My Answers To Mark Manson’s Life Purpose Questions

http://markmanson.net/life-purpose

1: What is your favorite flavor of shit sandwich and does it come with an olive? (What pain do you want in your life?)

I love writing. I love words. I love ideas. I love expression. I can imagine spending the rest of my life being obsessed about words. I can imagine having written thousands of essays, of which maybe 10 might be any good. I like the idea of that.

2: What is true about you today that would make 8-year-old you cry?

8 years old? I was in Primary 2. What was I doing then? I was playing video games. I was getting into Red Alert, Galaga, Starcraft. I was very into computers then. I was about to start learning HTML. I was about to build my own website. I’m still kinda doing all of that.

Oh. Oh. I used to read books. I used to read them intensely. 8-year-old me would cry to see that I didn’t make time for books anymore.

3: What makes you forget to eat and poop?

  • Video games
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Social Media
  • Arguing on the Internet
  • Giving useful, constructive feedback to people
  • Great conversations

4: How can you better embarrass yourself?

I think there are a bunch of things that I ought to write about that I haven’t written because I’m nervous or scared. I guess I ought to just throw things together and ship them without thinking so much.

5. How are you going to save the world?

I used to have grand plans for this. On hindsight I think the grand planning was a sort of escapism. But here’s what I want to do now– I want to find kids out there who are suffering from what I suffered from, and I want to help them do better than I did. I’m going to write to them, write for them, talk to them, think with them, and then ultimately help them help each other. All the good stuff will spillover from that.

6: Gun to your head, if you had to leave the house all day every day, what would you do?

I was going to say “go to a coffeeshop” but he ruled that out. That bastard. No useless websites, so no Tumblr, no Twitter, all of that stuff.

  • Well, I’d do word vomits. I’d wake up in the morning and write a thousand words.
  • Then I’d go for a run.
  • I’d learn to cook and I’d keep track of whatever it was that I was cooking. I have this irrational fear of cooking and a generally unhealthy relationship with food, I would try to fix that.
  • I would feed myself better, I would start lifting weights again.
  • I would spend a couple of hours a day just reading books, and that itself will go a long way in informing what else I’d do.
  • I’d write book reviews. I’d watch movies and do movie reviews.
  • I’d write, write, write, write,write.

7: If you knew you were going to die one year from today, what would you do and how would you want to be remembered?

  1. The first thing I would do is sit down and externalize all my thoughts about what I do at work so that my colleagues can go on to create great work without me.
  2. I would reach out to all the smart, thoughtful people I know and try to help them get unstuck on whatever they might be stuck on, try to provoke and motivate and inspire them to do the great work that I know that they’re capable of.
  3. I would travel. I would go to New York and San Francisco to experience modern life. I would check out Soviet architecture in Russia. I would try to make it to every continent, or at least one or two others, to get a real feel for what life is like elsewhere in the world.
  4. I would try to tie up all the loose ends in my writing and leave behind some sort of legacy that allows others to climb up and above me, like a ladder. I want to be a ladder for others.
  5. I would try to connect people with other people who might be interesting and useful to them.

I should be doing all of those things right now.

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Progress on #Blk73 at one-north, Ayer Rajah Crescent

Not sure why I’ve been doing this. But I’ve been taking a bunch of videos of the construction of #Blk73.

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1059 – morning run with the wife

Today I did something for the first time. I woke up at 630am (alarm assisted). I laid in bed for for a while. Then I got up and got a glass of water, and brought my macbook to bed. I played some gentle acoustic music to wake my wife up. And then we made our bed and went for a run. We had breakfast at the coffeeshop. Then we came home. I showered, and now I’m on the way to work. I feel pretty good.

There are two things about this. First, I was hoping to do it ever since I got married. And second, I didn’t think I was actually going to do it.

Why? How? I was never able to do this on my own before. I definitely made ambitious plans in the past, maybe even when I was still a student. But there was a recurring pattern: big plans, minimal action, regression to the path of least resistance.

