To me they felt like ice demons (from here maybe?) being blown off course and making landfall right across the country when the UK’s oceanic defensive wall shifted west and performed the national equivalent of leaving the back door open – it let all the cold rush in.
You could feel -and frankly sometimes hear- something otherworldly rush in on those icy winds.
For the purposes of this post, I’m calling these instances ‘star storms’ -those times in your life when it seems like every wanderer in the sky swoops in and individually demands you take them shopping/drinking/fucking. Once in a while you are where the crazy, cat 5 hurricane of chaos and opportunity decides to make landfall.
Star storms don’t have to coincide with meteorological events, of course. They could technically happen while you are becalmed on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific.
Whatever the weather, such is the situation I have found myself in. Over the last three weeks
- My brother whom I haven’t seen for three years showed up basically unannounced with his new fiancée.
- I have been invited to dinner with a bunch of very powerful and terrifying nerds here in Milan. (Outside chance I will have to speak. If anyone has any tips on how to transport a dinner suit in carry-on luggage I would greatly appreciate it. The English have been no help. James Bond is dead.)
- Amazing commercial opportunities that demanded immediate attention have shown up on both sides of the Atlantic.
- My core job at work has basically quintupled in scope and significance.
What this essentially means is that I have been the good kind of busy -the kind of busy where, if you play it right, you set the conditions for your life for the next five years. As Tracey Jordan says:
You got to think like these strippers, Lemon. They know the window of opportunity is only open for a moment. You gotta get in while you’re young, get the money, and get out.
Star storms are the cosmic equivalent of a really good stripping gig. They are when the momentum of the universe is behind you. They are when the fish are running.
The awesome and enigmatic Rob touches on the unintended benefits of ‘net-setting’ in his fascinating perspective on magical probability: Basically, if you engineer your magical goals in this way, even if you don’t achieve your stated outcome you are still in a position to reap the positive effects of your enchantment.
I have to say that this is exactly what has happened to me.
Over the course of enchanting for a decent role in South West England (I’ve a mind to leave London, but that might just be the effects of SAD) I may have inadvertently landed a couple of life-changing opportunities… Not in the South West.
This is the equivalent of going fishing for mackerel and pulling in a boatload of cod. (I know a bit about fish prices. Does this surprise you?)
Extending the metaphor a bit further, there needs to be enough chaos in the system to warrant fishing as a strategy -and this is one of the places I think Rob’s math falls down a bit. Fishing isn’t a universal strategy. Whilst it is (arguably) more likely that you will successfully win the lottery than fly through the air on a broom, it is still much more likely to land a job that pays more than £10 million in annual bonus if you live somewhere where such things are -unfortunately for the global economy- comparatively common. Universalizing magical targets is impossible in a world that has such acutely asymmetric socioeconomics -and ours certainly does.
You need to be somewhere that the fish are actually running. (This is why the awesome Deadliest Catch isn’t set in Barbados. Those delicious crabs live in the Bering Sea, not the Caribbean.) If I lived on the South Island of New Zealand I would hunt rather than fish because there isn’t enough chaos in the system to land big opportunities that I might not have been aware of. I am already aware of all the good opportunities there because there are precisely five.
In a less complex environment, you know all the worthwhile opportunities worth enchanting for. Like knowing there are exactly seven stag in the hills worth hunting. We can turn this into a probabilistic magical law:
As the complexity in your system decreases, so the potential value of hunting versus fishing inversely increases.
Historically, magic has been more concerned with hunting because it has been used in less complex systems. And I don’t just mean tribal societies. Consider why there are so many damned treasure hunting spells in all the myriad variations of medieval grimoires like the Goetia.
But I live in twenty first century London so I fish.
(Health waring: Do not actually fish in twenty first century London! Your death will be painful and nowhere near as quick as you will ultimately pray for.)
So what do you do when the fish start to run? What is the star storm equivalent of taping up your windows and moving your valuables to the first floor?
