Book recommendation: The Obstacle is the Way

With the amount of articles and news pieces presented to us on a daily basis it's hard to make time to read a real book, so I've started to set myself a goal of one book per month. The Obstacle is the Way is one from a few months ago, and one that has made more of an impact on me than any other.

It is essentially a primer on Stoic philosophy, but the way author Ryan Holiday tackles the subject is by subtly applying it to modern life, and it works well. The book is a nice length; he covers the subject well without getting too intense. It is broken down into small chapters too, and is actually physically really well presented; a nice hardback that is quite a small book, which means it's a great read for when you're moving about a lot.

The title of the book stems from an incredible Marcus Aurelius quote mentioned a lot in Ryan's blog posts, and one which I think will give you an idea of whether you will enjoy the book or not.

"The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way."

It's a great introduction to Stoic philosophy, and has actually influenced me to buy more Seneca and Aurelius books from the incredible Penguin Classics range.

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The Best Things I've Ever Bought

Just a few things that are actually worth spending money on

I'm fixated on making lists. This is one I've been wanting to make for a while, and I think it's due to my obsession with quality; particularly when it comes to making things that will really last - something that doesn't happen very often at all.

I won't include things that aren't really relevant or that you wouldn't want to buy now, for example if it was 2007 I'd include the incredible Nokia N95 for sure. I'll also probably (hopefully) keep adding and upgrading this list, slowly but surely. In no particular order:

Mission Workshop Vandal

The vandal really is one of the best things I've ever bought. Perhaps £225 might seem excessive for a rucksack, and I thought that when saving for it, but it's worth every penny.

Made in America with a lifetime warranty, this bag has shown no signs of wear in the nearly 3 years I've had it, including when I got hit by a car whilst wearing it. I use it every day, I've cycled in torrential rain and the contents have remained 100% dry, whilst the backbone of the bag will make sure nothing digs into you whilst wearing it, even for extended periods of time.

Kinoko are the UK stockists of this bag for life.

Howies Merino Wool T-shirt

People may look at you strange when you say you're wearing a wool t-shirt on a hot summer's day, but Merino is really special. I've bought 2 Howies merino tops now, and I wear my polo every day on the cycle to work. I've had it over 2 years and it still looks just as good as the day I bought it.

Here's the thing; it never, ever smells. Howies explain it better. Again £60 is expensive for a t shirt, but it's worth the money.

iPad Air

Not a particularly interesting or unknown product here, but I just absolutely love my iPad. It's consistently useful, it's entertaining when I want it to be, I read on it, I write on it, I organise my life with it. The hardware feels amazing to hold and the performance is ridiculously fast. It's an accessory to my life now, and I much prefer using it over my iPhone, and it doubles as a laptop replacement for the more simple tasks.

A Good Notebook

I try to keep as many aspects of my work life digital, and use stuff like Google Drive and Evernote religiously to organise everything and save time in the future when I need to find things. But you can't beat the productivity of pen and paper. I still write todo lists on paper, and take all meeting notes and ideas using a notebook.

When I say a 'good notebook' I mean one that is solid, has cost you a bit of money, and will last longer than your average Pukka Pad. I'm currently using a Moleskine Evernote smart notebook; really for the included Evernote subscription, and the notebook is around £15 on Amazon. There are many similar (and better) options though, if you don't use Evernote.

Yes it's a lot of money for a paper notebook, but I write everything in it, all my work, ideas, todos, etc all go in here. And it goes everywhere with me, so I never have to wonder where those meeting notes are or where I wrote that random password down - it's always in my notebook. This is why I recommend spending more money on one; because you end up taking better care of it, writing more clearly in it, and making it your own.

Digital Marketing Work Experience

I'm looking for a marketing student (regardless of level - if you're the right person) to work on a small fitness project on an unpaid basis. I'm looking for someone with a 'can do attitude' (yeah I said that) for around 1-2 hours a week who can:

  • Manage website content including uploading and editing images, writing blog content and editing recordings into written content
  • Manage social media accounts including regular posting and replying
  • Take pictures - someone with a keen interest in photography would be beneficial

You must also have an interest in fitness and health, preferably a gym-goer. 

Position based from home and occasionally North London.

Three Really Obvious Nutrition Store Useability Mistakes

These have been bugging me recently. Nutrition companies (I won't name any) create these really great sites which are mobile optimized and have excellent branding, then they make ridiculously simple mistakes or lack features from the user perspective. Here are three that should be an essential part of any nutrition ecommerce site:

Make the search bar big

I often shop online using my iPad, and my big fat fingers just don't go well with a tiny little search bar. Sometimes it's so annoyingly small to click that I just give up out of principle. Make it big, make it obvious, and test it with fat mans fingers on an iPad.

Give users something else to browse

Whether it's on the shopping cart, a blank search result or on the sidebar of a blog page - give the user something else to click on. Maybe it's your best or worst selling products, or even better, offer related products. This is particularly important on landing pages: don't just present one product, offer a few more alongside it.

