Many of us have jobs, or contracts or at least obligations to the work space. Most likely, those activities take up the bulk of your time. And you get reliant on them, to pay the bills, and give you the means to meet some of your needs. But at the cost of the bulk of your time.
Quite possibly, you have other interests as well. Things you would like to do. Ideas you would like to implement. Projects you would like to undertake. Skills you would like to learn. But you just don’t find the time for them. Or they require quite a bit of effort, and you do not know if you can even muster that kind of strength.
But it is important that you attend to them as well. And the next couple of pieces I would write would be trying to untangle and rewire our daily routines to allow us to balance the work we must do for pay, and the things we want to do on the side.
Why have a thing on the side?
It is creatively nourishing.
For many of us, in our regular work lives we have to do things that we are not necessarily passionate about, or maybe even ill suited for. I have written about the need for passion in everyone’s life. If you haven’t found a way to merge your passion with what you do for work, you can at least pursue your passion as your side gig. You will find that the more you make time and invest into this thing, the happier and more satisfied you will feel on the soul level.
It unlocks new opportunities
While pursing the side gig, you will be exploring areas and arenas that are unfamiliar to you, and you never know where that would lead. But the thing is, whatever you will be getting into is new. This will spark new mental connections, learning new things, acquiring new skills, meeting new people. And who knows what could come next. You could unlock a solid new stream of income, or a new career, or new friends. It is worth it to have a fresh area of exposure.
It will move you forward
Life is hectic. We have demands and responsibilities. We have many things to take care of and to handle. The world pushes and pulls us in many directions at once. If you actually want to move forward, and make tangible progress. You need to be deliberate, you need to be intentional. And the time spent in the side gig is prime time to do just that. To make plans, and put them in place.
It will help you build discipline.
Time is limited. You already spend most of it at work, and there is a good chunk you also need to apply to everything else – relationships, self care, the community. To also include your side gig time, you will need to be even more disciplined. You will need to identify wasted time and reclaim it. You will need to set a new routine and embrace a sense of practice to allow you to consistently work on your side thing over time.
It will boost your confidence
As the captain of your ship, the architect of your destiny. maybe you don’t have control over everything in your life. But in this one area, in this one thing, you are in control. You call the shots. You rise and fall on your own merits. Your lessons and your blessings are hard won. That sense of satisfaction and fulfilment is worth its weight in gold.
The other day, I got robbed, and my laptop was stolen. Naturally, I thought I’d make a blog about it.
What do you do when you get knocked back by misfortune? When the deal you have been working on for months falls through. When you get unceremoniously laid off. When your space is violated, and things are taken from you. When priceless data, months, years of work is gone in an unfair instant.
How do you react?
First you react by being a bit numb. I mean that is the first thing you feel. The shock that this thing has just happened. The realization of what was taken and just how inconvenient it all is, the time, money and effort it would take to recover and get back to some semblance of normalcy.
Then you get pissed, for a few minutes, and on a lower simmering level, for the next couple of days.
But you also remember what stoicism teaches (it is practically second nature now) – not to really give a shit or take anything too serious.
Most people would ask ‘why me?‘ You remember to ask ‘why not me?‘. It has been a relatively good year, all things being equal. You were probably due for something like this to happen.
At least you are safe, at least you are not hurt. At least you are not in an ambulance screaming down to the hospital with bleeding out of bullet wounds.
So that’s what you do, focus on the good and try to put things in perspective.
You can’t change what happened, you can’t rewind time and do things differently. All you can do is move forward. By focusing on what you can control, by honing down on what needs to be done.
So you call the cops of course, report the incident, then you send a flurry of messages, letting close friends and family know what happened, letting clients know that work will be somewhat delayed.
Hours later, after all of the excitement, you finally get some sleep.
Over the next few days you wallow. Lightly. There isn’t much you can do but wait. Wait for expected funds to come in, and try to make a plan. A plan to replace what was lost, and a plan to get back to work. Apart from that, nothing much to do, but drink and game. At least they did not take the PS4.