There are two other things I’ve made progress on in similar respects.

1: It’s been 9 weeks since I quit smoking.
2: Today was my 7th run in the past 2 weeks or so. (I started running after 7 weeks of nonsmoking.)

Here’s my central challenge in my life right now: How do I recreate this across more habits?

The non-smoking I did together with my wife.

My first 5 runs I did myself, and my wife joined me for the last two. We are committing ourselves to doing morning runs for the next 6 days.

A cool thing that we do in my company- and I’m not sure how common this is elsewhere- is regular 1-1 meetings. The idea is to use this time to share observations and surface things as early as possible before they become problems- any misunderstandings, discomfort, etc. It’s not exactly a performance review, though it could be used for that. It’s essentially a block of time that’s carved out to talk about what might otherwise not got talked about.

It’s such a great idea. Maybe it’s obvious to some people, but it isn’t for me. One of my worst and most ingrained habits is to just “go with the flow, indefinitely.” This is sometimes a good thing, but most of the time it means that I end up getting mired and stuck. I drive off the road and I just keep going without correcting the course. And it’s exhausting and unproductive but I just keep doing it. Clearly, I’d be better off if I learned to correct the course along the way.

Course correction (of course- lol) requires

1: Having some sort of path or destination in mind. You can’t correct a course if you haven’t set it to begin with.
2: That you make a decent starting attempt (as opposed to putting it off for “later”). You can’t correct a course if you’re not ON the course.

In the elegant words of my boss- know what you want, then do what you need to do to get to what you want. It’s that simple. Periodically re-evaluate what you want, but don’t get stuck re-evaluating your wants to death- that’s like going to a thousand restaurants without having a single bite to eat. Then you die hungry. But hey, at least you had a great fucking list of places to eat, mirite?

And then you hang out with other people who sit around making lists, and get really good at making really nice lists, and start having arguments with each other about the best sort of list, and what your list says about what kind of person you are, and then you start reading and writing blogposts about those lists, and you basically become a food-lister. When what you really want to be is a food-eater. I mean this is practically self-evident. Why would anybody choose fantasizing about a hypothetical non-existent future than actually living that future in the present?

Reasons:

1: It’s difficult and painful at the start. Fantasy can be more interesting that the dull difficult bit of daily early life.
2: Fantasy is easy when you don’t know what you want. You just pick things that are outside the realm of immediate possibility. Like going to Mars. And then you just enjoy your fantasy as an escape from present day.
3: Inertia? Just getting moving can be tough.
4: Who cares
5: I’m done listing reasons for why I’m not awesome

The point is that you have to pick something within the actual realm of possibility. Something that you can actually do within the next hour- like read a chapter of a book, for instance- and actually do it. And then now you have one thing that you have done and that you can be legit proud of.

One of the most amazing things that happened to me was when I started asking people in my life if they believed that I would do something. I asked a smoker buddy if he believed that I’ll still be a non-smoker next month, and if he’d bet $50 on it. He said yes. I asked my wife if she believed that I’d go for a run when I got home from work. She said yes. These are things that mean a lot to me, because I’ve spent a lot of my life not being able to trust myself. I know that I’m full of shit, I know that I avoid tasks that I’m supposed to do, the nature of Visa’s reality is that shit doesn’t get done, shit goes missing, shit goes unfulfilled, and so I just live with that. Enough of that shit, it’s really sad.

What do I want right now? I want to write down all my habits and processes and improve them one at a time. I’m done with cigarettes. I’ve started running. I’ve started doing weekly 1-1s with the wife. I ought to do daily 1-1s with myself. So while it’s a bit silly to spend time writing about it, I committed myself to writing vomits everyday. This is my morning commute vomit. I’m at work. Now I’m going to do work. TTYL.

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To Singapore, With Love: Does the MDA appreciate the Streisand Effect?

