Hi, I'm LukeI've never posted on a forum before, let alone started a blog topic. This makes me feel obligated to introduce myself to the community with a 'lay down misere' kind of post. I have no doubt that these first words will catch the eye and my steady ascent into the world famous blogging annals will begin but just on the off chance that doesn't come through, I just want to get more out of my life by getting some public commitments down on paper. I'm sure it's not news to anyone here but apparently public commitments give you some kind of ninja like focus skills and that's exactly what I'm looking for.A bit of background about me: I've been lucky. I had a really splendid childhood, growing up in a somewhat back wood town in rural Australia. My parents are cool and I've got three sisters and a brother. They are all way older than me with their own families, kids and the rest. They are, however, straight up caricatures of what I'm trying to avoid. White, middle class and stagnant. Love them as I do, I don't want to be them. At the moment, however, I'm headed on a one way trip to do exactly that. It is scary.Back on track, my background continued: I moved to Melbourne (in Aus) at 18 and got a job doing computer work which I was in no way prepared for or, by any reasonable measure, good at. Whether it's the absence of a technical mind or sheer laziness, I never got past quick fix updates and bad Googling (yes, despite the snappy interface it is still possible to suck at Google). Nevertheless, I struggled on as you're meant to, just existing along in the city without any real advancement in life to speak of. I got fired a few times but I wasn't fussed, I knew that eventually my brilliance would become evident to someone important and I would be the next Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or Ryan Gosling. Suffice to say, that didn't happen as fast as it ought to and I soon got old enough to realise it which made me promptly flip out and book a trip to Europe. I was lucky enough to have the travelling gene and have since spent loads of time in Africa and Europe, a little in North and South America and just a smidgen in Asia. All of this really transformed me and made me wish for a life less ordinary. Of course, I still managed to land back in Australia with my girlfriend (happily) having no further idea of what I want to do. When in danger, people’s automatic reaction is to stick to what they know. It turns out that my techie skills are pretty sucky but my conceptual understanding of technical things is passable and I have a talent for camaraderie and smart alec comments. Sometimes this can drag you up the corporate ladder, however much you try to sabotage yourself.I must have found myself in the right place at the right time because I was rewarded with a good salary (>$150k), good friends (pure luck, nothing to do with me) and somewhat interesting work (identity management work is preferable to stuff like Cobra training). I'm in charge of over five million dollars and have a little discretion over some people’s lives by being their manager. Being in charge of people strokes the ego so I have found myself justifying and cajoling myself into thinking that maybe I should just 'stick with it and make HEAPS of money'. I now know that $150k is not a lot of money when money is the only thing you're doing it for. I fear that there isn't an amount of money that makes you happy / keeps you warm at night / solves all the world's problems. Obviously I've decided against trying to do that, though. I've read loads of books about starting your own business and can happily say that I created a project management business (the website) and then proceeded to do nothing with it (probably the best move I made). I'd like to start my own business, I'd like to not work all the time (on shit things) and I'd like to change a load of habits about myself. I like making lists, so here is one about me.Bad things about me:1. I pick my nose2. Am a self centered egotist3. Live a pretty boring life (I understand there is a dichotomy between 2 and 3. I'm OK with it) 4. Am addicted to pain killers5. Have a muscle spasm problem in my neck that my doctor told me was purely out of the tension my brain put in there (see problem 4)Good things about me:1. I don't use Facebook2. I like to read3. I like my partner4. I regularly use brackets 5. I'm fairly shameless6. I write every day, just for funWhen I read back over my post I can't help but be reminded of a quote by Christopher Hitchens. When talking about an early job he had, he reflects "I sometimes think if I'd been any good at that job, I might still be doing it.” This does, unfortunately, sum my position in life right now. I am good enough at my job that people praise me and it has made me make the fatal mistake of believing that there is some meaning in it all. My initial reaction was to soak up all the attention and put my head down and churn out the work. Now that I've had enough time to come up for air, I've reappraised my life and have graded myself with a big fat F. I need to make changes. Those changes can start small but they need to end BIG. I'm willing to take some risks and I want