How do you reframe it?
48 hours later it starts to hit you. The gift, the good in this situation. And it comes wrapped in anger, in annoyance, in irritation. Oh they think they could take my shit. I’ll just replace everything bigger and better.
Perhaps that is what I could do, use this experience as fuel. I had been a bit relaxed as of late. I could use this to kick my ass back into high gear. The desire to to do and gain more as a personal fuck you to the person who did this to me.
So that is what it would be, at least for now. Fuel to get me back into action.
How do you act?
Diagnose the problem. What went wrong and why did this happen?
The gate was unlocked because it had been malfunctioning and a pain to lock. My data is lost because I wasn’t as diligent with backing up as I should. I almost never lose things and I keep things very well. I had gotten relaxed, lulled into the false sense that nothing would happen. Until the worst thing happened in the most surreal way.
There’s an idea I learned from Tai Lopez years ago about extreme preparedness. He said if you got beaten up as a 30 year old, it was your fault. You should have been learning self defense since you were 3. And if you couldn’t do it then for whatever reason, today is as good a day to start.
If you know something can happen and you are not prepared for that eventuality and it does happen, it is your fault. Always be prepared.
That was the biggest lesson for me out of this ordeal, to be prepared, overly prepared, to never let my guard down.
This means a replaced and better gate. This means a replaced laptop with up to the minute backups going straight to the cloud. This means a revamping of my workflow to not be too dependent on any one machine at one time.
How do you bounce back?
There is the story of Thomas Edison reacting to his factory burning down in 1914. A massive explosion turned half of his plant into balls of fire, ten buildings alight in chemical flames. Despite the efforts of between six to eight fire departments, there was nothing they could do.
Edison calmly walked to his son Charles Edison, and told him, “Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again”. When his son objected, Edison replied, “It’s all right. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.”
He went home that night after the chaos had subsided and the very next day was back to rebuilding. The fire had claimed just under a million dollars of priceless records, inventions and prototypes.
But after just three weeks, Edison got part of the plant up and running again. Working double shifts and setting record breaking productivity, Edison and his team went on to make almost $10 million in revenue the next year.
That’s how you do it, that’s how you bounce back. By reacting rationally, by feeling the sting and letting it go, by responding to the situation, by hitting back harder than ever, becoming more resilient, more efficient, allowing the loss to burn away the impurities and make you stronger for it.
That’s how you bounce back.
That’s how you win.
Sure books can guide you, but your heart defines you – Jay Z (Beach Chair)
So for the past few months, my reading rate plummeted drastically. I went from reading multiple books and consuming self-help content on an almost constant basis, to not wanting to see another Tom Bilyeu, Tai Lopez or Gary Vee video.
Well, first, I am a person of extremes.
I tend to swing from one end to the other.
When I get into something, I really get into it, to the point of obsession. And then at some point, I just get over it and walk away. It is my nature, I need the balance of opposites to feel whole.
It was in early 2015, I really started to hunker down on my personal development and business knowledge. I watched and listened to a lot of Tai, and then eventually Gary, and then Tom and others over the years. Their content was incredibly useful in transforming my mindset and putting me in a different space.
I needed that.
It was their words and ideas changed the way I thought and my default settings to life. I literally rewired my brain with their content, consuming it every waking hour – at the gym, just lounging around in my apartment, on the train in between meetings, just before bed, and of course, while I worked.
It was awesome. I was practicing something I call ‘full-immersion’. Bombarding my mind to change the way it worked.
Fast forward to today, and I am barely consuming any self-help content at all. My YouTube playlist has morphed from Valuetainment, Gary Vee and Impact Theory shows to video essays and comedic videos breaking down the narrative and philosophical themes of my favourite pop culture movies, literature and video games. Now I write things like this and this.
I don’t know what to tell you. I like what I like.
Which brings me to my second point.
Life is a complex matrix, full of many moving parts and unique experiences.
