What you are doing today is important.

Not gonna lie, April has been a busy and stressful month for me. Between wrapping up school projects, I’ve also managed to squeeze in time at work. It all meant caffeine-fueled days and nights – where my waking moments felt like a dream and my dreams were filled with potential failings of my days.

Of course, this did not translate well in my psyche and I ran into several times during the semester where I absolutely felt like I’m heading for a mental breakdown. In the heat of the moment, it just felt that the impossible was before me and I needed to get past it anyhow.

Drawing from previous experience, I always tried to push down the fears and tell myself it’ll be over soon…and true to my promise to myself – I did get over it and it was over soon.

Still, getting past obstacles was one thing but staying motivated to the cause was another – several times I found myself back away from things that needed to be done and my motivation chip away from the mountain of responsibilities I had racked up with seemingly no way out but to see it through.

The feeling of lack of direction stayed with me until today, as I was studying for those pesky finals which will commence right after Easter Holidays. I randomly picked up a book by Anthony “Tony” Robbins – Awaken the Giant Within. I’m not even half way through the book, but when Anthony wrote about the story of the founder of Honda – whom had to go through many trials and tribulations just to get to where he was – only to have it swept out from under him by forces way beyond his control, made me realize that what I had to deal with was nothing and perhaps I should remind myself more often that what I’m doing today is of high importance to the future I’m shaping up for tomorrow and so on.

I also read an article recently that I think will help with me despising where I am currently residing. And for those of you with a similar issue, here’s the article: To Beat Burnout, Be Good at Ignoring Things . Essentially, we should learn to ignore things that are outside of our control and focus on what we can control.

In reflection, while it did feel like I “tried” from January to April to “deal” with the situation, I still often adopted the “helpless” mindset, as if I’m struggling to get by. I let things that I couldn’t control occupy my thoughts for too long and did not learn to ignore and focus until recently. But still, I know I am progressing. I know I am slowly learning to do the right thing in order to achieve what I want in life. I might in several years late in realizing what I want, but it’s better late than never.

Remember, what you are doing today is important as you are shaping your future accordingly.

Why you should consider routine

December 19th – my day off, I woke up at a reasonably late time to my phone flashing. Upon unlocking my phone I found a series of messages waiting – messages from work, emails, messages from friends sharing the latest headline that’d just came out from Ankara and Berlin.

Bad news, VERY bad news.

For the next few hours, I was immersed in the story.

Even though it had been my day off and I had other things I’d wanted to do. More friends message me to talk to me about issues – some I cared about – others I absolutely did not.

But this is necessary – or is it?

The thing is, the world, your life, is unpredictable.

In fact, things are never predictable and that’s why you wake up every morning not knowing how your day was gonna go.

The other day, I saw a guy I knew from a few years back. This guy had cheated me out of money before – but when I saw him I was unprepared and surprisingly, I didn’t care anymore. Since so much has changed for me in the short amount of time – however, for him it seemed like he was still the same.

I pitied him.

One day you’re working for one company the next day you don’t.

That’s just how things are nowadays – or so I’d come to observe.

Same with relationships – one day you’re in, another you’re out.

One day you’re madly infatuated – and the next you find out about the other person’s political affiliation and suddenly everything is toppled like a house of cards.

I guess you could say I’m stoic.

Or at least trying my hardest to have a consistent inner narrative in a world that’s just filled with noise upon more noise.

The more I experience, the less I am truly affected ultra highs and ultra lows – but to be not affected takes effort and practice.

I still worry and think about stupid things like how the next two weeks of work will be hell – but that’s my desperately needed tuition money – I want to sleep, but I don’t want to wake up just to goto work (which feels like a robbery of my time).

There has to be a balance – a compromise – what if I can schedule in a couple of hours where I’m just consciously doing nothing but what I want to do – then I’ll go to work? Would that work? What if I made a habit of 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening to not rush through things but just do what I wanted – would that work? I have no idea – but maybe that’s what I can tell myself now so I can go to bed and finally fall asleep.

Facing reality

There are too many thoughts in my mind recently, and my motivation for life seem to reflect the weather, prospects cold, thoughts scattered like the leafs littered on the sidewalks.

