What A Difference 9 Months Makes – How Blogging Saved Me

I read a lot today. I read my own writing, from my first blog post up until now. In hindsight, I believe this blog saved me from a much darker fate. The act of putting something in writing for the world to see, be it an idea or a thought, an emotion or a desire has strengthened my will to achieve my dreams, and I am proud to say that since the time I started writing publicly, my life has completely changed for the better.

It was sad to read many of my posts. The first 3 months I spent blogging was a very bad time in my life, wrought with depression and other vices that were leading me down a rabbit hole I could not see a way out of. The truth of the matter is that I am usually not a very open person. I find it very difficult to confide in people, or even talk about my state in the simplest of terms. Yet in writing, I find myself telling the world, openly, all the things I cannot seem to tell even those people that are closest to me.

I read posts about freedom and failure, materialism and minimalism. I read about my plans to remove all of the clutter from my life and about the way I want to live. As of this moment I am happy with my life. I travel, I see, I do and I feel free. Since leaving Melbourne I have learned, and learned very quickly, just what is important in my life. I own less than I ever thought possible, yet find myself wanting nothing more than a new book occasionally, or a block of chocolate. I live well, I enjoy my work, I eat well and have good accommodation, and all for less than I could have ever imagined.

Perhaps the hardest hitting revelation I had in this process is recalling just how depressed I was in my ‘successful’ life. Were it not for me putting in writing many of my thoughts I would no longer remember just how much I hated my life. The depression I felt now seems so distant, and my blog serves as a reminder to me that my well being is in my own hands. My current situation is a direct effect of acknowledging that I was not happy and making the hard decisions necessary to change. It wasn’t easy. Much of the journey has not been easy. I have had several serious setbacks and many unexpected turns, but never lost sight of my goal. However, no matter how stressful, or how broke and hungry I may have found myself in the process, the depression that once gripped me has loosened its hold and no longer exists.

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I Want to be a Fire Truck

When I was a toddler I wanted to be a Fire Truck. Then when I was a little older, I wanted to be a Lawyer. Then when I was a bit older again I wanted to be a Cabinet Maker, then a rock star. Now i’m an Engineer.

Image Credit: bit.ly/1gKy8pG

Image Credit: bit.ly/1gKy8pG 

My point is that it always seems we should have some idea of the direction in which we want to/are meant to head. But really, we probably don’t. Ultimately the majority of us just fall into place, somewhere that our education has dictated we belong, or somewhere that our connections have placed us. We then just keep turning up. We stop asking questions. Wait for the next pay packet. Then figure out how to spend it.

I can’t accept this.

I overheard a conversation on the train this morning, on my way to my desk. A lady was telling her friend about how her child seems to have figured out what he wants to do with his life. He wants to be a physio because he is good at maths and sport. It seems to me that as adults we expect that our children should be making decisions so young as to what they want to do with the entirety of their lives, and that it is expected of them to do that thing they decide on so young, their entire life. We scare them into thinking that if they make the wrong decisions they will be stuffed.

Perhaps life is more about the journey than the destination. Perhaps we should concentrate on enjoying the right now than exposing ourselves to stressful and unenjoyable situations in search of some ultimate goal or job that we don’t know yet if we will even enjoy. The workforce is so far removed from the education system that we are simply not giving our youth realistic expectations.

I am no wise old Wizard. I’m just a young man, confused and lost, starting off on my pursuit of happiness. I feel though that my wisdom is growing. Money no longer controls my thoughts. Though money is necessary in this life, and I do aim to make my own, passion, people and love are taking over my mind.

If I could, and I hope I soon do, speak to the (ultra) young people (i’m still very young) currently going through school and being asked to make decisions for their future. I would tell them to do whatever it is that makes them happy, and do it better than anyone else. Choose subjects based on what you enjoy and not on what prerequisites a particular course at university might have. If you are doing classes that you don’t enjoy in order to get into a University course. You’re probably not going to enjoy the University course. Success is personal. If you’re measuring your success based on someone elses opinion of you, you’re doing it wrong.

