They say the hardest thing is just to begin… but I’m pretty sure that’s utter crap because I “began” writing a book nearly 3 years ago, wrote the first draft in 26 days, and barely touched it again until recently. These days I’m certain the hardest thing is just getting things DONE: don’t pour constantly over it trying to make it perfect, putting off working on it till you feel “inspired”, or waiting for someone else to come along and finish it for you. Just. Get. It. Done.
So with that in mind, I’ve spent the last week housesitting, watching Netflix, playing ukulele, running and generally finding anyway I could to procrastinate in every way possible to avoid editing and finishing my damn book.
There is some truth to the “hardest thing is to begin” thing though, because as soon as I ran out of things to watch and actually opened up the old book draft documents I started to immediately pick it apart and edit – change a phrase here, update with new research there, cut a section because it doesn’t fit with the overall message, ect. There’s also the added bonus of knowing that you’ve fallen way behind on all your Patreon commitments this month, but there is an absolute mountain of content already written in your book drafts that you can share.
So with that in mind I give you the first draft of the first 3000 words of “Becoming Martian” – my long overdue book about how colonising Mars humans will change physiologically (body), psychologically (mind), and culturally (spirit). Don’t get too attached to any of this – it’s just a draft. And for Patreon-supporters, you can expect to be inundated with more drafts for the rest of the book over the next 3 weeks of my housesit while I write, re-write, edit, tear out my hair, wonder how I could have written something so stupid, consult a thesaurus to find a 4th way to say “crap in a plastic bag”, scribble inane pictures because I can’t find creative common images of what I’m describing, and generally have the same nervous breakdown each writer has trying to publish their first book.
Sitting on the edge of the couch, mouth agape, I was staring at the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She smiled gently back, floating ceaselessly in front of me like a flame-haired goddess. Suddenly another passenger appeared from the right of the screen, seemingly on a collision course this perfect being, but with just the slightest push of her finger she sent him sending him spinning away again into the distance. This floating ginger Diana turned back to me, smiled that most glorious of smiles, then effortlessly sailed away out of frame like a dream. Abruptly the scene jumped to a shot of strangers in blue jumpsuits bouncing weightlessly around inside a padded aircraft, with the sounds of angels singing in my head slowly fading back to the overly enthusiastic American narrator describing parabolic flight training… and she was gone.
For weeks I’d been tirelessly working my way through a documentary series on the challenges of sending humans to Mars, and to be honest the eye-candy was generally dismal. No disrespect to the likes of Professor Paul Delaney or Dr Robert Zubrin, but after literally hours of watching aging white men talk to the camera about the finely-tuned personality dynamics required for deep space exploration, I was yet to see much evidence of this “mixed gender crew” everyone was so keen to send to Mars. My initial primal “Who are you and will you bear my children?” response to the floating redhead subsided however, and as I picked myself up from the puddle I’d formed on the floor there was a horrible, dawning realisation: If I were ever to actually meet this majestic space unicorn, it’d probably be while I was stuck to the floor of an aircraft during a 2g climb, hurling up breakfast into one of those sarcastically labelled “Motion Sickness Discomfort Bags”, impotently waving my arms around like a sea turtle stranded on it’s back and while she told she didn’t date other gingers because of the in-flight fire hazard.
You see weightlessness isn’t all champagne, floating red hair and Strauss’s Blue Danube. You might gape slack-jawed at the wondrous freedom of micro-gravity from the comfort of your lounge room, but modern humans have also spent the last 2.3 million years eating, shuffling and shagging in the consistent pull of Earth’s gravity. So while your mind is buzzing at the idea of zero-g backflips, the rest of your body should immediately start screaming “AHHHHHHHH!!! WHY?! Hang on, is that… wait, I think I’ve got… NOPE – MOTHER OF MONKEY ZEUS, WHAT EVEN IS THIS? WHY CAN I TASTE PURPLE RIGHT NOW? AHHHHHHHHH!!!”
At the start of the 1950’s Gemini program, NASA wanted it’s future astronauts to have a tiny taster of what micro-gravity is like. The idea was so they could get a sense of how to move themselves and equipment around without the binding embrace of gravity, while also observing how their bodies reacted to the changing forces. So they ripped all the seats out of a C131 Samaritan military cargo plane, covered the cabin with white cushions so it looked like a padded white cell with a curved roof, then started flying this winged roller-coaster through the sky on what was benignly referred to as “parabolic flights”.Each parabola is broken into two parts that are filled with wildly different levels of joy & despair. For the first 90 seconds the aircraft climbs at a rather aggressive 45 degrees, where you’ll be stuck to the floor with nearly twice the force of gravity trying to force your stomach out through your back. But as the aircraft reaches ~35,000ft, the pilot gently arcs the plane out of the climb and straight into a 45 degree dive, so that for about 25 to 30 seconds your body is still going up while the plane arcs downwards. Done at the right speed, you and your fellow passengers will be weightless. Which is great, because now instead of your stomach trying to come out your back it’s lurching forward trying to float in front of you. Delicious. Then you go back into a 45 degree climb to do it all again – over a standard 2 to 3 hour NASA training flight, the aircraft will do 40 to 60 of these parabolas. Which is why 60 years later astronauts still call it the “Vomit Comet”. In the mid 70’s NASA replaced the original aircraft with two KC-135 Stratotankers that stayed in service till 2004. And like everything that survived the 80’s, NASA even tried slapping on some shoulder pads and skin-tight lycra by renaming them the “Weightless Wonders”, but to no effect. The “Vomit Comet” nickname has lived on like the Dread Pirate Roberts of motion sickness. There was even an attempt later to call the aircraft “Dream Machines” during the 90’s as part of another sexy re-branding, but unless your idea of a sexy dream resembles a David Lynch-esque nightmare where re-tasting the pasta linguine you had a few hours earlier forms an important part of a bizarre erotic fantasy involving the Log Lady… chances are you’re still going to have a bad time no matter what the aircraft is called.
