I wanted to forget my problems. All of them.
I keep telling myself, “If only I have more money, if only I am smarter, if only I can write better, if only mother and father are together, if only I have all the tools I need, if only I can shred the guitar insanely.”
I failed many times starting a band. Failed at landing jobs. Failed at protecting my loved ones. Failed at many writing gigs and music projects and almost everything I built.
I thought there’s nothing I could do but accept my stupid life.
Then one day, I read a blog. Then I read another blog. Then I read books. And watched TED talks. Listened to podcasts. Learned from timeless commencement speeches. Engaged with smart and interesting people. Found mentors.
Then I applied almost all these ideas to my life.
And that was the turning point: Little by little, I got better at solving my problems. I stopped pleasing everyone. I became content. I became more productive. I made better decisions. I started experimenting. I landed a cool job. I got better at my craft and explored different ways to live a good life.
My situation gets better each day. Most of the things I wanted for my creative works and personal life came true. Was it easy? No. It was a painful process. I almost gave up.
So what did I do?
What were the solutions?
I’m ready to share all of them.
They’re all yours.
This guide is originally for my friends who are badly in need of help. Then I thought maybe other people can benefit, so why not publish?
Most of these solutions have worked for me in many ways. I don’t recommend them for everyone and there’s no guarantee, but of course you can always try.
But before we start, I’d like to remind a few important things:
- Most of these solutions are biased toward my personality, upbringing, economic status, and location. If you live in a more developed or underdeveloped country, then some of these may not work. Also, there are some solutions I have yet to try but have already proven by other people.
- These solutions aren’t quick fixes. There’s no quick fix. What we can only do is find incremental solutions that can at least make things a little bit better.
- These solutions aren’t stiff. Just because they have worked for me doesn’t mean they will work forever. Humans evolve and so do problems.
- I didn’t experience problem 8. They were my friends’. I only proposed a solution.
Let’s start with the most common problem: Money
Problem 1: Need money for… everything
I’m curious “What if society has no money?” And I encourage everyone not to chase money (you can read them later).
But I’m not delusional. People — especially people in the city — need money to pay the bills and fund the things they love.
So let’s get straight to your problem. You need money now. And maybe the only solution you can think is either someone will lend you money or give you money. I’m no financial expert, but believe me, that is not the only solution.
- Sell belongings you don’t need.
- Find a job.
- Find an alternative.
- Work harder (or work more).
- Ask for help from friends and family.
- Offer your expertise.
- Serve someone.
- Borrow money (I really don’t recommend borrowing money though).
Sell belongings you don’t need: If you’re not willing to trash your unused stuff, you can either donate or sell them. But you need money, so start a garage sale or sell them via Facebook or call some friends and let them know that you have something to sell.
Find a job: If you live in a city, it’s no excuse that you can’t find a job. Even odd jobs will do if you badly need money. There are ethical jobs everywhere. Work temporarily and learn your lessons. It’s a different story though if you’re not in a life-or-death situation.
Find an alternative: Rather than brand new items, why not used items? Rather than enrolling in a culinary course, why not use free resources on the Internet? There’s always an alternative if you have little or no money.
Work harder: I once wrote website content for different clients at night while keeping a writing day job. I worked harder. And I worked more. I don’t recommend working more though. But if you really need extra money, it’s one way. You can also do business on the side.
Ask for support from friends and family: But don’t think they will support you forever. I don’t always lend or give money. There’s a saying, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Offer your expertise: Run to your friends or family and offer them your skills. And let them pay any amount they think is reasonable for your work. I did this in college.
Serve someone: Also in college, I volunteered to cook for my friends and wash their dishes so I can eat meals for free. At some point, I was once a laborer for my uncle’s house construction. Ashamed? That’s your ego. Your ego makes you stupid.
Fundraising: I have yet to try this one. Some artists I admire launched a Kickstarter or Patreon campaign to finance their creative works. Other than that, announce that you have fundraising and let your friends and family know about it.
Borrow money: While this may solve your problem temporarily, it ruins your inner peace. You keep worrying about the pay. That’s why I don’t recommend it, unless you’re in a life-or-death/now-or-never situation. And please, avoid it if you don’t have a source of income.
Problem 2: You can’t express what you really feel
If we can’t express what we feel, then how will people understand what we are trying to say? Worse is that we can’t even understand ourselves.
