Happy 35th Birthday, Me!

Last year I was very goal oriented, and it got all fucked up. I did a massive dose of mushrooms and broke my own mind, then sabotaged my business.

After that I got really sad for several months and had no money. I felt like a failure as a dad, a husband, and I even questioned why my friends would want to play sports with me.

I learned as much as I could about stoicism and it changed how I think. Less “woe is me” more “I’m so lucky it isn’t way worse than it is.”

Music is very meaningful when you’re super depressed, and this was my song:

Somewhere along the way I caught a few really good bounces and business sling shotted around the black hole it had been heading for.

When it’s your birthday people ask if you feel different. This is the first time I would say “yes” and really mean it.

I just feel way luckier to be who I am and to have the life I have.

I’m more astonished than ever at how awesome my friends are. The 6 of you reading this right now, I love you so much it hurts.

Also I’m going to die sooner than I thought. Because before I half assumed I wasn’t going to die. Nope. Gonna die. Hopefully not soon, but it’ll happen. I want to do a good job of being alive while I’ve got a shot at it.

That’s about it. I have it in my calendar to read this on my next birthday. My “theme” for the year is “freedom” whatever that means.

Lately it’s meant: freedom from being so damned self-concerned. The less I focus on me (and yes I realize the irony and hypocracy of writing that in this of all articles) – the better life gets.

Still can’t dunk, but working on it.

Drawing lots.

Haven’t jerked off since November. Sorry Mom if you’re reading this.

Loving being a dad.

Probably loving winter more than I have since childhood.

More in love with Lia than ever.

Trying to learn how to lucid dream. No real progress there as of yet.

Probably a good time to stop writing. Happy 35th birthday me!

– love, you

Ryan’s Mushroom Manifesto Podcast

3 weeks ago I did a heroic dose of magic mushrooms and experienced “ego dissolution” – which is to say, from my perspective, I died. Then I filled my journal with pages and pages of notes, observations, and rules for my life now that I’m me again. This podcast covers most of what I now believe to be true about how I feel I should live.

Anything Is Possible Podcast Returns!

After 4 years, Lia and I have decided to start publishing these podcasts again! We’ve found that the forced conversation is as close to a date as we can manage these days, and so we’ll be doing these bi-weekly.

The technology has also gotten much better, so it looks like we’ll be able to publish these episodes to iTunes for easy subscribability.

How To Get Depressed Because Summer’s Over

Fall is my favourite season, but I do get depressed when the daylight hours shorten. While I don’t necessarily suffer from full-blown Seasonal Affective Disorder (I don’t think!) I do get a little blue when I’m getting less exposure to the sun/nature/outdoors in general.

The colder weather means going outside is more of a pain in the ass. Snow and ice force me to use footwear which needs to get put on and taken off every time I indulge in some outside time. It doesn’t sound like much of a barrier – but those little inconveniences, for me, can be the difference between hours spent outside and zero time outside for days in a row. Most of the time, I just don’t do things unless it’s really fucking easy to start doing them. “Start” is the important word here, because the activity itself can be difficult. I don’t mind exercising, I maybe even like it. But if starting it is difficult, there’s little to no chance I’m going to do it. Any of it.

I used to have one of those suspension workout systems that you brace in a doorway and use the straps to do various exercises. It lived in its box, and that box lived somewhere in my closet. I never used it, and it wasn’t practical to keep in a doorway because every time I opened the door the thing would fall out and scare the shit out of me. So now I have a pull-up bar above the stairs leading to the basement (where our only washroom is). I drink lots of coffees and so I walk under the pull-up bar many times a day. I do maybe 8 pull ups a day, every other day, if that. But the difference between 8 and 0 isn’t 8. It’s fucking infinity. You can’t multiply anything by 0 to get 8. And that’s because 0 is the most worthless number in the world. People live and die by 0s. If you smoke more than 0 cigarettes, you’ll probably fucking die of lung cancer because once in a while you get drunk and smoke a pack of cigarettes and do irreversible damage to your already shitty lungs. You do that a few times a year, for your whole life, then you retire and smoke more out of sheer boredom and yep, you die of lung cancer. I don’t smoke but the above story certainly applies to me for drinking. There’s a blog post on here about me only drinking one beer or some bullshit, and I solemnly swear to you that that nonsense is over. I like to drink, and when the stars align for a night on the town, I drink like I mean it.

