Why does beginning something new, feel like pulling teeth?

I’m laying down in an awkward-as-hell position trying to stretch my back out as I simultaneously think why in the hell am I trying to start a blog too? It’s not like I haven’t got enough on my plate, I definitely do, and I’m also nowhere near the dizzying heights of unheard-of skill that I feel I should be at with those hobbies/goals either. Yet here I sit(lay) at my computer trying to think up the world’s wittiest first blog ever, but I’ve also never written a blog either so my expectations are incredibly unrealistic.

I love that.

Nothing would hurt more than someone telling me I was dreaming of something normal, achievable, realistic. I’m a sucker for those motivational videos, the ones that have you feeling like superman for 5 minutes after watching. Until you sign up for that new class, first try to write the page of your novel, begin learning a second language like you always wanted. Then the excrement really hits the helicopter. It’s the feeling of sitting there, blankly staring at the cursor, waiting for that inspiration you’re sure you had on tap to turn on; and nothing happens.

Normally when I start to attempt something I’ve never done before, whether that’s taking a boxing class, writing a movie script, or learning coding, there’s a self deprecating side to me that jokes with people about how bad I’ll be, just to manage their expectations, so if I do anything semi-decent, I’ll look like a genius.

So if I’m already managing expectations of others, you’d expect that I have realistic goals, and already know the odds are that I’m not going to be a natural prodigy at everything I do.

Yet I don’t. I’m not realistic because subconsciously I always hope/borderline expect, that this is going to be the moment I discover I’m actually a savant boxer, musician, writer, (insert your hobby of choice here), and this is my path. This leads to the inevitable let down when I complete my first class and discover my cardio is horrendous, I’ve never really thrown a combo, and that wunderkinds are the abstraction, not the rule. This can lead to feeling a severe lack of motivation, questioning if I’m good at anything, avoiding trying new things altogether, and in the more sooky, self sympathetic days, wondering why poor me wasn’t given some clearly set path to greatness.

How could I stop this feeling of “pulling teeth” when starting something new?

Well there’s a few ideas I’m trying to use, (note use of the word “trying”), because I’m not a natural at changing my thought process either.

  1. Stop managing other people’s expectations. Don’t do it, don’t joke about how terrible you’ll be at something as a thinly veiled attempt to protect yourself in case you do suck at something. If you’re naturally terrible and someone notices, that’s okay, others are naturally terrible at things. Even the titans of industry and arts that we look up to suck at something. Michael Jordan might be the naturally least-talented podcaster ever*.
  2. Focus on what you want to get out of the first step. Look at it as a standalone lesson initially, not how you’re going to make millions of dollars and billions of insta-subs. You’re taking up Spanish, cool, focus on learning 10 new words, that’s a success. Writing a poem? Tremendous, write 10 lines, good or bad, not aiming for a Pulitzer here. Define what you’re aiming for, and as much as I hate to say it, accept the odds are that you’re not a genius at it.
  3. Enjoy the work. The overwhelming majority of people we view as successful in their chosen fields haven’t made it to where they are from a divine stroke of luck, why should you be different? Concentrate what efforts you are willing to invest into learning and plying your trade, and appreciating the steps along the way. You may very well begin as shockingly bad, then six months later you’re average. Or, starting at average, in a year you might find you’ve become quite good at a skill…the point is that you’re growing. Sometimes the work can be repetitive or frustrating to get past, but that builds resilience as well.
  4. Just because you aren’t elite at something doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. This one is a tough point that I personally struggle with a lot, I continuously am ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater in that if I feel like I’m more than likely not going to become great at something, I’m wasting my time practicing it. I have to accept now, at 25 years of age and not a naturally talented footballer, I’m not going to make it to being a professional. Sounds stupid, but this still stings, because the wheeling and dealing part of me thinks, if I just put in enough work, and stars align enough, I could make it there I’m sure. I can’t, but it’s still fun to think maybe. I’ve got other things to do with my time though that I know is a better return on my investment. I still play football, but it’s a purely enjoyment thing. I’m not trying to make it to paid level, I get a bit better most years, but I’m doing it cause I get a buzz out of running around tackling like a lunatic, trying to play my best game yet, every game I play.

