Being Completely Age-Inappropriate

I’m not completely sure why – but I started skateboarding. I’m a mostly fully grown 32 year old man and I pulled the skateboard I barely used as a 12 year old out of the garage. A skateboard I’ve dragged around with me as an adult but never touched.

It’s about the least appropriate sport-like-activity I can think of for a person of my age. A friend of mine decided to try and skateboard, clearly she is a little mad, yet one week later I was doing the same thing.

Tomorrow marks the 2 week point in my “skateboarding experience”.

Being an adult, and an (almost) textbook type A personality, I set some goals.

It turns out skateboarding is a seasonal thing (summer) as I’m told skateboards basically self-destruct in the rain. Given it is late autumn that makes it almost the worst possible time to pick up the hobby.

I decided making sure I got out every day for 7 days, despite the weather. If I only managed 5-10 minutes that day still counted. I wanted to be able to roll around comfortably, and learn how to “ollie” (jump the board) in that time. My lunch breaks became short, well timed excursions between rain clouds.

I jumped on Google Maps and located all of the large chunks of concrete in my neighborhood. I was too embarrassed to learn to skate on the sidewalk outside my house. I located an old, deserted tennis court and breathed a sigh of relief.

2 weeks later I’m still skateboarding. I haven’t destroyed myself as of yet, though almost every component of my childhood skateboard has died a gruesome death and I’m rolling around on a shiny new board.

What have I learned?

  1. It’s amazing what terrifies you when you no longer have solid ground under your feet. Mountain biking has no crossover into skateboarding despite being wheel based.
  2. When you’re old, you always think in terms of consequence rather than fun.
  3. Old people have terrible balance. Karate helps a lot here and I’d hate to think what my balance would be like today without it.
  4. Old people don’t know how to fall over. Karate fortunately comes to the rescue here once again.
  5. I am embarrassed to have strangers see me suck at something. I don’t seem to have such a big problem doing things I’m good at in front of strangers though.
  6. Taking on new, completely unexpected things expands your horizons both mentally and physically.
  7. Reminding yourself you don’t know everything, and you aren’t good at everything is important. The beginners mind is vital.

My daughter is a big fan of the new challenge – rolling around in the kitchen on a skateboard is right up her alley. The dog is also highly agreeable as that just means more walks. My wife just smiles and shakes her head, an understandable position to take.

Next stop – pogo sticking! (is that even how you say that?)

 

Keeping Up With The Joneses

We all exist together on this tiny rotating spec of dirt in the middle of nowhere, and in the dollar we trust.

If Bob has more of it, we want more of it. Most folk seem to live and work only compare material things. Bigger house, newer car. Bigger boat, newer clothes. Almost every week I hear about some young family moving into some ridiculously expensive, yet thoroughly average 3 bedroom home.

The road is both figuratively and literally littered with privately owned, financed vehicles.

Once you’ve made 50k, you want to make 75. Once you’ve made 100k, you want to make 200k. If you chase “things” you’ll never have enough of anything.

I struggle every day to try and keep my head above the inky waters of wanting more “stuff”. The fact of the matter is that regardless of what you have, unless you can find some level of contentment with that – you’ll want more eventually. Hedonistic adaptation will get you in the end.

What you own is an utterly terrible metric for life.

It is incredibly liberating to realize how many things you really don’t need. Things that actually have no impact on your quality of life, yet an hour ago they seemed to. I’ve yet to meet a person who after having a purge and getting rid of “stuff” has felt worse for it.

The rich man is one who is happy with what he has.

Living In One Of The Most Expensive Places On Earth

I live in a crazy place.

The average house price is now over 1 million dollars making it one of the least affordable places to live in the world. It may be the least affordable town of its size in the world (population 28,000).

When you look at it like that – it’s a pretty stupid place to live unless you are highly affluent.

We live here because it is stunningly beautiful. A small, clean, safe town in the mountains with big infrastructure and an international airport.

In reality, though, most of the New Zealand is like that to some degree or another.

I had planned to write a piece about how much people struggle here.

How hard it is to buy a home.

How expensive everything is.

I’m not sure what I expected though, this town is just really expensive and clearly the wrong place for most people to live.

I’m glad I’ve cleared that up for myself. 😉

The Gratitude List

Here is a list of the things I am grateful for:

I am grateful that I was lucky enough to be born, and born healthy. So many kids aren’t that lucky and it can be truly hellish for all involved.

I am grateful that when I was born, my parents lived in an affluent, safe country. A dice roll that I really couldn’t have done too much better on. I’ve always been lucky with the 1d20.