- Creative outlet like art
Journal: Write what you really feel about everything — yourself, your life situation, the people around you, and the place you live in.
I’ve been journaling since September 2015. It’s my way to unleash dormant thoughts and negative emotions, and document the lessons I’ve been learning. As an introvert, this really works as it gives me the freedom to express my feelings without spewing negativity.
And maybe, publish your journal entries as a blog. Why not?
Creative outlet: If journal isn’t your thing, make art. Draw, paint, write a poem or music, or play an instrument. Art is a way to say what we really feel inside that we don’t usually talk about.
If you love him, write a poem about that person. Or maybe you hate your neighborhood, then write a hate song about your neighborhood. Sounds fun.
I play the guitar for two reasons (or maybe more). First is to tell a story. Second, flush out some shit.
Problem 3: You want to quit the job you hate.
There are different reasons why most people can’t quit the job they hate. In my experience, it’s mostly fear — my fear of uncertainty.
- Build a bridge.
- Develop a new skill.
Build a bridge: Four years ago, I wanted to change my life. I was tired working in my 9 to 5 job. I wanted freedom. So I worked as a freelance web content writer at night. And when I had enough income to survive and pay the bills, I quit my day job. It wasn’t easy, but that’s my only way to get out.
Others who live with their parents can quit easily. Good for them. But for independents especially those with a family to feed, it’s impractical to quit without a side income (or maybe there are some exceptions).
Develop a new skill: I haven’t tried this. But one of my friend’s friend did. He was once a call center agent. On the side, he was practicing his photography skills. And when he got many paid photography gigs, he resigned and pursued photography full time.
Problem 4: You can’t discipline yourself.
People glorify the idea of “self-discipline,” yet only a few can really discipline themselves. Because it’s fucking hard. Nobody wakes up and says, “Yeah, I have self-discipline.” I can’t do that. Maybe others can.
- Replace bad habits with good habits.
In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explains that habits are developed by a three-step loop. He writes [emphasis mine],
“This process within our brains is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future: THE HABIT LOOP”
Let’s put this in real life:
- Your Facebook notification rings (cue). This is the trigger.
- You check it (routine). This is the actual behavior. When you see a notification, you have a habit of checking it.
- You find out that someone likes your new profile picture (reward). This is the benefit gained from doing the routine.
If the reward is positive, it signals to your brain that the routine is good for you. Hence, the loop repeats.
And how is this related to self-discipline? Because most people often try to change themselves at once. They may succeed, but after a few days, they revert back to their old ways. That’s because they failed to replace their bad habits with good habits. When they’re exposed to the cue, the loop continues.
As Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Here’s what I did: Avoid what triggers my bad habit (avoid the cue).
Frequently checking Facebook is the worst habit I almost fell into. It ruins productivity and corrupts happiness. If you notice, people who are highly disciplined don’t lurk on social media sites. They use their time for more important matters.
That’s why I don’t use a smartphone. I also use Cold Turkey to block social media sites on my laptop for a certain time, and remove my news feed using News Feed Eradicator for Facebook. I wrote about that here.
To get you started I recommend you read this article from James Clear.
Note: Self-discipline is such a broad subject to discuss. And depending on what you’re trying to achieve, building good habits may only be a piece of the puzzle. There are other factors such as passion, focus, avoiding distractions, environment, willpower, and many more.
Just like most people, I struggle with self-discipline. We can discuss more on this over tea or whatever you fancy. 🙂
Problem 5: You don’t have time to do the things you love.
I have a full-time job. Yet, I write and manage two blogs. I play in two bands and practice guitar almost every day. I engage with my readers through emails (and sometimes social media). I read and learn new things daily. I find time to talk (or discuss new ideas) with friends. And most importantly, I spend quality time with my wife — we laugh and share stories every day.
Not because I’m a genius, but it’s more likely because I keep developing good habits and training myself (reread problem 4). If you think it’s easy. Not even close. Distractions are everywhere.
- Figure out what you really love doing in life and prioritize it, and remove — or at least minimize — the things that don’t serve a purpose.
My music friend and mentor Luis said that I’m apolitical that’s why I don’t participate in political matters. Maybe he’s right.
But there’s a deeper reason why I don’t watch TV and daily news, why I filter information, and why I don’t engage in political issues even though everyone’s talking about it and everyone thinks it’s important.
