The Challenge Eternale

Monday was a rare kind of day, for three different things coincided. First of, it was start of both a new week and a new month. Also, I just failed my previous challenge. So why not start off the new one right away?

The whole long time struggle with my points based challenge gave me plenty of time to think what kind of challenges I would like to have. So what now happens is a basically eternal challenge where I look to build up by habits towards the ideal kind of days that I would have. Indeed I have a whole productivity stack designed for myself.

Funny enough it is something similar to what I designed years ago for a challenge yet then failed miserably. While I just failed my previous challenge, I can totally see myself being able to adapt to that kind of routine now.

Here is what I am looking to build towards.

The Productivity Stack

4 – 7 am: 2.5 hours of effective work with stretching in between the breaks (30 min work 5 min rest cycle)

7 – 7.30 am: Stretching 15 min.

7.30 – 9:00 am.: Breakfast, 1h of reading, 15 minutes of stretching

9.00 – 12.00 am. 2.5 hours of effective work, stretching, same as before.

12.00 – 12.30 am: 750 words of writing.

Lets overview what I wrote above a little bit. Broken down into 4 little segments there is a full hour of stretching, that is my personal limit for enough exercise for a day, that being said after twelve I am free to spend all day in the gym should I please so, but at least this stack fulfills the bare minimums in that regard, regardless of what I do after that.

Aside that there is five hours of effective work. Now in terms of time logged in, it might be closer to 5.5 hours of 6 hours, but your effective work time is never exactly the amount you spent sat down working. By working 30 minutes at a time I make sure I have high focus and that I am blasting away every moment I spent working.

For me personally five hours of effective work per day translates to 35 hours of effective work per week. Might not sound so much, but if you have followed my statistics, even my super productive weeks rarely even reach this amount. Most people who work 40 hour weeks actually do barely 20 hours of effective work, so 35 is actually already above average.

Also the writing counts as work too, so there is basically 5.5 hours of work per day when that is taken into account as well.

I threw in an hour of reading there too cause I feel that the hour I spent eating my breakfast could be better spent than mostly watching nonsense youtube videos. But that might never come to fruition, cause I truly enjoy that moment of break in my mornings. Will see about that.

Now you know what is my long-term goal to make my day look. However, obviously if I just jumped into trying this it would fail. Instead what I have in mind is a gradual approach where I add a layer at a time to it.

Also the times on the clock, while intentional, are not set in stone. Some days waking up at four is impossibility, some days I might have a good reason to be doing something else at that hour. The times are to be held onto most of the time but parts of the stack can be rescheduled as needed.

The Challenge Eternale

So why do I call this with such a bizarre name? Well, as you might guess it is bit silly way of acknowledging that it is an eternal challenge for me. Every month I set a new target, but the challenge never ends. Should I fail, the negative consequence is for me to have to sell my computer. Yes, I recently bought a new gaming PC for myself which probably directly contributed in the previous challenge failing.

To make sure the damage it causes stays limited, it will be the sacrifice should I keep failing my challenges.

As established in the earlier challenges, for a thing, whether it is a reward or a punishment, has to matter to me for it to keep me moving on those hard days where I really feel like doing something else.

One of the problems with the previous challenge indeed was that I simply did not care enough of the rewards to be inspired. In the May Madness challenge, on the other hand, I was very motivated cause the reward excited me. So losing my PC works for sure in this regard for getting me moving whenever that early work is too much.

Now obviously I do not start with doing everything at once, though I will use what I mapped out there as a guideline, but for this first month it will be all about getting that morning work phase adjusted to. So the goal is to do 2.5 hours of work every morning before breakfast. Whether I hit the exact timing is not important as long as it is around four, and like I said earlier some moving around is acceptable, the only thing that is important is that I get it done before breakfast.

Now that should be a fairly easy goal, for I have done something similar numerous times before. So to make sure it does not get too easy, I will also go for going out every day. It is another habit that I also had setup few months ago already, and is not hard to do, but combination of these two should provide some challenge – and ample amounts of points, easily clearing 60 points today, for instance.

The important thing is to get back to the right ways of doing things after succumbing into bad habits as my previous challenge crumbled down. You gotta always start small and build up from that.

So that is it for August. I did not come up for any rewards, I figure just the potential punishment for failing is enough to make sure that I keep at it. Also I do give myself some leeway through there being acceptable one missed day per month without failure – two missed days though and it is all over.

As said this will be an eternal challenge to which I will add to once September rolls around. Hope by then I have a good foundation to build on.

Final Regroup After a Slip-Up

I have been gently slipping in the challenge this whole time, while just about making up the numbers generally, but being an hour late here, an hour there.

