Wild Swimming

In addition to more time with my family, enjoying our wonderful surroundings and less time spent travelling around the country with work, one of the unexpected positives to take out of lockdown has been embracing ‘wild swimming’.

Pre-lockdown, I was swimming at Uppingham pool twice a week before work. I was training with a great group of friends that helped me swim faster and longer, and when Boris initially grounded us, it was one of the things that I missed the most.

When we started to be let out again, I heard friends had started to swim in the River Nene so, with some trepidation, I decided to join them to learn more. Over time, we have explored more areas of the Nene and as my confidence grew, I would go off and explore more in the sea while down in Cornwall.

There is something magical about swimming out in the real-world vs swimming in a pool. It is like comparing the treadmill to running along a coastal path or sitting on an exercise bike compared to cycling around the wonderful countryside with all it has to offer.

Seeing beautiful parts of the country, areas not normally seen from land and the wildlife that inhabits them (watch out for angry swans), has been such a brilliant addition to my weekly routine, and one that I will continue even once the pools reopen. Whilst the pools have their place, particularly for improving your technique and in the winter (when no amount of neoprene will keep you warm), swimming outdoors has brought a whole new dimension to my training. So here are my quick tips on how to get into ‘wild swimming’.

  1. Buy a swim buoy with a dry bag like this. It can make sure you are seen, act as a float if you cramp, and you can carry your keys, phone, or even a flare if you are in the sea.
  2. Whilst some hardcore locals will shun them, embrace the wetsuit. The longer you are in the water, the more likely you are to get cold, so reduce the risk.
  3. Test the water; even if just for the first time, swim with others that know the area, so you can learn from their experience. If you want to join me for an early morning swim at Wansford or Wadenhoe, just ask; you will be very welcome.
  4. Swim into the current first. In a river swim upstream first - that way, when you are tired you aren’t turning back into the current.
  5. Be careful in the sea. Speak to the RNLI or locals; someone once said to me that ‘the sea is always trying to kill you’. Whist I am not sure I agree with that, treat it with respect, tell people where you are going and swim at supervised beaches. Swim with fins if you are still unsure and take precautions.
  6. Read something like ‘Hell and High Water’ by Sean Conway to really see what human beings are capable of. He was the first person to swim from Lands End to John O’Groats.

It is important to stay safe, so be sensible and take advice.

As I head to the Welsh coast for a week with the family, one of the things I am looking forward to most is swimming in, and exploring, a new area of the sea. As Roger Deakin said in his book ‘Waterlog’, “Natural water has always held the magical power to cure.”

The Magic of H2O

We all know how important water is to you. After all, we are made of the stuff! We nag our children to drink more and feel worse when we don’t drink enough of it.

One of the reasons people eat too much is because the feeling of dehydration is commonly confused with hunger. As a result, when our body is craving more water, we give it more food, which may or may not include some water but also includes a whole load of other things you didn’t need. As a result, if you can ensure you are fully hydrated, you will find that eating the right amount of food and avoiding snacks becomes much easier.

Why not try it yourself? Correctly hydrating yourself can make you feel years younger! This tool is the best method I have found to calculate how much water I need:

And remember to add some lemon to your water when you drink it to help keep your blood alkaline!

Eliminate Toxins
Finally, before I set you a two-week challenge of my own, I want you to eliminate some more toxins in your life. In this modern world, we are exposed to countless toxins that gradually build up in our body. Like pouring tea from a teapot, these gradually build up in our bodies over time, and they usually go unnoticed. It is only when the cup overflows or, worse, cracks that we get an outpouring of ill health all at once.

This is one of the reasons a detox can sometimes make you feel worse before you feel better, as you are getting an outpouring of toxins from your body. This overflow could be a cold or the flu, and the cracks could be developing cancer or heart problems. There are lots of toxins to be aware of, but I’ll cover a few toxin sources to be aware of, ones that are linked to some serious cracks in your health.

Bisphenol A
Plastics touch our food in so many forms and ways, and it is difficult to imagine life without them. Don’t worry, I am not going to tell you that you aren’t allowed to use plastics at all. Generally, from what I have read, I believe most to be perfectly fine, with one exception.