Because if I engage, I’ll lose a fraction of my time for the things I love, for the things I’m trying to build, for the things that need to get done, for more important matters.
And not just time, also energy and attention.
This isn’t being selfish. In fact it’s the other way around — it’s nurturing my well-being, it’s my way to optimize my life.
If my well-being is poor and I’m not in my peak state, I will never be good at my job. I will never be good at making decisions. I will never be good at thinking and creating and contributing and helping people.
A superhuman creates super results.
If you lurk on social media and engage in political/entertainment matters and stalk someone’s life and watch random funny videos every day, so be it. Just don’t complain about why you’re not living the life you wanted for yourself.
I really love what Annie Dillard said: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.”
Time, energy, and attention are finite resources. Use them wisely.
Problem 6: Can’t spend quality time with loved ones.
Pursuing our dreams may be fulfilling, the downside however is that we may lose quality time for our loved ones — family and friends.
- Separate your work time from loved ones’ time.
- Manage your time and energy. Remove all distractions.
Separate work time from loved ones: This can be challenging especially if you run a business or if you work from home. But it’s possible.
Let’s say, you plan to spend quality time with your loved ones for two hours. Within those hours, be fully present with them. Don’t look at your phone. Or if possible, turn it off. Listen to their stories, dreams, or problems. Laugh and smile. Give advice or solutions if necessary. Or if it’s your kids, play and have fun.
Even if it’s a short time, if you’re fully present, every second counts. I use this approach when I’m with my family and my friends.
Manage your time and energy: Even if you have more time for your loved ones, without the energy, it’s challenging to stay present.
So be mindful where you spend your energy. Don’t drain it on things that don’t truly matter to you (reread problem 5).
That’s why it’s important that we don’t hate our jobs or businesses. Hate means your pouring extra energy so you can work on it.
What if I’m tired? I either drink coffee, tea, or energy drink. Or if possible, take a power nap before spending time with them.
I don’t recommend energy drinks though. If you have health conditions such as diabetes, don’t at least try. But I’m after the caffeine. I do this when I really need a jolt of energy to spend time with loved ones.
(PS: I don’t drink coffee and energy drinks on regular days. Only tea.)
Remove all distractions: If you feel you’re not spending enough time with your loved ones, maybe you’re spending too much time on TV, social media, negative people, and gossip. Remove them. You’ll see the difference.
Problem 7: Your family hates you.
Or it could be, you hate your family. Either way, I know how it feels. Understand that some circumstances are beyond your control. Your family’s emotion is an example. You just have to accept that you can’t change them. Move on. The world doesn’t stop there.
- Pour your time, energy, and attention to your dreams.
- Spend time with good friends.
From 2014 – 2015, I was estranged from my family — it was a long story. Let’s talk about it someday. 🙂
I was depressed so I poured most of my time and energy into my craft, which my then-girlfriend (now my wife) wholeheartedly supported.
In 2015, I started blogging.
In 2016, I launched Craftdeology and joined a new band thanks to Jireh.
It was a difficult phase but I learned my lessons. Life is unpredictable. You think your family will love you forever but down the line, they may lose affection in an instant. Pride. Ego. Hatred.
They say forgive and forget. Forgiving is possible but forgetting is hard when the wound still hurts. The only way to forget is to divert your attention to your dreams or any activity that gives you purpose and meaning. And maybe the pain heals over time. Who knows when.
Last 2017, I reconnected with my family. And shipped a new project, Humans Unite. And finally, my band released an EP album (woot!).
Looks like it’s still a happy ever after for me.
Spend time with friends: When you share your problems with friends (real friends), it lightens your emotional baggage which is good. You’re lucky for having them. Be grateful.
And one more thing, don’t lose hope.
Problem 8: You want to start a business (but don’t know what to do).
I don’t have a business. So who am I to say? And there’s no one-size-fits-all template and solution. Different problems need different solutions.
But you’re my friend, and I feel obliged to share what I’ve learned from business books and blogs and from different entrepreneurs. I don’t want you to replicate others’ failures.
Here’s my proposed solution:
- Know your why. Why you want to start a business?
Most novice business owners I’ve met don’t know their why — their purpose. As a result, they treat their staff like robots. They treat their customers like strangers.
They only do it for the money.