These are just some thoughts, what are some other ways to help maintain ambition enough to try something new, but also not expecting a miracle out of every attempt?

*Note, I don’t know if Michael Jordan has tried podcasting, this was just an example…Mr. Jordan, if you ever read this, please don’t take this as a personal challenge to destroy me in the world of podcasting please and thank you.

To Bucket List or Not?

Bucket Lists appear to be becoming more divisive in terms of how people view their value these days…

“I can’t think of anything to put on there.”

“I’ve got too much other stuff going on in my life at the moment so I don’t have time/money for crossing stuff off a bucket list.”

“The things I would put on there probably aren’t really inspiring/big compared to other people’s lists.”

…And I’ve heard many more reasons why they’re a waste of time, pointless etc. However I’d like to take this time to explain my perspective on bucket lists, maybe it might change your mind and start you writing one. Maybe you’ll think you were right and they aren’t for you. Either way, thanks for reading, and if you’ve got the time, let me know why or why not?

My feeling is that a lot of our initial reactions or assumptions around doing certain processes or tools are not necessarily how we feel about them long term having spent time actually looking into them. It’s simply a reflection of how we’re feeling in that moment and we hold onto that…for example:

If I’m at a point in my life where I don’t earn much money, I’m drained, and I’m also putting most of my time into taking care of other people. Then someone tells me during all that about how my life would be better with a bucket list, I’m probably going to fob that conversation off, because I’ve got bigger fish to fry at the time and I’m thinking the typical skydive, travel to another country, kind of bucketlist that feels a world away from where I am.

So even when it gets brought up again a year later and I’m in a better place and capable of doing things I’d have on my bucket list, I say that I don’t really believe in bucket lists…but I’m not sure why.

I’ve written a few over time, done a few items then thrown the list in the bin because in my eyes I wasn’t getting the items on there done quickly enough. The skill I’m (slowly) learning that is stopping me from throwing out my current list, is one of patience and learning to relax. Being content that I’ve been working on different milestones the past few years has helped to realize, while I’ve only done 4 items on my current list in the 3 or so years I’ve had it, I’ve been working on buying a house so that has taken priority, work wise, money wise, time wise. But now that I’m on the verge of that becoming a reality and cutting back at work, there’s time to open up the list again and look at what challenge I would like to spend time working on now.

There’s time…not today doesn’t mean never. Having a bucket list within reach means maybe you have 10 minutes spare, and that may not be enough to fly to Japan and taste the finest sushi ever made, but it’s enough to find the restaurant you want to go to, specifying details during your goals makes it real, makes your mind see it at as both achievable and something that you’re going to work towards, and gets you closer to actually doing it! Keep the bucket list, even if it’s taking longer to get around to doing some of those adventures than you thought it would.

One of the great things about bucket lists is they remind you of everything that is possible, at one point interesting to you, and something that on your deathbed could look back at and think “wow, I did that, that was awesome”. On our deathbeds, we very rarely regret things we did, it’s almost always the things we didn’t do that we knew we wanted to.

While the idea of a bucket list is to remind us of our own mortality, subsequently prompting us around the fact that we do have limited time on this planet and so to live the lives we really wish to, and do the things we dream of or say “one day” to, it’s also not to pressure us to just turn the things we would love to do into chores or obligations. Just another job to add to the never ending list of “fix the sprinkler, call the handyman to fix the washing machine, buy a present for so-and-so’s party who I don’t even like.” View it as possibility, view it as I get to do this, view it as I can choose what experiences I have in my life, view it as a gift. A positive over a negative.

If we view our list more as a collection of stories, “once I patted a raccoon, flew a plane, or helped change someone’s life for the better;” as a gathering of all the inexplicably fun, challenging things, big and small, that we GET to do!…rather than a shopping list of what has to happen, then we’ll view the bucket list as a source of inspiration and joy, a spark rather than just another obligation.

They are memories that we want to have. 

Writing them down is the first step to making them happen for real. 

