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

How Spearfishing is Like Coding

Spearfishing requires a few things to happen in sequence:

  1. Hold your breath.
  2. Dive Deep.
  3. Spear a fish.

Between stage 2 and 3, when you’re underwater, that’s when everything is awesome. You’re only down there for seconds at a time, but it feels like minutes. There’s no sound at all, total perfect silence. You equalize to relieve the pressure in your ears, and you look for a big fish. When you see a monster, you shit your pants, then spear it. Everything becomes extremely simple like that and I think that’s a big part of why I’ve become obsessed.

Learning to code is like spearfishing. It requires a mental “breath hold” while you struggle to focus on solving only one thing, a small but challenging piece of a larger whole. There’s really no way of accomplishing anything if you’re not able to commit 100% of your focus while writing new code (code you’re just learning). Once that singular piece of code has been written, you get to “return to the surface” of your consciousness and breathe. Step back and run the code. If it works, it’s like you’ve hit the fish. If it doesn’t – your spear missed.

It’s interesting how coders and spear-fishers are required to totally dial their minds into doing only one thing if they hope to do that thing successfully.

What do you do that forces you to do a mental “breath hold”?

A 3 Question Algorithm for Risk Taking

I’m listening to The Top 10 Distinctions Between Millionaires and the Middle Class and here’s an awesome formula for taking risks it presents:

When deciding whether or not to take a risk on something, consider these 3 questions:

  1. What’s the best thing that could happen?
  2. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
  3. What’s most likely to happen?

If you can handle the worst outcome, and the most likely outcome brings you closer to fulfilling your goals: do it.

Otherwise, don’t.

Why Finishing Books is Usually Bad

I have mathematical evidence that finishing books is a bad idea most of the time. Unless you love every single book you read, you probably shouldn’t finish most of the books you start.

It’s easy to tell when you love a book – you can’t put it down and before you know it, it’s over. But the majority of books I’ve read were at least somewhat arduous to finish, and I’ve always felt like I was supposed to finish every book I start.

We can probably blame school for this, training us to persevere and suffer through material we couldn’t give half a fuck about. If a book was “decent” I’ve always stuck with it. What I’ve noticed though, is that merely “decent” books are actually worse for me than the truly “awful” books are. This is because I quit reading awful books right away, and tend to finish the decent ones – wasting a shitload of time I could have spent reading fucking amazing books.

We are no longer restricted by the god damn limits of the physical world and the piece of shit library card catalogue and our ability to manually and painstakingly search for fucking amazing books.

With the power of algorithms to match us up with massive databases of books available to us online, we should not be settling for anything less than total perfection every time we read.

I did the math to figure out what my own numbers looked like, and it appears as though there is an infinite stream of insanely awesome books on Audible for me to consume. I just need to stop wasting time on the “decent” ones.

Here’s how I figured out that my own infinite stream of perfect books actually exists:

I looked through all the books in my Audible library. Since 2010 I’ve listened to 118 books, and loved 25 of them. 25 “perfect matches” for me. So it appears that I love about 1 out of every 5 books I read. Out of Audible’s 180,000 title library, let’s say their algorithm finds that I’m only a good match for 1% of the total books available. That cuts the total down to 1800 books I’m initially matched with. Now, if I only love 1 out of every 5 of those books that still means there are 360 perfect matches for me on Audible right now!

At my current rate of listening to 17 books per year, it would take me 21 years to get through this new pile of 360 “perfect match” books. During this time, new “perfect” audiobooks will be recorded at a rate far greater than the rate I’m able to listen to them. With 43,000 new audiobooks added to Audible every year, and with me loving only 1 fifth of 1% of them, that’s still 86 new books per year added to my queue. I’d have to listen to 7 books per month, at 8 hours per book that’s 2 hours per day of listening. During the past 7 years I’ve averaged only 22 minutes per day. So I could listen 5x harder than I currently do, and still not get through all the perfect books available to me.

