All posts tagged Life

  • Know, II

    I just re-read this post, ‘Know‘, that I wrote nearly a year ago.

    I don’t know much. But I’m not comfortable with that. Which is why I endeavour to know more every day.

    There’s nothing wrong with not knowing if you’re honest with yourself and others. Not knowing should not cause embarrassment. Not knowing should be reframed as an opportunity to learn a new skill or new information.

    I’m thinking about what’s occurred since that entry; the new information that I’ve taken on board and the progress I’ve made.

    At the time, I was a couple of months into my first office job. I threw myself into that opportunity with fervent passion for several months. I was focussed on the idea of the career, of being the person I believed I should be. And I think about how that belief has changed since that post.

    It’s also interesting to step back and realise how singularly influenced I was by Ryan Holiday. I still treasure his writing, for sure, but now I’ve a wider base of influences with which to assure myself in times of doubt.

    And these times occur, much as it pains me to admit it, both to myself and my audience. I wonder when the seed of that desire to hide perceived weakness was planted.

    Sometimes I feel the weight of so many people – and, as a writer, words – that’ve come before me, and I wonder what I’m doing. I’m occasionally struck by the arrogance attached to the desire to tell stories. And I wonder if that desire is artificial within me, since it tends to come and go.

    What’s changed since ‘Know‘? A new home, many new friends, a mentor, and several interrelated opportunities upon which to build a platform for myself, as a writer. This time last year, I wrote for Rave Magazine and Now, scratch FL, and add Mess+Noise, FourThousand, and The Music Network.

    Add to that ongoing work for Nick‘s Native Digital, and attempting to manage the affairs of one of my favourite musical artists. And last week I met and interviewed one of my favourite writers. Yes, the interview will appear on here eventually.

    See, listing my current interests – which largely, happily combine the dual-cliché of business and pleasure – it’s a wonder that I’m ever at a loose end. And in reality, I’m not. So why aren’t I researching the next great Mess+Noise feature? Why aren’t I further forging Native’s name as a media innovation partner? Why aren’t I putting into practice the modern marketing and promotion tactics that I read about every day?

    I wish I had some pithy, smart-ass sentence here to answer my own questions. But the reality is that I’m crippled by inertia far too often for my own good, and it sucks. It sucks the most when I’m feel like I’m letting myself down due to my inactivity.

    This would be the part where I’d publicly state my goals, but right now, I’m struggling to figure out where to begin.

    Thanks for reading. I’m out-of-sorts with this entry, I know. I might owe that to recent dental surgery, but maybe I was just looking for a way to tell you what I’ve been up to since my last entry.

    Hold me accountable, won’t you?

  • On Productivity And Procrastination

    If you spend a lot of time on Twitter each day, you start to feel a sense of vicarious productivity.

    Discussing links, chatting with several people at once, managing followers: none of it really matters, and yet it’s easy to lose sight of this when you’re immersed in it. 

    You think you’re achieving things by commenting on and distributing content produced by others. But unless you’re being paid to manage your Twitter account, you’re really just engaged in a highly interactive distraction.

    We’re only going to become more familiar with the presence of constant distractions. I have not a goddamn shred of research to back up this suggestion, so bear with me.

    Regular internet users readily switch between dozens of social applications, interfaces and conversations every hour: email, instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook, et al.

    Compare this constant multi-tasking to what our parents were familiar with: that is, concentrating on the task at hand – using the skills that you’ve chosen to build your career upon – before dealing with what’s ahead.

    I might suck at explaining it, but the skills that a savvy internet user possesses are radically different from the previous generation. And I’m not one to give much thought to generational difference, but unless I’m much mistaken, we’re learning to think in a totally different way.

    I’m aware that I’m extrapolating my own experience onto a wider demographic.

    But I’ve found that instead of regularly focussing on one single task, my attention is divided across several mediums. It’s rare that I can concentrate on one task from start to finish.

    Logically, this means that the quality of my creative output – be it a university assignment, a paid article, or an email to my family – is reduced, as I’m thin-slicing my thought contributions across hours or days.

    That’s the rational explanation: reduced concentration on a singular pursuit results in a diminished outcome.  But I’m not certain.

    I’m still adjusting to this relatively new method of online productivity. But I’ve no doubt that individuals who can successfully navigate a web of procrastination pitfalls will end up miles ahead of their peers.

    It’s like Tait Ischia said in my interview: “If all the kids these days spent the same amount of time writing blogs that they did on Facebook, then [the advertising] industry would be a hell of a lot more competitive.

