21 Feb

You Don’t Need Motivation or Inspiration

I just sat down to write, thinking I should really take advantage of one of my few free evenings this week to put some words into a blog post, but then it hit me – I had no inspiration! Despite all of my wonderful techniques of logging ideas, of keeping notes in documents that I can access on my iPhone, work computer and home computer, and despite having trained myself in several techniques for increasing your imagination, I just couldn’t find the inspiration to write!

So I sat and watched the latest episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, hoping inspiration would strike once that was done. Nope; still no inspiration. Next, I went out on the balcony for a breath of fresh evening air, hoping the open vistas that were revealed to me would brighten my moods and fill me with the creative juices I was lacking. I even did ten push-ups and a lovely set of back and shoulder mobility stretches, but still no inspiration. I even turned on the latest Imagine Dragons album; that kind of music usually pumps me up enough to get my fingers moving on the keyboard! Alas! – nothing. And I’ve read dozens of books on motivation, inspiration and the creative process! How could this happen to me?!

Maybe I should just watch another episode of The Vampire Diaries and play World of Warcraft, you know? But wait; why don’t I need to be motivated or inspired to do any of those things? What is inherently different about writing a blog post – a post just like this one – that causes me to need some sort of special quality, a special state of mind, just in order to write a post?

All too often, us creative types lament the lack of inspiration as the main cause for our inability to create new content. We get various forms of creative block, where we just can’t create any writing, music, art or poetry. But that’s where the secret trick comes in. That trick that I’m sure we all know on some level but always forget.

Just write.

It doesn’t matter if your content is any good, and it doesn’t matter if you convey the exact meaning of what it is you want to say. Just write. Even if that means you might take a short break in the middle of writing to do something else, like read an article your ex-girlfriend just got published or go cuddle your dog, just write.

It doesn’t have to be long, either. The standard accepted amount of words of a single page is roughly 250 words, so if you make it to 500 words, you’ve written about two pages worth of text! This blog post is 572 words long, so just over two pages. It doesn’t have to be a revolutionary text that will turn heads and have Danielle Allen from the Pulitzer Prize board calling you and saying you’re a strong candidate for the prize this year. You don’t even need to publish it if you don’t want to, but you need to write.

That’s really the only way to get better at it. That’s really the only way you’ll ever get great content. You need to make content on a regular basis and hope that one of these days you create that epic masterpiece you’re hoping for. Don’t just sit around and wait for motivation to strike, because it doesn’t happen.

Just write.

20 Feb

What You’re Making Isn’t Good

I think most of us that that create some sort of content on the Internet are well aware that it doesn’t quite live up to our expectations of what we could make. We have good tastes and very high ambitions, but every time we sit down to create content we fail to live up to our own expectations and we create something that is worse than we had hoped to create.

The reason for this, of course, is that we all have exquisite taste and are well aware of what is good and what is bad. We have a vision of what the ideal state of our creation would be, but our capabilities just don’t live up to the task.

A lot of people give up at this point. A lot of people look at what they’ve created and decide that they’re just simply not good enough; they’ll never be good enough and they should give up and search for something else to be good at. This is a huge mistake.

Because of the simple fact that we have good taste and are well aware of what kinds of content we want to create, the best thing we can do is to keep up the hard work and continue to hone our skills. We know what we want to make – even though we can’t create it yet – so we should simply work on continuing to create whatever it is we want to create until we’re good enough at it.

No author wrote his bestseller on his first attempt. No painter painted his masterpiece the first time he applied a brush to canvas. No body builder got the perfectly sculpted legs he wanted the first time he touched a barbell. It’s crazy to assume that content creation online should follow any different rules than the tried and true progression of talent.

Follow that vision; you’ve got great taste and you know exactly what it is you want to create. Don’t be afraid to fail a couple of times while you’re on the path from here to there.

13 Feb

Health, Wealth, and Love

It’s hard to argue against the idea that the most important things we can have in our life are a good combination of these three things: Health, Wealth, and Love.

Health is all about feeling good in our bodies, having the ability to use your body in the way you want. You don’t have to become a new Arnold Schwarzenegger or some sort of a fitness model. All you really need is to eat well, drink enough water, move your body and get enough hours and quality of sleep. Everything else is really a bonus and quite pointless until you reach that level.

Wealth is all about having a sufficient amount of funds – sometimes I call them survival tokens – to never have to struggle to get what you need. They say lack of money is the most common cause of divorce and one of the chief causes of stress. We just need a base level to survive – and then some more on top of that for comfort. The desire for having excessive amounts of money just for the sake of having them is the root of many problems we can find in our lives.

