Letters For My Sons

Category: Satisfaction Page 2 of 3

The Australian Fires and the Fresh Start

We’ve been burning here for months now.

The Blue Mountains, from the north of the Wollemi National Park to the deep south of Kanangra, has slowly but surely transformed from a stunning vista of eucalypt forests into a black moonscape, bereft of identifying features.

The fire has destroyed homes and threatened villages with new dangers appearing almost every week, fuelled by hot conditions, dry landscapes and wind.

The anxiety comes and goes, wondering whether this will be the week it’s our turn to lose our house, our belongings, our lives.

What surprises me is how many people secretly wish since the beginning of this fire season, to lose everything they own and start again.  How many have longed for a fresh slate?  I have talked with many people and been surprised at the sentiment of “the fire can take it all… I’m insured”.

It seems we don’t really want our stuff, but we don’t want to get rid of it ourselves.  We want an external force to remove it from our lives.  We want to be free of the weight of our belongings, those “things” that tie us to earth, to our past, to our background, to our fears of loss and our anxieties of the future.

The Greatest Detective Story Never Told

I’m a man who likes to be solitary.  I love to be alone with my body and my mind, exploring both.  I ran into trouble early with your mum, as she comes from a family where no one is ever alone, ever.  No one from her family does anything solo, or quietly for that matter.

Walk into my family’s house at Christmas time and you’re likely to find everyone with their faces in a book.

I had a realisation last night.  To really learn about myself, I have to truly be alone.  When I say truly alone, I don’t just mean on my own without other people.  I mean alone without distractions.  No devices, no books, no shows, no chores.  They are all colourful and entertaining noise that prevent me from touching that deep place where the boundless lies.

It’s tough to be truly alone.

It’s difficult to not distract myself with all this novel and wonderful noise, these nostalgically photographed cookbooks, those five-star self-development books,  some new and shiny techniques for saving time and achieving… stuff.

However, after years of practice, I’ve observed within myself a personal trend towards entertainment boredom.  I can’t watch shows or movies without a deep sense of boredom.  They all seem so infantile, so shallow.  Not one of them touches on what it means to be a human alone.  No show discusses the pain within and the way to heal it.  No one talks of the ocean of creativity that lies deep beneath the surface where monsters and beauties and the most incredible creations lie.  No one seems to know of the greatest detective story never told – the uncovering of your history, past, present and future.

If more people knew about it, Netflix would be out of business.

rock wall shed

The Art Of The Shed

One of the two main functions of this blog is to show men that self-change is possible.  And not just a little change.  Complete, one-hundred-and-eighty degree change.  Turn your life around, from the bottom to the top kinda change.  This is the kind of change that I have brought about in my own life through years of practice.

The second function is to show that this change can happen at any point in your life.  Age is no barrier to change if you want to do it.  All you really need is the patience to negotiate the land-mines of personality disruption.  You need, at minimum, a five to ten year plan to see permanent and visible change.

Self-change has immense potential for surprise.  I have completely surprised myself by finally becoming something I didn’t even know I wanted to be: a handyman.

I almost failed woodwork and metalwork at school.  I had no patience.  My father only wanted me in the shed to hold stuff for him, and had no patience for me to learn the skills I needed.  Most of the tools completely mystified me.

It wasn’t until I was thirty that I started thinking differently about fixing and building.  The great motivator was my father-in-law.  He had (and still has) a fantastic attitude to fixing what’s broke: give it a go, and if it don’t work, take it to the shop.

Once the engine blew up in my Subaru wagon.  Unbeknownst to me, he bought another wagon from the wreckers, called me to his house, and told me that we were gonna swap engines.

I was aghast.

“But that’s a mechanic’s job!  We’re not bloody mechanics!”

His confidence won me over and despite not knowing an alternator from my asshole, I decided to trust him to get it going.  Two days later, we got it running.  I asked him afterwards how many engine swaps he’d done.

“That’s my first one” he replied.

To this day it’s was one of the greatest “fake-it-til-you-make-its” I’ve ever seen.  It educated me to the power of doing stuff yourself, giving things a go, and throwing shit against a wall until it sticks.

Many men reading this will have read Jack Donovan’s The Way Of Men.  As he states, mastery is part of what makes men manly.  The drive to do things over and over again until mastered is innnate to many men.  The great thing about the shed is you don’t have to consciously “practice”.  There’s no need to sit down and practice planing or drilling. You just try stuff out and do things, and the practice comes from that.  I’ve spent years just mucking around here and there, fixing something every couple of weeks, doing something around the house, and I’ve finally reached a confidence level where creativity can happen.  I’ve been learning the rules so I can break them occasionally.