    He’s talking specifically about writing, sure. Because he’s a writer. But apply his concept to your ideal pursuit: breakdancing, animation, video production; I don’t know, interior fucking design.

    The reality is that if you don’t work at your passion, you don’t get any closer to realising it. It continues to sit out of reach. That passionate carrot that you just can’t be fucked working toward. It’s the difference between putting the majority of your energy into becoming a widely-read writer and just telling everyone you meet that you want to be a widely-read writer.

    In this way, nothing about productivity has changed since humans started realising that they required more than just food, shelter and sex to live a satisfying life.

    So I suppose that the internet,  in the hands of the unmotivated, might just be a platform that has the potential to be a dense distraction. It’s the marbles, the skateboard, the comic books, the pool halls of previous generations, condensed into a single interface.

    Except it’s inside, and you’re probably going to learn fewer skills when traversing the internet for extended periods. But even that statement is wrong; you’ll learn skills, but they’ll be completely different to what you’d learn in a pool hall or a skate bowl.

    Historically, the people who are motivated toward an end have achieved things. They’re remembered. They won. And those who stood in the shadow of their achievements weren’t remembered. They didn’t win.

    Simpler: the people who get things done win.

    This post is a departure from the norm, because I clearly haven’t thought this through. But I’m okay with that. Stepping outside my comfort zone of pretending that I have the answers.

    How do you spend your time online, and how do you deal with distraction? Do you think we’re learning to interact smarter?

  • Musings on Music Writing and Everett True

    Pig City author Andrew Stafford interviewed Everett True before an audience at Brisbane’s Barsoma last week, and I was one of the nineteen in attendance. True incurred the wrath of Australian mainstream music fans in August, upon which I commented at the time. The event was held as a pilot for QMusic‘s proposed series of music-related public interviews, and while it was poorly attended, I have a feeling that this was due to minimal promotion on QMusic’s part. Some retrospective Googling uncovers that a few sites picked the event up, but it still flew under my radar; evidently, I wasn’t the only one.

    During a Q&A discussion about critical discourse within music writing, or the lack thereof, one audience member asked the group how many writers from Brisbane’s local street press were in attendance. My hand was the only one in the air, which he then used to attempt to prove a point about local writers’ general apathy, or something. But dude, come on. I only found out about the event after being nudged by a fellow FasterLouder writer.

    Everett stated in his characteristically humorous, self-promotional manner that his goal as a writer is to make everyone jealous of Everett True, and to make people talk about Everett True. In his words: “if you’re not writing to be read, then why the fuck are you writing?”. He and Andrew spoke about street press audiences, critical discourse within music writing, and established that all music writing is inherently subjective, which is something I’ve long since realised. It’s foolish to ever attempt to hide behind the veil of objectivity when discussing music you either do or don’t like.

    The interview and resulting discussion certainly prompted internal debate regarding my writing method and purpose. I came up with a few answers, but I expect more to reveal themselves to me in time.

    I review concerts primarily for free entertainment, and because live music is the most exciting and readily available form of public entertainment I’m comfortable with. The fulfilled expectations, the brilliantly unpredictable deviations from the standard rock ‘n’ roll script: those are the moments that excite me. There are loads of bands – local, national, international – with whom I’ll happily share my evening.

    Of late, I’ve become more concerned with sound dynamics and artistic merit than a conventionally ‘entertaining’ performance, which often translates to the musicians occasionally ambling around stage. This may be simple subterfuge on my part, as I’ve recently become enamored of enormous-sounding shoegaze-type bands, though as ever, I still find the time and place for tastelessly entertaining bands – Bluejuice is the example that springs to mind.

    I write about these events because I fucking love them. There’s also the attached personal challenge of whittling several hours of physical and musical theatre down to a few hundred words.

    Audience has never been a huge concern for me, and still isn’t. My first reviews were for the eyes of my family and a few close friends; I’ve since become happy to let my articles stand alone, without the need for self-promotion. I update my LastFM journal with a copy of each review as they’re published, which allows fellow event attendees to read my words if they’re so inclined.

    But by and large – though I still share published work with my family – I write for myself. Freelancing, as it were, though obviously still subject to the discretion of my editors. I know that my articles get glanced at in print by bored commuters, but the web audience is entirely different: they’re there because they’re interested enough to click.

    It’s essentially a thankless job, which I am completely comfortable with. I know the nature of the game that I volunteered for. Not just anyone could do this, as most people don’t care enough to put pen to paper.

