When life comes to a standstill
The feeling a month ago when we were sent home early as the office was closing for good because of Covid-19 was an all to familiar feeling. The week after graduating university I had a similar moment. Isolated, lonely, on my own to make a really big decision with what to do next with my life.
Everyone had jobs, everyone had to be somewhere else to be. Everyone seemed to have a plan. I didn’t. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have school, for the first time in eighteen years of my life I had nowhere to be.
It was freeing in one sense. No tests to write, no boss to report to, and no alarm clock waking me up in the morning. But my student debt wasn’t going to pay itself. It was nice, but I couldn’t just sit around all day. I had to do something. I still hate alarm clocks.
I didn’t know what to do.
I started hating it. It sounds amazing, just like “working from home” sounds appealing to the person who never has. The truth is actually working from home, getting work done, being productive, that’s hard when you’re at home. There are a million things in your home that want your attention, work can hardly compete! Working from home isn’t easy. But I also didn’t want a regular job either.
What do you hate more? The status quo or adapting your life to do something you never thought possible. Either way it was going to suck. The “real” world? Give me a break. Cubicles, 15 minute coffee breaks, meetings about meetings. No thank you. I never wanted to ever go back to that life.
What do you do when you don’t know what to do?
I started reading, I started writing, and I started running.
Reading was important
Books were the most important gateway into the past and present worlds of business, psychology, marketing, economics, sociology, history and much more. I fell in love with books the summer of 2008. Blink was my first, The Tipping Point second, Freakonomics was up there. I remember Get Smarter, The Black Swan and a one of my favourites for years “Small is the New Big” introduced me to this up and coming author, Seth Godin.
I remember reading short stories in Small is the New Big and Seth just spoke my language. It’s like he could see the future of business. I bought many Seth Godin books after that first one.
Below I’ve included quotes from three books that were important to me at different stages in my life. All in moments of struggle, these books helped a lot.
Writing was important
A blog post on the “Purple Cow” concept in marketing. Dated July 17, 2011.
Soon after reading I began writing a blog, jephmaystruck.com. It wasn’t good, no one read it, but that didn’t matter, I got used to publishing (that’s the hardest part). Writing became a way to look into the future. A trial and error approach to learning. I still haven’t stopped writing, Jephmaystruck.com and StrategyLab blog I’ve published over 500 blog posts and have no intention of stopping any time soon.
Running was important
Without physical activity the brain doesn’t work at 100%. I signed up for a half marathon on a whim, then realized 21km wasn’t just a regular jaunt round Wascana Lake. I ran a lot that Summer and finished the RPS Half Marathon in just over 2 hours. Wow, the loud, fat kid from the North end can RUN!
To this day if I’m in a bad mood 9/10 I haven’t done anything physical that day. Physical activity is like a miracle drug for the body. Right up there with sleep, if you can get into a good routine, it’s like a superpower. It gives you energy, mental clarity, and literally makes you happier.
Not to quote a cartoon fish but Dory was right. When you don’t know sometimes you just need to keep swimming. I think for the better part of the past decade I’ve not known where to go next, what to do precisely or have had a good plan. All I know is that if I keep learning, keep writing and keep running, life will work itself out.
Below are several books I turn back to when times get tough.