When plastic is heated up, it causes some of the chemicals to leach or migrate to our food—namely, the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA). Laura Vandenberg, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in biology at Tufts University in Boston, explains that ‘studies show that high doses of BPA disrupt reproductive development and function in laboratory animals. Levels in humans were thought to be too low to be of concern, but more recent research has challenged that perception’. www.WebMD.com

Tax Planning Rutland

There are some simple steps you can take to minimise this without causing any disruption to your life:

  • Don’t cook anything in plastic.
  • If you are freezing food in plastics, allow the food to cool first before you transfer.
  • Never drink water from a bottle that has been warmed up, whether that be in the car or anywhere else.

In 1988, one of the UK’s worst pollution disasters occurred at a water treatment works in Bodmin Moor. Twenty tonnes of aluminium sulphate leaked into the water supply near the town of Camelford. Sadly the health implications were far reaching, with aggressive forms of Alzheimer’s seen as a result of higher-than-usual aluminium levels in the brain.

Professor Exley, a world-renowned expert on aluminium, hoped that the case would highlight how little we know about the implications for our health of the most prolific metal on the planet. Aluminium, he argued, is now added to or used in almost everything we eat, drink, inject or absorb. At high levels, it is an established neurotoxin—yet no one knows whether the levels we are ingesting are safe.

‘When the amount of aluminium consumed exceeds the body’s capacity to excrete it, the excess is then deposited in various tissues, including nerves, brain, bone, liver, heart, spleen and muscle,‘ he explains. ‘We call it the ‘silent visitor’ because it creeps into the body and beds down in our bones and brain’.

Source: Liz Bestic, The Telegraph, 5th March 2012

The accumulation of aluminium in the body is a risk factor not only for Alzheimer’s disease but also, possibly, for neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. It’s therefore best to reduce our exposure to it. Whilst aluminium naturally occurs in many foods, it is the increased exposure that gives more cause for concern.

There are a couple of simple ways to do this without disrupting your life too much:

  • Use aluminium-free deodorant, as this has a high level normally.
  • Cut out or cut down on the amount of fizzy drinks you consume.
  • Minimise cooking with foil.

Another nasty you are probably unconsciously topping up your body with is Parabens, because they are hidden in so many everyday products. ‘Parabens have been widely used since the 1950s to control bacteria growth, and are mainly found in our cosmetics. In 2004, British cancer researcher Philippa Darbre, Ph.D., found parabens present in malignant breast tumours. As a result, experts in many countries are recommending limits on paraben levels in cosmetic products. What’s more, watchdog organisations worry that if parabens can be stored in the body, over time they could have a cumulative effect and pose a health risk’.
(Source: www.realsimple.com)

Whilst the research is still inconclusive, it is worth being mindful limiting these chemicals because in the long run, it can only help rather than hinder you. Use products that are labelled ‘paraben-free’, for example, ‘Aveda’ and ‘The Little Bubble Company’.

The Six Human Needs

In his course Unleash the Power Within, Tony Robbins outlines his notion of ‘The Six Certainties’ or ‘The Six Human Needs’. I cannot recommend this course highly enough and suggest you look up his next event.

Tony highlights the fact there are six aspects of our life that need to be addressed for us to feel happy and rewarded. We will all have needs that are more important to us than others, but we all must have a balance of these six needs to be happy.

The Six Human Needs are as follows:


We all want comfort. And much of this comfort comes from certainty. Of course, there is no ABSOLUTE certainty, but we want certainty the car will start, the water will flow from the tap when we turn it on and the currency we use will hold its value.


At the same time we want certainty, we also crave variety. Paradoxically, there needs to be enough uncertainty to provide spice and adventure in our lives.


Deep down, we all want to be important. We want our life to have meaning and significance. I can imagine no worse a death than to think my life didn’t matter.


