I’d like to start a series in this section called “it’s all in the mind”. I have been reflecting on how to develop this section for awhile. For a long time, I struggled to find a way forward. Ordinarily, I draft a series of posts in advance, such as the ones I wrote on running recently. I’ve decided to develop this section a little differently and let things evolve organically around this theme. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t put a lot of thought into what I’d like to explore in advance. Before I launch into my introductory post in this section, I’d like to make a few side comments regarding the blogging process.
Contrary to what some people may think, blogging isn’t senseless babble. At least, I hope my blog isn’t like that. Blogs can - and should - be educational, whatever the subject matter. They should add value by stimulating further thought and discussion about different issues. As I once said to a friend, a lot of time and effort goes into drafting each post behind the scenes. All lawyers (or former lawyers like me) should know that it’s actually harder to draft something that’s short in length. Don’t forget that all of the content of blog posts has to be original. It’s also important for me to provide a fresh and positive perspective on a range of different topics. I’m always progressing different pieces in parallel as ideas come to mind. Almost like a journalist, I work while on the road, so to speak, whether that be in my garden, out on a run or even on holiday. Ideas are always coming to me and it’s important that I jot them all down while they’re fresh in my mind.
Why is the mind important? For me, it’s my most valuable asset (over my body and bank account). I’ve always relied on it during my career as a lawyer. Even now, as a gardener, I still spend a lot of time researching, reflecting and writing about gardening. Something that has struck me over the years is how powerful our thoughts are. They affect our behaviour. They govern our actions and therefore what we achieve. They can even affect our physical and spiritual health. If we allow it, I believe that our mind can be our number one enemy. But it is possible to take control of your mind. It’s the best thing I ever did because it was the key to unburdening me at a time when I felt like I was drowning in my problems.
Despite the fact that there are so many books about the power of the mind on the market, I haven’t actually read any literature on the subject, nor have I consulted with an expert such as a psychologist. Research can be very educational and interesting. I do respect experts, at least decent ones. But I really like to reflect on things from first principles and work from there. It’s hard work but the mind needs to be exercised occasionally too!
These blog posts are based upon my own observations over time. I am not a psychologist. Nor am I a doctor, despite the fact that for some strange reason people keep asking me if I’m one, whether it be customers in my boutique nursery, people at the gym and people while I’m out running, most of the time when I haven’t even spoken to them. I guess I should be flattered, because it’s the most competitive programme to get into at uni. Incase you’re wondering, no I didn’t apply as I didn’t study the right subjects. Law was always plan A, never plan B. I never really understood Science and there’s no way I would have met the entry requirement taking Sciences and Maths as my strength was definitely on the literary side.
In this post, I’d like to focus on how, with the help of our mind, we can overcome any obstacle, even those that may seem insurmountable. I will refer to two people that I really admire who suffer from different but equally difficult conditions which they have learnt to manage successfully. Both people haven’t let those conditions stop them from getting ahead in life, which I find very inspiring.
Both of them live in Los Angeles. I don’t think this is by sheer chance. I’ve been to LA once and what struck me is that there is an air of optimism which I found really refreshing. Sure, it isn’t a perfect place, but there’s no such thing in this world. What I love about LA is that it doesn’t matter what family you were born into or what school you attended (or indeed if you even finished school). Obviously, there is certain criteria you need to meet, just like you have to be pretty smart to get into the Ivy League. It’s highly competitive. You need to be seriously talented in order to stand out and looks are very important. It might not seem fair, but that’s life. What I really like is the idea that with sheer hard work, anyone in the pool of talent can theoretically make it.
My first role model is the actor Patrick Dempsey. You might remember him in his role as McDreamy in the earlier part of the TV series Grey’s Anatomy. He is also famous for having a large organic edible garden at his property in Malibu. But did you know that Dempsey has dyslexia and got around this obstacle in his acting career by memorising all his lines? Here's what he has to say about his condition:
I think it’s made me who I am today. It’s given me perspective. You have to keep working. I have never given up.
Dempsey has such a good attitude. I just love it. What impresses me is his ability to think laterally and come up with a solution to the problem. This taught me that I needed to find a way to work around obstacles in my own life in order to make progress. It’s hard work and the work never ends like Dempsey says.
The other person I’d like to highlight as a role model is the fitness enthusiast and Type 1 diabetic Christel Oerum of Diabetes Strong, who is originally from Denmark but has settled in Los Angeles with her husband Tobias. I became aware of Christel on Instagram when a post of hers popped up on my page. What caught my eye was that Christel and her husband happen to have the exact same dog (a blenheim Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) that we had when I was a teenager. I mentioned this to her in a comment and we have been exchanging messages about dogs, diabetes and lots of other things since then. Christel was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1997, yet she hasn’t let that stop her from developing a very comprehensive diabetes portal, becoming a diabetes coach and being a prominent health and fitness ambassador despite managing a very challenging condition. Here’s what Christel has to say:
When I was diagnosed with T1D, the first thing the nurse told me was to never let it hold me back, and I took that to heart. I’ve never considered my diabetes a hindrance, but rather something that I just always have to have in mind. And although it can be annoying and sometimes very stressful to live with T1D, I’ve found that it’s given me a unique insight into how my body works and enabled me to live a very healthy life.
Christel’s reflections are spot on. Rather than going through life looking around at other people and thinking that they’re better off (they probably aren’t), we need to confront our obstacles head on. I don’t think you can ever overcome conditions like diabetes and dyslexia, but you can learn how to accommodate them and nonetheless live a very full life. As Christel points out, our handicaps can actually help us succeed in life by opening new avenues which we might not have otherwise considered.
Don’t forget that everything is a matter of perception, as the managing partner of the practice group I worked in at my previous law firm in Paris always used to say to us. Everyone’s problems seem bad to them, no matter how trivial they may appear to us.
Both Patrick and Christel are focussed on finding solutions to life's challenges. There’s no point in wondering how different life could have been but for your condition(s). As the managing partner I referred to above also wisely used to say to us, we are where we are. You can’t change the facts, so you have to just deal with the situation.
For Patrick and Christel, there’s no “poor me”. They don’t sit around feeling sorry for themselves. I’ve never met them, but I doubt that they gossip about other people behind their back either, which is an unproductive use of time as well as not being a very nice thing to do. They’re determined to just get on with it and make the most of life.
It sounds harsh, but I think we all need to toughen up in order to survive in this world. Sure, life can be good at times, but it can also take you to some really dark places as I’ve discovered. Patrick and Christel’s attitude has made me take a hard look at my own outlook on life, which wasn’t particularly positive and forward-thinking. I’ve had to work very hard to change my mindset and I did it on my own. Sure, experts can be helpful but in the end, you have to do the hard work on your own. I’m sure all the lawyers in International Arbitration out there will agree with me. It took a long time, but I finally managed to sort my shit out. As Dempsey says, this work is on-going and I’ve accepted that. I’ll end it here for now and continue to explore this theme in subsequent posts. As always, any comments are welcome. I love hearing from readers, whether you agree or disagree with what I have to say. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.