I am grateful to have fantastic parents that love and care for me. I think ‘nurture’ has the lions share vs ‘nature’. I think you ‘build’ good kids – their genetics are secondary.

I am grateful that I have siblings. Though I’m not super close to my siblings, it’s great to have friends along for the ride and I’m lucky they are so relatively close.

I am grateful to have had the luxury of a quality education. My parents put me through the best schools money could buy in my home town. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, and I really dislike the modern educational system for a couple of reasons – but it is hugely superior to no education at all.

I am grateful to have had a home to live in growing up, food to eat and clothes to wear. My basic necessities were always more than met.

I am grateful to have had a few really close school friends. As a 32 year old it is really special to have a half dozen gentlemen I’ve known since either kindergarten or school that I still have contact with. I’ll catch up with them all once a week for long stretches of the year.

I am grateful to have come from a home where my parents demonstrated a functional marriage to their children.

I am grateful to have have spent all of 2005 either in hospital, or at home recovering in preparation for my next surgery/hospital stay.

I am grateful that at times I wasn’t sure if I was going to live or die in 2005. This sounds overly dramatic, but prior to my illness I had lost what little focus I’d had as a young adult and was floating around aimlessly. I was not achieving, and I was wasting a quality education. I left hospital a few days before I turned 21 and I was a different person. I had developed some level of mental toughness, and significant perspective.

I am grateful to have met and married my strong, wise, intelligent and beautiful wife.

I am grateful to have and know my parents as an adult. Having an adult to adult relationship with your parents it an incredible thing. Sharing your hobbies with your parents is a lot of fun.

I am grateful that I have a healthy, spectacular baby daughter. She simultaneously changed nothing, and everything for our family. Many folks simply cannot have children regardless of their efforts. I often wish I could clone my daughter, a second child like her would be massively indulgent. I fear if I had a second child, that child would be a real pain in the ass to return balance to the force. (sorry non-existent second child)

I am grateful that I have a healthy, functional marriage.

I am grateful that I was introduced to music by my parents. I am unspeakably grateful that they all but forced me to attend 8? (I don’t remember) years of violin classes as a child. I didn’t enjoy them, but they gave me a musical gift. I sometimes feel like I have “an ear” I am not worthy of possessing. This was possibly the best thing I was ever forced to do. My poor parents must have sat through hundreds of hours of absolutely horrendous “music” performed by myself and my siblings. My parents are clearly warriors.

I am grateful that I have so many positive hobbies.

I am grateful that I was introduced to traditional karate by my father, and returned to it as an adult. Karate gives me a physical focus, and reinforces mental discipline.

I am grateful to be able to share my karate journey with my father. I saw him achieve his 1st dan black belt in Okinawa. He is about 200 years old. Pretty sharp for a 200 year old.

I am grateful that I am stronger every year than I was the last. It is slow going, and it isn’t easy.

I am grateful to have found work that I enjoy. I run my own businesses and work predominantly as a software engineer building web applications and websites for SMEs. I really enjoyed the first thing I put my mind to out of the gate. Very rare, very lucky, and yet another gift. I am also able to generate significant (at least from my perspective!) income from the profession I enjoy, and help other human beings in a meaningful way.

I am grateful that me and my wider family are healthy enough.

 

What a monster of a list. I could certainly keep going.

Thank you universe.

Communication And Trust

I am reminded almost every day just how ridiculously important communication is.

I’m sure that’s no surprise to anyone, but it’s one thing to nod and agree, quite another to experience it in a consistent and visceral fashion.

I am a software engineer by trade and I run a couple of small businesses. Communication is more important than the code I write, the products I sell and the services I provide.

Communication brings clients in the door.

Communication retains my clients.

Communication defines whatever problem needs to be solved.

Those elements of communication come together to earn trust.

That trust turns into money.

If I decreased the talent level of myself and my team in the software world, but increased our communication skills – we’d make more money and our clients would be happier. There is obviously a point at which this is no longer true (the point at which we are little more than drunken apes smashing away at a keyboard and hoping code pops out the other end) – but a mediocre product or service with great communication wins verses a great product with mediocre communication 99.9% of the time.

The 0.01% is the home of products or services with no competition what-so-ever.

People (myself included) tend to obsess about the little things. We obsess about honing our craft, about doing amazing work, about being technically magnificent. I look at a lot of code and think “damn, I could have made this code better”. It is very rare for me to look at code I wrote a year or two ago and to be completely satisfied.