Not that sexy re-branding is a bad thing when it might genuinely reduce passenger fears. According to John Yaniec – lead test director for 15 years to NASA’s Reduced Gravity Program – anxiety is the biggest contributor to airsickness among passengers, and the chances of re-visiting lunch seem to follow a rule of thirds: “one third violently ill, the next third moderately ill, and the final third not at all”. Which also matches up pretty closely to how Ron Howard and the stars of Apollo 13 fared filming the movie’s weightless scenes. Over 10 days, 612 parabolas and 4 hours of cumulative weightlessness, the scorecard finished with Gary Sinise and Kevin Bacon regularly filling their vomit bags, and Tom Hanks and Ron Howard feeling green but managing to keep it all down. But Bill Paxton? He was zooming around grinning without a care on every parabola, and I can only hope he was also having flashbacks to playing Private Hudson in Aliens and occasionally screaming “WE’RE ON AN EXPRESS ELEVATOR TO HELL, GOING DOWN! WOOOO HOOOO!”.So it’s not all airborne despair. Nor do you have to be a trainee astronaut or a Hollywood star to experience weightlessness on a parabolic flight. For every day civilians wanting to get a tiny taste of space, a 90-100 minute flight aboard Zero-G Corporation’s “G-Force One” might be as close to the full physiological nightmare of weightlessness as you might want. Founded in 2004 by Peter Diamandis, astronaut Byron Lichtenberg and NASA engineer Ray Cronise, the Zero-G corporation offers regular parabolic flights all over the US for a cool $5000US per person. And thankfully, they also do it with a surprisingly low vomit ratio. It seems most people are okay for about the first 15 parabolas, but then start to go green at around 20, and the cascade hurling is usually in full force by the 25th. So instead of subjecting paying customers to a 3-4 hour flight involving 40-60 parabolas like NASA does to it’s astronauts, Zero-G avoids the dry-cleaning by only performing 12-15 parabolas over a flight. It might only equate to about 5-6 minutes of weightlessness, but a slew of ex-girlfriends will attest this is plenty of time for someone like me to have fun and make an idiot of out myself in front of dozens of people we don’t know. Unfortunately I’m yet to experience a parabolic flight myself though, because if I had I probably wouldn’t be writing a book about going to Mars, I’d be sitting on a back porch playing banjo and enjoying domestic bliss with my curly-haired ginger wife and our half dozen soulless ginger children.
Medically speaking the nausea of motion sickness stems from a mis-match between what we’re seeing, and what the tiny loops of fluid in our inner ear – the vestibular system – are telling the brain. If your inner ear is saying you’re spinning & bouncing around but your eyes say you’re not moving (like when you’re inside a parabolic aircraft), then your brain thinks you’ve been poisoned and gets your hurling reflex cranking. Likewise if your inner ear says you’re standing perfectly still but your eyes believe the world has been flipped upside down you’re also probably going to be tasting lunch twice too.The quickest and easiest way to ease the nausea and re-establish some sense to your world is to simply find a window and look out to the horizon. Not only does this give your visual system a fixed frame of reference that will partially subdue the vertigo, it also provides a psychological “horizon” that you can pin your hopes and dreams on. But as an ex-girlfriend once told me there’s no “horizon” when one of you is going to spend 7 months hurtling through the darkness of interplanetary space on a one-way trip to Mars. With nowhere to look to but the yawning abyss to subdue your motion sickness and relationship issues, the best option is legitimately curl up in a ball to cry yourself to sleep. The actual tears themselves do very little, but closing your eyes stops the visual element from confusing your brain’s balance system, and if you do actually manage to sleep you’ll get a few hours bliss to forget about motion sickness and instead dream of giant hammocks, bouncy castles and emotional security.
Also like an emotional, wailing infant you’ll find chewing on things can ease the nausea too. Obviously you don’t really want to eat anything substantial out of fear of adding to the washing machine that has replaced your stomach, but light snacks and chewing gum appear to help at least distract nausea sufferers. There’s also evidence that ginger can help: chewing ginger root or drinking ginger-infused tea won’t stop the raw sensation of nausea, but it’s been proven to be an effective herbal remedy to reduce vomiting. Chewing on an actual ginger person however will likely result in physical violence by making them “rangry”.
Even if you’re Bill Paxton you’ll still want to take some sort of medication to ease the trauma of bouncing around inside an airborne roller-coaster though. After a few days filming inside the vomit comet for Apollo 13, Tom Hanks got a little too confident one morning and decided to skip his daily dose of Dramamine to see what it would be like un-medicated – this was not a mistake he would repeat. While there’s plenty of remedies that claim to treat motion sickness that are “all natural with no drugs, artificial additives or stimulants” and contain “only the freshest, highest quality Chamomile, Lavender and Frankincense oils”, most space agencies like to give their trainee astronauts medication that actually works, instead of simply leaving them smelling like vomit and potpourri. Same goes with those band things that put pressure on your forearm’s “Nei-Kuan” point: by all means give it a go, but the scientific consensus is that pharmacology & psychology are more likely to win the nausea battle.
By far the most commonly prescribed motion sickness medication is Dimenhydrinate, more commonly known as Dramamine. Combining a nausea-quelling antihistamine with a stimulant not dissimilar to caffeine, Dramamine WILL help reduce the nausea associated with motion sickness… but it might also knock you out in the process. While other medications such as Meclizine may not put you in the land of nod quite as quickly, all current motion sickness medications make people at least a little bit drowsy because they work by telling your central nervous system to calm down instead of freaking out and bringing up breakfast. Which is why most aviation authorities worldwide prohibit pilots in command from using motion sickness medication at all, and why the boxes recommend not to take it and operate heavy machinery. Warnings that I’m guessing probably also apply to flying a multi-billion dollar spaceship to Mars…
There’s also the minor issue that when these drugs start to mess with your central nervous system they can also make you trip harder than Ringo Star writing Yellow Submarine. In sufficient doses Dramamine acts as a deliriant, with recreational users talking about “Dramatizing” or “going dime a dozen”, and giving the drug a whole series of different street names like “dime”, “D-Q” and “drams”… all of which I just pulled straight off Wikipedia because I have no experience with Dramamine-induced delirium what so ever. But my Mum does! A few years ago my parents went on a scuba diving trip out to the the Rowley Shoals: a series of atolls about 260km out from Broome on the Australian north-west coast. While Dad has always prided himself on his cast-iron stomach, the 8 hour boat trip to the shoals took it’s toll on Mum. Luckily though there were some friendly Germans on the boat too, and rather than indulging in their national past time of Schadenfreude by laughing at her suffering, they gave her a couple of tablets that they assured would help the nausea… and it worked! Mum didn’t feel an ounce of nausea while she chased non-existent “molecules” around the deck of the boat for the next few hours, trying to scoop them up gently in her hands and showing them to everyone on board. So the Germans had their Schadenfreude after all, only with less “projectile vomiting” and more “Australian mother of two hilariously tripping her face off while hundreds of kilometers into the Indian Ocean during in heavy seas”.
While Dramamine might be the solution for parabolic flights and regular car/seasickness, the best option for astronauts seems to be the far stronger and longer lasting Scopolamine. Usually coming in the form of a VERY sexy* trans-dermal patch that gets stuck behind your ear like a leech (*not sexy at all), Scopolamine patches slowly administer the drug over several days and provide astronauts nausea relief during their initial adapting to life in space. Just make sure you wash your hands if you touch the patch though, as it’ll cause blurred vision if you manage to get it in your eyes. Scopolamine still causes drowsiness though, so the military found a solution for their fighter pilots: “Scop-Dex”, or Scopolamine mixed with dextroamphetamines. That’s right: the air force took heavy-duty motion sickness medication, and mixed it with the pills your friends used to buy/steal from the ADHD kid in high school before dancing to Moby. Scientists didn’t believe it was even possible to dance to Moby, but the kids you went to school with proved it, while the ADHD kid just bounced awkwardly in the corner as the un-medicated control sample.
