There’s a famous exponential growth illustration that makes use of a chess board and grains of rice placed upon the board. Starting with a single grain, you doubling the quantity of rice on each subsequent square.
The punch line is that by the time you reach the 41st square, you’d need over a trillion grains of rice, and by the final, 64th square, there wouldn’t be enough grains of rice in the world to meet the square’s quota.
The point here is that exponential growth is a powerful thing. You start with a quantity (say, 4 billion people on the planet in 1975) and set a rate of increase (say, 1.9% per year), and then marvel over how quickly that number increases, if you give it a little time to percolate (6.43 billion people on the planet by the year 2000).
The power of exponential growth stems from all three variables. You’ve got a starting quantity, you’ve got a rate of increase, and you’ve got a duration over which you allow the growth to take place.
What’s great is that once you understand the concept, you can apply it to so many things. Monetarily, for example, understanding this kind of growth makes a strong argument for why it’s smart to start saving early and often (because the sooner you start saving, and the more you save, the more favorable the equation and eventual payday will be).
It’s also an excellent way to approach less-quantifiable sums, like experience and knowledge.
We may not have the math to describe such things in an absolute way, but the same general rules apply. The earlier you start learning and the more you’re exposed to — the people, places, concepts, and everything else beyond the default environment you start with — the more personal growth you will experience over time (the rate of change in this example is your ability to take that knowledge and those experiences and expound upon them, making new discoveries, applying them to life, etc).
Even better, if you’re able to up your growth rate (by spending more time learning, exploring, trying and failing and sometimes succeeding, meeting new people, embracing self-improvement, and exposing yourself to new ideas), you can drastically increase your levels of personal growth (defined in this case by overall happiness and general wisdom) over time.
And finally, the earlier you get started, the longer your base knowledge and additional education and experiences will have to evolve as you grow, allowing you to derive ever more from each adventure, each relationship, each job, each photograph, as time goes by.
The variables are different — years instead of chess board squares, wisdom instead of rice — but the math works out the same way. Invest as much as you can in living and experiencing and learning, as soon as you can, and the dividends you earn will be all the higher for it.
At least once a week, I like to reset to zero.
I wash the dishes, drying each piece of flatware and cutlery until it’s ready to be tucked away into its respective cabinet. Laundry is done — washed and dried, or hung up, if I’m living in a country where clothes dryers aren’t common. Anything scattered about the floor is picked up and put in its proper place, the floor is mopped or vacuumed. Every surface is cleared of clutter, the trash taken out; my entire home reset to its resting state.
My inbox is zeroed — every message is either deleted or acted upon and archived. My to-do list lacks any items of immediate concern; I made sure to get started on the pernicious bits the night before, and finished the rest this morning.
My life — and my environment — becomes a nice, malleable, lump of clay. Dull, in a way, because it’s been rendered shapeless by the lack of excess, clutter, or responsibility, for the moment. But exciting because it has unlimited potential. With little effort, I can reshape it into anything. With even less I can sit and look at it, all variables and rough edges momentarily smooth, allowing me to get a clear, unfettered idea of how best to proceed.
I find that allowing myself to reset also allows me to clear my internal clutter — to recalibrate and figure out where to go next, what project to focus on, or what book to settle in with, comfortable in knowing that all loose ends have been tied off, if only for a little while.
Reseting to zero is kind of a one-off version of minimalism, if you think about it. A minimalist refocuses her life on what’s important by eschewing excess and honing in on what’s most important to her. Reseting to zero allows you to do the same, if only for a period of time. You needn’t get rid of the things that don’t bring you value to reset to zero, but it gives you a taste of what life could feel like, all the time, if you ever decided to.
Even better, if you do find yourself taking a minimalist leap someday, reseting to zero can become even more valuable; it becomes so much easier to apply. When you own only the most vital of possessions, and occupy a space that makes sense for you and your needs, you’ll find it takes all of 10-15 minutes to reset to zero, giving you a quick and easy way to clear your mental tablet and start from scratch.
