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Forests vs Trees (also: Hot-Air Balloons)

Hexagon forest with one dead treeI wonder what the first guy to come up with the idea for a passenger-occupied hot-air balloon did when he finally sat down to start working on this bizarre idea of his. I wonder if there was a moment of thinking, “This is crazy. What was I thinking? It can never be done.” Actually, I’m pretty sure there might have been. Someone eventually did make one though, thus proving all those fears irrelevant.

I suppose it’s almost always scary to do something new – whether it is just new to you, or whether it is entirely unique to the world. That’s most likely because new things provide us with no internal frame of reference. There’s nothing we can compare it to in our past. And so it is with ideas. Even great ideas can suddenly seem impossible to execute when you start looking at the “how” of it.

But I think that’s precisely where we need to believe in a little “magic”; a little “suspension of reality” and just go with it. I’ve seen so many times how people kill great ideas prematurely because immediately after having the idea, and before giving it a chance to settle down and ruffle its feathers a little, people start questioning the “how”. And so often, because they can’t find an immediate answer to the “how”, the illusion gets shattered and all faith in that big idea is lost (it’s a bit like the Buddha’s parable of the poisoned arrow – worrying about who shot the arrow, what it’s made of, what kind of bow was used – before focusing on the fact that there’s a damn poisoned arrow stuck in your leg).

While doing a stint in design school, we were faced with some or other project one day and almost all my classmates (who had infinitely more experience with Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, etc. than I had) seemed to just calmly sit down and start working on their ideas. I must have looked somewhat panicky and the lecturer came up to me. I told him I didn’t have enough confidence with any of the software packages yet – I had no idea how I would execute this idea. Then, he gave me some of the best creative advice ever – really simple, but absolutely brimming with wisdom: “Worry about the idea, not the tools. The tools are merely there to help you execute the idea and it doesn’t matter what tools you use.” Basically – worrying about the how is entirely the wrong way around to start working on anything creative. It will most likely depress you if you start worrying about the how before worrying about the what. It will most likely kill the what. It will most likely get you right back to where you started from in the first place… Continue reading Forests vs Trees (also: Hot-Air Balloons)

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Reboot – Part 2: To Reinvent or Not

I’ve wanted to “work for myself” for a very long time, possibly since the first job I’ve had. I’ve never functioned well in office environments. Around 2007 – 2008, I tried freelancing as a web developer (as I was formerly employed as exactly that) and ended up hating it so much, that I’ve more or less lost all interest in web development.

What do you do when roughly the only trained skill you have, becomes something you’re not interested in anymore? I harboured dreams of developing stand-alone management applications that I could then sell to clients – a complete software suite that, unlike CMS-based websites, would not necessarily need my continued interaction with the client (aside from support calls, etc.). I certainly had the skills to execute this and yet, it didn’t happen.

What I kept telling myself the problem was (and at least partly, it was), was the inability to make money from such an idea until I had a finished product. In other words, in the couple of months it would take me to develop something like this, I would have no income, but I would still have rather significant expenses. Part-time job? Working on the project in the evenings? I’ve tried that in the past and it just didn’t work for me. I tend to get so involved with the other work that I do, that I end up not having the energy or motivation to work on the project (also, part-time jobs in South Africa generally don’t pay enough to augment this kind of process – the other thing you’re doing would need to bring in money at the same time too, in order to keep up with rent, groceries, etc. So full-circle – the thing I’m doing isn’t currently bringing in money that I can survive on. The End… :/ ).

And this is precisely how the cycle has gone for me, probably since 2005. I get to the point where I realise the job I’m doing doesn’t fulfil me, I need to focus on my own projects, then I quit the job and focus on my projects, but before long, I panic, since there’s no “security” in my own projects… Continue reading Reboot – Part 2: To Reinvent or Not

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Reboot – Part 1: Drastic Changes

Grey arrows going in a circle, the last arrow, a red one, breaks the cycle and points in a new direction.

It’s been a year since I’ve started this blog. In that year, so much has happened, but sadly, very little of it was reflected here.

Shortly after leaving the comfort zone of my former employment, despite all my plans and excitement, I crashed and burned. I have lots of theories about this, but I’ll save that for another time.

I think a big part of my problem (?), is how easy I find it to stop doing something that goes against my grain. The moment I discover that a job/company/work environment stands in direct contradiction of my ethics & principles, I’m out of there. I’ve gotten a little better over the years – actually trying to stick it out and fight the good fight; to try to change things for the better. But in a corporate world, any perceived threat to “how we’ve always done things”, is instinctively fought from the get-go. It’s exhausting and I’ve almost always found it entirely fruitless.

Thus, I found myself in this situation again – having left a “safe” job that went against my principles. However, this time I had big plans. Still, another of my problems, is how easily I come up with plans – lots of them, all the time – but how my fear of failure keeps me from executing them. And yes – some of these plans may be utter nonsense, but at the same time, there may just be a great one among them.

