Monthly Archives: July 2009

I get comments

Well, I got one comment here. Someone took the time to write a long comment. I appreciate some of what this person is trying to say, but I have no clue what the heck he means by systems. It sounds like jargon. Can anyone else decipher it?

Shawn, the most dangerous thing people do at your stage of life is to make a formative but wrong decision based on a FEELING that they should make a decision NOW and not later.

There is one life pursuit out there for you that is best. There are a million that are not the best. An awful lot of these will make your life miserable and unfulfilled.

Nobody is going to tell you what your ideal life pursuit is. They will tell you instead that you should be what they want you to be. Don’t listen to them. Your life is yours right now. Hold onto it. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. It is your life.

This is what I did. I was under pressure from all sides. My parents wanted me to be a professional moneymaker. My counselors wanted me to be a well-oiled cog in the machine. The military wanted me to kill for them. I screamed “Bullshit!” and ran. I took myself back to zero and started over.

You need to find the ability to appreciate being able to lose track of time. Going back to zero requires this. This is a precious gift. Those who have trapped themselves cannot do this. There are people younger than you who will never experience losing track of time for the remainder of their lives. They are lost. They are cogs. They will never escape the machine.

They despise people like you and they want you to join them. Don’t.

Instead, go outside. Observe systems. Systems are everywhere. In nature. In society. When you finally understand a system, you become rooted and then step confidently toward understand the next system.

When you feel directionless, you are simply not examing systems deeply enough. Systems are infinite. From macro to micro. Systems are how he world works. Some are perfect. Some are nightmarish. We all have an inate ability to repair systems. That is why we are here. Life is the antithesis of entropy.

Study systems and take yourself back to zero. Discard the bullshit you have been fed all your life and understand systems. There is no hurry. It can take years.

Your life belongs to you. Remember that.

The day will come when you realize what it is you want to become. It will just come to you. As sure as night and day, as true as an arrow in flight, it will come to you. You will want to persue it. You will be driven by an insatiable desire from within.

This is the pathway to true happiness. Relax. Enjoy your life. Don’t yeild to pressure. The day will come.

One more thing. While you are waiting for the day, you must continue to study systems. Your life has a purpose. Don’t throw it away in idleness or hedonism. Study systems. Your incredible mind will put together the things you learn to build a pathway to your future that you will never tire walking down.

The Introspective Paradigm

I love the word “paradigm” when describing my life. There have been several times when I thought I had embraced a new paradigm, but it was just a false alarm. One paradigm that has changed my life is the “positivity paradigm.” I think I’ve found a new paradigm to follow: the “explorative paradigm.” I recently discovered that I ascribe to an “introspective paradigm,” where I think that I can find purpose in my life, and other answers, just by thinking about myself. Now, I don’t think this is enough. I want to augment my introspection with exploration.

During my searches for purpose, I’ve usually assumed that the introspective approach is the proper approach. If I want to find out what I should do with my life, then I need only look within. Much of the literature I’ve read has reinforced this approach. I’ve seen someone advise sitting down with a blank piece of paper and writing until you find something that makes you cry with meaning. I’ve gone through a book that inventories my strengths and likes, and then is supposed to help me find a career. I’ve gone through several introspective exercises that were supposed to help me create goals, but it’s never satisfied me. I’ve never found THE ONE thing that I’m supposed to do. Occasionally, I’ll be filled with fire, but it will quickly fade. I can’t find the one goal that will sustain me. My current approach suggests that all I’ve got to do is search harder within myself, and I’ll find it.

I don’t think the pure introspective approach will help me find what I love because love is something that grows. Several activities that I love started out as things I was indifferent towards. When I first watched football, I had no idea what was going on. It was something just to pass the time because I was constantly bored freshman year in college. No one in my family had any interest in football, nor did any of my close friends, so I never cared about football either. At the football games in high school, I never paid attention to the game. Yet after I started figuring out what was going on, I started enjoying the game. Now, I love football. During football season, I watch it all weekend and then I spend a bunch of time on fantasy football. My comic was also something that I grew to enjoy. I’ve always needed a creative outlet, but The Chalkboard Manifesto was never a huge priority. There were fallow periods where I wouldn’t update for a month of more. Now I have a lot more pride in my comic, and I update very regularly. Yet there were long periods of time where I was very confused about my comic. Did I love doing this, or did I not? Was this something I really wanted to do? Only through constantly working on my comic, by focusing more on the craft of writing them, did I gain a deeper appreciation of my comic.

Now think of where I’d be with the introspective approach. If I sat in a room alone, and thought about what I loved, I would never have watched a game of football. If I analyzed my feelings, I would’ve decided that my confusion indicated that I wasn’t dedicated to my comic. My life wouldn’t be as rich as it is today.

Even now, I may be closing doors because of the introspective paradigm. I was recently talking to a friend about the business end of my comic, which is stagnant. I’ve never done anything like it before, and I’ve never shown any particular interest in business. Maybe I don’t like it, and I should forget about it. After all, if I had any real interest, then I would’ve done it already, right? This thought-process seems to close off a promising avenue. Shit, maybe I should just try it out, right?

