Benjamin Spall Writer

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The Sound of Silence

I turned thirty a couple weeks before my book was published. To mark the occasion, my wife booked us into a small wood cabin for a couple nights just outside of Mendocino (approx. three and a half hours north of San Francisco).

While the trip was primarily to celebrate my birthday, it was also used as something of an escape from everything that has been happening (and continues to happen) surrounding the book. I’m not at all ashamed to admit that we never actually went into Mendocino proper while we were there; we were quite happy in our little cabin, thank you very much.

Despite being situated just off a small road, the woods surrounding the cabin were silent apart from the sounds of nature lurking within. It was our sanctuary. When I wasn’t building up the log burning stove (and on occasion, dangerously overpacking it) I was simply staring in and around the cabin, opening up its windows and sticking out my head. The cabin was everything. The silence was everything. Everything, and nothing.

Thank You

There was a moment, six weeks ago, while writing article after article and recording interview after interview, that I thought “I need to update my blog telling people that my book is on sale!”

While this may be a little after the fact now, I just want to say thank you to everyone who bought the book, gifted it to someone else, or (to be honest) even just lent it to friend or family member, or picked it up from your local library. That was really cool of you.

The book has been chosen as one of Amazon’s best business books of 2018, one of the Financial Times books of the month, and one of Business Insider’s best business books to read this summer. If you’ve not done so already, you can order the book now in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and a number of other countries. We currently have translation deals in I think five different countries, the first of which, Mein Morgen-Ritual, comes out in Germany on October 8.

Thank you again, and if you enjoyed the book don’t forget to review it! Reviews are the lifeblood of books; even if you haven’t finished mine yet, consider reviewing someone else’s book in the meantime. I promise they’ll appreciate it.

If You Seek Tranquillity, Do Less

In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius writes:

If you seek tranquillity, do less. Most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquillity. Ask yourself at every moment, “Is this necessary?”

This is a good question to ask ourselves at every moment, especially when we’re being pulled this way and that, and struggling from overwhelm in our work and daily life.

When we ask ourselves “Is this necessary?” we’ll invariably find ourselves answering that it is not, or at least, that it doesn’t have to happen now, or it can be batched to take place at another time, or it can be delegated to someone else.

If you seek tranquility, do less. Do what’s essential, and do it now.

External vs. Internal Character

External character traits are all around us. They’re what we choose to outwardly project to the world, whether in what we wear, what we share, or the causes we choose to side with or argue against.

Internal character traits are hard to define but easy to recognise. While first impressions can count for a lot, the longer you get to know someone the better an understanding you’ll get of the quality of their internal character traits over the external. Are they a loving mother, father, wife, husband, daughter, or son? Do they care deeply for their family, their community, and the world as a whole?

In post-war America and Europe, and in some instances even sooner, the focus began to shift from the internal to the external; that is, from building our internal character traits to choosing to display an external character that we believe (or simply hope) will be agreeable to those we want to impress. It’s been mentioned that Dale Carnegie’s 1936 classic How to Win Friends and Influence People marked a change in the self-help genre whereby many previous works had focused on how to build your internal character, many new works began to explore how your external character traits can be manipulated to get you to where you want to be.

This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing in small doses, and in the right hands. As my wife put it to me, “People are still good people, but maybe our focus has shifted more towards external good deeds like saving the environment or endangered species rather than internally trying to have a good character.”

She then gave me the example of George Bailey in the 1946 Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life (one of my favourite movies). In the movie George, played by James Stewart, has plans to leave on a world tour right after high school before attending college, but after the sudden death of his father he chooses to stay in his small community of Bedford Falls to keep alive the family business, Building and Loan, after the board of directors votes to keep the business open (a business that much of the community relies upon) on the condition that George stays to run it.

George handed his college tuition over to his brother Harry on the condition that Harry will take over from him when he returns from college. Despite eagerly awaiting Harry’s return so he can finally see the world, when Harry returns four years later with a job offer from his father-in-law, George tells Harry to take it, offering (against his own self-interest) to continue to run the Building and Loan.

George’s internal character traits are clear for all to see in It’s a Wonderful Life. His life wasn’t glamorous, and in the end he didn’t get a “big win” against Mr. Potter, his family’s nemesis and the richest man in town. But without spoiling the movie too much (though it came out over seventy years ago, so you’ve had enough time to see it), the movie ends with George being surrounded by his friends, family, and his whole community, all of whom clearly love and value him for who he is. And that, in my wife’s words, is happy ending enough.

My Morning Routine, the Book

After much secrecy I’m excited to finally announce that I, along with my co-author Michael Xander, have a book coming out!

My Morning Routine is being published by Portfolio/Penguin and will be available everywhere books are sold on 15 May, 2018. You can pre-order the book now in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

This book has been a labour of love for over a year and a half. We were approached by an editor at Portfolio in the summer of 2016, and since then it has been all go. Between us we contacted 631 people in the space of six months, with a small number being whittled down and making it into the finished work. I was personally lucky enough to speak with everyone from retired U.S. Army four-star General Stanley McChrystal, to the president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, Ed Catmull, to the life-changing tidying-upper herself, Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo.

If you’re not yet an email subscriber to My Morning Routine, the website, sign up here and you’ll receive the book’s introduction and the first routine included in it right now, for free. If you’re already an email subscriber, check your inbox.