I have always been an ambitious person and known that I was going to build awesome things in my life. On the other hand I have not always been a driven person and tended to default to just watching TV at night for extended periods. I would go to work still and do things outside of the house with my wife but would otherwise just be in front of the TV watching stuff that often I didn’t even particularly like. I would oscillate between TV and video games but I would say that TV was definitely my main vice.
I operated like this up until my late 20’s until my body started to turn against me in a new unexpected way. I remember the day distinctly, I went to work like any normal day except I had this horrible not in my stomach that left me feeling not in control. This was only the beginning for me as that feeling did not go away, at least not permanently. It would come back in waves, I would sometimes experience it during the day and often late at night. It was something that I had never experienced before but I began to look into ways to make it stop.
I started to take an honest look at myself and my life and realized pretty quickly that coming home and watching TV all night was not going to result in me accomplishing any of my goals, let alone some of the larger ones I had in mind. I started to make changes, anything to help get the feeling to subside. These changes were very small at first, I started walking during my lunch break at work which helped to reduce the sharpness of the feeling. Then I started to work on a board game idea I had for five minutes before bed to do something.
If I am being honest I was flailing a bit and I would work on cards without a strong idea of what the actual game was going to be but it was a start. After some time had passed I started to recognize the inefficiency of my approach to making a game and really started to dig into what I needed to do to be more effective. The truth of the matter to my surprise had little to do with my game design approach and had a lot more to do with me. Me in the sense that I knew I had the capacity to do this I simply lacked the ability to at that time.
You may be wondering why the distinction between capacity and ability and my conclusion was as follows. I knew deep down that I could do the deep thinking required to build a game and iterate on mechanics until it worked as envisioned. What I was lacking were the soft skills required to do that kind of work, I needed to build a foundation before I tried to build really anything else. The skills required for any goal very greatly but there are a set that apply to almost any goal on some level such as the ability to focus for extended periods of time. This is such an essential skill and is something that today is constantly being whittled away by social media and other attention seeking applications.
My foundation was also missing the basics of health, my sleep habits were horrible which set me up for failure the following day right out of the gate. I would try and wrestle back control of my life by staying up late watching TV which would result in me starting my day behind the curve. It also resulted in low levels of energy and a bad mood which all contributed to my poor ability to focus. I realized that I was not going to be able to accomplish anything if I continued to set myself up for failure before the day had even began. I would also swing my sleep schedule in massive ways to try and soak up my weekends staying up till four in the morning some nights when I needed to start my day at five thirty for work during the week.
Taking the time to build your foundation can be very frustrating as it is not directly contributing to your big goals (if you have similar types of goals). But it is so worth the effort, I am now at the point were I know I can face down challenges even though if I am being honest I am still refining my foundational habits (and honestly probably always will be). I have also been able to develop my ability to come up with processes around individual goal pursuit so I know what to pay attention to while starting to pursue a new goal.
Where has this journey lead to so far? Has it been successful? These questions are important but also not the entire picture. My journey has lead me to a point in which I feel I can pursue that which is important to me without fear of failure. I also almost never get that pit in my stomach these days that was almost crippling for me during those initial months. My ability to get stuff done is through the roof as well, during the height of my TV days the simple act of doing the dishes for example was my big accomplishment of the day (or even the week sometimes). Now I do the dishes every single night (there are exceptions!) and a slew of other things to help support my mental and physical health along with my families.
Now the question of success, I would say going from feeling like crap most of the time to feeling great most of the time is success in and of itself. But in many ways it still feels like I am at the starting line. I no longer fear taking on new challenges for example I am about seven months into my BJJ journey which was something I have always wanted to do but kept putting off. In fact I have my second tournament tomorrow at the time I am writing this. Something that I still struggle with is prioritizing, I have many goals in different fields and it can be really hard to choose between them when I want to achieve them all.
To all of you filled with ambition like me, my advice would be simple, start with your foundation. Once you get that in place start working out your process for pursuing your goals. I have come to find that have an iterative process is essential for growth in any domain. And as you progress in that domain you will likely need to update your process as your understanding grows. And remember life comes with many challenges which can affect your foundation and may lead to you needed to update your process for maintaining your health as well. Also be prepared for it to take way longer than you want to accomplish anything, from a strictly business sense I have not really accomplished anything. But I have come to see the path more clearly than ever before and am finally equipped to take on the challenges on the way.
I hope my story helps you see that signals from your body need to be listened to and are a call to change in one way or another. Let me know if you have had any similar experiences and how you got through them. If you enjoy my content sign up to receive email updates on when a new post goes live.