What to Make of Money

We all have differing, sometimes opposing, at times agreeing, views on money. It’s not always the easiest conversation to talk about with others as we’re on different ‘levels’ so to speak. But how often do we look at what/how we ourselves think of money?

I’ve always been pretty good at saving money even since I was a teenager and had my first job, reading books about finance and the value of starting to save whilst young which partially shaped my view of money. After listening to a few more “self-reflective” podcasts as of late, these have raised more questions of other influences on how I treat/view/value money.

It appears to me to be that there are many different ways to view money, that could work positively in different situations/for different goals. If we view money as a tool to be used to attempt to make more and have greater freedom, then it’s easier to disconnect from the emotional roller coaster with investments going up and down and judge intelligently relying on research. Or if money is something we view as a blessing that comes in and out of our lives, then we can hold onto it loosely, i.e enjoying spending it on a holiday or a watch that you appreciate wearing due to the craftsmanship and significance attached to it, and use it to enhance our experiences within life.

My go-to response is always to save money…it makes me feel safe, secure, like I’m doing the right thing if I’m saving. It’s not always the right option though. There have been times when it is, and saving has helped set me up into a good position financially speaking for having more freedom etc, and times when I’ve saved rather than using money to experience an adventure or bought something which would have genuinely improved my life. It’s been eye opening now that I’m currently cutting back at work instead of trying to save every dollar and work every shift. I’m using some of this time to question myself more about how I think about money due to other’s influences, perceptions, natural inclinations, and doing things just because “that’s how I’ve always done it.”

Here are 3 Questions to ask yourself over your next beverage of choice:

  1. What do I primarily view money as? Is it a tool? Security perhaps? Something to be enjoyed and used to enhance our lives? Whatever the answer or answers you find, write it down, this is easier to acknowledge the role money plays in our lives when it’s before us, as well as easier to measure changes after the following question.
  2. Do I treat money how I say I treat it? Am I saying I want to be generous with money and giving but really I put every dollar away for “one day” when I have enough money and think I’ll be giving then. What could I change to be more in touch with “my path” of choosing.
  3. It’s great to plan ahead, and I as much as anyone, know there’s definite value in having savings goals/a financial plan, but also know that we’re not living forever, so it might be worth considering: Is there a way I can start to experience part of my “dream life” now? Maybe your big financial goal is to retire on a $750k boat and sail around forever. Could you start experiencing a taste of that life and hire a boat every 6 months for a trip? That way you’ll also find out if you get sick of being on a boat after more than 2 weeks. Better to find out now rather than having built up a dream for years and years only to get there and find out it isn’t everything you thought it would be.

By no means am I worth millions of dollars or a financial guru, but these are some questions which I’ve found very helpful to consider in my own life and would’ve loved someone to bring to my attention earlier on as well. Considering how easy it is to get caught up in the pitfalls, dreams, schemes and plans of money, it’s worth just as much to consider our relationship towards money and what we desire from it. I hope we all achieve wealthy lives over simply being rich. Whatever that looks like for you.

Running a Marathon: Doing things that suck.

42.195kms or 26 miles 385yds, whichever way you slice it, that’s a very long distance for someone who hates(I realise hate is a strong word…I also believe it’s fitting in this case) running.

I can’t remember the first decent sized run I ever did, but I doubt I liked it.

There’s some things I’m naturally average – slightly above average at and running is absolutely not one of those.

Which is why it was hard to explain to people that I was going to run a marathon. I think the first time I decided to do it and start training I was about 15 or 16, playing football and in decent shape but by no means running much outside of footy.

A few of the blokes who went to the same church as me were pretty strong athletes, one was an avid cyclist, and the other was a competitive runner, like when I say competitive, had won a king of the mountain, running-up-a-brutal-incline type of race 7 years in a row or something obscene like that.

I was pretty excited to chat to them but their realism brought me back down to reality somewhat after I told them “I’m going to start training and do the Brisbane Marathon in 3 months.” 

Their reply? “Don’t do that, that’s not a good way to run a marathon, you’ll get injured and wont finish it.” 

“Yeah that’s not much of a plan, if you’re serious about finishing it you should start with a 5km race, then 10km, and if you do those, maybe a half, then you do a full marathon in a year or so.”