0.01% of the world actually cares about your skills moving from 95% to 96% awesome. As long as you’re good enough to get the job done, and do it well, you’ll be considered “good enough”. From there it just comes down to the quality of your communication. No client you’re likely to meet knows the difference between code written by a good programmer and a great programmer, or a great programmer and an amazing programmer.

It’s a little sad, but that’s the way it is, and it’s true across almost all fields. Diminishing returns dictate that unless that one thing is all you care about, you’d be better served focusing somewhere else.

The same is as true personally as it is commercially.

A marriage is 90% communication, 10% trying no to be a twat (your numbers may vary).

The vast majority of humans don’t care how much you can deadlift, how great your code is, or how stunningly beautiful your joinery is.

They care about how you interact with them and how you make them feel.

What Happens If We Use GPS Coordinates Instead Of Country Names?

The concept of a “country” in 2017 is, honestly, a pretty toxic thing.

There are some positives though.

They give us clear delineation for national sports teams, for example.

Regardless of that absolutely essential benefit, by and large, nationalism promotes racism and intolerance – and ultimately war.

Nationalism and “countries” as a concept allow us to dehumanize, murder and abuse each other. That a sad, but irrefutable fact.

The names of countries are absolutely charged with emotional baggage. Get yourself a large enough sample size and pick a red state in the US (or any other large group of humans, really) and see how they feel about Syria, Iran and Iraq.

Then repeat the process, ask them for the first things that come to mind when they hear Sweden, Australia and New Zealand.

The difference would be staggering, and yet we are all the same people.

Now take the same folks, ask them how they feel about the people at 34.8021° N, 38.9968 W

99% of people won’t have a clue where on Earth that actually is, but that doesn’t matter. Ask them what they think they’re probably like?

Good enough folk I’d bet. They probably have their own issues they’re working on but ultimately they’re likely nice enough people once you get to know them. They probably have a teenage daughter who is a bit of a pain in the ass, a son who they’re trying to keep “on the rails”, and a reasonably onerous mortgage they’re trying to get a handle on. They probably live in a modest house, maybe there is some crime in their neighborhood. They probably go to a public school, it’s alright but they wish their kids would apply themselves more.

It demonstrates the absolute idiocy of nationalism. Football stadiums in the UK are abhorrent, barbaric things. Humans ingesting as much alcohol as they can reasonably stomach and then attack each other because the human next to them is wearing the wrong colours.

Or we use words like “terrorism” and throw in the name of a country far away that we don’t understand like “Syria”, and use that to dehumanize to the point at which mothers are more than happy to send their children to war to kill the “bad guys” and “keep us safe”.

“Those Syrians are evil terrorists and they need to die, we need to kill them for the safety of everyone!”

That’s nationalism.

Did you know that people that live near 37° N, 95° W shot each-other more than 107,000 times in 2013? (Wikipedia) They are literally murdering the shit out of each-other right now. 

They’re terrorizing good folk! Those 37,95vers are probably Islam lovers – I’ve heard about them on the news. They’re bad hombres!

Send in the Marines

When you’re shooting people in your own country apparently it’s fine, but on the minute chance someone that doesn’t live near 37° N, 95° W kills someone that does it’s time to launch the jets.

Nationalism ties into everything and it is incredibly toxic.

We are brought up to love our country. Our flag is the best and our country is the greatest country on earth. That’s a really nice story – but that’s all it is. It’s an absolute fiction that hurts a lot more than it helps.

I love New Zealand, I think it is a fantastic location on earth. The people are amazing, the landscape is mind-blowingly sublime. I feel a little funny in my stomach when I see the New Zealand flag and I get a little emotional when I see the haka.

New Zealand is not the greatest country on Earth – that title is a shame worthy of no country.

Earth is our planet, we’re all human beings and we need to pull our heads in, drink a little bit less of the Kool-Aid, and realize we’re all in this together.

Syrians (The good people of 35° N, 39 W) are no different from your God-fearing neighbor Bob who has that car you like, the pretty wife and the great kids. You’ve always liked Bob.

LGBT folks are just like Bob, too.

We’re all Bob, man.

Money Can’t Buy Happiness

Many people are brought up with the old expression “money can’t buy happiness”, and I think that holds true for a great many people. I heard it a bunch.

It certainly doesn’t hold true for everyone, though, and is absolutely used as a crutch at times.

Putting more money into a broken system is unlikely to bring about any positive change. More money in the hands of people who are not mentally and physical “at peace” is unlikely to help. It certainly won’t make a broken, unhappy person a fixed, happy one.

On the other hand, putting more money into a “functional” system, or into someone who has a solid foundation is likely to bring about positive change.

