“They realized that to be in power, you didn’t need guns or money or even numbers. You just needed the will to do what the other guy wouldn’t.” – Verbal Kint in the Usual Suspects
Everything in life is about getting up after every fall. If you want to achieve anything in life, you’ve got to be willing to take the punches. A life where we just roll over and accept our fate is no life to live. If that’s the life we choose, then it’s a life spent solely waiting for death. You need to get up every time life knocks you down. Don’t accept the cards you’ve been dealt, because you’re the one dealing them. Get up and fight for what you want.
Sometimes it’s easy to meander through life thinking we’re doing well, that we’re achieving all the things we set out to do, but are you really? The biggest example of this is at the gym. You see so many people keep coming back, but who aren’t actually going anywhere. You see so many people pumping iron and getting “big”, but really just look fat. We kid ourselves into thinking we’re doing alright, when really need to take a good, long, hard look in the mirror. I’ve done it. I’ve been going to the gym for years, but have I really got anywhere? Not really. I still look fat, flat and like I don’t even go to the gym. Only now have I really made the commitment to reach those goals that I would lie to myself about, as being unreachable. And only now have I broken the cycle of getting big but looking fat.
Are you really seeing the results that you want? Don’t kid yourself, but be honest. Don’t flatter yourself to feel better. Don’t congratulate yourself for a half won battle, because the hardest part has yet to come.
One of my favourite moments when training, is reaching the point where every single ounce of you is telling you that you’re finished. That you have nothing left. To just give in. And then from nowhere something tells you to get up. To push back. To give it everything you’ve got. It’s such a beautiful moment. Every single session is like a voyage of self discovery. It’s in that moment that I feel complete and I’m faced with my true self.
I’m not finished. I won’t give in.
For whatever reason I’ve been made my gym’s “Member of the Month”. I had to write a short paragraph which I include below.
Last year I dedicated myself to strength training and managed to smash all my previous personal bests on all my lifts. Now this year I switched my focus towards Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with the aim of losing weight and improving my conditioning ahead of this year’s competitions. Looking back on all the years I’ve spent in the gym, I wasted so much time not pushing myself as far as I was truly capable of, and only recently have I found the ability to really dig deep and to be relentless in my training. This year has been as much a mental progression as it has a physical one.
A lot of this wouldn’t have been possible without the great support and encouragement of all the staff in the gym. With such a great fitness team around, I’m never short of ideas for my own workouts. It’s a real inspiration to see how hard both they and their clients work, as well as motivating me to also do the same.
Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time contemplating what I need to do to become better in certain areas of my life. Namely work, the gym, BJJ and Japanese. Do the answers lie in books? In videos? In talking about it with people? No, the only way to become better at these things is to do more of the thing itself. Nothing counts more than experience does. Whether that’s time in-front of a keyboard, time spent with a barbell, using the language, or rolling on the mats. The auxiliary actions of reading books and watching videos will propel you onwards faster, but they are in no way a substitute for actually doing.
Whenever I hear the quote “Beggars can’t be choosers”, I take it to mean that those of us in a poor position can’t always choose what we want. This is probably what the quote literally means and what is meant when someone says it. I know that when I’ve said it, this is the meaning I want to convey. We can’t all be masters of our own destiny.
But what if the true meaning is that if we choose the role of beggar, then we can never assume the role of chooser. That the choice to become a chooser is for us to make. Being the beggar is not a position we’ve been put in, but a position we’ve either consciously or unconsciously chosen to take. We all take many of our day to day situations as being out of our control, but really how many of them really are? We all have the ability to choose, we just may not all have the capacity to do it.
I choose to be a chooser, not a beggar!
I first picked up the Productive Programmer a few months back and after flicking through it I initially thought a lot of it wasn’t relevant and didn’t bother reading it. As I had been playing around with Vim (again!) and thinking about the whole idea of being more productive, I felt compelled to pick it up once more and actually read it. After learning a few new OSX tricks within the first few pages, I was hooked. Admittedly I skipped over any Microsoft related content, but overall the book is full of real productivity gems, and ever since I’ve been on a quest to increase my day to day effectiveness when it comes to using my computer.
My first port of call was sitting down and learning to use LaunchBar properly. I still have a long way to go, but more and more I’m using it to find and open files, as well as small things like quickly playing music and using the extremely handy clipboard history. I’ve stripped my dock of all apps except those that are running. The reason being that there is no need for me to use it as a launcher when I can use LaunchBar to start any app I need, without even having to use the mouse. I’d totally hide it from my screen, but somehow that feels “anti-Mac”.
Secondly I customised my terminal to be more “friendly” and learned some advanced command line techniques courtesy of the Peepcode screencast on the subject. Now I have a load of aliases as well as custom functions which culminate commands I frequently run in conjunction with each other.