I’ve been drinking too much caffeine recently, trying to figure out how to have energy again and focus energy to do “things that matter” when I’m absolutely exhausted from work.

Truth be told, I don’t know what’s worse: having no time at all, or having all the time in the world, but not knowing where to start on the next steps.

Too many things at home have remained the same – not that I expect any different and try as I might, I know they will not change. And a few things have changed – which prove to be detrimental.

I don’t have the energy to process so many things. Yet my habit of scanning for cheap plane tickets online doesn’t seem to be going away, not even after I calculated just how little time I would have between my work break and when my school starts again. It wouldn’t be wise to run off.

Then there’s people that I want to cut out of my life too – not because they’re not ‘nice people’ but because they’re a waste of time.

On one hand I know I should be easier on myself but being easy doesn’t get things done, nor does only thinking about your problems. I know I had to write them down. So I did.

Truth is, one probably overestimates the work that could be done in one day.

Not even, one probably overestimates the work that one can accomplish in a week.

In a month.

And I feel like giving up.

Because I see no end to this winter and not to mention a great part of me died before I got on that plane and the tears that came afterwards, I was crying at my own loss.

But at the same time, I know things will look up.

Life doesn’t give you too many second chances, or third tries.

I am lucky in this regard.

I can look at my mess and figure out the problems I’ve had in the past and look at them with an objective but also critical eye.

So I lay down some ground rules first for myself.

“Things are not gonna change unless you build yourself up and ignore everything else.”

Focus on yourself and ignore everything else.

That’s my plan.

And this is my only shot to settle old scores.

We are what we repeatedly do – Aristotle

2000 something years later, this statement still holds true.

I’m used to going to bed late at night, then feeling completely plastered in the morning.

I’m used to doing things last minute, because of poor planning.

I’m used to misuse of my imagination over worrying for worst case scenarios.

I’m used to being cynical and stopping myself from doing what I really want to do out of several types of fear.

I’m used to misusing my energy, because of inner chaos.

And I realized, all of these unnecessary fretting really doesn’t help at all.

The older I get, the more I know myself – through experiences and retrospective observations – the outlines of what I ultimately want are getting clearer.

 

I know that what I’ve been repeatedly doing is detrimental, but when you’re caught in a never ending loop without much hope for change – because everything is the same – you’re in the same city, doing the same job, seeing the same people, thinking the same thoughts – it’s hard to break out of a rut – truly.

We are what we repeatedly do – Aristotle

So I rebelled.

I said “no” to all that bothered me.

I did something different.

I went somewhere different.

I met new people.

I tried new things, had successes and failures in various aspects of my life – the highs and lows – I didn’t shy away from either – but the thing is – things weren’t perfect, yet I made them work – I realized, I could handle so much more in my life than what I had thought to be possible.

Namely:

  1. Being uncomfortable: Ever been to a party where you knew practically no one? Check.
  2. Swallowing pride: Starting a conversation with someone whom you thought was ignoring you, but it turns out they’re just busy. The old me would never do this…the old me would’ve let those worries run amok and shrivelled up in my shell of self doubt.
  3. Making things happens: Surprising your friend and yourself by your party planning skills.
  4. Bounce back from fatal mistakes: Having a little too much fun in club and being helped home by a friend. Opps. Don’t ask me to party for the next 3 months…
  5. Stand up for what I believe is right: Helping someone out even though it makes little sense to other people, but for you its the righteous thing to do.
  6. Letting things go that doesn’t serve the bigger picture: Realizing fully that I’m only behind the wheels of my own life, and not anyone else’s. Therefore, I am completely detached from anything that doesn’t concern me and my attention directly.
  7. Spending time with people who matter: because these are the moments and the memories you will cherish and remember.
  8. Turn thoughts into action a priority: but all in all, taking all of this experiences and recognize that if you didn’t take the initiative to be creative, or put your thoughts into action in time, then none of the wonderful and not so wonderful things would’ve happened – for better for worse, you should continue this adventurous streak even when you’re back in the other city.

The past month was about experiences. It was about doing things I would never do normally and breaking through barriers, regaining confidence, and a sense of balance despite all the chaos.