Examples:

  1. Starving child cannot afford food, money absolutely buys a long-term increase in happiness here.
  2. Billionaire sociopath gets another million dollars, unlikely to change much.
  3. Middle-income family gets more money, assuming they’re already happy they will likely continue to be happy and will use that money to generate even more happiness.
  4. Middle-income family gets more money, family is a mess, members are extremely unhappy and unfulfilled. The money probably won’t lift happiness levels. That’s money into a broken system.

Maybe I’m over stating things a little, maybe most people are miserable, but I would like to think most people are somewhere in the proximity of number 3. More money and semi-sensible spending will probably increase happiness, at worst it is unlikely to decrease it. If they take the money and start a meth-lab well shit, that’s just unfortunate.

If you’re happy without additional money you’ll likely be happy with it as well. Money tends to magnify the qualities you already have. If you’re a douche-cannon – you’ll be a rich one of those. If you’re an upstanding citizen, you’ll likely continue down that path.

Folks should be working to increase their happiness every day (probably wishful thinking, lets say every quarter?) – so realistically more money is very unlikely to be a problem.

And yet, we shun the dollar.

Let’s say Bob goes to work and somehow manages to earn an extra $10 despite being a salary-man, or maybe he’s lucky enough to work for himself and thus making the extra $10 is easy.

Bob has $10 extra, he doesn’t need the money. His family is fed, housed, clothed and reasonably happy.

Bob is a bit of a bad ass. He decides to give the money away rather than spending it on a 6-pack of beer, or buying 2 coffees from the local cafe.

What could Bob do?

The options are ridiculously vast in terms of how many different ways he could make the world better with his unassuming $10 note.

Where I live, in New Zealand, he could buy almost 8kg of rice for a family in need. That’s 80 servings of rice, a real “super food” (what a bullshit term, nice work marketers and nutritionists of the world) in that it has a high caloric density, is readily available, is cheap and is good for you.

I did some quick Google searching to see what that money would buy in super poor countries, and it turns out they pay about the same for stuff as us “first world” posers. Ain’t that a crock of shit and a half.

Let’s look at some quickfire alternatives to rice/food (which is an amazing option).

Here are 10 off-the-cuff:

  • Buy someone else that really needs it a small gift. Make their day, and make your day in the process – you selfish bastard!
  • Pay a kid to mow an old, infirm persons lawn for 2 weeks.
  • Buy a caffeine addict a reusable cup and tell them about how damaging waste is to the world. Potentially save hundreds of single use coffee cups going into landfill.
  • Go to the local primary school and give the $10 to the receptionist. Tell them to credit the money against the student with the highest current outstanding balance to the school. Chances are that student’s family really needed that.
  • Buy some trees, plant em. Bring your kids back to see them one day.
  • Give the money to a local animal rescue/shelter. That money will care for abandoned pets.
  • Invest the money, give away 5-7 cents per year forever.
  • Buy a homeless person a blanket.
  • Buy the right book for the right person, change their life.
  • Donate $10 to any of a million charities. (Or get the best bang for your buck and look at services like Effective Altruism)

That was $10. Image what you could do with $50.

Hell let’s get crazy – $1000.

That money can provide an unbelievable amount of value in your own, or other peoples lives.

“Money can’t buy happiness”, what nonsense. There are absolutely edge cases where money is a horrible thing to add into the mix, but I think the majority of the time money is overwhelmingly positive.

Think of the change you could create in the world if you earned another $5000, another $50,000? another 500,000?

Someone making minimum wage who struggles to make ends meet may be a real crusader for civil rights, for equality, and for awesomeness in general.

Sadly however their likely effect is very, very small.

That same person bringing home 6-figures? Now we’re talking.

Once your basic human needs are met; the more money you have, the more good you can do in the world.

If you knew how much good the Gates Foundation (Bill) has done it would likely blow your face off. Bill has a few dollars to his name, and that let him do some things.

We should stop touting anti-money nonsense and get young kids excited about creating value, generating big incomes and changing the world for the better with that money.

Being a poor left wing liberal simply isn’t good enough.

Money Is Value

Of all of the things mankind has invented, money is one of the most interesting.

It causes plenty of problems in the world.

It also facilitates a huge amount of joy and happiness in that same world. It has a hugely negative stigma attached to it, in my view most unfairly. Money is all about value, those who provide great value receive great amounts of money. We’re all on the value scale somewhere. Want more money? create higher value for other people and it will occur.

Will Smith creates great value as he entertains us and sells product based on his social status.

Steph Curry creates great value, again as an entertainer. His angle is a little different, though, as a professional athlete.

