Archive - August, 2014

100th Post: On Shortness of Life

It’s been way over two years since I opened this blog. So managing 100th post in in bit over 700 days still averages about a post per week. Today we are going to, aptly return to the constant theme in my – and in everyone’s – life, which is that life is short.

Appropriately for celebratory post I chose the put out the best video I’ve created so far. Especially towards the tail end of my trip I seemed to hit another level, but overall the rise in my capabilities to express myself through speaking is significant. Not to say I’m still any good, I am still too mediocre to even retain most of people who stumble onto my videos.

I also added a little bit of compilation of random quick segments from old videos, mostly for laughs. Being able to make fun of myself, maybe another thing that I’ve improved on?

Yes, the name of the post is an homage of Seneca’s On Shortness of Life. I came across it many many years ago – if I had to guess when, it was my late teens. I didn’t really have the focus or attention span back then to really read it, but I did skim it and it gave me a little bit of urgency about my life. I also read a lot more articles like this at that same time, for instance this one. That latter one really hit deep on me. Testament to it is that I still remembered it after over half a decade so well it took me only 10 seconds to find it again, having never read it since that time I read it. Read that shit. It will wake you up.

That’s all I want to do here. It’s a lot of what I am doing with my blog, and with my life. Just shaking these zombies wandering around awake a little bit at a time. We all need to wake up into these bleak realities. They are uncomfortable to stare at, but they will fuel you to an amazing life better than nothing else.

We need lot of shaking awake – I just talked about this last december last time. And I am absolutely certain I will be talking of it again and again until I am dead. It’s the most important truth everyone of us must realize. It’s worth it to throw that old video in there too, even if it might get a little redundant at this point – It’s essentially just worse take on same topic. I think it’s worth it to see at least in terms of how I’ve improved over last 7 months:

Whether you believe in afterlife or not, you still need to understand that this form is limited, and to get as much done in this world as you can, you have to get urgent about it.

If this post made you think, drop me a comment.

Things Will Go Wrong

Post number 99 is here! In warm-up for the grand achievement of 100th post, we will talk briefly about things going wrong.

Lot of things has gone wrong for me over the last couple of years alone. I’ve had a really messy break-up. I’ve failed numerous challenges I set-up for myself. I’ve made myself look a fool countless times. What’s my point here? Well, the point is that if you’re doing something, you will make messes sometimes. If you’re not, you’re simply not doing anything. My video, shot before Brazil, elaborates more on this:

I just came back from Brazil/Turkey combo trip couple of weeks ago. I was abroad for fifty days straight, bit over actually. Shit went wrong. I lost my eyeglasses, tripod, got lost a few times, dropped off at wrong bus stop, spectacularly burned my skin, made a complete mess of a friendship of day, traveled to a remote location to meet someone only to have them not show up, and so on and so on.

To some people that sounds like an absolute disaster trip, but what I am omitting is the mountain of good experiences. And did any of the above really even faze me? Most items on that list is worth a nonchalant “oh, that sucks”, shrug and moving on. Point is, to get all of these peak experiences, to live a memorable phase of my life (I cried during my last night in Istanbul cause I was sad to go home – so obviously my experience overall was amazing), I had to take a few minor knocks.

Shit will go wrong in life. In much, much worse ways than what I listed there. No matter how without risks you live, you will still die. All items you have will break down. Your friend might get leukemia from out of the blue. Are you really gonna let that small shit that could go wrong stop you from living out the awesome life that is out there? You don’t immunize yourself against bad shit by being conservative – you immunize yourself from the best experiences in life. The bad things that could happen are aren’t even worth sheltering yourself from.

Besides, I’d argue going through all that small shit also hardens you for the real trials in life, the real emotional anguish. Mark my words our lives still have a lot of darkness in store for us. This is not a pessimistic, dark attitude to life, just accepting the realities.

I hope this was the much needed slap on some people’s face to wake them up, in the meantime I will start preparing for the 100th post.

Drop by with a comment if the video got you thinking!

18-month Plans

First I planned to do this post as three separate posts, but due to the hallmark of 100th post coming up, I combined it all into one post. What you find in this post is my 18-month goals for three areas in my life – Fitness, Work and Social Life. If you don’t give a shit about my goals, feel free to skip the post, this is more for me to realign myself after most of my yearly goals became obsolete when my move out from home got delayed.

