I am a huge fan of learning and growing.
Never stop learning and you will never stop growing.
I spend several hours each day doing reading, research and listening to presentations about mostly health-related topics (physical and mental), but also mindset, Geo-political, environmental, financial, and anything else that might impact my life and the lives of my clients.
I am also VERY aware I don’t know everything.
So I approach learning with a very open-mind.
I also change my mind if I am presented with new and compelling information.
I love critical-thinking, establishing what is self-evident, and looking deeper into the WHY, and WHO benefits most when information is presented.
Given that, I thought it would be cool to round out my year of writing to you, with 10 of the top things I have learned over 2023 (or relearned more deeply). I will also let you know if they have caused lifestyle changes, and where to go if you want to go deeper on the subject.
(They are not in order of importance or impact)
Number 1 Thing I Learned
There is a physiological and psychological difference between going for a walk in nature, and going for a walk in nature while engaged with your hand-phone. Research by Hopman in 2016, showed that a 20-min stroll in a park showed significant positive neurological changes in the brain, making participants feel more calm, focused and productive; however if they were using their cell-phones on the walk, they saw none of these benefits. This was self-evident for me, but interesting to see someone formally research it, and record the biological impacts.
Suggestion: Take YOURSELF for a walk (preferably in nature) and not your phone. Aim for a minimum of 3 x 20-min walks – tech free – each week for good mental health.
To go deeper: ‘The Comfort Crisis‘ by Michael Easter.
Number 2 Thing I Learned
I learned the importance of the mineral Copper when it comes to optimum functionality of the mitochondria – which are the energy producing micro-organisms in our cells. Copper is also essential in the chemical process of moving iron stored in the tissues into the blood (Note: Our tissues can store up to 10 times as much iron in the tissues, than in the blood and why blood tests for iron are inaccurate). Copper is an essential mineral for many functions and is actually hard to get in our mineral-depleted soils and with modern mono-crop farming. It is extra hard on a vegan or vegetarian diet (especially a vegan diet).
My lifestyle change: I now have an organ meat meal once a week (organic chicken liver), just like the older folk used to do, and more ancient and traditional cultures.
To go deeper: ‘Cure Your Fatigue‘ by Morley Robbins.
Number 3 Thing I Learned
We are all in this together on planet Earth. And I, like everyone else, would like clean air, water and soil. But to try and bring a sledge-hammer into the solution-finding process is not that useful. I read a book called ‘Apocalypse Never‘ by Michael Shellenger – a long-time active environmentalist – who was warning against alarmism when it comes to the climate conversation. We know when we go into a panic state, we have the brain power of a lizard. And trying to force a person in Africa, burning charcoal or dung, to leap-frog to solar, hydro or wind powered energy in the next handful of years is just not possible. The result of forcing reactive policies onto the entire planet, fueled by alarmism (and ‘one size fits all’), will have a huge detrimental impact on 30-50% of the population on the planet. It will definitely not get them out of poverty. Alarmism, as I already know, does not solve problems in an intelligent, thoughtful, strategic, conscious and empathetic way, when dealing with complex issues.
My thoughts: Regardless of your point of view on ‘human-caused’ climate change; one thing I think we can all agree on is that we are doing a terrible job of polluting the planet. So we start there. We don’t buy stuff we don’t need. We buy things that have less impact on the environment. We recycle. We re-use. We stop just throwing stuff away. And we set this example for others. Like this morning when I picked up some plastic in front of some Balinese kids and put it in the rubbish and not the creek.
Number 4 Thing I Learned
Back to the health and nutrition thing. I have read LOTS of books on nutrition over the last 20+ years. Plus I have tried all sorts of diets for extended periods of time. And one thing I am more certain of now – it is MUCH harder to be a healthy vegetarian, and especially vegan, in 2023; than it was 50 years ago. The reason is that most food today is mass-produced, using mono-crop farming methods, on mineral-depleted soil, with high levels of pesticides and herbicides and a high level of GMO foods are thrown into the mix. Added to that is the explosion in processed and ultra-processed foods, readily and cheaply available, full of synthetic additives the body cannot recognize. Then there is our biological bias towards high-calorie foods. But back to my original point. I think it is really hard to get all your vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, essential amino acids, enzymes, etc. on a plant-only diet. I don’t think you can wing it, on a vegan diet, and expect to be healthier. I also recently read that due to the essential functions of cholesterol in the body, a vegan diet that is low in cholesterol, can lead to leaky gut issues, because cholesterol has a large positive influence on the stomach lining.
