Commentary, Philosophies

Do What You Love

I work at a respectable company. I’ll go ahead and skip the details and simply tell you that it is a good job that ensures that my paramour and I do not want for the necessities.

It is a rewarding job, though sometimes quite menial. Each day I show up around 8 AM and perform some technical tasks, some mundane ones, and then get home around 5 PM, much to the joy of a happy puppy and a beautiful girl.

This makes for a rather content existence, but there’s always a persistent feeling of wanting something more at my job. So, in order to remedy this, I took on the responsibility of writing and designing the company community newsletter alongside a couple of my co-workers. This, as it turns out, has been a more significant decision than I had anticipated.

I began editing our first issue one day, determining the layout, setting the typographical elements, etc. when I noticed that I had become quite hungry. I am not one to shy away from food; a hyperactive metabolism necessitates constant consumption or risk of acute discomfort at the lack of food within me. Altogether, this was quite peculiar. Had I really become so consumed with editing this little newsletter that I had not even been aware of one of my more basic needs?

I slept on it and as I put my shoes on to head in the next day, the newsletter the only real task ahead of me, I became aware of an expectancy that I had not experienced before at the prospect of leaving for work. The reality was now pretty plain: this copy-editing and designing was (gasp) fun.

There was an excitement about it. An excitement that, truth be told, we should all have when approaching our most basic endeavors. But the important thing that I wish to convey is this: you should not find ways to come to grips with what you do, but instead do what you love. It is a cliché at best, but it is a very real and important one. When we grow up, the common myth tells us that we must accept our less-than-attractive fate and deal with the banality that is adult life. That is simply not the case.

We now have more tools and opportunities available to us than ever before to make our dreams a reality; the list of valid excuses dwindles by the minute. Unlike in the 80’s when access to sound production meant paying out the ass for studio time and equipment, we now have the technology within our homes to become what we admire. I am not going to give up the stability and happiness of my family for the all-in pursuit of a dream, but I will dedicate what time I have available to the healthy commitment to a craft that brings me great pleasure.

We have needs in our lives, but they extend beyond food, water, and shelter. We need beauty, we need excitement and we need fulfillment. These things are present in the world, we need only to put in the work and find the way to make them present in our everyday lives. Now go get ’em tiger.

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Habits, Philosophies, Productivity

1/4 Cup Change

Pancakes are great. There are many ways to make them, but the same basic recipe remains the same. They taste about the same every time (delicious) and to make things even simpler, the word “pancake” never changes definition, thus averting confusion. They have the same basic toppings, go in the same place after being eaten, and for all these reasons are one of my favorite dishes to make.

Humans are not pancakes.

You see, we come up with recipes for our everyday lives. I, for example, had my productivity tools utterly figured out over the past few months as I established new habits, endeavored to get more done, and did my best to squeeze my hobbies into my life. Things worked like a well-oiled machine, until recently when I realized that a few of my productivity tools were actually preventing me from getting my work done.

I had established my habits, learned my lessons from the process, and was not endeavoring to reshape my life by paring back down to what was essential and necessary. I had changed and my productivity tools had to change with me.

And thus is the greatest challenge of living an active, successful, happy lifestyle: we are not pancakes. We require different ingredients at different times and even the definition of “us” changes constantly throughout our lives. The important thing to remember is that growth is a beautiful thing, and the tools we need to further that growth change.

Be flexible to change and the world will be at your feet. Learn to adapt your recipe and you will become even more awesome than pancakes.

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Productivity

Don’t Get Busy

I’m big on avoiding burnout. It’s a problem that’s plagued me for years and years and years, hamstringing my productivity at the worst times and forcing me to take a break from the hobbies and pursuits that I enjoy most.

There are simple ways to avoid burnout in the short-term, but a long-term solution requires quite a bit more understanding of how success is constructed.

In this article from the blog Study Hacks, the author details a study conducted by psychologists at the Universität der Künste (the Wolverines if I’m not mistaken…). The short version is that the most successful individuals studied spent their time hyper-focused on one task at a time instead of overloading themselves with many tasks at once.

But while this may be hard to stomach or comprehend, it’s the truth, and it is exactly that psychological bias that causes us to stay in patterns of burn-out. According to a recent article in Psychology Today, if you have to exhaust yourself physically and mentally to slow down, you may be relying on faulty assumptions such as the desire to be perfect, the belief that you should not feel stressed, and the need to delay relaxation until all tasks are done.

There is no easy formula for preventing the big BO, but there are patterns we can recognize within ourselves to improve our quality of life. The most important message is to cut yourself some slack, relax, and do less with more focus. Trust me, you deserve it.

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Willpower is a complicated animal. Sometimes we’re forcing ourselves to accomplish things and this is healthy, sometimes we do the same and it’s not. Personally, I just want someone to tell me what to do with my life.

