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The Constant Struggle of Week Days vs Weekend

Another weekend is about to close. All in all, it was a quite good one. We had friends over in a bit larger group for really the first time in our new house Friday night. Six adults and six kids. Saturday was a few small house jobs followed by a family kids party (cousins). Today we went to a great Museum in Chicago, the Field Museum. All in all, a pretty good weekend, even got a few things done on Saturday courtesy of the few small jobs I did. With something on every day and most nights though, I am feeling it is over too quickly and without much time to relax. The weekly grind is about to start.

I can have weekends where I do almost nothing and just hang around the house. Particularly in the dead of Chicago winter. And in these weekends, in between time with kids (and dealing with kids), I have relax time. Plenty of it. I then get to the end of that weekend, look at the long stretch of work in front of me and wonder where the weekend went and how little relaxing I did.

I can then have weekends such as I just had where there are things going on most days and nights and some or even all of it is quite fun and enjoyable. Maybe though it didn’t qualify under my definition of relaxation.  Despite the fun, I still quite often bemoan the week and work ahead of me and wonder where the weekend went, when I can have another crack at it.

Now though it is Sunday night and I am wondering where the weekend went and how far it is till the next one. With 5 days in between of work. Let’s think a bit about what is going on….

Improve Relaxation

The pattern clearly points that I don’t really know what relaxation is and how I can do it most beneficially to my physical and mental health. After all, what is relaxation? Is it sleeping, reading, running, watching TV, meditating, hobbies, sitting on couch with red wine and staring into distance:)?

I expect people relax in different ways and maybe (or eventually) find something that works for them. Perhaps it’s a combination of different things which seems reasonable. One thing is for certain, I have not yet figured it out. I have been around over 40 years but not yet figured out relaxation. I honestly don’t know how to relax.

I know one thing though -> I only know relaxation if my brain/inner voice is quiet. Typically for me that is pretty much never. Most activities, my brain and inner voice are constantly working. No matter how relaxing or non relaxing I perceive a given activity or moment to be.  Constant processing of current external and internal influences.

Checking of phone and social media, wondering what I will do later that day or night or next week. Wishing the time/day would be over. Regretting I have used this time on this earth for something like this. Judging and criticizing myself including comparing myself with others and bringing up crazy distance memories and circumstances from the past which have nothing to do with now but we should just remember to keep myself in check! I was kidding there. I should not remember or worry about the past anymore. But that is what the inner voice, Fred does. You get the picture I think. I am not ‘quiet’.

Conclusion 1: I must learn to relax in a constructive fashion. Perhaps meditation and yoga which I have dabbled with before and liked but need to re-apply myself to.

Get in the Fracking Moment

A big part of dreading an upcoming week is simply the fears the brain conjures up about that week. The interesting thing is that I no idea how good or bad the week will be. If I will enjoy it, grow from it, learn from it, advance in my career or if I will be very stressed, dread every moment, be overly rushed, have to deal with a lot of office politics etc. Most likely and as is the way with life there will be no one simple answer.

A week will consist of many moments. Some I maybe won’t like. Some I maybe will enjoy. Fred though likes to give you the worst outlook, make it seem inevitable that it will be ‘bad’. Of course, even if some or all of the week is ‘bad’, how I react to the moments and how I perceive how reality happens will very much influence how bad (or not) I find it. That perhaps is for another post though. Let’s just stick now to the fact that the brain, inner voice, Fred, whatever you call it -> is constantly trying to look forward or backwards in timeAny time other than the present time. Often it is trying to either somehow ‘help’ you avoid future pain or remember and judge and criticize past failures. Again, I pretty much hate Fred.

No weekend is perfect. No weekdays and work is perfect. Maybe more blending of the two and not separating out weekend into ”fun” and weekday into ”just work” would help. I will not though be in that spot for some time. What I think I can do in the immediate short term:

  • Learn relaxation – meditation, yoga etc
  • Stay as present as possible

If I (or you) could relax properly and learn to stay as present as possible and deal with each present moment as it occurs, I am convinced each week would be better and happiness would be improved.

