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Photo by Frank Okay on Unsplash

Going Offline Till March 2019

Can 30 days off the internet improve my ability to set and achieve long and short term goals?

“Longevity > Clout”— Timothy DelaGhettho

Have you ever opened a new tab to search for something specific and found yourself searching for something else, only to close the tab a few minutes later and wonder what it was that you were looking for initially?

That’s how I have felt for the past few weeks: lost in a YouTube hole, article after article, task after task. Busy with nothing concrete to show.

I was sharing this with my friend Elena today at the library. She always so supportive. It’s one of those conversations that a majority of people eventually understand. If you spend your time making things: art, music, writing, businesses, you are uniquely placed to understand this gnawing feeling.

It’s been troubling me. I have been thinking about ways to deal with it and have come to the conclusion that I need to take an intentional break to deal with it head-on.

The Real Problem

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

Alice and The Cheshire Cat, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I haven’t scheduled my life around the things I want while planning for the long term and the things I need. I want to read and write all day, but I also want to make a living and pay bills and be a supportive husband. I also need a fulfilling intentional relationship with my friends and family.

More importantly, I need to deal with the fact that I haven’t done deep work in a long time. I can’t remember the last time I experienced the flow state.

I am busy, not productive. I rush into my writing. I don’t keep to a schedule. Essentially, I don’t know why I do what I do. I just do it.

My mind and body are telling me that this is not sustainable.

What Has Happened so Far?

“You have to know why you do what you do and what truly motivates you to do it. Or I promise it will cost you so much pain. So much wasted time.”
— Ryan Holiday

I wrote a draft outline for my novel trilogy early this month. I was supposed to complete that outline by mid-February. From where I stand, that is not going to happen.

I have been writing and publishing every day on Medium since December 6th. In two months, I have made more money than the past 10 months and even since 2017 that I joined the partner programme.

I have connected with amazing writers, met one in real life, interviewed another, discovered a community that has carried me through some of my darkest periods since I moved to the US. I also made some YouTube Videos.

I got many stories curated, I got published in a publication I have always respected. I also grew my audience on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and here on Medium.

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November Stats
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December Stats: The spike was when I got published in The Startup.
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The Past Month

And that was only online. I got paid to film and edit, I performed at Staind’ Arts, connected with the organizers for not one, but two different projects all related to storytelling.

Anyone watching from the sidelines would probably think I am doing well for someone who just got to the US.

But What Do I Think?

“It’s important to understand that when you first start, you are not posting these for your audience-you’re posting them for you. Eventually people will start to follow, but initially, it’s so you can discover your voice.” — Russell Brunson

Yesterday, I binge read Ryan Holiday— his old posts from 2014 to 2016. Mr. Holiday is the kind of person I want to be. He’s married, he writes books, he thinks about death, and he’s grounded in who he is, what he wants, and has learned to move on when needed. He calls it “killing” his natural selves.

I have done a version of this in the past. I restarted college twice. I moved away from relationships. I quit many good jobs to everyone else’s chagrin.

I even moved to the US.

I have a sense of when it’s time for me to do something important that will ripple across my life. I can go back to each of these deaths and see how they made me who I am.

As much as daily writing, and adapting to the US has been an education in life, I don’t think I am doing what I should be doing.

I feel I am winging it. I am making excuses.

Like Elena reprimanded, I should not consider myself lazy. But when one is busy doing all the things they shouldn’t be doing instead of taking the time to draw out a plan and do it, isn’t that a form of intellectual laziness?

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I have published a lil since I started eh.

If I can’t organize my life, make time for the things that are important, and be purposeful with my time, what I learn, who I meet, where I spend my days.

If I can’t do this, I consider myself lazy. Elena stop cringing!

