Learning to Love Being Wrong, Part 1.

Fear of Being WrongGrowing up I always felt relatively intelligent. My grades from various school tests, reports, projects and exams seemed to justify those feelings. I can remember receiving some praise around the house; the occasional “we’re just so proud of you,” and “keep up the good work”  were thrown around. A funny thing started to happen though. I wasn’t conscious of this change in mindset, of course, but if I take a moment to reflect I think I’m able to trace its beginnings back to a grade 7  science test.

The fear of being wrong, instead of the pursuit of knowledge and learning, began to take hold. Little did I know how powerful, and potentially disastrous, this shift in mindset could be.

I really never found it difficult to excel inside the school system. My memory, when I was a young buck, was reliable. I grasped difficult and tricky topics relatively quickly. I had strong research skills, and was confident with my problem solving abilities. This all came naturally to me, and I very rarely had to do much of any forced studying. I was one of those kids who could power through their homework during the final 5 or 10 minutes of class and be rewarded/reassured the following day when I’d receive my  “100%” mark on the assignment. My report cards would usually have a couple 98%’s, 100%’s, and even a couple 105%’s. Gotta love those bonus questions!

Slowly but surely my attitudes started to change. Again, I didn’t realize this at the time, but I began to pursue this sort of perfection not out of the sheer joy it would bring, nor the knowledge I was banking for future use, but simply because it terrified me to be wrong. To not know; to not do, or be, better than others. Being wrong was not something I wanted myself to experience.

Cue the ol’ “hindsight is 20/20” expression, but if I had only known the power of being wrong. If, instead of giving into  the fear of embarrassment and the fear of judgement, I would have just embraced EVERYTHING as a powerful learning experience, I can’t help but wonder…

It’s obvious at this age, and even more so for the folks that learn to love it earlier in life, that being wrong is sort of beautiful. Sure, it’s likely impossible to totally shut out the voice in your head that may mumble

“you fool, I can’t believe you didn’t know that.”

Or

“I can’t believe YOU… DID…THAT! It was so obviously STUPID. You ARE stupid”

But you can certainly tame it, or acknowledge its’ skewed opinion, and move on.

And here’s the secret, the reward if you will.

This voice, this self deprecating feeling and instinct, always – and I mean ALWAYS – precedes knowledge. It comes before learning something new, something that will compound inside you and will be twisted into a new skill, a new piece of information, a new perspective that will very literally make you smarter, stronger and more confident. This always happens. It just depends how long you allow that voice, that Gatekeeper of learning, to stand in front of you, blocking your way to growth.

I can remember allowing him to guard the entrance for DAYS AT A TIME! I’d lose sleep over it. I’d replay the “mistakes” I had made, the errors, the poor decisions, and I’d worry over it. Man would I worry. Even worse, I’d fear the thought of someone – be it a close friend or total stranger – find me out. Call me out, point out my folly…as if we were in direct competition in EVERY aspect of life, and my mistakes equalled their gain. Ridiculous right? A little crazy even…

This battle of learning to love being wrong can gain so much traction in a life that just now, during the composing of this post, I noticed my heart rate increased and I just happened to get a text from Mrs. Bastard, who’s at work, asking me “What are you doing?” to which I replied “Working on a blog post, but I’m feeling too dumb, exposed and inadequate.” I’ve actually already had to fight off closing the laptop and giving up on this article 3 or 4 times. Feeling that fear  is normal, and is likely a life long battle if it’s ingrained deep enough. In fact I’ve felt the exact same way with each and every post. Yet, when I look back at the few I’ve published since starting the blog I can’t help but feel proud. With every post I’ve learned something new. Be it a writing technique, a new definition, a new understanding of how WordPress is organized and coded, or a grammar/spelling lesson from someone who’s more skilled in the art of the English language.

From here on out I choose to acknowledge this fear, but it will no longer control me. I choose to ask questions when I don’t have an answer, no matter how “obvious” the answer is or how rudimentary and “basic” the skill that’s required to do the job may be, or seem, to others.

