Archive for March, 2015

Wow.

So I’ve spent a good part of my morning swimming through my endless sea of folders and files scattered across several computers, external hard drives and jump drives. I am attempting to organize the chaos, and in so doing am coming across self-reflective writings and audio recordings more than a decade old. They speak of a life unfulfilled, of frustration, of demons and sadness and a sense of being lost and without direction. There is drinking and smoking, audio clips from parties, and from private self-reflections, there is writing about goals and fear and despair… It is a little striking, looking through this window at a Me that once was.

My first impression, how morose and inspired I can be all at once! I was so passionate, creative, and yet there is a sense of desolation and fear of a stark and failing future. I am constantly setting up goals, with constantly running threads of quitting smoking, putting a stop to the partying, getting serious about health and fitness, and forever searching for jobs. I am lamenting in recordings about the fate I have created for myself and that the only way it will change is if I change. There are money issues, legal issues, car issues, life issues…

To be fair it’s rather inspiring, considering where I am now (so many of those boxes that remained unticked for years are ticked now). The passion and creativity is also interesting, that idea of inspiration drawn from suffering somehow exemplified by my struggles to break bad patterns and find a path in life.

The next thing I noticed is the myriad of half-written works left behind in the wake of my meandering whirlwind of inspired desperation. So many writing projects, so many started stories that are a paragraph, a page or even chapters long. A few are solidly between halfway and fully being a complete book. Another of those to-do list items that worry a constant thread though my ramblings is this need to ‘get back to’ writing. This is a thread that has continued to this day, a 15 year reminder to return to my writings, to create, and ultimately finish, the stories in my mind.

This is perhaps the greatest casualty of my life, that my writings are always in flux, that my bouts of creativity come in waves. At times I was writing for months at a time, at others only weeks or even a few days of fevered inspiration. Yet there is this eternal lack of completion. The smoking, drinking, jobs, education… these things I slowly conquered and put behind me. But the writing, it is forever my passion, and forever my burden.

Ah, so now the grim reflections of my youth are seeping into my present day. Nice to see you 20-something Mike, can I borrow some of that passion and creativity? Yes, this is my house. Yes, I have a beautiful wife who supports me and makes me laugh everyday. Haha yeah man, I did become an archaeologist. Crazy right? You were a part of that.

On that note, I need to turn to those very writings and make something inspired today. No prompts, no fun writing exercises…. I need to pick a project out of the pile and run with it.

It’s only just begun and I’m ready to make a report. So far, so good, so sore.

I am finding time for the simple habits. I’ve been able to do more than the minimum on the coding, the Spanish lessons, and the CrashCourse classes. The reading has been ‘just enough’, though for work I am report writing this week rather than digging holes so I am reading through a lot of material outside of the leisure reading for which the goal was set. The writing is likewise partly consumed by the report writing, and so far all the creative bits have been through a website I’ve used from time to time to conjure inspiration (http://writerkata.com/). It’s a series of prompts that begin with sentences, grows into paragraphs, then the last prompt requires a short story. It’s fun, challenging, and forces me to write about things I would never usually consider doing on my own. I may use this forum to post a few of those, perhaps through another thread.

The meditating has been simple enough to incorporate. I have enough apps to allow me creative control on what type I am doing. I can do anything from a quick 10 minute breathing meditation to a deep, half-hour guided meditation. The yoga has likewise been simple to integrate, using it as a warm up to the workouts and running.

The workouts and running now, that’s been the trickiest to place into time and space. It takes a bit more commitment. There’s a wardrobe change, a shower, a TV takeover for the workout that entails a bit of privacy from my wife and father-in-law, and of course the actual physical commitment. And yet I still managed an intense 40 minute workout yesterday, and a solid 2+ mile run today.

Thus far this is a pretty dry rundown of how these changes have functioned in my life these past two days, but the results are what we’re going for here, and it’s still too early for that. Well… my legs and shoulders are already pretty sore, so there’s that. I must pace myself, and remember that I haven’t exercised or ran in months (despite my job of hiking and digging holes everyday). I am eager to see progress, to feel results, both physically and in the skill sets I am working on. Of all the pursuits, the results of learning to code and improving my writing have a much larger endgame, to forge skills that lead into new ventures, to create worlds and hopefully new avenues of income.