Space agencies are obviously keen to avoid having astronauts a) vomit on expensive control panels, b) doze off at the flight panel, or c) throw out all the supplies to make room for an all-night space rave. As a result, a huge amount of research is continuing into how nausea from motion sickness can be minimised in space without medication. One of the most promising technologies currently being investigated by NASA is the use of strobe lighting and LCD shutter glasses that flicker at a sufficiently high frequency to not interfere with your vision. Initial experiments with participants on the ground and during parabolic flights have now shown that a short duration flash 4 to 8 times per second significantly reduces the symptoms of motion sickness. So while I might not be drowsy or vomiting into a paper bag when I finally meet that ginger sky unicorn on a parabolic flight, but I’ll probably be suffering the indignity of having to wear NASA-designed shutter shades and feeling like I’ve helped Kanye West get into space.Speaking of indignities, if you were hypothetically to type “zero g corporation redhead” into google image search, Jake Gyllanhal is the 8th picture you’d see. Probably. When you eventually found your ginger space unicorn on the 14th page of results, it’d also be instantly obvious she’s not really a red-head, and all your ginger militia-founding hopes instantly disintegrate right there. In retrospect though if I’m falling in love with a women based on about 8 seconds of footage from a documentary series made in the late 90’s, I’m probably not in the right place emotionally to be contributing to the gene pool anyway.
But for all the wonder and inspiration of space, all the spiritual awakening that astronauts report seeing our beautiful, fragile planet from a perspective that doesn’t see borders, racial or religious differences, just one Earth… chances are you’re STILL going to be tasting your own stomach acid. Your life-altering spiritual experience is being tainted by a little thing space medicine experts casually refer to as “S.A.S.” or Space Adaptation Syndrome. And we can’t talk about Space Adaptation Syndrome without talking about Senator Jake Garn…
End of Draft.
I wanted to share something that happens when you regularly visit schools and talk about something awesome like exploring Mars: the job isn’t just answering questions for kids at the school on the day, it also usually means answering questions for kids (and adults) who couldn’t make it or didn’t have time to ask their question on the day too!
After my run of school visits recently one of the teachers at a school I spoke at was bombarded by their 9-10 year olds who didn’t get a chance to ask everything they were curious about, so when I made my usual offer to answer via email they took me up on it. For those of you curious about what sorts of questions I usually get from students and the answers I give them, read on!
Is part of your job to look for any precious stones on Mars? We won’t be looking specifically for precious stones on Mars, but we will definitely spend a LOT of time looking at the rocks on Mars! Studying the rocks on Mars can tell us more about Mars what it might have been like in the past and where the water is. We’ll also have to study the rocks on Mars if we ever want to try to find alien life there, because if we’re going to find fossils or even living alien microbes or bacteria, they’ll be living in or on the rocks!
How do you eat with your helmet on? Inside the habitat you don’t need a spacesuit, so you can just wear normal clothes and eat/drink normally. When you go out onto the surface however you need to wear the bulky spacesuit with the helmet for up to 7 hours at a time. There’s a bag of water inside the spacesuit with a straw next to the astronaut’s head they can sip from, and there’s is a pouch below their chin they can reach down with their teeth to pull up a fruit & cereal bar to eat if they get hungry. The water is pretty easy, but the fruit & cereal bar is really awkward, plus they have to eat all of it straight away so that they don’t have crumbs floating around inside their helmet! Eating with a spacesuit on is really difficult, so most astronauts eat before they put the spacesuit on to go outside.
What does the impact feel like when you land the space craft? Depending on the spacecraft it can be either really gentle like a passenger plane landing, or it can be incredibly jarring and potentially break your back! The space shuttles landed just like a plane, and even though they were going much faster than a jet when they touched down, they could still be very gentle. A Soyuz capsule however fires a single rocket blast a few meters above the ground to make an impact that could kill you a tiny bit gentler! The spacecraft that will land us on Mars will almost certainly use rockets for a lot longer to land much gentler than the Soyuz, but not as gentle as landing like a plane with a space shuttle.
What happens if you stay on the surface of Mars longer than one hour? There’s no problem staying on the surface of Mars longer than an hour, and we’ll regularly need to go outside for a lot longer than an hour to make repairs and explore. At the moment though our spacesuits don’t provide any extra protection from the radiation on the surface of Mars, so if we went outside for more than an hour every day then we’d be exposed to too much radiation. We might go outside for 7 hours one day, but then we might stay inside for the rest of the week! It’s all about making sure you don’t go out on the surface more than an hour per day on average, because if we do we’ll increase our risk of cancer and other radiation illnesses beyond the approved limit.
How will you grow fruit and veggies with all the gases in the Mars environment? A friend of mine has been researching exactly what mix of gas would be best for growing fruit and veggies on Mars! The atmosphere on Mars is too thin to grow things outside of a sealed habitat, but she found that if we took the atmosphere on Mars and pressurised it, then added a little bit more oxygen (made by extracting water from the soil then splitting it into hydrogen and oxygen) then you would have the perfect mix of gas for growing plants! Humans couldn’t breathe it because there would be way too much carbon dioxide, but plants would flourish.
What type of plants grow on Mars? No plants yet, but once we start landing greenhouses and habitats there we’ll be able to start! So far Mars One has tested growing radishes, peas, rye and tomatoes and shown that they are completely safe to eat when grown in soil with the same soil with a mix of minerals and heavy metals as we’ve detected on Mars. There are 6 other crops that we know will grow in that same type of soil, but they haven’t finished testing to see if the heavy metals have been absorbed by the plants yet.
Have you discovered any space junk on Mars yet? Depending on who you ask, there’s a few things on Mars some people might call junk that others call “historical sites”! We know the Beagle 2 probe landed on Mars safely in 2003, but it never deployed all it’s panels so it eventually ran out of power and is sitting dead on the surface of Mars. There are rovers like Sojourner and Spirit that have now failed too. Plus there’s stuff on Mars that really is junk – the heat shield that protected the Curiosity rover as it traveled through Mars’s atmosphere was dumped mid-air so that the skycrane could deliver the rover to the surface, plus the skycrane itself crash landed somewhere on Mars afterwards too! There’s a few bits of human junk on Mars, but not a lot – it’s pretty tough to get things there, so we want everything we send to Mars to be as useful as possible.
How can you live without your family? Lots of people in history have had to say goodbye to their friends and family in order to explore places that people have never been before. Most explorers plan to come back again, but millions of people said goodbye to their families forever when they immigrated from places like England to Australia, or from Ireland to the USA. Those families would know that they were starting a new life somewhere else, and while they would miss them they knew that life itself is a one-way mission.
