Understanding My Limitations

Understanding My Limitations

I love running.

I love it because of how clear a metaphor it is for so many aspects of life. It's one of the simplest ways to teach yourself how to become a better person. For example, the experience of pushing yourself after you think you have nothing left is something you can transfer in your work or relationships. 

Running has taught me a lot about myself, including the fact that I am capable of more than I previously thought. Just when I thought I couldn't run any longer, I somehow found a way to keep going. (mostly with the help of running with other people)

It turns out that whenever I feel like stopping, I usually have more than a few miles left in me. Thinking that I couldn't keep going was all in my head. I had a self imposed limitation that wasn't reflective of reality. The cool thing is that the more you push yourself the more you realize that you don't know where your own limit is.

If this is true for running, where else is it true? That is an exciting question to wonder about.

The Case For Being An Uninformed Citizen

The Case For Being An Uninformed Citizen

How much of your time do you spend thinking about politics? 

Me? I'm ashamed to say how much time I spent listening to political podcasts and YouTube channels in the past few years. I thought it would make me a respectable person who could hold conversations at cocktail parties. But I was just kidding myself - I don't even like drinking. 

For some time I actually thought having that type of knowledge was important. I often agreed when people said that "the government affects you whether you like it or not so you better pay attention to it" and "the world would be a better place if more people got involved in politics."

I now think paying attention to politics is a waste of time and mental energy, especially when you think about the opportunity cost.

I can say for a fact that my reality would have been the same, if not a lot better, had I never payed any attention to politics. In other words, if I never knew what's going on in the Middle East or even who is my current president, my life would have been no worse. I simply don't think those facts will ever become useful in my life other than for trivial purposes. 

Sure that information may convey that something bad is going on, but it does me no good to know them. Just like it does me no good to know that a dog just got run over a couple blocks from me. It's a huge bummer, but there's nothing I can do and therefore no reason to know. In fact, it would have been better to not be aware of the k-9's tragedy because knowing such a thing only makes me depressed and unfocused. That's a net-negative for society.

Even if knowing a little bit about what's going on at the national level can be useful, shouldn't it be proportionate to your control over it? For example, spending 20% of your time learning about what's going on in politics is irrational if you have an almost-non-existent power to do something impactful with it. 

While it may be important to be aware of the government's laws and policies at a basic level, very quickly we run into diminishing returns. That point is when we watch the news like a drama show every day and keep up with the president's tweets.

I don't know about you, but I've noticed that the people that pay the most attention to politics have less control over their emotions. You can see this with the people that went out of their minds when Trump won because they thought the world was coming to an end. Their mood is beholden to the political climate.

The thought of paying attention to what Trump is up to and getting mad over it is just absurd. There's nothing the average citizen could do. Voting comes every 4 years and even then your vote has virtually no impact. So just stop wasting your time and focus on things you do have control over.

If anything, elections makes people more passive: it fools them into thinking that they're making a difference in the world just by voting. 

Young people (particularly college students) are the ones who should ignore politics the most. They still have a lot to improve about themselves before they spend (in my opinion waste) so much of their time trying to save the world through politics. As Jordan Peterson would say, "they need to sort themselves out first."

People should measure all of the time and emotional energy used on arguing and fretting over politics and compare it to the actual impact that they have had with it. I think if they did that, most would immediately give up on politics and take on a more cost effective endeavor for themselves such as bettering their immediate environment. If everyone did that I believe the world would truly be a better place. 

Why I Love Podcasts

Why I Love Podcasts

I don't mean to sound like a hipster but I got into podcasts before they were cool. I got into podcasts in 2008. I don't really remember how I stumbled upon them. I do remember thinking how awesome the medium was. I instantly saw it as a great opportunity to both entertain and educate myself. Now I welcome waiting in long lines and getting stuck in traffic.

Ever since I discovered them, you would always see me with headphones on, even during school, which was a constant nuisance to my teachers. Podcasts have basically replaced music for me. 

I not only listened to purely entertaining podcasts such as comedy and storytelling, but I also listened to educational ones. Podcasts made learning entertaining again! Ever since I discovered them, podcasts have been my main source of education. Not books and definitely not school. 

What I love about podcasts the most, other than it being free, is that it is a great way to get to know people. (usually the host)

I have loved so many different podcasts and most of them have fallen out of favor over time, much like how friends sometimes fall out of favor. 