Fitness Goals

I’ve been kinda letting my workouts go on their own weight lately, just going through the motions day by day without necessary any grander goal or progress. There’s been a bit of progress, but definitely it feels like I’m moving nowhere fast – it’s time to put an end to that. So I’m going to formulate 18-month plan for my progress that will be the true north in my fitness compass. Every session I will have to ask whether the things I’m doing is taking me towards my goals. As there is more than one area to fitness, there will be multiple goals.

Overall Physique

I am not going to aim for certain look, as it stands I am actually quite happy with how I look. What I am going to focus on is gaining weight, ideally without getting too puffy (which should be impossible anyway should I attain my other goals). My goal is to reach morning weight of 85 kg shirtless in 18 months time.

Conditioning

The best ever shape I was in this regard was actually in 2008 summer, when I was in the army and managed to complete 3000 m on the 12-minute running test. I will set my sights to that same goal which shouldn’t be too hard to achieve. As I will be 28 by the time, it will be one of the last chances for me to be at my absolute peak fitness, so I am going to grab onto that opportunity with both hands.

Strength Goals

I am kinda hesitant to put any numerical goals… but what the hell, let’s try. The ideal of course would be to be capable of deadlifting twice my bodyweight, which at 85kg would be 170kg. However, I think 61kg increase over 18 months is a bit ambitious especially since I can’t weight train that much. So I will aim instead towards a much more modest goal of 140 kg. And hey, that’s still strong. As for bench press, I’ve never been a big fan of that exercise, but I might as well try to get my result in that to match my bodyweight of 85kg. If I can reach that early, might as well go towards 100 kg which is what I ultimately wanna reach. I don’t really care about going higher in that exercise, in fact probably as soon as I can do 100 I will mostly stop bench press, cause I don’t feel any need to strain my shoulders further.

I am more a proponent of bodyweight exercises anyway. My biggest goal for a long time has been free-standing handstand and this is finally the time to do it. I already have the strength to do it, so its more of a skill goal to learn to put the pieces together and developing the motor skills. If I reach it faster than that, naturally next step is to go towards handstand push-up.

Another thing I really want to go for is beating my old record of chin-ups. Its not gonna be easy as I’m not currently in my best chin-up shape to begin with, and I will be working to gain a ton of weight during the 18 months which will naturally make chin-ups even more challenging. Still, with 18 months of time it is definitely possible and my record isn’t anything outrageous. There’s people who can do hundreds of these, so my goal is still modest compared to that.

Flexibility / Health

I’d like to finally achieve the level of flexibility where reaching my toes wouldn’t be such a challenge – I can do it after a long long long warm-up of stretching to my hamstrings, but not without it. I’d like to be able to do that without any warm-up and maybe get even my palms on the floor with little warm-up. Another thing is that I want to get rid of my back issues which will involve lot of hip region stretching, psoas stretching and probably other stuff I don’t even know about yet. Also it will involve sitting less. Being capable of sitting in seiza for long periods would be another nice side goal as well that I will work towards. Also, half-lotus, enuff said.

Finally I want to improve in all other facets of my working out, but the improvement can and will be slower as things listed here take more of a precedence over them.

In Short:

  • Gain weight until 85kg
  • Run 3000m in 12-minute test
  • Deadlift 140kg
  • Bench press 85 kg
  • Free-standing handstand
  • Record in chin-ups
  • Become much more flexible
  • Get rid of back pain

18 months starting from August will be February 2016… So that will be the time I see how far I went in these goals. Only time I’d reset my goals before is either by something going badly wrong or by me reaching all these goals before 18 months. Considering the rate of my progress so far I consider the latter to be unlikely, but naturally I’d be hoping for it. February 2016 will also likely be the time of the year when I will be reconsidering my future anyway, as the year wherever I have moved to will be up by then.

So, my 18-month plan series continues with my plans for my income over the next 18-months… Let’s delve right into it!

Work / Income Goals

As you might know, I am currently doing normal 40-hour workweeks at my job. I can’t due to my contract clauses tell you details about what I exactly do, but needless to say I work in a kind of regular job, just that its online. I get evaluated every six months and if I do well, I can get a raise. So my income and time commitment is kind of fixed in this regard.

