Competition

I’ve never really been particularly competitive. I played Little League baseball and one year of football in 6th Grade, but I never really got into it that much. The truth is, I’ve never really cared about winning that much and when I am competing (these days it is most likely a board game) I don’t really try that hard. I haven’t done much where failure was a strong possibility, and when I have done risky things I just shrug it off as unimportant. Like most things, I have a lot of trouble getting emotionally invested.

I always viewed this apathy to competition as a good thing, but my morning reading from “The Daily Stoic” has me reconsidering that.

“Difficulties show a person’s character. So when a challenge confronts you, remember that God is matching you with a younger sparring partner, as would a physical trainer. Why? Becoming an Olympian takes sweat! I think no one has a better challenge than yours, if only you would use it like an athelete would that younger sparring partner.”
– Epictetus, Discourses, 1.24.1-2 (Translated by Stephen Hanselman)

I don’t really buy into the whole idea that there is a God who has hand-picked a struggle for me to rest my mettle against. That kind of supernatural determinism reminds me too much of my Christian days where empty platitudes like “God won’t give us a struggle we can’t handle” replaced actual positive support for people, but there is still something there that is gnawing at the back of my mind.

Maybe there is some value in competition to test myself and grow stronger. Maybe my “I’m not competitive” mindset is a way of saying “I’m afraid to test myself because I might fail”. I have a history of focusing on individual tasks like school and running while ignoring competitive tests like chess or sports.

I think I’d like to change that. I’m not going to ignore yoga, but maybe there is room for some martial arts in my life. I’m going to keep studying and reading, but possibly I could benefit from chess or another mental test that requires an opponent. It might do me some good to give something my all, try as hard as I can, and then get my ass kicked.

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The Next Chapter

Since posting about my annual “failures” last week I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I want to move forward. By next July do I want to have accomplished the things I didn’t last year? Or are they things that are no longer important to me and I should quit? Are there other things I want to commit to accomplishing? Last year’s failures fell into six basic genres that each require a different response.

  • Author – My book isn’t an audiobook yet, but I can change that. Starting today, I am going to make this my priority. I’m going to record every single day until I have a recorded draft of the book. It may not be a perfect recording, but good now is better than perfect never. Once complete, I’ll listen to it (shudder), make any major changes or re-recordings, and then submit it to Audible. During this process, I will also be able to give my book another look for any potential edits. I will also start working towards “going pro”, which is going to require a shift in mindset as well as some practical changes in my life.
  • Fitness – I’m going to keep running daily and working out regularly. I think implementing a monthly “glutton weekend” can help prevent me from entering major periods of sloth. I’ve got an 8-week workout plan I’m using and this October I’m going to start seeing a personal trainer. I also have some running goals that will get me to the 100-mile run level. Oh, and I’m committed to a mountain climb next year which is motivating me to stay in shape so that I don’t die.
  • Finances – I’m getting into a pretty good groove when it comes to saving money and earning money. For the next year, I’m going to keep working on cutting out waste and increasing passive income to get to the point where I could stop working (I won’t because I love my job and the people I work with) and still maintain my lifestyle.
  • New Practices – I am not sure how to integrate new practices in my life that I know are valuable but I also find difficult. I never regret yoga or meditation or language practice after I accomplish them, but it is difficult to motivate myself to do them. I think part of the problem is that I’ve committed to too much and maybe I need to focus on just one thing to get into and prioritize it above all else. I need to jump into it first thing in the morning when my mental fuel tank is full and I’m less likely to justify skipping it. I don’t need a lot of mental energy for work, the gym, or running because I know I’m going to do those regardless of what other circumstances are going on, but by the end of the day it is difficult to get the mental energy together to do something like meditate, so I need to do it first thing in the morning (well… maybe after a cup of coffee)
  • Facebook – The biggest time and energy suck of them all. I’ve come to accept that I have a bit of an addiction and my use of it is generally unhealthy. I’m going to schedule reasonable time for Facebook (probably 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening) except when I am posting a blog post. I’m also going to only check Facebook Messenger once a day. I need to constantly ask myself “is what you are doing at this moment helping you accomplish your dreams?” and when it comes to Facebook the answer is almost always “No”. Sharing articles of interest and talking with people is great, but scrolling mindlessly or getting in stupid debates with people I’ve never met is a waste. I would be better off reading, writing, cooking, gardening, exercising, working, masturbating, yoga, cleaning, meditating, etc.
  • Vegan – I think I’ve found a workable solution to my temptation problem, at least for the situations in which I can prepare for. I’m going to start eating my largest meal of the day directly before going to places where temptation is going to be and I’m going to carry a bag of almonds with me. Hopefully, this will keep both my physical hunger and my psychological oral fixation at bay to provide support for my ethical strength.

