In a world where we can have anything we want, we snatch at everything. The more we have, the less we value. And of what truly matters we have very little.


Do not let your mind lead you to lazy comparisons and conclusions of ‘better’ and ‘worse.’

Every place, situation and moment is different from another one. Seldom is one truly ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – usually this can be determined by you yourself.


A picture is worth a thousand words – but only tells one side of a story.


Life is an adventure. And like every good adventure it is defined by the people you meet along the way.

However, you must first learn to enjoy your own company, to relish the periods of solitude, as long or intense as they may be. You must get to know yourself, understand yourself, and learn to love who you are.

This opens the door for serendipity.


Even the water is harder here. 

The arresting beauty of the mountains has been hastily overthrown by the rough and tumble of the city.

Rough around the edges, and perhaps right to the core, those edges now feel sharper and jar against the soft green blanket of nature.

But there is solace to be found. Each passing bird and every ray of sunlight through the leaves is an echo of the humble simplicity of life in the wilderness.


What is it that matters most? What is the biggest positive impact you could have? Where do those things overlap?

The 80,000 hours of your time that are poured into a career represent the most powerful choices you can make.

The concept of Effective Altruism advocates “using evidence and reason to figure out how to benefit others as much as possible, and taking action on that basis”. The most impactful causes are those that are vast in scale, solvable and underserved.

The environment is perhaps no longer a neglected cause – but the social and systemic challenges that hinder the ability of it being solved represent a worthy cause in itself. And perhaps they are the origin of many of our biggest challenges – past, present and future.


Consciousness is a wide silvery pool


What does it mean to lead? What does it take to be a great leader?

“True leadership means being able to think for yourself and act on your convictions. But how do you learn to do that?”

Forming your own ideas and having the courage to act upon them – these traits are developed through solitude.

“The position of the leader is ultimately an intensely solitary, even intensely lonely one. However many people you may consult, you are the one who has to make the hard decisions. And at such moments, all you really have is yourself.”


I am the breeze in the birch leaves,
the heat of the sun soaked into stone,
the sweet shade of a eucalyptus tree,
the rush of a river from mountain to sea


I cannot tell you how the love of solitude has grown upon me. I can enjoy these mountains, with their sombre pine-woods & wild sights and sounds, only when I am alone

William R. Alger, The Genius of Solitide


Values, ideals and ambition will all be tested through life and at times must yield to reality.

Hewn by pragmatism and compromise, they may not take the same shape they once did but they still carry great meaning.

By contrast, values that are untested by reality are of little worth.


The warm mountain breeze
Lifts a sweet scent of pine and
a spring to my step


There is no reality without adversity.


Avoid the trap of comparisons. For a benchmark, look no further than yourself.

Do what your former self would be proud of and what your future self would be grateful for.


All roads to Hades are of equal length.

Epictetus – Discourses, Book II, 6


The tall grasses sway —
Forever subservient
to the wind and rain


Where to begin? There is so much out there.

Several lifetimes worth of great books.

New ideas and domains proliferate and promise to hold the keys to the future.

The ocean of information is filling much more quickly than it can be distilled and imbibed.

Breathe. Dive deep.

Go back to the building blocks; focus on the fundamentals.

This will reveal the path ahead and the knowledge needed along the way.


Advice is easy to give but hard to follow.


It is a most wonderful comfort to sit alone beneath a lamp, book spread before you, and commune with someone from the past whom you have never met.

Essays in Idleness, Yoshida Kenkō (written c. 1330)


Before the aim was to earn and hoard as much money as possible, leaving enough to your children to ensure they have material comforts.

Now the aim should be to improve the world in whatever way you can, leaving it a better place for your children – and leaving them with the tools to improve it further.


First were the numbers: pleasingly straightforward in their absoluteness. Incisive and occasionally powerful but always with an upper limit – that which is quantitative is subject to finite bounds.

Then interpersonal dynamics, ‘soft skills’: do not be fooled by this misnomer. Here lies complexity and the keys to unlimited potential.

Finally, connection and synergy – between subjects and groups, across time and space. The platform for systems change.


The brothers grew up listening to the elders about how the stars could give lasting happiness and prosperity. Reaching them was the hard part – no one in living memory had achieved it, although there were many stories about successful attempts long ago.