Here’s a thinking tool I’m trying out: Assume good faith. I’m going to assume that the MDA has good, smart people in charge and that they genuinely want what’s best for Singapore. You may disagree with the premise, but I think there’s enough “Wah, MDA damn stupid!” commentary out there. Also, it makes for more interesting, challenging thinking.

Let’s first assume that the MDA understands and appreciates the Streisand effect.

The Streisand effect is the idea that banning things makes them more popular. This is especially the case in the Internet age. When the State censors something, it’s the act of censorship that makes the work notable. [1]

So let’s assume that the MDA knows this, and they’re doing it anyway. They know that banning a film is going to make people talk about it more. Why do they do it, then?

The “simplest” explanation is that the MDA is just plain stupid, or selfish, and that they’re populated by old farts who don’t understand the modern media landscape, and that CEO Koh Lin-Net can afford a S$10m condo because corruption, nepotism and Evil Gahmen Forces.

Saying “MDA is Stupid And Evil!” is easy, but unhelpful and most likely inaccurate.

It’s simple and easy to express, but it raises a lot of other questions:

  • How and why such people get into such positions in the first place?
  • Why didn’t anybody else do anything about it?

To explain that, you’ll have to subsequently assume that the entire Government and Civil Service is in cahoots to screw over the populace. This is incredibly unlikely, in my opinion. Some of the most thoughtful criticism of Govt policy I’ve heard has come from people who work in the G themselves. [2]

Let’s analyse what the MDA has to say about the ban:

MDA has classified the film “To Singapore, With Love” as Not Allowed for All Ratings (NAR)

MDA has assessed that the contents of the film undermine national security because:

  • Legitimate actions of the security agencies to protect the national security and stability of Singapore are presented in a distorted way as acts that victimised innocent individuals. Under the Film Classification Guidelines, films that are assessed to undermine national security will be given an NAR rating.

My questions:

  1. How do we determine whether or not an action is legitimate? Are we talking about what is legal, or what is right?
  2. Can we have a conversation about the legitimacy of such actions?
  3. Was it legitimate when Stamford Raffles installed Hussein Shah as the Sultan of Johore, effectively carrying out a coup? Serious question!
  4. Also, if the MDA says things like “distorted and untruthful”, what are we to measure the distortion against? What is the objective, canonical history of Singapore that these people are supposedly distorting?
  • “The individuals in the film have given distorted and untruthful accounts of how they came to leave Singapore and remain outside Singapore:
    • A number of these self-professed “exiles” were members of, or had provided support to, the proscribed Communist Party of Malaya (CPM). The CPM sought to overthrow the legitimate elected governments of Singapore and Malaysia through armed struggle and subversion, and replace them with a communist regime.
    • One of the interviewees in the film claimed that he had no choice but to join the CPM after he left Singapore when in fact, he was an active CPM member even before he left Singapore. Indeed, as another interviewee who left Singapore in similar circumstances admits, a number of Barisan Sosialis activists then were already members of the Malayan National Liberation League, the CPM’s political wing, before they fled Singapore with its help and subsequently joined the communist guerrilla forces.”

Okay, cool. These are genuinely interesting points worth raising in a discussion about Singapore’s history. These are points that should be raised perhaps even before any talk of censorship or national security.

  1. Could you be a little more specific, MDA? Which specific ‘self-professed “exiles”‘ (kinda snarky wording there, lol) are you talking about? Why not call out the specific interviewees? Clearly, you guys have watched the film.
  2. If “a number of” the interviewees were members of  the CPM, were others not?  If “a number of” Barisan Socialis activists were members of the CPM’s political wing, were others not?
  3. Is it possible that some interviewees may have been members of the CPM, or provided support to the CPM, without necessarily wanting to threaten the elected Government of Singapore?
  4. Could it be possible that “the elected Government of Singapore” didn’t have nearly as much legitimacy then as it does now? Could it be that things were messy and ugly then, and people could have legitimate reasons to believe that the elected Government at the time didn’t speak for them?
  5. Is it possible for us to have a legitimate conversation about communism as a way of self-organization in Singapore? I’m not personally a fan of communism, but I do think that banning a discussion has the unfortunate side-effect of inducing apathy.
  6. And I think an apathetic citizenry is the greatest long-term national security risk to Singapore. Could we have a conversation about that?
  • “In another attempt to white-wash their security histories, two of the individuals in the film conveniently omitted mentioning the criminal offences which they remain liable for, like tampering with their Singapore passports or absconding from National Service.”

