There Are Two Ways to Spend Your Time

Choose wisely.

Ever heard of Malcolm X? If you have, you’ll probably recognise X, or 'Malcolm Little’ as he was christened by his parents, for his vast contributions to the civil rights movement. Through his talks, books and actions, Little spearheaded huge transformations in America by encouraging equality between black and white people.

What many people don’t know about Little, however, is that he served six and a half years in prison for armed robbery. Before becoming an activist, Little spent his youth stealing from stores, dealing drugs and facilitating prostitution rackets.

For some, prison signals the end of a fruitful life. For Little, going to jail changed everything for the better.

Whilst behind bars, Little met a man named John Bembry, a self-educated fellow whom Little would later describe as ‘the first man he had ever seen command total respect... with words'.’

Inspired by Bembry, an example of what an ordinary man could become, Little became a sponge for knowledge. He threw himself headlong into the pursuit of knowledge, reading so many books in prison that he literally wore his eyes out and was forced to wear glasses.

‘But,’ as Ryan Holiday writes, ‘the trade-off was worth it. Those five years he served were some of the most productive of his life. He breathed in every second while his fellow prisoners rotted away.

‘So many people are busy thinking about the future that they miss the opportunities right in front of them.’

Malcolm X saw an opportunity where others see doom. He could have spent his time in one of two ways. The first, simply counting down the days and watching each minute tick past him, as everybody else did. Instead, he chose to use that time to improve. To grow. To expand his mind and emerge a changed man that would go on to transform America.

We all have a lot of time on our hands at the moment, don’t we? We’re stuck indoors, staring at the same four walls and wondering how to solve our boredom.

Like Malcolm X, we now also have two choices: alive time, or dead time. Will we use this time to emerge from lockdown as an upgraded version of ourselves? Or will we come out the same person, with the same habits and at the same stage in life?

The way you spend every second determines the entire trajectory of your life. You can waste time, or you can capitalise on your abundance of it. Those are your options. Choose wisely.


Photo: Malcolm X waiting for a press conference to begin on March 26, 1964. (Source)

The Only Thing You Need to Focus On

Creatives, listen up.

In the world of creativity, I think we’ve all become far too focused on trying to find quick and easy formulas for success — ways to ‘hack’ the system and build an audience instantly. We want to know how to write articles that’ll bring in massive amounts of readers or how to produce YouTube content that’ll skyrocket us into stardom overnight.

We look to giants like Hemingway and Orwell and even modern-day stars like PewDiePie and Casey Neistat for the ‘secrets’. We try to replicate what they’re doing, desperately wishing that our hopeless attempts to copy and steal and plagiarise will land us the views and engagements we’re so desperately searching for.

We’re looking for the secret to success. And the secret is that there is no secret. That’s not how this industry works.

Do you think Hemingway sat at a desk all day as an amateur, trying to figure out how to worm his way into national newspapers and make a name for himself? Or do you think Orwell started out by copying what Dickens and Austen had done centuries before, mimicking popular trends in an attempt to trick people into reading his content?

Of course not.

They practised and practised, writing every single day and reading the works of greats until they mastered their craft. Their work has been revered for many hundreds of years since its publication, not because they cracked some code or figured out an algorithm, but because their writing is great and people want to read it.

And here we are, at the beginnings of our careers, busy searching for hacks, memorising algorithms and paying to promote ourselves on social media instead of actually trying to improve our work.

The answer isn’t marketing. It never was. You need to learn how to get better.

In the beginning, middle and end, that should be your primary focus. For sure — continue to promote yourself online and maximise your engagements by marketing your content, but keep your eye on the ball. None of that stuff is anywhere near as important as mastering your craft.

Because when people love your content, content crafted from pure hard work, perseverance and absolute commitment to honing your art, they’ll respond to it. They’ll clap your stories. They’ll like your videos. They’ll invest in your business.

They’ll support you as a creator not because you deceived them using clickbait, not because they stumbled across your sponsored Instagram story, and certainly not because you ripped-off somebody else’s original work.

They’ll support you because they like the work you produce. That’s it.

In the words of Ryan Holiday,

‘An artist’s job is to create masterpieces. Period.’

So learn how to create masterpieces.

You'll Only Regret the Decisions You Don't Make

On spontaneity and the beauty of living for the moment.

I met with a friend in Barcelona two weeks ago, days before the entire nation was placed under strict quarantine due to coronavirus. I say ‘friend’. I met the guy the night before at a language exchange event. He was a fan of Mind Cafe, and since we had so much in common, it only made sense that we should meet again to speak some more.