“You can’t know what you don’t know” is what I’ve decided to tell myself.

I want to fall back in love with learning, and I want my skill sets to compound over time, bringing me decades of value.

 

Photo Credit: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/rainbowsqueeze

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101 Pounds Later.

Carvey-running-tips-slideThis morning I was greeted with a welcomed surprise, which inspired me to write this impromptu and likely poorly proofread post.

I’ve had weight issues and problems for the majority of my  life. Going all the way back to my early grade school days I always felt as if I was the “fat kid” in the class. I struggled with cravings and overeating in a big way. I can clearly remember going into super ninjaspy mode, sneaking down into the kitchen to make secret sandwiches, sometimes only an hour or two after taking in a full on supper! Sometimes I’d make as many as three sandwiches, and if I was feeling extra ballsy, I’d quietly open one of the cupboards and grab a box of Swiss Cheese or Premium Plus crackers. Off I’d run to the safety of the basement, or my room, where I’d shovel the glory down my gullet while taking in an episode of The Drew Carey Show, Seinfeld, or the Simpsons.

I was so proud of my secret, shameful thievery, thinking my parents would never be able to guess where all those boxes of crackers where disappearing to… I even got caught making these sandwiches many times, but I was always quick with the excuses.

“No!! They’re not for right now, I’m just making my lunch for tomorrow!”

That was definitely my go-to/favourite excuse.

And when I’d creep back into the fridge to grab my “lunch” later that night I would smile, and continue on my way.

Anyway, fast forward many years later and here I am today, and what a great day it is!

Now I don’t weigh myself on a regular basis, it’s sort of like following the Stock Market; watching the daily fluctuations up and down can just drive you crazy! Today, however, I decided to take the plunge and jump onto that square shaped, self-worth measuring machine.

Usually the number on the far left of the digital readout screen is a “2,” and there were times in my life when I would be faced with a “3” staring back at me. But today, for the first time in over a decade, that “2” has morphed itself into a “1.”

My arms flew into the air! “Holy shit!!”, I yelled. 199.5 pounds! I FUCKING DID IT!

If my 22 year old self knew this was coming he’d never believe me.

“Shut up and wash down that Delissio pizza with this strawberry milkshake already!” is what he’d demand.

It’s easy to have the “hindsight is 20/20” moment when you start losing a significant amount of weight. Of course I should have done this years ago. I always knew it was a serious issue affecting both my self esteem and my health.  I’ve been actively pursuing weight loss in a serious way for at least 6 years now, after spending a bit of time living in a van. I wish I would have stuck with it sooner and not fallen off the wagon so often, but that doesn’t matter now. This time is different, and I’m playing for keeps.

If you’re fighting with the weight loss dilemma in your life then just pull the trigger.

DO IT!

NOW!

Seriously. Do it. Once it starts rolling it becomes easy!

You don’t need a gym membership, or a dietitian. You know what food is good and bad for you. It’s common sense. Exercise wise, start with 40 squats and 40 sit ups every day. Go down to Walmart and buy a $40 set of weights and start doing 25 to 50 concentration curls a day. This all takes 5 minutes, and it makes a HUGE difference.

As the motivation grows you’ll extend and expand upon your routine. You’ll start to feel so good that the positive effects can’t help but snowball into a very positive lifestyle change.

No longer do my knees and ankles scream for me to sit down after 5 to 10 minutes of walking. No more does that inner thigh/leg chaffage build up and ruin my outings and adventures. (To my fat friends: I know you understand the horror of the fat walk chafe. Skinny  folk will never, ever understand this sort of discomfort.) My energy and motivation levels are at record highs. My self worth is magnified, and I ooze respect and self confidence now. We all should, we all will, and we’re going to start right now.

GET TO IT!

Your friend,
The Frugster

 

Photo credit: http://weightlossconfidence.com/

My Life Living in a Van.

mountains

Somewhere in BC in the middle of February. “Vana White” proudly on guard.

