You are your own limiter

Unlike animals, humans can do a great deal of things. We have achieved far more than any living creatures on this planet. We have built civilisations and organised ourselves that no other animals do, constructed living spaces using materials we fashioned from nature. And we have even built virtual worlds and communicate over vast distances using electricity by manipulating how they move.

Yet, we are all flawed in different ways. Most of our decisions are muddied by our emotions and how we see the world. Because of that, we have people who are over-achievers at one end and people who can’t even take care of themselves even when they are in adulthood at the other end. And that’s excluding people with disabilities. Hell, even some disabled people can achieve way more than able-bodied people.

Our emotions and feelings affect our behaviours and how we interact with the world. So if you lived a life full of emotional scars and setbacks, you can either be very fearful of what life has got to offer or you become very apathetic and cynical.

In my case, I grew up in a risk-averse environment with one dominant parent who is highly-neurotic and a pessimist. You have to listen to all the negative things. And then when you go to school, you have to face teachers who, instead of encouraging you, actually speak negatively of you in front of everybody. Making matter worse, your relatives also chimed in from time to time when you do see them. So you see, when you experience such things when you are between 5 to 14, it’s very easy for you to believe the following phrases to be true: ‘you are good for nothing’,’Can’t amount to much’ or ‘he’s so stupid’.

And in fact, it’s so ingrained in me that I even tell myself those words from time to time when I do face setbacks. Even today, after having audit myself and try to take back control of my thought processes. It’s actually very difficult for me to tell myself the opposite even when I do catch myself doing it. So self-esteem is really low. Self-confidence is also lacking. And being in the workforce isn’t helping at all due to the rapidly changing situations and you have a higher rate of failure than you face in school.

You know what’s the scary thing?

You just automatically learn that it’s best to do the safe thing. Be low profile. Do what you are told. You just watch yourself do those because your psyche is too weak to take any more blows. End up, you are limiting yourself and the opportunities you can have to live a better life.

And I can tell you there are times when I’m just scared shitless for no good reason during the first few days of my job hunt. The “Apply” and “Upload Resume” buttons feel like they are out to get you. A big part stemmed from my beliefs that I can’t do those stuffs mentioned in the job descriptions. I almost wanted to resign myself to do work in a company that it’s obviously a wrong fit for me. Well, I could and can feel it in my bones. But the moment I got started hitting the first “Apply” button, the fear just disappear. It’s now boil down to whether I want to work for that company before hitting the button.

This is something I need to remind myself every time. There’s no one stopping me from doing anything I want. Only I can stop me from doing anything I want. So if I want to join some of the biggest names in tech, I can. I just have to find a way to convince the hiring managers I’m a good fit.

Complaining get you no where, only action will

Many of us, including myself, go through life predicated on complaining and blaming the world for things that went wrong and will go wrong. Many times, we aren’t even conscious of the fact we are complaining. It’s just something that we do out of habit. In part, it could be because of how we were brought up by our parents. Another part could be because we are lazy as fuck and would rather blame the world for everything instead of fighting for a way out of our circumstances, whatever that may be.

Complaining by itself isn’t all bad. It allows us to point out the bad stuff that happened in our life and hopefully get some attention to it. However, it is bad if nothing is done with regard to the situation. It’s like you are behaving like a child. Children complain because there are really times they aren’t able to deal with a situation effectively and require adults to help. But if you are an adult, you should have pretty much figure out by now what you can do and cannot do. And some things are just best left as it is. Unless, you have lived a very sheltered life and never got the chance to mature.

But I also recognise that the complaining habit is difficult to break, especially if you have grown up in an environment where complaining is the default behaviour and that your complaining have always gotten you what you wanted. I know because that’s what I went through.

In fact, I’m guilty of some complaining even at this stage despite my best effort to be conscious of it and then seek to actively change my circumstances. I’m somewhat complaining and whining to myself about the writing situation. The good thing was I didn’t vocalise because I recognise it’s on me to fix the situation. I know I have fallen off the bandwagon with the lack of content and even my fiction writing isn’t going anywhere. No amount of complaining to people around me is going to help. Rather, I’m doing an internal complaint to myself about why I’m not doing anything about the situation.

With that, I spur myself into taking action. Forcing myself to do some writing. I even put on my AirPods and blast some music to get me prime for it. And here I am writing this entry.

