2011 was an amazing year for me. A lot of things happened in my life as I was proactive about taking control of every aspect of it right from the beginning. I set goals. Though I ran into the mistake of setting too many of them, I learned from it pretty quickly and reassessed them. I got up at 5 AM daily and read the goal list first thing in the morning and spent some time visualizing my desired future. I also jogged daily for the past 2 months and so I’m in the best shape of my life right now. And the best of all, I started this blog and never did I expect it to unleash my creative tigers this far. If I were to attribute one thing that is responsible for all of these things, it is this: habit. A single good habit, like getting up at 5 AM daily might go a long way into changing your life for good. All I could wish for 2012 is a similar enthusiasm to live life fully and suck the marrow out of it.
I was just kidding.
2011 was as screwed up as any other years in my life.
The year began with a lot of hope, as usual. I’d just had my biggest break-up with bodybuilding (and a weird fetish for veins in my forearms). I was impressed by a geek at my office. And so when they asked what’s your plan for the year in a Toastmaster meeting in January, I beamed, “I wanna be a geek!” I took the advice of the geek and spent quite some hours in the evenings to learn c#. But my heart was never into it because I hated microsoft’s products from the bottom of the lowest pit of my small intestine. One fine day I thought I’d had enough of this Bill shit and I gave up.
But the need to identify with a geek stuck.
So when that broke up I picked up Ruby on Rails, a web development framework – that was the hot item in the geekdom back then. Even now. I found one online tutorial that built a twitter-like site from scratch. It was huge. But I went all the way to the end. It took me two months I think. And when I completed the tutorial, since I had no immediate use for the knowledge, I promptly forgot it – all of it. I even don’t know the url of the site where my app is freely hosted. It is still alive, but is forgotten in the black hole of internet.
At that point of time, an epidemic broke into our office. A disease that is characterized by the symptom of an urgent need to send a small orange plastic ball across a ridiculously small table (having an even more ridiculously smallish net) in a variety of fashion – chop, smash, slice, cut, spin et cetera. Since there was no real work to be done at the office, everyone swarmed to the 2 tables with a table-tennis racket. Since I had dabbled into it while at college, I had no problem with hosting the disease into my self. I played like a maniac. My only concern was to perfect a smash. And the spin. And the chop. And the serve. I put in endless stretch of time bent on sending the ball across the table. I was obsessed with it. I saw 100s of youtube videos about the term “top table tennis”. I researched a lot about the making of a truly marvelous table-tennis racket. I bought one myself. And then when I realized two things – “I’m getting no good at it” and “I’m spending an awful lot of time on this”, I broke my racket and stood on the ball crushing it. End of a useless saga.
During that time, I realized that I was not reading as much books as I used to while at College. So I thought I’d at least focus on the one thing that I truly liked before I start losing interest in that too. I also kept track of the books that I’ve read since and I must say the list is quite impressive. But I regret not making any kind of notes or a review of those books as I now feel that I’ve forgotten most of them. It appears to be a lot of useful time had been wasted. But I don’t regret the time spent on this though.
Another thing I don’t regret is quitting facebook. I’m glad actually. I was growing addicted to the ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ that my friends at facebook gave me. Facebook trained me to be happy at the red colored notifications. Pavlov’s dog. But I had the sense to quit the bloody thing. This post is all about how I wasted 2011. But if I had not quit facebook, it would’ve been all about how I.. well there wouldn’t've been any blog in the first place, would it?
And then I started this site. That means a lot of time spent on learning site-related stuff. I had it in wordpress first. Obsessed with the looks, I changed to a couple of other themes. And then I remembered all of a sudden that I had wanted to be a geek, starting from the beginning of this year. So to copy what they did, I moved the blog to Jekyll. But the design I copied did not have comments. And I did not know how to enable it either. So a lot of good posts went by without comments. A regrettable mistake. I knew about Octopress (the one with comments option) even back then, but for reasons only a Martian will know, I did not migrate it until recently. I started this site just to blog – to just write. I had clearly said to myself that I would spend no time at all tweaking it for appearance; that I would spend all the time in the text editor, just writing. But it turned out to be otherwise. I don’t remember the feeling of writing or editing any of the posts. That’s also because I had been inconsistent in writing. I love writing, I love it like a wife, but it is bothering to think that I seldom write.
