Swaroop C H

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To live unconventionally

25 Jun 2008

Imagine a conversation with your doctor that goes like this:

"What do you do for work?" the doctor asked me at the beginning of the interview.

"Well, I’m trying to start my own social movement."

(There was a long pause, but he didn’t ask anything else about that. Instead, he looked at the next item on the list.)

"Do you take any medications?"

"Not usually, but when I need to, I buy them in Africa."

(Another pause.)

"Do you exercise regularly?"

"Yes, I just ran a marathon on a cruise ship last week!"

Such a person should surely be interesting.

That's how I first read about Chris Guillebeau (via Cal Newport).

So when Chris mentioned on his blog that he has a manifesto coming up soon, I was eagerly waiting. He calls it a "A Brief Guide to World Domination: How to Live a Remarkable Life in a Conventional World".

Well, surely, there have been many people who have made tall claims over the years, why this should be any different? Because this guy walks the talk. What else can you say about someone who has visited 83 countries so far and he's only 30 years of age. His goal is to visit the remaining 115 countries by April 7, 2013. How's that for a goal?

What I liked about the manifesto is that it reminds me of a rule that I've been following off late: "Enough fundas, Back to fundamentals." The manifesto does not tell you anything earth-shattering but makes you think about the simple basics of your life.

If you choose the path of being "just like everybody else", then you're already set because that is what majority of the world does.

If you choose the path of "non-conformity", then be prepared to face all the problems but at the end of it all, you'll get to live the life that you want (assuming that's what you want).

If you want to truly go for BHA goals (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), then you need to take care of yourself and contribute to others as well. The latter is not simply charity, but there are several ways. After all, the greatest joy a passionate programmer or artist can get is when he/she sees someone using/admiring what they created and they are getting benefitted from it. And so on.

All this reminds me of this quote by John Davis:

You all laugh at me because I'm different, I laugh at you because you're all the same.

That's what I say to myself when people stare at me in the mornings when I'm running with a fuel belt around my waist. Hey, it may look funny, but I need that water while I'm running so that I don't end up dehydrating (which is bad, speaking from experience). So I may look unconventional, but I need that water, and that's how I want to do running.

So what else have I done unconventionally?

Chris says that "The only things you’ll need to give up are assumptions, expectations, and the comfort zone that holds you back from greatness." I certainly have given up on assumptions and expectations. The comfort zone is still something that holds me back. I first shook this off by taking the plunge to quit my job without even knowing what's going to happen next. In fact, it's been more than a couple of months since then and I still don't know where I'll be a few months from now. But I have some ideas, some things I'm working on.

Not to say that the past two months has been easy. I've been to hell and back. I was looking for a period of self-discovery and boy, did I get it. I learned some things about myself:

That's it. Nothing else scares me or bothers me. Not even the fear of not getting a job tomorrow.

Getting out of that comfort zone led me to understand this about myself and now I'm actively working to prove to myself that I can overcome these fears. Hell, even writing this here where anyone can read it is a commitment to myself that yes, I am indeed working on overcoming them.

One thing keeps me going is another principle that at the end of my life, on my death bed, I should reflect back and say to my family and myself: "No Regrets". Hard words to live up to.

Will I be successful at what I do? Will things work out? Am I just fooling myself? I really don't know. Perhaps, the answer to that is in Steve Pavlina's words:

So what? Who cares? If I get up on stage and bomb, it just isn’t that big a deal. I gave myself permission to fail. But I wouldn’t give myself permission not to try.

-- Steve Pavlina

Both parts of what Steve Pavlina says are so inspiring. For one, how many people will really care if I flop? Most people may want to know about it just so that they can laugh about it or ridicule the person. Second, about this fear of failure... I've become convinced that it doesn't matter whether you fail or not. You never know until you try, right? As I mentioned, I'm more afraid of not trying hard enough.

What matters is if you enjoyed the journey, and hopefully, gone after those BHA goals and achieved some of them.