How do you wash your clothes on Mars? We’ll have to be very careful to conserve water on Mars, plus the reduced gravity on Mars means we won’t sweat into our clothes as much as we do on Earth so we probably won’t need to wash our clothes as regularly. There’s still some gravity though, so we’ll either wash by hand in a tub of water or if we’re really lucky someone might design a washing machine that works in the reduced gravity on Mars.
How do you play sport on Mars? We might not be able to play lots of team sports on Mars, and if we do it’ll be really difficult in our spacesuits outside! People have done it though – in 1971 Alan Shepherd played golf on the Moon after sneaking a golf club and some balls onto Apollo 14 before the launch! Mostly we’ll stay fit and healthy by using equipment like you’d see in a gym, but designed to work on Mars.
How do you get materials to Mars to grow crops? The soil on Mars (called “regolith”) has almost everything you need to grow plants, except it doesn’t have any living bacteria or microbes to support the plants. So one option shown in the movie “The Martian” is to use the regolith along with waste from the toilet (after it’s been treated) to make soil that plants will grow in!
What type of safety equipment would you use most of? We’ll use a lot of different safety equipment in all sorts of different ways on Mars, but one of the most important is something as simple as a cable to hook your spacesuit onto! In space it’s VERY important to tether yourself during a spacewalk because you could float away if you aren’t hooked on to the spacecraft, but on Mars hooking yourself onto a cable between you habitat and a rover could mean the difference between finding the habitat in the dark after a long spacewalk, and getting lost in the dark!
Are you hoping to find aliens on Mars? I think we’ll find aliens on Mars, but they won’t be little green men or Marvin the Martian – they’ll be bacteria, microbes, and maybe something like a tardigrade. Tardigrades are these tiny little creatures smaller than a pinhead that are incredibly tough: surviving radiation, freezing cold, blistering heat, and even the vacuum of space! We know that Mars had water and was more habitable than Earth a few billion years ago, so it’s even possible that life started on Mars, hitched a ride to Earth on a meteorite, and we’re actually all descended from Martians!
How do you drink fluid on Mars? You can drink on Mars just the same as on Earth, except water will pour out nearly 3 times slower than it does on Earth. It means that for things like showers, you might get really big droplets instead of the ones you’re used to from your shower at home, but drinking will be just the same.
Will you have a car on Mars? The first people on Mars won’t have a car, but when they first land on Mars they might sit on a rover and have it take them from where they landed to the habitat that the rovers have setup for them. Sending a car or truck for Mars means lots of weigh, and we are only sending just what we need when we first go. In the future though we will definitely want someone to bring a car or big rover we can live inside so we can explore much further from the habitat than we can just walking or sitting on a normal rover.
How high can you jump on Mars? Mars has 38% of Earth’s gravity, so you provided your legs muscles are still as strong on Mars as they were on Earth, you’d be able to jump nearly 3 times higher!
Will you get sick of eating the same food all the time? We have to be really careful about making sure there is lots of variety in our food, because people DO get sick of eating the same thing all the time and it’s important for people’s mood. The very first mission NASA carried out at their Mars simulation mission in Hawaii was to see how they could add variety to the meals while people were living in a white dome with only limited food selections. For 4 months the people inside needed to work out how to use the same few ingredients they had to make all sorts of new dishes. So learning to be creative and take what you have and turn it into something new and different is one of the most important skills a Mars colonist will need to have.
Recently I’ve had a lot of folks asking if I’m “doing any training to prepare” ahead of Mars One’s next selection phase, and I tell them that every single thing I’ve done since I heard about Mars One in early September 2012 has been about preparing for life on Mars. What they really mean though is “Are you trying to get as physically fit as possible?”. The truth is I’m not even remotely as fit as I was in my mid-20’s training with the Royal Marine Commandos, and right now I don’t want to be.
I’ll say this as gently as I can: the commandos need physically fit and tough folks to carry heavy things and follow orders – there wasn’t a huge demand for higher level reasoning, problem solving, or creativity. So while I was preparing in Australia my writing and comedy both quickly tapered off, and once I started training in the UK they disappeared entirely. It’s not a bad thing – it’s just what often happens when you’re doing something incredibly physically & emotionally demanding that doesn’t require the same from you mentally or creatively.
Finding some balance didn’t even start till more than a year after I’d left the military. In late 2011, just after I’d written my first comedy show, I stumbled across James Altucher’s blog and read an article with the very click-bait-ey title “How to be THE LUCKIEST GUY ON THE PLANET in 4 Easy Steps”. While I’ve continued to read and share some of his other articles in the years since, what has always stuck with me most is the 4-part Daily Practice that James describes: doing something each day that’s Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual.
No matter what is going on in my life, provided I work on each of these 4 areas a little each day things have always gotten better. So with that in mind I’ve broken my preparation for Mars One selection down the same way!
When I was preparing for the Commandos using a 12 Week Program designed to prepare people for the US Navy SEALs, I was spending about an hour in the pool and another 2 hours in the gym/running 6 days a week – I’ve never been as fit in my life. But while I’m a big believer in the “Healthy Body, Healthy Mind” creedo, right now I really don’t need to be running 50+km a week, swimming 20+km a week, or punching out hundreds of push-ups & chin-ups a day like I used to. It’s not just physically exhausting, it’s also creatively exhausting and time consuming.
Now I do one hour on the rowing and weight machines each afternoon, and that’s mainly for clearing the mental cobwebs after a morning of writing so I can get the creative juices flowing again for new article ideas. When Mars One’s selection is 3-4 months away I’ll step things up, putting Stew Smith’s “12 Weeks To BUD/S” program to good use again so I can exceed the following physical goals before selection starts:
Being fit is great, but for now I’m better served by focusing more on eating and drinking healthier than I have been.
One of the downsides of having been intensely active in the past was seeing food purely as fuel, eating absolutely whatever I wanted, and the huge temptation to over-eat rich foods when I’m not currently burning as much. Over the last few years I’ve been been experimenting with different eating habits, and now with the help of fellow Mars One candidate & body-hacker Dianne McGrath I’m looking seriously at trialing a ketogenic diet. I’ve always tended to avoid bread and sugar where I could anyway, this just means being much more disciplined about it. I’m still enjoying plenty of meats and eggs too before we have to go mostly vegan on Mars – I love my family, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I think I’ll miss bacon more.
Changing the type of coffee I drink has been one of the most interesting shifts though. I grew up convinced everyone drank terrible instant coffee with milk and two sugars: we even called it “Standard NATO” in the Army. With the introduction of a coffee machine at my parents a few years back, an ill-advised soy latte experiment in 2015 when I moved to Melbourne, and developing a taste for Long Black/Americano in Israel last year (mostly because we couldn’t get milk) – it’s safe to say my “writer’s fuel” will become permanently keto-friendly in the next few weeks.
