how to lead a life less ordinary…

2016: new goals and new ways

This year has felt like the fastest one on record! Maybe it’s late twenties thing when life (and time with it) seems to approach lightspeed. I’m sure at a certain point in time, you look up and it’s been a decade. I always wondered how that happens and I think I’m beginning to understand the “how” and “why”now.

Anyway, 2015 for me personally, was an incredibly successful year. It wasn’t in terms of the individual goal segments. Just look at the previous post for the breakdown, but in it’s own way, it was incredibly liberating to finally be done with exams for the immediate and near term future (I’ll probably do some exams soon, but these are of course totally optional and not as life altering or expensive!).

The 2016 year will be pretty interesting. It’s the first year where I will have more control of my time than ever before. As such, it’s more and more imperative that I find a good mode to settle on so that I can function at my most optimal. I’ll probably end up doing lots of little month long challenges rather than big, mega goals this year (of course there will be some big ones)


This year saw my health and fitness levels decline to the lowest point in a long while. Looking back, I’d happily sacrifice this for the exam (it really did make life that bad!) so not many regrets there. What I do need to focus on now is a healthy and sustainable regime. This would be the “sharpening the axe” before you “chop the tree” to use Abraham Lincolns’ example of how to best utilise time.

Essentially, my goal will focus more on diet/nutrition than it will on exercise. Given the 80/20 rule, it’s easy to see where the most effect comes from in health and fitness. And it isn’t your gym workout by a long mile!

  • Establish a diet routine with 80% compliance – this goal will be broken down into segments for lunch and dinner below. However, what I mean by this is that I want to find a few variations of meals that I can cook and enjoy most days. Eighty percent of the week is just over under 6 days/week. So I’ll call it as 6 days most weeks of compliance will be counted as a win!One thing that I’ve realised is that I really don’t enjoy cooking that much and as such will only really end up cooking at the last minute when I’m at my hungriest and about to give up and get take away. To change that, I’m limiting all cooking to less than 15 mins of prep time and 15 mins of cook time (ideally MUCH less!).The other thing I’ve realised is that I run much better when my diet is low in carbs rather than the normal diet. My afternoon sleepiness disappears and I generally have much more energy/am less tired as a result.This will probably be the biggest goal of the year. If I can achieve just this one, I know a lot of other pieces will fall into place.
    • Breakfast – I want to have a combination of breakfast recipes that I can change between that is composed pre-dominantly of vegetables (ideally spinach and mushrooms with probably some avocado) and eggs. I’ll add the occasional salmon and non-processed meat for taste.This set of ingredients combined with coconut oil and an MCT coffee tends to keep me full til dinner time! To complement this, I’ll probably have some nuts or trail mix for the afternoon snack.
    • Dinner – Similar style to breakfast most of the time, but I think I’ll try to learn a few more dinner recipes etc to be a bit more adventerous. Usually this meal means I don’t have to prepare for work so I’m happy to devote a bit more time to prepping. I have successfully weaned off red meat almost totally in 2015  with occasional dinners out or special events being the exception and hope to continue that in 2016. My goal will be to switch over more to fish, especially, prawns/tuna/salmon this year.
  • Fitness – Gym workouts >3times a week. I’m trying to emphasise and use my will power for diet rather than exercise this year to hopefully have more of an impact on my currently overweight body. That said, exercise shouldn’t be ignored totally. I realise I have deconditioned to the point where targeted workouts of each part of the body is probably overkill so I’ll be doing whole body exercises every other day with the trying to get cardio in the days between.
    • Base goal – gym 3x a week for 40 weeks of the year (I know I’ll have weeks of leave and other things come up like moving interstate etc that will reduce my gym access!)
    • Stretch goal 1 – Gym 3x a week and 1x cardio day for 40 weeks
    • Stretch goal 2 (the impossible!) – get body fat <10% – doesn’t matter how I do it, but I’ll go use the BodPod when I’m back in my home state!


Ahh! How nice it is to have this section without “big huge exam that is going to take over your life” in it! While the hard work section of it is done, medicine doesn’t stop in its evolution and to be abreast of the changes and, you know, actually properly save lives, I need to be somewhat on top of the huge amount of research that comes out. I’m going to dedicate 3 hours a fortnight to skim through the developments and will shorten this list of research into stuff that I want to know more about. To gamify this, I’ll see if I can start a friends “journal club dinner” where friends can catch up and talk about a few articles over dinner and also see what other fields in the same specialty have been up to.

