A few months back, I was approached by the wonderful Philippa from InspireMe to ask whether I would write a blogpost for them to talk about my mindset and attitude. I agreed gladly, but for a while I felt at a loss as to what I would actually write about. What was it about my mindset and attitude that justified its own blogpost? Granted, I’m a happy spirit, an unfaltering optimist, a lover of hugs and smiles, a happtivist; but I wasn’t sure how that would translate into writing. Writing that wouldn’t wither under the scrutinising eyes of its readership.
And so I brooded. I waited and brooded until time conceived an idea that ultimately hatched under the warmth of your continuous input in the form of a question I have been asked many a time, and never truly knew how to answer: Where do I find the time to do it all?
Many of you will know me as that guy with the unpronounceable surname who joined Superchoir Cardiff a few years ago. First quite shy and quiet, singing in choir coupled with the unsurmountable positive energy of our conductors and fellow choristers gave me confidence and a desire to live my passions, and to almost magnetically attract new ones. While passionately writing my doctoral thesis, dissecting language into a plethora of jigsaw pieces, the past two years saw the genesis of my own tap dance business, kicking off an ever growing number of students’ week with the joy of pedal rhythms; as well as the rise of a cheesecake empire, delivering more and more calories-induced smiles to offices and dining rooms across Wales. In the time that remained, I also took up lindy hop, learnt how to ride a unicycle, rekindled my passion for swimming and drawing, read books, frequented the cinema, cooked and baked, and, most precious of all, spent time with all my wonderful and loving friends. Also, some of you will be relieved to read that I do sleep at night, so any vampiric rumours can be settled once and for all.
You might now have that exact question on your mind that I have faced so many times before and that regularly crops up again and again in different gestalt, but which I never truly knew how to answer.
‘Where do you find the time to do it all?’ you would ask. Or, ‘Have you got the same 24 hours that I do?’, and ‘Do you ever sleep?’ (again, the vampire thing). Failing to really know what to say to these questions, I thought it was time to come up with a more elaborate and detailed answer to quench your curiosity. Boom! Blogpost!
Your question, whichever form it took, would always involve time, as if I had somehow been gifted with more hours in my day than other people. So let’s take a wee glance at this thing we call time for a second.
First off, we all have the same amount of time available each day. 24 hours. And yet we tend to think that somehow people who achieve more in those 24 hours must have more time. More hours. Confronted with this assumption, I used to say that it wasn’t that I ‘had more time’. Rather, I would say, I ‘made time’. Yet I could never shake the nagging feeling that this answer didn’t quite cut it. ‘Making time’ implies that you are spending your time doing something instead of something else. It sees time as a commodity. A commodity to spend. And language is riddled with such expressions like ‘having time’, ‘finding time’, ‘spending time’, or even that beast of a guilt-trip term: ‘wasting time’. They make us believe that time is this limited, precious entity which we have to distribute carefully across our various daily activities without exhausting ourselves. And that’s where we’re wrong.
But if time isn’t a commodity to be spent, what is it then, you ask? To rephrase what David Mitchell (the author, not the comedian) said about the soul: Time is a verb, not a noun. In other words, time is a process. Time cannot be grasped, controlled, let alone spent. It is ever evolving, ever changing, ever passing. I have stopped thinking of time as a commodity, and think of it as a process instead. I tell myself not to worry about having, making, spending, or indeed wasting time, and start being it instead. Start living time.
How do I live time, you ask? It’s quite simple really. All you need is a can-do attitude and a profound belief that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. That, and a good drizzle of optimism. Let me elaborate.
Do you know this emerald, sparkling passion you feel when all of a sudden an idea flutters past and you perceive it from the corner of your eye?
You don’t quite know what the idea is yet, but you feel in your heart that you’d love it. You think ‘wow, that would be totes awesome if I did that!’ For the whiff of a second you dream with gleaming eyes and you see your potential-future self do something your present self hasn’t ventured into yet. You see yourself join that choir. You’re writing that book, are joining the circus; you’re going scuba diving, are taking piano lessons, go figure drawing, buy a new car, build a house, get a cat, grow vegetables in your own allotment, hike the coastal path all around Wales, knit, attend a cooking workshop, learn a language, open that dance class, or make and deliver cheesecakes. Just for that split second, you see yourself living the dream. And you feel light as a feather.