In late 2013 I went to the Netherlands for a Mars One conference, staying for 5 weeks with the girlfriend I’d met in September 2012 literally days before I first discovered Mars One. It’s safe to say I put that frankly amazing woman through emotional hell, for the simple fact I’d promised to leave her for a cold and unloving planet over 56 million kilometers away within weeks of meeting her… and I made it even worse during the 2013 trip by unexpectedly disappearing every hour or so . When she would eventually find me, I’d be squirreled away in some corner reading on my tablet: completely lost to the world with a paper about Martian crustal magnetism or a textbook on space engineering design.
Folks ask me now how I’m so comfortable answering technical questions in interviews – much of that is practice doing interviews, but most don’t realise the shear amount of reading I’ve done over the last 4 years. That ex-girlfriend endured the absolute worst of it because at the time I felt so out of my depth whenever I was asked a question about something I had publicly dedicated my life to. I barely stopping reading for that first year, and I still spend a huge amount of time every day pouring through books and papers to stay up to date.
These days my efforts are a lot more focused though. While there’s new research being released all the time related to both Mars and human spaceflight, that obsessive amount of reading in the first year has now made it fairly easy to glean the important details from papers quickly. It’s also made it easy to recognise and avoid a lot of the sensational nonsense you hear that often sounds like a huge breakthrough in human spaceflight, but usually isn’t even remotely relevant to colonising Mars the way it might be reported.
Mars One have provided the remaining 100 candidates with an official study list that includes the Paragon ECLSS design study; 3 parts of the “Food For Mars” series, and extracts from the Mars One book on technology, space medicine, politics, and improvisation. Obviously studying the Astronaut Requirements, as well as Dr Kraft’s articles on Screening from 100 to 24 and his Astronaut Selection Process Q&A are critical too.
I’ve also put together my own list of books, papers and articles to read, and there’s several online courses I’ve been checking in with too. What I’m finding most useful however is taking all that I’ve learnt over the last few years and distilling the most interesting and relevant parts into my book. “Becoming Martian” is all about the human side of colonising Mars – not the technology, but how we will be changed by the journey to and settlement of Mars – and collating, editing and rephrasing everything I’ve learnt into that human story is turning into the best mental “study” for the next Mars One selection I could have dreamed of… I just need to edit and publish the damn thing so other people can finally read it!
The absolute best thing about signing up for Mars One has been how every step of the way it’s forced me to be more me. Truly coming to terms with leaving Earth behind forever in your mid 40’s means assessing what you’re doing every day and asking yourself some really tough questions. In the past I might have been inclined to work a job I wasn’t happy in, or stayed in a relationship that was unhealthy, or collected things that were nice but didn’t have a deeper purpose to me. Not any more – there’s not enough room for emotional uncertainty in those areas when you’re facing something like this.
So I ask myself questions that many people never actually ask, or ever have to answer with any conviction:
Since 2011, writing comedy shows has been the best way for me to process what’s going on emotionally. However last year’s “Cosmic Nomad” – about how signing up for a one-way mission to Mars has already changed the way I see life on Earth – felt like it truly processed everything that had built up over the last 4 years. Cosmic Nomad “closed the circle” on a lot of things, while still leaving the door open to perform the show again (obviously with updates and tweaks) if the opportunity and desire to perform is there… rather than starting from scratch to write another new show.
The core messages that built “Cosmic Nomad” inform how I experience life emotionally, and I’m striving to practice each of them each day not just for Mars One selection but for life generally:
There’s a huge amount of cross-over between all four of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual segments: running falls under “Physical”, but it also helps me think of new ideas (Mental), allows time to process things that might have upset me (Emotional), and I’ll often have a perspective changing realisation during my cool-down when I’m processing what popped into my head during the run. That last bit is what I categorise under “Spiritual”: the philosophy underlying everything else you’re doing. There’s obviously a lot of cross over with the “Emotional” side of things, but that’s because my emotions are now informed by my philosophy that humanity becoming a dual-planet species is bigger than anything else in my life, my family or friend’s lives, my country or even my global region – it’s something for ALL of humanity.
That’s why it’s really hard for me to give a shit about who won the cricket world cup, when I think “national identity” itself is a fairly pointless exercise.
I’m always looking at how to cultivate my spiritual philosophy further though. I’ve had a steady interest in Zen Buddhism since my teens, mostly because it’s absolutely no-nonsense and it cuts through all the ritual of other philosophies to cultivate pure awareness. Likewise with Stoicism, it’s all about seeing things as they truly are by flipping a problem as well as your perspective. Things aren’t good or bad – they just are, and the better you understand the world you’re in the better you’ll handle whatever “problems” life throws at you.
In keeping with that I’ve put together a reading list that reinforces that philosophy, while also helping cultivate it further through practice:
As I mentioned earlier the four different physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects overlap all the time, and what I’m realising is that the more I integrate these aspects together the more fully integrated I am as a person generally.
While Mars One lists the personality traits they’re seeking in astronaut candidates as Resilience, Adaptability, Curiosity, Ability to Trust, and Creativity/Resourcefulness, the one aspect that over-arches all of that is a candidate’s capability for self-reflection. The better you are at looking at and understanding your own behaviours, attitudes, strengths and weaknesses; the better you’ll understand yourself as an integrated human being. The best self-reflectors fully understand and can articulate why colonising Mars is so important, and why each we’re willing to dedicate and risk our lives to the goal of making humanity a dual-planet species.
I’m incredibly grateful that my experience self-reflecting on my diverse life experiences – then distilling them into comedy – has helped me work out why this is so important… and in the process I’ve become 1 of the 100 people shortlisted for the first human mission to Mars. Getting onto that next shortlist of just 24 candidates to start training will take a whole new level of commitment and preparation though, so I’m excited for the challenges the rest of 2017 will bring.
Finally for my Patron supporters, you can see how I remind myself every day about ALL of this with just one handy journal printout by following this link.
In October 2014 I was at the National Young Writer’s Festival in Newcastle, standing awkwardly by the snacks at the opening Meet and Greet event and trying to decide who looked friendly enough to fulfill the “Meet” component of this little soiree. By blocking the corn chips just long enough I accidentally made eye-contact with someone after a nacho cheese fix, introduced myself, then asked what she was doing at the festival: “I’m a poet. I’m running two workshops and doing a late night reading. What about you?” I told her, to which she replied “You’re not an astronaut – that is THE WORST pickup line I’ve ever heard”, then stalked off with corn chip dust all over her fingers and nose.
Sorry, I should probably introduce myself to you too. Hi! My name is Josh: I’m a 31-year-old physicist and comedian. I served as an explosives specialist with the Australian Army and British Royal Marine Commandos, then left the military to work in the UK as a stand-up comic and radio presenter. In 2012 I was writing a comedy show about sending people one-way to Mars when I discovered an international organisation planning to actually do it. So now I’m one of 100 people short-listed from over 200,000 applications worldwide to become the first colonists on Mars in 2031 and never come back. Right now though that mostly means I perform science comedy and speak in schools about how I’m willing to go to Mars one-way because it will change who we are as a species.