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Where to Live – Choosing and Planning

In a previous post including some initial thoughts on where to live, I talked about planning where to live. I wonder what % of people really do this. I expect it’s quite low. I imagine a lot of people or actually the majority of people simply use the default.

  1. Grow Up
  2. Get a job nearby – with friends/family
  3. Stay there. Settled.

I don’t want to diminish this path. I think it’s completely fine and had I not stumbled into staying in the US longer than originally planned, I likely would have done similar and settled in Adelaide. I am sure I would have been fine and would have enjoyed it. I definitely love Adelaide and have (or had) a lot of friends there. Most importantly, family also.

Venturing outside of ”home” for a longer period of time though has allowed me to learn, see and experience things that I otherwise might not have:

  • Met my future wife
  • Learned how to fit into different culture/towns
  • Learned  (albeit) slowly to make new friends
  • Found greater career opportunities
  • Travelled extensively, mainly through work but also vacations. I have been to some of the best museums in the world such as the Field Museum in Chicago and seen such wonders as the Great Wall of China.
    • Germany
    • China
    •  England
    • Spain
    • Japan
    • US
    • France

So, in general, there can be lots of interesting and fun and challenging life adventures awaiting you if you decided to live somewhere other than where you grew up. Even just for a brief time, 1 to 3 to 5 years or so.

  • Travel
  • New friends
  • Different or better career
  • Broader appreciation for the world, cultures etc – broader horizons
  • Lifestyle fitting your interests

Travel is quite obvious. Making new friends also -> Although this seems to get harder the older you get for some reason. Broader horizons and appreciation for the world is relatively obvious. Career choices and options and opportunities also. If you’re in the technology field and you live or grew up in an area not rich with companies in that field, you might have no choice but to move. For me, moving from a relatively small town with quite a small tech industry, Adelaide to Chicago has enabled me to take on roles and opportunities I doubt I would have seen in Adelaide. Additionally, I feel a lot more job security and wide range of opportunities.

Lifestyle could also be a big point for you. Do you love the beach? Then why not try to pick a city or state near the beach. Likewise, mountains or snow skiing or warm/tropical weather all year round? Whatever it is, the world has it!

Nothing is stopping you but probably yourself! Whether you think about where you want to live once say early adult or you regularly re-visit it and maybe change every 5 to 10 to 20 years, it’s completely up to you! While staying and living near where you grew up obviously has a lot of advantages with friends, family etc, I encourage you to at least consider where you might want to live and if there are any advantages for you to be had outside of just the default life.

Some interesting links to get you started:

Hope this is useful for you and you learned something. The world is a big place. We often don’t consider how big or what other lives or opportunities or fun is awaiting us out there. So, maybe go and check some of it out by choosing and planning where you want to live.

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What I Would Have Done – Part 2

In the last post, I started this series talking about planning where to live and then thinking about what work to do. I want to expand on these further today and in particular get into whole life planning.

In that first post, I think I did not start out enough about whole life planning so let’s go back to that. When you’re old enough and in a mature enough mental state to be analyzing such matters (for most people, _after_ teenage years!), it would be great if you could really give some solid thought to whole life planning.

Here’s a rough outline of what some consider a normal life. At least a lot of people (not all) follow this roughly…I did:

  • 0 to 10 – fun for most – you’re just a kid
  • 10 to 20 – mixtures of fun and difficulty for most – teenage years, relationships etc
  • 20 to 30 – fun mixed with working a lot – start career potentially working a lot, first decent $$, get married or get into major/long term relationship
  • 30 to 40 – stresses with career and family – career expectations perhaps, working a lot, making and spending more $$, maybe kids
  • 40 to 50 – trying to balance – career, maybe kids, spouse/partner, some fun, making and spending more $$, debts, commitments, responsibilities
  • 50 to 60 – ?? Don’t Know! Haven’t done it yet. I expect much of the same of 40 to 50 – balance, career, $$, debts, kids, family, spouse/partner, planning retirement. Update: Starting to or fully involved in looking after older parents.
  • 60 to 70 – ?? – I expect similar to 50 to 60 – transition into retirement, $$ stresses, family, kids, some fun, spouse/partner. Update: Fully involved in looking after older parents.
  • 70 to 80/90? – ?? No Idea:). A balance I guess of some fun, some $$ stresses, some family/friends/kids and health issues

Summarizing above:

  • Early Life – High Fun – Just growing and learning
  • Mid Life – Low Fun – Trying to balance – time, $$, career, family, friends, partner/spouse, parents and still find some fun
  • Late Life – Medium Fun – Relax. Fun – $$ issues, health issues.