So I’ve been collecting tools and materials and building my shed into a handyman’s paradise.  My goal has been to get to a point where I no longer have to go to the hardware store to complete a job.  It is such a ball-ache to stop halfway through a job to get a pack of screws or oil or some tiny thing.  A one hour job turns into several hours, and your momentum get all screwed up.

I’ve been on holidays for ten days now and I’ve done a bunch of stuff:

I laid a rock wall.

rock wall shed

 

I built a timber box.

I built another box.

I got this motor running and only almost electrocuted myself once.

 

electric motor in the shed

 

I put together an old old table saw and considered running it with the above motor.  I then decided against it when I found the motor runs at 16000 rpm.  Just slightly too fast.

I fabricated a battery-powered cut-off saw from an old grinder and drill-press.

 

fabricated cutoff saw in shed

 

I ran power to my shed (fuck yeah!).

power in shed

I put a new bench top on my bench.

I cleaned and consolidated my tools, only keeping the ones I use most often on the board and shelves.

I planed, sanded and finished some fascia boards.

My compressor that wasn’t building pressure so I broke it down and repaired it.

I fixed the power steering pump in my car.

Power steering in shed

 

I have never enjoyed myself so much.  I’ve spent a couple of hours every day in ecstasy, using my tools, getting better at them, revelling in my own sense of mastery, and watching my property approach the picture in my head.  Those days of frustration in the woodwork shop are gone.

Part of my satisfaction come from rejecting the need to do everything today.  Impatience and the focus on getting immediate results destroys the enjoyment.  The happiness in building comes from the time it takes, the journey rather than the destination.  Patience is required, a lot of it, and as I get older, the more patient I get.  There is no need to rush.  I move one mile at a time.  One step, then another, then another, until the job is done.  It is a truly beautiful and satisfying feeling.

Boys, go get yourself a shed, and experience mastery for yourselves.

Hate = Promotions: How Audacity Pays Off

Two years ago I was righteously pissed.

The organization I worked for seemed to do everything in the worst way possible.  I had just developed my iPhone apps, looked around, and saw that the IT component of my work operated just like the washed-up body of a bloated whale; i.e. Completely Fucked With Shit Everywhere.

 

bloated whale

 

Now, I work a blue-collar job.  I tighten nuts and bolts for a living.  I love what I do; it’s very rewarding.  It’s reasonably technical, and a lot like a chess game; all the pieces have to be in the right place at the right time.

But, like a lot of blue-collars, I know that physical work carries a limited life-span.  Digging trenches and carrying loads into my fifties and sixties motivates me like an icepick in the eye.

I also know that there is a very hard ceiling on my wallet.  Two years ago I was five years into my job and three-quarters of the way to that ceiling.  Knowing that for the rest of my life I would be relying on the company agreeing to wage rises to guarantee an increase in my standard of living put a monumental dampener on any enjoyment I had in my work.

Every job I worked has been better than the one before.  That’s not by accident.  I think it should be the goal of intelligent young man to weigh his work up and improve his lot.

The questions I have asked myself are:

  • Money:  Does it pay more?  Does a higher annual rate mean you’ll be working more hours (not good), or that the hourly rate is higher (very good)?
  • Conditions: Do you work your ass off, or is it a laid back environment?  Are there contract conditions that make your job more enjoyable?
  • Experience: Is this job going to help you down the track?  Will you learn manual, leadership or technical skills that make you more awesome outside of your job?
  • Time:  How much time do you save each week at this job?

I dunno about you, but I want to spend as little time as possible working at my job.  I would rather be working on building an independent income, enjoying my hobbies, and playing with my kids.

Travel time to the job takes that time away.  Overtime work takes that time away.  Working weekends takes that time away, and you will never ever have it again.  Getting paid for overtime is only cool if you REALLY NEED the money, ie you can’t eat or have nowhere to sleep.

Most middle class bovines work overtime so they can spend it on their new couch.  That’s eight hours of your life GONE.  It’s gone working for someone else’s agenda and some overpriced tartan furniture.

 

"Diane, I will happily give up my weekends to give you furniture we can't sit on.  I wuv you too snugglebunny "

“I’ll happily give up my weekends to give you furniture we can’t sit on, Diane. I wuv you too snugglebunny “

 

All these things were on my mind.  But that’s not why I wrote that hate-filled email.

Back to being righteously pissed.

I hate inefficiency.  Even when making breakfast, I do it in the most efficient way possible.  I make the minimum of trips to the fridge, to the cupboard.  When someone moves my oatmeal, I start breaking shit.