So I guess that is where I stand for the next year. I’m not sure the exact path I’m going down for each of these goals, I imagine it will vary with each one and many of them will have a bunch of sub-goals and reward systems to help move me up the mountain. I wonder if it would be beneficial to break down a proposed system for each of these six sections, maybe I’ll do that tomorrow in another blog post. I find writing things out to be helpful but I don’t want “being busy” to replace “being productive”. Oh well, I guess I’ll burn that bridge when I get there.

I haven’t answered any questions or comments lately and would love to hear from you. So, if you’ve got a thought or question submit it to me anonymously at  www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH and I’ll respond. 

The Rest of the Story

Yesterday, I posted a spontaneous update to Facebook and Instagram. I realized that this week was the one year anniversary of when my partner and I decided to stop our 2-year bike adventure and I wanted to share/celebrate some of my accomplishments. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and I consider the last year of my life to be the best one I’ve ever had. I don’t think there is anything wrong with publicly sharing our successes… people do it all the time in large ways and small, we share graduating college or mastering a new skill or writing a book or how our kids are doing.

One of the beautiful things about the world we currently live in is technology allows us to celebrate with each other and be inspired by each other. Those magic moments allow us to live and experience a taste of thousands of lives, but lives aren’t always happy and successful and it is important to be realistic about our struggles.

So, this blog post is complete the story of my last year a bit by sharing some of my struggles and failures.

  • I expected to have converted my book into an Audiobook and consider myself a professional writer. Neither of those things has happened. The audio recording has stalled out because I keep procrastinating and letting the perfect defeat the good. Instead of making the time to create I look at that microphone and come up with excuses. I don’t view myself as an author and there is an internal dialogue that tells me my book isn’t good, that it doesn’t count because it is a memoir, that all my ideas are unoriginal, that self-publishing is cheating. I often blog to put off my creative writing.
  • While I’m happy with my current fitness level I have had a lot of struggles staying motivated and consistent. This is particularly true for a four-month period when I basically didn’t exercise, ate too much, and drank too much. Looking back, I think this was a period of mild depression for me.
  • Financially, I haven’t been as wise as I should have been. I’ve blown money on stupid video games, I have purchased books that I didn’t need and probably will never read, I bought pizza and beer in moments of weakness, etc. I wanted to be approaching debt free at this point but each month I still seem to rely on my credit card for that final week or so and have only been making minimum student loan payments. Part of this is that I’m torn, it seems wiser to invest in Bitcoin and Ethereum than pay off my student loans because the growth is larger than the interest rates but that sword is still dangling over my head. On a positive note, I seem to have replaced frivolous spending with more spending on investments, which is probably a good thing.
  • I have been unable to get a yoga, meditation, or new language practice going. On a good week I meditate and practice a language 7 days and go to yoga once, but I rarely have a good week. Most weeks are 2-3 times for the meditation or language and no yoga. I see the value in these practices, I read the articles and understand the logic, but when the time comes for me to do them I make excuses or distract myself with stupid stuff.
  • I still spend WAY too much time on Facebook. I haven’t found a great way to deal with that yet. My life is so short and valuable and it hurts my soul to know that I waste it scrolling and liking and sharing articles unnecessarily. I could get so much more accomplished if I could trim this deadtime.
  • My self-control fails when I’m offered free, non-vegan pizza. I’ve identified as a vegan for several years now but recently I have had a very difficult time saying no to temptation (forgive me father, for I have sinned). I am working on coming up with a strategy to address this, but I’m disappointed in myself. I don’t have a lot of ethical standards but “minimize harm” is one of them and consuming animal products increases the market for harm.

