Self-Denying Self-Improvement

I’m crippled. Not physically. Not really even mentally. But emotionally. Not because I’m sad or angry or dealing with undue duress in my life. But because I’ve become complacent. Lazy. Comfortable.

Ten years ago, I was freshly divorced, which was a good thing, mostly, given my first marriage was less-than-ideal (my ex-wife is a great person; we just weren’t great together and our relationship was built on a shaky foundation, about which I may or may not write one day). I was in the last year or so of my bachelor’s degree at UNLV. I was also working full-time as a content developer at I was also doing a lot of freelance writing, plus running an alternative news website called VEGASinsight, and was about to join UNLV’s newspaper, The Rebel Yell, as editor-in-chief. And I think I handled it all swimmingly, with plenty of time left over for a very active social life. Of course, I was also 29 years old.

Flash-forward to the now. After a few years of physically and mentally taxing myself in launching and running my own business(es) full-time, I returned to the corporate world and the comfort of a regular paycheck. I cut way back on extraneous freelance work. I’ve started putting the pieces of my life back together, but I’m not there yet. A lot of things got put on hold while I was in startup mode. Years of backlogged personal paperwork. Comic and film projects abruptly interrupted. I didn’t even wash my car for about two years. And my current marriage–which was in its infancy when I jumped ship from my very cozy web content job at a public utility–is still a bit bruised from the beating it took while I was fighting depression running that business into the ground. (One day, I need to write a book about how NOT to start up a business.)

This week, I start a new, very cozy web content job at a sexy resort on the Las Vegas Strip. It’s been a long time since I’ve allowed myself to engage fully into a role working for someone else. I’ve built my identity as an individual “brand,” and I think I’ve had a hard time yielding that. But I feel pretty good about this move.

What I don’t feel so good about is how complacent I’ve become since shuffling off the one business and getting ready to ramp down another. My extracurriculars are pretty much limited to playing bass with MOONBOOTS a few times a month (if that), eking out a few (last?) publications through Pop! Goes the Icon, and eternally decorating/redecorating our house. And that’s OK. It’s OK to have a good job, a nice house, and to stop hustling all the time in the search for something “else.” It’s always been elusive, whatever that “other” is.

The problem is, that contentment breeds laziness with which I’m not comfortable. During the few years I worked exclusively for myself, I got so used to only producing on assignment (which was always), that now, I don’t know how to function independently without those deadlines. Without the pressure of “I must do this thing or else my mortgage doesn’t get paid,” it’s hard to muster up the energy to do anything else after a full day of already-creatively taxing work.

But I still have other stories to tell. I still have songs to write. Films to make. Comics to draw. And I know “past performance is no guarantee of future results,” but obviously, I’ve self-motivated sans external forces with great success in the past. It’s just a matter of getting past the mental block I’ve self-created over the last few years, and giving myself permission to do things purely for the sake of doing them.

I was inspired to write this post listening to an episode of the Tim Ferris Show, which was actually an extended interview with Ferris by writer Joel Stein. This particular episode, titled “How to 10X Your Results, One Tiny Tweak at a Time,” included a lot of discussion about improving your life through subtraction, not addition. It’s something my wife, Sara, has been more than hinting at over the years we’ve been together. That maybe instead of doing so many things at once, I choose specific things to focus on that I can do well, instead of just “doing.” Not that I can’t work on comics and articles and books and videos and music, but that maybe I just focus on one project at a time, complete it, then move on to the next thing.

The one thing I’m going to do to start with cutting out the noise and self-enabling creativity and productivity is sitting down and blogging every day. I know, I know–I’ve written this a million times. But this time, I’m not worried who’s reading. I’m using a blog in the traditional, pre-monetization sense: As a personal journal. And writing something, every day, just to get out what’s in my head–even if it’s just a sentence or two to say “I am here, I am alive”–might be the start of a life fuller of intent and focus.

1 Comment

  1. Marilyn Perez April 19, 2016 1:53 pm 

    Exactly! Breath! xoxoxo