Zero to one kid is another infinite difference. If you have zero kids, you’re going to be pretty fucked when you get too old to take care of yourself (unless the future supplies us with free robots to change us when we shit ourselves). No amount of paid nurses will ever do as good a job of a genetically obligated successor at giving a fuck about your senile ass when dementia turns you into a wrinkled puppet for the hedonistic spirits to play inappropriate and very public sexual pranks with.

I got a bit lost there, let’s get back to talking about why fall makes me fucking miserable. I believe my daily happiness depends in large part on the inclusion of (in no particular order):

  1. Exercise
  2. Spending ANY amount of time outside, other than “none” (huge boost to happiness if I can absorb some sunlight into my skin and eyes)
  3. Experiencing the sensation (even the illusory sensation) of “progress” in something (anything) … (this is why I’m always cutting and stacking firewood)
    stacks of firewood in my backyard
  4. Socializing / spending time with other humans
  5. Not being hungover (this factor is definitely increasing with age, and impacts several days at a time) / getting quality sleep

The above checklist seems pretty attainable right? It should be easy to do ALL of those things EVERY DAY if it means damn near guaranteed happiness every day. But no. I get “busy” with some bullshit on the computer and before I know it I’m redlining stress hormones and haven’t taken a real breath since waking up. I’m tense. I’m irritable. The sun has just set, it’s 5pm, and I’m depressed. So I go to volleyball and get drunk after and don’t sleep well and that fucks me for the whole next day.

Anyway this post is probably less useful than it is satirical, and I hope I made you laugh. And please, don’t feel bad for me. This isn’t me complaining, it’s just me writing openly. Today I’m happy because I actually respected my checklist. I even got some sun on my face while taking a piss in the backyard (to avoid the pull-up bar) and I got to spend lots of one-on-one time with Isla (Lia’s away for a girl’s weekend). You can’t really get too depressed when an ass-naked 2-year-old is tearing circles around the dinner table, tiny fists full of peanuts, belting out wheels on the bus for the 5000th time.

 

Winning Your Daily Battle with a Little Self Torture

This article is about how hurting yourself a little bit can turn a shitty day around.

A bad day isn’t a day that contains pain. A bad day is a day that contains no feeling at all. A totally neutral day. Frequently I have days like that, where I don’t feel anything, and for some reason I feel like shit at the end of those days. Styrofoam shit.

When people talk about how working out elevates mood, I think it’s actually that working out is painful. And you only feel awesome once the pain is gone and the endorphins come. But it was the pain that got you there. Nobody ever felt awesome after a half-assed workout.

Lately I’ve been exposing myself to pain where possible because it gives me a chance to wage war against myself, mentally and physically, and to win or lose some self-respect. If I can string together enough days where I can, for example, shower with only cold water – I seem to gain power and momentum for the rest of the day. That shower couldn’t fuck with me, so what’s next?

If I can’t take the shower I’m pretty much retreating into my shell, weakened, and certainly not feeling very powerful. Pussy Ryan won. The Ryan I want to be is nowhere to be found that day.

By default, I don’t at all want to feel pain. Nobody is wired to seek pain, we’re all wired to go for comfort and pleasure. But I make myself feel it anyway when I can bring myself to. I do this because I know the voice in my head that discourages me from feeling pain is the same voice that discourages me from taking risks, manning up, going for broke, and doing the meaningful things in my life. It’s the voice telling me to run from fear instead of smashing into it head on.

The voice is my inner wimp complaining. The voice in my head coming up with completely rational reasons not to do the belly flop (Thanks Ty!). And  thanks Kyle, for leading the synchronized flopping with flawless form.