Love is very important; the friends and family that were surround ourselves with shape us more than we imagine. There’s a saying that we are the average of the ten people we spend the most time with, so the people who you love – and who love you – really do create the person you are. Feeling loved and appreciated by others is an extremely important factor for our self-worth, and is vital in motivating us to move forward in our lives.

The question is, of course, how do we get all to have health, wealth and love, and which one of them is more important than the others?

Imagine living a life where you have health and love, but no wealth. It’s probably not so bad, really. It’s the life many families live; they have their health and their love for each other, but they struggle a little bit to make their ends meet. Their base needs are met, but they might feel a little hemmed in and unable to grow. All in all, not a terrible situation.

Now; imagine having health and wealth, but no love. This life is a step down from the one described above. People who live this life often feel alone; as if the things they have are empty, as they have nobody to share them with. Many a businessman puts all of his effort into building up a career that puts him in a penthouse apartment filled with riches, but nobody to wake up next to.

But the worst of all of the three alternatives, I think, is having both wealth and love, but not the health you’d need to enjoy them. Imagine owning estates in five countries but being too sick to travel to them. Imagine having the love of your life right there next to you but being too unwell to enjoy the love you share.

Health, in my mind, is by far the most important of the three, so why do people spend so much more time chasing love and wealth in comparison? Why do we smoke, eat fast food, fill ourselves with energy drinks, and sit down for most of the day? We know on some level that health is the most important thing in our lives, but we somehow manage to forget it. We ignore it. But why?

I think it’s because we’re making ourselves sick too slowly to notice it. You don’t get sick from sitting down for a day, but from making a habit of sitting down for hours a day for months upon months. A Quarter Pounder burger for lunch one day won’t kill you, but having an Egg McMuffin for breakfast, a Quarter pounder mega meal for lunch and a bag of crisps, washed down with lovely high fructose corn syrup sodas, for dinner every day for years definitely will.

I think it reflects a general attitude overall. People are looking for shortcuts to riches – get rich quick schemes – and shortcuts to love – seduction methods and pickup lines. We’ve forgotten all about long-term thinking, There’s no shortcut to health, no pill you can eat to become massively healthy for all eternity and no simple shortcut to get six-pack abs.

Like wealth and love; the best thing you can do is to put in a consistent effort for long periods of time.

10 Feb

Do Your One Thing

I don’t think I’ve spoken to a single person who didn’t have dreams and ambitions far larger than their lot in life. Everybody wants to be a millionaire, run their own business, live well above their current means or be doing something more important or more interesting than they’re currently doing. Barring a handfull of people who have given up and settled with their lot in life, I think it’s fair to say that almost everybody is fundamentally unhappy with at least one aspect of the way they live their lives. They want more money, power, influence, material goods or health, and often struggle with the way their current life works as they feel they deserve so much more.

A great deal of this, I think, ultimately with people’s inability to find their own brand of excellence. We know we’re not all that we could be on some fundamental level that very few of us can ever put into words. For a long time now, I’ve had the belief that we all have a slot in the grand puzzle of the universe that we fit naturally into. We could call it our meaning with life, our True Will, the Divine Plan, Karma or our ultimate purpose, but the end result, no matter what you call it, is the same. We’ve got a certain task or function that we’re especially suited to perform, and our inability to find and follow it is what causes this base level of unhappiness in our lives.

I know lots of people who are really good at their jobs, but then come home to spend their evenings and weekends doing what it is they’re passionate about. I’m trying to break free of being that person, myself. The eight hours these people spend at the office feel like twelve, and they feel exhausted coming home. On the flip side, however, the four hours spent following our own passion projects feel like they’re over in less than an hour and we’re left reinvigourated and ready for more.

What do complete strangers compliment you about? Most likely, this is an area where you’re unusually skilled and have something very special to offer. I still remember standing up in front of my class in high school, doing presentations, and being told by teachers and classmates that I should look into a carreer in radio. At the time, I was locked into the idea of using my computer skills to make lots of money that I forgot to take into account what natural skills and attributes I had. I expected to go the CTO route and manage a technical team, maybe become a project lead for the technical department of a major company or something similar. I didn’t stop and think that my computer aptitude was a learned skill, not an innate skill. My ability to speak and perform in front of an audience, my ability to use my voice to convery feelings and concepts; those were my innate skills that I should have capitalized on earlier in life.