You can see where I’m headed with this. No more fucking around with less than perfect books.

My new policy: if a book sucks even a little bit I immediately return it (online) and start listening to another one. This process repeats until I find one I can’t put down.

How To Return An Amazon Audiobook

A reader, one of my 3 subscribers actually (Tyler Steeves) asked me how to return Audible Audiobooks, and I sensed a YouTube video opportunity.

Audible allows you to return a handful of books online before you’re locked out of doing future returns on your own, but that’s not a big deal because you can return an audiobook through the Audible chat system in roughly 3 minutes.

The Genie That Doesn’t Grant Wishes

I was walking on the beach the other day and I tripped over something hard and metallic in the sand. Out popped a genie! The genie said, “Hi there! Before you get too excited, I’ll tell you how this works.”

The genie pulled out a set of cue cards and started reading.

“I am not a normal genie. I don’t grant wishes. What I do is, I put a spell on you that eliminates your ability to fail at one thing of your choosing. There’s no magic other than that. You still have to do all the work to accomplish whatever you set out to do. I just put a spell on you that makes it so you can’t quit.”

He put the cards away, into his pocket or something. I guess he had pants on.

“That doesn’t sound so great,” I said. Then followed with, “Are you sure that’s even magic?”

“That’s why nobody writes stories about me,” said the genie.

“Not true,” I said. “I’m gonna blog about this as soon as I get back to my Airbnb.”

The genie didn’t seem to care that I was going to blog about him. He began talking again.

“The first guy that discovered me asked that I put a spell on him so he would stop smoking. POOF! I put the spell on him. From that day forward, no matter how badly he wanted to smoke, my spell prevented him from being able to. It was very uncomfortable for him, and he was miserable for years. You see, he REALLY wanted to smoke. All day and all night his brain was screaming for him to have a cigarette. But the spell is permanent, he’ll never smoke again.”

“Shit eh.” I said, insightfully.

“Yup,” said the genie, crossing his arms and leaning back against a palm tree, which he drifted through.

I waited for him to drift back to my side of the palm tree. Then I said, “Okay let’s say I want a million dollars, and you put a spell on me. What next?”

“Just a sec while I look into the future,” said the genie. “AHA! I see it now… you would stop travelling and stop spending money on anything beyond the basics. You would live as cheaply as possible and put all of your extra money into low-risk, long-term investments earning 8% annually.”

The genie pulled a calculator out of his pants and mashed some keys. Then he said,”You would work as hard as you could in order to earn an extra $30,000/year to invest. After 17 years of this, you’d be a millionaire.”

“Crazy,” I said, trying to picture it all. “I don’t think I’m down to go through with all that.”

“Then don’t ask me to put the million-dollar spell on you,” replied the genie.

A moment passed, then I asked, “So you’re really not much use then, are you? People could do these things without your spells.”

“For sure,” said the genie. “But they generally don’t.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because many of the important things people want in life are really fucking hard to accomplish,” said the genie. “That’s why the other genies are so much more popular than I am. They let you skip the work!”

“Right.” I said. “Know where any of those guys are?”

“Nope,” said the genie.

“Shit.” I said, kicking at the sand.

More time passed and the genie started looking impatient.

“So what’ll it be?” asked the genie. “I’m gonna give you 10 more seconds then I’m outta here.”

“That seems abrupt!” I protested.

“7 seconds,” replied the genie.

“Um,” I said, scrambling for something good to not quit at, “I’d like to… ahhhhh… maybe I could… actually no, how about…”

“Time’s up!” said the genie. And he vanished.

I stayed behind for a considerable time afterwards, wondering what I should have said. But it’s a tough one.

What would YOU do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

 

Not Being A Professional

I caught myself not doing things because I wasn’t going to take it through to the point where I’d be able to make money doing it. The thought would be something like, “I feel like playing guitar right now” then another thought would say “Well, why? Are you going to play professionally? Are you going to be a musician?” and then I’d say “no” and not play.