And that’s exactly the most invaluable thing about the trip, the experiences that I’m taking home with me and knowing that across from the ocean I have not only promises to fulfill, but bigger and better projects, and magical moments waiting for me for when I get back.

How to tackle uncertainty ?

“My life is so pointless.”

I was walking around in the farmlands surrounding where I’m staying when my phone went off with the message. The message was from a friend who’d just passed her end of year exams – intuitively, she should be celebrating.

I asked her: “What’s wrong? Didn’t you do well and graduate?”

She said yes, except now she feels that her life is pointless because all of her energy is not focused on achieving passing grades but completely dispersed in “overwhelming uncertainty”.

I told her I knew the feeling. I mean, aren’t we all a little lost at times?

Except then she went on and start listing all the reasons why she’s worrying. She didn’t believe she had any other skills or abilities other than the ones she’s just graduated with and the world is a big and scary place.

I told her to pause for a second and reread what she just wrote me and asked her: “well yes, but where did you gain your skills? Didn’t you gain them by actively pursuing goals, whether through fear of ‘what-if’ or genuine “interest” in getting better at whatever you were pursuing.”

Plus, how did she know she was only ‘good’ at the skills she thought she was good at. I told her it’s also important to develop other interests and expose herself to new experiences so she’ll be inspired to take on new challenges that made sense for her.

I told her, I’m the same. I don’t particularly know what I want to do yet but everyday I’m trying something new, even if it’s pondering on an idea from another perspective – trying to come up with new solutions to problems even if that makes me improve only marginally – and if the next day I come up with an even better solution then I’ll scrap the last idea and implement the new.

And then I told her. I’m just as scared as she was of the future, but that’s no reason to freeze in fear. What am I actually doing in foreign lands rather than staying put in comfort? It’s because I see potential – whether it be being scared out of my elements and come up with something new to adapt. I see the freedom to make mistakes and I can’t and won’t judge myself harshly for them, because I’d have no idea how things work in the first place.

But the most important part of this all is in knowing that I had changed my circumstances, whether be it good, or bad.

I’m throwing myself in the face of change and changing how I want to be.

Search for Meaning

No matter your undertaking, you should be clear as to why you are partaking in your work.

I am very clear, in my case, currently, this is the best way I know how to put food on the table and fulfill my other ambitions, such as traveling and seeing the world.

I am very clear, that aside from the aforementioned, there’s very little meaning in what I do – sure, I do come across the temporary feeling of job done well and pat on the back from accomplishing everything in due time, but that in itself is not meaning, and by no means am I living the dream life I imagined for myself.

The dream I have for myself is living every moment consciously and by choice.

Consciously: awake enough to enjoy every moment – I want to be in the moment and feeling it every moment without a stop.

Choice: making decisions and making them my way – or have more freedom in my life where I call the shots.

Ultimately, I want to live passionately, a life of my own choosing. I want to live daringly, rather than playing it safe. I want to make mistakes I end up being proud of. I want my life to be an adventure. I want my life to be the one on the unconventional road.

And for that reason – I do what I do now, to build the future of my own choosing.

The inspiration behind working anywhere

This is a picture I took at Schloss Schönbrunn of me, well, working. My phone prompted important emails for me to answer and I thought, since I had my laptop with me, why not sit down and type it out – as it’s way faster – so there I was, sitting in front of one of the most important architectural, cultural and historical monuments in Austria and typing away.

How totally North American of me to work on “vacation”, or so my friends would say.

The thing is though, I used to dislike when I was contacted during my personal time, however now I realize that comes with any job – there are going to be emergencies, there are going to be times when there’s no choice but to plop down anywhere and deal with the situation. Instead of shrinking away from the responsibilities, one must be prepared to take care of them no matter where they were.

So if this was already the case, why couldn’t you work for yourself anywhere? The principle is the same. Only you’d be in direct line of communication with clients rather than management etc. and in which case, it might just be easier since emails are not passed on and issues could be dealt with first hand.

How to achieve the results you seek

If someone asked me this question before my trip, I’d give them the reflexive answer:

“Work hard! And don’t stop until you get there!”