The most important goal in this section, however, is to just tick the boxes, dot the I’s and cross the T’s and use more of the same metaphors and get through my training time and finally finish the life of the trainee!

  • Finish all college requirements – Enough said – this is the most important goal in this section and the second most important goal of the year. These the diet goal and this goal constitute the 80% that would make my year one to remember! If all goes to plan, I’ll be a medical specialist just after I turn 30. Not too bad at all really.
  • Start regular reading/keeping up with the field – mentioned this one above already
    • Base goal – 3 hours a fortnight to read up articles
    • Stretch goal 1 – organise a monthly dinner with friends to start talking about research
    • Stretch goal 2 – organise a formal sponsored education dinner or help set one up. I have no interest in actively doing this, but it’s something I haven’t really done before so will be a nice challenge!
  • Do my first shift as a medical specialist – while this seems like an easy goal, most people tend to finish at the end of the medical year (being end of Jan) while I finish at the end of September. There may not actually be any proper jobs/shifts around then so I’ll have to see how I go on this one since a lot of elements are outside my control


This is a lower priority this year. In past years, I have sacrificed other aspects of life to improve the financial standing overall. Now, after a few years of doing that, I think I’m at the point where can I take the foot off the gas for a little bit. The reason for this is to give the most of my attention to improving my health. The other part is that after a fairly decent set of sacrifices, I want to enjoy the first 6 months of the year with a focus on lifestyle- that is, I want to live in a CBD apartment with nice views and see what apartment living is really like. It also turns out that my first 6 months is in another state and the easiest place to live for work is in an apartment. Practical and goal! It’s just a bit pricey to stay there though. Enough with the explanations, onward to some goals


Unlike previous years, I don’t envision that I will be able to pay off a huge chunk of my mortgage, simply because of all the points mentioned above. In order to pay off a chunk, I’d have to do extra work and it’s not something I’m focusing on.

That said, I would like to establish a baseline amount as a safety net…

  • Pay off 20% of my mortgage – yes, this number slipped quite a bit due to reshuffling of finances but I think I’d be able to achieve this one
  • Stretch goal – Pay off 30% of mortgage – I don’t really think this is likely this year, but I’ll put it in there in case I have a turn of good fortune or win the lottery!


While I didn’t quite hit my target in time for the sharemarket last year, I was able to hit it in the first week of January this year, so I’ll still consider that a win! My focus this year will be to be much more selective about individual shares to buy while focusing on index funds, specifically overseas ones. Which brings us to the base goal

  • Have international exposure account for 20% of my portfolio – I’d like to hedge my bets against the local economy and invest in the international markets a bit more. As it stands, about 10% of my (very small) portfolio is in overseas shares. I’d like to double that. Given how little I have invested in shares, this shouldn’t be too hard.
  • Stretch goal – add to my portfolio value by 25% – Again, unlikely this year due to the lack of focus on finances but this is actually quite a modest goal. This would be much easier to hit that the mortgage stretch goal!


In keeping with the simplification theme of this year, I’m going to have a short list of major side projects that I want to attempt. I will, however, make a longer bucket list style collection of random goals that I would like to attempt. It’s an ongoing project where I add silly little things like “go eat at a fancy restaurant by yourself” or “speak in an Indian accent for a day” just to push my comfort zone, but also to make the everyday interesting. I haven’t posted these in the past, but first times for everything!

  • Photobook – I’ve been meaning to self-publish a photobook since last year. I think this year, I’ll be in a great state to do it. It’ll be about my travels in Antarctica with lots and lots of cool photos. I’d like to have this done in the first half of the year, but given I have no idea what’s involved, this may take a bit longer
  • Turmeric Design – This is a random business idea that’s been floating around in my head. It hasn’t fully formed yet, so I wont say too much. Even the title isn’t quite there.
  • Random list – see below

So years list is much smaller and manageable than before. I will keep this updated throughout the year and see how I’m going. It’s much more focused on a fewer number of goals so I’m hoping I’ll hit those targets hard and also at a slower pace so that I can “smell the roses” as I go.

Wish me luck!

Random list

  • Read a book in public space where you wouldn’t expect someone reading
  • Try a new food that I’ve never tried before
  • Visit Africa (my last continent!)
  • Visit 30 countries while I’m still 30 (I’m not 30 year and I’m at 22 countries that meet my rule of at least 24hrs in the country, having the left the airport and seen 1 touristy site)
  • Visit a desert
  • Start an indepth conversation with a random stranger


Turning websites into apps (both Windows & Mac)

How did I not know about this til today?! While Mac users have had Fluid for a while, it seems like it’s still relatively unknown. Essentially it takes a website and converts it into an app that you can have on your tray.

