Getting Punched in the Mouth

In the world of martial arts, you have no option but to relax — if you are tense, analytical and over thinking, you get punched in the mouth. It is just that simple. When you relax, you allow your training to take over, you roll with the punches, and occasionally — you get punched in the mouth. The main difference between the two scenarios is that in the first, you get knocked on your back and examine what put you there. The second, you get up and keep at it and return to a place of calm.

Having trained in different martial arts from 4 years old, I’ve learned a huge amount about life — primarily that a bloody lip is nothing more than a small inconvenience and something that will heal faster than you’d think. It’s an activity that evolves into a passion with deep roots that last for far longer than any bruises ever could.

Take Life Back to Basics and Enjoy the Rewards

This morning I was making a cup of coffee when I was struck with a realisation – truly the simplest things in the world have become detached, and in so doing, some of its true beauty is lost.

It all started with a coffee.  I heated up my Nespresso Lattissima touch, and took out the plastic capsule, reached for my mug when I saw my good old French Press – something I’ve not used in months.  This made me remember my wife, who just returned from Kenya, had brought me some coffee beans as a gift to me from one of her colleagues.  Click – the Nespresso machine went off, beep, the kettle was on.  Out came the grinder and the wonderful ceremony began, measuring out the beans, grinding them down, heating up the French Press with boiled water, pouring it out and adding the course grinds, more water, wait, stir, wait, plunge, pour, enjoy.  But it was so much more than a cup of coffee.

The process of measuring the beans, the aroma during the grinding, the steeping, that sound when you pour – all were enjoyable, all part of the coffee experience.  It made me think about how much we miss in our day to day lives when we trade in simplicity for convenience – filters on photos may enhance a picture, but the true beauty of what could be seen is lost.

Later in the day, I went to listen to a talk by a fantastic marketer (Hillel Fuld).  I decided that rather than taking notes on my iPad, having it upload to the cloud through Evernote, and never having the think about it again, I would continue on the same path I took with the first coffee of the day.  I grabbed a notepad and pen and headed to the event.  What I learned throughout that session was without a doubt ten times more than I would have done had I constantly been looking down at the iPad typing up notes.  A doodle here, a few words there, and the pages filled up with invaluable notes and what’s more, I remember far more than I would have done otherwise.  I was present, in the moment, and absorbed the information without even trying.

I implore you all, take a moment tomorrow and dial down something simple tomorrow into a purer form, enjoy the experience and take pleasure in the journey.  It may take a little longer, but the happiness and appreciation you have for the final product will make it worth it.

Let me know what you tried and any impact you saw in the comments section.

The Ubiquitous White Shirt


The ubiquitous white shirt.  Every guy (and girl) has one in his wardrobe whether it gets worn every week, every month, or never – it’s always present.  But why? The white shirt is smart and casual, it’s ready for a date or an interview, with jeans or a suit – it’s elegantly simple.

For my birthday last year,  my wife bought be a new white shirt – with a twist.  This particular shirt was from Ministry of Supply and as such, is awesome.  They have managed to reinvent the wheel.  In a world of breakthrough technological advances on a near daily basis, it is surprising to think that clothing has hardly evolved in the last 70 years (ignoring performance sporting apparel), styles have changed, but the materials we use and the methods of garment creation remain the same.  So what makes this particular shirt so special?

Gihan Amarasiriwardena is the co-founder of Ministry of Supply explains that clothing isn’t a device, like a chair, or a form of art, it’s both, and now manufacturers much satisfy both form and function, he aspires to create ‘clothing that is an extension of our body’.  But Gihan isn’t your typical tailor – he met the other founders Kit and Aman at MIT, and in 2011 decided to create a performance dress shirt and launch it on Kickstarter – the Apollo – which smashed the record for the most funded fashion Kickstarter at that time.

But again, what is a performance dress shirt?  It simply a shirt totally designed for use and wear by the modern person, born out of human centred design.  It regulates your temperature, stretches in all the right places is stain resistant and doesn’t crease.  In short, it’s designed to be worn by real people, people who start their commute at 7am on the train and know they are going for drinks straight after work, for people who have a meeting straight after their flight and for people who know they’ll spill mustard down their front at lunch.  In Gihan’s words, they are designed “to solve the problem the person brings to life”.

Human centred design can and should happen in all spheres of our world, whether the product is in the real world, or software.  The final product must integrate itself with the user quickly and naturally, adoption should be easy.  Getting to this point is however quite the opposite – creators must disregard everything they think they know about the topic and spend a huge amount of time talking to people about their actual needs.  The team at Ministry of Supply interview people over beer and pizza to ask questions and most importantly, to listen.  Only by this process of listening can we finding pain points and innovate our products to address them – it was this process that led to the creation of their Atlas Socks (in their words, it’s like a “second skin”).  Listen, create, test, repeat.  Testing should be something just done in controlled conditions, you must get out there in the real world.  Mr. Amarasiriwardena did this in spades – he ran a half marathon wearing one of their performance suits, a feat which not only netted the company some great PR, but also gave an insight into the product that no amount of lab testing could.

We have the technology, the tools have evolved for us to create better, cheaper and quicker, rather than creating quicker and cheaper – a trend followed by the masses, it is possible to create better and to stand out from the crowd.  Rather than addressing the problems that the company faces (the need to drive down costs and produce faster), we can use our technological means to solve the problems that the end user brings to life.

It’s not a simple white shirt, it’s so much more than that.

If you are interested, click here and get $50 off your first purchase.

NOTE – I am in no way affiliated to Ministry of Supply.