As I recalled the many crazy stories I’ve collected during the past six months over dinner, this friend kept repeating the same statements back to me - things like ‘You’re so spontaneous!’ or ‘Wow, I can’t believe that happened,' or ‘I could never do that.

I understood his reactions. It’s been as whirlwind six-months since my fiancé passed away, and most of my experiences have been pretty unbelievable. Last-minute trips to foreign countries, solo pub crawls with strangers in the streets of Prague and agreeing to live in Barcelona for two months with a friend that I’ve met just once before, to name but a few.

But recounting these events forced me to ask myself a question. When did I become so spontaneous? When did things change?

See, I was never really a spur-of-the-moment kind of guy growing up. In fact, I was incredibly anxious. Everything had to have a plan and a rigid structure to follow. I couldn’t even leave the house without taking four bottles of water for fear that I’d run out of liquids and die from dehydration.

Now, the opposite is true. I don’t take four bottles of water with me for a start. But I also wind up in foreign countries with no insurance or way to get home on almost a monthly basis. I do things that most people think are crazy, like embarking on a pub crawl by myself. My default answer is yes, where before it was always no.

Why do I do this? Well, the answer is simple. I stopped asking that question. Instead, I started asking myself why I shouldn’t do these things. Or rather, why wouldn’t I?

Who’s stopping me from living in Barcelona? Who says I can’t backpack around Europe by myself? Who says I can’t set up a business or launch a magazine or develop my own brand of coffee?

The only person that’s stopping me is myself. And the only person stopping you is yourself.

Sure, money and other commitments might be an obstacle, but those obstacles aren’t insurmountable. The money will come and go. Jobs, too. But time? Well, time isn’t something we can get back quite so easily, so we’d better make the most of it.


My advice? Don’t get too hung up on the why. Most things work themselves out in the end anyway. And if not, so what? You’ll adapt, you’ll grow, and most importantly, you’ll learn.

As Randy Pausch put it in The Last Lecture,

“Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer.”


The short version: Stop asking why and start asking why not. Trust that things will work out in your favour whatever happens.

It's Been a While, Hasn't It?

Thoughts, updates and advice to bear in times of chaos.

I can’t remember the last time I sent an email to you guys. It must have been a while though.

The truth is, last year I stopped writing altogether. Moving from writing daily on Medium, sending out newsletters every morning and working on a few other passion projects in my free time, I went cold turkey overnight. Nothing. Zero.

That was around six months ago. I have a good reason for stopping, though. See, my publication, Mind Cafe, was picked up by Medium. I’m now a partner of theirs, which means they fund me to run Mind Cafe and manage a team of editors, authors and managers of the various other projects we’ve been working on. I won’t bore you with the details, but that’s that.

Anyway, I recently received a few lovely comments on articles of mine. A couple of people even said that the piece in question was ‘the best article they’ve ever read’. Bold claims that I’m sure will be overridden soon, but nonetheless, that got me thinking. I love to write. So why did I ever stop?


The world is in turmoil right now, but you don’t need me to tell you that. Whole countries are being shut down, businesses are collapsing and us normal people are left wondering where it all went wrong.

And yet, during this time of indoor introspection, I’ve realised something. Whether it’s playing the drums, piano, drawing, designing websites or writing, I’m a creative. And I haven’t been creating - at all. The minute I sat down to write an article earlier this week, I felt at home. At peace. It felt right to be putting words onto digital paper and sending them out into the world, so I’m going to do it more often.

The point of this email is to tell you two things:

  1. You’ll be seeing more of me around here. Perhaps daily, as before. But if not, definitely a few times each week. We’ll see. I hope that’s okay, but if it isn’t, feel free to unsubscribe. I won’t take it personally.

  2. As I take this time to create more and focus on what I love, I’d encourage you to do so, too. Yes, it’s a great time to snuggle up, watch Netflix and binge-eat. Trust me, I’ll be doing plenty of that. But try not to waste these precious few weeks. If you're out of work and you’re healthy enough to knuckle down on the projects you’ve been delaying for a while, perhaps now’s your chance. You might not get an opportunity like this again.

So that’s that. I’ll see you again around this time tomorrow. Stay safe.

- Adrian

Did Someone Say Coffee?

I'm launching our own speciality blend of coffee - but I need your help.

Hey!

I have some exciting news. As part of my business, Mind Cafe, I’m working with an independent roastery in Brixton to launch my own speciality blend of coffee. To do so, though, I need to ask you for one small favour.

If you have a few moments to spare, please could you fill in this short form, letting me know which types of coffee you prefer, how you like it and what you look for in each roast?

That way, together with our team of expert coffee roasters, we’ll be able to bring a roast that best suits your preferences.

Thank you as always,

Adrian

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