It also means I write articles about space exploration, and I’m currently editing my book on how becoming a dual planet species will change us in body, mind and soul. Which is why I was at a writers’ festival. It’s also why I was standing next to the Doritos, feeling out of place.
Most of the time I don’t immediately tell people I’m an astronaut candidate – ‘comedian’ is far less threatening. One-way missions to Mars are great for hooking people’s attention when you’re performing or writing, but it tends to shut down casual conversation pretty quickly. It always depends on who you’re speaking to though: when you’re at a writers’ festival to talk about colonising Mars ‘astronaut candidate’ is what you lead with. When you’re explaining to Peter Hellier what a Hohmann transfer is by comparing Courtney Love to a black hole, you’re a ‘comedian’ and ‘maniac’. And when you’re visiting a primary school because a science teacher saw you on TV talking to Hellier, you become a ‘science communicator’ who uses a merry-go-round metaphor to explain orbital mechanics, instead of Courtney Love.
Every time I visit a school though, some kid is guaranteed to ask me how you shit in space. EVERY. TIME. Of course they don’t say it that way, it’s “How do you go to the toilet in space?” But a quick Google image search – which I know they’ve already done – proves there’s a variety of zero-g hose systems for both male and female astronauts to urinate into. So what these kids are really asking is “How do you shit in space?” In the 60s the Apollo astronauts crapped into plastic bags then kneaded the bag (by hand) to work a bacteria-eating powder through it, because if they didn’t knead it properly the bag would fill with gas and explode. The space shuttle actually had something to sit on, but since things don’t flush in zero-g, the ‘toilet’ was basically a seat over a blender that used air-jets to push solid waste downwards. Yes, it would break. Yes, turds would escape the bowl and float around the spaceship.
How could you NOT tell kids this though? Kids ask because they don’t know, because how we shit is something kids (and a lot of adults) laugh about, and they want to hear stories about it. Space toilets are insanely complicated pieces of engineering, but kids don’t care – they want a story about shitting in space. Adults want to know too but are usually too polite to ask, so I’ve written a book they can read on the train and look intelligent reading because it has Mars on the cover. It sounds cheap, but if it takes toilet humour to explain a complex topic like space science, then I’m happy to share stories about exploding turd bags with people of any age.
The brilliant yet terrifying thing about public speaking and live comedy is immediately sensing if the audience is interested or amused, so you learn to adapt your performance and material as you perform it. Stand-up was how I learnt to turn things that interest me into things that are funny. At its core the challenge with writing is no different though: work out who your audience is, what they want and are familiar with, then connect your topic to that and make the audience feel something. Laughter, anger, disgust – whatever. Writing also gives you the luxury of time to twist yourself up over every syllable, in exchange for unloving silence when you write a great joke.
By the way, I genuinely wasn’t trying to pick up Dorito-fingers at the writers festival, but I DID describe our awkward exchange an hour later as I was chatting up someone I was actually interested in. Because if I’m going to leave Earth for good in 2031 then there’s no way I’m missing the chance to use “I’m a candidate for the first human mission to Mars” to get geek girls interested, make people of all ages people learn and laugh, and at least try to get laid occasionally.
Hopefully everyone will believe me when I say I’m just doing it for the species.
A few weeks back a close friend of mine was shocked to discover I have multiple tattoos. In her defense she’s didn’t get to see Cosmic Nomad when I was touring it last year, so she’s never had to witness my awful pasty ginger ass from a performance stage like the rest of my fee-paying audiences in 2016 did. But I also realised many who haven’t seen that show are probably unaware of them too, and since they say a lot about how I see myself I thought I’d share what a space industry colleague described as “childish” and my mother describes as “looking like a criminal”.
This is actually two tattoos spaced 4 months apart, with the largest amount of work being a single epic 10 hour session done in early 2016 – the day before I flew out of Melbourne to start the global Cosmic Nomad tour. On the right there’s Carl Sagan with a lightsaber riding a velocirapter:
Now don’t get me wrong – this is an utterly ludicrous thing to have permanently scraped into the back of your left arm. But in many ways it also symbolises my past. The velocirapter is representative of my nature with the military: ruthless, vicious, and bordering on predatory. Always trying to be smarter, faster and more vicious than those around me to “protect” myself from them. At the same time Carl Sagan is there because I looked to science as a way of making sense of the world and loved the sense of awe that it brought… but I was still very scared of the world and armed Carl with a red lightsaber.
On the far more positive side however, there’s Rick Sanchez riding a honey badger:
Like Carl Sagan and the velocirapter, this is an entirely ridiculous thing to have covering half your upper arm… but this is definitely where I’m at these days. If you’re unfamiliar with Rick Sanchez from “Rick and Morty”, then you should watch this:
Now I’m not as jaded as Rick, but I’ve definitely stopped accommodating other people’s opinions the way I used to. These days I’m always honest with people, I know I’m good at doing things that are helping make the world a better place, and I’m always getting better at doing those things… so I really don’t give a shit if you agree with what I’m doing with my life, I’m doing it anyway.
Now you might naturally assume that Rick is riding a honey badger for exactly the same reason, and that I’ve probably watched “The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger” by Randall way too many times… and you’d be partly correct on both counts. Honey badgers are generally pretty badass, but for me the honey badger is really about punching well above your weight, being able to take an absolute battering while keeping a stupid grin on your face, and being able to work things out so you can create absolute chaos.
Case in point: Stoffel the Honey Badger
You might stop a honey badger… but not for long, and they’re going to be pissed when they get moving again.
Together Carl Sagan on a velocirapter and Rick Sanchez on a honey badger form a kind of Coat-Of-Arms, all centered around my very first tattoo: a seven-leaf clover framed by a laurel wreath.
There’s a surprising number of layers and quite a story to getting my first tattoo at all. For a few months in 2006 I was reading Sam De Brito’s blog “All Men Are Liars” fairly regularly, and while my interest in his blog was only minimal and I never actually read his book, the title “No Tattoos Before You’re Thirty” always resonated with me. Tattoos were incredibly commonplace among the Royal Marines, and one of my 101 Things To Do Before You Die entries was to get a tattoo… but even at 24 I knew it wouldn’t happen before I was 30. I had in my head that if I were going to get something done, it needed to be something that meant a lot to me, and it would have been planned a long way ahead.
I also wasn’t sure I’d ever make it to 30 – without going into detail, after everything that has happened through the years I’m well aware of how lucky I am to still be here. I’m also well aware that the closest calls I’ve ever had and the hardest I’ve ever been pushed was always with the Royal Marines, and I still very much believe in their ethos: Courage, Determination, Unselfishness, and Cheerfulness in the face of adversity. The RM brought out both the best and the worst in me, but above all it taught me the military isn’t where I was supposed to be. I dropped out of training having learnt that I’m supposed to help people and make them laugh, and a few months later after a lot of soul-searching and an ample dose of Futurama I figured out I’m supposed to help our species become a dual planet one.
