The inevitability of the death

A merchant in Baghdad sends his servant to the marketplace for provisions. Soon afterwards, the servant comes home white and trembling and tells him that in the marketplace, he was jostled by a woman, whom he recognized as Death, who made a threatening gesture. Borrowing the merchant’s horse, he flees at great speed to Samarra, where he believes Death will not find him.

The merchant then goes to the marketplace and finds Death, and asks why she made the threatening gesture to his servant. She replies, “That was not a threatening gesture, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”

W. Somerset Maugham‘s retelling of an ancient Mesopotamian tale, which appears as an epigraph for the novel

There’s nowhere to hide from our own mortality, even though we try to avoid it. It’s scary to imagine dying, so we joke about it or ignore it.

The sooner we face up to the inevitability of the death the sooner we start to appreciate waking up every day and starting fresh.

Photo by Hisham Yahya on

Winter Solstice

This weekend marks the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere – the longest night of the year.  This means late dawns and early sunsets.

Summer begins in the north and winter begins on the southern side of the globe.

Now we wait as the days lengthen again, as we move around the sun towards another summer.

And so the cycle continues.

Photo by Min An on

Trusting your gut

Trusting your gut isn’t limited to the big decisions in life. It permeates our daily lives.

  • What to eat.
  • Whether to swim in the sea if the current feels too intense.
  • Deciding to exercise or take a rest because you don’t feel 100%.
  • Which books to read.
  • Who to trust and who stay away from.
  • When to leave and when to stay.
  • When to be quiet and listen.

Trusting your gut is all about the micro moves we make during the day.

The more you listen to yourself, the closer you get to who you are.

Photo by Humphrey Muleba on

Accept your seat at the table

When the Goddess of Wealth comes to give you her blessing, you shouldn’t leave the room to wash your face – Hindu Proverb

If you want to win the lottery, you gotta buy a ticket.

Photo by Mohsin khan on

You gotta hang around the hoop if you want to score

The older I get the less credit I give myself when things go right. I’m not as hard on myself when things go wrong. Good luck has played a huge role my life.

Outcomes in life are super random. The 2020 pandemic is a good reminder. In 2019 nobody saw it coming or was prepared for the global impact. In the aftermath some people have thrived and others have suffered. Excellent travel companies like AirBnb are in major pain, while video conferencing companies like Zoom are at all time highs. NOBODY SAW THIS COMING.

I’m happy to give myself credit when I’ve taken action and followed through on a decision or started something. I might not control the outcome, but at least I’m in the game and moving forward.

You gotta hang around the hoop if you want to score.

“At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Photo by Wallace Chuck on

Teleportation from Mount Tamalpais

I feel several thousand years

Younger, as I pause,

Closed in and breathless

On this moonless night wondering

When I had forgotten the sea

And the stars and roads that wind slowly.

Firetrail at Midnight on Mt. Tamapais by J.L. Stanley

Certain places I visit share the same frequency and feel.

It can happen in crowded cities, deserted beaches, or somewhere in suburbia. There don’t need to be dream catchers and wind chimes tinkling in the wind for me to get a feeling that I’ve tapped into a resonance I’ve felt somewhere before.

A couple of years ago, my brother and I were walking down a wooded lane in Mill Valley, California. It was early morning, and the sun was shining through the Redwoods. The road ahead of us that was leading up to the foot of Mount Tamalpais was mottled with patches of light breaking through the leafy canopy. We stopped for a few minutes and enjoyed the silence. As we were standing in the middle of the road, my brother remarked that the feel of the place reminded him of the time he’d spent in Cornwall in South West England.

We started walking again, and the next road we saw was named Cornwall Road. Someone had come to this place before us and tuned in to the same frequency. 

Next time you get that feeling that everything feels familiar, it’s worth pausing for a minute and listening. You’ll get to travel around the world without getting on a plane.

Scratch the itch

Sometimes in life, you’ve got to scratch that itch. Maybe it’s buying an old camper van you’ve always wanted. Perhaps it’s trying a new career, starting a company, living in New York City, making a road trip across the country, writing a book. Scratching that itch may lead to a significant life change, but it’s also may help you lay the ghost and satisfy you. You might love the old camper van, or you might find it’s a real schlepp to maintain, or that a flat battery on a rainy Tuesday morning really sucks. You might see that there are some really long dull spots in a cross-country trip and next time you’d be better off fliying.

Scratch the itch, it’ll satisfy you no matter what the outcome.

There’s no shortcut to mastery

A black belt in martial arts is earned.

I don’t know if it’s a myth, or there’s truth to the evolution of the black belt…but I like the legend better.  All masters begin their training with a white belt. The belt starts out white, but over time it gets dirtier, and stained with sweat and blood, and eventually it becomes stained black from years of training. In a lot of dojos, you don’t get to train until you’ve proved you are worthy of instruction. Sometimes that means volunteering in other areas and being invited to train after first demonstrating your commitment. It’s not “a pay to play” system. There’s no shortcut to mastery.

Mastering any art is the same. The answer is in the dirt. There’s no shortcut to mastery. Get in there and start practicing. Anyone can buy a black belt, but only some will earn it.

Activation energy

Sometimes the best way to start writing the next chapter of a book is to sit down and write. That sounds obvious, but it’s scarier to do when nothing is waiting to pour out on the page. Sitting down, creating space and time is sometimes the only activation energy required to break through the writer’s block.

It’s the same with exercise or getting some long overdue work project completed. Upfront activation energy is sometimes all you need to break through. A run around the block turns into a couple of blocks. Composing a response to one email you’ve been ignoring frees up energy for other things that need your attention.

Secure Insecurity 

“Life is like a long and powerful river. From time to time, there will be some rapids. All you can do is ride it out. Resist or try to get back upstream, and you might drown. Stay calm and ride the waves, and the river will carry you to a safer place.”

Alan Watts,  The Wisdom of Insecurity