So… those are my big failures in the last year. I know that no year will be perfect. I’m excited to see where I am in June 2018, I know it’ll be a hell of an adventure. I don’t have any real particular goals but maybe I can get this debt down, climb Mount Adams, have saved enough for eye surgery, and finish another book or three. Blargh. I keep thinking about actually writing down some actual goals. I just finished reading “The ONE Thing” and I’m currently reading “The 10X Rule” and one of the threads that runs through both books is setting awesome, specific goals and shooting for the stars or else you will be wandering without direction or fall below your potential. Maybe I will do that… I think Tim Ferris recommends it too in his book (but I might be mistaken).

Anway, I’m still in search of the system that really works well for me long-term. I’ve found one for my body, but not yet for my productivity. I feel like I’m on the verge of one though that melds the valuable insight from The 10X Rule, The ONE Thing, The 4-Hour Workweek, On Writing, and The War of Art. The journey continues…

Want to hear my thoughts on something? Wanna help me out by providing me inspiration for a post or story? Think I’m wrong and want to yell at me about it anonymously? Send me a message!  www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH 

Week 3: Stop Thinking About It

This is part of my weekly project at self-improvement by following the battle plan found in “Forward Tilt: An Almanac for Personal Growth.” This book is incredibly valuable and only $0.99 on Kindle.

Alright, this last week or so has been kind of a gagglefuck. I was out of town for work part of last week and then we had Couchsurfers all weekend. It really messed up my routine (I know I am making excuses) but I think the break did me some good. I feel much more motivated.

So, quick update on Week 2. I basically did not accomplish anything that I set out to do (womp womp). But that’s okay. I can’t change the events of last week any more than I can change the 2016 Presidential election or the burning of the Library of Alexandria, all I can I do is move forward and live in the moment.

The focus of Week 3 is “Stop Thinking About It”. Basically, I need to do the things that I think about doing or say I am going to do. This week reminds me of a chapter of Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday called “Talk, Talk, Talk”. I probably highlighted more sections of that chapter than any other in the book, but this was my favorite passage:

The only relationship between work and chatter is that one kills the other.

Basically, if you are talking about doing something then you probably aren’t doing it. We all have projects and dreams and desires in our life that we talk about doing “someday”, at least I do. In fact, I have a list of things to do sitting right next to me that seems to grow every day. Some of them I can finish in a day and some require serious commitment.

Here is my current list:

  • Write “Forward Tilt” blog post (well hell, things are looking good right now)
  • Complete Coursera course on Nutrition (started)
  • Nude sunbathing in backyard
  • Transfer book into ePub/Kodo format
  • Record Audiobook
  • Complete Excel Course
  • Learn a foreign language
  • Complete “Yoga for Men” course on Udemy
  • Dig up weeds and junk by back shed and prep soil for gardening
  • Finish taxes
  • Study for driver’s license test
  • Register at the local VA
  • Find social groups (ideas: Freemasons, Unitarian Universalist Church, Softball league, Board Game and D&D Game nights at local comic shop, Running and Cycling clubs)
  • Locate a Half Marathon this fall
  • Try out new art mediums
  • Master a fire dancing technique (poi, staff, or hoop)
  • Clear non-work emails
  • Schedule a dental appointment
  • Learn to play a musical instrument
  • Mail books to friend in New Orleans
  • Organize tool closet
  • Transfer seedlings into bigger containers
  • Finish second draft of Linneria
  • Find a 3x a week workout plan

The action item for this week is to pick one thing that I’ve been thinking or talking about doing and do it. Seems pretty simple.

Unfortunately, I have a history of overplanning early on and burning out quickly. I’d like to say “hell yeah, I can get all these done in a week” but I don’t know if I have the mental stamina for that. Instead, I am going to pick one big project that will be my top priority and focus all my energy on completing that this week. I think seven days is enough time to accomplish the Audiobook recording of my book. That is probably the project that most accurately fits the definition of something I’ve talked about but haven’t done. I’m excited to report back in a week with my progress.

 

Weekend Off

This is part of my weekly project at self-improvement by following the battle plan found in “Forward Tilt: An Almanac for Personal Growth.” This book is incredibly valuable and only $0.99 on Kindle.

