Failure Pt. III
Originally written April 2019, Published Jan. 2020 because I’m a dumbfuck
It’s 2 years since the first failure post. Linking it here for myself:
And 1 year since Pt. II:
It’s another year in the books. And it’s funny — I’m kind of in the exact same situation from last year. I just smoked a cigar (two days ago though, and have really cut it down!) and single-handedly finished off 1.5 beers (this is a WIP) and hit a vape pen a number of times (probably one time too many).
What’s happened since then?
Well, I’m on the 9th floor of The Collection in Downtown LA, i.e. the tonebase HQ. It’s a Saturday, so I, as usual, have the whole place to myself.
tonebase has grown from that sapling of an idea that I had no idea if it was going to work out… into a VC backed enterprise with close to 3M dollars in total funding, 7 employees, 100’s of contractors and making real meaningful money.
I also got to live for a while in San Francisco while working on things and got to meet some fantastic people, investors, VCs, etc. while I was there (also affirming my idea that the startup scene is where it’s at).
But outside of that, it’s sad to see how few things have changed on the personal front.
I did have some exciting things happen. I signed my first lease — #411 423 W 8th St., Los Angeles, CA, 90014.
One FULL year, with no ability to break it (well, without fucking my credit). $1150. Studio. My. Apartment. Space I signed for, I pay for and is 200% my own. Which are all thanks to an ACTUAL salary from tonebase. 92K per year, not a shabby sum, and one that lets me pay my rent, credit card bill and student loans and still have a decent chunk left over to save, invest and spend.
In all honesty, only the latter of the two has happened so far but give me a break, it’s the 2nd month at this level of salary. To that note, I am STILL bad as ever with money. Still haven’t done my taxes… they’re due the day after (update: I did them! Gov. owed me 4–5K… the fuck?!). Still haven’t followed up on over 6000 dollars of unpaid salary in college. Money from LS and Yale. Which is A BOATLOAD of money… why does it bother me so little?
I mean… I’ve also lost close to 30K in the stock market at this point, so I guess once you go through that you sort of become immune to cash.
It stops mattering.
It’s absolutely crazy. I don’t know how I’ve managed to lose so much, not follow up on so much and have it not weigh on my consciousness at all… for many people, that’s life-changing sums of $$.
It’s one thing to not be concerned about money and know that you’ll survive. But it’s quite another to not truly value it, and to not truly appreciate the struggle you have never been through… one that the vast majority of the population goes through. I don’t think I don’t value money so much as it’s never been a thing I’ve LACKED or something I have experienced being without and that gives me the privileged as FUCK position to say “meh, does it really matter?”.
Which it does, and I need to get better at it.
The other big thing that hasn’t changed? It’s one word and you already know what it is.
How long have I been waging this war now? It’s been YEARS. Years of struggling, self-reflection, self-consciousness, recording, trying to understand the root, buying t-shirts, making broad statements, acting like I’m a super anti-porn guy (which I am… just… not when the drug grabs me).
I am an addict. It’s crazy. It’s beyond those reasons where you can say shit like “oh well, what’s the underlying cause”. I’m sure at some point there was an underlying cause and someday I’ll probably sit in a therapists chair and flesh all that out but what matters right now is that I solve the PROBLEM.
The problem right now is not a lack of introspection (okay, that is a part of it), but rather a lack of ability to make a change and stick to it. All these lofty statements and meaningless words strung together in a chain. They are just that — meaningless.
Meaningless as the half-baked ideas I write down but never see to any sort of light. Meaningless as my words when I say I’ll reach out to someone or follow up with someone or just… reach out to a friend.
There are so many areas of life where I am lacking. And so many areas of life where I am not lacking, but that’s not because I’m good… but rather because I have YET TO START.
How can one be so filled with ambition and grandiose ideas of oneself but yet lack the simple capacity to GET. THINGS. DONE. To move. To achieve. To pursue. To aggressively act on ones passions and interests and to MAKE. THEM. HAPPEN.
Continuing from last year I still think the world can be a truly cold place. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an incredible place filled with wonderful possibilities.
But the truth is it’s cold.
It doesn’t have time for the weak, the self-aggrandizing, the half-truth telling wannabes. It’s going to go on with or without you and by living such a self-defeating truth — one of half-lies, self-deception, self-dealing and basically total unenlightened thinking, you’re only doing a disservice to yourself.
I will say the year has not been ALL bad from a personal front. I am growing. I am learning. I can’t shake this porn addition but I will. I know I will. It will take time. It will take patience. It will take healing. But I WILL pursue. But I’ve also gotten much deeper into meditation. Gaining the ability to control my emotions and control my mind to a MUCH greater extent than I’ve ever had it before.
I’ve become fascinated by consciousness. Never have I spent so much time thinking about thinking, thinking about this simple ACT of thinking. Where does it come from? Where does it go? What is this ether that seems to be nowhere, everywhere, behind your eyes, etc?
Once you start questioning the fundamental premise that your mind is behind your eyes… then suddenly you open yourself up to a world of pain. Not pain in a bad sense, but pain in the sense that suddenly everything you held as fact is questionable. If my mind is not IN my brain then where is it? And if it IS in my brain… then where is it in there? Is there a little center? Is there a tiny little cluster of neurons in there that is the “mind”.