Fair enough. My questions:

  1. Has the Government of Singapore every white-washed its own history, willingly or otherwise?
  2. Have there been any “convenient omissions” in Singapore’s history?
  3. Can we consider those things to be national security risks?
  • The individuals featured in the film gave the impression that they are being unfairly denied their right to return to Singapore. They were not forced to leave Singa­pore, nor are they being prevented from returning. The Government has made it clear that it would allow former CPM members to return to Singapore if they agree to be interviewed by the authorities on their past activities to resolve their cases. Criminal offences will have to be accounted for in accordance with the law.

“If they agree to be interviewed to resolve their cases… criminal offences.”

  1. Could we have a clearly ennumerated list of these criminal offences?
  2. Can the MDA say “gave the impression”, and then make statements about those impressions?
  3. What if we said that the MDA’s bans “give the impression” that Singapore is a stodgy, boring place to live, and that it’ll sabotage our sustainability as a knowledge economy in the long run?
  • These facts had been published at the time of these events, and are on public records, even though some Singaporeans today may be unfamiliar with these cases.”

This is all really a bland, politically correct way of saying that (some significant subset of) Singaporeans are misinformed and irresponsible, isn’t it?

That’s why they ban it, despite the Streisand Effect. To keep it out of the hands of the uninformed Singaporeans.

The Streisand Effect popularizes the film among the activists, slacktivists and ‘intelligentsia’, but it keeps it out of the hands of people who wouldn’t go through the trouble of obtaining the film. (The activists were going to watch the film anyway.) So there’s probably a certain realpolitik calculus that goes into these decisions.

One of the first reactions to such a statement would be “Wow, that is so bad. So horrible, MDA. So elitist-uncaring-face. Mocking us heartlanders from their $10m condos.”

But the more important question is- “Is it true?” If I search my heart, I have to say that yes, it probably is. Especially outside of the echo chambers of the activists, bloggers and ‘civil society’.

A large, significant subset of Singaporeans don’t know their own history. We don’t know what’s going on. And so we are subject to misinformation. This is a valid concern. And it needs addressing.

To achieve a superior outcome for Singapore, we need to spend less time bitching about the MDA for being draconian and more time making it impossible for them to say “Singaporeans are uninformed”.

1: We must recognize that a ban on films is a short-term, stop-gap solution that ignores the long-term problem. Merely objecting to such bans also ignores the long-term problem: uninformed Singaporeans.

I can sort-of accept the ban, much as I don’t like it when I contemplate it from my armchair. But I understand the rationale. Some Singaporeans are stupid and dangerous and must be kept away from subversive films, lest they steal their SAR-21s from their Army camps and try to overthrow the Government.

2: The long-term solution is to put these films in the spotlight and scrutinize them long and hard. We need to get better informed about our own history, if not now then at least in the long run.

It’s all in the public records, says MDA. Well, we ought to dig all of this stuff up and talk about it. This is what the National Conversation or Our Singapore Conversation should be about. About who we are. About where we come from.

Unless we do that, until we do that, our identities will remain fragmented and disparate, and Singaporean-ness will be reduced to some farcical, oversimplistic thing like HDB flats and Chicken Rice. And that’s not how we guarantee Singapore’s survival for the next 50 years. We need people with conviction. And you can’t have conviction if you don’t have a clear sense of identity and purpose.

Of course, the MDA won’t spearhead the “Search Your Soul, Singapore” movement. It’s not their problem. Is it anybody’s job description to give a damn about the state of public discourse in Singapore? The Government is responsible to prevent things from screwing up. Whose responsibility is it to make sure we don’t miss opportunities, that we don’t stagnate, and becoming boring and lobotomized?