Like minimalism, reseting to zero is not about going without; you don’t lack for anything by having your home tidy and your dishes done.
Reseting is about seeing how clearly you’re able to think when all the little stresses of the day are neutralized. It’s about re-centering yourself and having the time and presence of mind to deep-dive into who you are, what you want, and in what direction you’re currently moving. It’s about being happier and more fulfilled, and achieving both goals by giving yourself the chance to change direction quickly, and with as few negative consequences as possible, should such a change be warranted.
The first step of any journey can be the most difficult. Thankfully, reseting to zero only asks that you do the dishes.
School always came pretty easy to me. As a result, being a ‘smart kid’ was a part of my self-image most of my life.
This is a very positive thing in a lot of ways, but in others it’s a horrible crutch. My self-esteem was very much tied up in performing at peak in all the little ways the academic world measures a kid’s intelligence (homework, standardized testing, templated essays, etc), and as a result I avoided anything that would require me to color outside the lines. The lines, you see, were important, and if I didn’t get that A, didn’t test in the 99th percentile, then the head-patting would stop and my self-image would plummet.
It’s only after I extracted myself from this cycle that I started to actually do something worthwhile — have fun with life and pursue things I genuinely thought were worth pursuing. Not everything before crossing that line was worthless or horrible, of course, but it was only after I ceased to be afraid of failure — of losing those head-pats — that I was free to be myself, push limits, and engage in the larger world outside of the constraints I’d always worn.
Only by moving past the metrics I was told were important at a young age was I able to develop my own units for measuring success.
Many people I know — especially those who were in ‘gifted programs’ of various flavors — are still stuck in that same rut. Again, I’m not saying this can only be a bad thing: frequent reassurances and boosts to one’s self-esteem are nice, even if they require you to perform based on someone else’s standards. But I do suspect a good number of these people are probably not living up to their full potential as a result of this hand-holding approach.
It’s tough to expose yourself to the potential for failure. I still don’t like doing so, and I’ve looked that devil in the eyes more times than I can count at this point, sometimes succeeding despite all odds, and sometimes taking a predictable fall and having to pull myself back up again. But laying it all on the line is necessary if you really want to bring out the extremes in yourself; to see what you’re capable of.
Until the gloves come off, it’s all head-pats and test grades, whether earned in a classroom or in a padded, child-proof version of the real world.
You’d have to try pretty hard not to make new connections while on the road.
Whether at your hostel or at a family-style restaurant or over drinks at the bar or through a friend of a friend, the act of leaving your home and going someplace else is a catalyst for networking of all flavors, and even the most introverted wallflower stands a good chance of encountering someone who shares their interests and who is open to making a connection.
These days, you can’t go online without seeing a dozen new articles or blog posts about how social media is destroying our friendships/family/love lives/conversation skills/world/whatever, but I would argue that if used purposefully, these networks can be just as valuable as traveling.
Sure, you don’t get the away-from-home, fish-out-of-water feeling that can only be achieved by actually leaving home, but you can seek out new people, new ideas, new colors and shapes and styles. You can adjust your habits to locate the unfamiliar, and increase your rate of stumbling across ‘happy accidents,’ despite the net’s proclivity for curated experiences.
You can, in essence, treat the internet like a country that’s foreign to everyone; a place we all visit, primed to make new connections, mingle, be surprised, and have our minds expanded.
Like with travel, it’s possible to approach the net in a way that offers only a fraction of the potential experience — how many people do you know who go off to someplace exotic, only to spend their time shopping and interacting only with other tourists who speak their language? — but it’s also possible to get far more from it. To take a digital trip from anywhere with a WiFi signal.
In travel and online, there’s nothing wrong with taking the paved, well-documented, thoroughly reviewed path through the unfamiliar. Just be aware that if you do, you’re only seeing a single facet of a world that’s built from an infinite number of them.
Below is a short story from my new collection, So This Is How I Go, which is available for a whopping $0.99 starting today.
