Thin line between apathy and acceptance

As you grow older and experience more things in life, you probably begin to learn to accept certain things in life. Like if you are very idealistic about how some things should be when you are younger. Then reality strikes. One time. Two time. At first you will be angry or upset. Soon, you learn to let things go and accept the truth. After all, you are only hurting yourself by getting upset over the most trivial of things.

And that’s how it is for me these days.

You see, I’m a stickler for rules and care about how certain things should be done. But once you have been punch in the face sufficient times, you start to lose that mindset. Of course, it won’t be an overnight thing. But it’s a sure thing.

Now, this “letting go” or in other words, acceptance, can be found in the work I do, especially my day job. I just accept the situation, whatever it may be, and go with the flow. If you want me to ignore best practices and focus on delivery things fast, that’s what I will do. If you want me to do a quick workaround, that’s what I will do. At the end of the day, I’m well aware that I don’t own any of the things I created. In fact, I created this narrative in my mind, “You are paid to do a job and that’s it. The IP belongs to whoever pays you.”

So far so good. I managed to get myself out of depression. But I caught myself doing something else.

I stopped caring. Codes aren’t structured as how they should if I cared deeply. Attention to details is also slipping. Mistakes are quite common these days. And if there’s a bug found, a quick fix is thrown in. After testing that the fix works, I move on to the next thing. Otherwise, I will toss in more quick fixes. Even during brainstorming session, there won’t be much input from me. I will listen and agree with almost everything that was said. I will still mention some potential issues but that’s it. You will no longer see the same kind of passion I once had.

And why is that?

When you care too much or is a stickler for best practices, you would find yourself banging against the wall a lot of times. You will get hurt emotionally. A lot, if you are a natural idealist.

It’s just how it is in the business world. Best practices are the idealistic version of processes. But once put into practice, they don’t quite work out. Your customers don’t really care about your processes and they only want what they paid for. If there is a problem, they want immediate solution. After all, you won’t care if the waiter had a bad day or if the kitchen ran out of certain ingredients when you order food from a restaurant right? You want what you ordered at the earliest possible time. At least for most of us anyway.

So when you have been hurt enough times, it’s quite easy for you to turn acceptance into apathy. It’s especially so if there aren’t enough “mentors” in your life to help you balance your natural idealism and accepting reality. I certainly don’t. People around me implied that I throw away that idealistic mindset of mine and be present. This is why it won’t be surprising if you start to question yourself and think, “why should I care if these people don’t care.”

And after a while, you are no longer emotionally invested in your work or whatever jobs that you may find. You are only there because you need the money and that’s it. You stop caring about the progress of the project you are working on. If the project dies, so be it. If the project is successful, you’d probably think that you won’t get anything out of it. So you would rather focus on something else in your personal life.

This is why I see that it is actually a thin line between apathy and acceptance. This is how potential visionaries are lost and everyone become executors instead of having dreamers in their midst. And it’s a sad thing for the world.

My advice is be very mindful and tread carefully if you don’t want to join the mass horde of soulless people who no longer dream. Hold on to your dreamer mind as though your life depends on it while accepting the realities of life and act accordingly. Channel your dreams into something tangible. And that’s the best of both worlds.

Acceptance of doing nothing productive

You made a promise. It can be either to somebody else or to you. And because you didn’t want to feel like you have broken a promise, you force yourself to do something.

Maybe it’s not promise. Maybe it’s because you didn’t want to feel like you have done anything productive or useful. So you force yourself to do it.

But you just ain’t feeling it.

Just like that, you put yourself in a situation where you struggled with the mixed feelings. Feeling trapped is now the main thing.

When it came to writing, that’s how I feel. Ever since the decision to stop publishing my daily log or journal to this blog, I actually felt compelled to think of a topic to write about because I didn’t want to leave my blog empty. Sometimes, there’s really nothing on my mind to write about. Anxiety comes into play because I promised to myself that I will write everyday and it doesn’t matter what or where. It could be writing on a piece of paper or in a notebook or on my computer.

And it was through this act of forcing myself to write something for my blog that I decided to settle down on writing this piece. But it’s a fact that without a certain amount of passion and ideas, nothing good will come out of “forced labor”.

So, it’s very important that one learn to accept that it’s perfectly okay not to do anything just for one day. It’s perfectly fine to take a break from doing something because you are running a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t want to burn yourself out so early in the journey and then ruin your future.

Winning is a matter of perspective

By traditional standard, winning something is about getting an award or a prize. It is the external proof or validation for the winner that he or she won whatever he participated in. To prove that he or she had put in the work.

What if winning is now a matter of perspective? It’s something that doesn’t require physical medals or official acknowledgement in the form of prizes.

What if you lost a competition but actually won in other ways? Let’s say you are running a race and you are about to win but you see someone on the verge of collapsing from heatstroke. You stopped to help the person to get medical attention and you lost the race. Yes, you didn’t win the race but you won by simply because you have the compassion and empathy for a fellow human being?

