Friday, January 28, 2011

Why is Doing Nothing so Easy?

I am naturally a lazy person. I fully admit it. I work pretty long hours, so when I have the free time, I usually just sit around in my boxers watching TV and drinking a beer or five. Yeah, I'm classy like that. It can be tough to get off the couch to work out, or even to stay on the couch and pull out the old laptop to write a little bit when I have a minute. Just trust me on that one.

My own struggle with laziness got me thinking: why is it that so many people have such big dreams but never act on them? People have a variety of excuses that they employ: "I'm too tired after working all day," "The kids are too much to deal with," "I just want to sit back and relax," "There's too much to do around the house." Then, one day, you wake up, you're forty, and you wonder where the hell the time went. Some people are happy to trade whatever dreams they had for a little security so that they can support their families, which I understand on some level. I wouldn't be the person that I am today if my parents didn't make such a sacrifice, and people with kids often make their kids' success and well-being their dream. I get it.

Others float through life, clinging to the idea that they'll get around to their dreams "someday," without any idea when that day is, or any clue how to get started on that dream when they finally reach the finish line. What if you drop dead of a heart attack the year after you retire? I guess all of that life deferment would really pay off in that instance, eh?

The above excuses are a lot of B.S. If you truly enjoy doing something, it should be enjoyable, if not always "fun," for you to "work" on it as a hobby. From a hobby, you can snowball it into a lifestyle, and, if you so choose, a business. By no means am I an expert on parenting, but if you have kids, wake up early or stay up late to work on your passion. Try to expose your kids to what you enjoy—maybe they can even help. If not, that's cool, too—the important point is that you should always be striving to make progress on a significant goal outside of your professional life. This leads to self-improvement, and ultimately fulfillment. It can also lead to some pretty hectic days, weeks, and even months. But if it truly is your passion, it should all be worth it. It shouldn't feel like work at all—it should feel good.

Newton was a great mind of his time, and although he got a few things wrong, one thing that got right was his first law of motion. I mean, he thought it was so important that he made it the first one! "An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force."

Basically, if you float through life like a lump of crap, you'll continue doing so until a major life event (including death) stops you from doing so. If you take matters into your own hands and provide yourself a push in the direction you want to be going, doing something that you legitimately enjoy, then you, by all accounts, should be able to continue in that direction until a major life event forces you to change course. The key, then, is to take affirmative steps toward your goal NOW.

Next time you find yourself thinking, "Man, I really wish I was [writing/cooking/making fine chairs/singing/etc.] right now," instead of thinking of all of the reasons you can't do it, think of ways to make it so that you can. Stop making excuses and start living life. YOU are the only one that can decide to do so. No more excuses. No more blaming others. It's on YOU.

Questions? Comments? Wondering where this snot-nosed punk gets the audacity to lecture YOU, of all people? Duly noted. E-mail me at djssuperblog@gmail.com.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Rules Going Forward

I'm out of town this week, so I'm recycling syndicating a recent post from my sister site, BlogMogger. Feel free to check it out and look around, though I think it's fair to warn that, much like Bill Simmons' podcast warns, BlogMogger is a free-flowing conversation that at times touches on mature subjects. Hope you enjoy. -DJ
I've undergone a bit of a transformation lately that has rattled my cage a little bit and allowed me to put things in perspective. I've made some big life choices that, for various reasons, cannot be shared yet. For any of my interested readers, you will hear about them soon enough.
For the moment, though, I felt compelled to write a post about life. No, not the Martin Lawrence-Eddie Murphy…err…"comedy" from the mid-nineties. Just this existence generally, and my small role in it. So far, I think I've lived a pretty good life. I've had a number of advantages: first and foremost a loving family that has instilled (what I think to be) a good set of core values, and has given me the means to attain a high level of education and experience. Great friends, with whom a fun time is always guaranteed. An objectively solid job with good benefits. I generally don't have to worry about where my next meal is coming from or whether I can find a dry spot and some shelter to spend the night, which is more than can be said for a good number of people on this planet.
Still, there are very few areas where I have definitively had to stand up and make a major life choice for myself. To date, the single biggest decisions that I have made were where to go to college and grad school, and those were only choices because of the generosity of my parents and similarity of financial aid packages (well, in one of those decisions that is). Aside from that, my "plan" has always been College-Grad School-Job-work for a while to save for some as-yet undefined "business"-???. It is certainly a comfortable path, but something has always felt a little "wrong" with the way I was going about things. How would I discover this "business?" How much money would I need? What would it do? And, most importantly of all, how do I get there?
Until a couple months ago, I was especially clueless about that last part. Then, my girlfriend broke up with me and really put things into perspective. At the time, I was pretty upset about it, as is to be expected. In hindsight, though, it got me to think more about what I really wanted in life. I mean, life threw me a decent curveball this summer, and I wanted to try to put a good swing on it, so to speak. After countless hours of being content to watch reality TV and playing hours upon hours of Civilization IV, I decided to get back to the productive hobbies that I enjoy, namely reading and writing. That explains my abrupt return to the blog after my extended absence. I went on a book binge at Amazon and ordered a number of books, both for pleasure reading and self-improvement.