They were from church so I’m pretty sure that’s what stopped them shy of calling me an idiot, but definitely read the look on their faces as looking at me like I had grown an additional head. Being occasionally sensitive and yet also incredibly naturally stubborn, my first thoughts, in order were:

“What do you mean if I’m serious, they’re treating me like I wont go through with it!?”

“Well fine then, that’s okay, plenty of successful people had doubters, I’ll do it out of spite just to show you I meant it when I said it.”

Pretty sure my training lasted 3 weeks maximum before trailing off into the great unknown. They were right…this time at least, I wouldn’t run the marathon. They were both great blokes and had a lot more years of wisdom etc than myself in training their bodies and overcoming the odds, which I knew at the time, but also wasn’t big on doing things the same as everyone else. Some things haven’t changed.

Over the next few years and dozens of bucket-lists later, I would keep putting it on almost every fresh bucket list I wrote up, certain that I’d do it sometime. The timing just had to be right, then it would all fall into place like some magical puzzle piece showing me the final picture.

It didn’t though, I started chasing after this goal like a toxic lover a few more times, spending hours writing up new running plans, telling myself how I was going to really do it this time, then inevitably after a few weeks(maybe a month or two at most) I’d miss a run or two which would turn into ceasing running altogether.

Until one fateful day I met an ex-Olympic athlete who had built his life on running marathons and he gave me the key to finally overcoming this heinous hurdle…

Naahhhh, it would be cool…but that didn’t happen.

I literally just caught up with a friend and chatted about my most recent bucket list I’d written and some of the items on it. She enjoys running(I still don’t understand these kinds of people) so naturally I mentioned that running a marathon was on the list, but so are 61 other things(true story). We spoke about different marathons and she mentioned at the end of completing the Melbourne marathon that you get to run a lap on the MCG for the last few hundred metres, which, being a passionate and sometimes suffering AFL fan, greatly appealed to me getting to set foot on this holy ground.

After talking some more, mostly being encouraged by her about how magnificent running would feel when I gave it a good go, runner’s high and all that, and me disparaging myself multiple times about my actual running abilities…she gave me a book to read about how to run faster and better.

I went home, on what might’ve been a Wednesday night, nothing going on, and decided I’d run a marathon.

With a bit of outside help I got a plan together to go from not running at all, except occasionally chasing the footy around, to completing the Melbourne Marathon, which was in 17 weeks. Again with the short time frames, my friend suggested I do a half marathon first but I once again, wasn’t having a bar of that. My plan was do my running each day, grind it out, no real special diet or anything, just pretty much strong arm it. Kind of stupid in hindsight but sometimes stupidity and stubbornness are my strengths, it is what it is.

So I had a plan(which I ended up changing right before I started), took a photo of it, sent it out on snapchat saying “I’m running the Melbourne Marathon in about 17 weeks, nobody remembers reasonable people.” Then just ticked off runs as I needed to do them during the 4 months.

During the training plan I ran an average overall of 3 times a week. I always thought if I was to have any chance of achieving this that I’d have to be running 5 times a week minimum, which wasn’t the case.

I missed runs due to being sore and saying I couldn’t do it. I skipped runs saying I’d catch up the k’s on a day off…I didn’t. My mind wasn’t perfect and strong and ready to take on the world, there were some other big challenges happening in my life at the time too, which got the best of me at times and so I wouldn’t run and just watched tv instead.

I screwed up and ran slow, forgot how to breathe like a normal human, and some days it felt as if a one legged sloth could’ve outpaced me.

The closest I ever got to a “runner’s high” during training was occasionally when it was over I’d think thank fuck I’m done with that, and I’d appreciate the hell out of that day because I wouldn’t have to run again.

There were times when I’d see the upcoming run on the roster and start dreading it, almost fearing it. I know, my mind is soft as butter right?

But I still continued with the plan, which in the end, was the only thing that really mattered/got me over the line. Feeling like I’d done enough training that I wouldn’t fail at completing the marathon, I booked it in.