I write this obviously with mostly my experiences so I am sure the above does not apply to everyone. It could be a bit similar or maybe not so similar at all. It’s clear to me for my life that what I would have done is to plan much more actively to ensure a lot more fun and a lot less stress and juggling of all life’s variables. At minimum, lift up mid-life to more a higher fun level! The good news is, I am not done with mid-life yet, so I have a chance to change:).

Before getting into it further, I want to clarify my use of the word ‘fun’. I don’t mean it in the most simple terms. Having fun playing a game, swinging on the monkey bars etc. I really mean enjoyment and I guess I’ll use that word from now on. In whole life planning, your task is to maximize life enjoyment and minimize the stresses that can get in the way – typically career and money etc.

At the start of this series, I talked about where to live and career choices as decision points which could improve your life enjoyment. Let’s look at some of the major factors that may influence life enjoyment and that should be considered during whole life planning. In no specific order.

  1. Where to live
  2. Career/Work
  3. Friends
  4. Spouse/Partner/Relationship(s)
  5. Money
  6. Lifestyle

Next post we’ll get into the remaining items…

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It is What it is – Life That Is

I really like some of the buddhist concepts of life. I have not yet tried to understand the various different forms of buddhism and how for example, Zen is different from other broad categories and followings. Generally though, the concept of simply trying to ‘be’. To learn to sit and to accept and to simply let things be as they are. This is quite appealing. How long do we spend in our lives trying to control things? Or having society or family or friends or businesses or employers try to control you? We all spend a lot of time and suffer a lot due to our want to control. We want to control our life, bring order to it. We want to control our careers, our kids, our house, our friends, where we live, our partners or spouses, our belongings and money. Move it all in ways we want. We then suffer when “it doesn’t work out” and circumstances that you thought you could control were in fact outside of your control. Stuff happened. And it wasn’t what you planned.

I have unfortunately spent a very large portion of my life and time thinking there must be something better. That life was pretty boring, quite average and that surely there is much more exciting, prosperous and fun times that for some reason I don’t have or know about or not involved in. As such, I often was annoyed. Pissed off. Depressed that my life wasn’t that way. That the fun, good times, extreme happiness and success that other people had were somehow evading me. I still am prone to this way of thinking. Most infamously during the recent past has been my wish to move back to Australia. Because it would be so much better over there. Much more relaxed. Much better food. Less violence. More friends, family etc etc. The truth is, it is all a massive lie.

That voice inside your head is most often a liar. Fred simply doesn’t want you to deal with any pain or discomfort. Fred is often comparing how you perceive yourself to others. To see how obviously has a better life. Has more money. Bigger cars, houses, better possessions, friends, spouses, careers etc. There are many problems to this. The first of which is simply how you perceive yourself and others. It is all perceptions and it is very difficult to really pull out truth from fiction within your thoughts and perceptions. What you think of yourself. Is that really you? Maybe or most probably not. Likewise, how you see and perceive others is very unlikely the truth. Do they have a massive house but are secretly near bankruptcy? Travel everywhere but no real friends. Great looking wife or husband but will be divorced soon? Or maybe they truly have a great life and aspects surrounding it and you could learn from them:).

Sooner or later and hopefully sooner, you will have to figure out that your life is what it is. It isn’t worse than it is. It isn’t better than it is. It just is. It is the sum of all the decisions and circumstances and strange and wonderful and not so wonderful things that have happened up until this point. No one else has this life. Only you. Just like you are unique. There is no better life. There is certainly no deservedly betterIt is simply your life. The life you have to live.