Ultimately I finally slipped two days completely off due to my sleeping pattern being kinda off the hinges right now. Of course that is no excuse, for I still should have about the same wake hours in my use anyway, but it does pose some more challenges for me.

Needless to say I did not wanna consider the challenge completely failed just because of this. So instead of failing it I will regroup, readjust and retry. I had a few days off due to the slipping off, so the challenge will restart tomorrow from where it left off. I am right now at week 6 of the challenge.

Starting tomorrow, that means I have 3 days of reaching 70 points a day left, then 7 days of 70 again, and finally 7 days of 75, as per original schedule. Then after that I will add a week to make up for the slip-up, with 7 days of reaching 80 points a day with no off day. This would be my all-time record week (for 80×7 will be at least 560 points).

Another change is that the timed targets become more of a suggestion than a rule. I really loathe living my life according to the clock. However I do not want to alter the original challenge too much, so they remain in the challenge. This time though if I do not meet the timed targets, I will have penalty of +10 points added to my daily target. So 70 becomes 80 and so on. There is still incentive to get my points done early, but it doesn’t completely dictate over my life any more, so I won’t be trying to manipulate the system just to reach a certain limit at a certain time.

Another thing that will change is that there will be no flimsily earnt points. 70 points is a lot of points to reach on a daily basis, that is why I have had a tendency to let myself get off the hook a little and earn some easy points. If I want the full points, I need to be fully focused on the things I am doing, no two ways about it. The whole system loses its purpose if I start to give myself easier time to score high. The number is supposed to be a measure of how effectively I am using my time. It does not measure anything if the conditiions under which the points are gained get looser.

Now that is just a problem with the application of the system, not with the system itself. Example of this would be, say I work 3 hours but I do it while texting bunch of people. Now obviously I effectively did not work 3 hours cause I was constantly distracted by the text convos I had going on. Good general rule of thumb for the point system is to add one hour worth of points in a situation like this. It is not like the whole time was wasted, but the productivity as I have studied on my own drops significantly.

Maybe you can validly add points for 1.5 hours, but that is always a judgment call. Uh-oh, that won’t be enough for make me reach the limit for four o’ clock. Whatever, I can slip 2 hours worth of work there, that works.

…and that is how the whole system starts taking it up the ass. If I want full points for worked time, I better actually work the whole time and not be distracted.

Last week I was on course to making my all-time record, but I stopped short on the last day. I did not feel good about the week actually being my all-time most productive week, cause I know there was a lot of padding on the scores. Or hell, it might not even be a lot, but even just 10-20 % is enough for me to not feel that the score is legit.

That being said, on the early days of the score I was also very loose on the score, only just measuring the quantity of the time I spent on activities rather than taking the quality into account as well. So maybe some early high scores are tainted in the same way. Regardless, I do not want to further that.

So yeah, there is the whole rambling regarding the challenge. Needless to say, if I slip-up again I will have to consider the challenge failed and scrap it. It wont be easy and the whole purpose of the challenge was to slowly ramp up the challenge. Now that I have lost a bit of the momentum it will be hard to jump back up to 70-point daily grind – but hey, it would not be considered a challenge if it weren’t hard.

So It Failed

I have failed my share of challenges over the years and this was yet again one of those. Turned out that the 35 points by 4 pm. was too tight limit for me. Of course it is all just an excuse but that limit indeed did not leave me much room to manuever if I slept it.

Now it leaves me at a position where I either accept the punishment which is dealing with my broken headphones for next 6 months, or set a new challenge where I can attempt again earning the right to buy new ones.

One thing is for sure – the headphones in themselves did not work as a very strong motivator, unlike the Muay Thai pads for my previous challenge. It just did not get me excited in the same way so on those days I woke up sleep deprived or unmotivated, there was just not enough to fire me up. Of course, one problem for future to solve is the question why I can’t get bothered just intrinsically, but that is something I can figure out later – for now, it is important to get back on the horse and keep the good habits going.

New Challenge Parameters

My first instinct is to punish myself by making the challenge harder to make up for the failed day – but that won’t obviously work, as I already failed, what is gonna happen with the harder challenge? It is like after failing a heavy bench press, you slap another couple of plates on the bar and try again. You will just crash harder.

The answer is to drop back the intensity a bit, but to add the punishment factor in just add more repetitions – in other words, just make the challenge have more days by making it longer. So the amount of points I need to score will start off bit lower again on a level I know I can do it, but challenge will run until August 14th to be full 8 weeks. Also I will gradually pick up the intensity to keep up the challenge.

Another change is instead of having high limit to reach before 16, I will add more checkpoints during the day to make sure I gain points more evenly.

