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.
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 a 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.
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.
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 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.
Not too long ago I copied down these words by author and associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University, Cal Newport:
Incessant clicking and scrolling generates a background hum of anxiety. Drastically reducing the number of thing you do in your digital life can by itself have a significant calming impact.
Taken from a blog post exploring the idea of digital minimalism, the phrase “incessant clicking and scrolling” struck a nerve with me for just how accurate it was. We are incessantly clicking and scrolling our way through life, and it’s true that the background hum rarely, if ever, stops. Newport has some thoughts on how to silence this noise, and I highly recommend his blog for practical recommendations on how to do so. Until then I challenge you to look out for this hum and not give in when you hear it.
Looking ahead to the year to come, last year I wrote down, amongst other notes, “Find out why I’m tired all the time.”
I’d had many theories on why this might be; my main being the comforting notion that everyone is just as tired as me. The afternoon slump is real, after all, and it’s something the vast majority of us feel every day, regardless of whether or not we’ve had a big, carb-filled lunch (though this does make it worse).
But this wasn’t it. After exchanging notes with my wife—a non-coffee, occasional black tea drinker—on how she experiences daytime tiredness, it was clear that something wasn’t right. We eat the same foods and get the same amount of sleep for the most part, so my wife suggested that I cut coffee out of my diet. I’d previously only been drinking 1-2 cups a day, but it was clearly a prime candidate to be dropped, so I agreed to it.