We have more respect for people who can push through pain, and less respect for wimps. Exposing ourselves to pain, even just a little, is a way to win some self-respect and the feeling of being a badass every single day. It’s a way to turn shit around if we woke up feeling like thumb-sucking infants fresh from shitting the crib, then crying about it.

Beating Isla’s Ex-Boyfriend to Death with a Sock Full of Gummy Bears

This is one of those posts that gets weird before it gets useful. By the end of it, I hope to share with you one of the most life-altering realizations/techniques which has made me a tangibly happier man.

To start, we need to talk about psychology for a hot second. Specifically, we’ll look at 2 innate mental reflexes that must be tweaked in order to make us permanently happier. The first reflex up for modification is our hedonic adaptation. The second is our ability to visualize the future.

To be clear, this post isn’t about big, laborious or dramatic shifts in thinking. There is very little effort required here. We don’t need to go off into the mountains and meditate on mushrooms in a cave in order to make these changes to our brains. We are not monks, this is not Nirvana. We are monkeys, and this is merely a bigger stick to shove into a juicier mound of termites. I want you to think of these 2 mental techniques as being more like simple realizations, doorways into a different (and much happier) way of thinking. Simple is good. Simple can be profound. So let’s grab us a stick and get some motherfucking termites!

Hedonic Adaptation

Hedonic Adaptation is one of the great human advantages. We have this shit wired right into our core programming. Hedonic Adaptation is what allowed our ancestors to adapt to the absolute shittiest living conditions, make nature our bitch, and ultimately take over the fucking planet using only fire and stabby objects.

Hedonic Adaptation, put simply, is our ability to get used to anything. It brings our happiness levels back up after something horrible happens to us, like death in the tribe or getting our genitals mutilated by barbed wire whilst attempting to escape over the fence at summer band camp. On the other hand, Hedonic Adaptation also automatically lowers our happiness back to our normal levels after something insanely awesome happens in our lives, like finding a legit lightsaber amongst the wreckage of a UFO crash site or inheriting a sizeable troupe of (highly obedient) samurai chimpanzees. If left alone, our Hedonic Adaptation will reliably return our happiness levels to normal no matter what happens in our lives.

So how can we fuck with our hardwired Hedonic Adaptation? To start, take a coat hanger and unbend it so it’s nice and straight. Then take that twisty part that’s like a cork-screw and, with great care, guide it up your left nostril until you feel some pain. Next, find a power outlet and…

Hedonic Override

If I want to consciously override my Hedonic Adaptation, I need to have a look at my desires/appetites. If I have a shoe fetish (which clearly I do), a big part of my fetish is fantasizing about new shoes. I get a major jolt of pleasure when I buy the latest Prada Stilettos, black, because they make my calves look sexy and I can wear them with anything. But the moment those beauties belong to me, they begin losing their appeal. Hedonic Adaptation is already eating away at how happy they make me. In no time, I’m swiping through celebrity Instagram accounts hunting for my next shoe fix.

This is the common pursuit of happiness we all grow up with. Everyone we know does this to some degree, some more egregiously than others. There is this treadmill approach to happiness through creating external jolts of pleasure, as illustrated by the highly scientific and technical chart below:

Happiness chart

You can see how the black line (a person’s happiness) is like an excited heartbeat, spiking when something good happens (like buying a brand new hot tub), then fading a little below the average happiness level as the person Hedonically Adapts, compounded by a healthy dose of buyer’s remorse upon reviewing his credit card statement. Once the hot tub no longer gives adequate pleasure, the person makes another indulgence in order to spike happiness levels again.

So apart from not ever buying hot tubs, how do we set up our happiness such that it resembles the chart below?

increasing happiness over time

Here we have a nice, gradual increase in average happiness over time, with a smoother rise and fall in our high and low levels. External events still affect us, of course, but our inherent happiness is far less reliant upon our ability to repeatedly indulge our various novel appetites.

The answer is drugs, so many drugs.

And a little golden nugget of awesomeness blatantly stolen from A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy called “Negative Visualization”.

Negative Visualization

First let’s look at Positive Visualization, because that’s going to be much more familiar to us.