It would be hard to argue against the need for love. We want to feel part of a community. We want to be cared for and cared about.
Once you have the first Four Human Needs covered, you can further improve the way you feel with the final two, which are:


There could be some people who say they don’t want to grow, but I think they’re simply fearful of doing so—or perhaps NOT doing so. To become better, to improve our skills, to stretch and excel may be more evident in some than others, but it’s there.


The desire to contribute something of value—to help others, to make the world a better place than we found it is in all of us.

Source: www.successnet.org

Let’s look at each of these in turn as they apply to retirement.


Certainty is an obvious aspect of a happy retirement. You need to be certain that you will have enough money for the rest of your life. You need to have certainty you will be able to pay for what’s important to you, when you need to. You need certainty that you are taking the right course of action with your money and that those that you love will benefit from any that is left over.

But certainty is not just limited to your money. If you wake up every day not knowing what you will do, over time you will experience stress. You need some certainty in your life balance too, as well as in your health. You want certainty that you are going to be fit and healthy in the years ahead and can still do the activities that you love. As a result, it is useful to start to build a routine so that you have the certainty of knowing what comes next. We will look at how you can do this in different areas of your life.

Variety Or Uncertainty

In the same way that you need certainty, you also need some variety in your life. If you have every day planned out, and nothing ever happens out of the ordinary, life starts to become predictable and boring. You need to build some variety into your retirement; otherwise, life will become mundane. Just as you need to build a routine in certain areas of your life, you must build variety into those areas, to keep life interesting.


This comes back to ‘Your Purpose’. Without a purpose, you don’t have significance. If you have a project or a passion that you find rewarding, life is worth living and feel rewarded and happy in retirement. Significance can come as a result of achieving, succeeding or winning, or giving back to others. Everyone has an underlying fear that in retirement they will lose their significance, particularly those who have been in authority during their working lives. Be aware of this tendency so you can counteract it!


So much about retirement is about relationships. Whether it’s with your family, your friends or your community, the key to a happy retirement is connection and love. If you have this in abundance, there is a fair chance you love and relish retirement. Plan your life accordingly.

As we said, if your basic Four Human Needs are covered, to really enjoy life you will also need the next two.


As the saying goes, if you are not growing, then you are dying. If you are not continuing to improve yourself, physically or mentally, you are actually moving backwards. If the first four needs are met to your own specific requirements, then by learning and developing yourself, you can truly feel fulfilled.

So many people reach their retirement and choose to stop learning. These individuals rarely excel in their new life. So important is it to continue to learn in retirement, there are a number of organisations whose sole purpose is to help people in this area. Not learning for a job or a promotion, but learning to improve themselves and the reward that gives.


How much you contribute to your family, community or another worthwhile group will certainly influence how happy you are in your new life. Whether you help your local church, raise money for a needy charity or support your loved ones, contribution is a key factor in a happy and fulfilled retirement. Giving back is far more rewarding than receiving, and retirement is your opportunity to do so. Contributions don’t just have to be money; you can also contribute your most valuable resource, your time.

Taming the Welsh Dragon: An Ironman Wales 2022 Journey

The town of Tenby, nestled in the southwest of Wales, is typically a tranquil retreat. But on one day in September 2022, it transformed into a battlefield where athletes from around the world gathered to take on one of the most grueling races known to man –Ironman Wales. For me, it was my third Ironman, yet nothing could prepare me for the unforgettable journey that lay ahead.

The events leading up to the race were laced with a profound sense of melancholy. The nation was in mourning following the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, just 3 days prior. Amid this transition, the air was thick with a blend of sorrow, respect, uncertainty whether the race would happen and anticipation.

As dawn broke on race day, the serene Welsh coastline echoed with the deep, resonant voices of a male choir singing the national anthem. The Welsh athletes rang out with both adrenaline and a deep-rooted passion for their homeland. A moment later, the first strains of "God Save the King" filled the air, a tribute to the newly ascended monarch. The atmosphere was electric, the start of the race imbued with a sense of history and significance that none present would ever forget. After all, given COVID causing 2 race cancellations, some people had been training for this event for 3 whole years!