My suggestion: I am of the belief that one size does not fit all, and not all of the time. We need to do our research, plus we need to get better at listening to our bodies. And let go of defining who we are (and what camp we stand in) by our food choice. You are human and so am I and we are the same, but also different. And we have millions of years of intelligent information stored in our DNA, so we need to experiment with what is best for us – which may change over time as we go through different life cycles. Plus eat organic otherwise your salads are likely to have a glyphosate, heavy metals, and synthetic toxin, dressing.
Other books I have read this year are: ‘Smarter Not Harder‘ (Asprey), ‘What Really Makes You Ill’ (Lester, Parker), ‘Cure Your Fatigue’ (Robbins), ‘Eat Like A Human’ (Schindler), and ‘Sacred Cow‘ (Roers, Wolf).
Number 5 Thing I Learned
It is all about jobs (and not Steve kind). I read a great book recently called ‘The Heart of a Cheetah‘ by Magatte Wade, an entrepreneur who was born in Senegal, moved to France at 7, then the USA when she was 18, to ended up working in Silicon Valley. She is on a mission to help transcend poverty in Africa. She also has real-world and self-evident experience. And doesn’t believe the NGO’s and charity money are the solution (especially when a lot of the money disappears through corruption, and very little gets to where it makes a difference). Her question when speaking in seminars is to ask people why they are not in poverty. The response is because they have money. Then she asks where the money comes from? The answer is having a job. Her main gripe with most poor countries in Africa, is their heavily bureaucratic governments that make starting, and growing a business extremely inhibitive. Giving money, indiscriminately (much through some well-meaning NGO’s), to the ‘poor people’ does nothing to lift their self-esteem, and if more likely to have them self-identify as someone who is lesser.
My thoughts: If you are interested to hear a better way of helping people out of poverty (plus understand why), and how you might best spend your charity money and energy abroad, check out Magatte Wade’s book, or join her informative newsletter.
Number 6 Thing I Learned
There were a lot of things over the last few years, and even this year that ticked me off. That had me getting triggered, annoyed, angry, frustrated and even anxious. But I realised that an over fixation on the things I didn’t like, doesn’t make me feel any better, or really change anything. Better use of my energy and life force is focus it on what I do want to create. Hence why my partner Ferry and I have embarked on creating a small farm here in Bali. If I don’t like how food is produced, and I want higher nutrient density, then I can focus on growing my own stuff. I can be more of a producer, than a consumer. I can give the excess away. I can be an example in the community. I can show and teach local people how to do waste-management which can add to the land, rather than pollute it.
My lifestyle choice: To CONSTANTLY bring my attention and intention back to what it is I want to create. And put my energy into that. Then experience the fringe benefits of working on the land – free physical activity, loads of sunshine, slowing the mind, seeing a huge cucumber grow from a tiny tiny seed and be in awe of the creative power of mother nature and source energy, etc..
Number 7 Thing I Learned
I knew this already, but I heard a new distinction and information recently, to update my knowledge bank. The sun and sunlight is not only good for us, it is essential. For years, especially in western countries, there has been this thing about sun being bad for us. Causing cancer. We need to avoid it, by slopping sunscreens on our bodies (that are often filled with highly suspect synthetic chemicals). I heard a presentation the other day where the person said the seminal research on UV rays causing cancer, was a study in the 1950’s where they used mice – which are nocturnal, unlike mammals (like us) – in a laboratory filled with artificial lighting (i.e. LED’s, fluorescent lights, etc.), and without receiving the full spectrum of light frequencies (other than UV) the sun emits in real life. That sounds pretty loose to me. What if, in the full light spectrum from the sun, there are protective elements to change the effect of UV rays on our bodies? This is the problem with reductive science and research. It is often taken out of context. I think we need to reestablish our relationship with the sun, and acknowledge (especially after findings from the last few years), that sunlight and vitamin D (interacting with cholesterol) is essential to our health and immunity. Morning sunlight, absorbed through our retina’s (when not filtered by sunglasses) also helps establish our ‘body clock’ and therefore the systematic regulation of different hormones.