 

 

So when I started working for this bloated corpse of a company, I felt a lot of internal turmoil.  Things were outdated, software was redundant, double-handling was rife.  Working there rubbed against many of the things I held dear.

I gathered my pissed-offedness and hate into a mental USB stick and downloaded it into an email.  Several rewrites later I had a frothing, laser-sharp review of the atrocious nature of our IT.  After staring at the screen blankly for a few moments, I took my future into my control.

I sent it to the GM.

Immediately I started sweating.  But I backed myself.  Come what may, I’d said my piece.  I was doing my bit to battle the burden of omniscience.

After a tense two weeks in which I wondered whether I still had my job, I received a reply.  The GM thanked me profusely and put me in touch with the manager of IT, who then ensured I had access to the people who could make a difference.

Two years later and that email is paying off with a move to IT.

I really wanted permission to send that email.  But I asked no one and told no one.  I was scared, but it payed off in spades.  During #NoNothingNovember as I reflect on not asking for permission, it strikes me as no coincidence that the most audacious act of my working life would occur now.

I have no degree.  I don’t need one.  If you’ve never been to university you’d be surprised how stupid 90% of the students are.  I’ve worked only sales and blue collar jobs.  Many of the men there are far more intelligent than any graduate.

If you are working a blue collar job, and you want something more, you can move on and up.  Do not believe them when they say you MUST have a degree or qualification.  If you are intelligent enough, if you show enough initiative, people will find YOU.

Buck the trend and get what you want.

Being Alone: Why Country Music Singers Have It All Wrong

This post was going to be called 10 Things a Man Should Do Alone.  But seriously, if you’re not already working out, educating yourself, writing to get your thoughts in order, and working on some skill or hobby, then get out and start before your vagina goes all Ouroboros on yoself.

 

You know, Ouroboros

You know, Ouroboros

 

Instead I’m going to discuss being alone, and share with you the things I’m not sure many men do.  To me, however, these are the things that propelled me quickly (relatively speaking) from being a socially-retarded loser to fully-functioning self-actualising human.

 

Be Alone.  But Don’t Be A Fucking Psychopath

Being alone is the fucking coolest thing on earth, and is highly under-rated by the majority of the population.  Assuming you are not alone because of socialisation problems like some psychopathic school kid, it is where you recharge, take stock, and get to know where you’re succeeding and failing.

Alone time is especially important to me, cos I have kids.  And holy shitballs, do they suck the time away.  It’s tough enough getting laid with my wife, let alone getting time by myself.  If you’ve got kids, you need to take the time to take time out.

There’s a bunch of things a man should do alone.  Any of these can be done with others, but being alone removes the Need To Socialise.  Socialising means communicating, competing, and seeking attention.  It’s tough to understand how much of this you do without being alone for extended periods of time.

There are a bunch of socialisation patterns you use with everyone you know, and without being alone you will never know of your choices: using those patterns, changing to other patterns, or burning them with the other useless paraphernalia of your life.

Being alone is also the only time you’ll hear yourself.  A lot of this has to do with socialisation patterns.  It takes a significant amount of time (thirty minutes to an hour) of conscious awareness of being alone before socialisation breaks down and the inner you starts to be heard.

 

Silence In A World Of Noise, Aka Smartphones Make You Miserable In A Happy Way

Today’s world is one of noise.  Almost everyone I meet wants to fill it with more.  People love the sound of their own voices, regardless of whether they add value, or create filth.

But it’s not just the audible noise that I want to discuss.  Every bit of data that you see, hear, taste, touch and smell takes attention.  Think of attention as a fuel tank.  There is only so much you have per day, per week, per year.

With our cache of attention we can absorb noise, or we can absorb signal.  The noise is rubbish, redundancy, rehashes.  The signal is novelty, newness, interest. Noise is obviously trash, and we want as little as possible.  It’s like using fuel to run your car on a rolling pad.  It takes you nowhere.  Signal on the other hand can often take us from A to B.  It can educate and inspire.  But not always.

The problem with signal, and it is a huge problem in today’s world, is that it is addictive.  In previous eras the information problem was a huge ratio of noise to signal.  Now that we have all of humanity’s data available to us, the problem is reversed.  We now see an immense section of society addicted to novelty.

Almost everyone I know under the age of 40 cannot leave their phones alone.  Every minute of spare time, literally as soon as there is nothing to do, the phones come out.  I have not been immune to this.  It became an awful habit.

And the worst part?

I often didn’t need to check anything.   Phones and the internet are great for getting directions, finding tradesmen, making appointments, and googling important and timely data.  But 90% of the time I needed none of those things.  All I wanted was a distraction.

