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    Where there’s an aspiration, there’s a way

    One of the aspects of language and communication that I find really interesting are idioms.

    We all have favourite phrases that we use to describe a situation, the same ones we probably heard our parents or friends use as we were growing up.

    I’m talking about the common phrases like, “a rolling stone gathers no moss”, “where there’s a will, there’s a way”, and “better to be silent and thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt”.

    You’ll hear them everywhere – on television, on the radio and anywhere that people are talking because they’re a standard part of colloquial speech.

    The funny thing is that I never considered that the idioms I commonly used might have their own counterparts in other languages. But of course they do.

    I encountered one this evening while I was talking to my friend in Beijing:

    有志者事竟成 (yǒu zhì zhě shì jìng chéng)

    Translated literally, it means:

    • 有 To have
    • 志 aspiration/will/ambition
    • 者 those who
    • 事 thing/affair/job/trouble
    • 竟 to finish
    • 成 to become

    “To have aspiration/will, those whose affairs become finished”

    Re-ordering the translation into something a little more sensible, we get:

    “Those that have the will or aspiration finish their affairs”

    Or as we commonly say it in English:

    “Where’s there’s a will, there’s a way.”

    Aspiration is not the same as willpower

    Personally, I rather like the Chinese version because to aspire to something is very different than just using will power to achieve it. There’s an element of hope and dreaming in there which I think adds a far more though-provoking aspect to the phrase than just willpower alone suggests.

    Most of the people that have achieved great things have dreamed of achieving them before they’ve even considered applying any will power to meet their goals. Take Taylor Swift, for example:

    One thing I’ve tried to never do is make wish lists. I try to have a very stepping-stone mentality about this whole thing, where as soon as you make one step you visualize the next step, not five steps ahead.
    Taylor Swift, talking to Entertainment Weekly in 2013

    Something that many successful people have said is that they visualised what they were trying to achieve before they tried to do it.

    The origin of the phrase

    According to this page, the origins of the phrase lie way back in Chinese history (3 – 58 AD).

    A Chinese general called Geng Yan  was tasked with defeating an army with far superior numbers.

    Although his subordinates balked at the task, he found the strategic means to overcome his foe.

    When the king arrived, he praised Geng Yan’s actions, saying: 有志者事竟成, “a man who has firm resolve will surely succeed”.

    Wrapping up

    I’m sure many of the phrases we commonly use had their origins in other cultures but I’d like to think that many phrases are so universally accepted that they’d exist in isolation anyway.

    I think it’s so very cool that idioms we commonly use have their places in other languages, often in expressions that inspire thought.

    By the way – my Chinese is nowhere near good enough (yet) to have translated this on my own. Fortunately there’s some great resources out there like this page.

    6 things I've learned by leaving Facebook

    6 things I’ve learned by leaving Facebook

    A week ago I decided to deactivate my Facebook account.

    There were a number of reasons that I wanted to do this ranging from a suspicion that I’m addicted to Facebook to a fear that Facebook might be having a negative impact on how positively I enjoy life.

    Over the last seven days I’ve already discovered some interesting things and I’m going to talk about five of them in this post.

    1 – Apparently I’m addicted to Facebook

    It’s only been a week and the first thing that I noticed was the withdrawal.

    I genuinely believed that I wasn’t addicted to Facebook because I’m not one of those people with thousands of Facebook friends or a particularly active member of many groups.

    The reality is that several times a day since I deactivated, I’ve had to fight the urge to check Facebook just in case there’s an update in a group or a friend has posted an update.

    This has been a bit of a shock to be honest – I had no idea that checking Facebook had become such a regular activity in my daily life.

    I think the worst part of this realisation is the nagging voice in the back of my head, telling me I just needed to login to reactivate my Facebook feed.

    The good news is that this one fact has actually made me want to continue the experiment beyond the initial week.

    2 – I have far fewer friends than I thought

    Most people want to be popular, or at least liked.

    I thought I had quite a lot of friends in my life but cutting out Facebook has actually made me see that I hardly have any true friends at all.

    Without the ability to see what I’m doing on my Facebook wall, there are actually very, very few people that have a clue what I’ve done this week, what my family are doing or what I’ve found interesting this week.

    Initially this idea appalled me – I suddenly felt very alone!

    The simple fact is that since I’ve had children, I’ve found it very difficult to spend time with real-world friends that I used to associate with and as a result my relationship with them has deteriorated to the point that one person I once counted as a friend didn’t even invite me to his wedding… even as an evening filler.

    At first this upset me quite a lot until I asked myself how much I’d invested in keeping our relationship alive and the simple answer is, I hadn’t. Not by choice but by a lack of time and energy. Trying to looking after my children and completing client projects, while my wife is away for most of the week studying hard, leaves very little time to socialise. A loss of my former friends is the price I’ve paid for that.

    Once I started to look at it objectively though, I recalled that other people with children of their own had started to talk to me and in some cases invite us to join them in their social activities.

    Losing friends is a natural part of life as our social dynamic changes and we meet people that share similar lifestyles.

    I think one of the keys to happiness is to accept these losses and nurture the new friendships in my life.

    3 – My life feels more positive

    Last week I probably lost an hour of my life getting involved in a negative discussion on one of the Facebook groups I was a member of.

    It was started and largely perpetuated by a troll that was trying to argue that the group we were a member of had no validity because he knew better.