But naturally there’s still things that I can do for my income. As said, I get evaluated every six months so my primary concern will be to perform strongly to earn at least one raise over next eighteen months. Basically week-in week-out this will be about learning to work effectively higher and higher percentage of those 40 hours, until I reach the level where I work with steel focus and unwavering discipline, effectively hour after hour.

There’s three chances over the course of next 18 months to get a raise, so I’d think one time is a realistic aim. Two times… That’d be a massive success. Three times I don’t really think so cause I’ve not been up to my full potential lately and the past work affects the ratings.

Other Endeavors

There’s of course lot of other ways to make an income aside my regular work. So let’s go through the ones I’ve been using one by one and see what I plan to be doing with each of them.

Fiverr

I’ve had writing gigs up on Fiverr since forever and I’ve made some decent income from there – but considering the time investment, Fiverr isn’t nearly as lucrative as my regular work is. Furthermore, every hour of work I get from there is just additional strain on top of my 40 hours so there’s obviously a limit of how much I can do.

So all I am going to do with my Fiverr is to keep some gigs up that have been doing well for me, do a little bit of extra work there and earn tiny side income, that’s all I need from there. On 18-month scale, Fiverr is not an important source of money for me, so aside that I am not going to set any specific aims. So on 18-month scale, the only goal is to tweak Fiverr income as effective as possible – meaning a good return for effort I put in, or gigs that are fun to do. I already have fun gigs on there, I just need to figure out more stuff that I think is fun that I could earn money from. Not important on grand scale, but still a nice opportunity.

oDesk

ODesk is actually where I do my work anyway, but through oDesk its naturally possible to get all kinds of freelancing work. And obviously I should start diversifying on there – getting a flow of other work going on so that my profile there looks even stronger than it already is. Fact is, I will not always have the job I currently have, but if I play my cards right even if I get fired my income doesn’t completely dry up.

So now I should be doing as much work on oDesk as possible to make myself look great there. Also it is not just about money – my job is kinda monotonous in some senses. It doesn’t actually teach me that much new skills. So to keep expanding my skillset and sharpening the saw on the existing skills, I need to get varying jobs on oDesk to keep challenging myself.

That being said, especially when I am traveling I can’t take more than 10 hours extra workload per week, so there’s a limit of how much I can do. But on an 18-month window, it’d be good if I could work up to at least steady 10 extra hours on other gigs on oDesk. Even if I get paid lowly 10 bucks an hour, that’s still 400 bucks a month extra on top of my income, and more skills being built in the process – not to forget building an impressive work history there as well, which would make getting more work even easier, should I ever end up needing more.

Amazon Kindle

As people might know, I have a book available on Kindle, Healthy Eating. Looking back at it, I think the book definitely needs some revisions (not for inaccuracies, more about how it is overall), but it is still a valuable book and I think writing it taught me a lot about putting some consistent work in. I’d honestly love to write another book, but the thing is, with my audience and promotional skills and all the resources I have available, I just can’t get that much return of investment for all my effort.

Maybe I’ll do it anyway, but thing is, right now I don’t want to do anything on Kindle. Am I passing up a huge opportunity? I don’t know. Fact of the matter is though that I could not capitalize on it fully anyway cause writing a book takes a lot of time. Even if I worked 100-hour weeks, I’d get just couple of books a year out anyway. Or who knows? Maybe I am aiming too low. That being said, as far as Kindle goes I am not going to set any further goals. If I can find the time to do tweaks on my existing book, that’s awesome. Anything else would just be an additional bonus.

Affiliate Marketing Websites

Again, I have a pre-existing site that’s reasonably SEO’d and making some sales, though I think Google has taken my current ranking away which is something I need to sort out.

In any case, there’s potential in my existing site to even be a bigger cash cow than it is, but it needs work to develop into that.

So this is actually something I would want to get to, especially cause it isn’t all on me – I can actually have my brother help me work on it. It still requires some effort on my part, but this is definitely something that is worth the effort in many ways.