to put myself on the record as a way of getting it done.I'm going to use this blogging platform to track my brain retraining and document any bizarre or amusing experiences I have. My public commitment is to radically change my life in the next 12 months. Here is what I won't be doing:1. Working a corporate job in Melbourne, Aus2. Doing anything that is not awesome, anywhere (thanks Seth). For me that's any kind of work that holds no real value (some IT work, for instance)3. Having headaches from things that are inconsequential in the scheme of things4. Having debt5. Having any fear of climbing big walls (more to come on this one)Here is what I will be doing:1. Be involved with a local university giving talks on practical tips for young people in the workforce (and how to avoid it completely) 2. Having ten grand in the bank (significant given my history)3. Getting down to 83 kilos (I use the metric system)4. Climbing big walls5. Publish a book on how to become a perfectly good rock climber6. Publish a web app / Iphone app or setup a muse business7. Releasing a blog post twice a weekAnd that's it. This is how I'm going to start. I hope my post draws some encouraging comments and I'm alerted to some people out there who are just starting and doing similar stuff (not some f'n zen masters who has already smashing things....). Fin.
I like running. I always have. I even thought when I was young that I was going to be good at it. I came 4th in an intra district cross country event before being comprehensively beaten by the whole field in the next event. I found out that day that I was not "that" good a runner and that I should probably make alternate career plans for my future.
Since then I've periodically run for fitness and pleasure. Sometimes I'll regularly run three times a week for a year or more. Other times, due to circumstance or motivation, I won't run at all. I've fallen off and got back on the (running) wagon for as long as I can remember. While continuity is nice, my lack of it has given me the opportunity to constantly redefine my running technique so I can be as effective as possible when I take it back up again. I also think that adhering to a strict set of principles of technique has synergies in other sports and many other parts of life. Follow a few simple rules of technique and many difficult and physically painful acts are made that much easier. When you reach a threshold where things become uncomfortable, focusing on doing the basics right distracts the mind and ensures efficiency. Here is my method:
1. Breathe - I time my breathing by counting it out along with my running strides, e.g. I breathe in for three steps and out for three steps. I use this pace (3 X 3) when I start running again. I run at a pace that allows me to keep this breathing speed for around about twenty minutes. When I become fitter I make it four by four. Tracking your breathing in this way allows you to know what your body is doing and is the most effective way I know of understanding the "running feeling".
2. Stride - I want to run like a gazelle, skipping across the ground quickly with big strides. The problem is that I can't maintain this for more than a few hundred meters. In the first few weeks of the running habit, I take a naturally small stride that allows me to breathe how I want in my three by three rhythm. When I reach my first cardio threshold (around about two weeks from your first running session), I lengthen my stride to be longer than feels natural by about 5 - 10cm's. Whilst feeling unnatural at first, it will let you run faster later.
3. Body position - Once you have your breathing and stride sorted out you can focus on torso and head position. Try to keep your body straight while running, not swinging from the hips up to your shoulder. To keep the swinging to a minimum, keep your elbows tucked in. This will force your body not drag itself in circles. Likewise keep your neck and head fairly straight. An easy way to do this is to focus your eyes between three to four meters in front of you.
In Tynan's recent post titled Roughly What You Deserve, he mentions that he isn't particularly good at aggregating lots of independent events. Tynan is alluding to something that he, along with most of the population, aren't especially good at. Our brains aren't good at keeping an accurate catalogue of all the things that have happened to us or the things around us. Tynan's example is a view held by the poker populace that some Casino's are rigged and it's easy to see how this could happen. You go to the Casino one night and you come out on top. You're a winner. You remember the hands that went well and a few you may have missed out on. The next day you look at the money you earned and it doesn't seem to be quite enough for the amount of all that winning you were doing. You were ahead of the game but at the end of it all you have is the contents of your wallet, not Kobe Bryant's. Of course it doesn't really matter how much you win, it's never going to feel like it was enough. When you talk to your buddies you find out that they have had similar experiences. You collectively decide that some Casinos rip you off. They don't play fair.
