Saturday, December 27, 2014

Life Space: free!

Just wanted to let you all know that my book Life Space is COMPLETELY FREE this weekend 27th/28th December so download yourself a copy and spread the word to all your friends!

Here's the link


Saturday, December 20, 2014


My work mug
Like any proud dad I have pictures of my family in my office. Not plastered all over the walls, but the background on my desktop (yes I still have one of those) and on my mug (I drink a lot of tea).

The thing is (to quote the cliché)  kids really do grow up so fast and so the photos I have in my office are out of date very quickly. I find myself saying to people, “of course they’re much bigger now”, or “this was when they were much younger”.

Unless you’re in the world of Harry Potter, pictures are static things, framed moments, and life moves on at speed the instant after the snapshot.
"You can make better decisions when you've got an up to date picture."
Pictures are powerful things, and our worlds are full of them. I remember that Google Streetview caused a stir when it launched because of what it caught some people doing. We’ve seen their camera cars a few times, and once we even had a chat to one of their drivers. When we were looking at moving house a few years ago we found Streetview pretty helpful, although even with something as newish as Streetview or satellite photography the images can get dated very quickly. You can't rely that the images you see still represent the present reality.

I was sent a link the other day to this brilliant TED talk by Will Marshall  all about his company sending up dozens of nano satellites into orbit, at a fraction of the cost of more typical and larger satellites. Their ambitious plan is to have a hundred satellites in orbit, taking photos of the entire earth every 24 hours. Even more amazing is that they want to make their information feely available - they talk about the "democratisation" of satellite imagery. They've already launched over 28 of their tiny 4kg units, with more in the pipeline. Check out their website, it's fascinating!

Already there's a burgeoning market in "Landscape Intelligence" or "Earth Observation", where companies are seeking to use satellite imaging in lots of interesting ways. Such as to monitor how crops are growing and when they need watering, or to track illegal logging or monitor the spread of silt in river mouths. This information is helping farmers and landowners make better decisions about the use of their land, helping enforcement agencies better target illegal activity, and helping government agencies make good decisions about the natural environment. You can make better decisions when you've got an up to date picture.
"Is the picture of myself in my mind still representative?"
In our own lives, like the Google Streetview images, it's very easy to make decisions based on what might be an "old" picture of who we are. How we see ourself impacts on the way we treat ourselves, how we treat others and the actions that we take. I've been wondering whether the picture of myself in my mind is still representative. Am I being honest with where I am and who I am right now? It's easy to be in denial about, say, our health and make poor food choices as a result! (I am very guilty of this!). 

Perhaps we prefer to think of the things we're good at, the places in our lives we're happy with and gloss over or ignore those parts of our life that aren't so great. Perhaps there are things in our lives we take for granted, we assume are a static snapshot and therefore don't give them the attention they deserve. A bit like taking a photo of your lawn just after you've cut it, when it's looking great. If you only think of the lawn in the picture then you don't need to take any action - when instead it keeps growing, needs cutting again a few weeks later or watering in the summer. We can kid ourselves that we don't need to take action if our picture is out of date.

"How are you reading your own landscape?"
As a person of faith something that's important to me is my relationship with God. I've found it's easy to dwell on the "perfect lawn" snapshot of my faith, when in reality my relationship with God gets overgrown and messy if I leave it untended. If you're a good farmer you take daily observations of your crops or livestock, and take action accordingly. So how are you reading your own landscape?

How are you reading your landscape?
It's that time of the year when we find ourselves reflecting on the year gone by and turning our minds to the year to come. This week I dug out some notes I made last January about some of the things I wanted to prioritise in 2014 and a few goals I wanted to aim for. As much as it's important to have "big picture" strategic reviews like this, it's also important to have regular check-ups and check-ins on ourselves - Regularly reading our own landscape and being honest about what we see in ourselves. 

One tool some Christians use to do this is called the Examen, which is a way of reflecting at the end of each day on the things that energised us and the things that drained us - a means of being honest with ourselves and God about where we've found ourself.

Perhaps now's a good time to refresh your perspective on where you really are in relation to the things that are important to you. Snapshots are great to remember moments, but our lives change so fast that, like the nano satellites, we need a regular refresher on what we see to make the best decisions.

As I finish I just want to end with perspective. Sometimes we can get so caught up in life's circumstances, the daily battle to make ends meet, that we can lose all sense of perspective. Life can feel overwhelming at times, even suffocating, and it's at these times that a change of perspective can help.
"Perhaps now's a good time to refresh your perspective"
I find that taking a bigger picture and longer term view can help - for instance rather than being disappointed that my recent book isn't an instant number one bestseller I take comfort in the fact that even producing it has been a major milestone for me and that it's a waymarker on my journey and not the final destination. When I pray I often experience a change in perspective as well.. it's funny how different a situation can feel when viewed from a heavenly perspective instead of an earthly one.

So maybe now's the time to send up a few nano satellites in your own life. Things that will help you read your own life's landscape and help you make good decisions for the days, weeks and year ahead. And don't forget to enjoy the view! 

Saturday, December 06, 2014

A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor..

I have a confession to make - I'm a bit of a naval history geek.

Sailing out to the high seas..
By this I mean that I've read at least two proper books about it (check out the authoritative N.A.M.Rodger), the entire Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian (on which the film Master and Commander was based), and I once did well on a "famous ships" round at a pub quiz.

I'm  a fan but probably not an expert - although I did pen a jolly banjo-driven sea shanty during my immersion songwriting day earlier this year.