The older brother believed he could reach the stars from the top of the mountain. As a bold but impatient young man he would set off for the summit on his own, despite warnings of the perils to be encountered along the way. Sure enough his efforts were thwarted by extreme weather, dangerous creatures, trips and falls – often resulting in serious injury.

These narrow escapes taught him that he must pour his whole life and soul into this pursuit, at the expense of all else. He became isolated from the community, devoting all of his time to building the skills, knowledge and strength needed to reach the top of the mountain.

Meanwhile, the younger brother had been taking a different approach. He was inspired by a story from the deep past, of a golden age when all people lived among the stars. From his many conversations with the elders he came to understand the secret of achieving this great feat – that through empathy and cooperation, the spirits of the people could lift one another up high enough to reach the stars.

This too would take a life’s work, for the heights that could be reached by the spirit of the community would always be limited to those of the lowliest dweller. Everyone had to be united in the common cause; this itself would take time, and it would then take longer to implement the changes needed to elevate the collective spirit.

Years passed as the brothers continued in their divergent pursuits, growing further and further apart.

Finally the day arrived for the older brother. He knew he was ready and the conditions were perfect. During several days and nights of exertion he slowly overcame the familiar perils of the mountain and at last approached the summit one clear evening shortly after the sun had set.

He reached up to the night’s first star and cradled it in his beaten hands. The moment he had dreamed of for so long felt different to what he had imagined. Higher up in the sky were many more stars, shining more brightly, but they were beyond reach. He looked down at the twinkling lights of the settlement and thought about the people he had turned his back upon over the years so that he could stand on the top of the mountain above them.

A warm breeze swept up from below. The lights became more intense and began swirling together. They suddenly rose skyward, rushed past the older brother and joined the bright constellations high above.


The true man is revealed in difficult times.

Epictetus – Discourses, Book I, 24


If you were a multi-millionaire, how different would your life be? How would you spend your time? Would you be happier?

A bigger house, more things, perhaps early retirement. The novelty would quickly wane.

Managing an estate, even if you employed staff, would create a different type of life admin – probably just as mundane as what you had on your plate before, although that would suddenly seem trivial in comparison.

Would you sleep more easily?

Yes you could do more for good causes – at least give more in monetary terms. But does this have the same meaning and fulfilment as giving your time and effort instead?

You would probably yearn for the good old days, simpler times – and the simple pleasures of reading, thinking, writing, immersion in nature.

You’d come to realise that leisure time can easily be taken for granted if plentiful, but when it is in shorter supply it can be appreciated much more.


After the storm the birds behave differently. They start earlier, gather in greater numbers and sing in brighter and more varied tones. The musical build-up to daybreak punctuates a still calm; the street dogs shelter as the remaining rainwater drips off leaves and glassy puddles unmoved by traffic reflect a clearing sky.

Soon the baking heat will dry the earth and the cacophony of urban sprawl will hang heavy like the humid air. Heat and noise reign unchallenged for days until they are suddenly ousted by the flash and crash of the next storm, and another chance to soak in the stillness.


We are all on the brink – and perhaps we are starting to realise it.

But our response is often to brush it aside or engage in tokenism, lulling ourselves into oblivion.

Saving the planet needs more than tote bags and reusable coffee cups.  And it needs more than a reliance on technological innovation.  Social change may be the most important factor, but it’s also the one that scares us (and politicians) most.  We cling tighter to our crutch of consumerism and our faith in capitalism, believing that somehow status quo will solve the problem.

Can we plan and implement the necessary social changes in an orderly manner, or will sudden upheaval be forced upon us by disaster?


Rome was not built in a day.

The law of entropy states that disorder will naturally increase over time.  To avert this, and create order, energy is required. 

Rome was not built in a day, but many great cities have been destroyed in a day. 

This great upheaval, the controlled demolition of a seemingly strong building, felt like the hard part.  It is not.  The old edifice had structure and order but was undermined by its emptiness.

There is a clean slate underneath, but first the rubble must be cleared.  High entropy – disorder – brings opportunity, but putting the pieces back together and creating a more meaningful order will require great effort.

Just as Rome was not built in a day, it certainly could not be rebuilt in a day.


Now is the time to keep an open mind. To allow for options to arise, bifurcate, dissipate.

Observe them with curiosity, engage sparingly and avoid snatching at them hastily.

Do not rush to the train tracks and the comforting shackles of familiarity and the pacifying rhythm of routine.

There is discomfort in uncertainty but also great possibilities.