8 Weeks of Intensity

Week 1

Daily limit 60

12:00 – -10 points

16:00 – 15 points

20:00 – 40 points

Week 2

Daily limit 65

12:00 – -5 points

16:00 – 20 points

20:00 – 45 points

Week 3

Daily limit 65

12:00 – 0 points

16:00 – 25 points

20:00 – 50 points

Week 4

Daily limit 65

12:00 – 0 points

16:00 – 25 points

20:00 – 55 points

Week 5

Daily limit 70

12:00 – 0 points

16:00 – 30 points

20:00 – 55 points

Week 6

Daily limit 70

12:00 Р0  points

16:00 – 35 points

20:00 – 60 points

Week 7

Daily limit 70

12:00 – 5 points

16:00 – 35 points

20:00 – 65 points

Week 8

Daily limit 75

12:00 – 10 points

16:00 – 35 points

20:00 – 70 points

By the end challenge will be much more difficult, but it starts off easier and gradually builds up – this one should be very manageable and by the last week my record for the week should be bordering on 600 points.

Rewards

So aside making the challenge more gradual, I also made the rewards more engaging including making this a mutual challenge with my girlfriend so she has her own stake in this to put some social pressure on me to meet my daily goals. So should I succeed I will buy something for her too, and should I fail it is something away from her – I have noticed that I hate disappointing people so this should hit some deeper personal value and thus provide more intrinsic motivation to keep going during those lazy moments. As for myself, I will still keep going for the new headphones, cause the old ones really annoy me.

For simplicity’s – and consistency’s – sake my daily goal will every day be static 3 hours of work without wifi to ensure no distractions. This will make sure gaining the 10 points from completing the daily goal will be equally easy or hard every day. Furthermore, I will allow myself one off day every week, where I do not need to meet the point goal. But fail two days in a week, and it will be a failed challenge.

May Madness Completed – On to The Next Challenge

May Madness Challenge completed last night with me finishing off a 478-point week in UAS terms. That is an all-time high and the statistics about the resounding success of the challenge won’t stop there – during the five weeks of the challenge, I managed to score two top-10 all-time days, and have now record streaks of over 50 points every day and 300 points a week running for a record of five weeks in a row.

So yeah, in short, while I was only getting through the challenge grazing the bar, I still succeeded in a massive way, actually bumping my general productivity, as measured by UAS, by over 50 %. The effect on consistency was the biggest though – I have never gone even close to scoring so much successive strong days.

What I stumbled across what something that works for me as emotional leverage to get myself to feel that gun in my head that makes me work hard – or if not hard, at least harder – hard enough to reach the goal I had for the challenge.

While I am undecided whether there is actually such thing as momentum, I know that resting on my laurels now would be to lose all the good work I have done. So I will keep building on this win and string it with another challenge.

June Joy Challenge

So let’s use what we learned in the original challenge to start another, add some challenge and make sure I remain motivated. There has been countless challenges I tried and I failed before, and the difference was probably some form of accountability. Even if I am only accontable to myself, as long as I understand there is clear consequences to failing or succeeding, it will be enough to keep me moving on those slow, unmotivated moments. The vision of getting the Muay Thai pads was compelling enough to really fire me up and the prospect of screwing it up would have pissed me off. At the same time it was something I did not have to get in case of failure, so I could actually follow through with denying them from myself, should the challenge fail.

Obviously material things are not the best thing to fuel your motivation, but whatever gets the animal moving still works in the end. So I am going to keep with that theme. The reward, for completing the challenge will be this time getting new earphones for myself. The old ones are pretty much destroyed, but still usable so I don’t absolutely need new ones, but should I fail it would definitely be a punishment to keep using the old ones. So upon failing, I would doom myself to using the old ones until at least December.

Challenge Parameters

As for the exact parameters, we look to build up from the old challenge again, with some adjustments based on the experience of May Madness challenge.

  • Challenge will run 4 weeks, ending on Sunday the 3rd of July
  • Every week I have to score at least 400 points
  • Every day I have to score at least 60 points, but I can have one off day every week as long as I still complete above
  • One of the weeks has to be record week
  • There has to be at least one 100-point day and 3 days over 90 points
  • I have to reach 35 points every day before 4 pm. local time

So lets quickly run through those. Some of those are a bit arbitrary, like wanting to score one 100 point day, but as for the 60-day daily goal, the key is just to keep pushing the requirement higher and higher as I adjust. I do give myself one day off in a week, should it be needed, cause sometimes it is just nice to have some flexibility in your life. The final point is actually one I have most to say. The thing that was very common during May Madness was me rushing before midnight to make the points and admittedly sometimes manipulating the points a little to make the last few points (like drinking stupid amounts of water).