The same thing was happening with art. I’d studied art in school in the belief that I’d end up creating art professionally. When that didn’t happen, I stopped making art. The “Why do this if it won’t pay me money?” question was silently cock-blocking my creativity.

But really, not getting paid for something is a very good thing. It means nobody gets to have any god damn say in what you’re doing. The moment you sell your shit, you are accountable to the person buying it. What lovely freedom resides in not having to give a fuck about anyone else but yourself when you do the things you love doing.

Here is a drawing that I loved doing:

life drawing 1

It’s good to be a professional when making money, building strong relationships, and delivering on whatever you said you’d do.

I think it’s bad to be a professional when exploring yourself creatively. I think creativity is a place for immaturity and childishness where no promises are made or kept, no consequences or expectations exist, and above all you get to do whatever the fuck you want to do.

Here’s another set of drawings that felt god damn awesome:

I don’t know about y’all – but I feel really good when I make stuff. Writing, snow forts, decks, bread, it doesn’t matter. The making seems to matter more than what I make. And by that logic, when I stop is irrelevant. I don’t have any pressure to finish what I’m doing. There’s no need to do a “good job”. There’s just the need to be “doing”.

I don’t know if creation is inherently important for all humans, but I suspect it is. Maybe it’s like eating and shitting. We take so much in, but what comes out?

I’ve deleted Clash of Clans and Pokemon and Chess from my phone. Those games were fun in the moment, but the moment they ended I had nothing to show for my time and energy. I’ve replaced time on my phone with time with dough or a pencil or a saw in my hand. The stuff I make accumulates. It’s real. It would be awesome to leave behind a lifetime of sketchbooks, pottery, songs, stories, photos. Every hour spend watching Netflix is an hour I could have also been painting. And ya, down time is important too. Shutting down the creative machine is, for me at least, necessary in order for the batteries to recharge. But it’s always harder to power it back up again, which is why it’s that much more necessary.

In the cardboardy wisdom of @dankosaurus:

 

Bonus Points if Your Kids Aren’t Torturing Small Animals

I just woke up from a dream where I was photoshopping a car while my grandparents were driving away in it. Both of them are gone now and it leaves an emptiness in me. I find myself forgetting that they’ve died. It will take a few years to adjust to it I think.

It’s easier to see what matters when someone dies. Work doesn’t matter, to me anyway. Maybe yours does. My work could disappear and someone else would fill in the gap.

To say I care about my work isn’t really true. I want it to be good, and I’m compelled to do a very good job – but my reasons for doing a good job aren’t very altruistic if you look closely at them. Business is just better when you do a really good job. More work comes, and there are fewer complications with quality work. I can charge more money because most of the time, I’m the best option on the table. But I’m not doing a good job because I care about it. I used to think I cared about it. I like the work, but that’s different. I like writing code, I care about my cat. You know what – I care about my clients too. But I don’t care about their projects. I don’t invest emotional attachment in the jobs themselves. And the clients I don’t care about, I don’t work for them. I tell them I’m too busy to do their work, and they move on. Things get horrible when I don’t care about the client.

But ya, my grandparents are dead.

Everything they’ve done is over, or at least to them it is. I don’t believe in the afterlife or that Grandpa’s up there looking down on me. And if there was an afterlife, he’d probably watch me once in a while but realize that I’m extremely boring most of the time, or doing things he probably doesn’t want to see haha!

The closest answer I have to thinking about death is that it makes me want to create life. The fact of my death coming makes me want to have more kids. The universe can be seen as battle of life vs cold dark nothingness, and it can be proposed that our job, as living things, is to fight to keep life going. The fun kind of fighting. Where you get to have sex.

Genghis Khan would agree with me here. So would daffodils and rats and even influenza virus. If I had to pick either a virus or nothing, I’d hope the virus lives on. At least it’s alive.