I have recently moved house here in the US. Something with quite a bit more room than we had previously. With two growing kids, it will definitely be nice having the room. I am grateful for the move and the great house we found and am sure we will enjoy it. However, it is tinged with regret at not moving back to Australia now. I know now I will probably be in the US for another 10 years. Maybe more, depending on circumstances. I still know I want to end up in Australia at some point! This is just though another example of your inner voice comparing situations, having me believe that Australia would clearly be better. It is better by my perception but I don’t really know the truth. I only would know if Australia way of life is better for me and us once we moved there permanently. The truth is only visible in the present. 

My only words of wisdom (or not) is to try to learn to simply enjoy your current life. The present moment. What you have and don’t have. This doesn’t mean you have to settle. You can still have goals and want to improve things about your life. But life will be way easier on you and more enjoyable if you try to enjoy what is rather than lament about what isn’t.

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What I Would Have Done

They say not to look back. Not to wonder how life would have been different, better or worse. It’s probably good advice. That little bastard inside your head is generally notorious for looking back and filling you with regrets, wondering why life turned out how it did. How it could have been so much better if you had only done this and that and so forth. That little bastard. Let’s call him Fred. He’s your little voice.

Fred is never really happy. He’s generally pretty pissed off actually. Pissed about whatever you did in your teens, twenties and beyond. The missed jobs. The screwed up career. All the mistakes you’ve made. The millions of $$ you could have made had you only done it right…The better girlfriends you could have got. The friends you could have found. If only this. If only that. Again, he’s not happy.

I’m pretty bad at feeding Fred. Letting him tell me what could have been, thinking about it and so the cycle goes. Feeding that bastard Fred. For the moment, let’s just indulge Fred a bit…Give him some food for thought. If I had some things I’d do differently and could give some advice:

Plan Where You Want to Live

Early. That is, in your early 20’s or late teens. Where you live I think has a pretty big influence on not just your life but your happiness levels. They say most people regress to a certain happiness (or not) level. But surely living in Hawaii vs Detroit does something for you. The interesting thing is that most people (myself included) don’t think about this at all. Most people live near where they grew up or near their family or something similar. There is nothing at all wrong with that and family particularly is a big draw. But you should realize, depending on your career or business choice, there could possibly be MANY options open to you. Including overseas, in Europe, in the US or Australia, Asia etc. Do you like the beach, like European history, like high tech, Silicon Valley type stuff? Whatever it is, had I known now what I know, I would have given a lot more thought on where to live. And probably would have picked Europe.

Career

Give a LOT of thought of who you want to work for and the culture you want to be in. Rather than just trying to get a job. In my early career, particularly straight out of university, I was flat broke. I chased any job. Very little regard for who or where or why. Having now worked for the man for nearly 20 years I realize my folly. The man can  generally be a prick. Whether it’s because he managed to hire a company full of arseholes or he makes you work too hard. He doesn’t train you. Develop you. Reward you. Or the work you do is pointless, no value or low passion for you. That latest app you are developing to allow more people to ”connect” online and ”chat”.? Who gives a fuck. If you really must work for someone –

  • What type of industry are you really passionate about and want to work in? What do you care about?
  • What culture are you looking for?
  • What travel, advancement, training and other development opportunities are there?
  • What size company?
    • Realize -> the bigger the size, the more politics, and the more arseholes. There is no getting around this. I don’t care if it’s Apple or Facebook or Google or whatever. People are all human. Everyone everywhere has the same ambitions, fears, pettiness, stress, arrogance, lies, postulating, politics. People also have friendliness, caring and kindness. It’s all mix. You will see it everywhere.
    • Had I had my time again, I likely would have chosen smaller to medium size companies. I have only worked for large corporations. That said, the grass always looks greener on the other side:).

Or Work for Yourself

Don’t even work for anyone!  Back in the 90’s, technology was a lot different than it is now. Now and beyond, it is incredible how low cost and possible it is for anyone to start a business. Money is not everything. But it can trade a lifestyle for you that is quite fun. Want to travel? Want to only work < 1/2 time? Want nice toys? A nice house? Nice clothes? A Porsche? All possible with a successful business. Now successful is the trick and in my one main attempt at this so far, I spectacularly failed. So, I have no advice at all. Other than, I do know you will likely never get rich working for the man.