On the other hand, I had no idea that Chrome had something similar built in to the browser for Windows!


Essentially, under the “more tools” option in the menu, there’s a “create application” button which does exactly as promised: makes a link that looks like an application for the website you’re on. In my case, it was to Gmail and Google Calendar.


At the end of that, you should end up with something that looks like this…


Now with a little trick, you can cut the icon and place it into your start menu and it’ll open up in a windows and look just like a normal app! To put it in the start menu, simply find a non-native app (ie something you’ve installed and right click–> More–> Show file location, which should take you to the folder that is the start menu. Once there, just paste the link and you’re done!



Hopefully, this is useful to you (I know it was to me!) and ends up helping you be more productive since it’s not an endless number of tabs in chrome that you have open (even though technically it’s just another window!)

2015: a quick review

Wow, what a blazing fast year! It feels like just the other day I sat down and started the draft goals for 2015 and now it’s near the end and I never even finished the post! I suppose that’s actually quite a good representation of how this year has been for me: fast and full.

Firstly, there are a lot of negatives in this year. My dedication to blogging has been all but non-existent. My health plans have deteriorated to the point where I am now officially overweight, bordering on obese. My plans for a few side projects have been shelved. My work-life balance is in tatters. I could keep going on…

This would make it seem like 2015 has been a bit of a negative year; one to e written off and never to be spoken of. However, that is not the case at all! This year, I finally, after 25 years of examinations, finished and passed my last ever one I have to do! This means apart from a project and a couple of tick boxes, I can finally say I’m done with formal regulated training.

I have my life back.

While there are still hurdles to jump and the monotony that can be a regular job, finishing this exam has given me so much more control over my life again that it’s astounding to me to even comprehend how I had been living all this time! This one goal, passing the exam, is worth more to personally than all the other goals I had in that draft combined.

It’s done and never will I have to go through that again!

Secondly, Before the new year, I will have my goals for next year up. And also, I’ll starting to do some summaries on this site of the blog posts, podcasts and books I read as a starting point for others and as a reminder to myself as to what I’ve read/learnt. I’m copying this idea from Derek Sivers

Anyway, a short update for now. See you soon and if I don’t, have a wonderful festive season and new year!

Reality check: are you actually saving money? Or just feeling guilty spending it?

Personal finance is never the sexiest topic in the world to write about. We’ve all heard the advice: make a budget, skip the lattes and invest and while all that’s true, as Ramit Sethi points out, there’s hardly anyone actually following this advice. If you notice what commonly happens at New Years, you’ll see that people right these big plans to save money and after a few months, the pull of their normal behavior and guilt from not making progress leads to them quitting or delaying it for another year.I’m no different.

I keep telling myself to skip the lattes, make a budget and invest but it’s hard when you actually enjoy lattes! In fact, trying to be money conscious meant that I had to buy a latte, convince myself I really wanted a latte and drink it feeling mighty guilty about where those $4 could’ve been going. Later in the day, I might have another one and repeat the process. Talk about buyers remorse! And this is just a latte we’re talking about!

So, I decided that there must be a better way to tackle this problem so I turned to my good  friend: self-awareness. It turned out that I didn’t WANT to give up the latte- I enjoyed them! Yes, there are clear long term benefits in terms of saving the money, just like there are benefits in never having junk food, but we don’t tend to follow them because we’re definitely more focused on the short term enjoyment. Instead of feeling guilty about my taste in coffee, I decided to include it in my budget: I would have a daily latte guilt free.

This did 3 things that were amazing:
1. I enjoyed the coffee. This is important since why are you saving money anyway if not to lead a more happy, fulfilling life?

2. Stopped me buying the second latte. I knew I could have a latte so I just timed it better since I knew I’d enjoy it and not feel guilty over it but probably would experience that if I bought another one
3. Made a promise to myself that on the days I didn’t want a latte, I’d immediately put the $4 into my savings account via online banking. This way, if I felt like not having a latte or felt particularly frugal that day, I wasn’t depriving myself of anything, rather rewarding myself by “feeling good” that I saved the money.I don’t have any numbers from before I started this in terms of how effective willpower was, but I can definitely say that I drink less coffee and save more money with this system while still actually enjoying what I spend my money on. This of course, works on any recurring expense you might have.

Give it a shot and let me know how you went in the comments!