    I really enjoy thinking about the historical impact that I’m having, though mostly on a personal level: words written at a particular time and place, when linked with my personal writing, will provide a rich tapestry of experiences upon which I’ll reflect fondly in my later years. The same principle applies for the artists I’m writing about. I like that my words capture a snapshot of an artist at a point in their career.

    Maybe my sense of realism is unique among music journalists, I don’t know. I’m constantly mindful of the responsibility attached to my words, which are attached to my name.

    But to return to my core purpose, free entertainment: all of my work up until this point has been to make a name, carve a niche for myself among my editors, so that I’m more likely to be chosen to write about the artists I want to see.

    I suppose that I’m a faker, somewhat, because I wouldn’t write about bands if I wasn’t required to. I didn’t review the handful of shows that I paid to attend this year. I certainly enter a show in a different mindset if I’m reviewing, notepad in back pocket. Fewer beers are often consumed. Which is not to say that I enjoy myself less if I’m reviewing, fuck no; it’s just that I’m more mindful of my peers, my surrounds, and the context of the performance.

    All of these ruminations spring from the fact that my music writing is a hobby, a personal passion. The thought of pursuing this as a career has not seriously crossed my mind in years, and funnily enough, not at all during the sixteen-odd months I’ve been a paid music critic.

    While following the discussion between Everett, Andrew and the vocal audience, I reflected on whether I was being critical enough in my writing. Whether I was producing memorable words; or offending enough people, if I were to subscribe to Everett’s shit-stirring journalistic methodology. His goal was, and is, to be memorable, perhaps because the inverse possibility would be financially unsustainable.

    I think that there’s an inherent sadness in being known first and foremost as a music critic. I mean, fuck, you sit around listening to bands by day and stand around at night watching bands, actively analysing their sound and craft for perceived weaknesses. Stewing on appropriately clever ways to judge their artistic output in a snarky or humourous manner. I know, because I’ve been there. What kind of profession is that?

    I disliked how Everett spoke of the lack of critical discourse within music writing; that is, that there’s not enough writers out there sticking the boot into subjectively crap performers, as if it’s some kind of Herculean effort worthy of merit to chastise sub-par musicians. Because I get this picture of a middle-aged, wizened journo spewing forth bile onto his keyboard in the middle of night, this bitter, repulsive person, and I think – fuck that. My imagination may get a little carried away at times, but that image scares me a lot.

    Of course, I’ve been concentrating on the negative side of music criticism, as that’s my first connotation. Its antonym is praise, which is what I tend to dole out in my music writing, as I tend to only see artists who I like. And that’s to my advantage, as like I said, music writing – while an undeniably strong passion of mine – is still a hobby. I can’t help but admire those who dedicate their career to writing about music, as they have more energy than I. 

    I’m simply content to keep carving my niche, honing my craft, within the small pool of Brisbane music journalists. Memorable? Maybe. Honest? True.

  • Seth Godin On Luck

    If you need motivation today, Seth’s got you covered.

    …effort is directly related to success. Not all the time, but as much as you would expect. Smarter, harder working, better informed and better liked people do better than other people, most of the time.

    For sure. Motivation is key here. Fear of failure is a big stumbling point, but I think that inertia paralysis is bigger. Fear of moving outside of one’s comfort zone.

    …that’s the key to the paradox of effort: While luck may be more appealing than effort, you don’t get to choose luck. Effort, on the other hand, is totally available, all the time.

    I’ve written about luck before. I don’t buy into it. Anything that’s worth having is worth working for, and in many cases – except lottery winners – it is worked for.

    But I’ve slacked off lately. I could throw a dozen half-baked excuses at it immediately – too busy, would rather relax, I’ve got other things I’d rather do – but really, there is no excuse. I’m falling short of the standards I set out for myself earlier in the year. My RSS reader is barely prodded of late. I have a stack of unread books that I haven’t touched in months. I can feel the inertia setting in. Recognised patterns are becoming habits; known personal responsibilities are being shirked.

    And it doesn’t feel good. Cognitive dissonance. I look back on most booze-fuelled nights in the company of good friends with fondness, but dude, what exactly are you trying to achieve here?

    This is a question I’ll continue to ask myself; this entry will serve as a reminder.

  • Perception

    I’ve mentioned reframing before. It’s powerful, but difficult to keep in mind. Seth’s post is a timely reminder, though – bolding is mine:

    How much of your day is spent doing things you have to do (as opposed to the things you get to do.)? In my experience, as people become successful and happier (the subset that are both) I find that the percentage shifts. 