    In hindsight I was foolish to get involved because the entire experience wasn’t uplifting or positive and there was no way that anything any of the group members said was going to change the troll’s mind. They were there to cause discord and in hindsight, they were clearly very good at it.

    Without the temptation to get involved in such discussions, I’ve been able to focus my attentions on other things and as a result, the sadness that my circle of friends has grown somewhat smaller has been balanced by a reducing the impact of negative posts in my life.

    It’s amazing how much impact just a few words on a social media account can have on your life if you let it!

    4 – I’m wasting less time

    At first it sounds like this is the same as the point above but it’s not (well, not totally, anyway).

    I mean that I’m wasting less time falling for click-bait posts that vaguely interest me or watching videos that take five minutes to say something that a photograph could have said in seconds.

    I truly dislike the current Facebook trend of taking a story that could have been told in a ten-line post and turning it into a cheesy video where each line is slowly revealed on top of emotionally manipulative imagery. Admittedly I rarely watch those videos beyond the first line or two but they still appeared in my feed and distract me for a moment of time.

    The way Facebook has changed reminds me of the evolution of the Internet. When I was at university in the 90s, I loved the Internet. It was an amazing resource that was full of easily-found information about programming, graphics, and technology (I was studying Computer Science).

    Now it’s so saturated with advertising and commercial interests that it’s often difficult to find real information because of all of the poor-quality content that’s been SEO-targeted to be more visible that the content you’re really looking for.

    This is what Facebook has become.

    5 – I enjoy social media again

    Facebook is a closed garden that uses your own posts to calculate what it thinks you’ll like to target you with marketing.

    It even does the same with the posts that it shows you.

    I’ve discovered that I’ve often missed posts from friends that I’d like to have seen because Facebook hasn’t shown them to me – instead showing me things that have left a slightly negative impression on my life.

    It’s only when I’ve directly visited the walls of the friends concerned that I’ve discovered the posts that I’d much rather have seen.

    So, what’s this got to do with enjoying social media? Well, I’ve discovered that I really love Twitter and Instagram. I’ve suspected this for a while but this feeling has been suppressed because I’ve been too busy visiting Facebook on a regular basis.

    All the people I follow on Twitter are people who post things I enjoy – it’s as simple as that. When someone starts posting things that I don’t enjoy, I stop following them. This is as simple as it gets when it comes to controlling what I see in my feed.

    I have the same experience on Instagram (although I think I need to cull some of the people that I follow).

    Now, when I choose to spend some time on social media, I’m actually enjoying that time.

    6 – Facebook distorts the real meaning of friendship

    Facebook has created an environment where many people have huge friend lists that have access to what they post about their daily lives.

    Strangely, many of these people aren’t people we’d want turning up at the front door of our house yet we allow them unrestricted access to the details of our lives, pictures of our children and so on.

    I’ve known many people who, when they receive a friendship request, feel obliged to accept it, even from complete strangers!

    Thankfully, I’m not as bad as that but I’ve definitely accepted requests from people that I wish I hadn’t.

    I’ve always been much more selective but I still have plenty of people on my friends list that in hindsight, I don’t really want in my life, either because I have very little in common with them or that they have no good reason for being there.

    If I do return to Facebook, I’ll be having a serious cull of my friends list, way beyond the annual cut I previously used to remove people who never interacted with my posts or comments.


    I’ve been Facebook free for a week and I’m already seeing the beneficial effects.

    I’m also seeing a few caveats and one of those is the way in which Facebook has permeated platforms across the Internet.

    Before I could deactivate my account, I had to create an empty account to administer the apps created for client websites I’ve developed.

    Facebook doesn’t allow you to have a business account to do this – they insist they’re all linked to your personal account.

    This has left me with an interesting question. Do I ever reactivate my account, leave the groups that annoy me and remove the non-friends from my account or do I delete it permanently and just use the blank account for business purposes, to post to Facebook pages and run ads for clients?

    This blog has a Facebook page that I’ll be continuing to maintain through my blank account as that’s the only way that some people discover content.

    I know I don’t miss it as a social platform… or I won’t once I get over the addiction withdrawal. 🙂

    Inktober 2018

    Every year, the month of October hosts the Inktober challenge for ink artists around the world.

    It’s unofficial – there’s no prizes or accolades but it’s a great motivator to get drawing again, when life has got in the way of creativity (which definitely includes me).

    Each year, the challenge offers a list of prompt tags to help provide inspiration. You don’t have to use them but I’ve chosen to do so this year.

    I’ll be posting each of my drawings here. Hopefully I’ll complete the challenge, even if some of them are a day or two late! 🙂

    8 Stephen Hawkin Quotes That Inspired Me

    Of all the celebrity deaths that regularly roll through the media, very few give me pause as I have no sense of connection with any of them. Celebrities, in my eyes, are generally people that are given far too much attention for very little reason (or often purely vulgar reasons such as living selfish lives of excess).

    There are some exceptions. Where celebrity has been earned through dedication to a work that genuinely benefits our lives, I take more of an interest and I have to admit, I was genuinely saddened to read of the passing of Stephen Hawkin.

    Continue reading…

    7 Trees In Ink (a personal challenge)

    I love drawing trees but because of my busy schedule taking care of the kids and getting client work done, I’ve found myself drawing less and less recently.

    To help me get back into drawing I set myself a personal challenge to draw seven tree-based pictures using a fountain pen. This is partly because I joined a new group on Facebook that is solely for fountain pen artists and it helped inspire me to get going again!

    Continue reading…