It wasn’t until in my late 20s and early 30s, when I was given the opportunity to work as a technical trainer, that I suddenly found my speaking skills came to play. I found that, for the first time, work just simply didn’t feel like work any longer. Standing in front of an audience and performing my training made the hours fly and I never once felt like I should be doing something else – a rarity for my ADHD-addled brain. Starting the CSICON Podcasting Network and performing in front of an audience on a near-daily basis for more than four years has only reinforced that belief; this kind of thing feels natural to me and I lose track of the time I spend doing it. Even now, when I’m struggling through one of the darkest periods in my life, just getting in front of the microphone makes everything else slip away for an hour and I find myself being at peace with Universe. She and I are going in the same direction.

So ask yourself; what things don’t just come easy, but come completely naturally to you? When do you experience that oneness with the world arround you that everything else just fades into the background and feels less and less important – if you notice it at all. For most people, this will be a rather general thing, not something specific like “when I’m optimizing database code in PHP” or “when I’m discussing the history of the early Christian church”. It will be more on the lines of running, talking, learning, teaching, strength training, painting, designing, making music, meditating, doing caroentet, compiling vastly disparate pieces of information, etc.

Find that one thing and do more of it. Make it your life. Find a way to make a living doing that thing. The rest of your life should fall into place more or less automatically.

03 Feb

Outsiders

Like so many of the people I’m sure will be reading this, I’ve felt like an outsider for most of my life. Something all outsiders will be familiar with is that even in the subcultures we move in feel kind of like we’re putting on an act. Even when we’re among our best friends we realize that we can’t be all we are because it would scare them away from us or confuse them. At the office, we’re surrounded by people who work there – that’s not what we do; we’re living life and work just happens to be a place we go to five days a week.

For you, the outsider, a large portion of your early life is all about trying to fit in. You’ve tried to find your clique, that group of friends that you belong with, but you’ve always felt like the odd one out. You’ve probably had dozens – or more – different groups that you’ve hung out with at various jobs, schools, social circles, and so on, as you’ve searched for whatever group it is you truly find yourself belonging to.

I’m here to tell you today to stop looking.

Essentially, your search has been about searching for some form of external validation; you’ve been trying to find a group of like-minded people that make you feel like you’re all right.

You don’t need that, though. You’re a person, just like everybody else, with your own unique set of flaws and benefits; strengths and weaknesses; likes and dislikes. When you’ve been walking around wondering if you’ll ever find a group you belong to, you’ve been surrounded by people that are either feeling the same or who are deep enough into impostor syndrome that they’ve stopped searching for a group to belong to and just assume that they need to keep faking it.

I don’t want to resort to vague and unhelpful aphorisms like “You’re a beautiful and unique snowflake”; but that’s essentially what it boils down to. You don’t need a group to feel good about yourself; you need to realize that you only need your own validation. This doesn’t mean you should start going around feeling like a ludicrously entitled narcissist, you’re still ultimately responsible for being the best possible version of yourself – the trick is to not find that version of yourself in relationship to a group that you think you just might belong to.

03 Feb

My Dog is a Better Person Than You Are

One of the hardest things people seem to do is to live in the moment. We’re always pulled back to our past or looking into our future. We’re making plans and dreaming up ideal situations for the future and wallowing in love lost and opportunities missed. Instead of just sitting down, shutting up, and living in the moment, we’re sending our mind on journeys across time and space hunting for something that isn’t there.

John Locke

John Locke, my Siberian Husky

In contrast; my dog is a fairly uncomplicated creature. If he’s tired, he sleeps. If he’s hungry, he eats (or begs for food that I’m eating). If he’s restless, he runs. I never see him in the sofa wondering whether or not the bully dog at his daycare will be there to annoy him tomorrow. I never see him dreaming back to the days of being a puppy and all the crazy hijinks he was up to back then. I’ve never once seen him depressed over not having a girlfriend or making plans to lose weight by next summer. He exists in the moment, figuring things out as he goes along and doing whatever needs to be done in any given situation as it presents itself.

So the question has to be: Why do we convince ourselves that we can’t be more like dogs in this regard? What’s so God damned important about us that we constantly have to be thinking about our past and future instead of just dealing with the things we have in front of us right now?

In Buddhist Vipassanā meditation, as well as more modern Mindfulness meditation, we learn how to be more present in the moment, allowing us to “see things for what they really are”. In Vipassanā this is sometimes talked about as “insight into the true nature of reality”, which allows us to lose some of the fixation we have on the past and the future. This sort of practice not only makes you far more calm in your outlook on life, but greatly reduces anxiety and depression and increases your self-esteem.

If you have a pet, take a look at what he or she is doing right now. Odds are they’re fully engrossed in the moment, whether that be playing with their favourite toy, eating or relaxing. This is what we should all aspire to do; be in the moment, looking to indulge ourselves in exactly what it is we’re doing so that we don’t carry the past and future as well as our present.