The Things I Want

“Being busy is a form of laziness — lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”
Tim Ferriss

  • To write articles that make the reader stop and think or feel. Or both. I want to research what I am interested in and provide timeless content. Perennial stories. I am not saying that I haven’t had much feedback from you, dear reader. I just don’t like the fact that it’s random. I don’t like that I cannot know how much it takes to do a proper story on immigration based on facts, articles, News stories, etc. I believe inspiration can be planned.
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I need a better plan.
  • I want my body to move, and my mind to move — on purpose. I don’t want my day to be a stretch for writing, or thinking or just sitting and waiting as the sun goes up, and down, and I seem so, so busy. I don’t want to spend all day doing any one thing. This includes changing locations for work, adding exercise and being intentional with both diet and content.
  • To work with data: This is something I have run away from and it always creeps back. There are two kinds of data I want to work with: data to support my writing on whatever I am writing, and data about what my writing output looks like over the long term of say, one to two years: tags, views, comments, ideas, arguments, etc.
  • Journal properly: Although I have been journaling for a few months now, I need to be more intentional with my prompts. They’re too random and quite frankly, I think I have been journaling only so that I could say that I have been journaling. I need to build a system that allows me to benefit from this beautiful life exercise. This would have aspects of prayer, and meditation which adds to my long term goal of mindful living.
  • More collaborations: I have been lost doing all this busy work and not scheduling work that requires me to create in tandem with others.
  • More curation: No, I don’t mean curation on Medium. I mean reading other people’s content and gathering them in one place, whether it’s a post, a video, my Newsletter or anything. I consume a lot of content, and I want to make resources for others to use and also showcase other creators I love.
  • Read physical books: I learn better with books. My wife keeps complaining about all the books I get, with reason. I have all the books I need to learn about the skills I have been dying to. But because I don’t make the time, and build a schedule, I end up reading a few pages of all, and none at all. That ends with January.
  • To make more video content: I realized that I was able to write more in December because I started editing more. Video creation is a different beast, and whenever I left the editing desk, I found it easier to ‘relax’ with writing. Also, I set a target to get 1000 Subscribers so I could get into the Ad programme. I also have this interesting belief that if I can get 1000 subs, I can 5000. And if I can get 5000, well…you get the idea.
  • Make money: Yesterday, I made more with video, than I have ever made writing ( except when I was a copywriter at an Ad Agency in another life). The reason this happened was that a day earlier, had a phone call with a friend and she opened my eyes to things that I was ignoring. It is true that there’s money online and the internet has changed a lot of things, but where the real deals can be made, especially for someone like me, is out of the internet. I need a strategy to blend both worlds and increase the chance of meeting with people who would pay for all the skills you can’t see when I write. I also will be creating my Patreon page as I launch my podcast. You can donate here to support me!
  • Do more offline: I want to meet people where I live and work out of the internet. I want to be more helpful in my Tuesday writer’s group. I want to practice my photography by taking the bus and going to places. I want to disconnect and return with worthy experiences.

I want to spend more time with my wife talking about things that have nothing to do with creativity.

Isn’t That Too Many “Wants”?

“The problem for a lot of people is that they don’t really know what they want. They have vague desire: to ‘do something creative’ or to earn more money or ‘to be free’, but they can’t really pin down what it is precisely that they want.
So they drift from one thing to another, enjoying some moments and hating others, but never really finding fulfillment or success. (..)
This is why it’s hard to lead a successful life (whatever that means to you) when you don’t know what you want.”
John C. Parkin, F**k It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way

Of course, it is. I didn’t even mention that I want to study graphic design, photography, business, writing, video and audio editing, and Spanish.

Here’s how I feel: I am all over the place. I am “just okay” in too many things. My performance is just average. I am pretty good.

In 2019, this is where you want to be. Being able to switch hats.

Right?

But my current issue is that because I am doing all these things without a sort of map, I get overwhelmed, exhausted, stretched and confused.

I am making progress. I am carrying the blocks and going ahead. However, I am carrying all the blocks, together. So, when I stop, I am a little closer to my destination, but all the blocks have moved the same distance.