    You’d think that this happens because their success permits them to skip or delegate the have to tasks. And to some extent, this is true. But far more than that, these people redefine what they do all day. They view the tasks as opportunities instead of drudge work.

    I don’t buy into the notion that we can’t enjoy what we do all day. That any personal satisfaction achieved in the workplace should be met with self-depricating humour and subsequently buried. That each working week should be considered a battle toward Friday and a weekend of excess, at the cost of health. 

    When did this pervasive ideology take root?

    Rarely do I witness people – in any field of experience, professional or otherwise – take pride in what they do for a living. 

    I see it as a choice – mediocrity, or excellence. Doing enough to get by – the bare minimum – or excelling, extending, exceeding.

    I’m starting to remind myself of a character from Office Space, so I’ll give it a rest.

    It’s just one of those little rules you create for yourself, though. If only a few people notice the positive choices you make, there’s a good chance that those few are the ones who hold the keys to further opportunities.

    Perception is the key concept here. Have to do versus get to do.

  • Mediocrity versus excellence

    An excellent post on Schaefer’s Blog linked from The Art Of Manliness discusses a general lack of personal responsibility and accountability:

    This is why something needs to change – and instead of demanding it from everyone else it has to start with us. As Herbert Spencer aptly spoke, “The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.”

    After all, at the end of the day it’s about taking a coat when it looks like it’s chilly outside. You can choose not to, it’s true, but don’t whine when you get cold.  Life’s about choices.

    Mediocrity is easy. Excellence is hard. 

    I find inspiration everywhere. In the actions – the poor choices – of my fellows. 

    They constantly eat crap and wonder why they’re unhealthy? Inspiration to exercise more often and constantly evaluate what I eat.

    Their entire day ruined due to a crippling hangover from the night before? Inspiration to exercise self control and restrict what I drink.

    They spend considerable amounts of time enveloped within a virtual world while barely functioning in the real world? Inspiration to read, think, discuss, write, create.

    This thought process has become easier over time. “What could I be achieving right now?” is the question at the back of my mind. 

    The way I see it – we’re here for 80 years. Maybe less, maybe more. Best to make the most of it, right?

    Funny how the first connotation we tend to have with that phrase is partying, socialising, hedonism, affluence

    Life’s about choices. Since most people are happy with mediocrity, I choose excellence.

  • Condoleezza Rice: It’s your power, use it

    Noel linked me to an inspiring speech recently given to students of Perth’s Mercedes College by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It’s well worth the read. I’ve picked out some key quotes below – bolding is mine.

    I’d only have one suggestion, (to young people) which is when you go to college, don’t try to determine what job you’re going to have when you get out. Try to determine what your passion is. Try to figure out what it is you really love to do.

    Finding your passion is the most important thing that you can do. My passion turned out to be the study of the Soviet Union. The first time I heard the Russian language, it was like falling in love.

    Don’t worry if it’s something that seems a little odd because there is no reason that a black woman from Birmingham, Alabama, should have been interested in the Soviet Union. I just was. Don’t let anybody define for you what you should be interested in. Your horizons should be limitless at this point. You have to find that special combination of what you’re good at doing and what you love to do. And when you find that combination life is going to work out.

    Just don’t let anybody put limits on it because you’re a woman or because you are from some particular ethnic group or because you’re Aboriginal or whatever you are. What you want to be and who you’re going to be is really up to you.

    Most often people will underestimate your capabilities. The best way to deal with that is, be tough, be prepared to take on whatever questions come at you. And you’ll find that sooner or later, it won’t matter that much.

  • Head Down

    There’s a point in your life when you realise exactly what matters to you. It doesn’t have to be a poetic Fight Club moment. It could be a slow-moving process where you get so caught up in your life’s inertia that you stop to take stock, and notice everything that you’ve left behind.

    I’ve lived the latter of the two. I’m not quite running lean, but I’ve been subconsciously drifting in that direction.

    The things and people that don’t matter just fade into the background, into the distance as you keep moving. They’re far behind, now, and still caught up in their incessant bickering about endless trivialities. Caught up in the minutiae of life.

    Glenn‘s eighteenth birthday post made me stop and smile. Such optimism and enthusiasm for what’s ahead.

    I can’t pretend that any of the things that concerned me when I turned eighteen were anywhere near as important as the concepts and possibilities that Glenn is currently juggling. I was writing, sure, but without a purpose or an audience.

    Girls. Drinking. The opinions of my peers. These are the things that concerned me at age eighteen. As much as I wish that I’d been grappling with notions of personal accountability or building self-value – I wasn’t.