The best part of the entire thing is that it’s all really easy to do. All you really need to do – at least to get started – is to set aside fifteen to twenty minutes a day to sit down and just focus on your breathing, your body, the sounds around you and the way you feel. If a foreign thought – something about what you should be doing – enters your mind, don’t worry, just drop it when you notice it and go back to what you were doing. Don’t spend too much time thinking words like “My fingers feel cold, and I’ve got an itch on my thigh”, but just be aware of these things. Don’t stop and focus on a single sound you hear and try to analyze it, just be aware that it is there.

Andy Puddicombe

Andy Puddicombe, founder of Headspace

It’s not a difficult task, all things considered, and it gets progressively easier over time. If you’re the kind of person who prefers assisted meditation, I can warmly recommend Headspace; they have an app for all major brands of smartphones and tablets, have a free introductory course and a very affordable $7.99/month plan for the in-depth stuff. Think of it as buying peace of mind and serenity for the cost of a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese meal. In perspective, it’s a bargain. Also, for every Headspace subscription purchased, they donate one to someone in need through their partners. You’re not just getting mindful, you’re being charitable, too.

So look to the animals around you. Aspire to not just love their presence in your life, but learn from them as well – try to emulate their ability to just be. The rewards you have in store are endless.

02 Feb

One Direction

This is not a post about the boy band.

I’ve been blogging for very many years now; on and off since 1998 or thereabouts. I’ve never really had a solid theme going for myself, but meandered between personal diary-type entries, deep thoughts, reviews of books and movies, talking about habits I want to have or get rid of, et cetera. It’s been scatter-shot and disparate, and I’ve never really been pleased with what I’ve had going.

I spent the weekend trying to figure out what this blog “is”, and what I want it to be. I tried digging deeper into my motivations and my ambitions with it and tried to learn more about the way I want to make an impact.

I’ve had a mission over at CSICON and some of the Gl0d Group projects, and that mission has been “To educate and to entertain”. Why I didn’t take that approach on this blog is a little confusing, because it’s a statement that I try to live my life according to. So that’s where we’ll be going now – I’ll be writing things that are actually helpful to people rather than writing things about things that are relevant only to myself.

10 Jan

Goals for 2015

I don’t like New Years resolutions; I try to just go for “I’m going to be stronger, healthier, richer and happier this year than I was last year”, but I do enjoy setting up some kinds of goals to strive for; things that give me some sort of structure and way of keeping track of things.

By definition, every single one of these is about me, myself and I; I don’t post my thoughts and ambitions relating to friends, family and relationships here.

With that said; let’s see what I have in mind for this year. Remember; these are goals, not resolutions or anything like that. I aim to achieve these things, but I won’t beat myself up if I don’t, and I’m fine with the idea of changing my mind half way though the year if something else pops up.

  • Quarter 1, January to March
  • Quarter 2, April to June
  • Quarter 3, July to September
  • Quarter 4, October to December

  • Get or build a power rack so I can start exercising regularly at home.
  • Finish painting my living room and hallway.
  • Kick nicotine and caffeine completely out of my life.
  • Get proper nightstands for my bedroom.

  • Reach at least $300 a month on the CSICON Patreon.
  • Release the first public beta of mesr.it.
  • Get back into the habit of running.
  • Buy two more suit jackets and two more suit trousers.
  • Finish decorating the kitchen.
  • Be in a regular routine of leg, spine and shoulder mobility and flexibility exercises. Yoga seems about right.
  • Launch my political party [Note: In Swedish].

  • Get back up to 75kg (~165 lbs) in body weight without raising my body fat percentage by more than 2.5% (I lost a lot of weight in both muscle and fat during my repeated illnesses and injury during the second half of 2014).
  • Also, cross that same weight goal in my bench press.
  • Welcome an additional three (or more) regular hosts to the CSICON Podcasting Network.
  • Be in a regular (2+ entries a week) posting routine for this blog.
  • Spend at least one full week on a beach in a tropical paradise doing absolutely nothing constructive other than possibly reading and thinking.
  • Find a new job that is closer to home and which doesn’t require a total of three hours of commuting every day.
  • Own stock and funds worth more than $12,500 (Currently $7,703).

  • Be well on the way in the development of an additional product for The Gl0d Group.
  • Learn to handstand perfectly for at least ten seconds.
  • Be back in the habit of meditating daily.
  • Appear as a guest on at least ten non-CSICON podcast episodes.
  • Reduce my dependence on social media.
  • Raise my passive income (after relevant costs have been deducted) from stock dividends, online projects, affiliates, advertisements and other “non-day job” sources to at least $3,000 yearly.

I’ll try to keep the list up to date as the year goes and make notes if I make any changes, additions or removals from the list.