You can not be one-dimensional. Most of the personal development space is that, one-dimensional and repetitive. The same lists and ideas sprouted off over and over again.
It is like if you are not waking up at 5am everyday, drinking bullet proof coffee, chugging down shakes and hitting the gym everyday, you will not be successful. If you are not obsessed with crushing it, your life has no meaning.
Life is vast, there are many ways to approach it and many ideas to explore. The trap of the self-help game is to have you think that someone else has all the answers so you can switch your brain off and mindlessly follow.
We see the same problem in most religions. Inspired living ideas quickly turn into mindless dogma. People become dependent on others telling them what to think and do.
Sure, there are universal principles that we must learn, but we are all unique individuals with specific contexts, and we still have to do the work of crafting our unique solutions.
We can spend all the time reading but only our true reflection on what we read and practice actually changes anything.
And if you do the self-help thing well…at some point you should ‘graduate’ from it. At some point, you should actually be helped, you should be a better person and be better equipped to get what you want.
It doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t need a reminder, a refresher from time to time. But you should have absorbed the lessons.
And that’s my third point – the point I am at now.
Taking action is what actually works
For all the content I consumed, they gave me ideas, they gave me tools, but they did not give me results.
I look around at my life, and there are many things I want to achieve and attain. The only thing that is going to make those things real in my life…is the work. Not another book, not another video, just the actual work of putting to practice what I learned and getting my hands dirty in the nitty gritty of making things happen in my life.
At this point, the content is more of a distraction.
Because it is very easy to conflate the knowledge of being able to do something with actually doing it.
That is how we become insight junkies, craving the dopamine hit of a new epiphany, a new idea, a silver bullet that would magically solve all your problems. That is how we become the perpetual student enslaved to the opinions and ideas of all the gurus just waiting to take your money and charge you to help you.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for all that. They do help, and people do have massively transformative experiences. But more often than not, after all the hurrah, most people are back the next year in the exact same place, with not much to show for it.
The only thing that works is the work.
The grimy work of change, of perpetual practice, of dust biting failure and the slow grind.
That is presently fascinating to me.
Because the people who we follow did not get successful by following. They got successful by doing.
Another book on business isn’t going to make my studio successful. What is going to make me successful is how well I apply the principles I learned to my specific situation. Not how well I followed this other author’s ideas to the T. But how I made it my own, how I absorbed it to my core and to my bones.
And you only absorb by taking a step back. By doing inner reflection. By putting it into practice.
It is the work that works.
At some point you have to put the books down and walk into the exam, and then into the workplace.
And of course, it is not like I will never read another book again. I am still buying books and noting down certain things. In fact I bought another one last night. But I am way more intentional about it, I am not looking for a silver bullet. I am looking for specific ideas to add to my portfolio of tools. Something I can take action on immediately.
Plus, I know myself.
Like I said…I am a man of extremes. I will be back to reading ferociously at some stage anyway, and that will be awesome.
In the mean time, I’m focused on the work.
In the Marvel cinematic universe, Thor’s journey is one of an identity that is systematically stripped back, broken and reforged through tragedy, through times of transition. Over the course of 7 movies in the Infinity Saga, he goes from an arrogant prince eager to ascend to the throne of Asgard to abandoning it completely for a life as a self-accepting simple adventurer banding up with the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Time will tell if he continues on this path as we move into phase 4, but watching this video breakdown of his cinematic story got me thinking about the tension that exists between our perception of our identity and its reality. A tension we must navigate to reach fulfilment.
Life’s journey sees us transform over time, adopting and abandoning identities. At each point in life, who we are is partly self-generated and partly shaped by our environment, specific context and the expectations of implied roles.
As small children competing with siblings for attention, we might play the bully, or the funny joker, or the needy vulnerable one to get an edge. In school with our peers, we navigate identities to figure out who we are and where we fit in the larger community. We undergo the same process, in every new stage and level of life. Identities evolve and change as we do.