Things like that of course go beyond the point of the point system, but I did it because that was the requirement I set for myself. To avoid such things this time around, I want to get up to 35 points, 25 points of the daily limit with good eight hours to go. Hopefully this is enough to prevent me from needing to last minute rushes to get points. Another positive effect I hope to see is it spurring me to start my days strongly. I know the strongest days only come after really fast starts, so if everything goes like planned this should encourage me to not only reach 60 points daily, but go much higher on a regular basis.

Will see if this will be as successful challenge as May Madness, regardless it won’t be too big adjustment directly following the prior challenge. I can just keep doing the same things that I have been doing so far and that have worked for me so far.

Intermediate Stop on My Journey

It has been an enjoyment, albeit a humorous one, to have been reading my old blog posts. My inspiration does not always hit the times when I am free to write, so I have been browsing through my old posts in attempt to find ideas for new writings, or regurgitations of my old ideas in more mature format.

If one point of my blog has been to document my self-development journey, it has at least partially fulfilled that function. In my old posts I might have been still finding my own voice, and perhaps still am, but there was enough of it there to leave a permanent stamp of the mindset, the thought-patterns and emotions that I had at the times I have gone through.

Reading my old posts one sentiment stands out above all – I have come a long way. Long way from the guy who was just struggling through everything, desperately trying to make some money to go to Japan. The guy who was trying to work so hard but getting so little done, yet in the end beating himself. Reading my old posts, I can be proud that I have gotten over those times, to a happier and calmer time.

However I am not particularly filled with pride with the stagnation that has followed since. I feel like sometimes slowing down is appropriate, but stopping for too long just leads to everyone else being far ahead by the time you are ready to move. Then you have some catching up to do.

It has been interesting to reconnect with my old self through my old posts, and to wonder what that kid full of hopes and dreams would have done if he had my resources and situation at his disposal.

Cause back in the early days of the blog, in the early 2013, over three years ago, I had next to nothing. The perception of time here is bizarre too – I have been to over 10 countries since, had multiple failed relationships and other strong experiences, which makes it feel like it was a lifetime ago. On the other hand, though, you think it was 2013 so it was just recently. In this case, three years makes a big difference.

Makes me wonder, what would I have done differently if that guy had gotten access to what I have now. Then again, I needed to go through my journey to get it. I needed to learn to work harder. I needed to let go of attachments. I needed to go through uncomfortable situations to get to the current, calm mindset that I generally have.

But like I said, there is no room for stagnation. That same kid who was far off, much farther off his goals than I am now, set his sights far higher than where I wound up. It is comforting to see that a lot of goals me from three years ago set, I have achieved and that most of the ones I did not achieve turned out to not be so important anyway, but it is not like I am ready to rest on my laurels.

In fact, you never will be, but even if such a time existed I would be nowhere close to it. I still have anxieties, I still have struggles in my everyday life, but also progress has been made. It is funny to read my old posts how happy I was over simple things, how I was painting them to be this huge challenge where in reality they weren’t. But that is an important reminder of where I come from: It was a big deal at the time, it was a big challenge at the time.

For me to be relatively normal today I had to overcome massive resistance in the beginning, such that 95 % of people won’t even ever understand cause they don’t see how simple things had become difficult to me due to mental resistance. It is even hard for me to understand it, despite having lived through it. Like I said, that time feels like a different lifetime and it is hard to access even the memories of that time. Yet, I am not even that far off yet. I could easily slip back there, things have not changed that much.

Which is why this life-situation should be just a temporary, intermediate stop in my life. A plateau from which I can look below to my old life, but where I should just take a breather before gritting my teeth, looking atop of the peak I am going to and then start trodding along the path.

Not Everyone Should Have an Opinion About Everything

I have gotten stuck on some Social Media debates lately. A big mistake always. Really bad for your general happiness levels.

Long things short, what really drives me crazy is that ignorant people have a strong opinion about something they obviously have no real knowledge, first hand or second-hand, about. Just on impression, people have so strong opinion they are willing to stand by it even against all the logical evidence.

Here is the deal – unless you have a lot of experience and knowledge about something, you really should not have an opinion about it. At all. Let alone a strong opinion. I don’t get to have strong opinions of many things as a result of living by this paradigm. But the ones I have actually make sense for the most part and I feel deservedly firm about them.

It can kinda make me a boring conversationalist sometimes, cause for most things, I just don’t have a strong opinion, usually things that I don’t really care about. Thankfully it helps me avoid tedious and fruitless arguments with people and is a good price to pay for retaining my intellectual integrity.