You might just be Superman

The end of the year is always a time of reflection for many people including myself. Like many people, I set resolutions and goals for the year ahead as well as looking back and seeing what worked and what didn’t.

I’ve started my yearly ritual of going through my goals and discussing them with my friends (who were the accountability partners). Generally speaking, most of these moments were shameful admissions of failure on my behalf: I didn’t hit my health goals, I didn’t hit my blogging goals, I didn’t establish a proper routine for everyday (but all that is best left for another post).
My friends, however, have me a bit of a bewildered look and stared incredulously when I talked of my failures. In their eyes, this was my best year, the year that I hit a lot of business and financial goals while balancing half a dozen projects! They were telling me how they felt bad for not getting more done! This little incident (gave me a massive ego boost and then) got me thinking: here I was comparing myself to the Tim Ferriss’ and the Ramit Sethi’s of the world and feeling crap, while a few of my friends were using me as their yardstick and feeling bad themselves!
While this might be evident to some, it took me until that moment to realise: while you can look up to your role models and consider them Superman, just remember that you may be that same Superman to someone else. If you also dog a little deeper, you may also find that your Superman is also feeling like they’re not doing enough (just listen to Tim Ferriss’ podcast or that of Pat Flynn- they’re always commenting on how bad they are! Seems silly to think that from where I’m standing!)
So I thought it would be a timely reminderas the season of introspection really gets underway: you are someone’s Superman too.
Header: Xurble

How to handle feeling like sh*t (or simply overwhelmed)

Living every day as a statistical deviant isn’t easy. There are days where there are tons of things to do and never enough time (hopefully, the previous post will help alleviate some of those woes!) and other days where you simply feel like sh*t. While those day are always going to happen, here are some strategies that I personally use to cope with everything. Maybe this will help you too in your days of need.

Why we feel overwhelmed

If you’re reading this site, there’s a good chance that you’ll find some of these factors in common with the days I have where I struggle to get everything done. After all, you would have to be a slightly Type A personality to be reading this blog!

  1. Sh*t Happens Sometimes, thing just happen. Your oven catches on fire while you’re at work and there’s an unexpected meeting and a deadline you didn’t even know about rears it’s ugly head. No wonder you’re overwhelmed! Life throws curve balls at you sometimes, but luckily, on the whole, this is a rarity.
  2. Taking on too much You know you do this just like I do. In the constant desire to improve yourself/deliver better results, we take on more than we can handle. We forget that we’re only human and that there is the other side of the stress performance curve where overwhelm awaits
  3. Expectations This is a big one for me and a reason for my procrastination too. I tend to set huge expectations on myself to get everything right the first time. Not only does it stop me from taking action, it makes me feel overwhelmed when I do start and take a few wrong turns
  4. Ruminative thinking This is an insidious form of overwhelm that comes on when you have a complex problem or are trying to nut out something that has become a bit of an obsession. You know you’re here when you keep coming to the same conclusions about a problem or situation over and over,  but keep thinking about it anyway. It mentally exhausts you and traps you into feeling completely helpless.
  5. Addicted to being “busy” I definitely fall into this one. In some weird way, you LIKE being busy. Not necessarily being overwhelmed, but busy. It makes you feel important and like you’re doing things that matter. Overtime, you get a bit desensitised to the normal and take on more things, so the line between “busy” and “overwhelmed” starts to become hair thin.

What to do about feeling overwhelmed.

Now there’s plenty of stuff out there on why and how to fix overwhelm that seems to cover a lot of useful strategies. You can read some of those at the links at the end of the post. I wanted to share some atypical strategies that I haven’t found on other sites. Before I share some strategies, you need to ask yourself where you fall on the continuum of “fully relaxed” to “overwhelmed  to the point of leading a dysfunctional life”. If you’re at the extreme where your life feels like it’s crumbling, these strategies are not for you; you need professional counselling or medical help and the following will only act as a bandaid. These strategies maybe useful later on, but seriously, this is the time to seek help.

