply to thank him for such a powerful, respectful and remarkable film. Reaching out is not a self-serving goal. It’s not about brown-nosing or sucking up to someone in the hopes that they can do something for you. The chief aim is simply an act of gratitude: to give thanks for the effects that their work or actions have had on you.

The Move

Moving out of London is absolutely something that I now feel will be a huge benefit to me. I’ve been here for nearly 3 years but it takes a toll. Physically, spiritually, emotionally and, unquestionably, financially. London is a fantastic place. It’s full of life, opportunity, things to do and culture. Coming from a small town in England, London is the centre of the universe, and there’s no escaping just how important it is on a global scale. BUT, it’s not the only place in the world and, in terms of what I want and how I want to live, London doesn’t have longevity written all over it for me. I’m appalled and terrified of the air pollution in equal measure, feel exactly the same about the cost of living and most days find myself consciously fighting not to slip into the same, rushed and frenzied mindset of most of its population. I’ve lived it, and now want to experience life in a new place, a new country and a new culture.

Financial

Goal Measurable Outcome
28 Generate a larger profile for TwoFit Social media audience
29 Write the outline for my first book A draft

TwoFit is one of my proudest accomplishments and most personal endeavours of the last 12 months. As a business it reflects a significant part of my identity and also provides a platform through which likeminded people can interact with us. It is, however, still a new venture and there are many things in store for it over the next 12 months. As a place for channelling passion, it is deeply rewarding.

Writing a book, whilst at first glance would seem to belong to the Developmental/Education categories, is here to further incentivise me produce something I am proud of. There’s a book, or two, in all of us but to be able to make money from it/them…that’s another level. I owe it to myself to shoot for the stars.

For the next 364 days, those are the things that I’d like to spend my time on but…

…I also want a Plan B! Not as an alternative, as an addition if possible:

The Additional List

If it’s not already obvious, I’m a bit of a dreamer. But ask yourself this, if we don’t have our dreams, what do we have? Once I began really thinking about the size of the coming year, suddenly twenty-nine items seemed quite restricted. All things considered, the following will ideally take place throughout the coming year too. Strictly speaking these are not definitive items on the agenda but are nevertheless a handful of things I’d like to experience and/or achieve. They’re not off the team, they’re just on the bench:

  1. Apply for funding for a L4 qualification in Strength and Conditioning
  2. Build a computer
  3. Go for a whiskey tasting evening and/or try a new whiskey every month
  4. Attend a book carving class
  5. See a basketball game
  6. Go swimming twice a month
  7. Visit Porchester Spa
  8. Learn how to professionally use a chef knife
  9. Say no more often [yes, it’s a hard one to measure/quantify; no, I’m not going to take it off]
  10. Immersive Lithuanian – live in Vilnius for a month, enhance my language ability.
  11. Embrace digital detoxes by following a few guidelines:
    1. Phone out of the bedroom at night/phone on aeroplane mode if the phone is needed as an alarm
    2. Do not use a computer/laptop/internet device on Friday nights after work
  12. Do something uncomfortable every month…
    1. that is to say, express eustress — stress that is healthful and the stimulus for growth – on a regular basis
  13. Start a blog and commit to it
  14. Provide someone in need with a hot drink and a hot meal
  15. Take my partner, Vita, for a Sunday morning coffee at least once a month.
  16. Meditate daily
  17. Save £XXk
  18. Speed friending: find a meet up/language swap/sports class twice month
  19. Complete a coffee training course

So, on the edge of 29 as I peer up at 30, looming over me as it is, I make the following pledge:

I, Taylor Boxall, will live the year to the fullest, make bold decisions, do incredible, exciting and memorable things and, when its done, Ill look back with joy and satisfaction, safe in the knowledge that I spent the last year of my 20’s making the most of it.

Perhaps life does begin at 30, but I’ve long suspected life starts precisely when you choose it to. Life, I’m inclined to believe, doesn’t begin at 30, it just gets bigger and better but before that, there’s a whole year to enjoy.

Happy birthday.