So my goal for this would be to get my affiliate site up and running back again, with regular new content, at least double the current traffic and profit. It’s hard to kind of exactly define how far I should get with this in 18 months. So in short, I think I would want to have a well set-up site full of content and a steady stream of traffic coming in without me having to think about it too much – I think earning $500 a month from this site is perfectly reasonable goal.

Adding in New Projects?

For the longest time I considered expanding the scope of my income creation. For instance, creating a business of some sort is something I might ultimately want to do.

But the thing is, right now I don’t think the time is ripe for that. I have enough in the projects I already have ongoing. Now is time for learning. That’s not to say jumping into my own business wouldn’t be lot of learning, but I still feel I have a lot of things to figure out before committing into something that will take a massive concerted effort over a long period of time. Before that, I want to read a lot more books, visit more places, figure out myself and life. I don’t even feel like I am stalling. I feel like the insight I have right now is guiding me to take this path of waiting  a little while. I already have my writing, I already have my work, and for now, at least for next 18 months, that is enough.

Overall Income Goals

Over the next 18 months, my goal is to simply add another thousand bucks to my monthly income.

In Short:

  • Add $1000 / month to income
  • Get one raise over next 18 months
  • Add steady 10 hours / week of oDesk work
  • Work your SEO site to earning 500 bucks a month
  • Start reading 2 hours a day every day (kinda indirectly related to this and didn’t really fit anywhere else)

Social Life

In my goals for 2014 I set out for this year to be focused on Becoming Social aspect of Becoming Awesome. It has come true a little bit but not much to be honest. I am more social creature now than I was 7 months ago, but by any standards I consider myself introverted – however people I’ve met up with for the most part have started to reject the notion that I am shy, so I guess I have to conclude I am making some progress in it.

Truth is though that I have almost no social life to speak of. On my Facebook I have about 30 friends and you know how much of a “friends” the people you have added there are. So really the people I stay contact with are just a handful and really close I am with even smaller subset of them.

Frankly I think that’s something that’s gonna stay like that. As anyone who has known or followed me for a longer time can attest to, I am a bit “out there” personality wise. So it is definitely rare the kind of personalities that match with me enough to sustain long-time friendship or anything else. Also I feel like I have very limited bandwidth to keep up and sustain much bigger social circle anyway. Years of being a recluse and increased work output have made my ability to be social very limited.

However since I am devoting a one whole segment of this post for social life it obviously is an important thing for me and an area where I seek improvement.

At the same time it is the kind of thing that it is hard for me to put easily quantifiable goals down. Income isn’t all numbers either, but adding thousand bucks to your income is much more useful goal than “getting 10 new friends.” So I obviously won’t be using numbers on this one.

One thing is clear for me when it comes to my social life and relationships – I am looking to retain my freedom. After my messy break-up I realized I am in a phase of my life where any commitment is just a premature burden. That doesn’t mean I am not looking for love, bond and connection, just that I am not willing to give up my freedom for them. I’ve always considered freedom one of my biggest values in life, and giving up a little bit of it for my former commitment to my ex was always a point of internal conflict for me.

Going Beyond Normal

As I previously stated, meeting up with people (mostly from online) over the recent months I’ve gotten a lot of feedback that I am not shy, and that I am normal. So there goes the premise of my whole blog, right? Nah. I am still by my natural inclinations an anti-social person and there’s lot of holes in my inter-personal skills that I can kinda cover when chatting with someone one-on-one, but that would expose themselves over a longer interaction. But that’s besides the point – for sake of argument, let’s say that I have moved from a place of creepy anti-social weirdo to some sphere of being “normal” socially. Of course with everyone being more socially crippled these days than just couple of decades ago, me just being able to hold eye contact and being able to talk normally constitutes normal these days – whereas compared to a higher standard I’d still be very mediocre.

Being called normal is nice for sure after 26 years of being an outcast (or at least perceiving world like that), but I am looking to move beyond just normal. Is next 18 months enough of a time frame to complete that? I’d say its not easy, but it is definitely possible if I push myself.

What does going beyond normal mean for me? Well as opposed to just coping with social situations, I’d like to thrive in them. I’d like to learn to enjoy conversing with strangers, to be comfortable with initiating conversation.