It is in the transition between phases of life that we usually have to grapple the most with identity. Who we were isn’t enough for where we are going. We have to change. So, we experiment with different roles to find ourselves, sometimes playing the same roles multiple times until we finally understand just who we truly are and who we are not.
I’ve been thinking about this lately as I face personal transitions and I think the process of navigating identity in these times has something with three things – ‘the person you think you are supposed to be’, ‘the person you actually are’, and ‘the person you can be’.
The person you think you are supposed to be
No one exists in a vacuum. Our society, our upbringing, our culture, our family, our social circles, our roots, the cities we settle in, all provide a context in which our lives are immersed and in which we must create meaning. As we grow, we fall into roles that are laid out for us, implicitly or explicitly. There are also hopes and dreams thrust upon us, the expectations of the people we should become, and the kind of things we should do. Often, we internalise these expectations and make them our own.
We want to do our folks proud. We want to earn the approval of others and maintain the status quo of our communities. This can work out fine if there is enough overlap between our true identities and these expectations placed on us, or it can cause a lot of friction if there is dissonance between the two.
I expressed a bit of this idea in my piece exploring the lessons gleaned from Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse. Miles tries to be like the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker. In his mind, Peter is the example of the kind of person he is supposed to be.
But it is unwieldy, it is false, and it is not until he has his personal catharsis and he relaxes into the person he actually is (Miles), that he is able to be effective as the new Spider-Man.
We all want to be something and become someone. Our hopes and dreams for our lives pull us to higher places. When we transition from one phase of life to the next, we have preconceived notions of what we are supposed to look like on the other side.
But we must examine these desires and perceptions to know if they are truly our own, or if we are chasing things thrust upon us and missing our true selves. Because if not, disaster ensues.
The person you actually are
It can be a terrifying thing – being yourself. Many of us spend our lives running away from our true selves. Unwilling to bring our essence to light, unabashedly, unashamedly. Unwilling to live our truth. Because truth can be painful, and uncomfortable. Truth challenges us, and often, breaks the tidy lil boxes and moulds that we have created for ourselves.
But the person you actually are is always there with you. Always lurking just below the surface, coming up in those moments when we think it is safe, when we are alone, or lost in a crowd.
The person we are, the impulses, drives, desires and attitudes that arise from deep within are to be wrestled with and navigated. Sometimes, there are things here that make us feel complete, alive but we judge as bad – a sensual proclivity or orientation, a restless desire for adventure, or a yearning for a quiet unassuming life.
Between the demands of culture and the world around us and these truths that arise from deep within , the friction easily arises. Do we stand our ground and assert our identity, our truths, consequences be damned? or do we capitulate and maintain the status quo.
There are no easy answers.
Sometimes we must assert ourselves and choose our fulfilment and happiness no matter the discomfort or stress involved. At other times, we have to fulfil our duty to the greater good and the collective.
But you cannot escape yourself, if this tension is not adequately navigated, it will rear its head in some way. Either in the incident that blows up, or a low level simmering sense of resentment that eats you up on the inside.
The person you can be
Maybe there is a middle ground, I think it lies in the person you can be. This person is your true potential. A place of balance. A place of truth. A place of growth and real acceptance. Where your nature can blossom and your real gifts can be given.
I think a successful resolution of the tension between ‘who you think you are supposed to be’ vs ‘who you truly are’ gives birth to this third ideal state – ‘who you can be’.
The person you can be is rooted in who you truly are. It is a place of authenticity. But it also understands that who you are now is just raw material for what comes next. Even in that state of being, you must evolve and grow and integrate. You must be refined into the best version of yourself.
It honours your aspirations, your dreams and vision. It takes into account the expectations, and the needs of those around you, and then bridges the gap between two and allows you to evolve to your best self.
We do not use who we are as an excuse to rage against the machine or waste away. But we harness that potential, that energy to create something beautiful and meaningful.
In this way you integrate the person you truly are against your expectations and duties to become the person that you can be, someone who is authentically alive, fulfilled and connected to the larger tapestry of life.