If you zoom out far enough, back away from the details of your reality, you’ll see that success can be measured as basically as you want. I sometimes look at successful parenting as: “Are your kids still alive?”

If you can answer “Yes” then you’re parenting successfully.

Bonus points if your kids aren’t fucked up and sad and torturing small animals. Extra bonus BONUS points if your kids have made their own kids. I think that’s part of why grandparents are so stoked on their grandchildren. The first grandchild means they didn’t fucking fail as parents. They made kids that were at least not too fucked up to attract a mate and have more kids.

I hope old fashioned families come back. It’s shitty that our choice today is “kids or a career” because who wants to be poor with a bunch of kids? Most of the people I know are delaying having kids because it’s the right financial decision. Get established in a career first, then have kids. I’m in that boat too. Lia and I were stable enough financially to have a baby before we decided to go for it. Not rich or anything, but not worrying about bills or food was enough security for us to say fuck it (literally).

You might think a kid would add meaning to your life. I used to think so too, but really what happens (at least for me) is the amount of “meaning” stays roughly the same – it all just transfers to the kid. Everything else loses meaning, and the kid sucks it all up. Even your marriage/partnership is in danger of losing meaning as it all transfers to the new baby. Lia and I are lucky in that we’re game to ride out the changes in our relationship. We’re flexible, and patient. We know we still love each other even when we don’t have time or energy to spend together the way we used to.

If you look at kids from an investing standpoint, the payoff is potentially huge. There’s the obvious emotional reward and fulfillment of watching a miniature version of yourself grow up. This assumes the kid isn’t a complete fuck up, in which case the investment is a horrible one. But in ideal circumstances, there’s also the security of having someone to look after your ass when you’re too fucking old and useless to hack it anymore. Or maybe robots will do it. Or maybe medical breakthroughs will make it so we don’t die.

Here’s a smart guy taking about us not dying:

So here’s the kicker: if medical technology is likely to bring us to a point where we can prevent aging, what does that mean for having children? According to this article at davidsuzuki.org, the earth can only sustain 200 million North Americans indefinitely (because our high-consumption lifestyles and profit-driven corporations suck up so many god damn resources). Last I checked, Canada + USA = about 330 million. This doesn’t include Japan or Australia which suck up resources just as hard as we do.

I interpret this as presenting would-be parents with two choices:

  1. If you want to have a big family: better get started soon. The need to limit global population growth is already here. It’s not unrealistic to expect to see something similar to China’s “One Child Per Family” policy take place within our lives, even as privileged Canadians.
  2. If you want to help the planet, don’t have any kids at all. Stop buying so much shit OR stop driving your car so much OR start sending even a small amount of money to Africa every month. I’m sending 2% of my annual pre-tax income and I haven’t noticed a difference in my quality of life at all. But you can bet those 400 kids that now have mosquito nets and aren’t getting fucking malaria can tell the difference! Go to http://www.charityscience.com/ and start sending money right now. ($6 prevents 2 kids from getting malaria for 1 year. If they don’t have malaria they can go to school. If they go to school their odds of getting out of poverty are exponentially higher. Source: Doing Good Better by William MacAskill.) If you actually sign up to send cash each month, say so in the comments below so we can peer-pressure more people into doing it. Any amount is infinitely better than nothing. We are the richest 1% on the planet. We can afford it.

If the Aliens Come Now, We’re Fucked

The new version of Monopoly is played with bank cards instead of paper money. The game’s still fun, and goes a lot faster than the original version, but it does away with our ability to fuck with the rules (because there’s a central card reader which keeps track of player cash balances and property holdings. No more free-wheeling land trades or desperate negotiations because you’re broke! In the old game, my specialty was piling up a lot of cash then going for a “night on the town” and blowing it all on expensive hotels (which I never owned). I was generally out first.