This leads me to a different paradigm: the explorative paradigm. I don’t want to reject introspection, but I want to add more exploration to my life. I want it to be a priority, and I want it to be part of my strategy for finding purpose. If I just look within, I’ll never find all the things I could come to love. I have to look outwards to find everything that I will enjoy. I need an attitude that values exploration.

So I think some of the advice I’ve read before won’t work for me. Maybe when you’re 35 years old, you’ve done enough to figure out what you love and what you don’t love. You just have to think about it and find it within. (Or maybe not.) People my age, though, I don’t think they know what the fuck they want yet. (Some of them.) More importantly, I don’t think they know enough to know what they want. I think they still have a lot of exploration to do in order to figure that out. There’s not enough inside to figure out their purpose yet.

I want to add one thing to this “explorative paradigm”: Trying new things is not enough. It’s not enough to just go out and try something to see if you like it. Let’s say you’re playing Super Smash Brothers, and you’re new to the game. You’re getting absolutely schooled, and you yell, “I hate this game.” Yet after you play a bunch and get better, you start to like the game. The game grows on you. Your initial assessment was based on your inability to play the game, not the game’s objective merits. Sometimes a little mastery is required to even get to the point where you can decide whether you like something or not. Moreover, it may be the fact that you played the game so much that caused you to love it.

Love is something that grows. When I think of relationships — not just romantic ones — the love you have for a person isn’t something that is absolute and fixed at the beginning. You care for a person because of all the time you spend with them. It’s not that you meet a person, instantly decide how you feel about him or her, and then ration out your time that you will spend with that person. The same kind of thing applies to the activities that one does. I came to enjoy my comic a lot more because of all the time that I put into it. Sometimes you spend a lot of time with someone, but then you realize you don’t like that person so much. But it wouldn’t make sense to look at that person right away and decide that you hate him. There has to be a period where you suspend judgment, and you’re fine with just exploring who that person is… or what that activity is.

So it’s important to spend a lot of time out in the world exploring new things, instead of just looking within. One won’t know automatically what one likes or dislikes. No matter how long I lock myself in a dark room, I won’t find myself by staring at a blank sheet of paper. I have to try out all the new things I can and suspend judgment until I’m qualified enough. I have to be okay with the fact that I won’t automatically know what I’m going to do for a career. I have to explore and know that it’s okay to explore.

The Bigger Picture

My life is relatively rich right now. I spend a lot of time with my friends. I have multiple creative outlets: I have a comic that’s semi-popular, and I’m making a tv show with my friend. Work is fun and rewarding. But it’s not enough. (Of course! It’s never enough!)

I’ve analyzed the problem to be three things: 1) I don’t have a larger purpose, 2) I still live at my parents, and 3) I haven’t been actively working at self-improvement. Number 2 isn’t really a big problem. I don’t mind living at home, but I miss some of my independence.

When it comes to number 3, I feel as if I’ve seen some regression. I had a couple habits — writing down tasks in the morning and keeping my desk clean — that I dropped after moving to a new location. At least I’ve been able to keep up the e-mail thing and not checking it incessantly throughout the day. I recently read 25 Ways to Win with People, and that’s made me think a lot about self-improvement. It recommends a 12 week process of focusing on 2 ideas at a time. This kind of contradicts what Babauta preaches about focusing on one habit at a time. I’m still young, so maybe I’ll make it a 24 week process and see what happens. First, though, I’m going to get back into the habit of writing down in the morning what I need to do.

One of the chapters in the aforementioned book had an anecdote about an abolitionist, which got me to think about something tangential: purpose. There are lots of things I enjoy doing, but I don’t think anything fills me with fire as when I’m writing about politics. (I don’t feel this all the time, but certain articles just make me feel great.) I was thinking about how the abolitionist had a great evil to fight: Wouldn’t that make finding a purpose easy? Then again, nowadays we have the great crisis that is climate change. But then that got me thinking about torture and prison reform. Also, I simply can’t imagine devoting myself to one thing and one thing only. Don’t I need a creative outlet as well? Don’t I need these other projects? At least I can take the time to learn a lot more about climate change and the environment, especially what’s happening locally. I feel like I don’t really know what it means to be a citizen; I only know how to complain on the internet. (See Chalkboard Manifesto.) Perhaps it may do some good to research some old citizens who made big changes in the nation.

Now what should I do with the weblog? I want to get back into writing about politics, but I don’t want to write idiotic things. I’ll just start writing and keep a close eye on what I’m doing. Another thing I want to do is tell more stories about my life. This will help me become a better storyteller. When I was younger I thought my life was dull, so I didn’t want to talk about my life that much. That’s what other kids wrote in their weblogs (xanga was big back then), and I wanted to be different. Their weblogs were often boring. Thinking back on it, I don’t think it was the subject matter that was dull but it was the writing that was horrendous. In any case, I don’t think my life is quite so dull anymore, so I’ll be writing more about it.

And speaking of bad writing, I’m done rambling for now. Goodness, do I need more practice writing.