Going back a few generations, both sides of my family have a strong naval heritage and family heirlooms include naval telescopes and other curios. My great-grandfather Commander Gregory Stapleton spent his life at sea and ended up in charge of all the lighthouses in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), other relative were Captains trading in the Baltic and one was involved in early naval trials of Quinine in the Bight of Benin in the 1830s.
"..rough seas are a well used metaphor for the general slog that life becomes at times"
Growing up an older relative (complete with parrot) dubbed my siblings and I "wet bobs" as we had collectively caught the water gene - we were all keen rowers and spent lots of time in boats on the River Thames at Walton.

As if to prove the point, one of my brothers has since become a very highly qualified sea kayak instructor, leading trips all round the world. (Check his company out here). One summer I joined him on a kayak expedition around the western isles of Scotland, which was amazing. On days the sea was as calm as a Millpond, but I recall that paddling back to the Isle of Mull from Staffa (famous for its spectacular basalt columns and Fingal's cave) there was a significant swell which made the paddle more "interesting". As a family I think it's fair to say we're still "wet bobs" (my other brother is still an active rower - sadly I now live about as far inland as it's possible to be on our island!).

We don't always face smooth seas
I've not done all that much sailing on the sea, but I did spent a lot of time paddling and rowing on the River Thames between the ages of 8 and 18, witnessing and engaging with the river in all its seasons and conditions.

During the autumn and winter the river was often pretty fast flowing, and it was in these conditions that your boat handling skills were tested. I learnt to read the river, watch the eddies, stick closer to the bank where the flow was slower.

The smooth conditions were great when they occurred (I particularly remember a glorious summer day and a refreshing rain shower flattening the river out whilst I was single-sculling down Desborough Cut), but it was in the faster spate conditions that the real skill was learned.

Sometimes the skill was knowing when it wasn't safe to row or paddle.. on which days we'd often be sent for a long run up the towpath to Hampton Court and back (around 8 miles.. the challenge was to do this in under an hour).

Storms and rough seas are a well used metaphor for the troubles, difficulties and general slog that life becomes at times. Illness, accident, loss, failure - these are all things that can create waves in our lives. The ripple effect can last years. We can be knocked back, our plans and dreams can feel sunk, we may even feel like we have to throw things overboard just to stay afloat.
"It's ok to be blown off course, the main thing is to do something about it"
So how do we navigate these storms with skill? I posted some thoughts on dealing with storms the other week, but more focused on being flooded on land than being lost in a stormy sea. Today's focus is more nautical.

When we're facing rough seas it's important to know where you're headed and try to maintain that direction. Your heading might be something directed by your faith, it could a health goal, a work objective or something else. You may have been knocked off-course, so be honest with where you are right now, then take action to make progress from there. It may not be where you want to be, or once were. You may feel like you've slipped back in behaviour, mindset or action. It's ok to be blown off course, the main thing is to do something about it.

Secondly, it's important to maintain balance. Ships carry ballast low down in their hull to keep them stable in rough seas. Many ships also have a keel which extends down into the water and provides resistance. Our lives are like icebergs, there's always much more below the surface than meets the eye.

What are the things in your life that provide ballast or a deep keel? Ballast could be activities that energise you, perhaps sport or hobbies. Maybe it's spending time with people, or for the more introverted maybe it's making enough time to be on your own! Your keel might be your core beliefs about yourself, your faith, your close friends and family. However you need to provide stability and balance, this is important to weather the rough seas life throws at us.

Admiral Nelson - a skilled sailor!
Finally, take confidence that rough seas eventually smooth out, and you'll be a more skilled sailor as a
result. I don't mean this to sound trite, and you may be facing long term and tough conditions which I in no way mean to belittle. Within my own Christian faith, a hope to hold on to is an eternal place where there are no more tears and no more suffering (interestingly there is a fairly obscure Bible verse which states that there will be no more sea, however my understanding is that this is a figurative reference to death rather than no actual sea, since elsewhere a new earth is also promised).
"Our lives are like icebergs, there's always much more below the surface"
In rough conditions it's wise to consult skilled sailors for advice, as they may have experienced similar conditions in the past. When you're through the other side you may even be in a position to provide advice and support for others - in fact you are uniquely positioned to do this, having been through the same rough seas yourself.

I write more about fear and disappointment in my book Life Space which is available to download on Amazon. Please check it out, there is plenty in there to encourage and inspire you.

Wherever you're sailing to at the moment, whatever conditions you're facing, take courage - stay focused on your destination and stay balanced, smoother seas will come along. If you've been through rough seas before, is there a way you can use your experience to help others?

Safe sailing everyone!


Thanks for taking the time to read A Smooth Sea. If you've enjoyed it please share it with your friends on social media! Why not subscribe to The Potting Shed Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher for expanded musings and much more (direct RSS feed is here). 

I'd love to hear from you, so feel free to comment below or email me at 

If you want to stay up to date please sign up to my mailing list, and do check out my book Life Space on Amazon.

My Random Musings

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Be more connected

Hi everyone, just wanted to reach out to readers new and old with various ways to stay in touch with my writing.

Firstly, a huge thank-you for visiting my blog - I hope you come away inspired, encouraged and maybe even mildly amused!

Add caption
Secondly, I love hearing from you, so if you've been touched in some way by anything that I've shared please let me know, you can email me directly at or leave me a comment on any one of my posts. I promise to reply!

My book Life Space is now available for download on Amazon, so please check it out. It's a great read (if I do say so myself) so grab hold of it today!

Finally, please follow me on Twitter @lukestrickland, like my page on Facebook, and add me to your circles on Google +

You guys are all amazing - thanks for sharing my writing, musing, blogging and dreaming journey with me, and keep dreaming big in your own lives!

Every blessing,