For the first time in a very long time, I took a weekend off from life. I don’t normally work for money on the weekends, but I do tend to schedule and structure my days. In the past, that structure has been necessary for me to complete projects, but I’ve felt so burnt out lately that I needed a break. So, between 5pm on Friday and 6am on Monday I had nothing planned that I wasn’t enthusiastic about, and it was exactly what I needed.

I didn’t write or blog or exercise or check my email (I actually didn’t turn my computer on all weekend) or complete any of the daily rituals that I feel like I must to complete, and now I feel energized and my brain is overflowing with inspiration and ideas and motivation. My weekend was mostly beer, naps, weed, and junk food, and my body feels a bit sluggish paying for those sins but my mind is sharp. A little time off can put things in perspective.

So, how did I do on last week’s Forward Tilt action item? Terribly. I think I really missed the entire point of the exercise. Instead of slowing down, I sped up. I tried to schedule big projects that I wasn’t necessarily passionate about each day and they ended up (mostly) ignored. Oh well, I can’t do anything about last week so I shouldn’t let it impact me.

This week’s Forward Tilt chapter is titled “Stop Thinking About It” and is a battlecry to stop thinking and planning and instead, just take action. The perfect time to apply for a job (or quit a job), take up a new hobby, start yoga or MMA, break up with a terrible partner, etc. will never happen. All you have is today to take action and make changes. As Morehouse says in this chapter:

“‘I’m going to’ and ‘I’m thinking about’ are dangerous phrases. Keep saying them and you’ll miss opportunities, delay action for weeks, and perhaps never do anything at all.”

This week’s action item is to pick one thing that I’ve been thinking or talking about doing and actually do it. Start to finish, this week. I’m not sure right now what that project is going to be, but I’ll update here when I figure it out.

Week 2: Slow Down

This is part of my weekly project at self-improvement by following the battle plan found in “Forward Tilt: An Almanac for Personal Growth.” This book is incredibly valuable and only $0.99 on Kindle.

It seems like we are always racing each other to get to some random objective. First up the career ladder. First to have ten children. First to make $1,000,000. First to retire. First to start your own business. We get stuck on a certain path because that is what “successful” people before us did.

But man, what is the use of racing around your whole life?

Instead of focusing on the end goal, we should be focusing on our daily lives and enjoying what we have around us. Yes, working hard is important, but that work should make sense. “Work for work’s sake” is waste, but if you are working towards bettering yourself or working to remove the pain points or working to find your passion, then that will get you far in life even if it means passing up a high paying job.

My favorite line out of this week’s lesson is, “I don’t care if you’re sixteen or thirty-three, because you’re not on any conveyor belt or timeline. The path you’re following is your own.”

The action item this week is to write down one thing that I want to do each day of the week to add value to myself. That value can come in many forms and will change with my mood, but my rough plan is this:

  • Monday: Begin recording Audiobook
  • Tuesday: Run 10 miles
  • Wednesday: Bike ride to the beach and relax
  • Thursday: Start a Coursera course on a subject that I’m interested in
  • Friday: Nude sunbathing in my back yard
  • Saturday: Register for a triathlon and begin training
  • Sunday: Attend a Unitarian Church Service

Week 1: The Two Biggest Secrets to Success

This is part of my weekly project at self-improvement by following the battle plan found in “Forward Tilt: An Almanac for Personal Growth.” This book is incredibly valuable and only $0.99 on Kindle.

This week’s lesson (practice? guideline? challenge?) focuses on the two most important factors in creating possibility in your life: creating value and signaling the value you created. This lesson comes at an important time for me. I just completed my first book and have been struggling with advertising it. I feel like I’m bragging if I talk about it more than just the original post, but maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I should put more effort into advertising what I created and am proud of.

So, in answer to this week’s challenge, I am going to work on cultivating a professional outlet for my creations. I will also be writing daily fiction and putting it on my blog (my first creative love is fiction writing). Like Steven Pressfield discusses in “The War of Art”, in order to overcome Resistance we need to be a professional. I am a professional writer and I should act like it.

My rough plan looks like this:

Monday – Research advertising options Facebook and such
Tuesday – Create a professional page on Facebook, set up a Twitter account, update LinkdIn
Wednesday – Website Complete
Thursday – Set up Podcast
Friday – Wrap up loose ends or work on other stuff that came to mind this week