The Daunting Shackles

It is very strange, borderline depressing the feeling you get when a million and one ideas are flowing in your head but you’re not able to develop a single one of them. A hint of achievement and a fake sense of accomplishment accompany the act of jotting down these ideas on a notebook of some sort, drawing a few diagrams and laying it all to eternal hibernation. None seem so clear to drive you to pursue them yet all have a certain flare of potential that drives you mad, if not, insane.

You start wondering, why not? Why am I not able to effectively work on any of them? Why am I not able to pursue what shakes my intellect and drives a mesmerizing excitement in my head?

The answers start flowing in… None satisfactory but all so real. Loans, mortgage, family, financial stability, the economy, time, pressure of the day job, deadlines, deliverables, power drain, few elements of reality among many, many other uncontrollable barriers. You lay down that notebook with a strong feeling of anxiety and despair. The ‘daunting shackles of reality’ have bitten you again.

Quite often, an idea seems so good that you forcibly spare a few hours of what’s left of your evenings to actively engage in doing some research of what’s out there, developing a proof of concept or a rushed prototype. Sometimes, you develop a feeling of: ‘fuck if I care’, driving you to start tackling the business aspect of your idea, looking for some empirical evidence, with a shred of hope that it would be strong enough for you to let go of what’s holding you back and embark on the journey of the unknown. Yet again, the crazier the idea the smaller the needle becomes, and ever so larger the haystack becomes.

Many times, you wonder, how did my life reach this uncontrollable state? Where is that ‘freedom’ that I protected for so many years? When did it, disappear? When have I become so dependent on so many things that I cannot let go of? Why the hell am I so helpless in the attempt to pursue what ‘I care about’? Of course, the answers are not to be found because all the reasons that drove the decision making process are long gone, vanished. Yet, you’re stuck battling the consequences.

Have I crossed the threshold of no return? Will I ever make it? Will I ever be able to develop the chance of tinkering and doing what I enjoy, irrespective of how good am I at it? It’s ironic how as a kid, we used to believe that adulthood equated freedom. In some sense, that statement is far from the truth, yet so close.

With all that’s said and done, I used to joke with a colleague that ‘the only way up is down’. Funny how, now, I feel that this joke seems to be the only logical path to pursue.

P.S: I’m not a fan of posts reflecting helplessness and a victimization aspect, the purpose of this post is to describe a commonly shared, but not so spoken of, state of mind.

The key ingredient of success: Motivation? Creativity? Perfectionism? No.

Maybe the title is a bit vague and this specific topic has been used, abused and dwelt upon by so many. Nevertheless, I believe if the topic is to be treated from one’s personal experience and perspective value can be found.

Many claim that motivation, creativity, perfectionism, work life balance and many other hacks and shortcuts are keys to success or at least achievement. Articles keep pouring in the online streams with stories about leveraging different key ingredients of success. There’s a lot of truth in them, but a component is missing. Discipline.

Let’s ignore the negative connotation associated with discipline because here I’m talking about Self-Discipline: willpowerself motivation despite irregular emotional states, hard workpersistenceendurancecapacity augmentationperseveranceobjectivity, personal rectification of inadequate behavior. In short “The Hard Way”.

We keep looking for these magical shortcuts that promise life changing results submerging ourselves into an incapacitative state of mental numbness and non fruitful, never ending search for a non existing ultimate solution.

I have been writing code for a decade now, there simply are no shortcuts in this endeavor whatsoever! It’s a never-ending hardcore training journey that requires one to constantly keep pushing the boundaries over and over again. It has been and still is very daunting at times, boring at others and painful even (the countless overnights spent starring at the screen). If it weren’t for self-discipline enriching a goal oriented mindset I developed, I would have failed miserably. The same applies to many other aspects of my life: My projects, startups, research, implementation of ideas even writing this and other blog posts etc…

The only way for acquiring this skill, I call it a skill because you need to develop it, hone it, harness its power and keep pushing it without ever giving up or making exceptions, starts with a decision. It’s not a short path, it’s a long one so be prepared.

Step 1: Decision
It starts here. Start now, as soon as you finish reading this post, start immediately. Do not postpone, do not procrastinate.

Step 2: Trial and Error
It will never work out from the first trial. Keep that in mind. It takes time, keep iterating.

Step 3: Making no exception
We are emotional beings and we have this powerful instinct to protect and shield ourselves from whatever we deem is harmful or unpleasant. For you to reach advanced levels of self-discipline, you cannot make exceptions! Reduce them to a bare minimum. If you fail, go back to step 1 and start all over again quickly. Do not let it drag.

Step 4: Acknowledging the achievements and the failures
The sense of achievement is what keeps me going personally. Hard work that is rewarded (in so many different ways) is my positive reinforcement that I try to maximize as much as possible. Although the result is not always guaranteed and hiccups are due to occur, during these bad times, do not quit. Keep pushing.

I failed many times at reaching my self-set goals. I will fail more. However I succeeded in so many others and overachieved beyond my wildest imagination.