Two quick notes:
This collection is about dying — all of the stories result in death, in fact, though generally without ‘showing’ the death itself — and contains profanity, adult themes, etc. Best not to read this one aloud to your seven-year-old.
I’ve also just recently relaunched Exiles, a subscription to which nets you two emails a month, each containing five original essays, and which includes a free copy of every ebook I publish while you’re a subscriber (for $5/month). No pressure at all, of course, but I mention this now because if you sign up before Wednesday, you’ll get So This Is How I Go for free.
And now, on to the story!
“Dude, you’re only six beers in and you’re tapping out?”
“Fuck you man, six beers and three shots and listening to your stupid ass. That’s like,” Dorian struggled to come up with a suitable punch line, but his mind wandered along with his eyes, following a girl through the crowd who looked to be an eight, but was probably only a five, so he just said the first thing that came to mind. “Seventy-million or something.” He added, “Motherfucker.”
The motherfucker Dorian was talking to was probably Steven, but as soon as the motherfucker turned away, Dorian had already forgotten him. It did seem like he’d had more to drink than he’d actually chugged, and an hour earlier he’d told a small crowd of fans — well, fellow partygoers, but they’d seen the match, so he considered them to be fans, now — that he’d likely be on fire tonight, after the liver shot he’d taken two days before, and the blow to the temple he took while throwing his opponent into an arm triangle submission just a few hours before.
He smiled at the thought of the win — which was against the same opponent who had taken him down with the cheap liver shot, but who was now lower than him on the leaderboard — but realized he was smiling at no one and probably looked like some crazy bastard smiling at an invisible person or some shit at a party. So he put what felt like a grimace back on his face — the girls loved his grimace — and walked toward the nearest crowd. Tonight, he needed the crowd.
He wasn’t sure who all the people were, but he recognized a few faces. More important than the faces, though, were the bodies. There were some dudes who had already claimed a few, but some of the girls were tight and showing off all the right parts and it seemed to Dorian that he had his pick of the litter; there wasn’t a girl at the party who wouldn’t want to fuck the MMA Regional Champion on the night of his big win. He had a butterfly bandage over a wound under one eye and stabilizing tape over the bridge of his nose and he knew he looked the part; looked the right kind of menacing that made the girls all wet and ready. His teeth felt a little loose the way they always did after he’d been beaten up on for a while, but his face was numb enough that he couldn’t really tell anymore. Not like it would matter. Bitches didn’t care about that shit.
Some dude with a couple of chicks came up to him with a shot, and Dorian smiled a lopsided smile and drank without even tasting the bitterness of whatever it was. One of the girls gave him a quick peck on the cheek, and he reached over to grab one of her hips — to pull her in for a squeeze and whisper something suitably sexy in her ear — but they moved on, leaving him walking alone, through the crowd but not quite of it, unsure of who he was going to nail but pretty sure that’s what he should be focusing on.
A thought crossed his mind, Should probably stop drinking, or might get whiskey-dick, but once the thought was gone, so was the concern. He picked up a red plastic cup from a table lined with them, sniffed whatever it was that filled it halfway, and walked off. It smelled like a drink. He took a sip. It was his cup now.
At some point — time had become irrelevant, but time had passed — Dorian was walking down a hallway. The house the party was in was massive; the kind of place he’d own someday, but he had to work his way up first. It was owned by some kind of rich dude who loved the sport and who funded a lot of the local tournaments, making sure the fighters felt like gods and advertising with whatever the fuck businesses he ran so that he could feel young and hip and have an excuse to invite young people out to his mansion. It was like some kind of cabin mansion, though, out in the middle of nowhere. Everyone always ended up passed out and stayed through most of the next day. The pathetic fuck probably got off on the idea that he was cool, but probably couldn’t even get it up if one of the girls took pity on his ass and fucked him.
The hallway was longer than any hallway had a right to be, and the idea of walking the entire length of it seemed exhausting. Dorian looked to his left, at a door that was cracked open, and that door filled his view; filled his entire world. It was his door. He pushed it open, leaned forward too far and fell inward, but didn’t lose his feet. It was dark inside the room, but he could make out outlines, and see enough of what was going on because of the hallway light.