As I approach the ripe old age of 30 I find myself reflecting – as I’m sure many people do – on how I spent my late teens and most of my 20’s. I know so much more now about the “real” world. I consider myself to be at least 500% more financially literate, I feel as “up to date” on current events, politics and other nonsensical things as I want to be. I’ve gone through many personal changes in attitude, confidence, and conquering fears. But, you know, I can’t help but think back constantly and analyze the past decade. Most of the time I find myself focusing on what I may feel is “lost time” or perhaps what you’d consider “wasted,” or “misguided” efforts.

You see, I spent many of those years swinging for the proverbial success fence. I was a musician, a song writer, and a band leader/manager. It’s all I ever thought about. I even studied Audio Engineering in college so that I could leverage that knowledge over into my band. I organized tours, designed merch, recorded demos and albums, successfully applied for and received financial backing through grants and industry programs. I rubbed elbows with industry fools while sporting the biggest, fakest smiles and delivery the sturdiest, most confident hand shakes I could muster. In the end, it didn’t succeed, and the band – myself included – burned out and fizzled away. But, after loosing too much sleep due to focusing on the negative sides of failure, it’s time to reflect on this experience in a different way.

Touring this HUGE country is not easy. There’s very few cities to play and vast distances to cover in between them. On top of that, the pay for an unknown hard rock/heavy metal band is basically peanuts. You become, more or less, a travelling clothing store. Your music is your advertisement for your custom designed shirts. It’s a little strange. So many financial odds are against you that it can take a special person to really succeed. In fact, I’m willing to bet that many many young bands fail because the members don’t take the time to understand how frugal you really have to be when chasing this lifestyle. If you are one of the lucky ones to realize this fact, then it automatically forces you to become the frugalest of bastards.

Me and my fellow bandmates effectively lived in our van. For upwards of 6 weeks at a time our 15 passenger tour van is what I called home. I miss those homes…there were two of them. Our first, a beat up old grey van we effectively named “GreyGore.” I can’t even remember the brand. When we upgraded we got lucky and found a relatively unused white Chevy Express, AKA “Vana White.” One of the best tour vans out there. Anyway, it’s occurred to me a few times since the band “retired” that living in a van is what I miss the most about those days. It’s such a strange way to be, so care free, and it really shows you that it is possible to disconnect from the expected Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, lifestyle that’s been served up to us. Let me try and explain.

First, if I had to find a way to associate it with a feeling you get from going through a regular work week, every day felt like that vibe you get on a Thursday or Friday afternoon before a long weekend. The feeling that work, and work life responsibilities, were so far away. That this would be THE long weekend that would last forever. Know what I mean? I was conscious of this, and I loved it. Days of the week would cease to matter. You woke, you travelled, you explored, you met new people, you went to bed. There was no reason to pay attention to the calendar.

The bench seats became beds. I had some marvellous sleeps on those bench seats. I remember lying there, most usually parked outside a Walmart or sometimes on the curb in the suburbs beside the house of the gracious fan who hosted an after party, sort of laughing and smiling to myself. This is the path we had chosen. Me and three close friends of mine were actively pursuing this sort of nomadic lifestyle, and in my eyes we were doing it with ease. I would generally wake up with this same sense of humour and accomplishment. Just like the sun rising, it would dawn on me again that here we are…living in a van…and as I’d zombie walk into the Walmart, or nearest Tim Hortons, for a coffee and public washroom cleaning/toothbrushing session I’d think to myself: “our day jobs are a thing of the past.” All of my problems, drama, and concerns were left behind in my apartment. I never took that feeling for granted. You see, as soon as you jumped in that van on the first day of tour it was sort of like all these ropes that were tethering you down were cut away, and you were free to just float along, taking in the world instead of trying to force it to work for you. There would sometimes be all kinds of worries before you actually left. Deciding what to bring. Do you have enough saved to pay for food? Are your bills covered? Is your relationship with that significant other strong enough to survive another tour? The list would go on. Once those doors closed though, and the tires hit the pavement, what’s done was done. There was no going back.