Stewing in my dilemma, unable to choose any course of action, I sat around at home, worrying, getting depressed, even manic… Then, at some point, I decided to at least tell my parents (they had no idea that I was unemployed at this stage). I figured if it became necessary for me to become completely dependent on them, they at least deserved to know how I got to that point.

They then asked me if I wouldn’t consider moving back home to live with them. This was not what I had in mind for my new life of freedom, and I immediately rejected the suggestion. They suggested that I could clear my head, start afresh and do my planning from there.

From a financial point of view, it made sense, but in no other way could I think of this as a practical move. My parents live in a tiny town in the southern Free State. It’s extremely rural, unemployment rates are sky-high, and frankly, there is no work even remotely related to any of the fields I’ve studied. I couldn’t imagine it being a good place to start from. It felt like it would set me back even further than I was already – unemployed with no prospects, but now also in the middle of nowhere, 200km away from the nearest place that can actually be considered a city.

The irony is that, even as far back as 2010, I’ve expressed to another friend how much I’d actually love to live in my home town again. I’ve always loved the peace, the relative solitude, being so close to nature. When he asked me what was stopping me from moving back, I pretty much regurgitated the previous paragraph with some minor changes here and there. It came up again one day. He asked me again what was keeping me from doing it, and when I started listing the reasons again, he interrupted and said that I was just making excuses, because nothing I was telling him sounded serious enough or insurmountable to the extent that it should actually keep me from doing it.

But still, I stuck around, trying to “find my way”.

The turning point came in late April (2013). One day after I was due to go and see a Life Coach I had met to try to sort out my issues (and couldn’t, because my unreliable car gave up on me), my mom phoned me and told me that my dad had been taken up in hospital. He had had a minor stroke. Continue reading Reboot – Part 1: Drastic Changes

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The Ides of March

March was a rough month. Despite the fact that I left my job at the end of February, filled with excitement and passion for the blank slate of the future, I crashed and burned very soon after.

My biggest problem was that I still really didn’t have any idea of what exactly it was that I wanted to occupy myself with. Even though I received a much larger payment than normal (because of excess accrued leave), there were also much larger expenses that I needed to make – three kittens to get spayed, two bent rims on the car to get fixed and a tyre to replace.

After paying most of these, I realised I could actually only afford to get one rim fixed and not even a tyre replaced before I start going very far over budget.

I started thinking about the things I own that I absolutely never use and might be able to sell for a bit of extra cash. The only one that came to mind immediately, was a Marshall amp that I haven’t even plugged in since 2009 – ideal candidate.

Except… That’s roughly when the stress started settling in. Even though I’m trying to follow Leo Babauta’s tips for simplifying my life and getting rid of things that just clutter up the place and that I never use, there’s this stigma attached to selling your things in order to have money to survive. It smacks of desperation and calls to mind some sort of serious addiction. I was feeling like a dismal failure… Continue reading The Ides of March

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The End. And the New Beginning.

So…

I officially quit my job last week Monday. I now have roughly three weeks to put my plans into action since it just happens to be the shortest month of the year (no pressure…)

The only problem is, that I actually really don’t know what it is that I want to do yet. Fortunately, I have at least reached a very clear conclusion about what it is that I definitely do not want to do. That realisation has severely limited my options and choices. There are lots of jobs I could apply for, many skills I could apply. However, my top priority in life, is ethics. Whatever I do needs to be filtered through my extremely strict sense of ethics.

This is, of course, one of the big reasons why I so often find myself in this boat that I am now. But then I never seem to know how to turn the boat around and I often become overwhelmed by the deluge of everything life throws at me and trying to deal with it all while still retaining my ethical stance.

The support group that this blog is, has already proved exceedingly useful. I can definitely recommend surrounding yourself with friends if you’re starting on this path, should you ever consider doing it. Even if all of you are doing something different, with different goals at different places – stay in touch and talk one another through it. I’ve not had this kind of mutual support system before, and I firmly believe that this is one of the biggest reasons why I always end up scared and running back to former comforts, unhealthy as they may be.

On the day I resigned, I was very stressed. Not least of all because literally half of our department had already resigned and would be leaving only three days later and I had not informed the boss of my intentions yet (even though I had decided that I would be leaving before some of them even started working there).

The actual resignation discussion went far smoother than I expected and, after walking out of the office, I could feel the weight lifting from my shoulders. Even though I still had a month left to work, I was free. Right there. Saying it out loud, putting it in writing had finally made real what I’d been talking about since August last year.

But then the other side of that coin came down a couple of days later. After revelling in my freedom for a day or two, it hit me really hard when I realised fully what I’d done. I had just given up a decent job without anything else lined up. Traditional wisdom teaches us that this is one of the dumbest things to do ever. I had a month in which I needed to get my “future” sorted out. How would I ever do it? Continue reading The End. And the New Beginning.