It was a bedroom. Like, a guest room, probably, since the owner didn’t really live here, and his family was back in town, and there was no other reason to have a bed in this place. The room looked very clean and organized. There was a stack of towels on a chair in the corner, and a basket of what looked like lotions and shit on a bedside table. The bed was messed up, though, with the sheets all pushed aside and the blanket on the floor. And flopped on top of the bed was a girl.
He couldn’t really make out a face, but Dorian could tell she was probably in her late teens, or maybe twenty or twenty-one. Could be one of those young-looking twenty-five-year-olds, but he liked thinking of her as younger. All innocent and shit, but still laid out here waiting for him. Her legs were bent seductively and she was still wearing her clothes — a low-cut shirt and those tight-as-fuck jeans all the girls were wearing, so tight they might as well be wearing nothing — but her clothes were all kind of wrapped up around her, like she was waiting for him to take them off. Set this up just for him. Fucking slut was waiting here all this time, hoping he’d stop by and give her what she needed.
Dorian stepped toward the bed and stumbled, threw his arms forward and spilled his drink on the sheets. But he caught himself with both hands on the footboard. He took a breath and smiled at his reflexes — master of motherfucking ninja skills, MMA Regional Champion, lord of fucking and girl seduction — and pushed himself back up, using just his arms, as if doing a pushup. The girl was probably peeking through her slitted eyelids and watching his show of strength.
One of his hands had some drink on it, though, and it slid off to the side, and the other one flew off in the same direction because of a reflexive effort to compensate and regain balance. Dorian’s head slammed forward, his body twisted mid-fall, and his temple cracked against the footboard before his head bounced to the floor.
He was dazed when his eyes opened, and he couldn’t tell if he’d lost time or if it just felt like he did. He was sprawled on the floor, though, and he reached up to check his temple. His hand came away wet, but after sniffing it, he was pretty sure it was just whatever the fuck drink was in his cup, not blood. Did he hit the same temple that had been injured in the fight? He tried to remember — to put himself back in that setting and remember which side had been hit — but he couldn’t quite get there. He could think of the concept of fighting, and learning to fight, and of being in fights, but the specifics weren’t within arm’s reach.
Fuck it, he thought. Back to the party.
He lifted himself up slowly — can’t be too careful, after all, he thought — and in lifting himself to his feet, became aware that his equivillibrium…no…equilavibrium…no…whatever the fuck. His balance. His balance was off and he couldn’t get his feet under him very well and his head was ringing, which a doctor told him was bad and to be careful about and get checked up if it happened so he had to talk to a doctor.
Wobbling, he got all the way to his feet and looked back at the girl, who was still in bed and probably wanting it but he was less concerned about that now. Bitches could waver. Wait. Bitches could wait. There were always more of them, and he needed a doctor to help him with the dizziness and nausea he was feeling. He knew that wasn’t okay, and the hit he’d taken to the temple — he couldn’t remember exactly how right now, but he knew it had happened, if he stopped trying to focus on the details — was probably a really fucking bad imjury. Injury.
Dorian felt like he was missing three or four of every ten seconds, but even though the world was coming at him in snapshots, he made it through the door and headed down the hallway in the direction that seemed like the shortest trip. He thought a smile that his body didn’t follow through with when he heard the party up ahead, but once he’d turned a few more corners, he could tell things were dying down. Half the people still in the room were passed out, collapsed in drunken piles of arms and legs and tented sleep-boners behind half-zipped jeans and a few nipples untucked from braless tank-tops and the people still standing were in similar states, but upright instead of on the beer-stained leather couches and overstuffed recliners and floors.
“Dorian!” The dude who called his name was smiling a drunken smile when Dorian turned to face him, and despite the injury, Dorian felt himself trying to hold himself more upright. This guy was involved with the match or something. Probably on the crew or something. He was…something. A guy. Standing straighter than Dorian was. Dorian went in for a first bump but ended up falling forward and leaning against the guy’s shoulder instead. He patted the guy with one hand and tried to make it look intentional.