So, really, the moral of my story is enjoy now. Now will never come again, and if you spend now worrying about then, when then comes, no doubt you will be worrying about the next then. Don’t get lazy, keep pushing forward, keep doing what you love, keep drawing, building, creating, writing, reading, traveling etc. If you’re not doing what you love, then you have simply not thought hard enough about how to get yourself there. In Australia, there is no excuse, everything you could possibly need is at your fingertips. Go out and get it. Quit complaining.

Btw, as of right now, I have:

  • 7.17 days;
  • 172.10 hours;
  • 10,326 minutes; or
  • 619,560 seconds left until I am no longer an engineer.

In one and a half weeks from now my life will be entirely different.

A Thought on Time

As of this moment, I have been alive for 833,561,826 seconds. Or, for the more reasonable among us, about 26 and a half years.

Image credit to litstack.com

Image credit to litstack.com

Now, after the decision to leave my profession, the sense of ‘running out of time‘ can at times seem overwhelming. Currently, the average life expectancy for males in my approximate age group within Australia is just less than 80 years. This means that, on average, I have the amount of time I have already been alive more than 2 times over again before I die. But I don’t ever get to relive my childhood, I don’t have to learn to walk or talk again. I don’t ever get to go back to high school, I already know how to read and write.

If in the first 26 years of my life, from a foundation of nothing I can come this far, how much can I achieve in the next 26 years. Though it is correct to say that I am starting financially again at $0, I am not starting from scratch. I now have experience, education, knowledge and will. We have a lot more time than we know, it only matters to recognize its potential and how we use it.

I am now 833,562,612 seconds old. Did I use these 786 seconds effectively?

What does it mean to live each day as if it were our last?

I have been contemplating a lot lately the concept of living each day like it is my last. I look around me and see people living in fear of the future, only not realizing that in fear they are neglecting to live in the present. So how do I make sure that I live every day like it is my last? What does this really mean?

Tomorrow I must go to my desk. I am hardly convinced that by doing so I am living each day like it is my last, however I find myself part of this absurd world which has allowed me to put myself in a position where (temporarily at least) I must continue to do so.  Perhaps in this world it is not possible to live each day as if it were our last. If we have a dream, a goal for our life, we must work towards that goal in order to achieve success. In this process we are inevitably forced to not live as if we will die tomorrow. There will be days, weeks, months and even years full of tiring hard work. Right? Hard work that will not result in immediate gratification. Hard work that may not ever pay off at all. Could it be that it is the journey, and not the destination, that really counts?

Being true to myself. Pursuing my own dreams and pleasures. Facing my fears. Taking risks. Perhaps to live each day as if it were my last simply means to live each day doing those things that I am passionate about. But therein lays another problem. What if the thing that I am passionate about do not get me paid (yet)? Then I am forced, by the pressures of this absurd world, to earn an income by another means.

It is here, in earning an income, that I believe many people make a profound mistake, myself up to now included. The mistake being learning in order to get paid, chasing a high wage and a promotion by becoming progressively better and more efficient at some specific thing. But this is not living. I no longer fear the future. Not because I know what it is going to bring, I don’t have a clue. But rather because I know that I have the ability to achieve my wildest dreams and I have so much time.

From May 23 forward, I work to learn, not for money (though it is required in small amounts to survive), then I will apply my knowledge in my own life and in my own business. Not only will I work to learn, I will work only in fields that I have a genuine and real interest in. Life is meant to be lived! Why not be who we want to be? Why not really live it? Is it ignorance that causes so many of us live in fear? I only have 23 more days of work behind a desk left. From then on my adventure really begins. Every day, I will ask myself these deep existential questions. Who am I? Why am I here? Am I living each day as if it were my last? I don’t expect to ever find an answer to any of these questions, but I will live as if the answer is just around the next corner.