Running the marathon itself wasn’t necessarily a traditionally enjoyable experience either, cramping by halfway which just got progressively worse, feeling like I’d just like to nap for a week in the middle of it(I really like sleep), and just dealing with all the internal voices of being negative or thinking how much further I still had to run.

During all this though on the day, I’d made up my mind 2 months ago, that I’d die on the day if necessary to get the marathon finished. The majority of that decision was made by the fact I thought about the training I had to do and how much I hated running, and that there was no way in hell I would do all that again, so if I was going to get it done, now was the time. Again, not the purest or most noble of gameplans, but it worked, and I ran a marathon…not bad for someone who hated(and still hates) running.

So condensing the training/marathon down into bullet point lessons or takeaways, here’s what I felt/learned/wished someone had told me:

  1. Write a plan with basics, you don’t need all the answers, get a book or something to help if needed, then just start it.
  2. Have scheduled days you do your run, try keep it around same time, before work is when everyone says to do it which I completely agree with, because the days I didn’t have it done and tried to do it in the arvo I’d either be coming up with excuses non-stop throughout the day for why I shouldn’t do it that afternoon. Or, I’d be absolutely dreading it for the entire day and it’d hang over my head like a dark cloud.
  3. Get accountable, stupid as it sounds, sending that snapchat out and telling a few people, even though they probably forgot a day after I told them, was great for keeping me accountable because in my head they all might as well have been staring at me waiting for months just for the Melbourne Marathon just so they could check if I’d done it. I know, crazy and unrealistic but it does help to know how your mind works/what will motivate you, whether you logically know if it’s true or not.
  4. A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week. (This quote is by George S. Patton and is something to keep in mind for those of us who try to be perfectionists)
  5. Be realistically unrealistic. If I say I’m just going to rock up to run a marathon with no training and run it on the day, that’s unrealistic, and may indicate not wanting to actually do it if you wont put in any time to train for it to give a better chance of succeeding. However even though 17 weeks of training in hindsight is a bit tight on the training side, it’s still definitely possible. Pushing limits is fun, but I’m trying to stay away from setting goals that sound great but I know will discourage me immediately when I start pursuing them. I’m a serial offender for this, still attempting to find the balance between realistic and unrealistic myself.
  6. Don’t throw good money after bad. I had a plan and initially my mindset was if I miss any runs then I wont be able to complete the marathon. Good motivation to start with because I didn’t miss a single run for a fair few weeks, but invariably as the bumper sticker says “shit happens” and I missed a few sessions here and there(bad money). I didn’t want to lose the work I had already put in with running so far(good money) so I just continued on and put time aside to do my run the next day no matter what, from where I should have been in my plan.
  7. Keep momentum, if you miss two sessions in a row, prioritize the hell out of your next session, if that means running at midnight after work, so be it. The more you build it up in your mind as a rule, it might be simple as “I don’t miss three sessions in a row…EVER” the more you build strength within yourself for who you are as a person. We as humans tend to be verryy keen to be consistent with who we think we are, so we’ll find ways to stay true to that.
  8. Know what you want: I had a few rules that I wanted to stick to with this one, Being under 5 hours, if you were too slow by half time they would channel you towards a big park where you’d do laps to make up the distance(I didn’t want to see anything twice, it just makes a run seem even longer for me if this is case), and the big one of course…I needed to complete it. Don’t care if I broke an ankle, had diarrhoea (read about Wu Xiangdong’s half marathon, I greatly feared this happening to me) etc, they’d have to drag my body off the course because I was finishing come hell or high water. I started cramping at about 20kms in(I can hear all the runners reading this laughing at me now)and walked/ran on and off for the next 22 kms. 

I feel like we can greatly increase our chances of success when taking on a challenge, just by adopting the mentality of, I’m doing this regardless of perfect plan, or perfect training, or feeling perfect. 

The last one in particular is something I’m really trying to work on at the moment. 

If you want an often-recommended book about overcoming this, read David Goggins: Can’t Hurt Me. An eye-opening story of overcoming imperfection, and “not feeling it”.

What do you think you could achieve if you ignored, or even better yet, embraced, your imperfections?