“Dorian, brother, it’s good to see you too, man. Dude, it looks like you’ve been enjoying yourself.” Dorian could hear the guy’s words, but couldn’t quite pull himself up off his shoulder. “Dorian, man, I hope you saved something for the ladies. Dude, it’s alright man, you want some water or something?”
Dorian could feel himself falling, but couldn’t allow himself to do so. Not in front of this guy. This fucking guy. Whoever the fuck he was. He pushed himself off the guy’s shoulder and stumbled back slightly, but caught himself, fighting against the dizziness and sick building up in his throat and trying to make it look casual. “Alright man, you let me know.” The guy walked away, and Dorian told himself that the guy’d been fooled.
The piles of people were looking very attractive. Not in the way the girl in the bed had — when was that? What girl? Where was the bed? A bed sounded nice — but in a comforting way. Dorian found himself thinking of his mother for the first time in — how long? It didn’t matter — and noticed that he was holding himself up by leaning on the arm of one of the couches, a pile of three or five or twelve people piled on it. He couldn’t tell specifics, but it looked great, really great.
He slowly lowered himself to the ground and leaned back against the couch. There was a leg, a thigh, he thought, behind his head, and it was the most comfortable thing he’d ever felt. For a moment it occurred to him he should check to see if it was a guy’s thigh or a girl’s thigh, because someone might think he was a faggot or something, but he found that it didn’t bother him too much. He didn’t think he could lift his head if he wanted to, anyway. It was fine.
He did lift his hand and pat the thigh as he closed his eyes. Whoever it belonged to was the best person in the world.
Snag a copy of So This Is How I Go for $0.99, or sign up for Exiles before Wednesday, December 4, and get it for free. Either way, a review up on Amazon after you’ve given it a read would be very much appreciated!
My life can seem scattered to the outside observer. My projects are diverse, my interests are manifold, and my lifestyle is literally all over the map.
But there is a unifying thread that winds its way through everything I do: freedom. The freedom to be malleable and adaptable. To change my plans on a dime, to live where I want, to spend my precious time with the people I want to spend it with, and to apply my creative energy in the same way.
I am responsible for allocating my resources and energy, and the consequences of that allocation fall completely on me.
I’ve lived according to the standard life model, and even did pretty well inside of it, for a time. But I can honestly say — based on my own experiences and those of people I know who have made similar lifestyle changes — that shrugging off such templates can be the most constructive thing you can do.
Some might look at a lifestyle so absent of the traditional trappings of adulthood and consider it to be born of childish whimsy, but I would argue it’s the polar opposite.
When you’re a child, you make decisions that are uninhibited by the ‘way things are supposed to be done’ out of ignorance. You’re a kid, so you can’t possibly know where you fit in the world, so as a result you go out and you make mistakes and society is no worse off for it; there are inbuilt considerations for that kind of thing.
The flip-side of such accidental rebellion is a conscious, mature effort to figure out who you are, what you want, and how to live the best life possible based on this knowledge.
This is similar to childhood in that you free yourself from conventional expectations of ‘how a proper person lives their life,’ but very different in that you bear all responsibility for your actions. To pursue this kind of lifestyle, you have to be comfortable extracting yourself not just from the restraints of typical society, but also from many of the safety nets therein, and this is a big part of why many people are not comfortable taking the leap required to free themselves from imperfect situations: who will catch them if they fall?
There’s much concern in the working world over what happens when robots start replacing humans in earnest, across all industries. When machines make better secretaries and mechanics and convenience store workers and street sweepers, what will all those now-jobless people do for a living?
In my mind, the answer to this question is an exciting one: they’ll do whatever they want.
I’m not naïve enough to think there won’t be a tough transitional period. There will likely be years during which everything else works the same as it always has, and many people will find themselves out of work and adrift in an unfriendly system; tangled in the metaphorical safety net that’s always been there to catch them if they fall.