How to Make the Most of a Year: What to Do in the Last Year of One’s 20’s. Part 1: The Rationale

Part 1: The Rationale

On October 28th, I turn 29 years old and begin my final year on this side of 30. Some might tell us it’s the right side and that it’ll all be downhill from there. Others, the cool, optimistic ones, will tell us things only get better from there on out. Either way, it’s a big one. So big in fact, that I’ve decided that it’s high time for a reappraisal; an analysis exactly of who I am, what I’ve done with my life and how exactly, I believe, the final year of my 20’s should be spent. It’s a kind of pre-emptive therapy, a preventative measure against the possibility of waking up one morning with the realisation (or, rather, the misguided belief) that I have been wasting my life [i]. Over the next year I want to share the journey and my approach to leaving the 20’s behind with a bang and starting the 30’s with an even bigger one. After all, they also say life begins at 30. Right?

Before I begin, I think that it’s important to state, categorically, that #project20nine is not indicative of any sense of unhappiness. I am happy, I have a beautiful family and have few genuine worries in life. For this I am absolutely grateful. This project is about embracing opportunity, pushing myself in as many different ways as I desire, learning, growing and, most essentially, continuing to make the most of life in the fullest way I can. It’s also about asking myself exactly who I want to be, what I want to do, how I’m going to do it, where I want to be and, perhaps most importantly, why I want these things. These aren’t questions that I necessarily have the answers to right now, but one year from now I’ll either have new answers or reaffirmed old ones.


In 2017 there is a firmly established mindset, certainly among millennials, that places an emphasis on self-dependency, finding one’s passion and making a living from it, travel, real-world experience, not settling for second best and entrepreneurialism. Is it idealism? Is it a pragmatic belief that we can have all these things? Or is it the paradox of social media?

We live in an age with more opportunity to do what we find fulfilling than ever before and with a 24/7 window that overlooks everyone else doing just that it’s perhaps not entirely unreasonable to realise that a certain amount of envy, no matter how artificial those things our envy is based on are, is inevitable. What’s more, to assume oneself to be immune to such influence is naïve. I don’t feel affected but I have no doubts at all that the things I see, read, engage with and have even a fleeting interest in have a degree of impact on my desires and decisions. That said, as a starting block, #project20nine is as honest and as sincere to my own needs as I can make it. The variety of items are not there superficially: I am not concerned if one, some or all of them are impressive. What matters to me and should matter, I believe, to anyone looking to do something similar for any year of their life, is that the list reflects me, and not how I wish to be perceived.

Over the last several years I’ve routinely sought to achieve the things that I felt bettered me, stimulated me and/or offered an opportunity to open more doors and, generally speaking, and to my own standards, I have. Of course, those choices have never been infinite and any one of the them could quite easily have been replaced by another, but I own these choices and some of the highlights from the last decade include:

  • Age 21– I graduated for the first time with a scholarship-funded First Class honours BA degree with Distinction in Media Production.
  • Age 22 – I took my first solo overseas trip to a non-English-speaking country (Hallo, Deutschland!).
  • Age 23 – I became a teacher.
  • Age 24 – I graduated for the second time, this time in teaching.
  • Age 25 – I went back to university on another full scholarship, got a motorcycle license and fell in love with riding one.
  • Age 26 – I graduated for the third time (MA in Film and Television) and ran my first half marathon.
  • Age 27 – I moved to London from a small town in the UK and then travelled 3,500km around Japan.
  • Age 28 – I qualified as a PT, started learning Lithuanian, got a promotion, moved in with my partner, Vita, travelled around India and Sri Lanka, became a lecturer at Imperial College London, did my first muscle up and launched TwoFit.

During this time I also became an uncle 5-times over, saw one sister get married, saw the other come out and realise that I’ve got a lot of work to do to catch up my old man who just asked my mother to marry him again. Next year he’d like me to give her away and then stand beside him as his best man. What a romantic.

The above doesn’t make me any more or any less special than anyone else; any better nor any worse. Would I have done anything differently? Absolutely, but do I regret the decisions I made? Absolutely not, because there’s nothing to regret and it wouldn’t get me anywhere even if I did. I can’t change the past but I can affect the future by continuing to make choices and continuing to learn from them too. One of the ways that I plan on doing this is with this blog. It’s my evidence portfolio, my record of achievement and the chief means with which I’ll be able to look back on this year and see exactly where it’s gone. I keep plenty of notebooks but I’ve never kept any sort of diary. #project20nine is the most extensive diary I’ll have ever kept.