  1. Stop Before anything else, when you’re feeling overwhelmed, simply stop doing whatever it is you’re doing. If things are falling apart as you do them, continuing to do them will simply cause it to fall apart faster. Unless you’re actively engaged in CPR or in the middle of a war zone, there’s usually not many situations where you can’t stop and remove yourself from the environment for 10 minutes
  2. Breathe This is a bit new agey, but trust me on this one. Firstly, take your pulse. Go on, put a finger on your wrist at the base of your thumb and take your radial pulse, or check your neck. While you continue to do this, take some deep breaths in, as deep as they get, almost to the point where your chest hurts, then exhale. Do this slowly over 5 seconds total and repeat 5 times. Feel your pulse slowing down? Good. Otherwise keep going for a bit longer. There’s no point in continuing until you can stop your body from simply running on adrenaline: you wont be able to separate the forrest from the trees otherwise!
  3. Write it down I find it terribly useful to pick up a pen and start writing. Especially try and write down what it is that you’re trying to prevent. What is the worse case scenario here? A lot of the anxiety and overwhelm comes from the fact that you have this vague undefined outcome. “Terrible things will happen!” you think to yourself and the vagueness compounds your worries
  4. Is it really life or death? Once you have your list, I think you’ll find that there will definitely be things that are unpleasant, but I’d bet that (most of the time!) they wont be life or death issues. In the grand scheme of things, you’ll cope. You know this because you’ve been doing this your entire life. You’ll cope and find a way. Just remember that it’s tough, but you did alright every other time and now you’re older and wiser than before, so things are on your side
  5. Make a plan Now hopefully you’ve re-organised your thoughts and gotten a clearer perspective on things. This is the time to be ruthless and plan your next actions. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it is the same as a personal emergency. That’s how your body is responding. This is the time to cut down what you’re doing to the bare essentials. ALL things that can be left for later or delegated should be taken off your plate. If you’re owed favours, now is the time to call them in. Usually, you’ll find that amid all the clutter, there are just a few crucial tasks that need doing. Sometimes, you might find that you almost self-sabotage and cause overwhelm so that you don’t have to tackle those key tasks. Whatever it is, do them. Is it worth feeling like sh*t and putting them off?

Those are my strategies. Got any of yours to share? Leave a comment below and I’ll do a new post with your experiences and tips later.

Other info on fighting overwhelm:


The Daily Review (as used by Benjamin Franklin)

One of the key things I’ve been struggling with lately is the the constant requirement of juggling multiple projects and constantly feeling overwhelmed with the mountain of work that I want to do. Simply put, there’s just not enough hours in the day! I’m sure that given the sheer number of high achieving people out there, I’m not the only one feeling this. Over the last few weeks I’ve been experimenting with a few ways of combating this problem and I’ve found one that seems to be working better than most.

The Daily Review.

This is not a new concept by far but my implementation thus far has been different to what I hear most people do, so I’ll share my system. As Lifehacker recently pointed out, Benjamin Franklin did a similar technique and who am I doubt one of the all time greats? So what is the daily review  and how to get the most from it…

The Aims

The main aim of having a daily review is to erm…have a main aim. What is the one task you HAVE to get done today that would make today feel like an amazing success? That should be your main aim. Now, if you’re like me, you’ll coming up with a list of possible things that you want to get done. Fight the urge to make list and pick one thing that HAS to get done. It’s not a want, its a NEED. If you can’t pick one key thing, then you really have to ask whether you’ve got anything meaningful planned for the day. That’s not a bad thing: you can pick a couple of things of your to do list and enjoy a relaxing day. After all, productivity and life hacks are ultimately designed to give you higher productivity, that is, more work in less time so you CAN enjoy & relax a little. If you keep getting days upon days where you cant find a key task, then it’s time to look deep and see if it’s something that you really should be working on at all (more on that on later posts).

The Process

If you’re anything like me, your task list of the day tends to have a few different tasks from several different projects. A typical one for me looks like something below…

– Gym
– ?Cardio

– chase up patient notes UR:123456 (made up!)
– Update log book with cases
– Chase up supervisor for TPS
– Complete research stats

– do 2011 MCQ test paper
– write up 50 MCQs

– Write Statistical Deviant article: Daily review vs feeling overwhelmed vs “Always happy” disease
– Write news article for JMTM
– Update photography page
– ?Market online store

– Organise birthday present
– Make sure Mum uses mothers day voucher
– Set menu for house warming

– vacuum
– iron clothes
– organise wardrobe into “list” system

Whew! That is roughly all the to-do’s I have in OmniFocus that could be done today since it’s nice and rainy day here and I can sit cooped up in my home office. That feeling of constantly feeling overwhelmed began because of looking at a list like that! On those amazing days where I ticked off 50-75% of those items, I still felt dissatisfied because I hadn’t actually finished my to do’s!