Yours and mine.

So here’s my little proposal to thoughtful Singaporeans everywhere who don’t like the ban: Take the effort to read up about Singaporean history, and have conversations about it with others.

That’s the best act of rebellion against censorship. We have to become such a smart country that the MDA can no longer say “Singaporeans today may be unfamiliar with these cases.”

I think that’s in the long-term interests of the survival of our little sampan city-state. If we want to live into a future that is exciting and interesting, rather one that’s constantly defined by existential woes (which are completely legitimate, by the way!), we have to have passion and conviction about who we want to be. And that means knowing where we came from.

Notes: 

[1] For an interesting example of how advertisers and marketers can hijack the Streisand effect to their own advantage, consider how Sodastream purposefully got its Scarlett Johansson Superbowl ad banned.

[2] It’s just tragic that they’re usually afraid to air their views in case it affects their livelihoods. These are the most important voices in civil discourse, and they’re under-heard. Those of us who write are forced to attempt to represent them without actually walking in their shoes.

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1058 – Why do anything? The Disneyland Analogy

Wrote this a few weeks ago, just finished it up.

I think one of the simplest and deepest dilemmas that everybody needs to resolve is- why bother doing anything? For some people this isn’t even a question that occurs to them. Others may have really nice answers handed to them that they’re willing to swallow. For the rest of us, it’s not all that easy. Here’s sort of where I am at right now:

Life is a trip, nothing more, nothing less.

You are born- which is itself something spectacularly improbable- you live, and then you die. You’re given the most precious of gifts, but there’s no real rhyme or reason behind it. It’s just something that happened. As far as we know, it’s inevitable that life will eventually be extinguished. All the stars will eventually burn out. Everything that exists will come to an end. “You” and “me” are the briefest of illusions, a fun, odd little accident.

What is to be made of it? We’ve got tickets to this awesome show, which will eventually end.

I used to think it’s possible to come to terms with death by thinking about continuity. Life is a cosmic dance that goes on without you, so do what you can to improve the dance- to prolong it, to strengthen it. Create art that transcends you. Build mutually beneficial relationships that write in the cosmos “we were here; we lived and it was beautiful and glorious.” Live on in each other. But even that will eventually crumble to the inexorable forces of entropy. So living for others, living for the future, those things are a little incomplete.

So I think continuity can’t be the only end goal. What matters is that you have a really good time that you are personally proud of. [1] That’s really the only thing that matters.

What is a life well-lived?

Many of the most illustrious of our predecessors have come to a range of conclusions about that, and their perspectives can be helpful and enriching… but never sufficient. You need to identify what you want to do. What makes you happy. I can only speak for myself.

As a writer I write to fill a void. It’s no different from eating, masturbating, meditating or shooting heroin. Everything is done in the pursuit of pleasure, of relief. This is what it is. Nothing more, nothing less.

One thing I do know- I love writing and having written more than I love not-writing and not-having-written. A day spent writing is, to me, a good day. This compounds, so a week/month/year/life spent writing is superior (for me!) to a life spent not-writing.

Is writing the only thing I want to do? Of course not. Is it the main thing I want to do? For now, yes- but I might change my mind in the future. There may be other things I find more pleasurable, that give me more joy.

The ‘Lofty Ideals’ Identity Performance Trap

What might those things be? How do I find out what they are? I was about to say “so I can suck the marrow out of life”, but I think that’s a little problematic. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of wanting to represent lofty ideals so you can communicate that to others. It’s a kind of projection, a performative construct that can be rather costly to maintain. I think I spent much of my teenage years focused on my performance. That’s where you get things like “I’m a happy-go-lucky guy” or “I’m smart but lazy” or “I didn’t do well because I didn’t study” or “I’m passionate about X.”