One of these books is the Four-Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferriss. My lazy ass thought it had everything I was looking for—this way I could spend even more time watching reality TV and playing Civ IV, right? For some reason, I put off reading it for a couple of months, though. "Not yet," I always thought. In retrospect, it was a good thing because I'm not sure I was ready for what the book truly had to offer.

I started reading the book in September. It took me a little while to get into it, but Tim's message and writing style really resonated with me. Despite this, I stopped reading it about halfway through and took a month or so to process what I had read. Tim's central message is simple, yet universally appealing: Life is short. We should not spend our time on things that don't make us happy. Find a way to cut out things and tasks that make you unhappy to leave you with more time for what you really want to do. (as an aside, I apologize if someone from Tim's team stumbles across this and I misstated it in any way—feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). This doesn't really mean sit on your ass and play more videogames, but rather find what truly makes you happy and explore it.
I finally got around to finishing the book at Christmas, and am in the process of actually doing things to change my life for the better. I discovered a few universal truths that will form a personal "ethos" of sorts for my life going forward. In no particular order:
1. I am the boss of my own life. I make the choices and tough decisions. I do not have to answer to anyone else's ideals of what I "should" do.

This is a big one, in part because to this point, some of the most agonizing choices that I've made for myself involved which beer on tap to get, and how much to tip the waitress. I need to stop doing what other people think I should be doing, and just do what I want to do and what I love. Most of the rest of these stem from this first "grand" realization.

2. Treat others how you want to be treated.

I'm not a religious guy at all, but I do think they got it right on this one. To be honest, if people followed this one more often, a lot of religions would be out of business, though the world would be a much better place.

3. If you want to achieve a result, make active steps in that direction.

For years and years, it's always been "I'll do it later." "I want to write a book, but I'm busy at work so I'll do it later." "I want to start a business, but I don't have enough money. I'll do it later." "I want to talk to that hot chick, but she might reject me. I'll do it later." This is a certain way to a lot of regrets, and is absolutely the mindset of a loser. I don't want to be a loser—we all know what Sean Connery says about them. No, I want me a hot prom queen. Therefore, if I choose to not talk to that girl, I can't ruminate over it—I made the choice, I have to live with it.

4. Fuck detractors.

I mean, seriously, this one should be obvious, but there are a lot of people out there with ideas that are afraid to look into them any deeper because some asshole tells them, "That will never work." It doesn't even have to be anyone that has the faintest clue about whether it will be true or not because quite frequently these people don't have a fucking clue themselves, but a lot of times people will let those detractors rule their lives based on nothing more than a gut reaction. So fuck 'em—they can all go detract from each other in Detractorland for all I care. Or Afghanistan. Same difference.

5. Set goals on an aggressive timetable.

I haven't usually been a guy to quantify my goals, but I recently tried it, including writing a "Life Plan" for where I want to be five years from now. It's not as stupid as it sounds. I gave myself objective fenceposts to shoot for, some of which I'll fail at, some of which I'll hit, and some of which I hope to exceed. Think of it this way: imagine you're in a field with nothing but wheat for as far as the eye can see. Someone hands you a gun and tells you to shoot it. You're probably just going to shoot it into the air, or into the ground, but regardless it won't be a productive shot. All setting goals does is give you a couple of soda cans to shoot at. Are you actually accomplishing anything? I don't know. But you can at least work on your skills, which is better than shooting a gun into the air like a hoosier.

6. Make time for the people, things, and experiences that you want. Everything else is peripheral.

The Four-Hour Workweek and other similar books that I've read have made this a central goal. Life is short and fragile. In The Departed, when Frank Costello asks the guy in his bar how his mother is, and the guy replies, "She's on her way out," Frank shoots back, "We all are—act accordingly." IT'S RIGHT THERE IN THE GREATEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME, FOLKS! RIGHT UNDER OUR NOSES! At any rate, Frank is right—we could be on the next plane that crashes or in the next incident where some asshole decides he wants to shoot people up. These things hit everyone, and you have to be ready to ask yourself, "If I die tonight, will I be satisfied with my life, or could I have done more?" I've been asking myself this a lot recently, and been making steps in what I think is the right direction. If certain people are important to you, spend time with them and gain new experiences together. If you'd rather not associate with certain other people, then just fucking don't. Life is too short. We're all on our way out. Act accordingly.