Playing the new Monopoly got me wondering about old games vs. modern games, and why I preferred some over others. I think it comes down to the same reason why my jiu jitsu instructor preferred grappling over striking. Jiu jitsu over boxing or muay thai.

“It’s rare, but an amateur can get lucky and knock out a professional with a wild punch. That just doesn’t happen in jiu jitsu. On the ground, the amateur loses every single time.”

There’s no luck jiu jitsu. The better guy wins every time. I like that.

That’s also why I like chess. Both players have exactly the same pieces. There’s next to zero room for luck. Chess just gets out of the way and lets two people compete in as fair and true a way as humans have yet devised.

The best games do that. They move aside and let the competitors clash directly. The shittiest games do all the playing and the opponents are just puppets, playing out the will of the rules, the luck, and the dice.

Slot machines are shitty games.

Roulette is a shitty game.

Poker is a great game.

Most sports are excellent games.

Mobile games are almost all shitty. Clash of clans, which I was addicted to but am now playing less and less because of Pokemon GO, balances complex strategy and totally unfair match ups. As players progress in the game, they cannot be beaten by newer players – not because of increased skill but because of flat out better troops and defences.

Pokemon GO is similar. Brand new players have absolutely no chance of winning battles. Their pokemon just suck way too much. Advanced players dominate entire towns, only because they’ve been playing for longer. The longer you play Pokemon GO or Clash of Clans, the more powerful you become in those games.

I’m not a big fan of that. Playing something for a length of time shouldn’t guarantee progress. And that’s why I think it will eventually peter out and die like every other mobile game. It has a lifespan. You progress through the game, maybe you make it to the end, and then you either finish the game or quit.

Chess will never die. The pieces in chess don’t get better or worse. The amount of time someone plays chess guarantees nothing. It’s on the player to get better. The game doesn’t help us along.

This is maybe a reflection of our times vs our ancestors. Our ancestors invented chess, we invented Pokemon GO. Our ancestors were ballsy enough to fight with the same weapon as the new guy, year after year. We seem to think that we deserve a better weapon if we’ve been around for a while, so we can utterly obliterate the new guy.

This is why we’re a bunch of pussies and why our grandparents are so much tougher than we are. It’s also why the next generation is 100% useless compared to us.

Humans, in North America anyway, are getting really god damn soft.

If the aliens come now, we’re fucked.

 

Is Adulthood the Death of Fun?

Apparently I stopped having fun a long time ago, and became all serious and cunty. This process didn’t happen quickly – and it didn’t happen on purpose. Gradually I just stopped doing the fun things I grew up doing.

Here’s an example: my snowboard has been sitting in my basement gathering dust for probably 5 years now. My parents used to take me to the local resorts several times each winter when I was younger. We even did week-long ski trips! Then when I was in high school my friends and I still snowboarded a fair bit. One of us would borrow a car, and we’d all pile in and go. In college I went a handful of times, maybe once or twice a year. Post college I stopped altogether. Snowboarding became extinct in my world.

Here’s another example: skateboarding. I picked up skateboarding in grade 6ish and was avid for the next 8 years of my life. The skateboard became less about fun and more about transpo in college. Then I got a motorcycle and never skateboarded again. It was either the motorcycle or a car, and rarely a bicycle. But never a skateboard. I was mentally comparing the skateboard to the other vehicles from a transpo perspective, and naturally it lost every time. Fun wasn’t even a consideration. Until now, I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about how fucked that is… that I don’t think about having fun. I don’t try to have fun. I schedule in things that are probably going to be fun, like camping and parties and sports during the week. But day-to-day fun? No. Normal days are for work. I don’t expect to have any fun on a work day.

Super. Fucked. Up.

Rewind to when I was a kid, I made it my god damn business to have fun every day. Hockey, lego, building dirt huts for G.I. Joes, Shooting G.I. Joes with a pellet rifle, throwing a football, playing street hockey, throwing rocks at a telephone post. FUN SHIT WHENEVER POSSIBLE. EVERY SINGLE DAY WITHOUT FAIL.