These are stories we tell others about ourselves, and also stories we come to believe about ourselves. We then adjust our lives- imperceptibly- to fit these narratives. We get into arguments to maintain the constructs we so meticulously build to represent us. It’s incredibly tiresome. This is why Paul Graham says to keep our identities small, why Buddha taught detachment. It allows us to serve “ourselves” rather than the second-order projected constructed that we don’t actually enjoy.

I realize that it’s very, very easy for me to get caught up in stuff that, in my opinion, doesn’t matter very much. Halfway while writing this I was tempted to check Twitter, and I had to stop because I’ve exceeded my data this month. I very easily get caught up in Facebook discussions, which is why I’ve been experimenting with deactivating my account. I deactivated completely for a few months last year, started again, deactivated again.

For a short period of time after reactivating, it all looked really silly to me- the whole mass panopticon performance. Inevitably though I’d get drawn into participating again. I would feel a little hollow afterwards, the way you might feel after eating a really unhealthy, junky meal. I go to bed with an uneasy feeling- that I had wasted my time, that I was shortchanging myself. It’s like going to a theme park and obsessively playing a little kiddy game until the park closes, and then realising that you missed the awesome ride you had actually intended to go on.

I am tired of that uneasy feeling. I have to stop playing kiddy games because it doesn’t really nourish me.

The analogy can be extended quite a bit. Most of us aren’t aware of the best rides, or we think ourselves somehow incapable or undeserving of them, or we think we wouldn’t be able to stomach it, so we stick to the kiddy rides. To some people, a life of kiddy rides is a simple pleasure, a life well lived. I don’t think that’s the case for me.

Will think more about this later.

Notes:

[1] This can justify some ugly things for people who aren’t neurotypical- what if you get pleasure from harming and exploiting others? That wouldn’t be very nice. I’m not sure how to grapple with that, and honestly I don’t think that’s a problem I’m interested in tackling. I’m unqualified to. If you get pleasure from harming and exploiting others, please seek help. Take time and energy to figure out why you do what you do, and think long and hard about it.

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0157 – Reboot (April)

This post was written in April but incomplete, unfinished and unpublished.

I haven’t done a proper word vomit in over a month. The last thing I published appears to have been a repeat of something else, and I wrote that I had written it in January. Similarly I have been publishing old material that I had written prior. The actual act of sitting down and writing hasn’t been a part of my life for about a month, perhaps longer. And I can feel the effects on my brain. I can describe them but I know that I’m different when I’m writing and when I’m not.

Why did I stop? Well causality is never straightforward or 1-1. There are a bunch of reasons that all came together. One was that I started feeling like I didn’t have anything new to report, and that I was merely repeatinf myself over and over again. I had reached a metaphorical end of the Timeline, where I was just refreshing and refreshing hoping for new notifications. But there are none, and you gotta move on. Another is that I’ve been busy with work. I’ve been spending more tine on social media, which was interesting- but I’m going to cut back on that again. I’ve been watching a lot of The West Wing- I’m in the middle of season 4 now, and it’s a great show. I think it’s good to make time for art that challenges and provokes you, that presents you with perspectives that expand your mind. I feel like WW is doing that for me. Martin Sheen described it as Shakespeare (all we had was the text and each other, something like that) and it certainly feels like it. I want my information diet to be enriching, at least. I spend too much time on Facebook, Tumblr and Reddit still, but I also can’t help but feel that I’m learning certain things. This might be rationalization but I helped a designer ans a photographer- two separate, talented individuals get more exposure for their work and that felt really good.

Moving on. I’ve been wanting to meet more smart/thoughtful people for coffee- I’ve always made vague plans with people that materialize maybe 5% of the time, maybe less. After meeting a few people here and there though, I realize that I’m just a happier, lighter person when I’ve been meeting others. They give me a broader context, which helps me look at my own life from a better angle. I make better decisions. I’m reminded that I’m not in this world alone, that I can build relationships with others and what I accomplish can have a positive (or negative) effect on others. It’s like playing an RPG and encountering othef player characters. It just gets a whole lot more interesting across a different dimension from regular single-player gameplay.

