This could be the last time

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

In the past, TF has said that dealing with perceived defeat requires nothing more than picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and moving on. That’s too simplistic.

Let me give you two examples of what I mean – they’re both from The Shawshank Redemption. The story of Andy Dufresne’s  imprisonment after he was wrongly convicted of the murder of his wife has become a classic movie. You’ll also probably remember that the other main character in the film was Ellis “Red” Redding.

At first glance, you might imagine that it would be Andy who would have the most difficulty in dealing with his situation. However, he comes up with the phrase “get busy living or get busy dying”, which seems to give him the encouragement he needs to press on.

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Andy was faced with a tangible obstacle to his happiness – prison walls. In a way, a prison wall or another tangible barrier is easier to overcome than a mental barrier. It’s like looking into the abyss and realising that there may be a path around it. Knowing that there is something tangible on the other side of an obstacle can give a person hope that, one day, they will overcome. Sometimes, thinking to ourselves “get busy living or get busy dying” will be enough for us to pick ourselves up from whatever has gotten us down.

Red, on the other hand, had a different problem. After spending decades in prison, Red became – to use his words – “an institutionalised man”. He was faced with a physical and a mental barrier in that he had spent so much time in prison that his mind couldn’t contemplate anything else. He had stared into the abyss for too long and he needed more than self-motivation to help him survive his freedom. Many of us will have times in our lives when we need the support of others in the same way that Red did.

So what saved him? Well, Red’s thoughts after he left prison give us a clue:

“I find I’m so excited that I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel. A free man at a start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.

I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams.

I hope.”

Like Chris Moltisanti in the Sopranos, Red is looking at his future as a journey which he wants to start. Like all of us, he hopes that he gets to where he wants to go. However, crucially, Red has identified that seeing his friend is an essential part of that journey and, in a way, would mark the end of it.

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The point of these three editions of TF is that ambition and resilience are not all that’s required to be successful (in the widest possible sense) in life. The third – and perhaps most important aspect of success – is what old John Donne said: “No man is an island, entire of itself”. LCD Soundsystem put it another way in the TF anthem “All My Friends” (which charts a person’s life) by ending with the words: “where are your friends tonight?”

Like Red, the time has come for this Tash Appreciator to embark on the next long journey. Rather than simply being excited, it’s a fairly scary proposition and all I can do is give it everything I’ve got and hope that it turns out ok. Unfortunately, the start of the next journey means the end of TF, at least for now. Part of the reasoning behind this final TF has been to acknowledge the help and support that I receive from many of you – I really do appreciate it and I am lucky to be able to say that the expression on Red’s face when he sees Andy on the beach in Mexico is one which I understand and probably quite often mirror. I hope that in return TF has added something to your Friday mornings over the last three or four years.

Also like Red, I have plans to reach the blue Pacific ocean but, until then, I will make do with the blue of Blue Dog in Glasgow at around 9pm. I’m hopeful that a few of my friends will be there tonight – you are all most welcome.

I shall leave you with two things. Firstly, this week’s Tash, which of course is Morgan Freeman:

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And secondly, the question which I hope will continue to challenge all of us, regardless of whether TF is around to provide a weekly reminder:

What’s next?

2014 and beyond – Part 1

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

Welcome to the penultimate Tash Friday of 2013 – the first of a two-part Christmas Special. I’ll preface this week’s TF by saying that it may not seem all that festive but, fear not, it’ll all work out in the end.

I’ll start this week with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, which was sent to me earlier this week:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I know that many of our number have faced points in 2013 when they have felt very much like their faces are marred with dust and sweat and blood and when they can taste defeat. However, at the same time, the way in which those same people have conducted themselves after those points confirms the truth in what Roosevelt said.

Roosevelt was 42 when he took office: the youngest ever President. Becoming President  also took him by surprise as he was sworn-in following the assassination of President McKinley. He must surely have felt at times that he was out of his depth.

However, just like all of those Appreciators who had to battle to get through 2013, Roosevelt did more than just survive – he thrived. His success was complete when he won a land-slide victory in the 1904 general election. Naturally, for a chap who was made of stronger stuff than the Average Joe, President Roosevelt wore an absolute stoater of a moustache:

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The lesson which I will be taking into 2014, and beyond, is that our character is strengthened by adversity. This year may have been pretty rough, but as I will set out next week, there is plenty to be hopeful about as we head towards the New Year.

Just to finish this week, when I was reading up on Roosevelt, I found an interesting quote from Vice-President Thomas Marshall, who said after Roosevelt died in 1919:

“Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight.”

I thought that was great.

Have a great weekend folks!


We are still here

Morning Tash Appreciators,

I must first apologise for this week’s TF hitting your inbox in the “old” format. Technology 1 – TF 0.  

I came across this photo this week:

It’s quite a famous one, called the Pale Blue Dot. It was taken from the Voyager 1 Spacecraft in 1990, when it was around 3.7 billion miles from home. Earth is – surprisingly enough – the pale blue dot about half way down the brown strip on the right of the photo. 

Carl Sagan was so moved by the photo that he wrote this:

“There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” 

Within the entire universe, the chances of humans (a) coming along and (b) surviving, must have been minuscule. But we are still here. It would be a shame to waste that kind of luck by not taking full advantage of what we have around us. 

The difficulty we mere mortals have is that, as small as it is, we all sometimes feel the weight of the world on our shoulders. For most of us, this is a problem and can make things feel quite unpleasant. After all, we can’t all be as strong as this guy:


(that’s your Tash for this week by the way)

Thankfully, in my experience, if you have the weight of the world on your shoulders, the strain can be made manageable if you have at least one other person there to help you carry the burden. I think that’s the kind of thing that Sagan was getting at – we make the most of this Pale Blue Dot when we band together, and help each other through the harder times in life. 

I cant leave this week without saying a few words about James Gandolfini, who died this week. His portrayal of Tony Soprano was some of the most compelling television ever made. He constantly made the audience despise him and root for him all at once. For me, it was all in the eyes – they really were the window to Tony’s soul. It seems that the same could be said for Gandolfini himself:

I know I say this every week, but KEEP GOING!