God bless the uncertainty of Eid

In central London this morning you may witness hundreds of dish dashes roaming around. Your eyes are not deceiving you. You are not in the Arabian desert. You are simply near Regent’s Park mosque and you have just witnessed the start of this year’s Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations.

Millions of Muslims worldwide woke up today and headed to the mosque to pray their ‘Eid namaz’ – their Eid prayer. I say millions – some are celebrating tomorrow, some others are celebrating on Sunday. That’s the beauty of Islam. There’s no uniting force when it comes to festivals. When I tell colleagues about the hilarity of not knowing when Eid is they look at me as if I’ve forgotten how calendars work.

Could you imagine if you didn’t know if Christmas was definitely on the 25th? (I’m aware the Germans celebrate on the 24th). Holiday planning and train timetables would be all over the place. The TfL Twitter account would have a field day.

And yet somehow we Muslims manage it. I find the uncertainty hilarious. The reliance on a ‘moon sighting’ even more so. That’s the beauty of it all. It forces you to let go and just see what happens. There are so many things we’re not in control of – particularly our emotions after 18 hours without food or water – and yet we still do it. Because life’s far more fun when you let go (that is the only way I can explain why ‘Let It Go’ has almost 500 MILLION views on YouTube).

That’s the biggest thing I’m taking away from Ramadan this year: embrace uncertainty. There’s so much in life – right down to what day one of your biggest festivals falls on – that you just can’t control. Rather than fight it, just see what happens.

And so whether you’re celebrating today, tomorrow, Sunday or (heaven forbid) Monday – Eid Mubarak.


(Don’t) read all about it

It was a landmark weekend, wasn’t it? Facebook and streets of the world went rainbow coloured and we’re now, it would seem, living in a new world. More to follow on that soon. Until then, here are three articles that are making me just a little bit smarter this week:

Making big decisions is hard

This is a very long piece, but well written. Bookmark it for Sunday. Mark Hill looks at 4 reasons why we find making decisions difficult. He argues that through too much choice, FOMO, constant questioning and misguided advice to follow our dreams, we’ll struggle for some years yet on making big decisions. Well worth a read.

Pay per page

Amazon is changing how it pays authors. Instead of being paid per book, authors will be paid per page turned. As reading becomes more and more digitised, the impact on the supply chain will mean a change in how books are written. Peter Wayner argues “a system with per-page payouts is a system that rewards cliffhangers and mysteries. It rewards anything that keeps people hooked.” Could this be the end of a lazy Sunday read?

Nobody goes on the internet to read

This one has really stretched my brain this week. A short post on Medium argues that when you go into the real world, you rarely see people glued to their computer screens reading short or long form articles. Instead they are demanding small nuggets of information, which is at odds with the masses of articles and literature that is being digitised. Perhaps a laughable article when we look back in years to come, but it ties into some (offline) reading I’ve been doing about how the internet is changing inbound / demand generation for companies.

There you have it. Have a great week!

Will reading this make you happy?

Are you happy? The perennial question that never fails to ignite a debate. It’s day four of Ramadan and I wonder to myself: does fasting make me happy? Would I be happier eating an ice cream and sipping a cold beverage right now?

It depends. The best way I’ve found to frame my thinking has been Paul Dolan’s ‘Happiness By Design’. In it he talks about the Pleasure Purpose Principle. We derive happiness dependent on our predilection to either pleasure or purpose. If matters of pleasure make us happy (e.g. fancy meals or watching TV) then we should upweight them. If matters of purpose provide us with happiness (e.g. volunteering for charity) then more of those will bring a smile to our faces. Dolan argues that it’s about finding the balance – the design – to work out what works for you. Fasting brings a great deal of purpose and so I continue.

That leads into the first of this week’s articles I’ve been reading to start my week smarter. Why it’s easier to describe ‘what makes us happy’ than answer the question ‘what is happiness?’. What you really need to know is while we aspire to being happy—whatever this adjective may mean for us—we realize that happiness is something subtle, complex and volatile, and seems totally random.

And so to article two. A guide to meditation. I’ve been following the Headspace appsince the beginning of the year and have been getting better at being present, but boy is it hard. It helps that we have weekly yoga sessions at Triptease, but truly being in the moment, not thinking about the past and not being consumed by the future is much harder than it seems. The most important thing to do is to take the first step and attempt some form of mindfulness (even if you think it’s just hype). So read the handy guide linked in this paragraph.

And finally. Ever had that feeling that you finally got the thing you’ve always wanted and it turns out having it is nothing like wanting it? A thought provoking article on the value of youth and why it may be best spent wasted. Pair that with the most common mistakes young people make to help you realise (if you’re a so-called ‘millennial’ at least) that there are thousands of people who have gone before you, have learnt the lessons you are yet to face, and have gotten to the other side unscathed. Often we forget to step back and realise that.

That’s it for this week. On a side note, it’s been interesting to see more mainstream media coverage of Ramadan this year. Here are a few articles I recommend if you don’t know much about the holy month for Muslims:

Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience

How is it mid-June already? The year is passing by with change happening faster than I can remember. Not just in my own world, but in the world around us. Just this weekend I was at a concert (heaven forbid) and I spotted a person in the crowd Facetiming her family so they could join in (see the photo).