Three (more) Things I Am Grateful For

Over three weeks ago I watched this TED talk which inspired me to think harder about some of the things in my life that I am grateful for. Three weeks ago when I first posted on the topic of gratefulness I found it quite difficult to come up with three things. Times have been dark lately. This time however it seems much easier. Things are looking up, more so every day, and as such I get to pick three things that stand out among a much longer list of things I am grateful for. So here it goes again.

Three (more) Things I Am Grateful For

1. The Snow    

In just over a month now I make my way up to Falls Creek, where I get to stay for the entire Snow Season! This, coming from an 8:30 – 5:00 desk job nearly 2 hours travel from home is such an enormous and welcome change. The reality of the situation has not hit home, and likely wont until I get there. I get to spend every day outside on the snow and among people. Even if I am to work full time hours, I gain a minimum of 4 hours to myself everyday to have fun, be social and work on myself. I can’t wait.

2. Failure    

Had I not failed, and fallen as far behind as I have, I may never had made the decision to escape the professional trap and start my life journey. Now, although I don’t know what comes after Falls Creek, I am determined to do everything in my power to really live my life. Because we only have one. Ask yourself, is your life boring? Or is it an adventure? I am also grateful for the debt I found myself in, which is now nearly gone. Having so much debt has really hammered home the value of money. Fact is the significant majority of mine has been spent on things that have actually been harmful to myself. Now I can really begin working on becoming a wealthy man.

3. My Education  

We really are exceptionally privileged in Australia. It can be hard to understand when this is the only way we ever experience life. I have received a top notch (though it never seems so at the time) education. Now I also have further education in the form of real world experience. Although I am now choosing to leave the profession I educated for, I do not regret my schooling in it at all. Conversely, I found that University really taught me how to think for myself, and ask the right questions. When faced with something I do not understand, I have all the tools available to me to investigate and learn about the subject. It is no longer a matter of what can I do, but what do I want to do. I have the resources at my disposal to do anything.

Thankfully this wasn’t so hard this time. Next time, I expect it to be easier again. Next time I will be on my snowboard. Almost every day.

A Motivational Hit

It is easy to stay still and get comfortable.

It is much harder to get up and run after something more. It takes drive, motivation, passion and a will to win. It takes the guts to face uncertainty and to drive the outcome that you want to achieve. No one can claim to be perfect, no one is, has been, or ever will be. No one has ever known what their future held. Anyone that has had a dream has had to work in order to achieve it. But sometimes we need a little bit of motivation along the way.

Motivation can be hard. Uncertainty has often clouded my thoughts and slowed my progress, though I keep chugging forward. I have taken my big steps backwards. The biggest backwards steps have been in decisions made without education and in desperation, with the hope of immediate gratification. Fact is that immediate gratification does exist, but it is rare and takes an educated and experienced mind to identify its possibility. My mind was neither educated or experienced in the matters at hand at the time. Now it is, and my losses have been recovered. I am now the closest to my dreams I have ever been, though they are still so far away. I still don’t know how I am going to get there and I have no idea how long it is going to take.

I ask myself frequently “what is your dream?”. Every day I seem to have a different answer, though they all revolve around two concepts. Freedom and Happiness. My dream (though it may change slightly tomorrow) is “to get myself into a position where I am happy and free. Free to decide what I want to do tomorrow, and where I want to go, without worrying about how I am going to afford it or how it will turn out, and to eliminate the fear of the future“. Pretty simple dream really. I have not a moments doubt that I will achieve this dream, I just don’t know how or when. The last year has been a roller coaster, the two biggest mistakes have occurred and I have now dug myself back out of their holes. But I need a little motivation.

Lately I have been turning to youtube for motivation. There are a lot of good videos, full of inspirational quotes and imagery (like this one) that just remind me that I am good enough and I do have the power to achieve anything I want to achieve. So I figured that I could share a couple of quotes here that have resonated with me recently and kept me moving forward. They may be cliche, but they have been effective.