It was living like this that forced me to make some positive changes in my life. Living in close quarters with the same people for extended periods of time, while meeting swarms of new people on a daily basis and travelling to new areas over thousands of kilometres, means you’ll be face to face, and hand to hand, with lots of germs. There will be many handshakes and hugs with folks who may not be in the best of health. To be effective at touring, you need to be healthy.

I figured this out on our first outing and immediately started thinking about my diet in a very serious way. I’m sure every musician has caught a cold or flu while on tour and can relate to just how awful it becomes. It happened to me on the first one, and I was determined to do what I could to avoid it from there on out. This sort of analyzing of my diet may not have ever happened had I not spent a large amount of my time living in a van.

I use to weigh close to 300 pounds. I ate a lot of fast food, frozen pizzas, sandwiches upon sandwiches, and lots of other garbage. Sure, I always knew I was fat, overweight, and lowering my life expectancy, and I had tried to lose weight before, but it was really my love of touring that caused this paradigm shift. I decided to become vegetarian. It was the best way I could think of to force myself to stay away from fast food, deep fried goods, greasy pizzas and the like. I didn’t necessarily believe in all the political and moral reasons of becoming a vegetarian (I could rant about the reasons that I do agree with but not now) I was mainly in it for the health. And it worked. Though I’m no longer a vegetarian I cut my weight down from 300 to 208 pounds. I mean, ya, I exercise now, and I’ve learned a few other health related things, but if I had not spent time living in a van I may have never been sent down this path. I could very well still be 300 pounds, nearing 30, with busted ankles and knees. I’m so grateful that I am not.

Shedding my possessions was another realization. We’re all guilty of it. We collect things, we feel pride about our things, and we worry like hell that someone might steal and/or damage these things. They’re beautiful to us. They shine, shimmer, make noises, contain 1’s and 0’s, and bring some of us a great deal of satisfaction. So, I was a little surprised to find out that by living in a van for extended periods of time didn’t lead me to worry constantly about these things that were way back home, not under the guard of my watchful eye. Here I was, with a bookbag full of clothes, my laptop computer and my toiletry bag, and yet I didn’t feel a longing for my other collections and possessions. It was actually relieving to have them so far away. That was a big realization to me. I remember thinking, and vocalizing to some friends, that one of the best things about finally having hit the road for an extended tour was that I learned just exactly how little you really need to live, get by, AND be happy. I’d found this absolute bottom line and now I feel sort of insulated from ever being worried about ever “going without.” It seems difficult to explain, but if I could be so comfortable and stress free while living in a van, why would I ever need to stress out and worry about finding that “perfect apartment” ever again? Why waste time panicking about the layout of the living room, the size of the TV, the mismatched plates and bowls in the cupboards? All these things began to feel like massive luxuries.

These massive shifts in perception of how we have to live our lives are the true rewards of having the balls to get out there on the road and live like working musicians. I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the opportunity to live like that again, but given the right situation, I’d be all over it.

I think I’ll end this post with a song by the Canadian band “Belvedere” that seems to put these feelings into words pretty accurately.

“distractions from the ordinary
real life just not good enough
explanations hard to come by
living outside the institutions
waking in awkward situations
i wouldn’t have it any other way
i can’t recall a better time,
each day felt like the next would never come
i realize i couldn’t get enough
alternatives all felt like death
i wish i could safely say
all the right decisions were always made
ya we were young but we’re still here
happy to starve for another year
it seems so right for one to assume
that what we are is what we see
what we buy who we do
i would have ended up that way if not for those miles
those endless days
i know it’s not for everyone, empty halls,
empty stomachs, empty hopes
in retrospect we had it all
we didn’t choose this life, this life chose us long ago
a web of friends and moments impossible to let go
though we surrendered what others want to treasure
we ended up with so much more
we didn’t choose this life, this life chose us long ago
a web of friends and moments impossible to let go
though we surrendered what others want to treasure
we ended up with so much more”