In his book Thinking Fast and Slow, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman explains that when you are faced with a complex problem such as this, your brain makes an immediate assertion on what is happening. It doesn't want to do all the hard work trying to define the many variables that would go into really understanding the question, that's too difficult. Instead, it makes an immediate and often lazy assertion such as "this casino is rigged". Your brain makes a simple causal story to support this, "Casinos are big nasty places run by corporate fat cats whose appetite for money is only eclipsed by their willingness to exploit and corrupt."
The great thing about these stories is that they are easy to understand and come to you almost immediately. The bad thing is that they don't take into account the many facets that such a problem has and are, therefore, often wrong. There are so many variables in the modern world, and our mind so attuned to dealing with the huge amount of inputs, that we have become bad at storing and assessing each event that happens to us. Ideally we'd archive each experience along with its outcome in some nifty internal database where, upon trying to answer a question, our brain would statistically analyse our experiences and provide us with an objective set of data to make a decision on. Unfortunately that's not how we work.
Media training has become so commonplace, and the nature of sound bite news so pervasive, that rarely a moment of honesty is allowed to permeate our media landscape. As a society we are delivered slogans, one liners and constant repeats designed to rote learn our opinions so we can robotically bark them on command. What used to only be the remit of politicians and the media elite, has now become so commonplace that 99% of what we hear is just white noise. A nervous situation can be quickly diffused when all you’ve got to remember is “the boys prepared well and everyone executed the plan. I just played a role”, even though the question you were asked was about why you insist on abusing the elderly. Don't answer the question you were asked, answer the question you wished you were asked.
Luckily, media training is easy to spot because people take on an extremely modest persona. No one is intentionally modest, it’s just not socially acceptable to constantly big note yourself even when your achievements have brought you some fame. You've got to reserve yourself until you are so disgustingly wealthy you can indulge that base human instinct of being honest with the world. Only then can you let people be aware of the bottom feeding filth that they are, particularly compared to you and your massive pile of money. Of course, until you reach that point, you need to keep these feelings to yourself. You need to stick to the script. We all know the questions you are going to be asked, so just prepare your answer and move on making sure not to stray from the path.
All this is why it’s so refreshing when someone bucks the trend and speaks their mind. Torah Bright is the great Australian hope in snowboarding at this year’s winter Olympics but she can’t be really good in Russia because the way they’ve made the ice for the half pipe sucks. “The people who are constructing the pipe aren’t the greatest at their craft and it makes it challenging for us,” she said. Setting aside the notion that building half pipes made of ice is a craft, her comments are pretty diplomatic. Few will take exception to a couple of little men poorly practicing their half pipe craft, particularly in Russia where everyone is either an Oligarch or a member of Pussy Riot. The comment is critical without being particularly offensive. Torah has been media trained. She is adept at the veiled communication stab, an essential skill in this pointless, gray society we live in. Torah’s brother and coach Ben, on the other hand, sees the world for the cruel bitch she really is. “I’ve come to the point of being diplomatic, but it’s actually very shit” (sic). In the same sound bite interview, he delivers another epithet that any of our great social commentators would be happy to have attributed to themselves. "You’ve got a mixed event going on – moguls and half pipe together – so it’s fucking retarded.” Now, I don't understand what moguls are but they do sound pretty tiresome and I've already made myself quite clear on my half pipe opinions but, as pointed out by Ben, connecting the two is a base act that surely only the spawn of Lucifer would consider. It's like some mad scientists dream, putting together the body parts of animal, man and Greek mythology all in one for an ultimate abomination.