Science would seem to say no… from what I understand. Science would say that from fMRIs or other scans you can clearly see that there is no single center to consciousness. So then WHERE IS IT? And why can I expand my minds eye so much farther than my actual eye. If I try, I can feel my consciousness fill up the room, fill up the floor, fill up the whole building. It’s fucking strange.
Back to me and where I am though (sorry for the tangent). I’m not operating on a plan. And I think that’s the issue. Planning has been anathema to me and that’s going to be my undoing. I’ve been striving for this idea of “one perfect day”. That is, not to let single days here and there derail you but to shoot to have SINGLE perfect days. Individual days that are as close to the ideal version of your day as you can possibly get. And to strive to do it just one day at a time.
This is something I’ve been getting gradually better at. In the past few days I’ve been able to pen down a few core focus areas for myself. Rather than trying to do EVERYTHING and miserably failing at it all (a pattern that repeats across every facet of my life), I’ve decided that I’m going to view all decisions I make within the lens of whether they move me further towards any one of my focus areas, or not.
So here goes, the focus areas for the next 3–6 months:
- tonebase (duh)
- Lifting + Running
This one’s pretty much a no-brainer. Above all else, if I analyze life through a karmic perspective, then tonebase is the one primary thing I have a responsibility to focus on.
I mean till now it was nice, a project, something where I was learning a lot, building, organizing, growing.
But now it’s in that fledgling stage of becoming bigger than myself. We’re providing incomes for 4, maybe 5 people who aren’t the founders. We have millions of VC dollars on the line, hundreds of thousands from angels who’ve trusted us with a portion of their disposable income.
This isn’t something I think about every day, of course, I mean fundamentally we’re setting out to change our own small corner of the universe and the motivations for all of us are aligned in what I feel are the right directions… but it’s also true that the cost of failure steadily increases the more successful you become.
That’s not to say we’re “successful” right now. Fuck no. 30,000+ folks who’ve created free accounts and a small % of those paying for the service is (while nothing to scoff at) almost a meaningless # of users compared to much younger platforms which are growing at a much faster rate.
But it is my responsibility to leave this part of my adventure knowing that I gave it my all and that I didn’t leave anything on the table in the pursuit of growing tonebase into a truly meaningful organization that transforms education online. I believe we have a very real chance to change the world and what a pity if I squander it for lack of a work ethic, lack of ability to work in an efficient manner and/or my personal baggage and struggles.
So yes, primary focus — tonebase. But I’ve also realized that in order to give the most I can to tonebase I just CANNOT continue to be a single-dimensional person that only does one thing all day every day. All the facets of my life need to contribute to my growth and happiness so I can actually give as much as possible to my company.
This has been perhaps the largest growth in terms of my personal thinking of late and I do hope when I write next year I’ll have made considerable progress on becoming a whole person.
Which brings me to…
Lifting + Running
Now obviously lifting has been a huge part of my life for years. But for the past 2–3 years it hasn’t been goal-oriented. It’s been a great stress reliever but I’m at the stage where I’m feeling like I’m just muddling along and not improving.
If I’m not improving then I don’t really want to do things, and quite frankly I don’t want to NOT lift. So that said, I’d really like to set a goal and stick to it.
I’d estimate right now I’m around 142 pounds, 7–9% body fat (~5/6 abs visible, but no definition on the bottom two + that weird midget ab above the top 2… bodies man…).
I’d really like to be able to get to 160 pounds and keep the BF around 9–13%. I really don’t need to walk around with a 6-pack everyday… it’s become a weird psychological thing. Every time I try to bulk and lose definition I have this urge to claw my way back to lower BF regions by fasting, not eating well, etc.— it’s a bit confusing.
Anyways biggest challenge here is to overcome that, do what it takes to bulk to 160 — which will, in turn, lead to better lifts across the board. The biggest thing standing in between me and 160 though is the fact that I don’t lift legs. But the primary reasons for that are that (a) I’m a total sissy about it… yes, I’ll admit it. Legs hurt to lift and are sore for DAYS after. And (b) they do meaningful (negatively) impact my running.
And on the running side, I was getting really good at long distances in San Francisco. I think the longest I did (with a few breaks in between) was a bit over a half-marathon (in training). I had this idea that I wanted to run a marathon… but I’m not sure how to sync both goals^
That said I do think they’re both possible. Marathon is definitely happening, I have resources I can call on (Rajendra Uncle, etc.) who have real experience and navigate many of the same waters.
So anyway, 160 pounds and a marathon or two under my belt would be amazing goals on this front.
Going back to my earlier point of becoming fascinated with mediation, consciousness, and theory of mind… the subject of philosophy has begun to REALLY fascinate me lately.
The ideas of Hume, Kant, Nietzsche (which I still need to understand) and other great Western philosophers are an absolute pleasure to try to unwrap. On the eastern philosophy side, I really need to dive in and understand more — however, there are just fewer resources out there for free on this front from what I’ve seen (preliminarily, I could be dead wrong).
