Focus

This post has very little to say, but I need to write it anyway. It’s a long ramble about where I’m at now, and where I want to be.

So, that little video game project didn’t pan out so great in the end. But you know what, that’s okay. I learned a lot about Python, Curses, and getting things to work on both Windows and Linux. Here’s a tip: It’s a pain, don’t bother. But as far as difficulties regarding getting a console-based game to work cross-platform go.. The only tricky bits were making sure the character encodings were set-up nicely across both platforms. The down-right DIFFICULT part was getting Curses to work on Windows at all.

Anyway, that was in the past. It’s time to look forward! Another abandoned project, but maybe that’s okay. I spend more time than I’d like sitting down regretting idle, wasted hours. The big problem with lamenting wasted and lost time is that the lament is often a waste of time itself. When I get in a slump, I remind myself that I’m not number one yet, so I have to try harder.

So I’ve started another endeavour. Yes, another one. It’s near the bottom of this post. I never follow through or finish anything, but maybe it’s time to change that? Looking back at unfinished project after unfinished project, it’s easy to fall into the trap of losing faith in yourself. I’ve lost faith in my own ability to finish things so many times, but I always manage to claw back some self-discipline and self-respect to try again. However, these salvaged feelings are suffering from diminishing returns. You can only fall so many times before you stay down, right?

Over time, I’ve become quite good at starting things. And if it’s not a huge thing, I can follow through without too much problem. For example, roughly a year ago, I sat down with a Rubik’s Cube for the first time. Within a few months of playing with it, devouring the vast amount of cube-related information, I was able to solve the cube. Fast. Like, forty seconds fast. Technically kind of slow compared to proper cubers, but you know. That was easy, because it’s just memorisation and repetition. After a while, you switch your brain off and idly practice on the bus or train, letting your fingers do the work while you think about what you’ll make for dinner.

There’s a few things about having learned the cube that bother me:

  1. I can’t tell you why I did it, other than ‘it looked kind of cool and seemed like a fun idea at the time’.
  2. I have absolutely zero use for a skill like that.
  3. It was one of the only things I finished.

Why would that last thing bother me? Well, it’s such a useless thing, completely inconsequential. It has not changed my life in any way. If I used that energy differently, I’d have a finished game (or maybe two) under my belt. At the same time, it’s okay. I want to be one of those amazing people who only do useful things, but maybe that’s an unrealistic ideal. Time will tell.

I have things I want to learn, things I want to do. Some useless things, and some useful things. Knowing the cube? Useless, but fun. It’s nice to watch people’s lips curl into a smile after they watch me solve a cube. I want to learn a foreign language. I want to write a book. I want to ride a unicycle (and maybe solve a cube at the same time?). I want to be better at physics. I want a perfect body (I want a perfect soul).

I never really considered that there wouldn’t be enough time. I didn’t consider that I’d have no willpower, or the attention span of a hyped-up kitten. After a lot of thought, I’ve identified these as the key problems:

  1. Willpower.
  2. Time.

The book ‘Mastery’ by Robert Greene claims that every human being has a calling deep inside them, they just have to find it. They’ll just ‘know’ when it comes, and they will be able to draw strength from this calling. It will be their muse and their motivator. It’s a romantic notion. I haven’t found that thing yet, and to be honest, I’m not really buying into the idea that it exists for even half of people, let alone all of them. So that willpower has to come from somewhere else, or that one thing has to be found.

I’m told by the Internet that a person needs 10,000 hours of practice at an activity before they can be considered ‘a master’. To put that in to perspective, you would have to train every hour of every day for over a year to reach that number of hours. If you spent seven hours a day working on your activity, it would still take over four years to reach the lofty height of master.

So we can’t waste time. If you’re going to become brilliant at something, you have to work at it. The problem is that you need to want it, and you can’t want to stop. That is so hard! It’s one thing to persevere through pain and difficulty, but it’s another thing to want to. Like, it’s the difference between studying because you need to graduate and get a job, and studying because you want to actually know the material and have a deep understanding of the subject for the sake of it.

