At my first job at a big-box retail store we had a 19-year-old Pakistani immigrant working the auto parts counter. His English was good enough and his auto parts knowledge was good enough only because you didn’t have to know anything about cars. He was enrolled in university at the same time going for his engineering degree.
Just over half a decade later he’s working at Blackberry making use of his university degree. Fast forward another 10 years he has his MBA and now working for another big corporation with some fancy title. I don’t think he’s earning minimum wage.
A lad from Mexico from the same store with similar beginnings also had a similar trajectory as my Pakistani ex-colleague. I’ll bet the both of them did better than any of us Canadian-born schmucks working at that store. We had every edge on them on paper. Comfort often breeds weakness.
Perhaps in the West we’re surprisingly melancholic because we often don’t capitalize on what is available to us. Centuries ago the great explorers jumped on a ship to seek out faraway undiscovered land without GPS, internet or multi-vitamins unknowing of the many horrific surprises that awaited them. We can attempt almost anything we wish, fail, not get scurvy and then have the opportunity to try again. Instead we often seek out what’s barely good enough thinking the comfort and mediocre cultural milestones will glide us joyfully through life. If you don’t dream at least a little bit then you might end up living a nightmare.
So far I’m as studious a piano student as one would predict judging from my past. In high school I was a C student at best. No one is going to yell at me now though because the only person who would gets paid $50 an hour not to. Included in that $50 is the service of restraining her internal thoughts. I’ll be dead and $3000 richer before he can play a song.
“I have no discipline,” I told her. Like many others I’m a seeker of low-class pleasures like sugar, jpegs, nap time. It’s a recipe for not getting as much out of life as possible. When they speak about me they might say I’m “good” at something but it’s really only relative to the people they associate with. If you’re not good enough to make money from something then you probably suck at it. Someone paying you to stop doing something doesn’t count.
With 30 years of teaching experience she can sniff out my practice regimen with great accuracy.
“You practice something for a while and then you stop.”
“You’re probably practicing the night before or the morning of.”
The sad part is that most of my minimal motivation comes from knowing that I have to face her every week. I can’t go in without at least some improvement.
She says 30 minutes a day is decent practice time. Two 30 minute sessions is even better. In theory I should be able to do this. I want to so I’m going to try.
It was suggested by my friend yesterday to check out Bruce Lee’s gravesite today in Seattle for no reason other than for something to do. This morning I kept thinking about going or not but I didn’t want to drive for 2 hours just to stand above where a dead guy is buried.
In my younger years I probably would have went. We’d go down to America for worse reasons. One time we went at midnight just to buy Cherry Coke. Every time I cross the border the officer will ask what I do for a living and for some strange reason I’m always unemployed at that time. Some of them chuckle and others have basically called me a loser. Whatever, they’re just glorified toll booth agents who only have a job because of an imaginary line.
2 hours of driving ain’t so bad except you still have to drive 2 hours back. I don’t know if I did things in the past for any other reason than to say I did something. Perhaps if I had people to report to it would be a different story. They would envy me. While they were stuck at work I went to Seattle on a sunny day with 8 hours of sleep to visit Bruce Lee’s grave. On the way back we stopped at an awesome diner and had extra gravy with our meatloaf. They would question their existence. I would be victorious.
The internet takes some of the mystery and excitement out of things.
For most people it seems that nothing gets done unless there are consequences. I spent many years trudging my unmotivated carcass for 8 hours a day at jobs I disliked doing. Even if I didn’t care much of getting fired the idea of going through that process was enough for me to carry on. Rather than have to sit in the hot seat it seemed easier to just continue on the escalator of misery.
The human mind is always calculating equations figuring out if it’s worth it or not for you to waste calories. It doesn’t know that calories are plentiful. It’s operating from a world 100,000 years ago when you would be desperate enough to drink a squirrel’s blood.
While you brush your teeth and notice your dirty bathroom sink your brain tries to tell you that it’s not dirty enough for you to waste 5 calories on. It won’t easily withdraw 5 calories until your sink is so gross you can no longer respect yourself or until you expect company over.
To get things done you need to get in the way of your brain. You need to remind yourself that it will only take 2 minutes to clean the bathroom sink. You used to spend 9 hours a day being occupied with far more laborious work…so what’s 2 minutes of light scrubbing? Then you close by threatening to call yourself a loser. That’s what I call Art of the Deal.
Almost everything we have today is more than what people dreamed about for most of human existence. If I could go back in time they would be oohing and awing at my tales of grilled cheese sandwiches. In my best ancient Sumerian I would summarize how I walk to this place called a supermarket where we buy food by picking what we want and lining up. Then I tell them how it’s not as great as it sounds because life gets really boring when you don’t think anyone is out to kill you.
“It’s really difficult to die,” I tell them. I go on by saying that some people even try to die but are unsuccessful. They tell me those people aren’t trying hard enough. I concur. If you fail at suicide it means you don’t want it badly enough.
At this point they are undecided on whether I’m from the future or just a nutjob but they’re infatuated with my great storytelling. When your best entertainment is flinging your own feces at each other you only need a minor gimmick to be the center of attention. I have to cut it short though because even in Mesopotamia no one likes a showoff.
As I transport back home I semi-conclude with the familiar notion that life is a game of the mind.
I take some solace in knowing that everyone will die one day and be quickly forgotten. Some like to think they’ll leave a lasting legacy not realizing that their grandchildren will see their photo on the wall and only think, I hope I don’t end up looking like that guy. That’s your legacy. Your perceived accomplishments will be as enviable as the stories of how people used to walk 5 miles to school. The younger generation will want to be nothing like you. They pity your life.
We live our life to cater to our future feelings which will die with us whether resolved or not. Feelings of guilt and regret do nothing except torment us. Perhaps they had significant utility in the past when we were in tribes but now they are just obsolete software features.
Life used to be your fitness. Now exercise is something you do so that you don’t look and feel so decrepit. Flavoured carbohydrates are plentiful and adequate. It’s not a coincidence that if you’re poor and uneducated you’re likely to suffer and die sooner. When the tipping point is near they’ll drop guns and potato chips on the streets and let us take care of ourselves. We’re present-day neanderthals unaware that our kind is due for extinction.
A chapter of a book I’ve been reading says, “compare yourself to who you were yesterday. Not to who someone else is today.” The chapter suggests that even being a tiny bit better than yesterday every day can have an exponential effect. Perhaps concentrating on people who are supposedly better than you is depressing and discouraging.
Okay, so I started with making my bed. Well, that was easy. Time to clock out.
The following days I continued to make my bed and throughout the day I would look for something to accomplish. Something fairly easy of course. I think we tend to overwhelm ourselves with tasks that we don’t end up doing them. If you make small deals with yourself you’ll be easier to convince.
It’s not hard to convince yourself to do 1 push-up. Every following day do 1 more than the day before. In 30 days you’ll be up to 30 in one day if you can do 30. Most people do zero in a month. Starting with that first push-up can get momentum going.
I’m maxed out at 33 proper push-ups in a row. Things are cleaner around the house. I’ve been writing on another blog. I should be more mindful with being a bit better than yesterday because I slack off sometimes. I’m still making my bed. A little better every day is much better than no improvement in a whole year.
It’s also beneficial and scary to ask yourself if you are better than yesterday, not literally but in the past year or 2 or 3 or even 10. Are you a better person? Are you more enlightened? Are you fatter? Have you stopped picking your nose? Are you sadder? What’s the trajectory look like? Are you lying to yourself? Are you lying to yourself?