The race began with a challenging 2.4-mile sea swim. The sea was merciless that day, its rough waves contributing to more than 50 athletes being pulled out during the first hour. Despite the harsh conditions, I managed to complete the swim in 1 hour and 6 minutes, significantly quicker than I expected.

Emerging from the sea, I was met with deafening cheers. In a moment of pride, I mistook the applause for my performance, until I realized that it was for Welsh rugby legend Shane Williams, who was hot on my heels. Despite his athletic prowess, it was a small victory knowing I had out-swum him!

Next came the 112-mile bike course, notorious as one of the most challenging in the Ironman circuit. It was a battle against the elements - the wind was howling, the rain relentless, and the ascents seemed endless. The pinnacle of the course was the infamous 'Heartbreak Hill', a steep climb flanked by a sea of cheering spectators. It was an exhilarating, yet daunting experience, reminiscent of the formidable Tour de France.

The first half of the course snaked through picturesque sand dunes, while the second half, repeated twice, was marked by steep climbs and perilous descents. The technical nature of the descents was a learning curve, causing me to lose precious time. After an arduous 6 hours and 30 minutes, I returned to the relative safety of Tenby where transition was based, my energy reserves nearly depleted.

The final leg of the race was a 26.2-mile run through the charming streets of Tenby. Despite the pouring rain, the town was buzzing with the infectious energy of supporters who lined the streets. The run was a grueling four-lap circuit, punctuated by a lengthy climb and a descent back into the heart of Tenby. It was a test of mental and physical stamina, the toughest Ironman run I've ever encountered by far.

The run took me 4 hours and 15 minutes to complete, culminating in a total finish time of 12 hours and 12 minutes. While this was over an hour slower than my previous Ironman in Tallinn, Estonia, I knew I had to be proud of myself for completing what is known as the toughest Ironman on the circuit.

My family was my rock throughout the day. My wife Caryl, daughters Ffion and Bronwyn, my parents and, my parents-in-law, all stood by me, cheering me on tirelessly, as well as a few friendly faces in the crowds. The Welsh connection of my wife, in-laws, and daughters proudly bearing Welsh names, made this race extra special. There was a poignant moment when a Dryrobe clad Bronwyn even ran alongside me, sharing my struggle, if only for a brief spell.

Crossing the finish line was a moment of mixed emotions. Physically and emotionally drained, I felt a sense of accomplishment, tinged with a dash of disappointment over my longer completion time. I finished 47th in my age category out of 248, my best Ironman finish statistically, but I couldn't shake off the feeling of wanting to do better.

The celebration that followed was a welcome relief. Following a long soak in the bath at our rented Tenby house, we headed out for a well-deserved feast of steak, chips, and beer. As we toasted to the day after all, "win or lose, we drink the booze!"

As we left the restaurant, the Ironman course was still alive with the glow of determination. Competitors were still battling it out, striving to finish before the midnight deadline. Their perseverance was a reminder of the indomitable human spirit that the Ironman race embodies.

The awards ceremony the following day was another moment of reflection. Joe Skipper, the winner of the men's race, described the swim as the toughest he'd ever experienced. His words echoed my sentiments, highlighting the immense challenge we all faced on that course.

In retrospect, Ironman Wales 2022 was an experience that transcended the boundaries of a mere race. It was a test of physical strength, mental fortitude, and emotional resilience. The electrifying crowd, the stunning route, and the brutal conditions combined to create a memorable event that truly lived up to its high reputation.

Though it wasn't my fastest race, I had indeed tamed the Welsh dragon. Amid the hardship, I emerged stronger, more determined, and with a story that will inspire many more Ironman journeys. Each stroke, pedal, and stride was a testament to the unyielding spirit of an Ironman.

As I look back, I feel a sense of pride. Despite the tough course and harsh conditions, I persevered, driven by sheer will and the unwavering support of my loved ones. This journey was more than just a race; it was a testament to resilience, endurance, and the human spirit.

Taking on The Arc50 Cornish Ultra

As we drove down towards the beautiful Minack Theatre in readiness for the toughest run of my life, I reflected on the path that had brought me here. My love of both Cornwall and running has grown at an equally rapid pace in recent years, so when ‘Brutal Claire’ mentioned a Cornish ultra-marathon whilst interviewing her on the TRIBEathlon podcast, I knew this was the one for me.