Well – yes, hard work is required, there’s no doubt about that, but to facilitate the outmost productivity in one’s day (ex: think about an orange juicer – cheap with many parts that don’t work well together and a more expensive and sleek looking one that can be calibrated to give the most output and overtime equates to less cleanup time and headache on your part) which one would you prefer?

In other words, you don’t want to wake up everyday without a plan – not knowing how to use your precious 24 hours. It’s easy to get lazy and not want to do things – it’s also easy to lay in bed until 1pm, ‘thinking’ about what you’re going to do, and only do them when you realize it’s 3pm in the afternoon already. Clearly, this route about things is not productive at all.

So, how do you achieve the result you seek?

I say work backwards.

Look at the results you want and work backwards from there.

It is always better to give yourself plenty of time by over-estimating than under-estimating how much hours you need to put in to get something done.

Say you estimate something will take 100 hours to complete and you have 2 weeks to do it.

Depending on your preferences, you could divide that 100 hours up to neat 8 hour days, or alternatively you could work 10 hours or even 12 hours straight to get it finished in less time, so, in the case of 10 hours / day you could take 4 days off to do as you please, knowing that the project is finished and submitted.

Setting your own hours and working flexibly changes the game completely. How I see and experience travel now is not the same as taking a ‘vacation’ anymore. I still manage to work remotely, albeit on much reduced hours, still, work is work. And in my previous post: “how much work can you expect to do while traveling?” the case becomes, how well did you pre-plan your day to day activity around this chunk of time you’ll have to sit down and ignore all distractions? And depending on the timezone you’re on, you might have to wake up at odd hours to conference. Ultimately, my goal is that I could work anywhere, just like I’m back home. Whether there is an office space, or I’m in a cafe, working away. It shouldn’t make much of a difference to me.

And since I’m currently packing to head home for a couple of weeks. I’ve set up this calendar. Since my ultimate goal is overlooking environment and being able to work anywhere – I did some preplanning of the next 3 weeks – that way, I can ensure there’s reduced chances of any last minute surprises and forge on ahead smoothly.

How much work can you expect to do while traveling?

This is my life recently. In and out of airports. Seeing friends, socializing, making new ones. I’ve been doing this little experiment while on the road. Just how much work can I do while I’m also traveling?

So far I’ve found out that, without a concrete plan, your productivity would be very low.

There will be technical difficulties.

Like calling into a conference and hearing, “we’re sorry, the number you’ve just dialed is not in service.” even though on the other side of the world, your colleagues faces no such problem.

Then there’s the tempting notion that you should be out there exploring a new city rather than sitting down and taking care of your email communications. Or you know, try not to give the answer: “I was working all day in Starbucks.” when your friend asked you what you did for the day…

Because apparently these are the two holiday sins to an European:

1. Starbucks

2. Working

Or maybe its because my friend believes that I should be trying authentic coffee houses in her city rather than something one could get anywhere and of course, ‘working’, working more than you have to is apparently a very dodgy concept – “Why would anyone work more than they have to?”

I don’t know?

Maybe that’s a part of the reason why I’m trying to do what I do.

Not because I particularly enjoy waking up at 5am to get to the airport. But, for what it is – I do enjoy switching it up more often than not. As I walked through the majestic city of Vienna the other day – I realized that I learn more in 2 weeks away, than 5 years in the same place – this intuitive notion is something I can’t scientifically prove -as at times, being in one place also provides inspirations – however, not as much.

So in the end, everything ends up looking like a production possibility frontier.

220px-Production_Possibilities_Frontier_Curve.svg

Inspiration vs. Productivity.

 

The true meaning of: “enjoy every second”

And so today is a new day – yesterday is gone.

I expressed myself to a friend and she recommended me a short story to read. The whole thing took about an hour for me to read, switching in-between Facebook chats and the story. I’ve come to appreciate how small and insignificant we are – and how some small and insignificant things can hurt so much.

Saying get over it is easy.

But actually getting over it is a different story.

You could say a few days ago – there was a certain news that served as a wakeup call and shoved me back to face the question:

“Just what are you doing with your life?”

“Just where do you want to be?”

I still can’t tell you 100% what the end results would be, but I’m at least 100% sure that I have the tools to make it so.

So until then. I’m going to enjoy every second of it, since being anything but ‘awesome’ is a grand waste of time.