These days, I’m generally a bit more calm and am actually getting a bit more done by following the timeless advice of doing less. I created another simple wordpress/blogger blog that you can find here (I do have another private blog where I used to post this, but have recently started this one purely for that purpose). My posts there are not interesting nor do they sound like much to anyone but myself. It lists things that I want done in the day that are likely to get done (ie. already part of the schedule) but also lists the ONE thing I’ve picked as important for the day. The aim being to do LESS in my day, but pick one main thing. Even if there are definitely more than one important thing for that day I still get into the habit of choosing one. This will help with the habit of applying Pareto’s principle to things.

And thats it. All done.

If you want to channel a bit of Benjamin Franklin to the mix, you might take up his journaling ethos and add his two questions that he asked himself at the beginning and end of the day respectively:

Morning Question: What Good shall I do this Day?

Evening Question: What Good have I done to day?

Though, I’d personally add a couple more if you’re going for structure. My suggestions would be to answer a set in the morning to define what I do and add a couple of “reflective” questions to improve for later:

Morning: What good will I do today? (What key task will I pick?)

Evening: What did I get done? What went right today (expected or unexpected)? What could I improve on for tomorrow? Overall, how do I feel today?

I get up in the morning, make a coffee and sit and write my small daily summary. Before bed, I take a quick look to see if I managed to finish the task or not and add a comment to the post about what the challenge was or some kind of feedback for myself. I haven’t done this for long, but I’m finding that I now generally am focussing on ONE task in a day, instead of 100 and am making some meaningful progress on it. I’m also finding that I’m not finishing the daily task everyday and the feedback to myself has been that I try to achieve too much for any one task in a given day. This has been so insightful even though it is plainly evident by the list above. Instead of feeling like an idiot for not being able to check off my entire list, I’m beginning to understand roughly how long each task takes for me when I’m only doing that task and not switching for every 15 minute window to do something to fill those 15mins! I’ve realised you can’t take a 10 min break from study to go start vacuuming or start something else to “multitask”- you need some true breaks to rest and do your best work. Also, the price of sitting down and doing one thing more than justified when you produce a noticeably better piece of work. The daily feedback is great so that you can read through them once a week or month and see if there are any common trends and address them for the future. By using a public blog, you can also get friends to check up and hold you accountable. All in all, a pretty decent system!

The Summary

1. Set-up a free blog on WordPress or Blogger or a platform of your choice. You can set it to private or public as you see fit

2. Each morning, take literally 5 mins to write down ONE and ONLY ONE key task for the day. The format of your post can be however you want it to be. You’re only writing it for yourself, so short-hand, abbreviations, nonsense is fine

3. Review the post at the end of the day and add a comment with simple feedback- did you finish your key task? Why/why not?

4. Review your tasks once a week or at the most, once a month and notice the common trends in your feedback to yourself and figure out how to fix that!

Cover image from Lifehacker post:


Doing trumps preparing

I’ll preface this by saying that it is indeed a generalisation. If you were planning to move overseas to Moldova and did that without preparing (or even checking their relatively stringent visitor requirements) then obviously doing wont trump preparing. However, in most non-critical (and I define non-critical as no imminent deadline) and low risk (I’ll steal Mr Ferriss’ definition: low likelihood of adverse non-reversible outcome), doing trumps preparing.

This has been said countless times but it needs a special mention, especially on a place like a blog. How many other blogs do you read? How many podcasts do you listen to? How many ideas do you feel like you need to glean from the “experts”? Personally, I follow more blogs than I can count, listen to at least 5 different podcasts/videos and always feel as though “I’m missing something critical” in everything from writing posts (like this one!) to doing work or preparing for presentations.

If this all sounds like procrastination to you, it should. A part of it IS just that. By pretending to accumulate knowledge, you feel “busy” without actually “doing” anything. Like any addict, it’s a small high for a longer low. And the more you do it, the more you need it and the less you do.

I’m writing this now because I just got off the phone with my mum. She tells me that the internet isn’t working at her place and she can’t research a trip to Japan. Before I could even suggest the simple answer of “use your iPhone”, my jaw was on the floor because this is the same woman who had spent 3 weeks researching a trip to a neighbouring state only an hour away. At the end of an exhaustive search, she found too many things wrong and didn’t go, but patted herself on the back “for learning a lot about the place”. If that’s your goal (to learn about the place) then great! Job well done. But if you intended to visit there (and she does- it’s been on her bucketlist for nearly a decade) then you have sorely failed. Now the same cycle would repeat yet again.