Here are some suggestions:
1) Manage your energy, not your time
This is perhaps my best lesson from enterprise management in a start up world. Rapid growth is a 24 hours business. You can’t clock out. After all your ground work, when the phone starts ringing you cannot say “sorry, I’m too busy.” You have to take the call. You have to ship.
But you don’t always have to clock out. Don’t pay any attention to clocks at all.
When the nets are empty, I watch every second on the clock tick towards home time. But when the fish are running, I can work for twenty hours straight.
After those twenty hours, I’ll grab a bit of sleep, then recharge with a trip round the blogosphere (hi!), then coffee with a friend… All this while I know some crazy deadlines are looming.
The point is, you are the only one who knows how much you can take and what you need to do to recharge. Everyone will bleat at you like so many know-it-all goats that you need to
- Have a certain number of meals a day.
- Eat at a table rather than your desk.
- Sleep at the same time every night.
- Sleep for at least six hours every night.
- Somehow find the time to eat five servings of vegetables and chew each mouthful twenty fucking times.
- Still find time to go to the gym so you can show off to people you don’t know about how you totes have the whole career/family/life/happiness thing kicked in the balls.
What am I, a nun?
Whose life is so ordered that you can set these restrictions? Chaos happens, my friends. If I deem it necessary to inhale a Big Mac on the way to my seventh meeting of the day while texting my partner to pay the electricity bill because I’m going to need skype to wish my father on the other side of the world a happy birthday then that’s how it is.
Similarly, after a massive week of shipping at work, if I deem it more suitable to meet up with some friends or go and see The King’s Speech (which is awesome) then that’s what’s happening. The gym can suck it. The fish are running, yo. And only I know how to keep my inner fishermen happy.
Example: Is it better for your inner batteries to use child-free time to sleep or go grab a meal with some friends? A doctor can measure your tiredness but only you can measure your energy. Manage that… Not your time. You will be tired for most of your life whatever happens. Welcome to Earth. But only you can control your energy levels.
2) Sell your worst performing stock
Here’s a little tip from the global stock market: Stop apologising if you haven’t blogged for a while!
Back to the stock market:
If you are in the lucky situation where your entire portfolio is heading up and you need more capital to take advantage of this, then you sell the stock that is rising the slowest and use that money to buy one that is rising the fastest.
What does this mean?
When the star storm hits, you are going to have more things to do than time to do it in. That means temporarily jettisoning things that won’t carry you along in its wake.
And how many magic blogs are actually the primary source of income for the blogger? It’s probably not where the star storm made landfall. Chances are magical blogging is something -along with getting six hours sleep and choking down your five a day- that you can set aside for a bit. (Yes, this is me telling you that my updates will be choppy for a little while. But I still love you. I will always love you. That’s a really gay link. You have been warned.)
3) Go surfing
When you are accomplishing your True Will, you have the momentum of the universe behind you. Or something.
To break this down into practical advice, when the star storm hits you need to go with it, you need to cyclone surf that opportunity like some kind of crazy Australian. (The guy I mean is two thirds of the way through the video. Apologies for the accent. It’s probably one of the reasons why the gods are trying to eradicate Queensland.)
You are going to need to lie to keep people happy, manage your anxiety on an hour-by-hour basis (deep breathing in the office bathroom helps. Mouth breathing, obviously, because otherwise… Gross.), and -more than all of this- let go and allow the universe to wash you up where it has decided you should be.
There are a number of times in my life where I have been caught up in large swells -diving, surfing, kayaking, swimming- and the abiding impression you have as you are being spun around in a salty, oxygen-free tornado is just how little control you have… The only thing you can do is let go and hope to grab some control when you have been washed up wherever the wave is going. (Fingers crossed that isn’t a reef though in my case it was once. I don’t recommend it.)
Conclusion: you can seed star storms
Sometimes they land on you without warning… Other times you could really do with a fucking star storm to kick things off.
If you’re in the latter situation, then here are a couple of suggestions to seed your own star storm:
For those of you currently in the throes of a star storm, here’s my last bit of advice:
Paddle out past the waves. That way you can pick the ones that take you back into shore. Pick the right wave and you’ll have the ride of your life.