But I do think the arrival of such a change will be an amazing opportunity. From that point on, the jump required to extract yourself from some of society’s well-meaning shackles will be much simpler, because everyone else will be leaping right beside you.
Can it be scary not having a ‘nanny state’ to take care of your every potential need or stumble? Yes, it can be.
But is it rewarding to pick yourself up when you fall, and determine your own pace and destination as you move through life? Yes, absolutely.
There’s a famous pyramid most of us would recognize, thrown around often as it is to explain why we are the way we are, and why we do the things we do.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is considered by some to be an excellent visualization of the stair-step path up which our quest to fulfillment takes us; a race to the top of a pyramid, upon which we’ll find enlightenment and immense satisfaction.
Of course, Maslow wasn’t really a pinnacle of scientific rigor. His Hierarchy is a concept that makes sense upon initial inspection, but quickly falls apart as soon as you consider cultural bias, biology, and numerous other inconvenient perspectives. It also seems to claim that a person can reach an end point; a finish line, after which they are a fully realized individual.
“I’m fed, clothed, had some sex, am safe, feel loved, have the respect of my peers and myself, am moral, creative, and have gotten rid of my prejudices and dependence on unsupported pseudo-facts. Done! Time to die.”
—No one ever
The lack of philosophical mass doesn’t mean there’s no value to be had in Maslow’s metaphor, however. I prefer to look at his chart not as a pyramid, but as a perspective drawing. Something that starts where I stand and leads off into the distance toward a goal that’s always on the horizon. A horizon that I can someday reach, but which will bring with it further horizons; a perspective that offers no end, but plenty of finish lines to cross.
No matter how you view the world and your potential future pursuits, however, I find most people do tend to view said pursuits as something they’ll involve themselves with ‘someday.’
This theoretical day never comes, in a lot of cases, or doesn’t come until late in life, at which point a person has more time to ponder such things, but less incentive or means to apply it. It’s wonderful to understand what makes you happy in life at age 90, but you’ll get far more use from the discovery if it’s made at age 30.
The pursuit of self-realization, a deep understanding of the world and where you fit within it, knowledge of what makes you happy (and what doesn’t), and an outline of how you want to spend the time you’ve got as a conscious, sentient being is not a chase you have to put off until the rest of your life is lived. It’s an investment worth making sooner rather than later — something I view as the ultimate self-indulgence — and although it can be mentally demanding, it needn’t replace your other activities and responsibilities.
This isn’t an activity reserved for the wealthy or elderly.
I set aside a little time each day — 20 minutes — to do nothing at all. I sit and think. No listening to music, no chatting with a friend or staring at a poster or reading. Just me and my thoughts and a blank wall. It’s amazing the kinds of things that rise to the surface when you give your thoughts the time they need to percolate.
There are as many ways to approach this process of self-discovery as there are people, but mine is a starting point you’re welcome to use if you’ve been looking for an excuse to get started on your own philosophical deep-dive and don’t have an existing structure that works for you.
What’s more important than how you ask these questions, though, is that you’re thinking about them to begin with. From there, the amount of time, energy, and focus you put into answering them depends on what role you want the answers to play in your life moving forward.
I hate marketing.
Not all marketing — I think there are effective, non-invasive ways to do it — but so much of what’s done online today just smacks of ‘sell sell sell’ over producing real value and doing something important. It’s all newsletter numbers and pop-ups and metrics that I can’t quite convince myself to care about.
I haven’t always felt this way. Like most people starting their first blog, many years ago I followed marketing guides I found online, all of which purported to help me grow my audience and increase my revenue. I tried most of them, figuring that I just didn’t have the experience to know why it was okay to hurl annoying advertisements at my readers, or the sophistication to understand why blogs should do nothing but drive traffic to paid products.
I’m not entirely certain this is still not the case — that I’m not making a mistake in ignoring all that marketing advice — but I do know that I enjoy blogging a lot more, now that I’ve stopped making such things a focus.