I called her on it immediately and reminded her of her recent attempts and suggested she just do the first trip anyway. She just summarised all the points she found that were “wrong” with going now. This highlights the other main issue here: fear. Fear of the unknown, to be clear. In life, there’s always going to be things that come out of the blue: you could miss the bus, you could fall down the stairs or win the lottery- no one knows! The fear, however, feels real so most people who fall into this trap, keep doing it over and over.

In summary, procrastination, fear and a good dose of bad addictive behaviour will keep you at the status quo. Maybe just this one time, as a statistical experiment, do what you wanted to do with LESS preparation. Keep a log. See if you enjoy it much more than you thought.

(I know I have! Writing this post as free form without much forethought has made it much more unstructured, but I’m much more likely to write if I write like this. Thoughts on the style?)

Following generic advice leads to a generic life


This is nothing new, but it is important enough to be said again: following the average leads you to BEING average. If you’re here, reading a blog called “Statistical Deviant” I’m happy to assume that you aren’t content being ordinary.

Have you noticed how people tend to follow some pre-written script? They seem to play their part in the Tv soap opera of life:

  1. they are born,
  2. go to school,
  3. work for a while,
  4. meet someone,
  5. get married,
  6. buy a house,
  7. have kids,
  8. whinge about said kids/mortgage/partner/work,
  9. retire sometime in their non-prime years…

and eventually find their place in the ultimate earthly destination we mortals all share. I’m not suggesting that this is bad per se, but to me, it just seems bland. Sometime between school and work, I’ve noticed that people seem to lose that spark that they carried in their youth; that passion they brought to everything. It also seems from personal experience that the years of school and work are when you tend to get “good advice” from basically everyone. Advice that tells you to generally follow the script above. Advice that subtly suggests that following the script above leads to happiness. Advice that seems to put that spark to sleep and replace it with a gentle malaise towards life.

The people that give the advice? They almost never seem to have the spark either and seem to confuse that malaise as contentment or worse, happiness. These people again, seem to deviate towards the middle, leading average middle class lives and eating their TV dinners and continuing this fairly consistent cycle of life. Again, there’s nothing wrong with this and if this is what you’re after, please feel free to take their lead and follow them as a role model.

However, it would seem a particularly odd choice to listen to these people if you don’t intend on being average. If you do, in fact, want to be remarkable. Doesn’t it make more sense to use someone else as a role model? If you want to test your humanly limits, you might like Tim Ferriss. If you want to retire REALLY early, maybe follow Mr Money Mustache. How about travelling til no end? There’s Chris Guillebeau for that! Or maybe you want to do something totally unique? Then you might want to strike out on your own and develop your own life.

The point is, take a look at the people who give you the advice. Are they where you want to be in some way? If not, following their advice will probably lead you to where they are in life, so chose who you listen to carefully!

My (inner) challenges: Feb 2014

It occurred to me that I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the possibility of doing things and failing a lot recently. This isn’t that surprising: almost everyone who starts something new has these thoughts and anxieties. The actual “failing” part isn’t that troubling either, especially after being acquianted with Tim Ferriss’ technique of imagining the worst outcome and having a plan on how to tackle it.

The thing that make these thoughts recurring is simply this: What if I’m spending my precious time on this planet doing things that are not meant for me?

I thought I’d write this as an introspective post to highlight where I was and where I am now. Since I don’t have a comparative post from a few years ago, it’s hard to show exactly how the thinking has changed (and generally improved) but I’ll give it a try anyway.


This was a year of big transition for me and I had a lot of anxieties and thoughts on life. It mainly broke into 2 main sectors: work and play. On the work side, I had just graduated from university and finally had a full time job, but also received the added helping of a multitude of insecurities. On the play front, I finally had a regular income and had moved out of home. My free time was well and truly mine. I was a 22 year old with a bit of thinking to do.

Work anxieties

  • Was I actually good at the job?
  • Did I know enough?
  • I felt like a fraud who’d miraculously gotten through the exams
  • My decisions had actual human implications and direct effect on the lives of others. I felt very much paralysed by that thought
  • How does one balance career? How much time is enough at a job where there is always more to do?
  • Other people are managing far more complicated things. Why cant I?
  • Which direction do I want to go in my field? Do I specialise? Do I not? Do I work for furthering academia/knowledge? Do I go for the cash? Do I go for lifestyle?

Play anxieties

  • What do I do with the spare time?
  • Which peer group do I go out with? The work “party animals” group? The “more settled” restaurant critics? Stay at home?
  • Do I date girls? Ignore them to focus on career? Focus on all things relationship-esque?
  • How much money do I spend on play things? After university, it was a nice bump up to have a decent income after all.
  • How do I balance play and rest?
  • What exactly WAS play and what WAS rest for me?