The next thing I’m guilty of complaining about was the situation at work. It has gotten to a point where I’m really unhappy. Feeling that you are underpaid, under-appreciated and overwork can really do your morale in. Then, there is the lack of opportunities to develop your engineering and design skills. You are really just going through the motions. Furthermore, the fact you have to deal with colleagues that has far more years of work experience can’t seem to make technical decisions just made the whole situation untenable and unsustainable. Last but not least, you are on the receiving end of your colleagues’ bad-mouthing about work not done when it fell onto their lap due to a sudden development schedule change that you have no control of.

However, no amount of complaining is going to change my work situation. Thus, this is the time where action matters. Update your resume. Firing off emails to potential employers as part of your job hunt. You don’t even need to start with many employers. Just one will do. It’s to kickstart your momentum. Mind you, just a few months ago, I was complaining about the work situation but I didn’t do anything about it. I gave myself several excuses to stay on. I was actually comfortable with the job itself, needed the money to fund my writing, and wasn’t sure if I could get the same work-life balance that I have now for me to do my writing. Now, I feel like I have regressed in my personal growth.

And I did those things. Now I feel like I have achieved something instead of complaining and wallowing in self-pity. And I feel good about it.

A friend recently also point out the uselessness of complaining and cite me as one example. You see, I care deeply about my privacy and there are times when I really just want to go off the grid and delete every single online account that I have created and used. But instead of complaining purely about how Facebook is anti-privacy and steal all our data, I went and deleted my account. Whether Facebook keeps my account data forever or actually delete all traces of it is something I can’t control and besides the point. The point is I took action, no matter how minor or minuscule in grand scheme of things.

In conclusion, you can complain and get stuff out of your chest. However, be aware of what you are saying and doing. Don’t let complaining be the only thing you do when things don’t go your way. Take action and make the necessary adjustment.

Lack of experiences kill your creativity

It’s very easy for us humans to fall into the trap of sticking to what’s familiar. We like it because of how it make us feel. Comfortable is the word to use here. After all, who likes to struggle every day of their life?

I definitely don’t. But I recognised that it had crept up on me. I grew comfortable with what I’m doing with my life that my blog is suffering from lack of content. Comfort leads to writer’s block and that leads to no content created.

So being comfortable is bad.

Right?

Probably…

By allowing yourself to grow very comfortable and remain status quo, it’s very easy for you to find you are unable to think out of the box or come up with new solutions fast enough. It’s just a fact. Similar to how you keep doing the same set of exercises and your body has grown used to it, comfort leads to strengthening of existing neural connections that you have already established, and after a while the brain stops doing that because there’s no more necessary changes to the signalling.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable. Comfortable sometimes could be you have reached the pinnacle of whatever skill you are developing. That means you could do that thing faster than before.

However, the key here is moderation.

New challenges and experiences forces the brain to create new connections and reshape existing ones. And when you keep doing that, the brain is constantly changing and reinforcing certain connections that ultimately results in its ability to come up with new ideas. This is where you can think out of the box when the time comes. If you keep practicing doing that, it can also make you more confident as a person when it comes to dealing with new problems as they come.

For those who are neurotic, constantly worrying about stuff or have low self-esteem, they would probably go like, “Are you crazy? Take on new challenges? I’d rather kill myself.”

I know. I can relate. It’s very difficult to get yourself to experience new things. Personally, I have this issue because of my innate desire for stability and consistency in life. I’ve lost count of how many times I need to will myself to do something different just so that I expand my knowledge and experience.

This is why you won’t see me asking someone to do something drastic just to increase or revive your creativity. For example, there is no need for you to jump out of a perfectly good airplane just so you can jumpstart your creativity. You won’t see me doing that either.

Yet, it’s not good either to leave the “lack of experience, can’t create” situation unresolved. Not if you want to grow any further.

Instead, what you probably could do is find and know where is your comfort zone. Then ask yourself if you are willing to go out of your comfort zone by just one or two steps. If you do, then do it. And if you do manage to go out of your comfort zone by three to ten steps, then it’s even better. If not, then it’s better that you don’t complain about your situation and just live with it.

And you know what?