In actuality, what I needed was a hit.

You’ve probably heard about dopamine before, and its effects on the brain. It’s often touted as a “reward chemical” or part of the brain’s “reward center,” but more recent research has shown that, like novelty, it’s actually more closely related to our motivation to seek rewards rather than being a reward itself. Animal studies around the brain’s reaction to novelty have suggested increased dopamine levels in the context of novelty. So the brain reacts to novelty by releasing dopamine which makes us want to go exploring in search of a reward.

http://lifehacker.com/novelty-and-the-brain-why-new-things-make-us-feel-so-g-508983802

The problem is that because dopamine encourages us to seek rewards, it may be encouraging us to look for more, and more, and more stuff on the internet.  We get sucked into long cycles of internet surfing because our brain is reward-seeking due to the dopamine hits from novel information.  Every time we see something new, it only primes us for more surfing.

So, rather than being a useful pastime, phone and internet use has become an addiction.  It is robbing you of your life, your time, and your health.  My eyes have not been the same since my first smartphone.  The fine motor muscles are extremely tight, and I find it much more difficult to actually “see” my surroundings.  I look, but I my eyes don’t engage.

How Do We Escape This Pernicious Habit? And What Does Pernicious Mean?

We need silence.  Utter digital silence.  Our brains have been changed by the internet.  We need to restrict this change.

We still have a beautiful world around us!  But how many of us notice it? Do we notice anything less than the change of seasons anymore?

As men it is our charge to remember how the world is.  One day the internet may disappear.  We must be able to remember how to live without it.  Women can keep their Facebook and the rest.  They are far more distracted than we are.

When you are alone, put away your phone.  It is a simple task, and you WILL struggle with it.   It is a habit you have to break.  Use your phone only when others are around, if you must use it at all.  Alone time is much too valuable to waste on phone surfing.

When you are alone it is important to keep this digital silence.  It is distracting you from hearing the awesome within you.  Being alone is the only time you can hear this voice trying to erupt from the depths.

Self Reflection and Self Therapy

This is the most important task you will ever perform in your life.  Sometimes you will do it every day, at other times you will go months without it.  But always you will come back.

Why do you stop when you are within arm’s reach of your goals?  Why do you sabotage your relationships?  Why can you not keep a job?  Why is missionary your favourite (and only) position?

Have you asked yourself the deep questions of your life?  These questions are the ones that will enable change in you life.  You may never get a clear answer, and you will not change with any speed.  But self-therapy is the way forward, and every man who is not perfect should practice it.

It’s the only way I have found to guarantee forward progress.  If you are stuck in a rut in life, and frustrating yourself with your inability to change, then there are likely psychological, emotional and physical barriers preventing you from getting on with life.

Therapy ain’t for pussies either.  You don’t have to tell anyone you are doing it.  In fact, it’s better if you don’t.  Everyone has psychological blocks, even hard-asses.  It’s just that hard-asses have the personal control to run through those brick walls when they need to.  The rest of us can take the slower, safer but not necessarily easier route.

Self Therapy 101

1. Buy a journal.  Write in it.  Draw in it.  Paint it with custard, I don’t give a fuck.  It’s yours and it’s private.  No one else is to see inside it.  In it should go any observations about yourself you find interesting.

Don’t edit yourself.  Remember, no one else will see this ever.  Be as honest as you can.

Over time you’ll start to get it.  You will begin to understand yourself.  You will edit less.  It’s not so much a book for re-reading.  It’s more about getting ideas out of your head and into a tangible format where you can begin to make sense of the nonsense.  Your brain will take what you’ve spewed onto the paper, and begin to work on it without you even knowing about it.  It’s pretty much magic.

2. Purchase Christopher Hyatt’s Undoing Yourself with Energised Meditation and Other Devices.  Do the exercises.

 

The most useful book you will ever buy

The most useful book you will ever buy

 

3. That’s it.  Take your time.  Take your whole life.  Nothing will make you perfect, so don’t rush change.  Take at least 12 months then look back and see if you are happier.

 

What’s the Goal Anywayz?

The goal is to get out of your own way so you can live life.  Most people live life on train tracks.  The tracks take them to the same places, emotionally, in their relationships and in their life situations.

We want to have choice.  We want the ability to experience not just frustration and misery, but happiness and satisfaction.  That is a choice.  We want to find friends that help and inspire us, rather than drain our energy.  That too is a choice.  We want to find meaningful work and hobbies that lend ambition and direction to our lives.  You can make that choice.

But you must be alone to start on that path.

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