I don’t stand out at anything.

Now What?

“The geography of a creative life is different than that of a normal one. It doesn’t follow predictable arcs, have clearly marked destinations or well-lit paths. It requires you in the words of my friend AJ Leon to “grab a machete and hack your own.” You don’t take the MCAT or pass the bar exam. No certification or diploma makes you qualified to do your work. Instead of choosing from the options in front of you, you take the scenic route and explore the possibilities that around you”
Srinivas Rao, The Geography of a Creative Life

Here’s what I’ll do: plan the route, take related blocks to the end, return for the others.

I will stop publishing on all my Social Media ( except YouTube which I have two videos to put up before I take this break). I will delete my social media apps on my phone and work on existing commitments while I take this time to read and figure out what I want for the next 10 years.

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October 2018
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January 2019

I will binge study my favorite sources on the subject of learning, skills, and strategy such as Danny Forest and Ryan Holiday.

I have decided to start with three books: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The 4 Hour Work Week and Deep Work.

There are specific systems I am looking to learn and adapt. I don’t think one month would be enough to figure out all that I am looking for, but I know for sure that if I keep things the way they are, I will not find it. I am even more certain that if I succeed in only one of my wants, it will drastically improve the others and I would have learned from it.

Won’t You Publish on Medium in February?

All the money in the world can’t buy you back good health”
— Reba McEntire

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I know that my hustle on Medium is going to pay in the long run. But I can do better.

Nope. I will stay off the internet as much as I can. I will take physical notes. Lots. Meet more people offline. Write more emails, collecting ideas, planning, and making sure that my long term goals are in line with my short term actions.

I don’t want to lose the momentum I have gained from writing here, but I agree with Luke Rowley. When I read his post yesterday, I felt he was writing to me: creative work needs periods of stress and periods of rest.

“You can’t get your true 10,000 hours of practice without rest.

You can’t reach your peak state as a writer without rest.

You need to rest your creativity muscles if you want to grow them”
Luke Rowley, The Hidden Benefit of Not Writing Everyday

When there was the brief issue with Medium yesterday I knew I had to take action on my overarching goals as a creative and as a human.

That’s where we are.

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Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

My birthday is coming up on the 8th of February. I won’t be here to get the wishes, but feel free to donate via PayPal or send me an email: huguesleandre@gmail.

It will be my first birthday in the US and I don’t know what we’re going to do.

I probably make a list…

One thing I can assure you is that I will be bringing everything I have learned to share with you when I return.

Every lesson, every tactic, every quote.

Well…maybe not all…but I know what I am looking for and I have the strong conviction that I will find it during this period.

Even if I don’t, reading those three books would not leave me the same.

No book ever has.

This is a first for me. I have never intentionally gotten off the internet like this. In the past, I would have a depressive episode and disappear without anyone’s knowledge and show up weeks later. This time I am taking this into my hands and writing this so you can hold me accountable.

You deserve the best. I do too.

See you in March, my friend!

Here are stories from me to keep you busy:

  1. 40 Things I love
  2. My Top Stories from 2018
  3. I Choose You Every day
  4. Letter To My Younger Writing Self
  5. The One Powerful Lesson I learned from Writing Every Day for 30 Days
  6. Can I Fix A Friendship I Destroyed?
  7. The First Time I Saw A Therapist
  8. 3 Books With Tremendous Impact on My Creative Life
  9. Today I Almost Didn’t Write
  10. What If This Plane Crashed?
  11. If I Keep Holding On To Who I Was, I Can’t Be Who I Am
  12. 28 Personal Truths from 28 Years of Living
  13. Welcome Home
  14. What Do You Do With Your Privilege?
  15. You Will Write Amazing Pieces on Certain Days

Written by

Cameroonian writer and video creator. Featured in LEVEL and P.S. I Love You. I write about building relationships and personal transformation.

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