A lot of people will pay a lot of money to watch those two people perform their craft, great value – great remuneration.

I picked those two examples as most folks don’t really understand why celebrities and professional athletes get paid the way they do. They can understand people who make lots of physical things making a lot of money, or performing lots of physical services – but entertainment and non-physical things of value are “slightly” more cerebral.

Value also changes. Value tends to swing wildly. Baseball players used to play on the weekends and they needed a full time job to pay the bills. Now baseball players make huge amounts of money. The same is true of musicians and the like.

In today’s society we tend to value celebrity and entertainment very highly.

This is a large shift, as in the past physical products were king.

Money is all about value, and more specifically what we value at the moment.

Do you want to add more value to other peoples lives? That’s another way of saying you want to earn more money, because more value equates to more money.

Try replacing the word “money” with the word “value”.

Does that change how you conceptualize money?

Wasting Cash A Dollar At A Time

I’ve been looking at wasted money recently. Inspired greatly by a fine blog called Mr. Money Mustache.

The general idea is that we as spoiled humans squander a lot, and that if we were only aware of how much we were throwing away we could make absolutely drastic change.

How much can one cut from their spending with little to no net loss of personal happiness?

It turns out the answer is, simply put, a shitload.

We (I) looked at our outgoings, and without really knowing it, we were spending about twice what all of our peers were spending on various categories. Groceries was the biggest offender, but there were many things.

I decided to do something we’d never really done before as a family, not so much out of necessity as out of shock. We (I) put together a monthly budget.

Long story short, almost one month in and we’re saving about a grand per month. The only thing I’ve noticed is that I’m having shorter showers now, everything else is pretty much as it was.

I spent half a day measuring the usage of various household appliances and making sure we knew what drained the most power. Simply knowing that and being aware of it has halved our daily power usage. That saves 3-4 dollars per day.

That’s only a couple of bucks eh!

Turns out that’s $1460 per year, after tax of course. At a modest kiwi income you’re going to pay tax on that sucker at about 30%.

That’s $1895 before tax, and then there is the $100 you’d earn if you invested that money in an index fund, or some other fancy or non-fancy investment platform.

That’s $2000 a year for basically no loss in personal happiness.

In fact, I’m super happy I’ll be pocketing that $2000 per year.

Power is just one part of the household expenses equation, there are many avenues you can investigate to reduce costs for little to no (mostly no) cost to your personal happiness.

Even knocking something like your internet bill down by 10 bucks a month nets you $120 every year, and that sort of “small” saving adds up very quickly.

It’s easy to mistake this approach as one that is simply about “saving money”, but it is absolutely not about saving money.

The goal is to maximize your personal happiness by not wasting money.

That extra power usage brought me no joy what-so-ever. The $2000 holiday I can spend that money on instead will bring me great joy.

If that spend will truly make you happier then you should spend the money.

If you’re buying those daily coffees simply due to habit, or addiction, then that’s a different story!

We just seem to spend our lives wasting what we earn a couple of bucks at a time for no net gain in happiness.

I’m sure we can do better.

Procrastination

Procrastination, one of life’s finest delicacies.

There is good “procrast”, as the connoisseurs call it – and then there is bad.

The good kind of procrastination is heading home early, or going in late because you’re on track. It’s leaving that job for Monday rather than doing it over the weekend because it really isn’t mission critical and you’ve already “wowed” that pants off of that client this week anyway.

No one needs their pants blown off twice in one week.

That’s procrastination you’ve earned.

Then there is the bad form of procrastination. The virus that spreads throughout your life in a very “Agent Smith” sort of way. You’ve already let that thing slip this far, what’s another day or another week going to matter?

You’ve already let that client down, it’s too scary to deal with now and so we’ll let that fester a little longer.

Today I paid the price for the shitty form of procrastination. Every now and again I get the kick in the ass I need that reminds me “Oh yeah, I’m an adult and a professional. Make sure you act like one.”

I’ve had a bucket of bolts old car on my driveway for a year. I could have sold this car a year ago no hassles what-so-ever and yet it just sat there. We’d just had our first child and honestly I just couldn’t be bothered dealing with it.

Now I’m dealing with it and it’s a pain in the ass. Registrations have lapsed, batteries are dead, and hours will be spent getting it sorted.

I could make a lot more money working those hours than I’ll ever get from messing around with it and getting it sold.

It is the penance I have to pay for my slothfulness.

Nothing ever gets better when left to rot, it only gets worse, and dealing with it today is always better than tomorrow.

An utterly minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, but certainly my 2017 reminder not to let the sloth-beast get involved in my affairs.