In the end, ask yourself this question posed by Chris:

If you had two minutes with anyone in the world who has the power to influence the rest of your life, what would you say to them? “Hi, my name is and I’m going to ____.”

What would you say?

If you don't know your answer, I would highly recommend that you download the manifesto, take a printout, set aside an hour far away from humanity and internet, and read it.

Comments

Swaroop says:

@Sandip You make it sound so good! :-P ... I hope I end up having as good an experience as yours.

@Chintan, @Xio Thank you for your wishes!

@Ganesh


First thing, isn’t expecting social acceptance from others a conventional idea. I mean, what/why do you care about others thoughts on your running attire and why are you justifying it to yourself with in. I some how get a feeling that you care more about others opinion on your actions. in my opinion (if you still care :) ), that can do no good to any one.


Well, in a twisted sense, you actually get what I was trying to say. I agree I'm trying to be overly defensive but in our Indian context, social acceptance does matter, I cannot deny that. A side-effect of doing what I want is that I'm facing this problem or trying to escape it. As I said, this isn't easy, that's why I ended up writing about it even though that wasn't what I originally had in mind.

I'm conscious of these things and I'm an introvert by nature, so shrugging it off doesn't come naturally to me but I'm learning :-)


Is being unconventional an objective or a goal to pursue? In my opinion, the objective one needs to pursue is the one that gives him happiness/satisfaction. it does not matter its unconventional or otherwise.

For the doctors questions, if i say ‘i work as a clerk in a company and i sleep in my couch as soon as i come home till next day morning’ and if that’s my pursuit, then i am a happy man. I don’t want to buy medicines from africa just because every one else is buying from the local store and i need to be different for the heck of it.


I definitely do NOT advocate non-conformity for the sake of it! The point was that you do not have to stick to convention if you don't want to. It really is about what you want out of life.

And the doctor's questions wasn't about trying to look different, it was just to highlight that Chris lives his life the way he wants to :)


doing things that satisfies self, in my opinion, should be the only thing that shld matter to anyone. doesn’t matter where this falls relative to others (conventional or otherwise).


Agreed.


One last thing, at the end of your “self-discovery”, if your fear is you don’t have any skills, then i think you should look deeper. Just to name one, writing a blog is a good skill, not many can do it. These might not be inline with your objective. that’s a different problem, but the skill remains. so look deeper is what i would say.


When I think about it, I guess you're right. Maybe I don't look at it that way because it is not "inline with my objective." I guess what I want to be really good at is not only writing a blog, I'm looking for something else as well.

xio says:

Great entry

ganesh says:

interesting post.

First thing, isn't expecting social acceptance from others a conventional idea. I mean, what/why do you care about others thoughts on your running attire and why are you justifying it to yourself with in. I some how get a feeling that you care more about others opinion on your actions. in my opinion (if you still care :) ), that can do no good to any one.

Is being unconventional an objective or a goal to pursue? In my opinion, the objective one needs to pursue is the one that gives him happiness/satisfaction. it does not matter its unconventional or otherwise.

For the doctors questions, if i say 'i work as a clerk in a company and i sleep in my couch as soon as i come home till next day morning' and if that's my pursuit, then i am a happy man. I don't want to buy medicines from africa just because every one else is buying from the local store and i need to be different for the heck of it.

doing things that satisfies self, in my opinion, should be the only thing that shld matter to anyone. doesn't matter where this falls relative to others (conventional or otherwise).

One last thing, at the end of your "self-discovery", if your fear is you don't have any skills, then i think you should look deeper.
Just to name one, writing a blog is a good skill, not many can do it. These might not be inline with your objective. that's a different problem, but the skill remains. so look deeper is what i would say.

with best wishes,
ganesh

Chintan says:

Swaroop, best wishes for your endeavors .. nicely compiled post

Sandip Bhattacharya says:

I think you would love this phase throughout your life, even if you decide down the line to move to a more conventional phase.