Too often, however, we let that idea fly by. We let it disappear into the distance, and we forget about it. We go back to our daily lives and think nothing of it. We don’t become scuba divers, gardeners, cheesecakiers, because we don’t think we can. Because we doubt. Because we don’t dare. Because we don’t think we have time.
Instead, in these moments when that idea flutters past, be daring. Stretch out your arm and catch that idea in the palm of your hand. Watch it as it folds and unfolds its beautiful, coloured wings and listen to your heart that tells you ‘I’d love to do this! I’d love this to be part of my life!’ Usually, it is then when Doubt crawls onto your shoulder once more and whispers into your ear ‘Naah, don’t be silly. You can’t do this. You haven’t got time, nor the experience. No money. And what would everybody else think?’ That’s when you grab that little, disgusting imp by the neck and give it a good kick in the kneecap. Release it and watch as it hobbles away, wailing. Then get back to your idea. Let it grow. Let it put a smile on your face. Let it be your dream. And then follow that dream.
You don’t have to put it into action straight away, but keep it there as a possibility. Keep your eyes open with eager excitement, so that you’re ready and you’ll hear the gentle tapping of knuckles against wood when opportunity knocks. You’ll have a positive mindset, which will lead you to the fulfilment of that dream. Step by step.
Two years ago, I thought how cool it would be to open my own tap classes. I had been tapping for years before that, but the particular style of tap I had grown up with and that I loved so dearly was not on offer in Cardiff.
I dreamt of combining both my passion for teaching and my love for tap, and passing it on to others. And I felt that emerald fire light up in my chest. So many things spoke against such a daring venture. So many things could have made me cave in and give up on my dream. Instead, I kept on dreaming. I took small, tentative steps towards my goal. I spoke to a few close friends whose faces lit up. I spoke to a dance teacher who gave me encouragement. We met up to discuss logistics. I spoke to more people. By chance, a friend directed me towards my current dance studio. I got in touch with them and hired the venue. I sorted out insurance, online presence, and started preparing my lessons. Step by step, I built my dream into reality. Not all at once, but slowly. Gingerly. Passionately.
Two years later, my dream has grown into three weekly classes with up to sixty students who have blown me away with their enthusiasm, fire, and, above all, their talent. Now, when my students tell me in class that they can’t do a particular step, I tell them ‘Yes, you can!’. The first step to success and to living your dream is to stop telling yourself you can’t achieve it.
A year ago, I found myself with some homemade sweet bread that had gone dry, wondering whether I could put it to any good use rather than throwing it out. I had always loved cooking and baking, and
enjoyed experimenting with ingredients in the kitchen. Thus the old bread was ground to crumbs, and it served as a biscuit base for a raw cheesecake. For lack of a recipe, I mixed together some basic ingredients myself and made my first lemon cheesecake. I loved it, and it met my housemates’ and friends’ approval. Inspired, I decided to make another one. White chocolate and raspberry seemed to be a good idea. Orange chocolate for a third. Coconut and Strawberry. White coffee and cherry. Back then, I didn’t know where this new obsession would lead, but I loved it and continued. My list of recipes grew, and with it came the idea to compile them together into a book.
So, I kept experimenting. One cheesecake every odd week turned into one a week, and eventually two or three. I started giving the cheesecakes away to friends as I couldn’t possibly eat them all myself. The word spread, putting smiles on people’s faces, and with it my passion grew. And with that positive, loving mindset, things suddenly came my way. Requests for cheesecake deliveries to events, a publication in Jamie Oliver’s magazine, an offer to sell my treats in a coffee shop. Today, just by having let my passion run free, I’m still making cheesecakes. With a list of sixty different recipes, I’m delivering to events and am dreaming of my own little café somewhere down the line. Why? Because why the hell not.
And do you know what the best thing is of it all? Letting your passions run free, living your dreams? It comes with surges of adrenalin, a feeling of satisfaction, and it provides you with all the energy you need to move mountains and get yourself through the week with a massive grin that goes from cheek to cheek. And that’s how you are time. How you live time. You’re making the best of what you have now and thus attract the most positive future possible. You’re energised.
And so here’s how a can-do attitude and a positive mindset have filled my life with passion.
The world is your oyster, they say. And, when life gives you lemons… Coincidence will have it that oysters are best enjoyed with a bit of lemon juice. Or maybe make a lemon cheesecake?
Point is……Dream big! Let your passions run free, and live. Live time.
But I warn you now. A possible side effect is that people will start asking you about the length of your 24 hours.