Considered one of the toughest ultras in the UK, the 100-mile Arc of Attrition was certainly beyond my capability, but I thought that the 50-mile Arc50 might just be in reach. I’d previously run the required qualifying distance (50 km), and knew the coastline and terrain well, but this was going to be a tough first official ultra-marathon to attempt.

The 2021 race sadly didn’t happen, but having done the training I knocked out my own ‘staying local ultra’, clocking up 50 miles, whilst never leaving a 15-mile radius of the house. The ‘Rutland Ripple’ is, however, no match for the rugged Cornish coastline, so I knew the real thing was going to be a much tougher ask.

The Minack Theatre couldn’t be a more perfect setting to start the race. It is an open-air theatre, constructed above a gully with a rocky granite outcrop jutting into the sea. The theatre is at Porthcurno, 4 miles from Land's End. The theatre was the brainchild of Rowena Cade, who having moved to Cornwall after the First World War, carried rocks up the steep cliff to create the stage and seating. The result is the simply stunning open theatre with unbelievable views out to sea.

So, back to the day. As the countdown began, the tension built as flairs streamed, the waves crashed against the cliffs below us, and the bearded drummer hammered on the skin. Before I had time to think about what was ahead, we were off. Straight up the sheer climb back out of the theatre.

You can’t win an ultra-marathon in the first 10 miles, but you can definitely lose it; not that I had any illusions I was going to be winning this thing! I’d been full of a cold in the days leading up to it, so a nice gentle start was what was needed. My TRIBEathlon co-host Claire Fudge of 4th Discipline and I made sure that neither rose to the temptation of flying out of the blocks on the back of our adrenaline rush.

The early stages of the run are stunning. The coves of Nanjizal and Sennen, north and south of Land’s End are breath-taking. Remembering to take in the views was challenging, however as the terrain was tricky right from the off, and you had to watch every step. This became even more apparent when I went over on my ankle twice in the first 10 miles.

In a 50-mile run, you expect some dark moments, but not as early as mile 13. I started having a serious sense of humour failure, as Claire described it. My chest became tight, by calf and hamstring started cramping and my stomach didn’t take to eating solid food to break up the monotony of my gel intake. Between miles 13 and 18, I genuinely didn’t think I would make it half way.

Fortunately, we had our incredible crew on hand to rescue the situation. Warren & Erica Pole run sports superfood nutrition brand called 33Fuel. Warren had featured on the TRIBEathalon podcast, where he shared his enthusiasm for fuelling endurance healthily, and his wisdom of 35 ultra-marathons. Joining them was Kerry Sutton of Perpetual Motion Coaching and James Eacott. James is a highly accomplished Ironman, with a fastest time of an incredible 9 hours 7 minutes. Kerry, again a podcast guest, is a highly accomplished ultra-runner, having run everything from 215 miles across Scotland last summer, Marathon Des Sables twice, the jungle ultra in Peru, and the Spine Race, to name but a few. A more amazing crew we could not have asked for.

To get me out of the dark times, I needed to change something quickly. A cocktail of Sudafed, paracetamol, caffeine and more palatable gels, combined with the most tricky terrain of the entire run, got me back on track. My stomach, chest and cramps eased whilst negotiating the boulders, climbs and scrambles of the most stunning stretch of the run, from Pendeen Mine to St Ives, taking you past Gurnards Head and the quaint village of Zennor. Eventually, St Ives appeared on the horizon, the mental halfway point, as it feature the one and only feed station.

Claire and I hadn’t run together before, so whilst we said we’d set off together, we were both expecting one or the other to disappear off into the distance. This happened, but we regularly caught back up with one another. It turned out that I was faster on the downhills and technical terrain, although Claire was quick to point out she was holding back to protect her dodgy ankle. When it came to the climbs and flat sections however, there was no stopping her. She would come bounding past everyone around her. So, as it happened, one of us would stride off ahead for long sections, but sure enough, like a bad smell you couldn’t shake, the other would appear again right behind them. As we approached the stunning and unusually quiet St Ives, I’d opened up a healthy lead over Claire on a long downhill stretch, but within 30 seconds of me arriving into the feed station, she had reeled me in again.

