The Solution to Boredom

I used to be hooked on Facebook. And Buzzfeed, and a whole bunch of other sites. At the slightest amount of boredom, my phone would pop right out and I would start reading something, checking something out (or someone out) on social media, etc.
I tried to quit Facebook many times. I was inspired by Steve Pavlina’s excellent post on this topic (click here), until one day it just clicked. I have been off Facebook since late August 2013, and don’t miss it.

I substituted it with other things. Quora, reddit, etc became the new things I would check out or read. After all, I believed, that I’m better than others because I’m doing more intellectual things. I’m increasing my knowledge. This must make me a better person.

Nope. Interestingly enough, consuming content still did nothing to get rid of the unsatisfied feeling. Kind of like eating a bag of chips and not having a real meal. I was just going through empty calories. And what did I do to make that increasingly unsatisfied feeling go away? I’d just go through more empty calories. I’d keep reading another site, I’d open another tab. And the feeling intensified. It was a downward spiral.

Now, this is nothing that big. This sort of downward spiral doesn’t put you on the streets as other addictions might. But this is definitely something worth thinking about a bit more.

Michael Crowley writes about this in (this somewhat dated) New Republic article (via Ben Casnocha “In Defense of Boredom”):

Turning off the BlackBerry and just looking out the window feels like an act of spiritual emancipation. And perhaps only one of Amtrak’s famous delays can help me achieve the “profound boredom” that Heidegger recommended for its clarifying power.

Granted, few of us are likely to have blinding existential insights just because we’re out of BlackBerry service range. For me, boredom tends to produce ruminations more along the lines of whether I should move to a new apartment. But it’s a start. In this moment of anti-boredom triumphalism, there’s something creepy about our constant flight from ourselves. Our fear of boredom suggests a kind of self-loathing. What are we so afraid of?

What are so we afraid of after all? A sort of dread enters when I get bored. But I also didn’t want to keep reading more things and not doing anything with it.

So here’s what I propose: Instead of using boredom as a means to start CONSUMING content (or food, or whatever), use it to CREATE content (or food, or whatever). Take the most exciting idea you have in your mind, and then take one tangible action in order to create it. You can certainly do it with your list of to-dos or shoot off some work/school email, but acting on your most exciting idea will yield a better return for you. The momentum of such action will be like an ice-bath to your puny boredom compared to the tepid waters of doing something from your to-do list. You’re actually MORE likely to effectively get things done even from your boring to-do list this way.

I have found this to be the most potent solution to boredom so far. Agree, disagree, share your comments below. And if you think this idea was valuable, considering sharing it.

2014 Focuses/2013 Review

This year, I have been fortunate enough to have a much more heightened awareness and clarity. I can’t tell you how good it feels to have that after floundering around.

I have become fascinating listening to the I Love Marketing podcasts with Joe Polish and Dean Jackson. I used to love the subject of marketing back in high school and university. Through some negative experiences with certain teachers, and working in roles that were very rigid (and not lending itself to an experimental approach to acquiring, and developing relationships with customers), I was really put off by marketing. And when I transitioned to a new role after my NC13 experience (past post about this here) in the summer of 2013, I got good at it, but I felt a certain disconnect.

The selling process felt less than honest. The process was less about education and more about salesmanship. It’s strange to say this, but I’ve felt a greater sense of belonging and purpose about what I want to get extremely good at from one podcast than I did from many years at university, where I tried hard to chase prestige and status with the work I was doing. I feel home with the work I want to do now. I don’t feel two faced, I don’t feel like I’m struggling against an unbearable force of chasing success. I feel at play when I learn and study and try to implement the ideas of marketing that these guys teach. And so, for that, I want to thank them (I’m written a thank you note to them).

I’m using this idea on The Travelling Monk. This will be the one big focus area for this year. I truly believe that in this busy age, children and parents don’t get a chance to come together enough and share meaningful experiences that brings them closer to one another. That’s the gap that The Travelling Monk closes. We sent a prospecting email out the day before American Thanksgiving, and we were overwhelmed with the response. There is clearly a deep need for this out there, and I look forward to working with Shubh to help families, as well as using ethical marketing to share what we have to more people.

We’re redesigning the site and we have a much higher quality product in the pipeline. My goal is to reach 200 customers for our premium box priced at $100/month by end of March 2014. I think we can make it happen.

At the same time, I want to work with cool entrepreneurs and help them with the projects they’re working on. I’m reaching out to them and offering to do free work for them. I’d love to work with the entrepreneurs at Moon Express: a company that’s working to help take things out of the Earth’s orbit for things like mining and other space exploration. As a child, I wanted to be an astronaut. I might not make it out of the earth, but I can certainly help play a role in that.

I’m sure my career goals will change. But I think I have finally found the right talent that I want to develop: properly creating and maintaining relationships with customers through ethical marketing/selling/CRM speaks to me. I’m working on another idea as well for a business, but that will come later.

On a health level, I am going to continue with my transition to a fully raw vegan diet following the 80/10/10 principles (80% carbohydrates, 10% fat, 10% protein) as advocated by Dr. Doug Graham. I’m not perfect at it, and I still manage to eat one cooked meal/day, but cooked foods are having less and less of appeal for me. At the same time, I am debating to start the Insanity workout again, or stick with Matt Furey’s Combat Conditioning. I love doing just the 3 exercises that Matt Furey talks about, and I feel great about it, but I miss the intense sweating from Insanity. But one thing is for sure: in the past, I have struggled and forced to get myself to exercise. This years seems to be pretty effortless so far. Definitely a big gain from last year.

So that’s it: two big focuses for this year: growing my business(es) and working with interesting people doing interesting work, and improving my health.

What are your focuses going to be?

People will not help me

Most of us wish for a better life. We write down our goals, read books on how to make them happen, FORCE ourselves to take action and are basically cheerleading ourselves on. And we find ourselves stuck. As I think about reaching out and remaking my world, or at least getting some good direction and advice, I run ideas like: “But I have nothing to offer them. Why would they help me? I’m really lame and I won’t be worthy of their time.” Sound familiar?

But let’s dig in a little deeper.

This argument assumes two things:

1. You have nothing to offer these people in return (or you have offered nothing to them in the past)

2. People are intrinsically looking at this interaction as a cost-benefit calculation. That networking, schmoozing, etc is a zero sum game. A tab is kept somewhere.

From a mindset of scarcity, every single interaction needs to be adjusted for. Every debit must have a credit. However, that is not how the world works. You might have a lot to offer someone in currencies that you did not think about. If not financial, then maybe in terms of friendship, or some advice in an unrelated topic, or just a simple thanks and giving the person the satisfaction that they helped someone worthwhile. I think the latter is a great currency for people like me (young people) that don’t have much to offer back. The ability to show that you are a worthwhile person who will take the time and advice seriously of the other party is richly rewarding.

I know I have loved it when younger people in high school and middle school reach out to me asking me for advice or guidance. They do not always have something to give me, but it feels really rewarding to help them when they are sincere in their questions.

In a world of abundance (and this is a mindset we must adopt, I will post more about why later on), the idea that “people will not help me” just will not do. Once we transcend that, we realize that people are eager to help us move forward in our lives. And that in some way or another, we may give back as well, not from a place of obligation, but from a place of gratitude. We may not even need to give back to that person. The universe has a way of showing us another incident or another person that needs similar help to remind us to pay it forward.

So, banish this invisible script! Go out into the world with an abundance mindset. And give back from a place of gratitude and accept from a place of worthiness.