And Your Week 2 Challenges Are...
...a mixture of delightful, inspiring and soul-flayingly grim!
How did you get on with last week’s challenges?
If your answer is LOL, um, ask me something else, that’s fine! If you didn’t attempt any, then you have ten to choose from this week, not five.
And if you did attempt one and failed, well, so what? Have another go. You are the mouse. This is your cracker. FIND THE WAY UP.
If you’re reading this post online and you’re wondering why you’re here, welcome! You can read about Everything Is Amazing here - and sign up for free updates below:
The specifics about how this particular weekly email works (as explained in more detail here):
I ask you to pick one (or more!) of these challenges and have a go over the coming week.
The End. Really, that’s it. This is about expanding your horizons and becoming more curious - so it’s up to you what you do next.
Here are your challenges for the week ahead.
1) Learn To Draw Your Own Country From Memory
That’s been my task for myself this week.
This is deceptively difficult. You may think you can accomplish this easily - but just have a go. Your memory isn’t a wholly factual account, it’s an opinion (see Challenge 5, below) and you’ll have squashed some bits of geography and stretched others. This is a shape you must learn - and lodge firmly into your memory, as a framework you can plop other memories into. This is how you really get to know a place - and it starts with the edges.
You should also do this because it's patriotic. God bless wherever-you're-from. And because, just imagine being stopped in the street by a chatshow host who is doing a skit on how most people can't draw their own country - and you nail it, on national TV! (Yes, I’m stretching - but at least it’ll be a fantastic party trick.)
So, get good at this. Get as good as Doug Mack got. Get that good.
Day 1. Memorize the very crude, very broad outline, and locate and label the five biggest cities. Everyone should be able to do this. Make sure you start by being part of everyone.
Days 2 to 7. Keep iterating, adding more detail every day.
Day 8: Test and compare. Man, look how far you’ve come!
2) Move A Daily Ritual Outside
I’ve decided to go the whole hog with this idea. From now on, coffee is an outdoor beverage for me. I can only drink it somewhere without four walls and a roof.
My reason for doing this is simple: I’m still fairly rubbish at mornings, so I use a jolt of sweet black coffee to hotwire my brain into action. I need that coffee, no way around it. And I’d also like to get myself outdoors as early as possible, to start my day, however briefly, with a faceful of sky and a few lungfuls of fresh, clean air.
If I can only drink coffee outdoors, and I can’t not drink coffee first thing in the morning, then - bingo.
It seems to be working so far:
So what part of your daily ritual could you shift somewhere under the open sky, to ensure you’re getting a healthy bit of The Healthy Outside into your day, without fail?
If you accept this challenge (and you commit to doing it), you’re about to find out.
3) Become The World Expert About Your Own Birthday
The day you came into the world is a special day in history. No, I'm not talking about you (no offence) - I'm talking about all the non-you stuff that also happened. Do you know that stuff is? Do you know what world-changing events took place, what inventions were invented, or which famous people popped into existence or departed it on the same day you did?
This is your chance to find out - and learn a little more about the era you were born in.
Start with Wikipedia'ing your birthday. It'll give you a list of every event in history that happened on a particular day of the year. (Here's mine.) Click anything that looks interesting.
Next, go deeper - and Google the specific day you were born, to see what appears. Top of the results should be another Wikipedia page, showing things happening in the month you were born - and the rest of the results should give you an even deeper dive. (I just learned the Walt Disney Resort opened on the same day I arrived into the world. One of us went on to entertain millions! The other is in Florida. No, I kid. I got my ass kicked by a mouse.)
Learn some dates and names, and remember them so you can lengthily recite them at parties - until you stop getting invited, which should be fairly quickly.
4) Reply To Your Most Dreaded Letter Or E-mail
This will only take you ten minutes - and may be the hardest thing you’ve done all year.
But look, it’s time. You deserve to get past this.
You know the story. A long long long time ago, that e-mail landed in your Inbox, or that letter slithered through your letterbox, or into your mailbox outside. It required a more thoughtful, considered response than usual, so it would have been disrespectful to dash off a quick 100-word response…and so you didn't reply immediately.
And then, gradually, day by day, you didn't reply ever.
That e-mail or letter is now far too big to simply “reply” to. Too much time has elapsed. There’s a relationship there that feels blighted, even ruined. With the accumulated weight of What This Thing Has Become, you wouldn't even know where to start. So every day, you flinch away...
The podcast ReplyAll did a lovely episode on chronically unreplied-to e-mails. You should have a listen. It'll give you some of the strength you’ll need.
There is a wider reason you’re doing this. Well, two reasons. ONE: this is occupying so much, so much bandwidth in the back of your mind that it’s preventing you from being hopeful and curious about a number of very important things. You’re only going to discover what they are when you slay this beast once and for all. And TWO: when The Monster is defeated, you are going to feel like you can accomplish anything - and the knock-on effect from that feeling is going to be a dramatic force for good in your life. You want that. You need it. And this is the only obstable in your way.
Glass of wine. No distractions. Turn your worrying brain off. Pretend this is no big deal. Ten seconds of pants-off lunatic bravery. BEGIN.
5) Spend At Least 30 Minutes Sketching Something By Hand
When I was an archaeologist, we were always told to photograph and draw the things we found in the ground. At first this confused me: if you have a photo, why do you need to draw it as well? I asked the site supervisor and he explained:
- the camera doesn't care what it's looking at. It'll capture everything, in one great big gulp of photons. The skill of the photographer is a major factor here, but on the whole, a photo doesn’t have an axe to grind - it’ll just record everything in front of it.
- a sketch artist can't record everything, so he/she has to choose - and in making decisions about what to record, they really, really concentrate, and look really hard at what's in front of them. They interpret it. Why does this thing deserve to be on my sketch? What's it for?
Sketching makes you a lot more aware of what you're looking at - and it teaches you to pay close attention, in a way you rarely would with a camera (unless you're a pro-photographer).
It'll automatically make you a lot more aware of the world around you - and a lot more curious about it.
If you've never sketched before, try these warm-up exercises from Ralph Ammer.
A word on accountability:
If you really want to commit and kick your backside into gear, click through to the Web version of this article and leave a comment, right now, saying which challenge you’re doing over the coming week.
Or if that’s not enough accountability for you, leap onto your favourite social media platform and publicly announce you’re doing it, maybe with a link to the Web version of this post so everyone knows it’s all my fault and not yours.
But however you do it - if you tell at least one other person, it will vastly increase your chances of nailing your challenge…or more accurately, your chances of not backing out of it.
Crack on, then. No time to waste!