St Ives was followed by a run through Carbis Bay and past the venue of the recent and controversial G7 summit. We again met our loyal crew, and headed off onto the only real stretch on the road, taking us round the sand flats to Hayle. After a quick crew stop, we donned our head torches and headed out into the ‘Dunes of Doom’- a long stretch of sand dunes that runs behind Gwithian Beach and up to the iconic Godrevy Lighthouse. Named as a result of the tricky navigation and soft sand, the coastal path meandered between the dunes, with opportunities to go wrong at almost every stride. Claire disappeared off into the distance, for what I thought would be the last time, only to be blindsided by her watch, the key to successful navigation, running out of battery. Thankfully, I closed the gap between us, and keeping a close eye on my trusty Garmin watch kept us both on course.

There was no opportunity to take in the lighthouse view, as by the time we reached it we were running in complete darkness, only seeing what lay ahead in the arc of our headtorch lights. The stretch to Portreath from here seemed to go on for an eternity, but eventually we descended down into Portreath, the penultimate village. We met our trusty crew again, restocking and grabbing our poles. Much debate had been given to whether to run with poles or not, but thank goodness we took them for this last, horrific stage that I knew was going to truly finish off my legs.

Portreath to Porthowan is home to the steepest climbs of the whole route. Known as Sally’s Bottom, 2 brutally steep up and downs using knee high steps was certain to finish off our already broken quads. Thankfully the poles took some of the strain on the way down, and helped propel us up the ascent. Again, Claire disappeared off ahead, only to be flawed this time by a dodgy headtorch. I joked afterwards that it was only thanks to her failing technology that I had been able to keep up with her.

The Arc wouldn’t be the Arc without one last surprise. After heading down into Porthtowan, you could easily be mistaken into thinking that the work was now done. But no, there is one last surprise for you ahead. As you leave the village headed for the Ecopark, you ascend an incredibly steep and slippery footpath, just in case your quads were not completely trashed by that point. So, 12 hours and 53 minutes after leaving the Minack Theatre, my co-host and I almost crossed the line together; Claire ducking for the line to take a 1 second win.

Since completing the Arc50, people have asked me what is next, and here has been my answer. At 13 miles I didn’t think I would make halfway. At halfway I decided I could get round, as long as I made the cut off times. At 45 miles I knew I had it in the bag, even if I had to walk the rest, but I swore blind there was no way on earth I would consider doing a 100 miler. By Monday, I was researching 100 milers! So, watch this space.

People have also asked how I trained for this. Honestly, I think the longest training run was 21 miles, so it really wasn’t any different to my normal training regime. Some shorter, fast runs, some longer, slow runs, and some swimming and cycling to improve the endurance engine. It’s amazing what the compounded effect of good health and fitness can deliver. With good technique to avoid injury, an incredible crew to support us, a good engine and a positive mindset, it really is astonishing what the body can do.

This certainly won’t be my last ultra. It was an incredible experience with wonderfully friendly people. It gives you an awesome opportunity to see vast sections of landscapes that would normally take you days, week, or even years to explore. When else do you get to see 50 miles of some of Britain’s most spectacular scenery all in one day?

A few days later and the legs have recovered, and it is a race between whether the one blister I have will depart before a couple of my toenails, but the mental imprint of this day will stay with me for a very long time. If you too can combine (ultra) running with a part of the world that is special to you, take the opportunity. You won’t be disappointed.



Mental Health Awareness Week

As this week is Mental Health Awareness Week, it seemed obvious to have a theme of mental wellbeing running through this edition’s core. Weird times lead to weird reactions in our mind. As I saw on an anonymous post recently, ‘lockdown can only go one of 4 ways; you’ll come out a monk, a hunk, a chunk or a drunk. Choose wisely!’ It isn’t always that easy, so here are some resources that may help, regardless of which path you are currently taking.