If you have a referral scheme, make it really bloody obvious

I've seen so many great referral schemes, and nutrition companies do this particularly well. Yet they hide the referral code or link away in some section of your account management page. Make the code obvious! Stick it on the homepage, basket, or main account page where it's easy to see. Don't introduce a great referral scheme then hide it away.

Also: put it on the delivery note!! So many nutrition companies send referral scheme cards in the deliveries that have a blank section for the customer to fill in the code. Then the only way the customer can get their code is by logging in - too much inconvenience. Put it on the invoice, it'll then be in the same package as the cards. 

The Most Important Health Advice for the New Year

People ask me over and over how to lose weight - how to cut out that beer belly or how to get rid of their big bum or whatever it is they want to achieve. But as soon as I start telling them the basics, they start questioning me, immediately thinking I’m wrong and reverting back to the crap they’ve heard on TV. They are not willing to listen, to learn, and are afraid to let go of what they believe to be true; because how could it be wrong when so many others think the same thing?

"If 50 million people say something stupid, it’s still stupid"
- Rolf Dovelli

So this is the first piece of advice I urge you to listen to in your first steps towards losing body fat: stop holding on to what you’ve always thought was right - you might just learn things that could change your life.

If you’re still running for hours on a treadmill and starving yourself in order to lose weight - you’re doing it wrong. If you’re still counting the number of calories in food before you eat it - you’re doing it wrong. If you still think you don’t do enough exercise to eat more protein - you couldn’t be more wrong. These are just a few examples of common misconceptions, which waste peoples time and effort and yield no real results.

So when you start off on your fitness goals, whatever they may be, however you may be choosing to pursue them - keep an open mind and do not assume you are always right.

Some of the most beneficial knowledge I’ve learnt about health and fitness is through ignoring my previous perceptions, opening my mind to new knowledge and having the sheer willing to learn. This applies to not only fitness, but everything in your life. Don’t be a sheep.

iPad Air & Nexus 7 - Only Tablets Worth Buying

I've had a few friends recently ask me if they should buy a tablet, so I thought I'd do a quick summary. I'd only ever recommend the Nexus 7 2013 or the iPad Air. The reason I say these are the only two tablet devices you should consider buying is because they are simply the best out currently, and I'm not talking spec wise or flashy features, I just mean for out of the box everyday useability. However they are each for different uses; content consumption and content creation. Here's my thoughts on the three main factors why, to help you make your mind up about purchasing the right one.

Size
The Nexus sits perfectly in one hand and is light and thin enough to be comfortable for extended periods of time, such as when reading. It's also small enough to fit in the back pocket of jeans or pretty much any inside jacket pocket. This means it's the sort of tablet you can take anywhere with you all day and not really get bothered by.
The iPad is much bigger and heavier than the Nexus, but can still be held with one hand for reading, although not as securely. Its size is brilliant for multiple users to view, and having it on a desk makes it a genuine work companion due to its large screen. It is too big to carry around in pockets however, so needs a bag which means it loses that ultra-portability that the Nexus has.

Price
200 quid for the Nexus 7 is an absolute fucking bargain; simple as that. But you do feel like you're paying for a cheaper tablet as it's made from plastic and looks pretty standard, although I think the new White version looks a little more classy. The display is shockingly crisp for a device of its size and price, and whilst it isn't as bright or crisp as the iPad, its subtle colour palette seems better suited to longer viewing such as watching movies or reading.
The £400 you pay for the iPad is reflected immediately in build quality, where both tablets are worlds apart. The Nexus feels nice to hold and is built well, but after using an iPad Air its plastic shell feels more like a toy. The Retina display on the Air is just unrivalled, and when editing or presenting documents it just looks perfect.

Performance
The performance of both devices is incredible, but using them side by side it becomes immediately clear that the iPad is much faster in general. I think this is partly to do with the App stores available on each; the iOS apps just tend to be much more polished and therefore faster (Evernote being a prime example). Oddly the Chrome browser is lightning fast on iOS but horrible on Android. But considering the cost of each device, they perform as expected, and certainly won't disappoint.

I hope this small summary can enlighten some of the friends and family I've had recently asking whether they should get a tablet - it depends on your use - content consumption or content creation. Do you need a device that can entertain you anywhere? Get a Nexus 7 2013. Do you need a device that you can rely on to do work out and about? Get an iPad Air.

I will say one thing though - neither devices can properly replace a laptop. Quite a few people ask me if they should get an iPad when their laptop is on its way out, and the simple answer is no. Tablets are companions to a main computer, and will remain so for quite some time.

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Post Apocalyptic Films: Threads

I've been watching a ton of films from the genre recently; being a massive sci-fi fan I have always loved end of the world movies. There's one that really stood out though, and it was one I'd never heard of.

Threads is a made for TV film produced by the BBC in the 80's, and it is a gritty and immense 2 hour long nuclear war piece set in Sheffield. Obviously the special effects are dated, but the approach it takes is so matter-of-fact that it just adds to the insane vision of post-nuclear destruction. I imagine it shit people up when it was on television for the first time - apparently on a Sunday night.

You can watch the full movie on Youtube here.

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