I’d like to reach a point where after some unwinding (we all need that) I am comfortable expressing myself even in social gatherings where I don’t know everyone, even in front of big groups (as said, one-on-one I am actually alright nowadays, but in groups I fade away). I want to be able to assert myself and be able to influence people just with my presence.

We all have an ideal self inside of us, a mental projection of awesomeness. In lot of ways, this is about moving towards that ideal for me.

Online Contact

I pretty much exclusively use online means to make new friends. It has worked for me great, I have to say. I met my ex through online (yes, ultimately it ended bad but I thank my ex for a lot of what is good in my life today), and have met up numerous other people, some of it I’ve become very close with. Indeed there’s a handful of people I am already quite close with even though I haven’t met them. I love having connections like this, and my experience online has been almost solely positive. But there has been some unpleasant moments as well, where I’ve been led on cause lets face it – its easy to pretend to be something you’re not online. I’ve come across some posers.

I am not going to stop leveraging the connectivity of the internet to make friends all over the globe, but I am looking to stop using it as a primary means of communication. I’ve already proved through numerous meet-ups with people I originally contacted online that I can be likable and “normal” as stated in even face-to-face social situations, even in cases where the other person doesn’t know much of me.

I can push through the barriers of shyness in these cases. Another process I have down is just being able to talk and do videos in public places – so I have the processes down to make even richer social experience possible – all it is lacking now is drilling the new habit in, working those new neural pathways into my brain and literally rewiring myself to be able to do that with just anyone, not just when I am talking to a camera or a person I just met from online.

Now of course, just like making videos and meeting friends from online, this is something that requires practice. During my first online meetups I was visibly shaking and nervous. Now I can be quite normal right away and usually within short time I am fully able to express my crazy personality. During my first videos I just blathered something incoherent, more pre-occupied with people watching me than being able to focus to task at hand. Now I’d say I’m pretty good at remaining focused and not giving much of a shit what people around think of me. Similarly, now I am barely able to talk to a stranger, but if I force myself go through repetition I will become able to do it.

Where I am now I naturally can’t practice it a lot, so that’s something that’s mostly going to be reserved for my travels and eventually for my move away. Over 18-month period I want to have this down though.

Quality Over Quantity

Now once I have the above habit down, I am not just limited by the number of people from online I get to meet me, I can just walk up to any stranger and start talking to them. Though I have build good friendships and more through online communication, fact of the matter is that unless there’s physical meet up involved any online friendship is just like having imaginary friends. In real face-to-face talks are where the deep bonds are made so this shift is naturally positive in that regard.

It doesn’t help though if I creep out and put off people, but as we’ve established there’s proof that people don’t react to me negatively. However I am sure there’s still plenty of times ahead of me where I creep people out. You cant undo 26 years of social crippledness in matter of months.

Quality is hard to assess though, especially when it comes to something like social connections. Is it that I make people enjoy my company? Well, that’s some part of it for sure. If I improve their lives? Well that’s something I totally want to do for sure. I can’t quite put my finger on it – but I want to develop a mindset where I am focused on giving value to people and just able to express myself more and more fully, with less pretense. Not everyone will like what I am once I take the mask off completely, in fact some people will for sure hate me… perhaps even majority. But strong reactions from people to me is just a sign that I have moved closer to that real, unfiltered expression of my true self.

Emotional Balance

I am a pretty happy dude nowadays, but close human relations is the final frontier where anyone’s emotional balance is put to the test. When someone else is having a bad day and they take it out on you, it’s a good litmus test for your own calmness. Being able to just remain good moods yourself is a challenge, let alone helping picking up that someone.

Life will throw shit at your face and dealing with people is good training for that stuff. From every friendship I mess up because I freak out over nothing or lose my cool, I learn something and take it to make the next thing better.

What I am going to here is that I want to keep healing the past scars that still affect me. Everyone of us have been damaged somehow. We all carry pain from the past that makes us act up, and it is healing that that I am looking for. I want to make peace with my demons. All this rosy language is meant to just say that I want to keep stripping away the things that make me unhappy. I will probably write in the future about how I believe that being happy is the default state that happens when there’s nothing making you unhappy. So ultimately in my social life I want to reach a point that nothing gets me down. It is not something that’s gonna happen in 18 months, but I believe that’s something I can improve upon significantly over this period of time. I want to become mentally strong even when other people fail to be.