I’d known for years what I would get done if I made it to 30, so it was easy when I walked into a tattoo parlour in Carlton a few days after my birthday. To recognise what I’ve done and what I know I’m capable of, I had a laurel wreath done in the same place on my left arm that a Royal Marine might wear the Kings Badge. But to also recognise both how lucky I’ve been & how I’ve moved on from the military, instead of the RM’s “GR” in the middle of that wreath I replaced it the 7-leaf clover from Futurama’s “Luck of the Fryrish” episode.
If you haven’t seen the episode (or even if you have) I highly recommend looking it up, but the short story is *spoilers* Fry’s nephew ends up with the lucky 7-leaf clover and becomes the first man on Mars. *end spoilers*
And because I’m a ridiculous human being, at the same time I was getting my first tattoo with the wreath & clover, I also decided to get Bender smoking a cigar on my right ass cheek too:
If you’re not a fan of Futurama, then just like Rick and Morty we pretty much can’t be friends anymore. It’s far and away my most ridiculous tattoo (which is saying a lot), but in many ways this one is the most important. I knew at the time I needed to do it, but wasn’t really sure why it was so important and laughed that it was simply because it was a ridiculous thing to do and because I have a lot in common with Fry…
I had no idea how things would turn out, how important this tattoo would become, or how it would make so much more sense nearly a year after it was done. But in one of those startling twists of fate, in a single beautiful moment I realised I’m not Fry.
I’m Lars – Fry’s shaven headed, bearded, and ultimately doomed clone from an alternate timeline. Fry doesn’t have the tattoo of Bender on his ass – Lars does. If you’ve seen it, you don’t need me to explain the rest. If you haven’t then I won’t ruin it by explaining – either way, you should go and watch it. And when you get back we’ll listen to 30 Century Man together, laugh and smile with tears in our eyes.
I suspect I’ll be making a final visit to Killer Bees Tattoos in Melbourne, chatting to the incredible Dan Danckert – who’s done all of these tattoos and I who can’t recommend highly enough – about one last thing. But rather than tell you all what I’m thinking, I’ll save the surprise for when it’s done. *maniacal ginger unicorn laugh*
Dear Josh in 2020,
Firstly congratulations if you’re still around to read this – given all the stupid shit you’ve done through the years it’s a genuine surprise you’re still here to write this in 2016 at all, let alone read it in 2020. That’s not to say you’ve stopped doing stupid shit, because in case you’ve forgotten, you still do. A lot. But atleast over the last 4 years since you first found out about Mars One you’ve been a hell of a lot more focused on why you take ridiculous risks than you ever were. There’s a reason to take risks now… even if that reason is so I can live on a cold and unforgiving planet 56 million kilometers away without hope of return. I also spend a lot less time screaming at audiences while wearing a koala suit & playing ukulele now too, which I’m sure most people will agree is a good thing.
The reason I’m writing to you though is because once again it’s a) the end of an incredibly eventful year (but every year in your life is ludicrously eventful, so whatever, no biggie) and b) the end of another journal. Now traditionally I’ll go back over each diary/journal as I finish it and think “Oh wow, that’s right – I forgot that happened?” which then quickly devolves into “Hey, ‘member when dat happened? ‘member Staaar Waaaars?” and I come out dumber for the experience.
You see gross 35-year-old Josh, the ‘member berries only work if you just try to remember without any evidence. If you actually go back and review what things were like “back in the good old days” you tend not to look at them quite so fondly. Everyone freaked out about Paul Feig remaking Ghostbusters this year with an all-female cast. Boo haa, women aren’t funny, cry cry Paul Feig is ruining our childhoods and whatnot. When I watched the reboot I definitely enjoyed it, but because I didn’t laugh hysterically like I did at the original I wondered if I’d become one of those assholes that didn’t think women were funny. I mean obviously the original all-male cast were heaps funnier… right? AMIRIGHT?
Then I actually re-watched the original Ghostbusters. And you know what? The 2016 version is better. There, I said it: the new Ghostbusters is funnier than the 1984 original. The confusion is just because I’m not growing up with the 2016 version. The original is still an awesome movie, but most of my memories of it being so amazing are tied to the fact I was growing up with it. The 2016 reboot isn’t for me – it’s for a new generation of kids who want to get excited about ghosts ruining shit. The old Ghostbusters hasn’t changed, but watching both with a clear eye it’s obvious I have.
Why the hell am I talking about Ghostbuster reboots? Because reviewing the last 4 years of my journals there’s been some real surprises realising how I actually felt about things at the time, and realising how hideously skewed (or even completely wrong) my perception of them became over time. Perfect example: an ex-girlfriend you were utterly smitten with, you were convinced had brought a whole new light into your life so strong it made you question your commitment to Mars One, and how you convinced yourself you’d lost the ability to feel that strongly about someone when you ended it after it became clear she didn’t love you anymore.
You know who I’m talking about: the second one you wrote a comedy show about because it’s cheaper than therapy…
But here’s the thing: none of that was real AND YOU KNEW IT AT THE TIME! Sure you were utterly smitten, but reading back over the journal from then you knew right at the start she was only a signpost: someone reflecting how awesome your life is, cheering you on in the right direction, but also not coming with your on the journey. You weren’t experiencing a whole new light in your life because of her, you were experiencing it because you were doing what you’re supposed to be doing eg. GETTING YOUR ASS TO MARS
Reading the actual journal entries (rather than just trying to ‘member) you can see it wasn’t till months later that you started to lose sight of what was really lighting up your life (being an astronaut candidate for the first human mission to Mars) and mixed up what was important: her, or trying to make humanity a dual-planet species… and that is when the ‘member berries started to whisper their juicy but sour lies.
You can also see from the journals that I’ve been glancing over the fact this wasn’t the first time I’ve fallen into a very similar trap: there’s notes on at least two previous relationships in these journals where you faced almost identical challenges. While they weren’t all the same intensity they do all mirror each other on some details significantly: I practically dated a clone of that ex 12 months earlier, right down to looks & personality. The only significant difference between the two was the earlier girl wanted to live in Perth to raise a family, so I knew immediately it wouldn’t work long-term because the best/worst part of going to Mars is telling everyone in Perth you won’t be home for Christmas. Ever.
But here’s the good bit: at least each time things went wrong you learnt some of what you needed to avoid doing the exact same thing again. You might only be improving by 1%, but that is still better than the 0% improvement that most people make by sticking with their boring, unchanging “safe” lives. You’ve probably made a bundle of similar mistakes getting to 2020, and you’ll read this letter and say “Oh younger, much more attractive and virile 31 year old Josh – you’ll learn the lessons you need to when you are ready”. And I’ll tell you to shut your old beardy ginger face.
