I saw this thread on Hacker News - "Failed entrepreneur, broke, unemployed, now taking care of aging parents. Help." The guy there is in a big rut. Basically, a lot of things aren't going right for him and he was asking for input/advice. Here's a small section -
Concurrently, I had to move back home to a relatively inactive area - no tech scene, no innovators, no night life, no forward-thinking, no excitement. People here are content with 9-5 jobs and staying home at night (edit, removed: want their safe, comfortable, 9-5 jobs, and their must-see-TV at night). There is no ecosystem to help drive and create new things. Local city and business "leaders" I talk to about doing something politely nod their head in agreement but it never leads to anything.
Now, I understand where this guy is at. Not 100%, everyone's situation is a little bit different. But the general place, yup, I get it. So I wrote up this reply for him -
Okay, there's a lot of things going on here, but most of them are (gradually) improvable. But it would be difficult to improve until you own responsibility for all of it.
Your post has a lot of "XYZ bad thing is happening because of ZYX external thing." Well, you don't have much control over ZYX external thing.
So, the first recommendation I have for you is to stop making that link. Instead of "XYZ bad thing is happening because of..." stop yourself there and instead say, "XYZ bad thing is happening. What would I like to have happen instead? What actions can I take to get there?"
This won't happen instantly, but try to get thinking like that. It'll be a constant battle of sorts to shift your thinking there. Stop pegging your problems to the environment and start thinking about what you'd actually like instead and what action you can take. This goes from disempowering to empowering.
Second recommendation - work on improving fundamental areas in your life. Pick one or two little things in a week, and try to make them a bit better. Spend a little more time in nature, a little more time exercising, a little more time working on a creative project, a little less time aimlessly surfing the net or watching TV, a little more time sending emails and trying to correspond with people you respect (btw, I'm in Outer Mongolia, you want somewhere with no "scene"? Try here. But it's okay because I correspond with a couple dozen interesting people. How'd I get to doing that? Slowly, by dropping a line to interesting people I respect, and encouraging others to drop me a line.)
Anyways, there's lots of things going on in your life. I've been in a similar place at one time. In total, it can be overwhelming. But if you trend upwards in a fundamental area each week, pretty quickly your life starts looking a lot better.
1. Stop attributing problems to external things. Just say, "XYZ isn't what I want. What do I want? What action can I take that might get me closer to it?"
2. Improve fundamental stuff a little bit each week. Don't beat yourself up if you don't make massive progress, because massive progress is rare. It's also unnecessary. Just trend upwards - eat a little better, a little more time in nature, a little more time corresponding with people you like, a little more time creating things, a little less time on distraction whatever. If you make these regular incremental improvements, your life improves dramatically within not too long.
You're not alone here, many people have been where you're at and have gotten out of it. Lots of people are rooting for you. Good luck and godspeed. Take responsibility for everything and trend upwards gradually and you'll have a pretty good life pretty fast.
Ivan Ilic, a professional pianist, just reached out with a guestpost and reaction after reading "I think the biggest barrier for me to overcome was myself." Some really fantastic observations on breaking through in here -
Sebastian’s last post was inspirational to me, but not because of the story itself, poignant though it was. Although I would love to read a more detailed account of R’s unusually successful turnaround, there was a turn of phrase in Sebastian’s response that really resonated with me.
“The good news and bad news is that there’s almost never a silver bullet. So, you can safely stop looking for [it] and start picking up 1% edges, 2% edges here and there. Trend upwards and establish little good habits, a better environment around you, and so on. R covers this when he says, “Make sure that all the small steps you take are taking you in the right direction. A little bit at a time, over a long period, and you’ll always win.”
The only way to realize the power of incremental positive changes over time is by experiencing it yourself. Although self-discipline has not been my biggest problem, I had a serious slump in the second half of last year. When I needed to move my most important projects forward, I seemed paralyzed. Does that sound familiar?
The past six months have been the first time I have orchestrated my own turnaround, without external factors to motivate me. “Picking up 1% edges, 2% edges here and there” and establishing modest good habits has been so effective that looking back over the past six months, I’m still shocked.
I'm thrilled that Tynan is coming to you with two things -- first, he's offering a breakthrough session through GiveGetWin. It's geared around doing more of the kind of excellent work you want to do, becoming more internally focused with your emotions, having a more enjoyable life, building great habits, and producing a lot of value in the process. There's five spots, so check it out now.
Second, we have this wonderful tour-de-force interview: it starts by covering how Tynan made the shift from unfocused to focused, how to derive internal enjoyment from things, useful actionable exercises you can do right now, Tynan's method and mindset for producing creative work consistently, how to set up great habits and an excellent mental and physical work environment, and how to make blogging work and similar endeavors work for you.
Total Focus; Total Enjoyment by Tynan, as told to Sebastian Marshall
When I turned 30 and I had a minor freak out… I thought, "I'll be 40 in not long, and then 50… there's things I want to do in my life, and they're not happening at this pace."
Before that, I had a general idea of things I wanted to do and have in my life, but I went about in an unstructured way. It was good in a lot of ways. It made be a broad process, but not much depth.