For adults, even at sports, come to think of it, fun is an afterthought. We play sports for “adult” reasons like the often cited “I need to stay in shape” or “it’s a good way to socialize.” What the fuck does any of that even mean? It means we’re all cunts. Boring, dusty, cunts. (Unless you’re the rare bird who plays sports for the fun of it, then you’re exempt from being a cunt.)

Adult sports teams mostly want to win. Adult athletes generally evaluate their level of enjoyment based on whether they’re winning or losing, making good plays or not. We analyze it and poke at it and inspect it. I think that’s OK now and then, but not as the norm. I think we should be playing sports with the primary reason of sports are fun as fuck to play. We don’t do sports. We play sports. We’re all playing together. That’s all it is. We should be aiming to have as much fun as we can, not arguing about calls or fouls or other bullshit. And hey, I’m like that too. I’m guilty! I get all angry and shitty when I’m playing sports. It’s no good! I need to fucking stop and slap myself and get back to the basic, simple fun of it.

Recently I did something new. I took my skateboard on the GO train because my bicycle wasn’t allowed during rush hour. It was busy in Toronto so I did a lot of weaving through crowds, at a good clip. The weaving was different than just going straight, from point A to point B. The weaving was fun. I was accidentally having fun again. I didn’t realize that I’d ever stopped having fun on a skateboard. I also didn’t keep it up. Months went by, and I still didn’t skateboard for fun.

Today I took Isla out for a rip in her stroller. I took my skateboard too. Pushing a stroller is a fuck of a lot more fun when you’re on a skateboard. The stroller wants to go the opposite way I lean on it, so if I lose my balance a little and push on the stroller things get interesting! It was fucking awesome. Isla loved it. I loved it. We covered like 4k. We went fast. I got stares from everyone. One guy yelled, “Yaaaa you’ve figured it out!” and I yelled “Quality parenting right here!”

Isla on my skateboard

I also play Pokemon Go, so I caught a bunch of Pokemons too.

We also somewhat bombed down a couple hills that we maybe shouldn’t have. That’s the only part that felt a little unsafe and we’ll definitely bring helmets for the next round because the hills were the best part.

Galavanting concluded as 6 o’clock rolled around, so to speak, and we headed home for Isla’s dinnerbathbedtime. Baby down, Lia hopped over to the other side of the house to get some painting done in the bathroom. I was left to my own devices and figured hey, fuck it, I’m going out to tear around a bit more.

I found a parking lot, freshly paved, and shredded the fuck out of it.

Kids yelled at me “HEY COOL TECHNIQUE!” because I was pumping the skateboard like a surfboard. And it was cool technique. Remember, I spent 8 years skateboarding. I’m pretty fucking good at it. And now I surf too, it’s a surefire combo for looking dope as fuck to a bunch of high schoolers.

For reference, this is how Kelly fucking Slater pumps a surfboard!

I found a couple hills and bombed down them (nearly wiped out on a wide turn at the bottom of the last hill, but held on)!

It’s the most fun I’ve had in months.

We don’t need to drink to have fun. We can do things we did as kids, that’s fun too. I’m not anti-drinking, but I am anti-not-doing-fun-shit-you-used-to-do-as-a-kid. If you wanna get drunk and play with lego, I’d be your first and biggest and possibly only fan. But I expect a lot of people would be jealous of your “childish” ass, deep down. So do it.

Fun and work can coexist in the same day. I think it needs to. Otherwise, the best we can hope for is a fun to boring ratio of 2:5. Not so hot.

I’m going to be trying harder not to be such a serious cunt and to just have fun again.

Adulthood is not the death of fun.

This is your invitation to play again.

Because, according to the immutable genius of Taylor Swift, you’ve got two choices:

The player’s gonna play and the hater’s gonna hate.