Wait – do you still have the beard? You’ve had it since you left the RM in 2010, so I’ll be devastated if you’ve gone corporate and shaved it off. I was (and still am) toying with the idea of living out of my backpack on an epic 3,000+ kilometer walk across Siberia or South America or something, keeping a journal of my thoughts and experiences along the way, and I was going to draw inspiration from Sean Conway and let my beard grow into something woolly and epic…
Did you do it? Did find time to go on an epic 3000+km walk and use it as an excuse to grow a ginger hedge on your face? DO PEOPLE CALL YOU GANDALF THE RED NOW? I really hope so.
But whatever you do, remember that even small progress is still progress. You’re definitely sharper and more focused now than you have been at any point in the past. Things in the past were NOT as great as they are now, because in the past you hadn’t learnt as much as you have now. And that’s why I’m jealous of you, gross 35 year old Josh. Sure there are dips here and there, and it can be easy to look back and think you were happier in the past. But when you actually look at what things were like or what you felt in the past, you can see with crystal clarity that over time things have kept getting better and better.
I’m certain a lot of that has to do with writing to publish AND maintaining a journal. Publishing for an audience means I can share my experiences with others so they can learn too, but if I were just writing for an online audience I wouldn’t have a record to reflect honestly on how I feel about events and people. Although to be fair I currently have little trouble being honest with people about what I think about them, as my emails to some of the staff at an educational institution I used to work for will show (if you’ve forgotten what I’m talking about, search your gmail with the keywords “startling incompetence” – you’ll find it).
Hopefully in 2020 you’re still just as honest, but I equally hope that you’ve sharpened the tools you need to avoid it getting under your skin when people don’t do what they say they will. You’re always getting better at it, but the journals make it clear that while you’ll give some folks the benefit of the doubt over and over and over again, sometimes things still happen that cause it all to pour out in one hilarious & horrifying email or outburst.
Without a journal – however poorly maintained – I wouldn’t be able to look back at different points and see how much of a dickhead I used to be… as I’m sure in 2020 you’ll be looking back thinking how much of dickhead I am right now. I can also see how much my writing has improved, and most importantly I can see the ideas that have persisted through the years and the personal values that are obviously most important to me. No matter what crazy things have happened over the last few years, there are ideas and questions you’ve kept asking throughout all of it:
I hope in 2020 you look back at the end of 2016 and think “Yeah I was still a complete clown back then, but at least I was finally figuring out which basic parts of being a clown are most important to me so I could focus on them”. I hope you’ve spent the 4 years getting to 2020 by ignoring the confetti, not being sucked in by pointless conflict, and by focusing on doing the basics that are most important to you really really well.
Josh in 2016
P.S. You’re 35 now, so has that psychic gypsy in New Orleans finally delivered the ginger she said you’d meet and fall in love with between 32 and 35? Not sure how that’s supposed to work with you going to Mars, but that’s your problem bro.
Many of you may not know, but for the last 5 years I’ve been keeping handwritten diaries & journals of my adventures – ranging from purely mundane “To Do” lists, right through to incredibly personal thoughts on life, the universe and everything. And over the last two weeks I’ve been reviewing all 7 books worth of journals I’ve kept since 2011: taking notes, photographing interesting entries and transcribing them ready to be published on Patreon.
It’s been pretty incredible reviewing just how much things have changed, realising things you thought you remembered one way actually happened in completely the reverse order, seeing foreshadowing of the end of relationships (even if I didn’t realise it when I was writing), and collating notes I’d written but forgotten that will certainly help in the years ahead. I’m just about to start reviewing my most recent journal (covering April 2016 to now) and while it’s obviously recent history I’m intrigued to see what ideas and gems of wisdom I came up with during the year but forgot in the rushed chaos this year brought.
As the journals are incredibly personal (and I have to spend a fair bit of time redacting people’s names before publishing them), I’ve restricted publishing so they’re only available to one of the higher level Patreon rewards. However as 2016 closes and I review all that’s happened these last 12 months, I wanted to share one small entry from the end of last year with all of you as a nice way of looking back. Reading it, the similarities between then and where I find myself now are pretty startling, but I’m excited because of two things:
Enjoy the journal entry, and if you want more the consider becoming a Patron!
All the best in 2017,
P.S. I love that my scribbling of “Carl Sagan riding a velociraptor while Rick Sanchez rides a honey badger” that became my left shoulder tattoo has bled through the last page 😉
Day 11, 092
19 December 2015
I wonder where I’ll be in a year. What I’ll be doing, who I’ll be with, and where I’m heading next. I wonder what I’ll have remembered of 2016 best. I wonder what I’ve thrown my energy into most, what has made the biggest difference in my life and in the world.
My best bet is to ask the same questions of myself for 2015 – what have been my favourite moments, what have been the highlights & lowlights. Who has influenced me the most, what have I learnt from each of them, and where have I grown most & least.
Probably best to put all this in the context of Altucher’s 4 steps: Health, Emotional, Mental & Spiritual. Some area have excelled, some have been refined, some feel like they’ve slipped & some haven’t moved. There’s a lot of shit in the air at the moment, so the end of the year clarity you’d expect is being obstructed by the chaff being thrown out into the air. Meditation is a clear and easy way to stop your mind racing – to free yourself from the mind’s bullshit, it’s frantic list making & stress. It’s useful for working through all you’ve set your heart on, but it’s also often excessive. Remember the Cult of Done – ideas that take more than a week to work on are unlikely to lead where you need to go. Form good habits and exploit opportunities, but let go of what feels like work. Some things you put off because you want to “get it right” or you think something is more important – either do it, or let it go. Don’t allow frivolous shit get in the way of your real priorities – focus on what is most important. Ask yourself if what you’re doing is more important than what you want to do. If you keep being pulled by something minor, ask why it feels so important. Is it just to “complete” something? What are you doing it for.
Right now you’re thinking about closing things out – finishing Demon Haunted World, finishing the pages in this book, using all the pages in your A4 book. To do those 3 things in the next 10 days will require concerted reading and writing – NOT typing. Not listening to more podcasts. The biggest one is writing Cosmic Nomad, which will require writing on the A4 book AND typing to Evernote. But you should be breaking this up with reading Demon Haunted World. Keep your other distractions to a minimum, develop those good mental habits; and the fitness, emotional & spiritual elements will follow.
Forget the emails – they can ALL wait till January 4th. Read the book & write the show. GO!
Here’s my first “personal” post, about my experience waiting to hear about my application to the Hi-SEAS mars mission analog in Hawaii. This month is going to be pretty full on as I try to write 4 articles (2 months worth) to get things started here and on my Patreon page at the same time.
Enjoy, and let me know in the comments what your experience has been with waiting for big life-changing events!