Hi, I'm Luke
I've never posted on a forum before, let alone started a blog topic. This makes me feel obligated to introduce myself to the community with a 'lay down misere' kind of post. I have no doubt that these first words will catch the eye and my steady ascent into the world famous blogging annals will begin but just on the off chance that doesn't come through, I just want to get more out of my life by getting some public commitments down on paper. I'm sure it's not news to anyone here but apparently public commitments give you some kind of ninja like focus skills and that's exactly what I'm looking for.
A bit of background about me: I've been lucky. I had a really splendid childhood, growing up in a somewhat back wood town in rural Australia. My parents are cool and I've got three sisters and a brother. They are all way older than me with their own families, kids and the rest. They are, however, straight up caricatures of what I'm trying to avoid. White, middle class and stagnant. Love them as I do, I don't want to be them. At the moment, however, I'm headed on a one way trip to do exactly that. It is scary.
Back on track, my background continued: I moved to Melbourne (in Aus) at 18 and got a job doing computer work which I was in no way prepared for or, by any reasonable measure, good at. Whether it's the absence of a technical mind or sheer laziness, I never got past quick fix updates and bad Googling (yes, despite the snappy interface it is still possible to suck at Google). Nevertheless, I struggled on as you're meant to, just existing along in the city without any real advancement in life to speak of. I got fired a few times but I wasn't fussed, I knew that eventually my brilliance would become evident to someone important and I would be the next Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or Ryan Gosling. Suffice to say, that didn't happen as fast as it ought to and I soon got old enough to realise it which made me promptly flip out and book a trip to Europe. I was lucky enough to have the travelling gene and have since spent loads of time in Africa and Europe, a little in North and South America and just a smidgen in Asia. All of this really transformed me and made me wish for a life less ordinary. Of course, I still managed to land back in Australia with my girlfriend (happily) having no further idea of what I want to do. When in danger, people’s automatic reaction is to stick to what they know. It turns out that my techie skills are pretty sucky but my conceptual understanding of technical things is passable and I have a talent for camaraderie and smart alec comments. Sometimes this can drag you up the corporate ladder, however much you try to sabotage yourself.
I must have found myself in the right place at the right time because I was rewarded with a good salary (>$150k), good friends (pure luck, nothing to do with me) and somewhat interesting work (identity management work is preferable to stuff like Cobra training). I'm in charge of over five million dollars and have a little discretion over some people’s lives by being their manager. Being in charge of people strokes the ego so I have found myself justifying and cajoling myself into thinking that maybe I should just 'stick with it and make HEAPS of money'. I now know that $150k is not a lot of money when money is the only thing you're doing it for. I fear that there isn't an amount of money that makes you happy / keeps you warm at night / solves all the world's problems.
Obviously I've decided against trying to do that, though. I've read loads of books about starting your own business and can happily say that I created a project management business (the website) and then proceeded to do nothing with it (probably the best move I made). I'd like to start my own business, I'd like to not work all the time (on shit things) and I'd like to change a load of habits about myself. I like making lists, so here is one about me.
Bad things about me:
1. I pick my nose
2. Am a self centered egotist
3. Live a pretty boring life (I understand there is a dichotomy between 2 and 3. I'm OK with it)
4. Am addicted to pain killers
5. Have a muscle spasm problem in my neck that my doctor told me was purely out of the tension my brain put in there (see problem 4)
Good things about me:
1. I don't use Facebook
2. I like to read
3. I like my partner
4. I regularly use brackets
5. I'm fairly shameless
6. I write every day, just for fun
When I read back over my post I can't help but be reminded of a quote by Christopher Hitchens. When talking about an early job he had, he reflects "I sometimes think if I'd been any good at that job, I might still be doing it.” This does, unfortunately, sum my position in life right now. I am good enough at my job that people praise me and it has made me make the fatal mistake of believing that there is some meaning in it all. My initial reaction was to soak up all the attention and put my head down and churn out the work. Now that I've had enough time to come up for air, I've reappraised my life and have graded myself with a big fat F. I need to make changes. Those changes can start small but they need to end BIG. I'm willing to take some risks and I want to put myself on the record as a way of getting it done.
I'm going to use this blogging platform to track my brain retraining and document any bizarre or amusing experiences I have. My public commitment is to radically change my life in the next 12 months. Here is what I won't be doing:
1. Working a corporate job in Melbourne, Aus
2. Doing anything that is not awesome, anywhere (thanks Seth). For me that's any kind of work that holds no real value (some IT work, for instance)
3. Having headaches from things that are inconsequential in the scheme of things
4. Having debt
5. Having any fear of climbing big walls (more to come on this one)
Here is what I will be doing:
1. Be involved with a local university giving talks on practical tips for young people in the workforce (and how to avoid it completely)
2. Having ten grand in the bank (significant given my history)
3. Getting down to 83 kilos (I use the metric system)
4. Climbing big walls
5. Publish a book on how to become a perfectly good rock climber
6. Publish a web app / Iphone app or setup a muse business
7. Releasing a blog post twice a week
And that's it. This is how I'm going to start. I hope my post draws some encouraging comments and I'm alerted to some people out there who are just starting and doing similar stuff (not some f'n zen masters who has already smashing things....).
I have this rule for myself that if I say I'm going to do something, even if it's only to myself, I do it. My overarching principle is to always to do the best I can, but sometimes my best is not very good. Maybe I've told myself I'm going to go to the gym, but I'm exhausted and have to rush my workout because of an appointment. I'll go, but it's not going to be good.
My thinking in doing these things is that absent of any other value, I want to train myself well. I know that I don't do great with gray areas or slippery slopes, so I avoid at all costs giving myself excuses to skip.
As I've committed to writing every single day, you can imagine that there have been throwaways from time to time. It will be right before I'm supposed to go to sleep, and all I want to do is splash down a big enough chunk of words to feel like I did my duty. This is especially tempting when I know I've got a backlog of a few good posts, so I won't need to rely on whatever I write.
Sometimes, though, these throwaways come out really well. Maybe it's random chance, maybe it's repetition, or maybe it's the unburdened context of writing a post that's just going to be thrown away anyway. Some of my favorite posts are those which I originally thought would be trashed. I'm getting the benefits of training my brain, but also high-quality output.
Some time ago I realized that if I want to make good things happen, I've got to start working hard. I'm about to graduate from college, and if I want to live the kind of life I've always wanted, I really have no choice but to work my ass off.
And so I did. Or at least I was trying my best.
I started writing this blog. I was spending 20+ hours a week at my part-time job. I revived my iPhone photography website. I was studying direct response marketing and copywriting. I spent more than an hour each day hand-copying successful sales letters. I was working out four times a week. I was doing all of that while being in my last semester of college. Most of my classmates are already freaked out, even if they aren't doing anything else.
It's probably not hard to see that my life was not exactly fun most of the time. My quality of life was suffering, and I was beginning to feel isolated from other people. Not good for an introvert. And my productivity was beginning to suffer.
More and more often I found myself mindlessly spending time on the internet. It's one of the things I really don't want to do, yet I was often wasting hours online. My motivation was getting worse and worse. I was still more productive than I'd have been a year ago, but it was obvious that I could do a lot more.