Positive Visualization gets shit done. We picture the job we want and we go out there and get it. We picture the person we want to marry and we don’t stop searching until we find her. We picture a big, greasy hamburger and we drive to McD’s and crush one in the parking lot with the A/C blasting into our sweaty, desperate faces.

Positive Visualization is one of the most powerful techniques humans are innately capable of. It gives us the power to create the future we’ve imagined. With our minds, we shape god damn reality as we see fit.

That all sounds awesome! So why bother with Negative Visualization? That sounds like it sucks! Why would I think about un-eating a hamburger? Why would I picture myself without a job? Why would I picture my wife leaving me for Ellen Degeneres? I imagine all of this because, however counterintuitive it might seem, picturing my situation as worse than it currently is makes me happier by making me realize what I already have. It shifts my desire away from things I don’t have, to things I do have. And while I’m visualizing not having these things, my built-in Hedonic Adaptation reflex starts adjusting to the shittier reality (if even just a little bit). Then when I come out of visualizing not having these things, I’m suddenly very grateful for having them!

Positive Visualization helps us get what we want by creating present dissatisfaction. Negative Visualization helps us want what we already have by thinking about being without it, creating present satisfaction.

OK! I Get it! Just Get to the Gummy Bears Already!

I have an almost-2-year-old daughter, Isla. Positive visualization with Isla includes seeing her, in my mind, on her first day of school, taking her to her first beach volleyball tourney, and beating her first ex-boyfriend to death with a sock full of gummy bears just so the next kid in line knows I’m not fucking around.

While these fantasies make me smile and look forward to the future, they preclude my full enjoyment of the present moment with my little lady. I believe happiness derived from the present moment always trumps happiness derived from looking forward to some future moment, or happiness derived from memories. If some kid breaks Isla’s heart, it’s way more enjoyable to actually beat said kid into unconsciousness with a sock full of gummy bears than it is to merely fantasize about it. Don’t worry – I wouldn’t actually beat a kid to death with a sock full of random gummies. I’d make sure to eat all the red ones first.

Negative visualization, by contrast, is much more morbid. Negative visualization with Isla is picturing that she’s mortal (which she is) and that one day I will hug her for the last time (which I will). Even just writing that chokes me up. But it also makes me more loving and appreciative of the sound of her little voice as, while I write this, she sings the Paw Patrol theme song:

“Da da do, da da do, da da da da da DA DOOO!”

Realizing that my time with Isla is finite motivates me to actively and immediately increase the quality of my time with her. The more often I’m able to remind myself of our limited time together, the better that time will be, and overall the happier we both will be.

Yes, thinking about the inevitability that both of us will die (and I fucking hope it’s me first) does invite a quick dose of heartache into my present moment, but the immediate payoff of being hyper-aware of my love for my little girl and the resulting (and overwhelming) joy of having the time with her that I do have, is well worth a quick look at the harsh reality of our inevitable separation.

I’m more a fan of a little preemptive sadness if it buys us a happier today. I’m less a fan of avoiding sad thoughts with the assumption that we’ll always have tomorrow.

 

 

 

Sourdough: How To Piss Yourself Off

So about 8 months ago I stupidly asked my buddy Tyler if he could teach me how to bake bread. I didn’t even know or care what kind of bread we’d be baking, so in many ways the suffering I later endured was completely Tyler’s fault.

Tyler bakes sourdough. The most challenging fucking bread in the world to master.

Why Sourdough is so Fucking Difficult to Bake

This isn’t baking a cake. There’s no middle-ground. Either your bread is world-class or it fucking sucks. And when it sucks and you’re just starting out, you just want to scream at the ceiling and rip all of the hair off your body because it took you DAYS to get that bread made.

You don’t get to use commercial yeast. No. You get those fuckers out of the motherfucking AIR and from the flour itself. And that takes a long god damn time to happen. Days in the summer, weeks in the winter. Then only hours when you’re a Bread God and have a little colony of yeast domesticated in a jar in your kitchen, ready to bake with when you god damn well feel like it.

sourdough starter
Sourdough “starter” – fermentation using wild yeast that you fucking captured out of thin air.