But thing is, why should you have a strong opinion about something you really don’t know anything about? If you have never been in a fight, you should not act like you know how to do it. If you have never been in a gay relationship, you should not have a strong opinion about it. If you have never had an abortion, or understand completely the reasons and methodologies regarding it, you simply have no right to have an opinion. These are not subjects I have been arguing with people about, cause I really don’t have strong opinions about other people’s business, I just mentioned them cause lot of people do have a strong opinion on them even though they definitelys should not.

This is something that really should be taught in schools, cause it would clear a lot of dumb, loud people out of the social media, I mean man can dream that would be the effect anyway?

Whatever the case may be, the current society is ran exactly the opposite way. Places like social media encourage people to speak up even though they don’t know anything about things. It gives them platform to be widely heard and spread their views that might be completely out of touch with reality. This is not a ran against free speech – this is rant against intellectually rotten mindsets that are simply lazy to thoroughly think through their views.

Another form of encouragement for this “having an opinion despite knowing next to nothing” -phenomenon is democracy. How many of us really have a depth of knowledge about politics? How many of us have a depth of knowledge about how things should be run in our country or world in general? How many understand education, global economics, etc etc so deeply that they should have a right to opinion?

Truth is not many, but the whole idea of democracy is that it expects us ALL to have an opinion about it and all of our opinion counts the same towards the ultimate decisions. This is not an anti-democracy rant as such, it is just pointing out a fact how democracy is flawed at its root level. Hence we end up with political candidates that no one seems to want.

Everyone’s opinion does not count the same. If you haven’t at the bare minimum spent a long long time introspecting a matter from multiple different angles, please just shut up already. Your opinion is not worth shit. Even with just introspection, the validity of what you say is limited. As soon as someone with experience on the matter steps into the conversation, anyone who is not ego-invested should realize that their opinion just became second-class.

Once again we ran into the problem that just because you have some experience, you are automatically right. A small sample of experiences does not make you right. It is so common for people to make sweeping conclusions about things just based on one thing. It is just as invalid as just thinking about a matter.

So what is what we want? I don’t want to aggrandise myself, but obviously I think I behave correctly in this matter. I am not saying I am perfect, I probably have un- or subconsciously strong opinions about things I know jack shit of, or about things I think I know a lot but really actually don’t, but I try my best to follow following guidelines:

  • Have a breadth of knowledge on the matter.
  • Have at least some real life experience or observation on it so I see how the ideas work in reality.
  • Carefully weigh the different sides of the matter in my mind over a long course of introspection.
  • Avoid subject matters I do not know anything of.
  • If I do venture to have an opinion about thing I am not so familiar with, admit right away my limited knowledge and not aggressively defend my opinion.
  • Be ready to let go of your opinion if someone shows in clear terms that you are wrong.
  • Learn new stuff.

These are not conscious guidelines that I have had, I just wrote that down first time trying to explain kinda the internal compass I have developed for these things.

There is the old measuring stick about people’s actions that “if everyone did that, then x” that is used mostly in attempt to invalidate some ways of life. I think it is stupid actually, but without digressing from the point I am making, this is one such mindset that if everyone adopted it we would have much less intellectual noise in our lives and more carefully weighed opinions from people who know what they are talking about. To stay true to what I just outlined above, I have to admit I do not know what else would everyone adopting this mindset would cause, but as it would never happen, it does not really matter either. I just think it is an easy way to make your mind a little bit clearer.

In the end though, you are best advised to avoid arguing with people online in the first place – even when you are right, you are gonna have a bad time. In fact, the less regard you have what the people and the society think, the happier you will be in your life.

Always a Way to Improve

I didn’t write a headline for this post, I will just kinda do a stream of consciousness and then just see what comes, then slap the general theme or whatever conclusions I might come to as the headline. So let’s go…

May Madness Challenge is now running on its second week, and so far I have been successful, even if just grazing the bar sometimes with my 50 points a day requirement. It could have been an easier landing to the challenge, though.

First setback obviously has been my erratic sleeping pattern, which makes consistency hard and planning of days tricky. I cannot complain about that too much, though, as that is entirely in my control. Bigger problem has been falling sick in the beginning and in fact I am still having health problems. Nothing severe, just a bit of a fever, but it does make putting in longer work hours bit tougher.

No cutting slack though. I would cut myself some slack if I set a really difficult target like 100 points per day, which gets borderline impossible if you are sick and feeling lethargic, but I precisely set the 50 point daily limit to have some room for manuevering. So no mercy on that. 50 points is not that hard to get, just put in few hours of concentrated work during the day, read a bit and do some other good shit, and you will get there. So I am not doing anything earth shattering here even though I am sick.