7. Have Fun. Enjoy Life.

Two small rules bundled into one. Even when you're making a positive change, you can (and should) still be able to have fun. I mean, what is this, the Federation in the 24th century, where everyone is bogged down in their iPad with paperwork and only listens to classical music? Fuck that. Again, life is too short. Enjoy it.

That's about it. If I think of any more, I'll post them to the list. "DURRR…BUT DJGEL, WHICH THAR OF THOSE THAR FOOTBALL TEAMS IS BESTEST?" you ask? Don't worry, I'll still regularly be back with the usual sports and entertainment stuff in a little bit. I also want to try something radical, like maybe shorter posts on a more regular schedule. But I do want to address issues like this from time-to-time, too, namely because of the profound change people like Tim Ferriss, Chris Guillebeau, and even guys like Trent Hamm and J.D. Roth have had on my life and its newfound direction. Perhaps the best part is I don't even have a compass. Actually, the best part is that I don't even care.

Questions? Comments? E-mail D.J. at djssuperblog@gmail.com.

 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What Are You Good At? What Do You Want To Do?

These are two simple questions that people often fail to ask themselves. Not in the "video games and have-sex-all-day" sense, but rather in terms of how you will build a sustainable lifestyle that fits in with your goals while pursuing something that both stimulates you and you are relatively "good" at.

Sometimes, you cannot work on either of these things enough. If what you want to do is to be a professional athlete, or to win a gold medal, you can put in as much work as humanly possible and still not have the natural talent to succeed. Conversely, you might be the best bean-counter in the world, but if counting beans isn't your passion, you will likely wake up someday relatively secure, but regretting that you failed to "take your shot" at what you really wanted to do.

There is one simple truth that I have found through the course of trying to improve my life:

It is generally much easier to change what you are good at than what you want to do.

Again, this has its limits. It's tough to be good enough at math and science and have enough dumb luck to become an astronaut. However, if you identify what you really want to do with your life, it becomes easier to take affirmative steps in that direction. Maybe you won't end up being an astronaut, but why not take your shot? Surely the skills you learn along the way will help you find some kind of related employment, especially as the private space industry starts to take off.

Changing your dreams, on the other hand, generally involves a major life event or change in circumstances. Generally, you do not have any control over these. Otherwise, changing your dreams to be the best bean-counter is, for lack of a better word, "settling." And though it may be fine to settle when you have a family to care for and a lot of bills coming in each month, by no means is it necessary. It is possible to make money doing whatever you want—you just have to be willing to improve what you're "good" at.

Dr. Ronald Mallett wrote an excellent book titled Time Traveler, detailing the loss of his father at an early age, and his subsequent dream to build a time machine to go back in time and meet his dad "before" he died. Mallett grew up fairly poor, and was not a natural at the advanced physics and math that he would ultimately master. But he took a job as a night watchman so that he could study the concepts for hours upon hours, generally uninterrupted, until he was able to understand them at a PhD-level. He recently has published his idea of using focusing lasers to bend space-time in such a manner so as to create a wormhole, but that's a story for another day.

Will Mallett ever actually build his time machine? I have no idea. The point is, through sheer force of will and hard work, Mallett forced himself toward an "impossible" goal, and has actually made substantial progress toward it. He identified what he wanted to do, and eventually became "good" at it. Why don't more people do this? Again, another story for another day. For now, take a moment to figure out what your true goals are in life. Even go so far as to make a "life plan" for the next five years, or a "bucket list." Then, identify concrete goals and timelines for completing those goals along the way. Even Ron Mallett has made progress on his time machine. You're telling me you can't make progress toward writing that book or becoming an artist?

Sit at your keyboard or pick up a pen and paper and get started.

Questions? Comments? E-mail D.J. at djssuperblog@gmail.com.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Welcome!

You've stumbled upon my blog!  I currently write for a couple of blogs out there, but this is a place for me to explore some ideas without some shtick that I developed for a given blog voice.  I hope to cut a lot of the crap out of this one, so to speak, and explore some big ideas with real-world implications.  I hope we can get some thought-provoking discussions going here.  Take a look around and enjoy!

DJ