Of course, some people would argue that relating the degradation of half pipe standards in Siberia to people that, by no fault of their own, are mentally handicapped may in itself be offensive. They might also say that Ben's choice of language identify him as a bogan whose sister is good at half pipe and should probably steer clear of the rough waters of public debate. Just because his sister is a snowboarding Mormon, albeit a pretty good one, doesn't mean that polite society should give him a microphone.
To this I would say, however, that if you can't see the mad genius of comments like "it's fucking retarded" to sum up any situation, particularly one about ice half pipes, than you can be sure that your transition into brainwashed social order drone is compete. It is clear that Ben, in his free thinking, free wheeling ways, is on to something.
I like new years resolutions. It is like having a shower where the sins of last year are washed away. Even if you did not achieve a single resolution last year, your lizard brain is quick to point out that this was the younger, more immature version of you that just could not stick to things. That unreliable guy is nothing on this year's version. This guy sticks to things.
So, I have got twelve resolutions for this year (I wrote these down before the new year begun) so I wanted to get them out there so I could track them from here. They are:
1. Write a blog post twice a week - Yep, that's this thing. I have committed with a buddy to write every day. He has suggested that we do half an hour a day which is a little daunting but I am certainly prepared to give it a go. This is the first day of it and it is actually happening. I aim to post twice a week.
2. Read 25 books - Last year I tried to read 20 books which I did not complete. I had read 18 by early November, however life got in the way for the last two months of the year. It was annoying but I am not sure if it is the number per se, but rather that I read a lot more every year. I think if I read for an hour a day I should be able to get through 25 books. I read three in January already which are 1. The Catcher in the Rye 2. Blood Meridian and 3. Your Money or Your Life.
3. Relearn German - A few years ago I could have a basic conversation in German and write a little. Now I can barely do it at all which is something I want to remedy. This year I am going to study all the German Pimsleur levels which will hopefully get me back to having conversations in German. I will also either try to meet some local Germans or join the German speakers group in my local city.
Where is Linda?
Everyone looks for Linda at some point. Linda might be a set of keys, that girl from the bookshop or a switch blade with the worn but reliable handle. Eventually, you have to find Linda, no matter what. Last week I was looking for a literal Linda.
There are many things about working for a huge multi national bank that give you a sense of deep foreboding but the most vomit inducing one would have to be the atmosphere. Everyone acts like they spend their weekends caring for their frail grandparents rather than scouring Redtube and investing in hedge funds. On the surface the atmosphere is one of unrelenting compliance; where people are veritable pious process drones. No one speaks unless absolutely necessary and even when they do, they keep it as concise as possible in their huge effort of efficiency. Most of the time I'm too numb to notice what is happening in other peoples matrix inspired fuel cells, but every now and then I can't hep but enact my own form of morale building corporate sabotage, as it were.
Last week, I needed a book because in the Viper eyes of a bank it's an imperative that everyone understands how prime brokerage works, even if you don't have anything to do with it. Linda has said book. She coverts them, in the Hannibal Lectur sense, trawling the corridors with shawl and chain, handing out text books and selling pink gin. Linda needs to give these books to people to fulfill a pivotal aspect of her important job. I need this book to appear more engaged in my job because there is every chance they will continue to pay me if I insist on showing up. Linda sits on level 2 where one of the militant arms of management sit. I sit on level 1. I need the book and she is up there. I need it from her, she doesn't need it from me. You understand the predicament. I go to level 2.
Because I'm a Gen Y'r I decide I don't need directions. I use IM to ask Linda where she sits and she tells me she has her back to meeting room 2C13. If you work at a bank, this number means something to you, the eccentricities of which you, dear reader, have no interest in. So, I go to level 2 and find said meeting room. There appears to be about twenty people "with their back" to 2C13. People embody the banks culture perfectly on level 2 and no one speaks as if they were channeling Japanese samurai who themselves were fiercely applying the laws of Bushido. The tension rises every minute no one needlessly speaks. This whole situation, rather than giving me an erection simply makes me start to sweat. I really don't want to speak right now but I also don't want to have to come back here with slightly better directions.