So, a couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about fear. I was triggered by the sort of conversation that forces you to confront things you’d rather not think about. And I started to mull over the feelings that rise up every time I take a step forward, every time I try to tackle an area of my life that needs to be worked on, an area that I may or may not have avoided for years – the fear.
I’ve stared it down many times and won, and I have also conceded my fair share of losses to it. But the fear never completely goes away. It rises up without fail, to greet us, every time we knock on the door of opportunity and possibility. Often, we are able to overcome it – by sheer grit and force of will. We press forward and push through to the other side, only to find out that hey, it was really not that bad after all. It was just an illusion, just a mirage.
But we have to face it again and again. And each time, we approach knowing that we have been here before. We know that if we press through the fear, there will be great power released on the other side. But it still feels like the first time, every time.
And beyond these spikes of fear, there is also the low grade anxiety that is always there, lurking below the surface. There is the mind that is so quick to fall into negative patterns. One minute you sitting minding your business, the next, you are being dragged for filth by your fear of loss or disappointment.
This is the constant battle with fear, the perpetual struggle against this force that exists to resist us every time we move towards the edges of our comfort zone.
And its biggest effect is to hold us back. It keeps us rooted and stuck, unable to move forward in case our worst fears come true. But this fear is really just imagination gone wrong.
What if there was an antidote?
What if there was a way to flip it, and instead of living with this force that pushes us back, we could embrace a different force that pulls us forward?
What is the opposite of fear?
At first I thought the answer might be excitement. After all, I once heard that the fear one feels before performing or public speaking or presenting is really just excitement in disguise. We just need to transform that nervous energy into a source of power that can charge whatever we need to do.
That could work, but it is not enough. The problem with excitement is that as the polar opposite of fear (anticipating the possibility an unfavourable outcome), it requires a level of denial about the possibility of failure (clinging to the possibility of a favourable one).
So, what could work better as an opposite force to fear?
Because curiosity does the opposite of what fear does. If fear holds you back, curiosity draws you forward, and it does so, in a semi-detached way. Here, we are not overly fixated on the outcome, but more on the process.
Curiosity allows us to approach our lives openly. In this mode of being, the idea isn’t – I really want to get this. It is more like, I wonder what would happen if I explored this. I wonder if I would get what I want. And if I don’t, I am just as curious about what happens anyway.
At the end of the day, I will either get what I want or I will get something else plus new information.
When you are curious, you don’t stake everything on a specific answer or result, you are really just vested in the process of finding out, the experience of discovery. You don’t care what happens, you just want to see what does. It is an intellectual stimulation. It is a call to adventure.
So, what if the next time you were greeted by your fear, instead of holding on to that tense feeling wondering if things will go your way, you were simply just curious?
What if you thought, “I don’t know if this is going to work, but I am willing to try and see. I might walk into that pitch and still not get a call back. But I’m not worried about getting it. I’m just curious to see what happens.“
Doesn’t that take a lot of the pressure off.
With this outlook, you start to focus on the actions, on the steps you must take. You get unstuck in your head and stop fixating on potential scenarios and simply surrender to what is. You are immersed in the now. No judgements, just experience.
And sure, even if you find something bad. Hey, it happens. We just keep it moving. We just keep fuelling our curiosity. Because even that bad, we can work with.
So that is the mantra I’ve been using a lot lately. Every time I feel that fear rise up within, before I take action, before I step out my comfort zone. I remind myself, to replace fear with curiosity. To replace expectation and entitlement with the sense of discovery.
Then I move.
Or where I’m at right now and what that means for my content.
For the five or so of you who follow my blog, you would have noticed I have not been publishing at my usual pace. I have been coming up against a wall lately, when it comes to the blog. I tend to fall in and out of love with my projects, which can make it difficult to work on things long term, but I’ve embraced that as part of the process. Like Tim Ferris says in The 4-Hour Work Week– interest is cyclical.