For something with such simple ingredients (only flour and water, with some optional salt) – sourdough technique is next fucking level. If you don’t have a clue what you’re doing, you’re completely fucked. You stand exactly a 0% chance of getting it right. Luck can’t help you. You stand no chance. It’s that hard.

However, if you know someone who can teach you how to create sourdough bread, you’re marginally less fucked. I’m only saying marginally less fucked because during that first bake with a sourdough master, there’s going to be so much going on that you simply don’t have the ability to see – yet. The master has spent months developing a refined sense for each step of the process – from how “strong” the dough should feel after folding it, to how “alive” the dough seems after fermentation (all jiggly and full of air). The beginner only sees a ball of dough in a bowl.

The subtleties of fermentation are pretty much impossible to get a sense for by reading a blog or watching videos. Though you still have to spend many hours reading this blog if you want to stand a chance. Even with all that reading, you’ll likely have to fuck up dozens of god damn times before the table starts to turn in your favour.

Here’s a photo of a shitty loaf I baked:

shitty sourdough loaf

Every time one of these came out of the oven, I was very sad.

There were so many more depressing loaves like these. These things had the texture of hockey pucks. I threw some of this “bread” to a squirrel during the winter and it jumped over it. I baked some for my relatives and they made fun of both me and the bread. I would have laughed at me too, the bread was fucking terrible.

dense sourdough

Even near the end, when I was getting some success by using some angry-ass rye flour to power-punch my fermentation in the face, I still had to resort to using a pull saw to get through the bread:

pull saw through sourdough

It turns out that after months of fucking around and failing over and over and over and over and fucking over, I’d developed reasonably acceptable sourdough technique. Through repetition alone, I had gained a pretty obsessive understanding of the timing for fermentation and the development of strength, flavour, and how temperature retards or accelerates everything. I learned how to shape these shits with a drywall blade. It seemed like I was doing everything right.

But after half a year of failure, my bread still fucking sucked, and I was very sad. I had tried everything and nothing was working. Lia thought it was the flour that was causing the repeat failures. So I texted Tyler.

The TSN Turning Point

The next day I went down to the most reputable bakery in town and ordered 25kg of their no-fucking-around STRONG BAKER’S FLOUR.

PH Flour

And then I started dominating the absolute shit out of sourdough.

The bread was so soft and beautiful a normal bread knife couldn’t cut it without totally squishing it and ripping it apart. So I ordered the bread-equivalent of a god damn Japanese samurai sword.

And now I’m happy.

Final Thoughts

I wanted to give up so badly. And to tell you to truth, I did twice. In my head I’d quit. Fuck this, it’s way to fucking hard, I’m done.

But then I’d read something new like how you’re not supposed to cut into the bread until 1 full hour after you’ve removed it from the oven because it’s still baking and if you cut into it too early it will be all dense and shitty and the crust will be really thick and hard.

So I’d be like, “Well, I have to try that.”

And then through brute stubbornness, I stumbled into the solution, which was to switch up the god damn fucking shitty flour I was using.

And the final triumph felt amazing, made all the more blissful from all the struggling and failure.

Here’s how those beauties turned out:

Huge oven spring sourdough

 

blistery sourdough loaf

epic sourdough

Sourdough sandwich

 

15 Foot Waves out of Nowhere

The crazy thing is the ocean was flat for an hour before it suddenly tried to drown me.

There were maybe 20 of us in the lineup waiting for a wave, and nothing was happening. Maybe 3 guys caught waves in that first hour. I was starting to think about paddling in a little bit and catching a smaller wave breaking closer to shore and calling it a day. But I didn’t. Like everyone else, I was waiting for the big waves to come.

A couple days prior I’d caught the biggest wave of my life. It was 8 feet, maybe 10, I don’t know exactly because I didn’t see it. I just remember the feeling of being picked up and staring down a massive hill of water as I popped to my feet and dropped down its face, dug in my heels and turned right before hearing it detonate behind me. Then I full-on screamed, I couldn’t help it. I was narrowly avoiding being crushed by a school bus of water. It was the best wave of my life.