It just shows how much of our lives is just up to our decision, though. I am far from my best conditions, yet if I just commit to it, being that productive every day is not that hard. It is not an impressive level anyway, but it will lead to some improvements already in a person’s life, and to point out how rarely I reach even this measly levels, last time I scored 50 points on nine successive days was back in 2013 – unfortunately that is not something I cannot confirm as I lost all my old records expect the top-10 weeks of all time, but given I had scored multiple over 400 point weeks in a row it is likely I also stayed above the 50-point line.

In the end the points itself don’t matter – it is just a tool for measurement, something to show how much a simple decision and emotional leverage to stay disciplined can cause change in your life. My points increased by about 50 % from the average of previous few weeks. Was my life strictly speaking better? No, to be honest not, as I was still adjusting to the new limitations and hence not being as free to go out etc, as well as getting sick, but I got done a lot more than I have been getting done lately. Again, I am still on no impressive level, but you cannot jump from 1 to 100… Or maybe you can, who knows, but point is I am not trying to sell you on some magic pill that changes everything. I am still on the red on most individual things in my tracking spreadsheet – which means I am still not doing enough of almost everything by my own standards.

Few weeks of 400 points got a book done, and few weeks of 300-500 points that the challenge ought to bring would make me get shit done on more acceptable pace.

Thing is, what I am describing here is what the high-achievers will get on their worst weeks.For high-achievers, even when they are taking a break from working, stuff like meditation, reading, social relationships, etc. are such prevalent things in their life, that they would rack them up into the 300s easily every week.

Why is that? Well my first instinct was to phrase it above that it comes naturally to high-achievers, but I am sure that for lot of them it did not come naturally to begin with – but over time it became natural for them. It was all a matter of self-training. They had strong enough motivations to keep enduring in self-discipline for years and years to build habits that naturally support a good life. I have done it in the past too, but I have to admit that lately I have ceased to really actively build positive habits. Why that is would merit a whole another post pondering.

Thing is, always keep moving. You might have been standing still for past two years, and lament how you used to be sprinting ahead of the pack and now struggle to even keep up jogging pace. You gotta build it up again. Or you don’t have to – you can always choose mediocrity. I am not even being sarcastically motivating you with reverse psychology – for some people it really is satisfying choice and they can be happy just chilling their life. Not everyone has to push everything in their life to the max, you can also just chill it to the max and be happy, some people can certainly do that.

For me, the force that set me moving, the dissatisfaction, the knowing that I can do better than this, the need to prove to myself time and time again that I am awesome and can become awesome every day, is now counter-balanced with the force of feeling everything is good and right, chill and satisfactory. The good is the enemy of the best. Breaking the inertia of the chill and having all your basic needs met is a tricky thing, again worthy of a post of its own.

I have struck some chord within myself with this challenge though, cause for all the little nuisances I am still going and seem to have the mindset to keep going until the end. The first week is always the hardest, and with the added difficulty I have been enduring it is unlikely things would get harder – hope I won’t jinx it by saying that. Just goes to show how granted I have been taking my health and my time to not even match what I am now doing while healthy.

So perhaps it all comes back to that old notion about life being short, thing that I have already taken multiple times to reiterate. It is a hard lesson to internalize. Easy to know as a thought, but to internalize so you really have understanding of it is a whole different ballgame. You love someone more when you almost lost them and know deep down you might lose them again. Every moment with them becomes precious. So too becomes life when you fully, deeply realize with every cell of your body that your life might be taken away from you any moment. We all lead a cushy existance that rarely pits us eye to eye with that reality of death, even death of our loved ones does not necessarily be enough to give us that deep understanding.

Thing is, I am about to slip into another monologue that would be worthy of its own post, so I am gonna cut this one here. As expected, this was exactly the kind of post you would think about after I said I will write a stream of consciouness; rambling, lacking focus, just generally all over the place. If there was any thread running through the post, it was that we all have to power to change our lives at any moment and all it takes is to find a way to get over ourselves.

May Madness Challenge

It has been a while I have wanted to put myself under a challenge. I have started and failed some challenges since the major success of Spiral of Awesomeness, but nothing has really concretely even started, which has at times even made me think that the whole model of making challenges for yourself is a bit contrived anyway.

Something about it appeals to me though and it can be hard for me to set my mind correctly to get started on some things if I just think I should do something. I guess I am a guy who reacts well to a set, simple target and working towards it. I don’t know what it is, and ultimately the results have been mixed anyway. Thing is, I am ready to try something again after spending last few months more or less stagnating.

After all, if any challenge can be as big of a success as Spiral of Awesomeness was, it is not just a gradual increase in the quality of my life, but a whole jump to another level. In the end it does not matter why something works, what matters is that I get a psychological leverage over my primitive brains. Competitiveness is one way to do that, as is this challenge mindset.