Something to Share:

A great resource that I stumbled across, and shared with my team earlier in the week, is a page put together by The Mental Health Foundation called ‘How to look after your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak’. You can share or read it here.

TED Talk That’s Inspired Me

‘The Surprising Science of Happiness’ by Dan Gilbert, author of ‘Stumbling on Happiness’, challenges the idea that we'll be miserable if we don't get what we want. Our "psychological immune system" lets us feel truly happy even when things don't go as planned. You can watch it here.

Something That Made Me Laugh

Apparently laughing is one of the best antidotes to stress and I was recently reminded of this story. In lockdown we have all been a little tempted to try things at home we’ve never done before…but don’t try this! Read the story here.

What I’ve Been Reading

Caryl tends to read quite a lot around the subject of mindfulness, and I asked her for a recommendation for a book that you can just pick up from time to time to give you a pause for thought. She recommended ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse’ by Charlie Mackesy. Richard Curtis described it as 'A wonderful work of art and a wonderful window into the human heart'. Enter the world of Charlie's four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons here.

Quote of the Week

“Life (or golf) is not a game of perfect.”

Dr Bob Rotella

How I’ve Been Improving My Mornings

Research shows that the first minutes of us being awake are some of the most important for our overall mood for the day. If we dive into news, emails or social media, this has the potential to immediately lead us down the wrong track.

Since lockdown began, I still rise at 5:30 every morning, but feeling a little less pressure to get my exercise done before the school run or getting to the office, I have taken to journaling for 10 minutes each morning before I head out on the bike or for a run. My research (and trial and error) has led me to the following structure so far - although often I won’t do them all:

  1. Gratitude: 3 things I am grateful for
  2. Best things: 3 best things that happened yesterday
  3. Lessons: lessons that can be learnt from yesterday
  4. Today: the most important things of the day ahead
  5. Conscious stream: just write (learn more here).

Finance Theme I’ve Been Considering

One of the things that stresses us out about money most is the question, ‘will I have enough?’.

Whether you are 20 years from retirement, on the verge of it, or already in amongst it, the same concern runs through us. Whilst detailed lifetime cashflow forecasting is the best way to alleviate that worry, we wanted to create something quick and easy to help anyone and everyone. Enter ‘The 2 Minute Retirement Plan’ a newly revamped tool to help you determine whether you will have enough which you can try or share here. Please don’t keep it a secret!

Stay happy and healthy, and enjoy a sunny bank holiday weekend.

Religion, My Life Library & The 2 Popes

This week I seem to have ended up learning a lot about religion. Not for any specific reason, other than pure happenstance. Religious or not, I hope there is something here that you find useful or interesting… and I also have a request for your help. Happy Friday!

What I’ve Been Reading

After a conversation in a pub one night, I bought the book ‘A Little History of Religion’ by Richard Holloway then never got around to listening to it. For whatever reason, on a bike ride last week, I decided now was the time, and have since almost finished it. What I have loved about it, is that it has massively broadened my knowledge on a subject upon which I previously felt undereducated.

Learning more about the different religions and their origins has given me a much better understanding of the people that we share this planet with. What I found particularly interesting was the commonalities between them; they really aren’t that different at all. Whatever your thoughts on organised religion (over the years it has caused a huge amount of bloodshed and a huge amount of good), this book has helped me understand the playing field a little better. You can read or listen to it here.

The Life Library

Reading ‘A Little History of Religion’ got me thinking - something I do a lot of when on the bike or running - what other subjects, whilst not being my core focus in life, should I expand my knowledge in? What books would be in a ‘Life Library’, if you like. What books should everyone have read to give them a more diverse knowledge of the world around us? Immediately springing to mind were books like Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ which I read years ago, and ‘The Body: A Guide for Occupants’ which is currently on my reading list, ‘The E-Myth Revisited’ for business, ‘Man’s search for Meaning’ for purpose, ‘Born to Run’ and so many more.