My lifestyle choice: I get even more sunlight in my day, especially morning sun through my eyes and on my skin. I work in the sun with no shirt, and only cover up when my body tells me it has has enough. The sun, and sunlight, is SO important for our physical and mental health, and why it has been worshiped through the ages.
Number 8 Thing I Learned
My brain likes to protect me, but it also thinks I am a wimp. Again, I have known parts of this, but I got an upgrade after reading the book by Dr Sarno called ‘The Divided Mind‘. Essentially my brain thinks I am unable to handle psychological or emotional stress without losing my shit and turning into a psychopath (which is socially unacceptable and will get me thrown out of the figurative tribe, where I will then likely die without the tribes protection – primal brain stuff). Therefore it does things like reducing the blood flow and oxygen to certain parts of my body, causing pain in my muscles. Thus creating a ‘physical’ distraction and protecting me from facing any emotional demons. Therefore, these days when I experience body pain – not associated with a discernible and specific physical blow or event – one of the first things I do is call it ‘brain pain‘ and then ask myself what is happening for me emotionally. I look at three specific areas of emotional distress. What is making me angry, anxious or resentful. Then I work at resolving those, as I continue to move my body in a normal and conscious way, and not pandering automatically to the apparent ache or pain. Again, I am attuned to my body, so I don’t do any needless harm, but I am aware that body pains might have psychosomaticorigins, and approach them from an emotional perspective.
My lifestyle choice: I challenge the ‘origins’ of my body aches and pains, and look for potentiality emotional or psychological ROOT causes.
Number 9 Thing I Learned
As many of you know, my dad passed away on 16 June this year. There were so many lessons to learn out of that experience, and I did write an article on all the things I learned from my dad, so you can check that out. But I wanted to reiterate one of the biggest things. We all handle the major events in our life differently from the people around us. Even those people closest to us. It is a really bad idea to assume someone is having the same experience as you. And why it is so important to be open communicators in these situations. Assumptions have no place when it comes to major emotional events in our lives. Again, no ‘one size fits all’. Even the ‘theory’ on stages of grief. That will not be the same with all people. Where I live, the Balinese have a very different relationship with death, so the ‘stages of grief’ are irrelevant. And death might even be cause for celebration. A very practical example with my dad, was what us siblings (my brother, sister and I) thought was most sacred of dad’s stuff and needed to be treated with more reverence. I could not have guessed this, after knowing my siblings for 50+ years.
Key insight: Don’t make assumptions about how someone is dealing with a major emotional event, and communicate authentically, often and with an open-mind.
Number 10 Thing I Learned
Every time I write a book I learn so much. This year I wrote my 6th book – 18 Ways We Make Life WAY Harder Than It Needs To Be – and I definitely became a lot clearer about 18 ways we make life more clunky than it needs to be. One of my favourites was about not doing things that add too much complexity to my life, unless it has a high ROI outcome, and if I have the capacity to welcome more complexity into my life. I am getting better at asking the question: “Will choosing X, add more complexity to my life?”. If it is a yes, the next question is: “Is it worth it?” If not, it is a very clear “No”. Pass. No thanks. Not for me. Close the door on your way out, as I sit comfortably here doing nothing other than sipping on my coconut water (and reading a book).
My suggestion: Grab a copy of my book (digital, paperback and audiobook) from any major retailers. Read it. Then tap into all of the free resources that go with it.
My Parting word
I will keep them few.
It was an interesting exercise to reflect on 10 of my biggest lessons for 2023.
It also took a lot longer to write than usual, as I reflected on what changes I had made as a result.
I hope that you also took away something from them.
Maybe even consider doing your own list of the Top 10 things you learned in 2023.
Learning is growing.
And we do love to grow.
Have a wonderfully reflective day, and a SUPER FABULOUS Christmas (if you celebrate it).