Be Yourself And Loudly

I have always enjoyed reading self-help-type articles including the multitude of lists that comes with them, however, I’ve recently found myself questioning their validity. Of course, the will is good and by all means, read what you feel you need to read, but isn’t every ’10 Ways To Be More Productive Beyond Your Wildest Dreams’ post you read ironically keeping you one step further from getting you to where you want to be while you’re trying to assimilate yet another list into your life? And in truth, how efficient and productive do you really need to be?

What’s stopping you being brave? What’s stopping you giving your own voice the chance to be heard above the white noise of the world? If you’re always reading information about how to do things well, that can be a good thing for a while, but when do you actually start doing the thing you want to do? Whatever your field of interest may be, what’s stopping you daring to have the confidence to follow your own path and contribute something of quality to help the world? It could be music, art, photography, a book, a good day at work, volunteering at a charity, spending time with your family, gardening, cycling or starting a business. It doesn’t matter what it is that you do as long as it’s your thing.

What do you really want to happen after putting yourself out there? Maybe millions will read, listen, appreciate or acknowledge what you have done. And maybe they won’t. Maybe people will love you. And maybe they won’t. But when you look at yourself in the mirror, what do you really need to do or say today? Now even? So much so that it would physically hurt you if you didn’t?

And of course, feel free to think that this is just another post full of white noise. That’s your prerogative. I would much rather you make your own noise. Be yourself. And loudly. Contribute something of quality to help the world. This is one of the ways I do what I need to do. What’s yours?

Feature image by Sebastiao Salgado

How Headphones Can Enrich Your Life

As a huge and ever so slightly obsessive music fan, I’ve worn headphones when I’m out and about since the days of Sony Walkman cassette players, carrying a bagful of cassettes wherever I went.

In addition to the primary reason being to listen to music whenever I could, my headphones were also my protection from negative elements such as commuter aggression and excessive noise in London, however I have also often used them to maximise my experience, usually while walking to classes or travelling in general.

As well as the common and justified criticism of inconsiderate noise pollution, another general criticism of people wearing headphones listening to music as they go about their daily business is that they are not benefiting from ‘real life’ and are in fact missing out. I accept that there are elements of truth to this, but I would argue that ‘real life’ is the very reason why many people, me included from time to time, have ‘withdrawn’ from real life into their own audio world. It’s perhaps some people’s equivalent of escaping life through drinking or getting lost in a book. Each to their own.

But most importantly, I find that listening to music on headphones while walking around and travelling doesn’t take away, but in fact always adds to my personal experience.

For example, I was listening to Bjork’s album ‘Vespertine’ while wandering around the British Museum in London not so long ago. Doing this removed the abrasive volume of visiting students on school trips and tourist groups with accompanying guides, while simultaneously providing me with a uniquely personal audio-visual experience of the incredible objects and atmosphere of the museum.

Whenever I visit a gallery or museum now, instead of listening to the audioguides telling you about the pieces you will be looking at, I almost always listen to carefully selected music to make the most of the aesthetic experience. Admittedly my knowledge of the backgrounds of paintings and sculptures suffers as a result, but I’m prepared to make that sacrifice for other benefits which I value more.

Without getting too ‘High Fidelity‘ about it, what you listen to while doing different things such as visiting museums and travelling can always enrich the experience, making it far more enjoyable and in addition provide a happy musical memory attached to your experience.

I recently wrote a post about a specific moment where my headphones improved my walk to work (read How To Celebrate The Sunshine)  and now find that the song in this post always makes me smile and reminds me of that sunshine ‘moment’. Again, listening to music on my headphones while walking to work has given me a lovely musical memory, a kind of audio photograph.

While writing this, I’ve been listening to Goldfrapp’s recent beautiful album ‘Tales Of Us’, which has immensely enhanced my experience of waiting for a bus in what is a stereotypically grey and functional bus station in the wonderful city of Granada.

Maybe for my next trip I’ll put together a compilation tape / mixtape / playlist – choose your own word based on your age…
Away From The Noise

So What’s Next?

I started this blog in October, so at only a few weeks old of posting daily (including the transfer of a number of posts from a previous website I had) and since the end of the latest Blogging101 project, I thought I’d take stock of how things have gone.

Firstly, I’d like to thank everybody who follows me via email, Wordpress or Twitter (@awayfromnoise) and for all the comments and discussions over the past couple of months. It’s been fun and it’s also hugely appreciated. The response to the blog has been fantastic and it’s incredibly encouraging to get such positive feedback from people all over the world in just a few weeks.