  • In general, for the vast majority of cases I know of or have seen, stress, pressure and time commitments massively increase as you rise within the ranks, working for the man.
  • That rise in stress, pressure, time will give ‘rank’ and ‘position’ but may not reward you comparatively. At least compared to the time and stress. I have seen colleagues promoted to levels seemingly quite interesting. Only to be swamped with additional pressure and stress and the actual ‘rewards’ they received are in actual fact almost never worth it.
  • Although very hard. And fraught also with stress and challenges. Starting a business is incredibly difficult, particularly to be successful, to stand out amongst competition etc etc. But if you do manage to do it right, there is a chance of finding a far greater degree of financial and time freedom than you will working for the man.
    • Oh and btw, if you want to try starting a business. Do it early in life in your 20s with minimal responsibilities or $$ commitments.
  • Taken a lot more risks earlier in life, teens and 20’s rather than later when perhaps responsibilities and the impact of risks can become more of an issue. I have taken some risks and in some cases been massively burnt. Would have been easier having failed back in my 20’s.

That will do for now..Till the next part.

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2015: A Year Gone.

Can’t believe it’s been a year since I’ve written here. Awful! Every year starts with good intentions! 2015 has come and gone and not sure really where it all went. I have to say that I am disappointed with lack of progress in 2015. I feel I didn’t do much or make much headway other than just ‘live’. Of course, just ‘living’ is what you will read in some buddhist texts as the thing to do to be happy. So, maybe that’s ok. I expect not though really. I would like to do more. Be more. Make more.

I’m in that classic early 40’s age where many questions are asked about career, life, path, achievements, failures and successes. Many life milestones have come and gone and it’s a definite question of ‘now what’? Made it alive through teens and 20’s. Check. Married. Check. Kids. Check. House. Check. Travel. Check.

What’s next?…..Crickets. Do you hear those?…It’s the sound of “no idea” being voiced in the universe.

Some random thoughts about the future:

  • At some point, I definitely do want to permanently move back to Australia. Progress just delayed by buying a new house in the US!
  • $$ freedom does not come from working for the man. A business is required at some point and I would like to try to start something on the side.
  • I have some hobby aspirations – learn or get better at golf, tennis, running, astronomy, photography, sailing
  • Tech wise I would like to get back into coding or teaching coding in some capacity. Requires some research.
  • Definitely should read more

That was completely random. Oh well.

We’ll see how 2016 goes.

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Badly neglected…

Must get back to writing.

  • Personal
  • Tech
  • Coding
  • Career
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Australia – You Are Missed

A bit. A lot. Somewhat. Varying over time. Strong on holidays like Australia Day.

Another Australia Day down from cold, slight snowy Chicago. During my time in Chicago, intermittently during 2000 to 2002, and permanently from 2002 onwards, I think I’ve managed just 1 Australia Day actually in Australia. And yes, I definitely miss it. It would really be nice today to be on the beach or outside in a warm park, BBQ, beers, family etc. I have though, come to realise after many years that there are always good and bad things of every situation  and definitely, everywhere you live.

The taxi driver I talked to in Las Vegas at CES 2015 recently had just moved from Hawaii to Las Vegas! CRAZY right? But cost of living and more work opportunities drove him to abandon what a lot of people think of as an ideal place to live with seemingly relaxed life cycle, great weather, amazing beaches – the list goes on! So, there are good and bad aspects of everywhere. The same is true of Australia I am sure.

I have now watched Australia from afar for more than a decade and slowly, it has eroded a bit in my head as ‘the ideal’, the ‘perfect’ place to be. I expect there are a few reasons for this. As you get older, you start realising that some of the ‘truths’ your brain tries to feed you may not be completely true. In particular, I have finally learned that nothing is ideal, or perfect. I may gain some positives from moving back to Australia, family and friends being at the top of that list. But I would quite possibly lose some things too. Work opportunities being a big one and now thanks to the OBSCENE cost of living and real estate prices, lifestyle could be another.