I also spent some time learning more general shortcuts as well as trying out some other apps to help in my quest for computing Zen. One is Desktopple, which hides apps which have been in-active for a certain period of time and another is TextExpander, which allows you to create small snippet shortcuts, for example, typing r@ now automatically expands to become richard[at]ur-ban.com. Very nifty.
To try and become more effective overall in my life I’m really trying to knuckle down and keep a track of everything I need to do using Things. As with any todo app, you get out, what you put in. If you don’t really make an effort to use it and dump stuff into it, you’ll never really get anything out and never get anything done. I would have prefered to continue using The Hit List as I have a registration for it, but it would seem the iPhone app is still nowhere in sight. So for now, Things is what it’s going to have to be. I’m also now making more use of Evernote. I regularly email notes to myself and had totally overlooked the fact that I could just email them straight to my Evernote account. So now, any thoughts or ideas I have appear straight in my account thanks to the power of Email. I’ve also installed The Habit Factor on my iPhone to keep a track of my goals. It’s a simple app which lets you set a number of goals and habits, which you can then tick off each day, hopefully leading you to form good habits over time.
As you may (or may not) have noticed. I’m back to the old WordPress version of my blog. I spent a lot of time moving over everything to Jekyll. Mainly for the “performance” increase of having to just serve static files generated by the Jekyll engine, but it ended up being at the cost of me never posting anything. After migrating I soon felt like small random snippets where beneath the category of “articles” that I had created and not being able to see and view posts instantly made me completely shy away from bothering to write anything.
So WordPress is back and maybe I’ll post more from time to time. Even though things here are mostly quiet, my tumblr and twitter see a lot of daily action.
I can type, I just can’t type super duper fast. For years now I’ve been managing to get around 60wpm (70wpm if I really really push) without the use of my little fingers, which is fine for most things, but me being me, I want more.
Thinking about all the extra things I could get done if that went up to a comfortable and sustainable 80-90wpm gives me that warm and fuzzy feeling. So a week ago I purchased a copy of MasterKey and began the long road to proper form. I have to admit it was extremely hard and painful for the first day or two and I came very close to giving up, but six days later, I’m not that much slower then I was to begin with. At first I was down to about 25wpm but at least now I’m hovering just below 50 wpm which is fine for most day to day stuff and not slow enough that I feel the urge to revert back to my old style (sans little fingers). I still have some bad habits I’m struggling to get rid of, namely still using my ring finger for the backspace key and occasionally for the U key, but some habits die hard, real hard.
As a background, Steve Yegge wrote an interesting article on the subject of typing a couple of weeks ago, saying that programmers who type slow make up for it through a lack of commenting and refactoring. By not possessing the ability to type fast, you’re just building up technical debt. While I don’t know if I whole heartedly agree, I can certainly see where he is coming from. I don’t think it’s a critical skill to have, but I think it can, to some degree, display a programmer’s level of mastery of computers. Certainly, someone may have had a job that required them to know how to type, but for those that didn’t, typing is one indicator of time spent infront of a computer/interest in computers/willingness to learn the tools of your trade.
To expand on the last point a bit, I think learning the tools (not tricks, there is no magic here) of the trade is extremely important. Why would you not choose the path that offered a 10%, 20%, 50% or maybe even a 100% (!) increase in productivity. To not make that choice is beyond belief and deserves a shunning. Whether you wanted to take that gained time to make project improvements, read a book or even just kick back, why would you not do it. I don’t want to get into the subject too much now as it deserves another post in itself, but this is why I have chosen to improve my typing skills. To move that one step closer to mastery and not feel impeeded by the tools that I use (Not counting the ones I have to use, blegh Windows).
A deal that would cost each American taxpayer $5,300 to rescue the banking system and save the world economy from catastrophe was agreed in outline tonight.
Reading that the US Goverment has coughed up $700m to bail out the banks is one thing, reading it in the context of how it’s going to affect all 240m odd adult Americans is mind blowing.
For just over a week now I’ve been tracking all my time spent infront of a computer with RescueTime. It’s a great little tool which sits and just logs everything you do. You tag any captured applications and devide them up using tags. As you can see from the graph above I spent 69 hours and 56 mins (Damn, just missed 70 hours, must try harder this week) in front of a computer. The chart is broken down into work, web and everything else. As a lot of my work tasks include the “web” tag, the divide in the chart isn’t a split between work and mindless browsing. So really there is a lot of overlap between the two categories (Well I think that’s how it works). All-in-all, excluding my 9-5 job, I’m still spending an almost mighty 30+ hours infront of my computer at home. How awesome is that! :P