Just like all the other guys, I was staring out to sea, watching for the first big waves to come. Then one came. There was a bulge on the horizon, darker than the rest of the ocean. Everyone watched it without much interest because the first wave is usually the smallest. The second, third, and fourth waves have all the power. The shitty thing is because of the up and down motion of the ocean, you only get to see one wave at a time. As one passes below you and lifts you up, you see over the hump and there’s the next one. Maybe it’s small, maybe it’s the biggest wave you’ve ever seen in your life. You don’t know until the last wave passes.

When you’re at the bottom of a big wave you don’t get to see much of anything. This is where nightmares form. I watch the guys at the top of the oncoming wave, and if they go from a relaxed, sitting position to urgent paddling, I don’t even question it. I paddle out like my fucking life depends on it before I’ve even seen the next wave, just based on everyone else’s reaction. Paddling out to sea is how you get over a wave before it breaks. You can paddle over a wave while it’s still forming. But once it breaks, you’re pretty much fucked.

You only have 20 seconds between waves, so acting early is good. When I saw those front guys start paddling as quickly as they did, I knew the time for sitting around was over. I just gave it as hard as I could toward the oncoming waves. Cresting the second wave, I looked over it and was fully terrified. What I saw was a dark wall of water, 15 feet high. The wave was already vertical, and as wide as the horizon. I barely made it over that one and there was another one right behind it. I had enough speed to get over its shoulder without being devoured, but the guys behind me weren’t as lucky. With a loud BOOM and a few seconds of blowback water like torrential rain the wave broke just as I crested it, annihilating all the surfers paddling behind me. I looked back over my shoulder and saw boards everywhere, random heads and harms thrashing in the churning foam. The wail of a jet ski as the lifeguard hauled guys out of the water.

“Look at that!” Someone said. He was off to my right, a bit ahead. He was pointing way out to sea. I looked at where he was pointing and saw a wave far off in the distance to our left, the biggest wave I’d ever seen in my life. It looked 20 feet high and was breaking out on the horizon. It was so far away and the waves around us were so loud we couldn’t hear it, which was terrifying. Like watching an atomic bomb go off and but with no noise.

Seeing a wave that big breaking that far away meant we didn’t have a lot of time before something similar was going to happen where we were. So we paddled, the two of us, like animals. Big waves came, and we got over them. I couldn’t tell how big, but the guy said 15 feet. My eyes were probably pretty wide because he looked at me and said, “We maybe have 10 minutes or so before that happens again, and if it does we’ll get washed back to shore. If it gets bigger though, to 20 feet, we’re not getting in here. We’ll have to paddle to Waimea.”

Waimea was a couple miles away.

“Yup I think I’ll go in then. Are you going in?” I asked.

“Ya we can go together.”

I was pretty fucking happy to have this guy with me. The jet ski was still rescuing people. We paddled for a bit and eventually the jet ski came to check on us.

“IT’S CRAZY OUT HERE!” The lifeguard yelled. “THAT CAME OUT OF NOWHERE!” Then he pointed at me and shouted, “DO YOU WANT A TOW IN?”

“YES!” I shouted back at him. Pretty god damn sure I had never looked so happy about anything in my life.

The lifeguard checked with the other guy, who shouted “I’M A DISTANCE PADDLER, I’LL JUST PADDLE TO WAIMEA IF IT GETS BAD!”

“YOU WOULD!” The lifeguard replied. They apparently knew each other.

I paddled my board onto the raft thing on the back of the jet ski and grabbed the rubber half-rings mounted to it. The lifeguard watched me do this until he was satisfied that I was sufficiently attached to his vehicle, then wasted no more time in absolutely pinning it back toward shore. We were in the air as much as we were in the water.

“WHEN I SAY LET GO, LET GO, OK?” The lifeguard yelled over his shoulder.

“OK!”