One measure of becoming stronger and finding balance for me will be finally burying the ghost of my ex from my mind. Will it happen through simply forgetting her and completely moving on, or can I make a peace with the situation somehow? I do not know yet.

Wrapping it all together

So what exactly am I trying to achieve? All that heady theorizing aside, what are the things that are actually actionable over next 18-months. Well, definitely starting to approach people once I reach over Thailand for my next trip (yeah, it’s already booked and ready to happen, I won’t be staying home for too long). I have learned a lot from my Brazil trip on how to streamline my processes to hit the ground running when it comes to being social – lot of it is momentum and in my trip to Brazil & Turkey I felt I got all the momentum all too late. I will talk about that later, that’s for sure.

Aside approaching people, I will look to keep making friends online but to lesser extent than before. I have limited time as it is to keep contact with my existing friends so to keep adding to it is difficult. However I’d like to have people to Skype with to kinda keep my social groove going – here at home my lifestyle is such that I don’t really talk to people much, which causes me to atrophy in my social skills whenever I am not traveling. Just to slow that down, Skype is an useful tool, especially if I can find new people to talk to over there. That’s always better in terms of my goals, cause talking to a new person is always a bit more challenging than to someone I already know well.

I’d also like to learn Portuguese. Yeah it’s not a social goal as such but since it didn’t fit under the other two really, it will go under here. I learned a minuscule amount before and during my Brazil trip, but enough that I feel inclined to keep building on it and learning it properly. Will Brazil be the destination of my long term move… Who knows, but adding languages to your repertoire is never a bad idea.

Becoming Social was my main focus for this year, and while that didn’t exactly come true, it is still a major focus of my next 18-months – it’s not as if my income is going to skyrocket or my physique going to shift massively – no, the biggest gains I am looking to have in this area.

In Short

  • Approach people when abroad and get used to talking to strangers
  • Look to express yourself with less barriers, more freely. Knock people off the fence so that they either like you a lot or hate you.
  • Learn Portuguese at least to such extent you can have basic conversations.
  • Retain your freedom by not committing into anything yet.
  • Become calmer, kinder, less judgmental – generally just keep ironing out the personality flaws.
  • Get a social circle of friends wherever my journey takes me next. Retain and deepen the existing friendships.

In Conclusion

Whoa, I turned this into the War & Peace of goal-setting posts. 4.5 thousand words! If someone is still reading at this point, please let me know in the comments. If someone really cared that much, I thank you. Lot of this was, as I said, just personal realigning and not necessarily something that I should publicly declare, but hey, it usually acts as sort of a good-luck charm.

Now I have plenty of goals to go for over the next 18 months. Every day from now on I will be looking to work towards these goals – if not all of them at any given day, at least a good number of them, and within every week there should be numerous actions taken towards bettering every one of them.

It’s a mix of simple goals and harder-to-reach goals. A mix of easily quantifiable goals and those that are harder to quantify. Nonetheless, I feel like these are the things that right now matter to me most and the ones that I am best equipped to move toward right now.

18-month Plans & Digital Cleanse

I am back from my long trip. In the end I didn’t just spend 37 days in Brazil, but also extended the trip with a 14 day stay in Istanbul. So in total, I spent over 50 days away from home.

It naturally affected my blog activity, for I didn’t have much time to post on here.

Now I am going to focus on blog and everything else useful on much more intense focus, for I am also starting a digital cleanse. I talk about this in my newest video:

I don’t remember where I picked up that 18 months thing, but it makes perfect sense. I definitely need a re-evaluation of my mid-term goals – After all, the goals I set for the year were pretty much thrown out of the window as soon as my Malaysia move fell through. Also my sense of consciousness was definitely shifted after 51 days abroad, in 2 countries, 6 cities and on 3 continents (Istanbul is partly in Europe and partly in Asia).

Anyway as I was waiting for the new video to upload I watched some of my other videos I created, there’s some of my best shit coming up – watch out for it :) I am not the kind of guy who generally gets too excited about my own stuff, I am usually more self-critical, but I think at least one of the videos I created really hits the target for once.

If you have any own experiences about digital cleanse or making 18-month plans, let me know in the comments!