TOBY NG

I Just Need Time

You know how some people always wish for more time to do things? Well, maybe there were enough people wishing for the same thing and it eventually came true. I was one of those people, but now that I have more time at home, sometimes I'm not so sure. Perhaps I was just procrastinating on what I was supposed to do by envisioning all the other things I wish I could do. But now that I'm here, it seems like I'm procrastinating again. This is definitely some kind of "grass-is-greener" effect.


Now that I'm more self-aware of this problem, how can I turn it into an opportunity? Perhaps I just need to make a real plan and follow it. Why don't I go read a book to get some guidance? Whoops, it seems like I'm procrastinating again. Maybe that's why I read so much because I'm actually procrastinating. Reading and talking about things for a long time really does seem like work, and often I feel like I was productive, but in fact, I was just busy. Looking back at this week of staying at home has really made me reflect on how little I'm doing with my time. As Seneca said, "It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it".


For those who don't know, I finally moved down to Bellevue to begin coaching, and my wife, Carmen, was also fortunate to find work as well. We finally moved down last week (March 9th), although this was in the works since last year with the stretch goal to move down by November 2019. However, many things were outside of my control, so during that period of waiting, I had the opportunity to pursue other things: finished two business courses online at Queen's University, completed my Master's degree in High Performance Coaching, and I even had the chance to compete at the 2020 Canadian National Championships! This is just another obstacle outside of our control, but what are the opportunities that we can find that are within our control?


Perhaps the first thing to prioritize are the things we need to do. We need to eat, hydrate, and sleep. I also think we need to exercise because it is beneficial to health, but how you want to exercise at home is up to you. I have some kettlebells to use as well as some light equipment, and I'd prefer to do a reasonable amount of exercise each day. However, my goal is just for general health and strength maintenance, and if you are training for something in the future, it would likely be a very different program. For those who need to catch up on their sleep, if this is an opportunity for you, I hope you can take advantage of that. There are incredible recovery benefits from sleep, but exactly what is outside of my scope of knowledge.


Addicted to your phone? I know I probably am. Maybe this is a good time to use my phone LESS. Getting bombarded with news updates that may be old, incorrect, fake, or some combination of everything, probably isn't going to help. Once again, news is always outside of our control and we can choose how we want to respond to it. We cannot control what other people do or post, just like I cannot make you read this blog, nor can you make me write what you want (unless you pay me!). Reacting to things outside your control is not helpful for anyone and being angry or afraid of something that we cannot control is not a good use of our time. However, this is not to say that we should do whatever we want. A corollary would be to follow the Golden or Silver Rule, although I prefer the Silver Rule: "Don't do things to other people that you don't want them to do to you". Although I know the Golden Rule is more popular (i.e. Do to others what you want them to do to you), with current events, I think it's better not to do things for now, at least with the given current events.


So the core things I want to do every day at home include eating, hydrating, exercise, and sleeping enough hours each night. I also have to do my online course, which probably will take less than an hour each day, but I'm pretty much free. As much as I wouldn't mind playing video games all day as I promised myself I can start Kingdom Hearts 3 after I finish my Master's, a part of me asks a serious question: if I had two weeks to learn something or do a project, what would be the most beneficial to do? 


Ask yourself the same question and see if there is anything that comes to mind. For younger people, ask a serious question like, "If this ever happened again in the future, what should I do so that I would not be stuck in a similar situation?" For example, what jobs can really be done at home? Or perhaps, is there something you can do to create an emergency fund where you don't need to work for an extended period of time. Maybe for creative work, it becomes an opportunity to do more, like if you are a writer, artist, musician, etc. For some people, I feel this is a good opportunity to look into the future beyond a four-year degree, and really decide what might be a good fit. Maybe even working the front lines as a healthcare worker. Or maybe even in research. Even as a psychologist or someone who can help people with their mental health, which might be the closest thing I would be able to transition to. 


Sometimes, an obstacle can really help clarify your future opportunities. You just need some time to think about it instead of looking for distractions. If the weather is nice outside, go for a walk. Of course, maintain social distancing away from other people, but soak up some much needed Vitamin D (if possible) and spend some time to think. Walking is kind of like taking a shower, except you aren't wasting water when you zone out with shower thoughts.