Earlier in life I used to very much live by the ‘grass is greener’ theory. That is, there is always something better out there. Somewhere better to live, some better job, some better house or possessions etc etc. I have heard this also called ‘if only’ thinking. It is a completely false and unhappy way to think and live. The sooner you learn this (it took me a LONG while!), the happier you will be. The opposite of this thinking is simply to feel grateful for what you have, where you are, who you are and who you are with. In line with this, I have come to both learn and also train myself to realise that where I am is actually a pretty nice place. I am in a town a bit out of Chicago – 40 miles or so. And really, the town is great. Small enough, nice main street with restaurants and bars, nice parks, great schools, nice community feel etc.

In short -> Be grateful for what and who you have and where you are. There is no better life than the life you have right at this moment.

That doesn’t mean you can’t plan and hope to build an even better life, but being grateful is an absolutely crucial aspect of finding happiness. I’ll go into it more in another post. For now, here’s some things I have noted on the US and Australia

Australia

Great

  • Family, friends
  • Weather (although there are some extremes that aren’t so great)
  • Cafe and pub culture
  • Unique, individual towns, businesses and architecture
  • Food
  • Beaches, nature, outdoors
  • Sports – Aussie Rules!
  • Accessibility – in city 1 minute, in the country with farms and nature 1 hour later
  • Slower lifestyle
  • Remote so isolated from ‘world worries’ somewhat

Not So Great

  • Cost of Living – UNBELIEVABLE – Particularly Real Estate – I don’t think sustainable -> Crash coming?
  • Isolation – Listed as great point above – But can and has led to ignorance on the part of some of public – Australia is part of the world!
  • Conveniences – Australia simply has not got I guess either the population density or money to create some conveniences that you can take for granted in the US – Take Away food options, dry cleaners, drive through coffee/banks etc etc.
  • Technology – Australia has always been behind the US and I guess more in line with Europe regarding technology. Great services that we take for granted in the US like Amazon or Netflix etc often take a long time to get to Australia or simply never make it. Likewise there are some great start ups in the US offering cool new services but these are likely never getting to Australia.

US

Great

  • Job opportunities in the technology sector.
  • Very diverse country with soaring cities, wide landscapes and incredible national parks (not that I have seen many yet!).
  • Great conveniences from drive through banks/coffee to just simple things like easy to get take away food, dry cleaning, shops being open all the time etc.
  • The internet -> Enough said.

Not So Great

  • The not so ‘United’ States -> As an outsider it still amazes me a bit that this country actually decided to unite. I wonder if it simply should have become two countries? There are such polar opposite views on politics and religion always present in the same geographical areas that there never seems to be forward moving progress in a lot of areas -> Particularly social and humanitarian areas like poverty levels, life expectancy, school performance, minority causes, gun control, military spending vs social supports etc. With the amount of money and resources the US has, it is tragic that it has not made as much headway in these areas as it could have.
  • The conveniences -> While often a good thing. The constant notion of lights and shops always open is also not relaxing and does not seem to allow ‘down’ time.
  • Population density. Not an issue in some areas I am sure but ultimately I think the US is now well over 300 million with roughly the same geographical size of Australia which barely has over 20 million! Number of people, traffic jams, lines at shops and restaurants drive me crazy sometimes. Particularly after growing up in a country town with a population of 80!
  • The media. They suck! In general. There is a lot of great new media outlets coming online from startups that offer good, intelligent, unbiased (or minimally biased) news and opinions. There is a huge amount though of traditional media, newspapers, TV and radio that are blatantly and completely biased to particular religions and/or political parties. This combined with the excruciatingly sensationalistic and over the top reporting styles make for ‘mass media’ that is stress inducing rather than helpful or informative.

So there you have it. Hope you enjoyed my perspectives. As always, your thoughts are welcome. I definitely miss Australia. It will always be home and I know I will get back there permanently at some point. For now though, life is to enjoy the moments and situations I have and we’ll see what happens down the track.