This happens mostly because I have changed my preferences and priorities. For example, right now I'm in a period where I'm looking to improve my life, so a lot comedy and political podcasts have slowly fallen off my plate as I add more self-helpy ones.

Here are the podcasts that I'm currently listening to on a weekly basis:

There's a few more that I listen to depending whether I like the guest/topic but those are the ones I currently listen to no matter what. 

Creating My Own Success Story

Creating My Own Success Story

Yesterday I listened to Isaac Morehouse's podcast episodes were TK Coleman told his story.  In them I got to hear TK's weird professional path, which was nothing short of amazing. Other than being entertaining, there were quite a few lessons that I learned from his journey. Things like 'you don't need to plan out your whole life to be successful - you just need to treat every opportunity you take with integrity.' He also reinforced in me the importance of constantly doing something creative such as blogging. 

However inspiring TK's story was, I couldn't help but think of how little I related to him. It seemed that he had a good amount of integrity, confidence, and resolve which are things that I'm currently lacking in.

Listening to the podcast made me wonder whether those intangibles can be newly created or whether they are something you need to have from the beginning in some way.

What if all of the qualities that make a person successful - integrity, confidence, resolve, resilience, curiosity, the ability to defer gratification etc. - have been killed inside of me due to the fact that they were neglected (and sometimes outright smothered) for so long?

I'm starting with a far from ideal family history, which has fostered in me immense self-doubt and self-hatred. Right now I'm in the process of removing all that muck from my system.

To this date, I have yet to hear stories that started with my specific deficiencies and ended up with happiness and fulfillment. Maybe there's a reason for that - because most of the ones that started like me didn't succeed. That's a really scary possibility.

Even if that's true I'm not going to let it stop me from trying.

Rekindling My Love For Reading

Rekindling My Love For Reading

I first found the joy of reading when I was about 15 years old. I know, it's a little late. Let me explain. The thing is, I didn't grow up in an environment that exemplified the fun of reading. In fact, I grew up in an environment that did the opposite. Case in point, I grew up with friends that would make fun of me if I were caught with a novel on hand. It also goes without saying that schools sucked at making reading appealing. Despite those obstacles, I ended up being gravitated towards books once. 

I remember the first time I discovered the magic of books. It was during one summer in the empty library of the small town of Rugby, North Dakota. I went in there just because I enjoyed being alone and, since it was always relatively empty, I considered it my perfect place to be just that. Since I was there I thought 'why don't I start reading?' So I did. Now that I think about it, it's hard to believe that the first book I decided to read was Stephen King's The Stand. At more than 1100 pages long, I chose this book simply because it was the biggest book I could find. I just liked the challenge of it. Since it was Summer I had all day to read. And so I did. I averaged about 100 pages a day and I thought I was so awesome for it. The book did not disappoint. Not coincidentally, this was also the beginning of my love for horror. 

After reading this book, I kept on reading. I picked up some more King books and then some James Patterson and then some Kenneth Oppel. I even got into the non-fiction world. I was loving it. But then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. And by "Fire Nation" I mean high school.  

Once high school started, I read less and less frequently due to exhaustion. With class, homework and extra curriculars, I just couldn't find the time. There were waves during the summer when I got back into it, but for some reason it stopped being as fun. I guess I shouldn't pin this all on school, since my (let's say) suboptimal home-life was also not helping. It was like the fire in me that loved books was getting smaller. When high school was over I did start some books but never finished any.

There was still a part of me that loved books though. My high school days did not completely kill my yearning for books, but they certainly tried.

Fast forward to a year ago. My main source of education and entertainment has now been in the form of podcasts. I just found them a lot easier to get into. I knew however, that I was missing a lot of valuable pieces of content that were only in the form of books, so I thought to get myself a Kindle and try this reading thing again. So far I've found it to be a success. I've read quite a few full books for the first time in a long time. I've also read countless online articles that I never would have otherwise. I'm realizing now that the inconvinience of physical books has been a small but significant barrier for me.

Maybe it's the fact that I got a Kindle or maybe it's the fact that I'm escaping my depression (or maybe both), I'm just glad that I'm picking up reading again. I hope to someday regain that feeling of joy I had that first Summer. I miss it a lot. 

Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Internal Motivation

Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Internal Motivation

When I was in high school, my basketball coach asked me to join the cross country team and I reluctantly said yes. At that time I hated running. I ran as a form of conditioning in basketball and track, but I viewed it as a necessary evil.

I remember, after every practice run or race, I told myself "I never want to do that again," but somehow I always found myself doing it again. Not surprisingly though, that was my first and only season of cross country.

This last summer I made the decision to start running as a way to get back into shape. Later, I ended up joining a running club. Miraculously I now enjoy running.

Back then I was barely able to run a full 3 miles without feeling like dying. Now, after five sedentary years and gaining 30 pounds, I am somehow able to run 8 miles consistently. Not only that - I went from dreading the next time I had to run to looking forward to it.

If you told me that I was capable of running 8+ miles straight back then, I would have called you crazy. Now I do those runs on a weekly basis. Also, I'm looking to increase my endurance to the point where I can do 18+ mile runs.

So What Changed?

It's not that I wasn't physically able to run 8+ miles during high school. After all, I was in way better shape back then. I would say that back then I did not have the same internal motivation. My reasons for running did not come from within. Rather, my biggest reason for why I ran was that I didn't want to disappoint my coaches. This was an external motivation, which could only take me so far.

This time around, it was solely my choice to start running. There's no external pressure to do it - I know that I can quit any day and no one would care or think less of me. It may sound counterintuitive, but this freedom is what allows me to stay motivated. That's because it lets me know that I'm doing it because I genuinely want to.

We all understand this of human nature: if you tell a person what to do, they are less likely to want to do it, even if they know it's in their own interest to do it. Also, if the person does it, they will most likely do a worse job than if it was through their own volition. 

During school (and I guess throughout my whole childhood) I got accustomed to being controlled. I was told what I should or shouldn't do and what I should or shouldn't aspire to. As a result, I lost touch with my own wants and needs - the things that wake up my internal motor. 

I think this is what happened with me and running. I felt the external pressure to run, therefore I didn't do so well. Now that I have no one telling me what to do and feel no pressure, I am more motivated than ever to be a better runner. Now, instead of having people push me, I have an internal motor that's faster and unrelenting. 

Making the transition between being internally motivated rather than externally hasn't been easy. After being externally directed for so long, it's taken me 5 years to realize that running is something I genuinely want to do. This is just one thing, but there are many other aspects of my life where I'm still lost. 

This is why I would urge parents and teachers to stop controlling children's lives so much. For about 18 years we push them towards what we want out of them and then when they're set free we expect them to suddenly become strong willed. This just doesn't make sense.

What we need to do is teach them to be in touch with and follow their own compass, because that's where they will thrive. 

Stepping Onto The World Stage, Me

Stepping Onto The World Stage, Me

So It’s been about a year since I’ve set up this blog of mine and I’ve yet to post anything.

The main reason of why I’ve struggled to put anything on here is because I have severe anxiety. Basically I’m afraid to put my thoughts and feelings into the world and potentially being judged for them. There is a lot to say as to why I feel this way, which will have to be a topic for a future post.

So why do I want to publicly write about my thoughts and feelings if I am afraid of doing so?

Well, precisely because I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I want to finally feel free to express my true self (though first I have to do some digging to see who my true self is). I think confronting it in the form of a public blog is a great way to work towards that goal. Even if no one sees my writing, as a person with constant self-censorship in his system, this is a big step for me.

Besides that, there are so many benefits to writing a blog. Benefits which include:

  • Putting my thoughts out will allow people that think alike to find me, thus creating the kind of relationships I want to create. This might also weed out the kind of people I don’t want in my life.
  • Developing writing skills and creativity
  • Finding my voice / learning about myself
  • Documenting my progress in life
  • Building a good habit
  • Gaining confidence in myself

So obviously there are many benefits, but just for the purpose of analysis I’ll list my potential hindrances:

  • I could say the “wrong” thing and be crucified by the internet Justine Sacco style
  • Since I plan on being personal and honest, I will be more vulnerable
  • My beliefs will be out in the open and I may be ostracized by groups that dislike them, including potential employers

That’s all I can think of right now though I’m sure there are more.

Anyway, I understand that this is a double-edged sword. After thinking about this long and hard, I am confident that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Besides, I think that privacy is dead in this age and this blog is at least a way to control my “image.”