Sam Radford

November 24, 2021

When what we think is hard is actually easy

Much of life is about perception. We put off that task because, in our head, it feels huge. Eventually, when we can put if off no longer, we embrace the task. Thirty minutes later, it’s done. And we’re left wondering why we ever thought it was a big deal. In his latest newsletter, Oliver Burkeman tackles this issue. Reflecting on how h...
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November 22, 2021

Thoughts on ‘Maid’

A friend of mine suggested I watch the Netflix show ‘Maid’ recently. I get a lot of TV show recommendations though, and many end up forgotten. Or on a list that I already have no chance of ever getting through. But I dived straight into this one. And I’m glad I did. What an incredible, moving, devastating-yet-heart-warming, depressing-...
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November 19, 2021

Can you learn while you’re talking?

“I never learned anything while I was talking. —Larry King” I came across the quote above earlier in the daily email I get from The Economist. It makes a lot of sense. If you’re not listening, how are you learning? And if you’re busy talking, how can you be listening? But then I thought about the times when ideas have crystallised for ...
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November 17, 2021

Blindfolding ourselves

I’m continuing to enjoy Will by Will Smith. Here’s another line that’s stayed with me: “Sometimes we'd rather blindfold ourselves than take a cold, hard look at the world exactly as it is.” Denial, it seems, is part of human nature. Put another way, we have a tendency as humans to put a narrative over painful truths to stop us facing u...
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November 15, 2021

Reading about writing

Once or twice a year, I pick up a book about writing. It’s not always a new book – On Writing Well is one book I go back to again and again – but I like to take time on a regular basis to think about my written words. This last week, I’ve been reading a book that is new to me. It’s called Several short sentences about writing, written ...
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November 12, 2021

Book Notes – ‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo’ by Christy Lefteri

I don’t listen to lots of audiobooks. I tend to save them for when I know I have long drive coming up. With a visit down to London and then back up to Buxton a few weeks back, I decided to listen to The Beekeeper of Aleppo. The fact Audible were offering it for free may or may not have influenced my choice... Either way, I’m glad I pic...
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November 10, 2021

Improving on silence

I started reading Will, the new memoir from Will Smith last night. Only a chapter in, but enjoying it and gaining wisdom and insight already. Though this is a complete aside from the point of the opening chapter, I loved his description of his mother, in sharp contrast, he writes, to his father: “Mom-Mom is quiet and reserved; not beca...
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November 8, 2021

The loveliness is everywhere

I finished Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul by John Philip Newell over the weekend. In short: it’s wonderful! An incredible book. But, I’ll save my book notes for another post. Today I want to share this delightful poem, shared in the last chapter of Newell’s book, by Kenneth White: “the loveliness is everywhere even in the ugliest and most h...
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November 3, 2021

Prompts to get me to begin noticing

Kat Cuthbert wrote a blog post recently about her rediscovery of journalling. I was grateful for her insights on the value of ‘journal prompts’. These are questions that can help trigger meaningful self-reflection. Before sharing her ‘journal prompts for uncertain times’ though, I want to share a couple of paragraphs from her post: “Fr...
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November 1, 2021

Always present (smartphone lessons from Will Ferrell)

I appreciated this segment from from The Hollywood Reporter’s recent profile of Will Ferrell. They capture this insight from Paul Rudd, his co-star in the upcoming Apple TV+ series The Shrink Next Door: “Rudd, who’d worked with Ferrell on the Anchorman films, says he was struck at how committed his co-star was: “Normally, when you’re d...
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October 29, 2021

The superficial self-awareness movement

What is your biggest weakness? I was thinking about this classic interview question today. And we all know the kinds of responses it generates: ““Sometimes I’m too committed for my own good.”” ““I’m a perfectionist.”” ““I work too hard.”” But have you noticed how no one says: ““I’m insecure and claim other team member’s ideas as my own...
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October 27, 2021

Does religion still have a place today?

What is the point of religion? Does it (still) have a role in a rational society? Is it something we should have grown out of by now? Or is their a place – a need, even – for it? And, if there is, what is that place, that point, that purpose? The word ‘religion’ is undeniably a tainted word. And no two people are thinking of the same t...
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October 25, 2021

Enjoying my girls at every age and stage

“I always become suspicious when other parents tell me to enjoy every second of having a baby, to make the most of these years, since their enthusiasm never seems to extend to whatever age their children are now. Finn won’t disappoint me by being eight years old, or fourteen, or thirty-six. He won’t hurt my feelings by growing up. —Not...
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October 21, 2021

Book Notes: ‘Spook Street’ by Mick Herron

I finished reading book four of Mick Heron’s Slough House spy series of novels yesterday. The fact I’ve read four of them tells it’s own story. I love them. I’ve actually listened to the last two novels. Seán Barrett’s narration is pitch perfect; he captures the characters completely. There’s something delightfully gritty about these L...
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October 20, 2021

Killing the moment by controlling our experience

My friend Ryan sent me this powerful quote from the American Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön earlier: “We think that if we just meditated enough or jogged enough or ate perfect food, everything would be perfect. But from the point of view of someone who's awake, that's death. Seeking security or perfection, rejoicing in feeling confirmed and...
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October 19, 2021