I have been in your state (quit my job to do things that I like) for ~3 years. It were the most productive and satisfying years. You do whatever interests you - and I got involved in far more areas in technology(and outside tech) that I could in a real job, you live the life you want to - I could completely move my time table around to suit my work i.e. work when I am the most productive, play when it is the best time to play, etc. I made some of the most interesting friends during this time too, people who lived life like me, people who you are unlikely to meet if you have a regular job. Heck, I met my wife during this phase :), which would have been unlikely in a real job :P.

Wish you the very best.

Study Hacks » Blog Archive » Book Review: A Brief Guide to World Domination says:

[...] I recommend that you check out Swaroop’s excellent reflections on Chris’s approach and how it applies to his own unconventional [...]

Jagadeesh says:

Great post Swaroop! I am myself being soul-searching for the past year and this read is really helpful. Really praise you for what you have been doing. One thing that does work for you and did not, until recently, for me was the fear of failure. As JK Rowling recently said,"


failure meant a stripping away of the inessential.I >stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other >than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into >finishing the only work that mattered to me."


Heres hoping our paths cross again as we each work towards what matters most to us.

Pramod Biligiri says:

I don't agree with much in this post, but just wanted to comment that it was very well written. Spolskyesque.

Rk says:

Nice post, thanks.

I can almost say ditto to many thoughts, except that I am not that daring to quit the job, and it is not feasible too. So trying to somewhat find a way to breakout.

I keep convincing myself over every failure that at least I made an effort. Recently saw "One flew over cuckoo nest" and when he tries in vain to lift a heavy object, he says "At least I tried". That summarizes it for me, may be what I want is beyond my ability and deserving.
When you say
//
* My first biggest fear is that I have no skills.
* My second biggest fear is not failure, it’s boredom and lack of motivation.
//
I say ditto but if "you" say you have no skills, I should find a better word to convey my negativity :)
**
I have always tried doing what makes me happy, except when unavoidable.
On a lighter note, I thought applying same to marriage, and remain unmarried, until I broke my plan to my parents and big discourse happened. I am now made to feel like, whatever I do is incomplete and meaningless if I dont marry, so now I am a getting a feeling that I am living for my future wife and kids and not myself.
**
And certain things what one does could be very trivial and meaningless for others. I am every time surprised and appalled when one demeans the objective of other, clearly not recognizing that fulfilling of objective/dream is important,and that is what I am pointing to, rather than the greatness of objective itself. For eg, when I point out to a dum*ass, about Shri's cycling efforts, he said -cycling??!! Same applies to running or trekking or even blogging or writing stories or anything.One person even trivialized Armstrong's winning. The value/greatness of a work is a null for the one who doesn't have it in his radar. As they say "kattegenu gottu kasturi vasane"
**
Good luck with your efforts.
**
Pretty curious about your secret -"i have some ideas though" :)

Swaroop says:

@Jagadeesh Have you decided/thought of what it is that really want to go for?

@Pramod We all have our ways of thinking about this, so we don't have to have the same viewpoints :) ... "Spolskyesque."? That's too high a bar, I'm not worthy!

@RK Well, quitting is not the answer to anything here! That was just one way for me to put my money/time where my mouth is.

Even when you get married, you'll still be a person by yourself. If you are unhappy, how will you keep your family happy? In my opinion, that's not possible. So you still need to find things that excite you and motivate you.

About "the ideas"... it's no big deal, it's nothing out-of-the-blue ;-)

Satish says:

Swaroop boss ... I can exactly feel what u r experiencing ...
I think its a common twenty's syndrome thats going around ..
Pretty much most of us suffer from your both points ..
1> Lack of skill
2> lack of motivation n boredom

Actually its 2 --> 1

N ya if a person knows what he really wants then u can consider him successful ... coz He will definitely achieve it .."If he really wants" .Some how I think more opportunites also lead to this situation .. of loosing motivation ..

We tend to explore till we understand it enough .. This exploration is fun ..but once explored its .. like nothing ..

Wishing u all the best in all ur endeveaurs
Satish TJ

Vasudeesha says:

That's the great post. Thanks

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