Moving on. When I stopped writing I felt like I had exhausted most if not all of my options, like I needed to surface for air, see look up from the canvass. I feel like there’s an optimal tempo- breathe in, breathe out, wax on, wax off. I felt out of breath. Now I feel like I might have hyperventilated a little. Have you ever seen the chart of Flow? I guess the ideal tempo would fit there.

Another thing I’ve realized. Writing is therapeutic for me by itself. I sleep better when I’ve written. Posts I’ve written in the past have often been useful for me much later on. Yet I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking of writing as a sort of chore, an obligation. It absolutely doesn’t have to be. It’s an investment, yes, but it’s also a privilege.

I want to write a million words because I think it’s a cool thing to do. I think it’ll have benefits I can’t even anticipate yet. But I also need to look at it as a sort of meditative process, of rumination and renewal. I feel good when I write, I feel like a better person. I feel like my thoughts are more organized.

So what’s on my mind? What do I have to talk about?

* I want to write about remedial training and how interesting that experience has been.
* I want to tidy up my recommendations Page to make it more useful for visitors.
* I want to aggregate my ADHD posts, so that they might be helpful to people who relate.
* I want to write a post about the futility of writing that isn’t surprising, challenging, interesting, exciting.
* I want to write about what I’ve learnt as a marketer. I think it’ll help me clear up my thoughts about why I do what I do, what I ought to be doing, and how to best do that.
* I want to write a post about all my heroes and my interpretations of their work.
* I want to write about the importance of art that provokes and inspires. The West Wing is the top thing on my mind right now that fits the bill.
* I want to write about what I’ve learnt about married and adult life. Maybe those should be two separate posts.
* I want to write about my favourite TEDtalks. Because why not? Might be useful to people, and might reveal things to me.
* I want to write about my approach to writing and creating content. Why is ecommerce worth caring about? Why is referral marketing worth caring about? Marketing itself? I should have good answers to all of these questions.
* I want to write about social media as a utility, and how my approach to navigating it has changed over the years. Also, different responses from different audiences in different areas.
* Aggregate the best of Reddit, HN, Quora? At least the stuff that’s interesting to me, so it might be useful to others like me.

All of the above are things that I should only bother with when I have some free time. I should carve out some time every day to think about these things and make a little bit of progress each day. That is all. They shouldn’t exist as fantasies, as an escape from the present. They should exist to influence and change my behaviour. Behavioural modification or GTFO.

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0156 – When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit + ADHD

When I was a young boy- I’m not sure if I was in primary school or secondary school, I read a book called When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.

I want to write all my thoughts about it without first looking up the book on the Internet. The book was about a young girl and her family who were I think half-Jewish or less, and they ran away from Germany to run away from the Nazis. I still haven’t read Anne Frank. The girl had to leave her pink rabbit behind, which was the source of the title. Still memorable as heck. I’d love to see the book get republished with an elegantly designed cover of a man in a Nazi uniform with a pink rabbit in his hands.

This book has stuck in my mind for some reason even though I haven’t read it in years. I thought about how it was the story of a life. This little girl who had grown up and made something of herself. She had to relearn everything, learn a new language, cope with stress and difficulty. It wasn’t incredibly hostile if I remember, just sort of strange and tangential to all the serious, horrible tragedy that was happening in Nazi Germany itself. I find myself thinking about Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle, and about Tetsuko Kuroyanagi’s Totto-Chan, and how in both cases we see the world through the eyes of a child as an adult remembers it.

We all grow old if we’re lucky, we all die.