I have decided that there are four projects I could work on over the next week or so, or longer if needed. I will probably follow Scott Young's "Ultralearning" principles as best I can, and it is a great book to read if you want to try something new and are willing to invest enough time. Despite possible consequences of procrastinating by reading the book, I think that the knowledge given from the book will save you more time in the long run by following the guidelines. Common sense is actually not that common because you might understand it when you read it, but if you had to write it out from memory before reviewing the information, that is a great test to see how common the knowledge really is. It's also one of the strategies for learning in the book, but I'll let you decide on what to do.


The first project is badminton-related, and it would be to go over the coaching conference videos over the past few years, and to integrate my own work on things including a Podium Pathway and Gold Medal Profile. This would also mean reviewing more badminton-related literature and watching more badminton footage which I haven't kept up with. I imagine there is more than enough badminton to watch on YouTube which would last me a very long time, but I think I would pick an event specialty and go with that. With expertise in badminton already, it would be an interesting way to use the Ultralearning principles to see how they fit with my current knowledge base, and it would give me an opportunity to transfer learning into something else, using a badminton Ultralearning template.


The second project is to take up programming again. I have many online courses I've subscribed for and I would like to get back into data analytics, either go deeper into R programming, or switch back to Python. This is also an opportunity to go through some basic math for machine learning, which would mean reviewing statistics, calculus, and learning linear algebra. However, with the Ultralearning principles, it would be better to do things more project-based and to learn the math when I need it. Otherwise, learning for the sake of learning will probably have me procrastinating and playing video games before I finish writing this sentence. With all the epidemiological data out there, it would be a fun project to map my own trends and see how they compare with real-world data.


The third project is to learn more about investing money. I understand that certain forces are causing stocks to go down, interest rates being lowered, etc., but do I REALLY understand what that means? Not so much. I can also take the time to do taxes and understand the financial implications of various investment decisions as well. If I need more material, it would be easy to learn about entrepreneurship and to further study other aspects of business. Sales, marketing, and psychology are also topics of interest. I probably would need to design this project very carefully if I choose to take this route.


The last project in mind is to dive deeper in to Stoic philosophy, as sage advice would be timely and greatly appreciated. Although I did go through Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations" recently, I may revisit it once more after I get through some works I haven't had the chance to read, including "Letters from a Stoic" by Seneca, and "Discourses" from Epictetus. I would likely try to take notes and sort advice into different topics, and it would also be good practice to write and reflect on them. This could also be an opportunity to review other work from modern authors on Stoicism, including Ryan Holiday and Donald Robertson, and maybe explore works by others that I haven't read before, including William B Irvine, Massimo Pigliucci, and Pierre Hadot. Perhaps I may even spend some time looking into Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT).


I would categorize the first three projects as technical proficiencies, although I would even say that the badminton project would be a tactical proficiency as I have the underlying technical base and it would be a way of even furthering my current abilities. However, the fourth project would be more of a psychological proficiency, which is why I will probably begin there. If my mind is strong, it will help me with the other projects down the road, and it is very timely to review Stoic philosophy as it is an opportune time to practice what I read, practice what I learn, and practice what I (may) preach.

Writing has also been a way of me figuring things out. Although I do not practice meditation, I do appreciate the art of journaling which I haven't been very consistent with, but now that I have a project in mind, I do hope to write a bit more occasionally to share my thoughts and lessons. The four cardinal Stoic virtues are wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation (depending on your translation, I have mixed Ryan Holiday's and Donald Robertson's) which are critical to understand and most importantly, PRACTICE, in this time. Wisdom is important to filter information and decide on trusted sources. Justice is important so that you choose to do the right thing, including staying home and practicing social distancing. Courage is necessary for the strength to act when necessary, and moderation is to know your limits, whether it be buying toilet paper or deciding not to watch that seventh hour of Netflix. 


Of course, these are up to your own interpretation but it is helpful to remember to follow the Silver Rule as well: don't share news if you can't verify the source, don't ignore the advice to stay home and practice social distancing, don't be afraid to remind others to follow official recommendations, and don't buy more than you will reasonably need and use. 


Stay safe and stay healthy everyone. I hope you can turn these obstacles into opportunities. The obstacle is the way!

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