I do not do what I want to do

I do not do what I want to do

If you do not recognize this, it is okay, you are living life to its fullest. You can move on and ignore these thoughts. However, I do invite you to ponder:

This is part of a longer, pretty confusing, passage in the Bible written by Paul in Romans 8. Maybe it’s just because I am contrarian and like things other people have a hard time dealing with because I also enjoy Ecclesiastes. Despite all of this talk of the Bible, I think that it is extraordinarily practical, even if some claim may that it can only be understood in a religious context.

One more thing before I dive into this and its application. Many people will claim that many parts of the Bible are impractical to be applied in someone’s life outside of being a Christian. In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis contends that we either have to take Christ as God, or a raving lunatic, never just a “good teacher.” While I agree that believing in salvation through the sacrifice of God is certainly a tall order and colors much of the rest of the book, and I hope more people would believe, but it is false to believe that there can’t be some positive understanding without being a believer. C.S. Lewis is right to say that calling Christ just a “good teacher” is impossible, but basically Christians fall into the pride trap and often look like the Pharisees in their words and actions believing that all the teachings can only be understood through relation with Christ. A humble view will show that, yes, salvation is a black and white subject, and not decided by us, but understanding specific passages can be done.

So what brought up this topic? Partly it was reading Strip or Retire post by Art of Manliness, but also having been in a discussion of this passage recently. What is better: To risk nothing by doing nothing? To risk everything doing something that the only reward is anxiety? Or to risk something or everything in order to do better?

If you read the AOM post I think you will know which one I am pushing toward, but still I am going to see if I can make sense of it.

First and foremost I must admit to being in the first camp. I don’t much like it when I think about it and often times I want to get out. But how comfortable it is to just let the status quo keep its status just where it is. But that is partly why I am writing this, to get myself toward the bank of the river Status; to think critically about subjects and expose my thoughts to a wider audience. This is risk, small but still more than I would otherwise consider normally.

What about that second camp? If we risk ourselves on things that are only going to cause anxiety, why do we do it? And does it really cause anxiety for all people?

The people who take these type of risks get an immediate rush, would anyone jump out of a plane or off a cliff to only see the view? Probably, but most people are doing it for the thrill, even with current technology the threat of death is right there. And to the skydivers, there are no personal consequences, at least insofar as they haven’t already reasoned away, who needs life insurance if you die doing what you love?

But these selfish actions, even as mundane (today, at least) as skydiving, do have consequences for other people. Skydiving is socially accepted, but there are many things that are not which people are taking risks all the time and hurting themselves and others for just an ever-diminishing rush. There are also some things that society views as not as bad as previous generations viewed it. Certainly some of these views may have been wrong, but to stir the fire: We all joke about politicians being liars, and the fact is there is no way they could ever keep all their promises, not unless they become god-like and tyrannical. But the US is currently looking at many candidates for an election that is more than a year away, and seemingly seriously considering a self-proclaimed liar.

I am sure you can attach a name to the man who has taken loans, promising to pay it back, and then those companies have gone bankrupt. Certainly unforeseen circumstances could crash a company once in a lifetime to the point that it requires bankruptcy, but when it becomes a pattern there is obviously some reasoning that allows it to happen again and again. Also the attitude is not one of contrition, but rather bombast. Just the person I want to run the country.

I do not want to move from the nothing camp into the negative side. Yes, I may get things wrong, but I want to be doing things right, for the betterment. Probably not altruistic, but certainly not selfish. And those who are coming with me need to know that there are risks, and the possibilities. But first I need to cut down on the nothing and start finding the risk that will pay dividends in the long run.

Some things that I feel I could invest my time in, either more or at all:
  • People - Right now I only really invest time in one person. And even that I do not do too well.
  • Constructive hobbies - lighting for a shadow box doesn’t happen without a bit of work. Also there are other projects around the house that could use my knowledge and/or quick learning to solve. There might be a bit of risk, but the reward will be a more comfortable, or usable, house.
  • School - I would like to be an expert, and to have done well. I feel like I can actually put more effort into doing well. With my recent post I am considering quitting this semester, does this mean I am no longer taking a risk? Or am I increasing my risk for, hopefully, a better reward?
  • Work - with my first major project taking too long in my estimation, we are switching to an agile system. I am in charge of getting a spam admin page up and going, but I am also angling to take charge of a small team to some extent. I am doing my work, but risking rebuke by trying to organize developers’ efforts.
  • Also work - I had a constructive talk with two of our community team to figure out how I could get better at speaking about COS and developing so that I might be on the shortlist to go to conferences. I really need to start booking myself with local meetups in order to practice my speaking about subjects and hooking the COS pitch. I am not afraid to speak publicly, but what interests me I have found to bore other people.
  • Writing, it sort of goes with the constructive hobbies. If I risk spending my time writing and delaying gratification (no one has clicked on an advertisement yet) rather than getting near-immediate gratification with games, then I could possibly become a better writer and start making money with this whole writing thing, hint, hint. But truly it is a side project.

All of these things are certainly good, but they are hindered by my outlook, I really am not great at taking risks. And reading Johnathan Mead’s blog I really can trap myself into not doing something by over-preparing, or previously visited, over-analyzing.

My biggest issue is the immediate discomfort that I believe I will face. My fight with myself every morning I intend to go running: “It’s too cold/dark, and I won’t do as well as I want.” But after every run, even though it isn’t a race, I am glad I ran. I might not be so happy that I ran too fast, or too slow, but I am glad that I got out there and did it.

Speaking of running, I signed up for a 5k. What does this do for me? It sets a goal, a date that I need to be ready for. Running is nice, a road or trail race isn’t a go/no-go decision, unless injured. Otherwise you can always run the race, maybe not as fast as you want, but I just need to show up and run, and I am a winner!

“Oh no. Everyone who runs can’t be a winner, did he just say that?” Nope, I will most certainly lose unless there is no one else in my age group, however, I gain a bunch of positives: Experience, exercise, a time to beat on my next 5k.

What it really boils down to is taking a risk, or many smaller risks to improve myself for the longer term, hopefully also looking to help others improve, through my example, encouragement, and exhortation.

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