The range of anxieties currently are far different for me now. I got over my insecurities with the opposite gender, possibly by partying a bit too hard, just immersed myself in work and became a bit more comfortable with being there and getting the job done. A lot of those insecurities faded, but new ones emerged.


  • Am I actually good enough? This has changed from “what will people think of me?” to “is this really the best I can do?”
  • Am I focussing enough on improving? Whereas I had put in minimal effort in the past, I now had a mental framework for using each day to learn. But is this enough?


  • How do I get a bit more time to play? Work being work has overtaken a significant portion of my life and thinking time. It’s now hard to find the time to “switch off”
  • Of the “play” options, which is the most relaxing? A strange question, but hey, I have an analytical mind.
  • Which hobbies do I turn into passions/cash generating ventures/compete in? This plaques me constantly since I have a few hobbies and I tend to be at a point where I can actually generate some decent value for people and either get paid nominally or get good feedback. Now, the gap between here and doing great things is a lot of hard work. Do I focus on my main job or divide my attention to my hobby and turn that into another job? Will it still be relaxing?


This is a new one, not because it wasn’t there, but more because the existential stuff about “having meaning” had been dealt with in the past. Now it takes on a different flavour.

  • I have a specific set of skills- what is the best way of using them?
  • What do I want to use them for anyway?
  • What is the line that I call “enough”? This applies to time, money, fitness, happiness. Everything really
  • When I hit enough, what will I do then?
  • Am I challenging myself in the right way?
  • Overall, what do I want?

Current thoughts

On a global level, some of the superficial insecurities have been dealt with over the last few years. I could go on about specific strategies to deal with these things, but I’ll leave that for later. The main thing that is confusing at the moment is where to put in effort? I’m done trying to procrastinate and avoid hard work, but it’s kind of paralysing knowing that once you knuckle down and REALLY start focussing on a goal, you WILL become myopic and loose track of the bigger picture for a while. So am I on the right track?

The second realisation I’ve had is that I would like to decouple money and work as fast as possible. I can do a multitude of things, but I don’t enjoy having to work for money. This is not to say I want to retire; I’d do most of what I do for free if I knew I didn’t ave to worry about food/shelter/fun etc. I just don’t enjoy knowing that I HAVE to work. Getting to this point would require some passive income mechanisms, which I’m currently looking into.

The third realisation is that I have a fair few things I’m passionate about. Not just “oh, that’s nice” levels of passion, but the true, burning, stay-awake-at-3m-because-I’m-on-a-roll kind of passion. The problem comes from what you do with this. Do you try and find something that connects all your passions? Is that possible? Do you (somehow) pick your highest passion and follow that and return to the others later? Are there combinations of a few of them that I just don’t realise?

Here’s a quick list of the things that have been keeping me up at night because I can’t stop researching/doing:

  • Photography – many a times, it’s been early morning and I’ve realised I hadn’t slept much because I was so absorbed in it
  • Videography – I’m totally new to this, but I’m getting that level of flow like photography. Problem is, I’m so new that I can’t get it to look like what I imagine yet!
  • Entrepreneurship- I love the idea of starting a business. Not only from a cash point of view, but rather from getting something out there where people are HAPPY to pay for things from you. I’ve had small successes with this on my first online business. My sticking point is trying to find how to grow it or to consider whether I even should try.
  • Self-awareness- This is the “hippy-est” of the lot, but I really like taking the time to figure out my views on things/likes and dislikes more than what advertising and social conditioning dictate. More than that, this is the field that make me want to grab people and show them a different view point just in case there is something of value for them. This is the reason why this site exists.
  • Procedural skills- my job entails lots of “hands on” procedures that can be quite complex. I’ve always prided myself on being able to master things requiring hand-eye co-ordination relatively quickly. I will soon have the option of expanding my repertoire.

It seems like a bit of a mish-mash of wants to me. All I know is that in each of these fields, I can FEEL that spark; that ember; that something which suggests it could turn into a blaze of glory. All the things I’ve mentioned above seem to trigger true flow states with minimum effort on my behalf. Not only that, tiny lots of effort seem to trigger much higher returns on investment from these endeavours.

So, there you go. Those are my challenges. I’ve worked through a fair amount of the ones from before. It’s those things that I plan on sharing in future posts. If you can see something in my rambling that you think could be of benefit, just leave a comment below. I truly do appreciate it.
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