My life’s great love is, and always has been, knowledge. Now I know some of you will say it should be my children, my parents or siblings, maybe bacon, deep cut pop culture trivia or any of the women who have put up with and loved me over my 30+ years on this planet. It’s true I do or have loved all of these people and things greatly, but there has always been one true guiding force. My muse, the thing that restores my heart and fuels my soul has always been, and I trust always will be, learning. I simply crave learning new ideas and ways of being.

Not so that I can store it away in some dusty corner of my mind to be drawn up for a pub trivia night or to impress someone. While that has seemingly been the motivation in the past, I realise now the reason I keep learning is so that I can take on, consider and allow the deeper meaning to influence my thought processes moving forward. Or not, as the case may be.

My second love, and it’s pretty close call, is communication. I fell in love with books and the written word at an early age and it has been a love affair that not only been the longest relationship I have sustained, but in many ways, the most rewarding. My early days reading the dark comedy of Roald Dahl helped me to discover there is humour in the unlikeliest of places, and Tolkien’s work taught me that even the smallest of us can be mighty through sheer determination. From Edward de Bono teaching me the ways to think and Mark Manson and Sarah Knight showing me the value of not giving a fuck, I realised there is so much to learn. Tim Ferris taught me to be more efficient, the Dalai Lama showed me the Art of Happiness and Jason Grossman reminded me it doesn’t matter where you’ve been, it’s about where you’re going.

My point is that though I have only met one of the people on that list and I could only mention a few here, I have been blessed to live in a time when knowledge is so readily accessible and teachers are so many and varied. I’m actually sitting in the library of my local university campus. I’m not a student, but I love the feeling in a library. There is an aura of knowledge, as if I can sense the books calling out to me to be read, absorbed and digested. I find it so much easier to write here.

Everything we experience in this life gives us opportunities to learn. In my opinion, it’s the whole point of existence. To learn about ourselves, each other, about this glorious planet we inhabit and beyond, it is the greatest gift we have as a species. These are not always obvious lessons, and they are often delivered in frightening, obscure or tragic packaging. In fact, some of our greatest lessons about life come from our darkest periods. I know I’m not breaking new ground here when I say this, but it is something worth repeating. It is so easy to get caught in the emotion of a traumatic event, to feel like nothing good can come from it. But if you take a step back and allow yourself to look for it, it is there. Your greatest lessons, and therefore your greatest victories, can spring from your most difficult times. So many of us go through painful or trying times, seemingly over and over. One of the reasons that is, may be that you are not learning the lesson to be gleaned from the difficulty. This is why I write what I write. It’s not that I think I know any better than anyone else, I’ve just been through enough, made enough mistakes, and failed to learn from them enough times, to be able to recognise my faulty behaviour. As a born communicator, I’m then compelled to share my experiences to help other people not make the same mistakes.

That isn’t to say that you cannot learn something from pleasant experiences as well. You can certainly learn an appreciation for family and friends through a day in the park with your loved ones, a fishing weekend with the boys or a quiet dinner with an old friend. You most definitely can and should make the effort to do that. I’m merely saying that often “Big Shit” leads to Big Lessons.

Is it an easy task? The answer is an obvious and resounding No. If it were, myself and countless other writers, thinkers and speakers wouldn’t have expended the hours we have working around this subject. It would just be part of everyone’s natural reaction to hard times and good, but that isn’t the case. It can be decidedly troublesome, trying to find calm contemplation in stormy seas. So, the point requires constant reaffirmation. Once you allow yourself to work through the immediate emotional response to a traumatic event, let the emotional fallout go and look for what can be learned about yourself and others from that event.

Did your family and friends comfort and support you? If yes, you have confirmed that your trust in them is deserved. If not, why not? Was it that you did not share with them that you were going through something, causing them not to know you needed help? Or were they aware and still did not come to your aid, or perhaps made it worse? Whatever the case, you will have learned something about those around you and their reliability. Either you need to get better at asking for support (an issue men of a certain age tend to have) or you have discovered who not to expect help from in the future.

By opening yourself up to learn from the experiences life has to offer, both positive and negative, you essentially give yourself a cheat sheet for how to win at the game of life. Trust me, not many people are paying that much attention to the lessons on offer. Life is a constant feedback loop of cause and effect. If you stay aware, you can learn quite quickly how some behaviours and reactions give you better results than others. Then you use that information to make more informed and hopefully better decisions in the future. Then if you don’t you also only have one person to blame, and that kind of self-responsibility is incredibly liberating, as it allows you to live on your terms because only you have control over your behaviours. You know the consequences of your actions and you act based on you best judgement based on the information at hand. That is a truly authentic life.

As Always, my friends,

Get Up, Get Out There, and Get Awesome

And be open to new information coming in, from whatever situation or disguise it may come to you. You might just learn something.

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