Although posting daily has been both a challenging and enjoyable experience over the past couple of months, I need to make things more manageable, so from now on I will be posting twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays, though there may be additional posts (this one included) from time to time. Future posts will continue to be a mix of thoughts on life, music and whatever comes to mind to inspire as many people as possible to live a life of positive simplicity.

So, thanks again…I’m off to have a walk in the sunshine now. It looks like a beautiful day outside!

Are You Comfortable Being Comfortable?

Are you sitting comfortably? How about with your life? Are you comfortable with your life?

Maybe everything’s going well and that’s a lovely thing but sometimes, things are just ticking over in a perfectly fine but perhaps not very interesting way and from time to time, you think about stepping out of things for a while to stretch and challenge yourself. But do you want to or do you think you ‘should’ get out of your comfort zone?

I’d argue that if you can’t replace the word ‘should’ with the word ‘want’, then perhaps you need to rethink what you’re doing.

If you did, what would that actually be? Would it be running a marathon, starting your own business, writing the book you’ve always wanted? Or perhaps, going to an evening class to learn a new language, spending some time in the garden or reading that book you’ve been meaning to read for a while? Everybody has their own comfort zone so it’s important to find yours.

Ambition is a wonderful thing, but my point here is that it is different for everybody. Some may want to change the world, others may want to change the flowers in their garden, however both are equally important to their ‘owner’.

There does seem to be a pressure in society to constantly push yourself to extremes as you will then be ‘fulfilled’ and it doesn’t seem to be allowed to just sit still and enjoy what you have. Society and everybody else can and will do what they want to do and it’s especially with this in mind that I believe that it’s vital to find what works and what is comfortable for you personally. regardless of what the rest of the world thinks or does.

Seville Night Sky

The Sky is Bigger

If you have ever lived in a big city, you know about the countless advantages of doing so. However, one of the downsides which was highlighted to me recently is that the sky can feel so small making city living enclosed and claustrophobic which inevitably has a negative impact on its inhabitants.

Kitty Shepherd, a British friend also living in Granada then said something that particularly struck me:

“If you can’t see infinity, you can’t see what it is”

The sky is bigger (or at least it feels that way) in Andalucia and as a consequence, the possibilities for change and reinvention feel limitless.

Of course, changing your geography does not always solve problems as problems can follow you around until you find a solution. Being somewhere that is new can sometimes feel liberating and beautiful and the benefit of a sense of bigger sky is the huge sense of opportunity and space that you feel to help you live your life.

However, I would also add that this is not only possible in new places, but also older and more familiar ones too that we see on a regular basis and sometimes take for granted. Perhaps there is always a ‘bigger sky’ wherever you are if you are open to seeing it…

(Image courtesy of www.andalucia.org)

How Much is It Costing You?

When I was first asked this question, my first thought, perhaps like most people, was financially-related, as that is how we instinctively define cost in society. And this is of course, a vital element that may prevent you from moving forward. Maybe you don’t have the money to pack up and move to a new country, nor buy the house you have always wanted. And perhaps that can hold us back from being where we want to be. But money aside, what is it costing you each day not taking steps to move you forward to where you want to be?

For example, if you have a job that you don’t necessarily hate, but it hasn’t exactly been exciting or even interesting for a long time, what is it costing you every day you are there living that life, when you could be living the life you want, being passionate about your work, doing a job that you find exciting? Fast forward to your rocking chair at 85 years old. What would you like to look back on? A life of things you did when some worked and some didn’t, but you had a wonderful experience? Or one in which you stayed in the same place where you were not happy, but never quite got round to doing what you wanted for a million different reasons?

There are of course practical elements in our lives which can stop us from being who we want to be to some degree, but if only for a moment, what could happen if we gave ourselves the permission to consider an alternative situation where you have achieved your dream? What would it look like? How would it feel? What would you do in this new world when you got up first thing in the morning?

Some may argue this is idealistic nonsense and to those I would say that you are of course fully entitled to your opinion, however in a world in which we are always being told that we can’t do things, shouldn’t do things and mustn’t do things, how much would it cost us to actually take steps forward to where we want to be? We would not hide from the practical realities of our lives, in fact we would embrace them as once we have done this, we can then find a solution. There could of course still be a compromise or ‘cost’, but wouldn’t we at least be heading in the direction that we have chosen for ourselves?

Wouldn’t that be a price worth paying?

Minimal Coffee

I Love Coffee (And Gertrude Stein)

Sometimes someone says something and you just think ‘that’s exactly how I feel’. This is one of those times.

“Coffee is real good when you drink it. It gives you time to think. It’s a lot more than just a drink. It’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup.” (Gertrude Stein)

Thanks Gertrude. Couldn’t have it said it better myself.

Have a good weekend…

Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein – write and appreciator of coffee as a metaphor for the important things in life…