What if you have been battling depression all your life? Somedays you will be perfectly fine. Somedays, it’s like you find yourself drown in extreme hopelessness and everything seemed to be overwhelming. You feel like death is your only solution. Even so, you still show up to work and you sit your ass down at your desk. Then you read an email and managed to send a reply professionally. And you have the courage to tell people that you are suffering from depression instead of keeping it to yourself and needed time off. In that case, you didn’t lose. You won just because you showed up. There’s no prize for that but you didn’t let depression hold you back from living the life you want. A life that you desire.

So instead of thinking that you should be the first in everything or have more money than your friends, the Jonses, etc., why not think about the obstacles you have overcome and whether you have stayed true to yourself despite what life throws at you.

Let us start winning everyday.

Why do writers get writer’s block

If you are a writer, there’s a high chance you’d have suffer from writer’s block. For the uninitiated, it is the point during one’s writing journey where he or she struggles to put words down. When you sit down in front of your computer, time just flew by you but no words appear on the screen. Even when you did write something, you find yourself deleting those words. You get angry. You wonder what’s going on and started to hate yourself.

I’ve encountered it several times now during my writing journey. After spending some time to dissect it, here are three reasons I believe contributes to writer’s block.

High Expectations or Perfectionism

Most writers, if not all, I believe have traits of perfectionism in them. It is this desire to create the best piece of work before you hit that publish button. Even if it’s not perfectionism, it could be the high-expectation you put on yourself, especially if you have successfully published something that went viral or is starting to earn you enough income. Now with a new piece of writing, you want it to be even better than before.

So you put a high amount of pressure on yourself to deliver. You push yourself a little too hard that you start criticising yourself for every little mistakes you make in your writing. You delete words because you feel like they don’t belong or don’t get the message across. You are spending more time editing than writing. After a while, it makes you cranky and frustrated all the time.

Being too comfortable in your routines

Routines are great. It gives you some sense of stability. For some writers, routines are what allow them to write because it’s something like a primer. However, routines can be dangerous if left to its own devices because it makes you complacent and comfortable. When you are comfortable, you stop coming up with new ideas or thoughts. Your subconscious mind just think there’s no danger. Nothing to worry. And when you finally want to write, there’s nothing in your mind.

Being stuck in the same physical space

Writing can be a pretty lonely endeavour, especially when you are just starting out. When there is a deadline, self-imposed or contractual or sometimes you just want to finish a piece of writing quickly because you think you are in some kind of flow, you withdraw from the world, hide away in some place just to meet it. You stop meeting your friends. You ignore your family. Maybe stop talking to people even.

When that happens, your brain stop getting the right kind of stimulation it needed. And if you think about it, it’s actually very closely related to being comfortable in your routines. Being stuck removes your inspiration because your brain see the same things over and over again.

How to get out of it?

The solution to writer’s block is actually very simple. You will need to audit yourself and asked whether your writer’s block stems from one, two or all three reasons.

If it’s the first reason, then you will need to start accepting and acknowledging you are only human and mistakes will happen. Self compassion is very important here. Lowering your expectations will also help. You have to trust yourself to complete the writing.

If it’s the second, the third or both reason, then maybe it’s time you switch up your environment and routines. Maybe start reviewing that messy wardrobe of yours and began the journey of minimalism. Maybe call up a few of your closest friends and ask them out for a meal. Or maybe it’s time for you to take a vacation.

Journals. Useful. To a Certain Extent

I believe that it doesn’t matter if you are a CEO of a Fortune 500 company or just an employee working at an entry-level job, writing a journal is a highly effective way to dissect your feelings, process those feelings and understand yourself better. Not only is it therapeutic, it also allows you to develop yourself further.

For me, I started blogging in 2006/2007 as it was the in-trend thing to do. I started writing and publishing my journals on Blogger because it was the only thing I knew how to do, having been influenced by early bloggers. Then I moved on to WordPress in May 2010. The platform was more powerful and more professional. And I continue to write and publish journal online.

Journaling has helped me be a better person. Or at least that’s what I like to think. But after reading some articles on Medium about improving your writing, I became aware that I have slipped up. Especially after doing some auditing on my own. Journals are no longer being used to look at things more objectively and draw lessons to put into practice. So, there were more and more rantings. More complains.

Putting these journals online have also, I believe, limited my growth because I wasn’t being intentional about the content that goes on to my blog. It was being treated as a dumping ground. And it may have also kept people away. After all who wants to read a blog full of rants and complains that doesn’t add value to their life? I certainly don’t.

Don’t get me wrong, journals are useful in their own way. Only up to a certain extent. When it becomes the main thing you write and post online, becoming the primary content you see on your site, it’s no longer useful. Your blog became your literal dumping ground for all the joy and shit you have in your life. And not a lot of people wants to read that. Worse thing could happen when you start pouring your heart and soul on to it. Imagine putting up something that put your bosses or friends in bad light. Imagine you got the facts about something wrong and rant about it online. It will ruin the relationships you have. I did that once just because I didn’t control my emotions well and damage the relationship I have had with a friend. And when you are an adult, it definitely don’t make you look professional or mature.

Those are the lessons I have learnt. And this is why my journals have been taken offline from my blog.

Please don’t repeat my mistakes if you want to become a better writer. Focus on creating meaningful and useful content that people wants to read. Be intentional about what you want to publish online. It will be something that I will put in practice too.