    Realising that you’ve got to put your head down and just go for it – that’s an important point to reach.

    Stating that ‘nothing else matters’ is over-simplifying a little, but hell, you’re in control. It’s the difference between crawling, or choosing to stand up and walk.

  • Defining Decisions

    Deciding to be yourself is scary. There’s no one to follow, and well, what if they don’t like me? But if you can make that bet, the act of actually being you is easy. All you have to do is wake up in the morning.

    This afternoon, I watched a tiny spider trying to climb its near-invisible silk. As far as I could tell, its intention was to climb the thread to the top and reach safety. A slight breeze affected those intentions. After battling the draft for a few minutes, the spider lost out. It landed on the ground, far from its desired destination.

    You could fight the breeze your whole life. Or you could position yourself to sidestep it altogether.

    Ryan wrote about defining yourself in the above quote. Glenn wrote in a comment on that entry:

    People are vulnerable to the influences of others for a very specific reason; peer pressure doesn’t just strike randomly.

    My message isn’t to find yourself. Or to closely monitor the crowd you’re a part of. Those are tired, common maxims.

    John commented on one of my entries that social networking sites have provided an unmatched insight into their users’ psyches. Upon registering, you’re immediately presented with myriad opportunities to define yourself. Interests. Location. About you. Education and employment history.

    Of course, there’s a reason why you’re presented with these options. We tend to want to place each other into distinct boxes. It’s how we make sense of the world. The conflicts begin when your definitions become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    The inherent problem with defining yourself based on a handful of universal markers – birthplace, location, hobbies, dress style – is that you’re constantly open to misinterpretation. If you define yourself as an engineering student who loves to drink and party, you’re expected to adhere to those definitions at all times. Most people can’t look beyond this fundamental attribution error.

    It’s hard. I loathe defining myself.  That tagline at the top of the page? It’s bullshit. So is the slightly elaborated descriptor here. Defining yourself based on a handful of interests or accomplishments marginalises the million other thoughts you have each day.

    You are what you do. I disagree with that statement in the context of study or employment. You know what I mean. You’re at a party. Someone asks you what you do. What they mean, of course, is what you study. Or where you work. You respond, and a bunch of assumption seeds are planted in their head, before your eyes.

    I’m not trying to pretend that I’m above any of this.

    Play the game. Humour those who try to pigeonhole you. Never understate your inner values.

  • Wouldn’t It Be Cool?

    Ben Corman wrote an excellent follow-up to Ryan Holiday’s post about new media resumes last week. Central to Corman’s message:

    Don’t be afraid to suck. Building a new media presence, writing a novel, starting a business, learning to juggle — you don’t develop any of these skills without actually doing them.

    Most importantly, though:

    Sucking is not the worst thing that can happen.

    Last month, I wrote about luck. Last week, I found the source of the half-remembered anecdote that I mentioned in that post. I found it while re-reading Getting It Together by Noel Whittaker. He’s an acclaimed financial adviser and popular Australian author. His new media presence may be lacklustre, but the advice he offers in that book is crystal clear in its simplicity and scope. From the back cover:

    Noel Whittaker came from a poor farming background to become one of Australia’s most respect financial advisors with weekly columns in most of Australia’s leading newspapers. In Getting It Together he gives young people simple techniques to discover and use their true potential.

    It’s an excellent book. I intend to revisit it at least once more before year’s end. That anecdote, transcribed in full:

    Haven’t you wanted top grades without doing the work, sporting honours without doing the practice, a fit body without doing the exercise? Of course you have – that’s human nature. Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, tells the story about a famous musician who was accosted by one of those social chatty women at a cocktail party. “I’d give anything to play like you,” she said. “No, you wouldn’t,” he replied. “You wouldn’t be prepared to practice for hours, to give up the social life, to exist on a pittance while you were trying to make your mark – that is what made the difference.” (Whittaker 1993, p. 42)

    Success isn’t conceived overnight. Before success is born, there’s a hundred nights of failed conception attempts. Yes, I’m equating success to intercourse. Isn’t metaphor fun?

    Corman concludes:

    So here’s your homework assignment. Take one thing you wish you were doing that you’re not doing. Now, everyday take an hour (or maybe ten minutes) and do whatever it is. And in a year you’ll be able to look back at how much you’ve improved. Or in a year you’ll still be sitting around thinking “wouldn’t it be cool if I did _____.”

    You know intuitively that it would be cool. Go and do _____.