In this video, the folks over at Epipheo talk about the differences in willpower: “I Will-Power”, “I Want-Power”, and “I Won’t-Power”. Since willpower is like a muscle, tiring after prolonged use without rest, tapping into these different sources becomes incredibly valuable. Personally, I use “I Will-Power” every time I do my household chores, and “I Want-Power” every time I go to the gym and the results are palpable.

How do you get the job done? How do you tap into those personal resources and make awesome stuff happen?

Inspiration, Philosophies, Productivity

Live

It’s a challenging thing, the drudgery of work; not simply the hours of tedium or the necessary evil of doing what we must so that we may do what we wish. It’s a cognitive tap-dance masquerading as a normal life: go to work, do something I don’t want for someone I don’t like, come home, do what I want for 4 hours, then jump to the weekend and eek out what substance I can, drained, demoralized, and frustrated from a week of choices made for us. So how do we reconcile it? How do we make it work for us? A recent personal revelation has lead me to a solution: balance.

115% of all teenagers, young adults, adults, young old-people, medium old-people, and old-old-people will end up working a job they hate at one point or another in their lives. It’s an unfortunate if not ubiquitous fact that to a great degree, our career path chooses us and not the other way around. And I don’t mean that in the good “oh, you were always destined to be a hot doctor” kind of way, I mean it in the “good luck getting a job as a Lego master builder without about eight grand, a personal connection with Alfred Lego’s nephew, or an acute lack of gag reflex” way.

The common response to this way of thinking is, of course, the “you have to pay your dues” speech. Simply work the job you hate and someday you’ll land the job you love (and let me be clear, when I say “love” I mean, you get up in the morning fucking pumped up because of what you do and who you came to be). But that’s simply not true 100% of the time either. Most of us will end up in jobs we tolerate or that we enjoy simply because the pay justifies that new waffle iron we’ve had our eye on. The corporate world is unforgiving and frankly, doesn’t give a shit about our dreams and aspirations.

So the picture we’ve got in front of ourselves is a bleak one. We’re not children anymore, we’ve all done things we didn’t enjoy and we’re all going to have to do some things we won’t like. But being a fighter, my natural question at this crossroads is “what can I do about it?” After 25 full years of contemplation I believe I have the answer:

Tolerate what you can, change what you must.

You see, we can all tolerate a stint at Chik-Fil-A (“Thank you”, “My pleasure”) because at the end of the day, we need food. We can accept that not everything we do is going to be the most dignifying because, on a very basic level, we need to survive.

But regarding the rest, that other 50% o’ our lives that we 1) can’t stand and 2) have other plans for, we can fucking do something about that! If we don’t like our job, we can browse listings, volunteer at activities that stimulate our passions, and get tips from people in the scene. We can research how to become better at a foreign language and travel to another country. We can spend $50 bucks on a midi keyboard and start making music. These are all changes that we can make that, with a little follow-through, can make this one-off go at life worth living.

Ask yourself, “if I don’t like what I’m doing, then why am I doing it?” If you’ve never asked yourself that question, then the world probably looks a lot like what was described earlier in this post. But if you have and you can’t come up with a good answer (need and survival are good answers) then change, what you, are doing. Make a difference in YOUR life. Don’t make excuses, don’t pander to anyone else. Care enough about yourself to make yourself a priority and for God/Allah/FSM’s sake, live.

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Habits, Philosophies, Productivity

Baby Steps

“Success is the sum of small efforts – repeated day in and day out.”

You know who said that? It was Rober Collier, world famous fuckin’… potato farmer or something. It’s good advice, advice that’s easy to ignore. When we consider the degree to which we allow our little actions to be swallowed up by our bigger ambitions, is it any wonder that things like New Years’ Resolutions fall short so consistently? 

No, it isn’t any wonder. Next subject.

Okay, so we’re all a bunch of screw ups, destined to live crappy lives with no success? I mean, yeah, if we don’t do something about it. So the question is what? I’ve been a self-improvement junkie almost to a fault (okay, entirely to a fault) since I could figure out that there was something wrong with me, and I think I’ve found an answer.

The first thing we need to do is focus on the moment. If “success is the sum of small efforts – repeated day in and day out”, then it goes without saying that little things, done when the moment calls for them, must be repeated every day in order to aggregate into success.

Look at your priorities right this second, and think “what small thing can I do right now?” Then do it. Tomorrow, just for one moment, repeat the process, just for one moment. Keep the habit going by rewarding yourself every time you do this. Eventually, it will become a way of life and you’ll be shocked at the results.

Second, practice what’s called self-compassion. If you forget to take a moment one day, forgive yourself. Understand that, whether your New Years’ Resolution craps out prematurely or you forget to take out the trash, understand that you are human, forgive yourself, and learn from your mistakes. The measure of success comes not from your defeats, but from your ability to bounce back from them and grow stronger as a result.

Now go get ‘em Tiger.

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