Sunday, February 17, 2008

Regaining Perspective I

It is amazing how much drudgery and stupidity one can allow themselves to get snowed under with. Anyone who has been reading this blog since early last year is well aware of how much shite has been going on in my life that was effectively pointless, or worse. Now that I have begun a systematic process of eliminating all of this non-supportive, non-productive activity, I find myself with increasing amounts of time to actually create value for myself and others. Its great! Just in the last few days, I've been able to sit down and look at several projects with some degree of depth. I've been able to much around on with them, read documentation and release notes, download software libraries, think about architecture, and other things I have been angry at myself for not doing because I didn't have the time. (More accurately, I didn't create the time, but that's a different conversation.)

I urge everyone to spend some quality time really thinking about everything in your life, every project or activity, every commitment, every membership, and honestly evaluating how much that project/activity/membership contributes to your life. Does it support your personal, professional, spiritual, social, family or other goals? I mean, does it really promote and advance these areas of your life?

If not, its time to dump it. Maybe it did support your goals - once. Once. But it might not anymore. Maybe you'll find that your involvement, which you and/or others originally viewed as a positive, has become detrimental instead. Maybe its just out of alignment with your values. Whatever the case, it is now a liability and should be eliminated. Will it be easy? Probably not. Especially once your ego chimes in and starts telling you why you shouldn't give up, just hang in there, cajoling you about what others will think, etc. Honestly, who gives a damn? If its not supporting what you're about, you need to get rid of it and find people, activities, and commitments which are supportive.

This is just my recommendation, speaking as someone who is digging out of a failed real estate investment partnership; no longer performing somewhat lucrative computer consluting (not a typo) outside of my regular employment; and is cutting back his "volunteer" role with the university computer lab which effectively trained him as a technologist, where he seeks (sought?) to share his expertise with a new generation of budding engineers.


Because as warm and fuzzy as it sounds to volunteer to teach a new generation of students about technology, to provide guidance and mentoring for them, it really just became a time sink with no visible reward. For personal reasons, my presence became polarizing and divisive instead of unifying, causing promising students to stay away instead of drawing them in (or so I was told). There were other "issues" to arise out of it, but what I've described here is a significant part of the situation. After 5 years, I can't say that I have anything to show for the time. I don't know if any of the students "got it", although I imagine 1 or 2 have. However, I'm going to be completely authentic here and say that 1 or 2 isn't really worth it. It sounds nice and good to say "as long as I have had an impact on 1 student's life, then it was worth it". That's total bullshit! If I only wanted to impact 1 person, I could have just sent some money to a charity, I could do that online with a credit card in very little time, and its tax deductible. To boot, that money would probably be able to help more than 1 person. So its a crock; the point was to impact tens of students lives, if not hundreds. 1 or 2 is NOT enough to make the expenditure of time and effort worth it. Sorry.

As nice as it was to make $80 per hour working on relatively simple computer problems for a dentist (never mind how helpful it was during times of personal financial crisis, or even just to juice my savings efforts), its not what I want to do with my life. I find no joy working on Windows, or anything remotely Windows related. I hate Windows. $80 per hour couldn't, and never will, change that. Add to that all the hours spent during days when I had to go to work that night, and the amount of lost sleep (with the corresponding deleterious effects on my health), and it just is not worth it. (Mind you, that last description was for a different customer, my most troublesome customer, not the "Golden Client" who was paying $80 per hour.) Supplemental income is all good and fine, but some things really are more important. Physical health and mental wellbeing are two things which fit that description.

As much as the idea of being a real estate mogul sounded good, as good as the prospects looked at the outset, and as tempting as the idea is of building a real estate dynasty which could be passed down to our progeny, it became clear that this group was as good as dead. Two of us wanted to make lots of offers, lowball offers on as many properties as possible, and negotiate from there. The other 3 wanted to only make offers they knew they would win. However, if you're winning every offer, you're likely overpaying. If I wanted to overpay for real estate, I'd have bought that $350,000 townhouse across the street from Ft. Meade in August 2006 and called it a lifetime. Investors are supposed to be smarter than that. The same 2 of us wanted to come up with a set number of offers we would make - as a group - every week. The other 3 were unwilling to even commit to that! Hell, I could have accepted if some of them had said "the number I commit to is 0". At least that would have been a number. But as soon as the question was asked -- "how many offers will you commit to making every week?" -- people got defensive and angry, as if being asked to commit to something was a burden. However, if you're unable to put constraints around your goals, then you're not serious about them. Deadlines, parameters, and definite tangible results are designed to enforce accountability. So these 3 partners didn't even want to be held accountable for doing what real estate investors do, which starts with making offers on properties! Even in breaking up, the same 2 partners were willing to simply be bought out, while the other 3 again claimed "all or nothing" - either its all 5 of us, or none of us. WTF?!?! That is an unhelpful way of being. Its not like we're talking about jumping on a grenade to save your comrades here. This is business. If they wanted to continue the business, they could have just bought us out, or had new partners do so. A completely unnecessary situation has ensued. But considering that its seemed that not only were my views (as 1 of the 2 partners who wanted to follow the local RE guru strategies) deemed irrelevant, but I was the person being called on to handle grunt work during the day. Why? Because all of the other partners have day jobs and families. So not only was I not being listened to, I'm also awake in the middle of the day, accelerating the breakdown of my health, while my partners are at work. Then I'd try to go to my job at night. This in particular has led to the health problems I've dealt with for the last month. Disagreement on strategy, disregard for one's health, and failure to act like investors is a not a recipe for success, which is why this endeavor had to get deadpooled. So I am going to lose $11,200 but my sanity is worth far more. (Yes, I'd prefer to at least get my investment back, but as this is not likely, its not even worth thinking about.)

(NOTE: I'm pissed right now! Blogger took it upon itself to "disappear" the text I've already written. It would be nice of this autosave function had some sort of versioning capability. What I've written below is not nearly as good as what I originally wrote. Dammit!!!!)

The point is that life is too short. You really need to take a step back and evaluate whether the activities you engage in, the people you engage with, and the commitments you make, are really adding value to your life. (I contend that even when you are contributing to others, whether by volunteering in some way or working in your church or however you do it, there is some benefit you derive as well. It does not need to be financial. If you like the feeling of being able to help others, and volunteering gives you that, then you are benefiting.) If these activities, people and commitments are not adding value to your life, then you may want to consider reducing their presence in your life, or restructuring your involvement with them, or even cutting them out entirely. In life, you need to create an infrastructure that supports you, your goals and your life as you choose to create your life. Things which are not supportive of the life you are creating for yourself should be considered expendable, or as my man Gordon Gekko might say "The rest is just conversation." So take a look and figure out what works, what doesn't, what supports you and what impedes you, and then choose to get rid of it - or not. Its your choice to make. I'll say that for myself, the upside of this process has already been shown and dividends are already being reaped, after having just started in the last 2 weeks.

Believe me, its worth it.

As for what's left, and why, I'll make that the topic of another post.

Until next time, gentle readers...

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