Sometimes, the new experience can come from simply changing up where you stand or sit when you are riding the train to work or to go back home. Or having a drink at your local coffee shop. Or maybe just take a different route to go to your usual places.

When you stop

As with anything you do, the moment you stop doing it for several days in a row, that thing suddenly becomes so much harder to do. The closest analogy I could think of is, it’s like you are a car and trying to have your engine started. It simply splutter and screech as the key is turned. It took several tries before the engine finally start up causing black smog to spew out of the exhaust pipe. Even when you do move, the engine behave as though it was choking up and the overall movement just isn’t as smooth.

That’s what happen to me after taking a writing break. One whole week of not writing anything. Not even personal journal. It can be a little disconcerting, especially how I don’t feel like writing anything else after publishing the Resident Evil 2 (2019) review two days ago. It’s like the passion for it is gone.

And I don’t know about you but I suspect that not writing for a whole week can affect a person, especially if he or she is a writer at heart, at a subconscious level that ultimately led to the manifestation of bad feelings and discontent. In my case, it led me to feel disinterested in my work and doing things slowly.

So don’t make my mistake of completely shutting down the writing engine. Keep it running. If you need to take only a couple of days break, take it. But if the break is going to last a week or longer, then it’s best you don’t stop writing. It can be so much harder to restart you writing engine. What you could do is not publishing it. By not publishing it, you won’t feel like you need to be concern with the market. When you are finally in a better shape to publish your works, take the time to review through what you have wrote and see if you can put them up.

Taking a silo pause as a creator

Pause. Break.

It doesn’t matter which word but they are scary words for some. And just the mention of it could potentially trigger an anxiety attack in creators who have relatively low amount of followers and viewership. After all, at the beginning, there’s no other metrics other than view and like counts that matter more to the creator. He or she probably isn’t confident enough in their ability to attract and engage people to take a look at their content. So every view or like serves to validate their thoughts and feelings that they did something right. It’s serves as a micro fuel for their next content release.

Well, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s only wrong when you tie your overall well-being to being validated. The moment you think you aren’t validated, you slipped into depression. And that’s bad.

For me, I came from that and have been slowly learning to not seek validation in what I do. It’s a difficult journey. And that’s why I never like the word “pause” when it comes to content creation. I feel like I should keep churning out content.

But for the past two days, the creative well that drive my writing is really empty. Every time the level is pulled and the bucket rise up, all I see is empty. Best part is, I knew it was coming ever since I put up the article titled, Focus on playing the infinite game. The metaphorical weather hasn’t been giving me the rain necessary to fill the well.

And you know what? My blog viewership have pretty much dropped to just a couple of visitor and even then those visitors are only here for the review I wrote about the Ogon Designs’s Stockholm V2 Smart Wallet. It’s in fact my most popular piece of content by view count. As for likes, it’s pretty much zero.

And I’m perfectly okay with that.

Even then, it doesn’t mean one should be ok with not creating. It’s a pause from writing for me but not a pause on other creative work.

You see, if you view yourself as a creator, there’s really no restriction on what you can create. The only possible limitation comes from whether you’ve got the skills for it or not. Even then, it’s probably a weak excuse.

Let’s use the following example.

You could be a full-time writer but at the same time you enjoy making cupcakes. And you know what? Making cupcake is a form of creation. So you have the skill to write and make cupcake. Now, you decided to take a break from writing because you are suffering from some kind of writer’s block. However, you can continue to make cupcake. And I’m pretty sure you will learn something from the process.

In my case, I may be suffering from a writer’s block but the other creative work that I can do is building software. I have learn and developed the skills for it over the last ten years or so. That’s why I’ve decided to spend some time to setup various development studios on my computer and learn different kind of development platforms. The next step would be to figure out a pet project to do so that I can take on the challenge of developing an iOS app (never done it before) for the frontend and a .NET Core web application for the backend.

This way, my coding skills can continue to improve, which in turn allows me to make more money. And what does having more money means for me? It allows me to create art because I won’t find myself starving, stressed out by how am I going to pay the bills and still can take my family out for meals.

So that’s why it’s important for one to be multi-skilled. It’s even better if you have totally different kind of creative skills. That way you can take a pause, switch between different kind of creative work and don’t feel like you hadn’t achieve anything. Furthermore, you become a more diverse person and that is fuel for your overall creativity.