I love being able to write what I want, unconcerned about going viral or constructing the perfect headline. I love not feeling pressured to add one more list or how-to guide to the dogpile of lists and how-to’s the blogosphere has become. I love being okay with telling stories or writing essays that don’t have a point beyond telling a story or sharing a thought; no sales pitch, no upsell, no marketing ploy, no promiseing some kind of ‘free ebook’ if you sign up for whatever-the-hell.
My new approach is naive, in a way, and I know this. I know that I could be selling more work by putting more pressure on my readers to buy my books and share the links with their friends and so on and so forth.
But it’s a naivety I’ve earned, I think: I’ve put in the time so that I don’t have to be that guy. So that I can produce what I want, make it available for those who want it, and leave it at that. I don’t want the relationship I have with my readers to be a sales relationship. I want the sales, if they occur, to be secondary; incidental, even.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as I’ve written more and published more and put together a lot more products and services of which I’m proud. I’ve been trying to come up with a way to rant and rave about how much fun I’m having with these sellables — dabbling in different genres, playing with different shapes and sizes and colors of fiction and nonfiction, and experimenting with different publishing vehicles and media — without falling into the same marketing pit trap I’ve been studiously avoiding for the last several years.
I don’t want to inundate this space with marketing messages. I want to talk shop, and I want to share what I’m passionate about, but I don’t want this to become the type of dreaded, all-too-common, purely transactional exchange I’ve been trying to avoid. I don’t want readers filtering every word I write, wondering what I might be trying to sell them today, rather than what ideas I’m trying to share for the sake of the ideas themselves.
So what I’ve done is set up a separate page for my work; a place where I have all my paid offerings, some free stuff, and upcoming projects in one place, so you can see what I’ve got in terms of books, classes, newsletters, and the like. I’ll link to the site sometimes (making it available to folks who want it), but otherwise will endeavor to keep this place as marketing-free as possible.
I’m not sure this is the ideal way to set things up — separating the paid work from the free work — and it very well may be a mistake in terms of what ‘moves product’ better, promotes upsells, and whatever the hell else I’m supposed to be agonizing over.
But the point isn’t to sell more — it’s to ensure that I still enjoy writing here, completely free, and producing the work featured over there, where I can sell it for the lowest price possible while still making a living.
It’s about continuing to enjoy my work. And holy wow do I enjoy it.
I can’t not push boundaries. This is something I’ve come to terms with over the last several years. The only time I’m unhappy is when I stop learning, assessing, solving problems, and creating new things. This is the momentum behind my life.
Not everyone works this way. For some people, it’s far more important to establish toeholds and really dig in. To erect century-spanning structures, rather than propping up tents that will be pulled down and packed up the next day. To plant crops rather than hunting and gathering.
A good friend once asked me why we should bother to explore space. My answer, predictably, was why shouldn’t we? Or more to the point: how can we not? I can’t imagine a world where boundaries aren’t being pushed. She couldn’t imagine a reason for pushing them without being forced to do so.
We all have different needs; different motivations that, if pursued, allow us to get the most out of life. For some, this means hurling ourselves at any horizon we can find. For others, it means holding down the fort.
Both types of people are necessary, and we’re all, in many ways, dependent on each other. Without horizon-pursuers, nothing would ever change, no new solutions would arise to longstanding problems, and we would stagnate as a species. Without the staunch defenders of the status quo, we’d lack a solid foundation for civilization and wouldn’t be as capable of bouncing back from the inevitable dead-ends and bad choices we collectively and individually make.
It can be frustrating, looking across the fence and seeing a group of people acting in direct opposition to your views of how the world should work. But without them, you wouldn’t be as capable of doing what you love to do.
Don’t allow others to push their ideas on you: that would be denying yourself the opportunity to be happy. But don’t stand in the way of other people’s happiness, either. Not everyone is built to explore space, and not everyone is satisfied ensuring the trains run on time while the astronauts are gone. It’s only by embracing these needs — and becoming damn good at meeting them, regardless of what they may be — that we’re capable of achieving our full potential.