This week I went camping in Lancashire for 5 days. The first holiday, my wife reminded me, without working on a laptop for 10 years. Holidays are great for context... I remembered the simple things.
When you experience a life-changing event, it is a gift. I can be a grenade of perspective thrown into a life that that’s got it’s priorities all to cock. The gift also happens to be really shit.
I had a mental breakdown in 2017 and the pain and self loathing was so intense I thought about topping myself quite a bit. It's all very clear - I wasn’t mad, I was just very very sad (indeed), and my mind and body was wrecked. It was bound to have happened.
Listen to FRAHM Podcast #1 to understand.
Thankfully though, with that most spurious of devices - hindsight, I can see it was the punch (or grenade - damn my mixed metaphors) in the face I needed. Though I never EVER want to experience that again. Nor should anyone have to. But many of us have, and will.
In the immediate epicentre of my tiny private hell, I was forced into, and sought, simplicity. My life became looking after kids, walking the dog, housework, DIY, gym and cycling. If I hadn’t been so skint and depressed it would have been heaven…
There’s the funny thing. It was. It was heaven. That’s how I remember it. It’s hard to remember pain. I just remember I had been in a lot of pain.
From being the 100 plate spinning, centre of attention, talking at a million miles an hour, 15 hours a day 7 days a week, entrepreneuring, no leisure time, no family time, no life all business twonk I was…
I became… The dad, human being, husband, friend, thinker, listener, helper. Life was simple. I literally became aware of myself and my environment. My body, my breathing, my eyes turning in their sockets, the blackbird in my garden, the freckles on my wife’s nose, the curve of my son’s ears.
Without distraction I felt lucky. Glad. Content. Aware of the gift of blood pumping and the sun on my face.
None of this was revelatory. It was how I felt as a child. Present. Aware. Glad. How come? Well, life was simple then.
As adults we all complain about how complicated our lives are. Shouldn’t we do something about that? Isn’t that, if you're incredibly lucky enough to live a comfortable life, up to us?
I thought so, so began chasing ever greater simplicity.
Here are some of my Simple Things. What are yours?
This is my son. He is six. He runs towards me full speed in his gorilla suit and climbs up my body if I stand still with my arms by my side. It hurts a bit. When he gets to the top off my chest I grab his thighs and he hugs me and we close our eyes and it’s just us.
Kids are built to give and absorb love. So are we grown ups. We just all too often repress it. Find love, give love, accept love. It’s the World’s Greatest Cliche.
I am always grateful we could have kids. So many of our friends have struggled or couldn’t. When the little shits are screaming and waking us up at arsebasketo’clock, we remember we wanted this. That they are healthy. We are extremely lucky. That we are surrounded by love.
Those little sodding bastards.
Riding A Bike
I’m A Cyclist. It’s part of who I am. How I define myself.
I ride to feel alive. To feel the ache in my legs and lungs. To feel them working in unison. My body is a gift.
It wasn’t always like this. I had such serious spine problems I almost ended up permanently bedridden in my early Twenties. That’s what three specialists told me. It was all over. I ignored them.
I fought back to the healthiest I’ve ever been - it’d taken 20+ years of work. Now, every ride, every swing of my daughter above my head, every turn of my neck without pain is a moment of luxury I am shocked to experience again.
Always fight for yourself if it’s a just cause. Don’t accept the averages and the easy words.
Cycling is me reminding myself I can move again.
I love jackets. I really do. I don’t know why. They’re not the most important things in life to love. Jackets don’t really MATTER that much. Do they? (?!)
I like things that work that are also beautiful. I hate pretty things that fall apart, or high performance stuff that looks awful. There’s no need for it. It genuinely makes me angry. This still doesn’t seem like a very simple joy….
But I know who I am. I accept that I like jackets a lot and that is something that matters to me. Simple jackets. Clean lines. Classic, not showy, buttons and zips. You get the idea. Hell you can SEE the idea!
With FRAHM the next step was to simplify the business. That meant just jackets, make enough to live, not to attempt a Unicorn, get divorced, not see my kids and float on the NYSE for billions - alone, or most likely failed and alone. Enough to feel good and enable my life.
That’s my business’s simple definition. FRAHM is a simple thing. It enables my simple(r) life.
The problem is I’m not a simple creature. None of us are. I know who and what I am. I am ambitious. I actually like to work hard - I enjoy it (arghhh!). I like solving the never ending puzzles that being an entrepreneur fascinating and so very very annoying a challenge.
Life is also not simple. Plans are overturned. People die. We fail. Hell, I definitely fail.
The key for me is to try and keep creating enough loving relationships, trust and positivity (ugh, self help buzzword) that when the grenades start flying, you have some numerical supremacy in good shit to combat the horrors that life brings.
Even if we stand still and do nothing, life will get us anyway. So go find those simple things that matter. Sod the rest.
We are creatures that require love, community, purpose and above all (now) space to compute all these complicated and intense things.
Simplify your life to find space to compute. To digest the death of a loved one. The messy divorce. Your loneliness and how to change it. Your unrequited love of portrait painting. Making jackets. Or just running through muddy puddles.
Just simplify. Please.
Further Reading: Here’s a short blog I did as I came out of my breakdown, on simplifying your business.
I wanted to capture the lurid neon cityscapes that I obsess about.
FRAHM has its first employee. Emmalou, my wife & partner of 24 years.
It’s a perfect fit, apart from our little rages.
We are honoured to work with a true legend on our new scarf range.
Enjoy a tour of the beautiful and inspiring Johnstons of Elgin, Scotland.