I’ve also had a persistent sense of fatigue, so I decided to pull back from everything for a bit and disappear. Which was the perfect opportunity to do some reflection around this blog.
I have always said that I don’t know why exactly I write, just that I must. And I shared this sentiment with Kofi Ofori-boateng at a workshop the other day and he was quick to reply ‘of course, because it is a calling.’
This is important to me, so I always try to write from a place of authenticity. Meaning that whatever I post is something that is important to me at the time or reflective of what I am going through. I believe that is what makes for writing that resonates. I would never want to lose that, and have it feel like just another job because this is sacred space. This blog and platform has always been first and foremost, a space for creation.
The creation of what?
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” George Bernard Shaw
I have always viewed what I do here on this platform as a form of self-creation – birthing the person I want to be and the kind of work and projects I want to engage with. The more I blog about ideas like mindset and success, the more they are ingrained into my mind and my spirit. The more I put out books and projects, the more I become the person I want to be – a creative, an author, etc.
In a world where the old rules don’t apply and new opportunities abound, it is useful to create a brand and a platform for yourself, where you can be yourself, and live life on your own terms. You can create something that is uniquely yours and fulfilling to you.
So, that is what this platform is – a place to create something authentic.
Over the years, I have written mostly around mindset, exploring the thought patterns, predispositions and changes we need to make on the inside to get to where we are going and to get what we want. And over my years of writing, this blog has generally mirrored where I was at the time.
My earlier years 2010 – 2014 were concerned with asking the bigger philosophical questions of life. What is it? Why are we here? How do we find or create meaning? What do we do with this gift. It was a time of angst, of searching and wrestling. And my writing reflects that, distilled into my first book – The meaning of Life and other such nonsense.
My next phase after that was more mindset driven. I had come to some resolution around all my searching and had set course for a goal, to create a certain kind of life for myself, doing certain kinds of things. Over this period between 2015-2018, I explored mindset and the principles behind success. The things you must learn, accept and integrate to make anything of yourself. How do you reprogram your mind for success? It has been very rewarding season and truly changed the way I think and behave. This will become another book – How to get what you want.
But now I feel like I am in a different phase. More in a doing phase than thinking. I’ve got the mindset stuff cold, and yes, I will keep being a student of it. I’ll keep learning and reprogramming my mind sure. But this next phase requires a lot more doing, a lot more living.
I’ve seen my curiosity shift from the principles and mindset stuff to the tactical. I wonder how to fine tune my schedule to match my natural energy and give sustainable output. I want to know more about routines, how to create habits, how to stay organised. I want the perspective shifts, hacks and tools that maximise output.
And so in the same way, my content seems to be shifting away from the higher ideas to more tactical content.
End of last year, I inadvertently wrote a short book called – How to live intentionally. Primarily about setting intentions and then goals and systems to get there. I did it in 7 days and in the aftermath of releasing it, I realised that this had to become a full book.
But I had also gotten gripped by a new theme idea – How to max out your potential which I figured could be the theme for the new year.
Maximizing your potential means doing all you can. Leaving all on the table, breaking through to exponential results and all that. And that is where I really want to go. But as I wrote on the topic, I realized I had jumped the gun. You cannot maximize what you haven’t established.
In the journey of entrepreneurship according to Michael E Gerber’s book The E-Myth, there is the crucial phase between the technicianand the entrepreneurcalled the managerwhere you begin to design and implement systems, culture and execution that enable an enterprise to scale and become more than survival.
The same happens in the journey to personal development. You set your focus, and then you take action. But over time you realize that to do this sustainably over the long term, you have to set in place systems and routines to make things easier. It is only when those things are in place that you are then able to really push forward and optimize across the board to reach exponential results.
That is where I am now, exploring this process of establishment, of building. My content will shift more to the tactical, things like routines, organization, planning, systems, the tools and habits that enable us to live more intentionally. So our goals can become crystallized into the actions we take on a day-to-day, as we build a life by design.