This means we need to find what we want to do, soon. Earlier than soon, we’re talking like years ago. Probably should have figured out at least one thing to focus on by now. I knew I wanted to go to a good university, but that wasn’t an end goal in itself. I just had no other plans. And then I had to get a job, because that’s just how life is unless you’re pretty brilliant (or lucky).

I’ve rambled enough, so here’s the plan: I’ve put together a timetable. It’s not perfect, and it’s not meant to be. It is subject to change. I will spend my time a little more productively than I have in the past. I’m not going to try for miracles. I know better than anyone that my weekends are likely to fall apart. I know I couldn’t spend more than a few hours a day focusing on things right now. Hell, there’s hardly three hours per night anyway.

So that’s at least one hour a week on a bunch of different things. That won’t help me become ‘a master’ in any of these disciplines. Or rather, it will. In about 190 years, I’d expect to be amazing at all of the stuff in my timetable! The idea is to weed out the activities I don’t find interesting, and give more time to the ones I do enjoy. Some activities are ‘larger': ‘Maths’ and ‘Tumbling’ refer to the full disciplines of studying vector calculus, classic mechanics, contact juggling, riding a unicycle, and so on. I feel I want to be good at something in those areas, I just need to find out what. Others are more concrete, like ‘Blog’. Guess what time it is? The subject of each post isn’t set in stone, but the activity itself is known ahead of time.

Writing out the timetable was a horrifying experience. Subtracting all the time for work, eating, and sleeping, I’m left with maybe six hours a day, out of sixteen, seventeen waking hours.. But hey, that’s almost seven right? If I can find something I’m so enthralled with, that I only want to do that one thing.. Mastery is only years away.

The timetable is set for a reason. With past projects, it’s always a very ‘if I have time’ deal. Or worse, procrastination has reared its ugly head. “I’ll start this later, I need to finish this YouTube video first”. At first glance, setting things in stone seems to be detrimental to willpower as a whole. But I’m trying out a technique of habits. I want to practice things regularly, at set times. Or at least, in the same order. I want to take the choice of ‘what to do, when’ out of the equation, and focus more time on actually doing stuff.

For instance, it’s now 10pm, the end of my blogging hour. Next up, I’ll be reaching out and talking to people. About what? And to who? I have no idea, but the point is to just try. See what happens, maybe end up with a more specific goal for next week.

I’ll sum up quickly: I’m horrified and saddened at at how terrible I am, and how awful I am at stuff. In general. I have very little to show for twenty five years of living. That Rubik’s Cube has become a symbol of the pointlessness of everything I set out to do.

It’s not all doom and gloom. I said before that I always get up and try again. And that’s what I’m doing now. I will work on my willpower, and I will find a calling, something I want to do more than anything else. And even if I don’t, at least I’ll have spent my time doing things I want to do, and even some things that might actually be useful in the future.

That’s it! The most narcissistic post I’ve ever written.. Since I was like, thirteen or whatever, on the LiveJournal. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be back next week. I have no idea what I’ll write about now, and that’s both scary and exciting. If there’s no post here next week, I will have failed.

Categorized in: Rant

One thought on “Focus

  1. Timetable’s a good idea. What holds me back from doing it is mostly due to having to live with a timetable back when I was younger – I had specific times set aside for TV and video games, the rest was mostly studying some school subject.

    Eschewing routine, I’ve settled on to-do lists instead. And lately, I’ve made it so only one or at most two big things are at the top of my list, with the intention that I finish them before embarking on something new.

    You should add the http://www.onegameamonth.com/ thing to your timetable if you haven’t already. And check out Haxe for cross-platform. With an engine like HaxeFlixel/HaxePunk, it’s much faster to get a game done. Fingers crossed I’ll have something finished (even if it’s crap) by the end of this month.

Leave a Reply