Geek side again. Learned about design(paid Rs 1200 for 2 videos), jquery, html, css, xml, android (went through 133 videos of a 200-video training series in youtube) and effortlessly forgot all of them. The reason is, while learning computer related stuff, picking up a text book or a tutorial series would seldom result in a lasting knowledge it seems. The way to go is to pick up a project and start building it right away – learning on the way. Also picking Android to learn was even dumber because it is a designer’s area whereas what I wanted was to become a Coder. Wrong tree. Wrong forest. Considering the amount of time spent on all these stuff, makes me not want to complete this sentence appropriately.
Toastmasters was probably the biggest failure. I gave only 2 speeches in the entire year – spent about 5000 bucks on it. The fire had obviously been watered. Reason? I din’t feel inclined to focus on improving my public speaking skills as much as on my programming skills. The reason is also largely due to my not-actually-sitting-down-to-write-some-bloody-speech-instead-of-watching-youtube. But I think I’d stick with TM through 2012, the interest may resurge anytime when I watch Chris Rock or Louis CK.
Then it was time for Steve Jobs to die. I got scared shitless. In panic mode, I wrote things like Becoming Steve Jobs, Why Goals and Commitments? and My Goals for the next year and setup a Commitments page (now deleted. Most embarrassing stuff). Although a significant reason for the failure of these is the lack of self-discipline, I also like to put the blame on the goals themselves. The action plan consisted of some dumb shit like
- Setting a task at 9:30 PM in my Android to remind about workout – if by that time I haven’t completed my workout, I’m supposed to do some stuff for half an hour until I sweat like a pig,
- To write 52 blog posts, that are not about personal development, starting from today Oct 28, 2011 to Oct 28, 2012 – and what am I supposed to do for a living?
Cultivating a single habit is hard enough, but here I am, drawing map for an overnight success relying for the most part on an Android device. But it is a learning in the process of setting goals. Only by trial and error, I’ll find what fits me perfectly. Currently the gut says, “Focus on just one thing”.
And so I’ve chosen two things for 2012: (That’s ok Gut. I believe I can focus hard on two things)
Everything else goes untracked, my hip size included .
Throughout 2011, I’ve been influenced by a number of things – table tennis, terry pratchett, jogging, 10 KM run, chess, android programming, Comedy, Comedy writing, book reading, programming, writing, movies, music and so on. The effect of all of these influences is that they’ve all had a permanent life-changing impact on me. But clearly, only some of these influences have been good. Rest were useless. So it is extremely important that I be aware of the new influences entering my life and be able to choose only what would benefit me. For example, for the past few days, I’ve been playing chess at office. Since I won a couple of matches, it fed my ego and I now think of the previous games most of the time. As a result, I’m consumed by this new influence. I installed chess, signed up for an online chess site, googled for “interesting chess puzzles” et cetera. To put it simply, chess is growing on me like a cancer now. But I know where this would lead – nowhere. As much as good food chess is for the brain, it is useless in any other matters, especially for someone who aspires to be a programmer.
Such things are best tracked in a Don’t-Do list:
- playing chess
- watching a movie more than once
- trying to pursue totally strange interests like playing a guitar
- reading more books in 2012 than I did in 2011
- buying a lot of tamil books, (hoping to hone my tamil skills and be able to speak like Kamala Hassan)
- subscribing to a lot of blogs and feeling a sense of “I’m doing something useful” while reading them
- trying to bring the waist to 30 inches and the weight to 65 kgs (unrealistic and useless pursuit)
When stuff like these show up, I’m better off running towards either of the 2 items in my goal list.
One year is an unbelievably long time. If spent wisely, 2012 might well be the beginning of a lot of good things for me.
Writing a detailed review of the year-gone-by is the best way to begin the next year. It brought up a lot of issues and gave a shape to them so they can be identified – for instance I was never aware that watching a movie more than once is such a terrible waste of time until I was thinking about the movie Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya while writing this article and that in turn led to the Don’t-Do list idea which is exactly what I needed to have an eye on so I could avoid the items on it like a plague.
So do write a year review and keep it in sight readily accessible, say in a blog.
Wish you a productive New Year
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1 That is not to say that I won’t exercise. Exercise should never be a standalone interest. Rather it should be used to drive focus and energy into your passion. This is the only way you can do the things you love for a very long time.