“The Man who says he can, and the man who says he can not.. Are both correct” – Confucius

I have heard people say that they can’t do that thing countless times. I used to think that I couldn’t draw, until I started drawing. I used to think that I couldn’t maintain a blog, until I just did it. I used to think that I couldn’t quit smoking, until I told myself I could. Now I am telling myself that I can be happy, I can live an amazing life and not regret a day. And so it will be.

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!” – Rocky Balboa

I wrote this in the back of one of my recent workbooks. I would read it every time I opened the book and right before every time I closed it. It reminded me that even though I was in a huge amount of debt and struggling with other serious personal issues, if I did not continue to educate myself and continue to think up new ideas, I would never get ahead. Now i’m back at the starting line, it’s time to get ahead.

I’m going to win.

A Different Approach to Life

24 more days behind a desk and my life is going to drastically change for the better. Though a big part of this change includes a pay cut of more than 50%. I have made my mistakes now, and even though I have been professionally employed on a very good wage for over three years, I am left only slightly ahead of the starting line. So I must now do things differently. I will be a wealthy man. I will not be working at 65. I will hopefully not be working (by necessity at least) at 35. So the question for me now is “how am I going to do this?”. If I rely on saving, then when I can afford a house I like, buying a house and starting to pay down the mortgage, not only will I get myself tied down and unable to live a life of adventure and travel, but I will also never get truly ahead and certainly will not escape this rat race by 35.

Image

So how?

Luckily I already have a lot of ideas, coupled with the will to work hard and the guts to make a decision. I have already made bad decisions. But a bad decision is a lesson learned.

I once heard a comedian commenting on pursuing his dreams. At one point he said that one of the best decisions he made was to leave his well paid corporate job in order to have more time to focus on what it was he really wanted. This rings true with me, and I can only hope my life works out in a similar way. I remember times in my life when I have been working on projects and ideas that I have had a real passion for, and I can so clearly remember the drive and enthusiasm that is still inside me, but has been dormant now for too long.

“If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come” – CS Lewis

I am in the process now of removing the distractions from my life. In the process of putting myself somewhere I can be truly grateful for being. Somewhere I can smile every day, without someone elses stresses pushing me down. Somewhere I can get more in to my own work and my own ideas. It is time to continue my education, both academically and culturally. There is a whole world to experience and learn from. It is up to me and only me. There is no handout. No free ticket. So how?

The full time professional world has sucked up so much time now, time that I have not been able to pursue my own dreams in (though I never stopped working). A big paycheck every fortnight has been very nice, but ultimately it is not worth the time invested in someone elses business, and I only learnt how to live within my pay-scale. I may not see pay from my own ideas for a very long time. But when I do, it will not be capped at what my boss is willing to pay me. The limit to which I will pay myself is dependent only on my ability to create and innovate.

 

NO, NO, NO! WRONG!

Earlier this week I was listening to a Ted Talk on creativity, and how we are now living in a world where mistakes are stigmatized. We are taught that making a mistake is unacceptable and that we must do everything possible to avoid them. The talk (at 5:00 mins) gives an example of three children who were reenacting the nativity scene and were playing the three kings. The first child came forward and said “I bring you Gold”, the second came forward and said “I bring you Mare” and the third came forward and said “Frank sent this”. The third child clearly not understanding what Frankincense was, but the point rather is that, as a child, he was not afraid to have a go. He was not afraid of being wrong.

I feel that this is deeply true of my own life. As a child I can’t recall ever being anxious of making a mistake, though as a child I knew so little. Every day was a new adventure full of so much unknown. I can recall role playing with my friends, cops and robbers, or some other character based game making assumptions about the roles of the characters we played without a second thought as to the accuracy of our assumptions. We would make assumptions (without real world experience) about how it is really the lawyer who gets to kill the robber and how, no, the police man doesn’t drive the car, he has a driver! dah! Creativity ran wild in my mind as a child, yet now it seems to have largely faded away.

So what happened?