Here’s what usually happens when you do business only for money: You overlook a barrage of factors such as your well-being, other people’s well-being, compassion, empathy, the quality of your services or products, and love and care. Yes, love and care play a huge role.
So before you apply for a loan and employ people and market your brand, ask yourself why you want to start a business.
Knowing your why is the first step. If you know your why, it’s much easier to navigate to the next steps and discern what is useful and useless for your future business.
In the words of Simon Sinek,
“Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief – WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?
People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”
And please do yourself a favor. Read Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.
Problem 9: Deep in debt
I was deep in debt a couple of times in my life. And it’s no fun. Almost every day I worry about paying back. I worry about earning money. I worry about the people I owe money to.
Worrying, of course, doesn’t help. If I’m always worried, I can’t think clearly. And if I can’t think clearly, how can I find solutions?
People get into debt for different reasons: Maybe they apply for a loan and struggling to pay back. Or maybe someone in the family badly needs medical assistance. Or it could be education or business failure or job loss, and so on.
But that is just the surface. If we look deeper, debts stem from poor decision-making or these:
- Failure to discern needs and wants
- Self-destruction (unhealthy lifestyle)
- No savings
But this post isn’t about the reasons. It’s about solutions. So let’s try to solve your debt problems.
- Communicate candidly.
- And all the solutions of problem 1.
Communicating candidly (and amiably) can do wonders. I notice that when I just share the true story why I can’t pay back, people resonate (of course there are some exceptions).
Sometimes, fear of embarrassment blinds us, we lose the courage to show up and explain our shortcomings. People need an explanation. People want to know why, how come, and what happened.
But how can we develop the courage to show up? Practice empathy. Put yourself in other shoes. Switch perspectives.
Let’s say, some of your friends borrowed money from you but they didn’t show up the day they promised to pay. What would you feel?
In a different case, if they just show up and explain their side, then maybe things would be a little bit better.
But what if it’s urgent and the lenders need money (and they’re getting mad)? Then communicate with them, get your ass off, and find money! Try the solutions in problem 1.
Problem 10: Things didn’t happen according to plans
When things didn’t happen according to plan, most people burst out. “Oh fuck, you didn’t follow the rules! Shit, what’s wrong with the world? Holy fucking shit, why they didn’t hire me?!”
People’s default setting is to react — to blame and spew negativity. And I am no exception to this. At times I could be a nuclear reactor. I’m working on it.
But I learned reacting doesn’t help. Responding does. Responding made my life better.
- Respond and make a new plan and accept life as it is.
Respond: First, realize that reacting doesn’t solve the situation. It only worsens the result. Plus, it’s no use getting mad at things beyond your control. Don’t hate the world if your favorite NBA team loses. That’s out of your control.
Let me share a story: When I was in college, one of my dreams is to have a successful metal band. So in 2013, I started a band and wrote songs. In 2015 however, the band broke up.
I was devastated I didn’t know what to do. I tried to recruit new members, but they weren’t ready to commit.
Then one day, I realized that I was always reacting to circumstances. If I couldn’t find interested musicians to join me, why not join others? That was the new plan. And that’s when things started to change.
In 2016, I joined a hardcore band and learned and enjoyed a lot in the process. Thank you guys.
In a lucky turn of event, my old metal band reunited to materialize the songs we wrote years ago. Now I play in two bands and I couldn’t be more fulfilled.
The interesting question is, “What could have happened if I just let depression consume me and didn’t join a new band? What could have happened if I keep reacting instead of responding and moving on?”
There’s a constellation of possibilities. I don’t really know. Maybe I’d focus on blogging or maybe I’d pursue a solo music career. Who knows?
Life is a mysterious hodgepodge of events. Everything is unpredictable. You may plan to have a vacation with your spouse, but later you found that he/she was cheating. Or you may plan to finish studies this year, but your professor prevents it for some selfish reasons.
I don’t know how it feels. But in times like this, I always try to choose myself and move on. Because whatever happens in my own small world, the universe doesn’t stop. It keeps going. It keeps pushing. I don’t want to get stuck.
So here’s the takeaway: Not all your plans will come true. And that’s OK. Make new plans. Make a better plan. Make a new life.
You always have a choice.
Need to talk? Call me guys (hey you know my cellphone number).
And for every reader, email me again. It always feels good exchanging ideas with you.