That said, I’m currently taking a Coursera philosophy intro. Course (which is incredible) and bought a few books on the topic and hope to really derive a thorough base in the subject over the next year.
Once you really start going into Philosophy, I do think that it impacts almost EVERY aspect of your life. As the intro. course explains, one of the best ways to describe philosophy is as the science of thinking about thinking. The meta-level cognition.
And if you can get really good at this meta-level of cognition I think it can radically transform your outlook on other subjects and change how you approach problem-solving in different areas immensely.
It also at some level seems fundamental. Like Micro Economics/Game theory, Basic theoretical physics, and a few other base-level topics, having a broad understanding of Philosophy seems like a base requirement for any learned person.
Hand in hand with the interest in philosophy has emerged a newfound appreciation for, and practice of, meditation. There’s something about sitting in silence, in focus — or lack thereof, and pulling yourself back to a thought, idea, action, etc. that is just so refreshing.
So fucking refreshing.
It clears my head and gives me a level of control over my emotions that I’ve literally NEVER had before. I’ve become a much less reactive person. And have become someone who can step away from situations — literally, or at least mentally, and can passively be a participant without needing to control the outcome.
It’s radical. I don’t understand it. I want to. And I’ll try.
But rather than put that pressure on things, I’d much rather be a participant in the practice for now, really get good at clearing my mind faster — filling it — then clearing it again.
If the benefits I get from my on-again, off-again practice are anything like what a disciplined practice can bring, then I am so excited to see where this path takes me.
I’ve also switched to Sam Harris’s meditation app — Waking Up, which is fantastic. He really knows EXACTLY when to interrupt and has so many interesting ideas. Sometimes shit’s a bit heavy and get’s me thinking a bit TOO MUCH (especially combined with philosophical thinking, etc.) but in general, it’s fantastic.
I don’t want to get trapped by a salary. As I said, it’s nice that I have a solid income from tonebase. And I’m “blessed” (in a v non-religious sense) to not have any expenses I just HAVE to pay (other than rent + student loans). No health bills, etc. that put me in constant bondage.
And as someone in that position, it doesn’t ever make sense for me to be a slave to a desk. If tonebase can provide for me, great. But in the end, I want to always know that I can provide for myself.
Of course, one way is knowing I can get another job. Which I am supremely confident is true. But the other is not NEEDING a job in the first place.
That’s where passive income or income-generating assets or activities come in. Investing/Trading used to be a passion of mine, something I was really into and something that just made my understanding of markets, vocabulary, and ability to analyze, make decisions and see trends so much stronger.
I never formally educated myself in the practice or put in the time to really get good (I was just jumping right into DOING which is NOT the best way to do this) and as a result, lost a shit-ton of money and became almost “scared”.
I’m not going to lie, learning the skills and the discipline is tough. But again, like most things on this list, I think if I can do this consistently then I can reach a level of thinking (meta-awareness if you will) that will help not just in investing — but in every other aspect of life as well.
So really the goal here is to dive back into trading. Start formally educating myself on different avenues. I mean, fuck, I gave a CLASS on this for fuck's sake. Momentum, vs. DT vs. Quant, etc. And then implement these ideas ~3 days per week, and really diving deep and understanding portfolio theory.
I also really need to come to grips with whether I buy into the alpha-approach or the Vanguard approach but that’s a story for another day!
This is one aspect of my life that has ALWAYS been lacking. I’ve never given the importance to sleep that it deserves. And I strongly feel that it has cost me tremendously. I mean… fuck.
If ALL I do is work, the least I can do is sleep for 7–8 hours each day. Like… come. on. But somehow I can’t bring myself to do it. I’m lucky if I get 6, most days getting 4 or 5 hours and smoking weed to not feel the negative effects of doing this (for some reason, weed seems to clear my mind and set me right no matter how little I’ve slept).
Regardless, consistently getting > 6 hrs. of sleep is something everyone recommends, most of all my dad. A different story that he himself doesn’t do this, but I’ve seen the negative effects of it… so why am I the same way? I mean the man falls asleep while I’m talking to him and I hate it… do I want to be the same way to the people I love?
Sleep is crucial. I need to read Ariana Huffington's article on this but if anything sleep is increasingly becoming more important. And I need to make sure I get > 5–6 hours of sleep a night for the health of my telomeres, as well as my sanity in general.
The only way I’ve found to cope with a lack of sleep is meditation, but at that point, mediation becomes a patch for a larger problem rather than a medium for deeper self-reflection and understanding… which I’m not convinced is the purpose.
[Edited 01/02/2020] Anyways, to close this out after a long hiatus and longer time stuck in my “drafts”, things are constantly evolving — I am constantly evolving, constantly learning, working my way towards becoming a better person.
It’s not every day that you get to sit down and revisit your thinking from months and months ago and this is a super helpful way of doing that. I’m a little upset with myself that I haven’t published this when I wrote it (April 2019) but better late than never.
Either way, follow up Pt. 4 coming April 2020 — a surprisingly small amount has changed but that’s writing for next time. Here’s to a great year 🎊