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 firstname.lastname@example.org.