We have this limited LifeGame of 80 years (again, if we’re lucky. It might always end tomorrow). And we have to make the most of it. We don’t HAVE to, but it’s pretty clear that we OUGHT to. I can’t sleep properly at night knowing that I’m wasting my days. A well-spent day brings well-deserved sleep, and a well-lived life brings well-deserved death. (Death is but another adventure, something something said Dumbledore.) I don’t want to die as anxious as I’ve sometimes gone to bed. Though of course I suspect that when you ARE about to die, you won’t care anymore. It’ll be like booking into camp. [1]

One of the things about ADHD is that it means being very blind to time. Autistic people have trouble making sense of metaphors and sarcasm, they have trouble seeing people as people. (Something like that, I don’t know the details.) I read something similar about schizophrenic people having difficulty recognising themselves. They get into their bed, and they smell themselves, but they don’t realise that it’s their own smell. So they feel like there’s been a stranger in their bed, and it makes them anxious and paranoid. They can’t get comfortable with themselves. And they’ll probably need some sort of prosthetic/tool to figure that out.

So just like how some people with memory problems don’t recognise somebody they just met 30 minutes ago, I don’t notice the passage of time. I really don’t. I’m sorry. I REALLY DON’T. And I don’t realise that deadlines have consequences. I don’t feel anything. Other people have told me that they feel weird when deadlines approach and things are not done. Alarm bells go off in their heads. For me, it’s more like a really slight buzz in the faraway distance. I don’t notice things that aren’t right in front of my face. I don’t notice things that I’m not paying attention to. It’s very hard to interrupt me when I’m really caught up in something.

I’m terribly short-sighted when it comes to time. I just don’t perceive it the way everybody else does. This is why I can spend countless hours doing things that other people get tired of. And this is why I’m always late for things. It’s not that I’m a selfish person who doesn’t care. I can’t “not-care” about something that doesn’t even enter my radar in the first place. You wouldn’t called an amnesiac selfish for forgetting your name, would you?

Reality doesn’t give a shit

But I understand that I live in a world where people take these things personally. And this means that I’ll sometimes not be able to build relationships with some people, because some people need others to be around them, to keep them in their thoughts, to do nice things for them, etc. I sometimes think that I’d like to do things like that, but I can’t keep things in my thoughts. My thoughts go wherever the hell they like. There’s a part of the brain that most people have that regulates these things, and mine is underdeveloped. ADHD is an inability to internally self-regulate. That’s why I think cigarettes were so awesome for me. They felt like some sort of stable pattern/structure/routine that I could contextualise things around.

In a broader, longer-term sense, it’s helpful for me to read these memoirs. I think I need to read more memoirs to get more context. I need to find more minds like my own. David Ogilvy was one. I need to read Voltaire, I need to read Benjamin Franklin, I need to read Ford. I need to go straight to the source and drink it up. This isn’t about impressing people. This is about survival. This is about strengthening myself so that I can help my Wolves. I used to approach this as a sort of indulgent exercise, or as a sort of… chore. I needed to read all these great things to be impressive. But I don’t even want to be impressive anymore. I just want to cope. I just want to do what is best for my Wolves while I have them. That’s all. The opinions of others, while interesting and amusing, are a lower priority.

I can’t put off my daily writing. I can’t write after some period of time, because what happens is that I just don’t write, and then I get anxious and cranky and it sucks for me, it sucks for my Wolves and it sucks for everybody around me. So I can’t do that. I need strong, daily structures that keep me running. I need to exercise every single day. Like, not for fun or pleasure or because I want to be fit and muscular and sexy or anything like that. I need to exercise so that I can hold on to my Wolves. I need to do it for them.

This is an ADHD mind, motherfuckers. I grew up in a world that told me it wasn’t good enough. I’m going to show you what it can do. I’m going to show you what my Wolves can do. They’re far greater than anything that I’ve seen out there, really. Maybe I’m wrong about that. But I’m going to find out.

Notes:

[1] When I used to be in NS, I used to agonise about how I was wasting my time on the weekends before I had to book into camp. I didn’t do enough, read enough, write enough, play enough, hang out with friends enough. Yet when I booked into camp, once I was on the bus towards the ferry, a strange calm would come over me. I’d done all that I could’ve done, nothing else could be done, I’d just relax and move on. I feel like death will probably be just like that. What an amazing privilege.

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