So with all that in mind, let’s delve right into what I want to do for my May Challenge.

May Madness

It was a long process trying to figure out what kind of a challenge I would set. Spiral of Awesomeness was very structured, and I tend to respond very well to that kind of parameters, because it is very black-and-white, very little thinking involved. However the way my life is at the moment would be at odds with the level of rigidity such challenge would require. I needed something more fluid. I am sure eventually I will try to put more structure back to my life, but I needed more of a challenge that involved mindset rather than specific actions.

In the end the answer came to me from closer than I even thought – my point system, the Universal Awesomeness Score. In short, UAS tries to condense my quality of life/productivity in one number. It does not actually necessarily tell how good my life is, but it does measure well how well I am using my time. If I score high? Might have been a shit day, but I at least put in a lot of effort that day and did things I consider to be valuable to me. So while not perfect, it is a decent yardstick and I did score my highest weeks during Spiral of Awesomeness challenge – and all that effort wound up changing my life. To put it short, I don’t see anyone scoring highly in it for an extended period of time and NOT getting some rewards from their hard effort.

The risk of course is that without clear guideline the daily actions become a bit muddled, but I will try and see what happens. Regardless, it gives me the fluidity to do whatever I want on any given day as long as it is accruing me more points.

The only thing to decide was what is the appropriate difficulty level. My first instinct was 30 points per day, which is something I have been doing fairly consistently over recent weeks. I realized in the end though that it is not much of a challenge. There should be difficulty, so I decided to hike it up to the upper limits of my ability. Scoring 50 points every day is fairly hard and takes lot of discipline and consistency. This year I have scored over fifty only on nine days, so stringing a month of going over it every day is gonna be challenging. However, if I can do it once in a while, I can do it repeatedly. If you can take one step, you can take thousand steps.

50 points a day translates to about 350 points per week. Right from the start this is more than I have scored in any week of the year so far, in fact I have gone over 350 points only 3 times since start of 2014. So it is very challenging, but as said, it is within reason to go for. To further challenge myself, I want to beat my old weekly record from 2013, and take my record to 500s, so one of the weeks of the challenge has to score 500 points for me to consider the challenge a success.

The Parameters in Short

  • Score 50 points every day (midnight to midnight Thai Time)
  • Starts May 3rd, lasts five weeks until June 5th.
  • One of the weeks has to score at least 500 points.

Rewards

Completing the challenge successfully, I will buy myself Muay Thai Pads to assist training. If not, I will not buy them for at least 6 months. This is the perfect kind of reward as it is something that I really do wanna get for myself, but don’t necessarily need so I can forego it in case I fail. This gives a real, tangible outcome for my subconscious to motivate me.

Click Publish More

You would be surprised but I actually have a lot of drafts in the works. I mean, I guess that is not too much of a surprise considering I have like 7 unreleased videos from early 2015 still in the works, but the point here is that I don’t press publish enough.

So I am gonna do what Seth Godin tells people to do about shipping more. Which in my case means clicking publish more often. I guess I have been bit of  purist when it comes to the blog, vetting the topics that are good enough etc. bit too hard.

The point of the blog is to be a place to dump my thoughts. A record of my journey. It has not been much of a record lately. It is not supposed to be a perfect resume of writing and life lessons, it is supposed to be bit gnarly and rough around the edges like the life it represents.

So I will click publish more. Post short posts, long stream of consciousness post with no points, and yes, the occasional home run post that actually makes sense as well. At least I hope so.

Time to abandon the perfectionism in any case, and ship more! So see ya next time :)

Competitive Spirit

I have always hated losing. I have always known myself to be competitive as well. I know competition brings the best out of me – that is what made me so good at Football, constantly competing with my brother who probably has similar mindset while growing up. Our competitiveness made us soar far above everyone else in that endeavor where I am from. How far above everyone else? Well, in the last game we played, me and my brother teamed up with two others to play against seven of the rest. That is four on seven. Surely we got our asses handed to us?

No way. We absolutely crushed them, the most devastating victory I can remember from the years of playing football in my home village – the final score was 49-8. Both me and my brother scored over 20 goals, the other two people in our team were mere fillers in comparison. So to say competition brings the best out of me would be an understatement to say the least.

I have always known that, but to what extent only dawned me yesterday. You see, my life has been kind of bereft of competition since I have left Finland. I guess the most important competition we have is the eternal me against me battle, but as said, it has always been pitting myself against others that has drawn all the resources out of me.

To what extent I am ready to go to achieve the victory? Well, as I learned yesterday, I want to win so bad I am willing to destroy my health in the process. I will ignore pain, total exhaustion, and drain myself completely just to not lose.

