Questions and answers

Marc came up with the great idea of a Tim Ferriss-style Q&A post for the 30DWC. Here's mine.

When someone asks you what you do, how do you answer that?

I work with the Field Studies Council, an environmental education charity that runs outdoor classroom courses all over the UK. I work in IT doing development and digital transformation.

When you hear the word successful, who is the first person that comes to mind and why?

I've thought about this one before. I actually have several people who spring to mind. I can't decide which should be first. They're all quite different. Many people equate success with financial success. I don't. Wealth is perhaps a side-effect of a successful life, but it is not something that defines it. Whether someone is wealthy or not matters not one iota to me. One can be wealthy in many ways besides money.

I'm also an admirer of strong positive principles, living by them and sharing them.

Here are my successful people:

Jeremy Keith

Jeremy is and does so much of what constitutes a successful life in my view.

He's doing something he's passionate about and travels the world talking about it, influencing people for the better. He lives somewhere he loves and has a great community of friends and colleagues around him. He works on significant side-projects that have real meaning to people. His work is respected, used, and enjoyed by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. He's published several well-loved books. He has real spare time to dedicate to non-professional activities, like playing in a band. He has the opportunity to mentor someone long-term. He gets to eat lovely food regularly. Finally, he has shared his life on his blog consistently and deliberately for many, many years.

All these things, they're what I consider a roaring success.

Derek Sivers

Derek is a lovely guy, who ran a successful business which he sold for millions. He then gave away the money to a charitable trust. That's so refreshing.

He's a real innovative thinker, who shares many of his life and business secrets with enthusiasm. He now lives on his own timetable doing things he loves, in a place he loves, with the people he loves. What's clear about Derek is that he values quality over money. He's truly living it. A life imbued with so much quality is most certainly a success in my book.

Speaking of books, I highly recommend his. You can read the whole thing in an hour.

Jocko Willink

Jocko is an ex-Navy SEAL. He's a bona fide warrior and leader. He led Task Unit Bruiser in the Battle of Ramadi, which became the most decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War. He received the Bronze Star and Silver Star for his actions. He now runs a successful leadership consulting firm and has a New York Times bestseller (which is brilliant, by the way). He has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and a degree in English.

Any one of these things is a huge success by anyone's definition, but, put together, it's awesome.

What marks Jocko as especially successful for me - apart from the obvious - is that he lives by his principles. He demonstrates and communicates their efficacy so clearly and concretely, and with such authenticity. He's humble, too, which is a sure sign of real success. It shows a deep, deep level of confidence to exhibit such humility.

Also, although he's a warrior - a man of war - with the instincts that go with it, he has a deep care for the world and its inhabitants. As deep and thoughtful as any preacher or charity worker I've met.

Perhaps his most compelling trait is his ability communicate with such razor sharp clarity and persuasiveness. It's quite a thing to behold.


Josh Waitzkin and David Heinemeier Hansson also make my successful person list. Caroline Lucas too for being such a stand-out, principled and thoroughly decent politician. She's the only Green politician in parliament and she's not afraid to go against the grain. It must be a tough, lonely role, but she handles it with supreme grace.

What are you not very good at?

Starting. And finishing. I also get distracted easily. I'm terrible at multitasking too. I think I've just described ADD in a nutshell, haven't I?

What is your favourite or most influential book? Why?

Oh, lots. The two most influential are probably Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on the non-fiction side. The Lord of the Rings on the fiction side. The former taught me to see the world in a different way; to think more deeply about what we're a part of; to look for and appreciate Quality. The latter is about struggle. It's about doing the right thing against the odds in the face of failure and transition. It also has a strong environmental message.

What's a good documentary you've watched recently?

I don't watch much TV. I can't remember the last documentary I last saw all the way through. I saw a thing on BBC recently called How to Stay Young which was pretty interesting, although I didn't see it all.

If you could go back and give your 20-year-old self some advice, what would you say?

Don't waste time; you'll be 40 before you know it. Exercise more, drink less and eat healthier not because it's good for you, but because you'll enjoy it. Start now.

If you could put a billboard anywhere, what would it say?

Discipline equals freedom. I've been on a Jocko jag recently; this is one of his sayings. The idea being, the more disciplined you are, the more freedom you have. Both freedom to and freedom from. It's counter-intuitive, but it's a powerful idea if you think about it for a bit.

What's something that you've changed your mind about recently?

I change my mind a fair bit actually. Strong opinions weakly held is a motto of mine. I can't think of anything right now that is terribly profound, though. Perhaps my views on the armed forces have changed a bit since listening to the Jocko podcast. I don't think that's quite right, though. I think I already had those views, but just didn't realise. My respect for them has certainly grown.

What are you excited about right now?

The warm weather and longer evenings. Some great projects coming up at work. Working on this site.