I expected him to slow down, but I guess you can let go of a jet ski at a pretty fast clip and you just flop around in the water a bit. Anyway that’s what I did because he didn’t slow down much, and when I surfaced I was only 30 feet from shore. This distance I panic-paddled in no time at all, and was on solid ground again at last.

I found Lia and from the look on her face, she’d been pretty worried. She gave me a big hug. Isla gave me a hug too, but it was her normal hug. She didn’t seem to have noticed that her dad was as close as he’d ever come to not coming back from surfing. I was very shaken up from the whole thing, and was still a bit in shock that evening. I definitely had that feeling of a near death experience where it’s hard to think about much else for a number of hours. I was dazed. Like I didn’t really know what to do next. I still feel that way a bit. Some things seem to matter a lot more, and some things seem to matter a lot less than before. It will probably wear off over time.

Here’s a surfer catching a big wave at Sunset Beach (where all this happened):

Life Change = Feeling Stupid and Incompetent

Last night I was working on a code problem and not getting anywhere with it. I had to write some code (an algorithm) to convert a sentence into “Spinal Case” like this:

“My name is Ryan Lowe” = “my-name-is-ryan-lowe”

The problem was there were several other conditions that my code was failing, like when the original sentence was “myNameIsRyanLowe” or “My nameIS-Ryan lowe”. The algorithm needed to figure it out no matter what format of original sentence was entered.

So between 9pm and 11pm I failed over and over to get it right – feeling profoundly stuck and frustrated. All the while my morale was dropping and thoughts like, “You’ll never get this, it’s too hard” crept closer and closer to establishing themselves permanently in my core belief system. This is the important part, because if that had happened I might have stopped learning code and just gone back to doing the code I already know and am comfortable with. And that would be have been bad.

The problem with change is this: it’s easy and comfortable not to change or to change in a negative direction, it’s hard as fuck and extremely uncomfortable (mentally and sometimes physically) to change in a positive direction.

I don’t know why this is but I’ve noticed it in myself and it’s a pain in the ass. Any time I embark on a serious mission of positive change (such as learning difficult code) the road of progress is fraught with signs that read “You’re just not suited for this” and “It’s more efficient and profitable to continue to perfect the code you’re already good at.”

These thoughts seem to be an automatic reaction to my immense psychological discomfort while trying to grasp new and abstract coding concepts. Concepts that I struggle to even somewhat understand, and that struggling makes me feel both stupid and incompetent. Feeling truly stupid and incompetent is so uncomfortable for me that I’ve already given up at learning 4 other coding languages prior to this attempt. Each failure has hardened the core belief that I’m just not all that good at abstract “back-end” code and I should stick to the stuff I’m good at (design and “front-end” code).

Yet here I am, back at the drawing board and trying for a 5th time to “get it”. This time I’ve made more progress than ever before, been more consistent in studying, and have come to truly grasp some of the concepts that have baffled me in the past.

So what’s different this time? A couple things have helped a lot. The first is knowing that learning something new hurts a lot, especially when I’m not picking it up with ease. Knowing that I will be in a constant struggle and want to quit helps me not quit because I’m prepared for those feelings in advance. They still suck, but at least I’m more aware of them and can be cautious of their ability to sway me towards giving up (again).

The second thing that has helped is being aware of the idea of my own personal “depletion” throughout a given day. Smart sciency people have figured out that our inner “wills” become depleted throughout the average day as the weight of life grinds us down and weakens our resolve.

Events like dealing with a difficult client or arguing with a family member do actually decrease our ability to be our “ideal selves” and increase the likelihood of our self-destructive behaviour.

This knowledge suggests we should do the hard things first, like work out in the morning. We are far less likely to have the resolve to work out at the end of the day after having dealt with all the other crap.

The good news is our depleted “will-power” levels reset every morning, after a good sleep. So if something feels impossible, I’ve learned to just leave it the fuck alone for the night and to give it another shot after I’ve slept. It has worked for me in the past, and it worked for me again for the algorithm problem. This morning, with a fresh tank of “I can fucking do this” in my head, I solved it in under 10 minutes.

And, for now, I feel neither stupid nor incompetent.