As time is passing fast I’ll keep it quick. Here’s a short round-up of three articles that will help you start your week smarter:

Managing Energy, Not Time Is the Key to High Performance

We live in digital time. Our rhythms are rushed, rapid fire and relentless, our days carved up into bits and bytes. We celebrate breadth rather than depth, quick reaction more than considered reflection. How can you keep on top of things? By managing energy and not time.

Ten Choices You Will Always Regret Making

Handling a lot of change right now? Choose the pain of regret over the pain of discipline and nine other top pieces of advice from Jeff Haden worth reading.

Finding Your Purpose and Living a Meaningful Life

From Hunter S. Thompson: Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.

More to follow in seven days again – it’s likely to be a more Ramadan focussed edition next week.

Is the work life balance a myth?

It’s been three weeks since I hit publish on my last ‘start your week smarter’ post. Truth be told, I ran my first marathon and like everyone got caught up in the throws of work as we all do. However, ‘being busy‘ is not an excuse and so fear not, here are some articles to help you start your week cleverer than you were just seven days ago.

The work life balance is a myth

The Farnham Street blog is a haven of well written, thought provoking articles. In fact, the weekly newsletter makes for a perfect Sunday afternoon of reading and tea sipping. My favourite article this week focusses on the work life balance argument (something I grapple with) and how: we should stop thinking in terms of work-life balance. Work-life balance is a concept that has us simply lashing ourselves on the back and working too hard in each of the three commitments. In the ensuing exhaustion we ultimately give up on one or more of them to gain an easier life.

Click the link in the headline to find out why we live a life of paradox. Of seeking comfort in company and yet longing to be alone as we come to a sense of meaning and belonging “only through long periods of exile and loneliness.” On a more practical note if you’re looking for a balance, read prioritise your life before your manager does it for you.

Are go getters and true leaders the same thing?

Two articles got me thinking about the same topic this week. The first: Being a Go-Getter is No Fun speaks of the extra work and burden that is placed on those who often go the extra mile at work. A new paper from Duke University found thatresponsible employees are not terribly pleased when everyone turns to them at crucial moments.

When you pair that with The Counter-Intuitive Traits of the World’s Best Leaders you start to wonder whether that’s really an issue. In this post the author argues that the key to being the best leader is to be opinionated and adaptable. Perhaps Go-Getters too should be adaptable and just accept the responsibility that to some degree is self inflicted?

The deed poll is cheaper than Ryanair

A light hearted article to round out today’s post. A student changed his name by deed poll because it was cheaper than the Ryanair charge for a booking error. The low-cost airline might be doing a lot to turn around its image for being cost cutting and low on customer service but a cheeky story like this will never fail to get broad national coverage (and even a resulting Economist blog). Always worth checking twice before you hit book.

That’s it for the week. Enjoy the sunshine and same again in seven days!

Why being wrong is so right

This week brought with it three days off. A bit of time to think, listen to people in coffee shops and read up on where the world is going has provided some renewed gusto to my ‘start your week smarter’ write up. And so here are three articles you need to read this week, plus a whole load of links for longer reads at the end:

How Warren Buffet keeps up on information

Read, read and read some more. Cutting out chatter is what keeps Warren Buffet’s time lean and well used. I wonder how to approach this with the launch of Facebook Instant Articles and the prospect that we will now be bombarded with more news articles during daily digital snacking time. How will we learn to filter the sound from the noise? Buffet’s arguement is learn to not waste time on news or conversations that don’t have a direct interest. Incidentally this is something Facebook is learning to do for you.

Say no to meetings

Speaking of time management, here’s yet another article that looks at how our diaries are plagued with meetings and others borrowing your time. In the move from big agency to start-up I’ve noticed a marked reduction in the number of hours I spend in meeting rooms that is, in essence, time that could be spent working. (see points 1, 2 and 3 in this Buzzfeed listicle). Shameless plug – I wrote about this very topic back in November.

What’s on your moral bucket list?

I’ve been slowly working my way through a ’30 before 30′ bucket list (next weekend: running a marathon[!]) and while Henry Wismayer argues we should say no to bucket lists, I’m intrigued by the concept of a moral bucket list. The point that resonates for me in this article is ‘if you live for external achievement, years pass and the deepest parts of you go unexplored and unstructured’. I couldn’t agree more. This one is a a heavy read, but one worth carrying with you into the new week.

#ICYMI: articles you should bookmark and find time for:

Who’s funding the future? It’s is a must-read for anyone in the start-up world. A fascinating look at one of the biggest VC firms in Silicon Valley. 15 minute read.

Mankind is messed up. A slightly bizarre read, but a worthwhile analysis on the impact technology and changing gender roles is having on boys today. 5 minute read.

Why being wrong is right. Five lessons on being wrong from James Clear. I particularly like: choices that seem poor in hindsight are an indication of growth, not self-worth or intelligence. 3 minute read.

Let’s just hope your choice to read this post is indeed an indication of growth. More to follow next week post-marathon!