Bangkok is brutally hot at the moment so heading down to the park to practice a little bit footy is always gonna be bit tiring, but still when I am just doing tricks on my own with the ball on my own, it never gets close to being too much for me.

Enter few young guys asking me to play with them. There were three of them, and they looked like they were in their teens. I shrugged and thought why not. Its probably been two years since I played against other people due to my travels and then injuries following.

But the stage was set, 2 on 2 football just for fun – yet even that was enough of a stage for me to not allow myself to lose. I don’t know what it is, maybe it is an ego thing, but on one hand I don’t think so, cause it does not seem like there is no thinking involved in it. It is just that once I enter into competition, I just automatically will do everything to beat the others.

Now if you know anything about 2 on 2 football, it means there is no respite from running cause both sides only have two players. So the draining heat combined with the fact that I have not played regularly in a long time meant I was in for an epic gassing. Early on the game, I rounded off my opponent to slot in an easy goal to the empty goal, but after that sprint I already felt massive amounts of lactic acid in my muscles. If this was me in 2010, just few breaths, little jogging and it would have all cleared up. But this is not peak performance me, this is me slowly recovering from back injury -me that has not done any intensive cardio that induces such massive lactic acid build-up in years.

Yet, there was that competitive spirit that would not allow me to quit. Sure, I stopped running all the time and just gasped for breath, but if there was a hope of goal, hope of getting the ball, any glimpse of opportunity – it would be full sprint again. We were playing on the pavement, yet that did not stop me from throwing myself onto the ground in attempt to block a goal bound shot. Adrenaline made sure I did not feel the pain.

I am not writing this to brag about myself. It is more that yesterday was awakening of something that has been missing from my life for a long time. In the end there is not even anything to brag, for after my easily slotted opening goal, we conceded three goals and lost the match. I am not even sure if anyone else was counting them, but for me it has always mattered. Is it an ego thing? I don’t know. All I know is that it matters to me, and win or lose it makes me feel alive. I strive to compete, and I thrive in competition.

I heard a whistle, I did not know what it meant but the kids left. For once I did not lament losing too much, for chasing the win would have probably killed me. I was more relieved that the match ending would allow my pride to rest. I staggered to the stairs where I left my water bottle, took a sip of water and gathered my gear. For the next couple of hours I felt like I was gonna die from the heat. My face was red, and I don’t think it was sunburn (it being gone now and all). Cold shower and couple of hours later I finally started feeling normal again, but not without remembering how much more competition gets out of me. Perhaps too much in this case, when I do not know my limits in the extreme heat and bump up the intensity too much, but nonetheless it was a powerful moment of self-(re)discovery.

Since that moment last night I have been thinking about my competitiveness and relating it to most things I am good at. I love poker, for instance, and while I chose not to pursue that as my main path, it is a competitive thing that made it very natural for me to become competent at it.

I loved competing so much, I even made things like dream recall and lucid dreaming competitive things. I never made writing into such, guess my creativity flowed enough to not needing to compete to get it done – yet now I wonder if I would have gotten even more done if I was competitive about that though.

But I obviously don’t fully know myself yet. This competitive spirit is kind of elusive as well. If I am in direct competition like a football match, obviously it comes out. It also comes out when I am playing video games with my friends. But most of life, I don’t feel competitive. I don’t feel necessary to make more money than my neighbor, or whatever. I don’t feel competitive compared to the average man, or needing to compete in social status and material possessions. That is all intangible for my competitive spirit, and I think for sake of my overall happiness, that is good. As a logical guy, though, seeing how it really drives me to the next level, I start thinking of the applications of this competitiveness, and makes me wonder how to inject more of it into my life.

For instance, my work is already competitive to begin with. I am in direct competition with my teammates, as our quantity and quality of work is compared against each other. Yet, I do not feel the slightest inkling of a competitive spirit in my work, which is why my income has not increased over the years. So what blocks it? The feeling that I cannot beat them? Just not caring about this form of competing? Not knowing who I am against? I know them by name, but I have never personally met any of these people.

As said, usually I also feel competitive when playing video games with my friends. Yet lately even when I play a new game with my friend I have not felt much of a competitive spirit. Perhaps cause I am a beginner in the game and he has some experience, or maybe cause I haven’t quite gotten into it, but once again the competitive spirit has been elusive. If I don’t care, I don’t care. But what triggers me to care?

Ultimately I don’t have answers. I wish I had, cause I figure this is something that could change my life for the better. Having seen the power of this mysterious competitive spirit on me, I wish I could just turn it on at will, but it is some kind of subconscious trigger that I am yet to fully understand and manipulate.

 

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