Unfortunately I think the answer is that I was put through the educational system. I don’t mean to undermine the importance of an education and of learning. But I am concerned that from as early as I can remember, my work was graded and compared against my peers, and no matter the difference in the students, we were all graded under the same system. No matter what the product, the teacher would rate it, C+, and then rank it against the rest of the class. Of course, the only way to do better was to make less mistakes. Soon enough, by making a mistake, I felt inadequate. But why is it wrong to make a mistake?

Up until year 10 at high school it’s fair to say I was a pathetic student. I got into fights, had several suspensions and countless detentions and received deplorable marks in most of my subjects. I remember being tested for ADD and being made to attend anger management lessons because “there was something wrong with me”. That’s bullshit. There was nothing wrong with me. I ended up doing incredibly well. Went on further to get Honors in Engineering at University and then held down a professional job for over three years (that I have now elected to leave). The problem was that my individuality was squandered, my creativity was stripped from me as I was forced to comply with a system that was not built for me. A system that I don’t believe even caters for the majority.

Only now that I have been through the whole system including the employment at the end am I really learning to appreciate the value of creativity. The value of having a go. The value of producing something original and not being concerned with its accuracy or whether people will like it or not. Just over a week ago I disconnected my blog from my Facebook. I could see that quite a few people from Facebook seemed to be reading my writings and it concerned me. But why? Because this is the way that we have been taught. What if someone doesn’t like what i’m writing? What if someone I know reads something about me that’s personal and starts talking about me? What if people laugh at me? What if i’m not good enough? Why do I care?

I am not ashamed of who I am. Or am I? If I am truly not ashamed of who I am, and who I am becoming, then why am I concerned about who reads what I write? Why do I write? The older I get, the more I realize that I don’t know very much about myself, or life, or the future, or anything. The more I learn the more I realize I just don’t know. Making mistakes is natural. I am not ashamed of my mistakes. We live and learn and we collect scars. I have a few scars now. Before I am done on Earth I will carry many. But in the process of getting my scars I am going to truly live.

Soooo. Quitting my professional Job…. Mistake? Maybe. But who cares! Time to tackle a new problem.

What is success?

What is it that is really important in life? What is success?

Perhaps like me you have had a privileged childhood. I went to a public school in Australia doing very well in my final two years. At the time, as young kids, we were pressured in to believing that our performance at school would directly effect our ability to become successful in the future. All of high school became nothing more than a race to the highest possible final score for fear that otherwise we would be doomed to fail forever. The threat of not getting in to University loomed over our heads as if it were our direct path through the gates of hell.

I got the good grade, and took my express ticket to University excitedly, graduating 5 years later (with a gap year for travel) with a degree in Engineering with Honors. According to the ideals of my educators I was on the fast track to success, the golden child.

Straight out of University I got the Job. Immediately getting paid in excess of anything I had hoped for. 3 months later, pay rise. 9 months later, another pay rise and promotion. A year later, another pay rise and a merger which saw me take on a much larger role within a much bigger organisation. Three months ago, another offer for a much more sophisticated, senior and technical position. Great. Right? So why did I just resign?

If I could go back, I would not change a thing. I have gained invaluable experience and am more prepared than ever to now take on my life in the way that I deem it to be successful. It just so happens that my idea of success is not spending the majority of my life pushing around fancy paper from behind a desk.

Success is not defined by anyone but yourself. To me, success is a life of happiness, a life of experience and adventure, a life that can never (in my case at least) be achieved whilst holding down a full time career. Success to me is also (in part) in wealth. Though, contrary to what we are taught to believe, wealth is not found by working for an employer. True wealth is found in ideas, in believing that you have the ability to achieve whatever you want and then having the guts to go after it.

I only hope that I can help as many people as possible realise that you really can do/be whatever you want in life. Start now. Today. If you wait for your current distractions to end, others will just take their place. Take risks, jump in. When you fail, learn and try again. Keep trying again.

Any one of us can do anything. As long as you believe it.