When I was a kid, maybe ten years old, I thought that when I grew up I’d be inducted into an adult world where decisions were made for the right reasons, where grown-ups were free from the feelings I had: confusion, inadequacy, lack of confidence.
But instead it turns out that all the grownups are scared and confused and make bad decisions too.
Fear of… lots of things. Each of us has their own set of things they’re afraid of: it’s probably not that different to the next person, or me. Fear of being wrong. Fear of having people find out how little you know. Fear of failing. Fear of not living up to your potential. Fear of committing to the wrong job, the wrong city, the wrong country, the wrong person. Fear that it’s all going to come to nothing, because forces bigger than ourselves are screwing everything up.
And I think a lot of that fear, especially the fear of being found out, is based on the mistaken assumption that everyone else has it figured out. The same assumption I was making when I was ten.
The truth is that most people haven’t figured it out. They’re also afraid, even if they don’t consciously know it. They turn on the TV, read the papers, surf the web, and they get told stories. Stories that are created by other people.
The tabloid press and the commercial news and current affairs play on that fear. They tell us the enemy exists and it’s out there somewhere, in the form of illegal immigrants or terrorists or the Liberals or the Greens, teenage mothers, dole bludgers, graffiti kids wearing hoodies. It’s easy to push those fear buttons, so they do.
They make us afraid of the unimportant things, but they never confront the big problems.They never ask us to think. The unreflective consumer of those media is sure what the problems are, and they’re out there. And if you’re sure about everything, it probably doesn’t mean that you’re right. It just means you’re ignorant.
Because the enemy isn’t out there. The main thing that’s going to stop you having the best life you can, to keep you from fulfilling whatever potential you’ve got, is yourself.
It’s your fear, and your inability to work out what to do, and your going along with the narratives you’ve been told, and your not realizing that while the circumstances external to you are given, your response to them isn’t.
And the best antidote to that fear and confusion and laziness and… stuckness, is loving what you do.
Work out what you think is important. Think about yourself, your family, your community, your country, your planet. Realize that at each step outwards, it’s a little less about you, a little more about us.
But make sure that what you end up doing, whatever it is, is making the world a better place, not a worse one.
Because the degree to which you’re motivated by love, and not by fear, is the the degree to which you’re happy.
Less fear. More love.
I started 2011 singing defamatory lyrics about the locals in the pub of the tiny town of Oturehua, in New Zealand. K and I had been to a wedding a few days before and were riding the Otago Rail Trail. We also had the chance to visit Dunedin, a great university town with a bunch of good coffee shops.
I turned 42 in March. Getting older is, well, crap. Barring medical innovations, I’m about half-way through life’s journey and I have so much more I want to do—which is why it’s so important to stay well. In 2011 I worked harder to stay fit, working out at Adapt Crossfit, throwing in some cycling and running, and eating (mostly) paleo. In May and October I was hardcore and did the Whole 30, which for me is mostly about not drinking alcohol. The combination of diet and exercise means I’m in better shape now than I’ve ever been.
I went mountaineering in New Zealand in September. Five years ago my father got sick: when he recovered my brothers and I went with him to Queenstown for a ski holiday. Three of us returned in 2011.
I treated myself to some gorgeous alpine equipment (I’m willing to admit that cool gear is part of the attraction) and did some solo alpine hikes in the Remarkables. There are few opportunities in modern life for the continuous application of (in my case, limited) skill at with serious consequences for failure.
I hung out with fellow spacenerds at the #CSIROTweetup for the launch of the Curiosity Mars rover. The Tidbinbilla Deep Space tracking station hosted thirty or so of us (including @andymccray) for two nights. Highlights included someone working out orbital angles on a napkin, and meeting @ccorbettauthor, whose novel “When We Have Wings” was one of the regrettably few books I read in 2011.
I sold part of Icelab to Tim and Max, and together we bought out our other partner: now we’re three-way co-owners of the best damn design studio money can buy. In 2011 we did some great work for great clients, launched the Decaf Sucks iPhone app, were interviewed for news.com.au, hired Andy and Hugh, spoke at conferences, and we’re destined for more greatness in 2012.
I was supported, encouraged, challenged, and delighted, as always, in everything I do, by K. We’ve been together for 13 years now. The 13 best years of my life.
I go for a run once or twice a week, on the hill behind our home. There are three decent uphill sections to get the heart pumping and corresponding downhills for contemplation of the mountains and all kinds of thinking.
We think of doing our best as if it’s a singular act. But it isn’t about the heroic effort at the end. A minute’s sprint in a half-hour run will hardly affect your time at all. It’s about getting up before dawn instead of staying in bed. It’s about setting a solid pace right from the start, when running seems strange and everything hurts just a bit. It’s about sucking it up when it gets hard – and it does get hard. It’s about not stopping, even when your legs and lungs and heart want you to. Your body is strong. But your mind is stronger.
And it’s about doing it again and again, because – and this is incredible, when you think about it – your body responds to hard work by getting better at it. Whatever you habitually do, your body will optimise for.
Those soft imbeciles shuffling from their car to the mall to buy more stuff? They’re optimised too. Optimised for sitting in front of a screen being told what to consume.
You are what you do.
Working four days a week opens up mind-space for other projects. There’s a lot on at the moment, some of which will bear fruit soon. Grant proposals, art exhibitions, side projects , alternate workspaces, projects money-making and otherwise. It’s an exciting time.
Want to do something? I’m probably up for it. Email me.
I turned 40 a week or two ago. I’m not quite used to the idea. In my head, I’m still in my mid-twenties: young, impatient, prone to irrational enthusiasms. Whereas actually I’m middle-aged, impatient, and prone to irrational enthusiasms.
On balance, it’s working out pretty well. I think I’m learning to be a better person. Kinder, more thoughtful, more dependable. I’m fitter than I’ve ever been. I’m still learning, understanding things a little more every year. I owe much of this to K, my partner of ten years: she’s helped me be a better man.
It’s a shame, though, that it all seems to be coming together as I pass the halfway mark. The equinox has passed, and the shadows grow longer each day.
Try this: goto_root_URL. Drag it to your bookmarks bar for E-Z access.
Code, such as it is:
Overnight hike near Mt Stillwell, Snowy Mountains. A great time of year to go, with snowdrifts still on the ground and no nasty insects.
Work in progress: Eigenstate for an upcoming dorkbot exhibition.
We start long before dawn, in deep frost and darkness, driving up the winding track towards the mountain. At the snowline we stop and put on climbing gear, harnesses, packs, axes, and we trudge up the hill as the eastern sky begins to lighten. The air is still bitterly cold but we are warmed by the climb, our exhalations clouding as we breathe heavily in the thinning air.
We crest the last ridge before the icefall we are to climb and in front of us lies a frozen lake, smooth, silent, impossibly flat in a land otherwise without horizontality. The ice is thick and we start to walk across, westwards, booted feet crunching as we stride. And just as we reach the middle of the lake, the sun rises behind us, and the surface all around lights up with a million tiny diamonds, a million ice crystals glistening, reflecting the rising sun. I have never seen anything so beautiful.
Take the A List Apart survey 2008.