I also want to expand upon this journal writing. In parallel to my self-monitoring in this pursuit of new habits, skills and levels of fitness, I should be reflecting on the world around me. I should be writing a series on archaeology, a series on writing, a commentary on politics, the state of humanity, or a reflection on science, technology and space! I should be commenting on how Leonard Nimoy just passed and what he meant to me, on the speech the Israeli PM just made in Congress and all that I felt it meant to the world. There’s so much chatter in my mind about the myriad of things this world contains, and while perhaps people don’t necessarily want to hear it, I should be tossing it out there anyway.

And so I will… it’s not part of the March challenge, but I will work on extending the journaling into these realms.

For now though, it’s been an accomplished two days, and so I depart for a little space exploration as reward.

I have been chomping at the bit to start another self-improvement plan and have only now found the time and inspiration to set one in motion. The last venture was a 21 day project involving fitness, good reading & writing habits, and pushing to get that oh-so coveted job in the field for which I went to school, archaeology. It ended just a few days shy of 21 days, but with good reason. After a year of random jobs that demanded so much of my time and gave so little satisfaction in return, I finally found myself employed by an actual archaeological firm. I suddenly had no time to finish my 21 day plan as I was bounced about the country getting paid to dig holes in the earth. That was October. Flash-forward more than four months and I have had the opportunity to be a part of projects all across the eastern US. It has been fantastic, fun and immensely satisfying. The people are wonderful, the projects range from routine to fascinating, and working outdoors… there’s nothing better!

So why a change now?

This time around the goal is more inspired and perhaps less desperate than the previous plan. When I implemented the 21 day plan last September, it was because I did not like what I was getting paid to do, nor did I enjoy having all of my spare time consumed. I am in a different world now, where my job is satisfying, and my spare time is exactly that, spare and mine to use. I have up until now been utilizing it for some productive things, but admittedly after a year of working 7 days a week it has largely been filled with fun times with the wife while catching up on the movies, tv shows and video games I left behind so long ago. As a result some of the habits I sought to implement within the previous plan have fallen to the wayside, specifically the writing and working out. So for the past few weeks I have been cultivating this plan to reinvigorate those habits, as well as grow a few others that may prove useful in the future. It began with a series of plans, each one containing a series of habits to achieve those plans. You must understand, I have a penchant for organizing things in excel, for color coding, and for code names.

Plans

To make it simple:

The Ninja Warrior plan is to get in shape. It is achieved through working out (Hulk Out) and running (Zombies!).

The Taoist Master plan is get my mind and spirit in alignment. I am hoping to do this through daily meditation (Zen) and maintaining this journal.

The Chatter of the Ego plan is to engage and develop my literacy skills. This is through my most revisited and usually well-maintained habits, reading and writing everyday.

The Endless Education plan is to expand upon my skills and open up new doors. I have jumped in and out of coding for years and want to use to finally solidify those skills (Code Monkey). I also am reengaging my spanish lessons (Linguistics) and taking online courses in random science fields of my choosing (CrashCourse).

Next, I needed to assign the habits values:

Habits

Once I figured out what habits were necessary to achieve my plans, and the frequency with which they needed repeated weekly, I then worked out a schedule.

Schedule

Now I know that this may all seem like A LOT of planning, and for many they would say ‘just do it!’ For me though, i need structure and planning if I am ever to act on and maintain a series of habits. This is what works for my brain.

The final step was making this portable and setting it within a reminder/reward system, which is what I did during my last 21 day plan and it worked beautifully. So I have a special calendar app within which all of these details are entered throughout the duration of the plan. I also have them entered in an app called LfeRPG that tracks your progress and rewards you with experience points as you complete each task. For example, when I completed my coding course earlier this morning, it gave me experience points towards gaining a level, as well as feeding experience points into computers and intelligence. Different habits have different attributes they feed into, often crossing over depending on what they help to grow.

I know I know, it seems like a lot of build-up around a simple to-do list, but for whatever reason it’s how my brain works, and this is what makes me take action. I’ve nearly cleared my actions for day 1 (still have to Yoga and Hulk Out), and I feel the momentum within me to follow this through to its entirety. Oh, and this time around I’m going past the 21 day mark and making it a full four-week program. It ends on the 29th of March. I’ve also deleted all social apps from my phone and blocked them from my computer. That worked well last time as sites like Facebook and Reddit can consume an hour in the blink of an eye.

Finally, as with all the habits within this plan, the values assigned to each are minimums. I intend to do much more writing and coding than I’ve allotted, and I would like to write in this journal more than once a week.

That’s it for now. I will update again soon, maybe with greater detail on the individual tasks and how they are going.