This site runs on your generous donations- thanks!
Full list of articles

Welcome earthling!

This blog contains hundreds of original articles all FREE. Rather than run distracting ads for things you don't need I rely on subscriptions through the donation box.

"I couldn't stop telling people about this book. Wise and joyful, it genuinely changed the way I thought about learning - and it left me bursting to put it into action."  - Tim Harford, author of Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy

"Micromastery is a triumph. A brilliant idea, utterly convincing, and superbly carried through." Philip Pullman.



Go and get it from a bookshop.

Or Buy online! Micromastery - learn small, learn fast and find the hidden path to happiness is published by Penguin books (UK) in May 2017. It will be published in China, Taiwan, USA, Germany and South Korea in the months after that.

You can get it at Wordery- click below

Or for those amazon junkies click this one:



too arrogant to learn?

Most people are too arrogant to learn.

That's not me you're thinking...thank God.

But that is the first sure fire sign- and I include myself here. Think it all the time- when you catch yourself thinking 'but that's not me' you need to take remedial action.

Action not mere 'thinking about it' or castigating yourself.

The action is to put in place a routine where you approach any learning task or new situation saying, "OK I'm arrogant, I get in my own way, but given that let's try and do this."

If you merely identify places and situations where you get in your own way- note them is all you need do, no emotional response required, learning becomes easier.

Learning is really watching and noting.



I have long been troubled by the hallowed and almost pretentious title 'artist'. OK if you are painting things from an easel, though even then the suspicion of a bit of malarkey going on, a con being pulled is always almost present. In previous centuries- I mean before the late nineteenth when art supplanted mystical experience as the pinacle of high human experience- being an artist was existentially the equal of any other craft, just with a few more handholds for grabbimg beauty and setting it down for others to appreciate. But now artist means many different things to different people. It has ceased to have any generally accepted public meaning.

Enter the ARTVENTOR. An artventor is someone who makes art type objects- pictures, sculptures, ceramics, films etc but revels in pure invention and experimentation. An experimental artist then? No, because the artventor aims to produce satisfying artventions. They can have NO CONNECTION with previous and traditional forms of art but they should look good, be aesthetically pleasing and so on. They don't have to make you think like conceptual art does. An obvious artvention was the mobile. Tinguely machines too- but these are just the more obvious examples. An artvention cannot JUST be a good idea. The execution must be pleasing to the eye in some way shape or form. The idea of anti-art is childish- art is meant to reveal the underlying beauty of the world and connect us to a deeper unified reality. Artventing can help on this mission. Anyone can be a bit of an artventor. It's about having a go not being written about by mouldy old art critics!


Publishing micromastery has been different...

I've published 12 books in the last twenty years but none have rocketed out of the shops quite like Micromastery. Partly it was getting good publicity, partly great cover design, great recommendations and a good basic idea.

But this is one thing that has had a big impact and is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT- how one man spent £11.63 and turned a few views into thousands in an attempt to show me how much publicising a book has moved on in the last year or so. You'll be amazed- I still am.




When prolific self-help author Steve Pavlina was asked what characteristic would he say was most invaluable to a growth mindset he answered 'courage'.

Here's what I have gleaned on the subject over the years.

First forget that stupid Hemingway quote 'Grace under pressure'- what nonsense except in movies. Some of the most courageous people I know are annoying ditherers.

Most people are naturally courageous if they find themselves in a courageous group.

Drink emboldens most people.

The main way to be courageous is to psyche yourself up. I have found with a day's warning I can psyche myself up to do things I'd bolt from if asked to do it cold.

Instant courage only comes from practising an instant response.

There are tricks to employ once you know 'lacking courage' is a temporary phase. Smoking a cigarette, downing a drink or cup of coffee- all these can be simple props to get you ready to act bravely.

Courage to go it alone is hardest.

Courage to believe in your own ideas without asking for others opinions is hardest.

"Ah, fuck it,' can be a mantra that's gets you moving.

'What have I got to lose?' can be another. Finding courage stimulating mantras is a great idea.

Courage is very affected by food and warmth and lack of. But knowing this helps.

Every man and woman has a breaking point. The skill is to know how to avoid reaching yours.

Be unafraid of death.


johnny factotum

'Jack of all trades and master of none but oftentimes better than a master of one' is one of two original forms of the modern stripped down 'jack of all trades master of none'.

Another is 'Better to be a jack of all trades than a master of none'.

Both have slightly different and far more upbeat meanings than the current one.

But people have always disparaged those with wings...

If 16th century commentators wanted to imply that a person was stretching their talents too thinly they resorted to the disparaging Latin term Johannes factotum('Johnny do-it-all'). In 1592, the English writer and member of the literary establishment Robert Greene wrote a pamphlet titled Groats-worth of Witte. In that he ventured the opinion that a new writer on the scene was:

An upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that supposes he is as well able to bumbast out a blanke verse as the best of you. Beeing an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.

Sadly for Greene's ongoing reputation the 'Upstart crow' was William Shakespeare.


Where I got the idea from

Micromastery is the practical aspect of polymathy. When you believe that it is normal to be interested in many things you naturally seek an efficient way to learn. I have found the efficient way to learn very much helped through an interest and immersion in the current projection of Sufi thought in the West. And the Sufi tradition has always drawn attention to the need and naturalness of being polymathic. Sayings can degenerate over time: the correct phrase is NOT 'Jack of all trades and master of none' but, "BETTER to be a jack of all trades THAN a master of none." We've all met the master of none- he is the person pontificating that there's no point in doing something because conditions/tools/time aren't perfect. He is the person hiding his laziness behind the concept of specialisation and assumed mastery. Actually specialists are very limited beings unless they refresh themselves at the well of more various interests and pursuits. Hence the need for a polymathic approach even if you work in a narrow field. And if the field is so narrow that it cannot ever develop then that sounds a little too narrow to me.

But the idea for polymathy, though attractive to me since childhood really came from immersion in modern work about Sufism. Such a book has just been republished: Sufi Thought and Action by Idries Shah (though it includes other authors too). The publisher is ISF publishing.


a few interesting things

1. Siberian folk tap the top of an anthill a few times to anger the ants. They then hold their hands above the hill, an inch away, to get it squirted with formic acid. This is a highly effective anti-insect treatment. Rubbed on the hands and face no horseflies or mosquitoes will subsequently attack.

2. A old beech tree, long cut down, a stump with no leaves remains alive centuries later. It is kept alive by the other beeches pumping sugars and other nutrients to it through their overlapping root system.

3. The animal keepers in scientific labs usually have a far higher regard for the intelligence of their cares than the scientists who are meant to be the experts. The sensible, intuitive, spot-on kind of observation made by someone who really knows is more likely to be made by a nursing orderly than a nurse, more likely to be made by a nurse than a doctor, more likely to be made by a trainee doctor than old behemoth in charge. Observation with caring-for; without ego involvement, and theory, leads to real knowledge.

Page 1 ... 3 4 5 6 7 ... 90 Next 7 Entries »