Land of Opportunity

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Bad Student

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.

 

The Losing Choice

When it comes to getting stuff done the host of the podcast said he just does it like it’s not an option. He doesn’t give himself a choice.

“It’s like brushing my teeth. I don’t just decide one day that I don’t want to brush my teeth.”

For most people brushing their teeth isn’t much of an option in the morning but a ton of people don’t do it at night. The consequence if you don’t brush your teeth in the morning is that people will smell your bad breath and from then on label you as the bad breath monster. During sleep hours though the bad breath monster doesn’t breathe fire in anyone’s face. Sure, there might be gingivitis and cavities but that’s down the road. It’s all about the short-term consequences.

However, if brushing your teeth took 15 minutes then many more people would not do it in the morning either. Chewing gum would then be in the pockets of every person. It’s always a question of effort vs reward. In that world people would point and say, “you see that guy? He brushes his teeth….EVERY DAY.”

When we don’t want to do something we bargain with ourselves. Bargaining usually means telling ourselves we’ll do something later or making up our own science. Potatoes have vitamin C, therefore french fries are good for you. If you bargain long enough the costs rise due to inflation and then you have to pay more.

Getting started is the hardest part. Your brain just wants you to save calories to save yourself for more dire situations. Subliminally it’s congratulating you on the 1000 calories you just put in yourself. Look how fat you are. You’re beautiful. You don’t need to change a thing..muah muah. Life has always favoured those who are better than most others. Being better often takes work. During your waking hours what are you working on?

It’s almost 1 PM. I’m going to go brush my teeth now.

 

 

Caloric Miser

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.

 

Lazy Motivation

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.

Day 1

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?

 

 

Retiring Youngish

If you ask someone what they want to do with their life they’ll tell you instead what they’re going to do which ironically will be something they don’t actually want to do.

It usually goes something like this…graduate high school, attend post-secondary to study something you don’t like, find a job doing that thing you don’t like until your’re 65 and then retire. Sounds crazy for this to be your intention but fear and conformity drives people to do crazy things. The reoccurring theme is that it’s acceptable because mostly everyone else is doing and thinking the same thing.

A fellow blogger turned me on to Mr. Money Moustache, a blog made popular by the story of a guy who retired in his early 30s. How is that possible? The main idea involves receiving passive income through investments and living frugally. After reading through a few of his posts I think it is possible for many to accomplish but you would have to commit a few sins against the religion of conformity.

For me, even in hindsight I don’t know if I would have been able to achieve early retirement through the MMM method unless if all the stars aligned for me. You need that decent paying job at a fairly young age. I know several guys who could have done it but they were too concerned with the idea of conforming and no woman wanting to be with them unless if they could provide them with a certain lifestyle and security. Life can be such a dirty trick.

If I had believed the MMM method was credible when I was 20 years old then things would have been different for me. I always quit my job hoping that I would one day land that cushy, union-type job that I would work for 30 years. That was such antiquated thinking. I watched too many sitcoms when I was a kid. Little did I know that my beliefs far outweighed the tolerance I had available. If I had believed differently I might have kept chipping away and been willing to take the necessary risks.

There’s still hope for Mr. Johnson though. The stock market has been more than kind to me for the last 2 years and I’m hoping to transition to MMM-type status in the near future with similar methods. I’m not there yet and it may not even happen but the fact that I’m even this close when I was so far away just 2 years ago means it’s possible for many people out there if they believe and start early.

 

 

Reviving the Dead

When I don’t sleep a full 8 hours it’s enough for me to put off everything which was what I was going to do today.

David Goggins is a retired Navy SEAL and former USAF Tactical Air Control Party member who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is an ultramarathon runner, ultra-distance cyclist, triathlete and world record holder for the most pull-ups done in 24 hours.

I thought I’d listen to a Joe Rogan podcast while laying in bed and the outcome was motivation. I’m not going to wuss out today became the mantra. I was so fired up I couldn’t believe it. After breakfast I was at the park doing pull-ups and chin-ups. I didn’t break records but I did them until I couldn’t do another rep.

-Walked the dogs(there’s another one staying with me right now)
-Did the laundry
-Jogged
-Did more laundry

I want to include that I took a shower after jogging but it doesn’t sound very impressive. Then I took a nap like someone had knocked me out cold. Afterwards I watched an hour of business television where some guy in a suit talks about stocks. I’m blogging right now and afterwards I plan on practicing piano.

History shows that the motivation will fizzle out by the time I wake up tomorrow. The mind decides whether to do something or not, and it is really good at making up reasons for taking the currently easy way out. After listening to the podcast my thoughts are that the only way to keep going is to not give yourself a choice even though you have it. Nike said it best, Just Do It. What if all I have to do is listen to something or someone inspiring every day? I might even employ some stretching before I go to bed tonight.