This is a year about living consciously. Achieving tangible, measurable things is fun and satisfying and practical but developing a mindset, that’s less immediately observable. I can’t take a photo of it, win a medal for it or take a video of its first steps. But I can develop it nonetheless. Like most of us I can sometimes be a big negligent of truly conscious mindfulness and so, alongside my intention to achieve the tangible, I also want to place the following questions at the forefront of this year:

  1. How can my approach to the next 364 days be more considered?
  2. What is the short and long-term value, and consequence(s), of my actions and decisions? Who will benefit from such choices?
  3. Am I living fully and with gratitude? Do I show appreciation to others; feel appreciation for the small things often enough; do things for others just because and without anticipation and expectation of reciprocation?
  4. Do I live each day confidently, with self-belief strong enough to really push myself
  5. Would my actions and/or decisions make my parents proud? Could I comfortably discuss them with them?
  6. Would my actions inspire my 19-year-old self?
  7. Would my actions make my 39-year-old self proud?

“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.”

Tim Ferriss, The Four Hour Work Week

#project20nine begins with looking backwards but continues with looking forwards. Over the next 364 days I have a number of personal endeavours that I intend to embark on, to accomplish and to enjoy and the most straightforward way setting up the year ahead is to itemise them.

However, it’s a year that isn’t just about ticking stuff off a list. That’s a bit superficial and a somewhat misguided use of time. There’s no real value in that, no emotional investment or sense of appreciation. The title of the project is a celebration of each year of my life to date and so with respect to that number I felt it fitting to fill the year with twenty-nine exciting things. #project20nine is about doing things that excite me because the question one should ask oneself on a regular basis is not ‘what are my goals’ but rather, ‘what excites me and what can I do about it?’.

In order to get there, #project20nine has a couple of criteria that automatically rules certain entries out. First, travel is not eligible. I travel a lot and fully intend to keep doing it. There are plenty of dream trips (one of them, a trip to Iceland to see the Aurora Borealis, starts on my birthday) but travelling is not a specific aim for the year. Second, anything to do with commercialism or item acquisition is also out. Material goods come and go and I believe that life aspirations should be free of anything so temporary. An expensive pair of shoes are nice, but they’ll wear out much quicker than memories.

That aside, one of the big considerations regarding the list is plausibility and so entries need to be considered in such a way that doesn’t render the list unrealistic and/or highly unlikely. All of the best intentions, positive energy and belief that the if youre going to dream, dream big/ if youre going to fail, fail big etc. mentality will make dreams come true isn’t a logical approach. It’s inspiring and optimistic, but the list entries should be evaluated in such a way that whilst yes, they might be lofty ambitions given the constraints (whether financial, time or otherwise), setting oneself up for failure is, frankly, a waste of time and opportunity. What’s more is that the success of each list item should be quantifiable. After the fact, to what degree was it achieved and how can that achievement be measured?

Simply put, any item on the list is eligible should it meet the following criteria:

  1. Does it excite me?
  2. Are they within the realm of possibility? [putting ‘get a PhD’ on the list has a very high degree of implausibility within a year, just as ‘become an A-list movie star’ has]
  3. Does the entry have a measurable result?
  4. Will I look back on the memory of the entry and be glad of the time, energy and/or financial resources that I spent on it?
  5. Does the entry have a low-to-zero chance of negatively impacting on anyone else’s life?

If the answer to all criteria is a resounding ‘Yes’, it’s game on. If not, how can the entry be amended to still fit the bill and if it can’t then great, there’s a new space for a new entry.

Either way, game on.


[i] For the record, we’ve all been living our lives the best that we can. Our motivations, our ambitions and our contentment of those years leading to the Now are intimately ours and no one else will ever have the right and liberty of judging them. If we get to the point where we think we could have done better that’s precisely the point at which we step back, reflect and step up our games. The most important person to strive to be is yourself in 5 or 10 years. That’s the hero to look up to and hope to be because the 5/10 year Future Self is the Self with the gift of time and all that that time has to offer us.