Don’t resist life’s seasons

Life is full of seasons. Here in England, we’re deep into the transition away from summer and into autumn. But our individual lives have seasons too. Nothing stays the same for long. When our daughters were young, my wife and I had a mantra for the various (trying) stages kids go through. ‘It’s just a season,’ or ‘it’s only a stage,’ w...
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October 18, 2021

When the belief bubble bursts

“The nature of illusion is that it’s designed to make you feel good. About yourself, about your country, about where you’re going – in that sense it functions like a drug. Those who question that illusion are challenged not so much for the veracity of what they say, but for puncturing those feelings. —Chris Hedges, Journalist” This quo...
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October 15, 2021

Shaking up my morning routine

I loved this observation from Oliver Burkeman in his most recent newsletter: “…efforts to implement morning routines… have a way of becoming utterly deadening the moment you try to define them too strictly: “630am get up, 645am journalling”, and so forth. Far better, in my experience, to draw up a “menu” of things you'd ideally like to...
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October 14, 2021

Givers or takers?

“The more you create, the more powerful you become. The more you consume, the more powerful others become.” I’ve been pondering these words since I read them in James Clear’s newsletter last week. Another way of framing this is as a question: Am I a giver or a taker? When we fill our lives with taking – or consumption – we are disempow...
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October 13, 2021

Writing is easy – until it is hard

I get asked, ‘How do you manage to write so much?’, a lot. And the truth is that, like most established habits, it’s quite easy once you’ve done the work of making it a routine in your life. The routine – and the accompanying triggers – do a lot of the heavy lifting of making the habit continue. For much of this year, that’s where I’ve...
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October 4, 2021

Guard the good treasure entrusted to you

I read a letter recently, written several thousand years ago, from a master to his apprentice. The author included the line that titles this post: guard the good treasure entrusted to you. He’s talking about the gifts the apprentice has. Earlier in the same letter, he writes about, ‘rekindl[ing] the gift of God that is within you’. Gua...
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September 30, 2021

When words don’t sync with reality

“Writing or words not backed up by action will end up ringing hollow. Similarly, a person who only talks but does not practise ends up living a hollow existence. There is nothing at the core – no real substance – because the actions don’t match up to the intentions. So that is the danger of writing – when the words are out of sync from...
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September 28, 2021

What if worry was prayer?

I took a huge amount of pleasure listening to a conversation between Luke Norsworthy and Barbara Taylor Brown on a recent episode of Luke’s podcast. Though it wasn’t remotely the main focus of the podcast, there was a throwaway line from Barbara that I’ve been pondering since I heard it. She said that worrying about friends and family ...
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September 27, 2021

A good life

“Life is not a problem to be solved. Just remember to have something that keeps you busy doing what you love while being surrounded by the people who love you. —Héctor García and Francesc Miralles, ‘Ikaigi’” I love the simplicity of this. Of course, simple doesn’t mean easy! Sometimes the simplest things to understand are the hardest t...
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September 23, 2021

Improve your life with better handling of notifications

I don’t write much about technology any more. And when I do, I aim to write about it in ways that are relevant to everyone – not just geeks like me! Today’s post is, as such, technology focussed but will, I hope, help us all. Let’s get to it. As of this week, the iPhone has a new feature that I want to highlight. It’s part of iOS and i...
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September 22, 2021

Fewer blog posts of late

I’ve been writing less frequently the last couple of weeks. But don’t worry: I do intended to get back to writing each week day. Lately I’ve had no extra headspace though. Work has been all-consuming whilst we’ve launched a major new programme for thousands of teachers here in England. This busy spell has left me with less time for rea...
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September 21, 2021

Flexibility = resilience

I finished reading ‘Ikigai’ by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles this week and, towards the end of the book, there’s a chapter on resilience. This paragraph in particular resonated: “Resilient people know how to stay focused on their objectives, on what matters, without giving in to discouragement. Their flexibility is the source of ...
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September 14, 2021

The thief of happiness

“To compare yourself and your results against anyone is probably like the thief of happiness. —Emma Raducanu” I came across the above quote in an article on the BBC website a couple of days prior to Emma Raducanu’s remarkable win in US Open tennis final in New York. Reading that, it becomes even harder to believe she’s just 18 years ol...
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September 9, 2021

The wherewithal to cope

I was grateful for this reminder from Oliver Burkeman in his latest newsletter: “...imagine you were a member of a prehistoric tribe, setting out on a multi-day hunting expedition into the unknown. You couldn't possibly have felt confident, if “confident” means feeling sure of how things will unfold. But there’s a kind of confidence yo...
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September 8, 2021

Let us be awake to life

One of my morning meditations recently included the mantra that makes for the title of this post: “Let us be awake to life.” I find it all too easy to drift through life. Days blur into weeks, which blur into months, which blur into years. And before long, I’m repeating the tired refrain: Doesn’t time fly? I lose sight of the truth tha...
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