On this basis, I decided I would like to put together ‘The Life Library’ to broaden my own knowledge, to share with others - in particular my team at Efficient Portfolio, and for the next generation entering the world of work.  So, I need your help. Please could you suggest any books you think should be in the Library of Life, and why? All recommendations gratefully received, and once complete, hopefully next week, I will share it with you, so you too can benefit from the same. Thanks in advance.

What I’ve Been Watching

By coincidence, Caryl and I watched the film ‘The 2 Popes’ last week, for no other reason that it was well promoted on Netflix, and it featured one of my favourite actors, Sir Anthony Hopkins. Knowing nothing of its story, I was surprised to find that I was watching the true story of how Pope Benedict XVI forms a friendship with the current Pope Francis, and then becomes only the second Pope in history to retire. A captivating film, that you can watch here.

Quote of the Week

“Live. Give. Forgive.”

  • Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Finance Theme I’ve Been Considering

Something that is often talked about in religion is the concept of tithing. It is said in the Bible you should give 1/10th of your income to your local church because sacrificing a portion of our income helps us look outside our selfishness and makes us more aware of the needs of others. Not only that, but by tithing, the giver will prosper with more than just money as a result of the mindset it creates.

Regardless of your religious beliefs, there are some important financial lessons here. It is easy to feel like you cannot afford to save; after all, you are spending everything you earn and sometimes more. I cannot overstate the change in mindset towards money when you know you are saving something for your future, regardless of how small an amount it is. You know you are earning more than you need, and I can personally speak of the power that brings to your mindset.

The same applies to giving money to charity regularly, whoever the benefactor. Giving money regularly to charity tells your subconscious that you do have more than you need, and the ironic thing is that mindset will lead you towards having more money. Crazy as it sounds, it is true - so make sure that unless you are retired, you are saving something (automatically is best) every month. Also make sure that something each month is going towards a charitable cause. It may just come back to bless you!

VE Day, The Infinite Game & Derren Brown

Friday Footnotes

As I am sending this email on the 75th anniversary of VE Day, it seemed right to let that theme run through this week's Friday Footnotes. After all, the sacrifice so many people made during that time is in some way similar to the key workers putting their own lives on the line for the greater good.

What I’ve Been Listen To

What better place to start than Winston Churchill’s speech on VE day, 1945. A man that had such a way with words, he is the third most quoted source in history, after the Bible and Shakespeare. He said "we may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing, but let us not forget for a moment the toils and efforts that lie ahead". You can listen to his speech here.

TED Talk That’s Inspired Me

Simon Sinek is one of my favourite authors; in fact, I am currently reading his latest book ‘The Infinite Game’. In this TED talk, Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership - starting with a golden circle and the question: "Why?" His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Wright brothers. You can watch it here.

What I’ve Been Watching

Would you be willing to sacrifice 1 life to save 5 others? This dilemma is seeing more discussion than ever with the introduction of autonomous cars. You can watch a brief clip about this problem here. What if that life were your own; would you be willing to sacrifice it for the greater good? Would you take a bullet for another person? This is something illusionist, Derren Brown, explored in his brilliant psychological experiment called ‘Sacrifice’. Find out if he can manipulate an ordinary person into taking a bullet for a stranger by watching it here.

Quote of the Week

It would be wrong not to quote Churchill this week, so some of my favourites are:

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

“One always measures friendships by how they show up in bad weather.”

“Things are not always right because they are hard, but if they are right one must not mind if they are also hard.”

Winston Churchill.

Finance Theme I’ve Been Considering

Sacrifice and financial planning often go hand in hand. You sacrifice spending all of your money today to create a better future for yourself. You sacrifice some of your money today to protect you and your family, should the unexpected happen. You sacrifice trying to make a killing in one single investment by diversifying your investments so that you also cannot be killed by any one investment. And finally, you sacrifice time and money today to get your estate in order, so that the people you love do not have a mess to clear up when you are gone and they are more focused on grieving.

Life is about making sacrifices for the greater good. What we can learn from both the World Wars, and the current COVID-19 crisis is that most of the people around us are actually amazing, probably much better than we thought, and that they too are willing to make sacrifices, some big and some small, for the greater good.

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