Finding Something That Makes You Love Being Busy.
Written by Elliott Pak
“I would rather die of passion than of boredom.”
-Vincent Van Gogh
the ear guy
Get all of my shitty responsibilities out of the way with minimum effort involved, get home as fast possible, unwind, let loose.
That’s what my brain had always been wired towards in the past. Chores, school, work, whatever.
These un-windings and let-loosings consisted of a lot of things over the years.
When I was a kid maybe play video games for hours on end until my eyes completely deteriorated.
In high school it was smoke as much pot as humanly possible – before, during, and after school.
In college, just replaced the pot with alcohol. And maybe some other illicit substances. Also pot too.
As an adult working, it was just coming home from a long shitty day and turning on the TV and completely checking out.
When I thought about the word “busy” in this sense – of course I never wanted to be busy. Why would I want to be busy with responsibilities that prevented me from letting loose? I never thought there was anything weird about this. That’s what everyone does right? Do half-assed work and then treat yourself with some easy reward.
But always, always, always, at the end of it all, I felt empty. Things started falling into a routine, and the only thing I would think about throughout the week was “decompressing” after I was done with my responsibilities. Finish the day, get to the “space-fillers.” Those temporary escapes from life. Those mindless activities that take zero brain power to do. Sleep. Start Over.
It didn’t happen all at once, but somehow it slowly got to a point where that was the main objective of my life. That was the goal. Just get to the weekend.
I felt like shit. And depressed. I didn’t have a goal or a real purpose. I didn’t know what I was working towards.
Quick version of the article – I realize something was wrong, end up quitting my jobs, travelling for four months, saw a bunch of amazing things, met great people, but most importantly (for this article) – I kept stumbling on little things that I had no idea I was good at, or enjoyed doing at all. Something that took work to do – something that I could have only found outside of my comfort zone, far away from all those space-fillers.
This article is about finding something that you love to do a hundred times more than any of those temporary escapes, let alone have any time for them. Something that will help you progress towards a goal and makes you grow into a better person. Or at least how I came about finding my own.
Stumbling Out of a Drunken Haze and Into a Productive Hobby
So how did this line of thinking come about while I was traveling?
Uh…pretty much what I said not to do in the beginning of this article. I was drinking and partying, a lot. New city, new bars, new people. It was a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong, and I met lots of great people. But I started getting this anxiety and self-guilt – here I was, no job, just seeing beautiful sights every day, partying every night.
Wasn’t sure why I was feeling guilty, I mean that’s what I came out here to do right? Anyway, with such an overwhelming amount of emotions running through my body simultaneously (excitement, fear, loneliness, anxiety, guilt, joy, freedom, etc.), I ended up writing my first article back in February. It felt right, but maybe, less-importantly, to satisfy my self-guilt, it felt productive.
Man that shit was scary. Hitting send. I was pretty alone back at the time – I got sick, so I got a private in a homestay in central Bali – but it was really fucking beautiful. I sometimes wonder if I would have ever pulled the trigger if I wasn’t in that environment. It was like a scene out of a movie.
Fast forward again. I got some pretty great feedback to this article that I had been so scared to start from the beginning. I was actually helping people. So I busted out another one. And another one. And another one.
Without realizing it, I started getting to this point where I was planning out each of my days traveling to find a café just to brainstorm and write and work on this fictional website I had made up in my mind. Mind you, I wasn’t making a fucking dime off all this. In fact I was spending a solid amount of money (relative to how much the cost of living/traveling is in SE Asia) on web hosting and other things.
But for the first time in a really, really long time – I found this purpose, this thing, this activity, that kept me busy and stimulated me – through my own choice.
Fast forward yet again. I’m on my way home – Manila to LAX. The entire flight home, I was planning all these little projects that I had to get started on. Like on SPREADSHEETS and stuff. Man what a change. I stopped suddenly and started reflecting what had changed my lazy unmotivated ass from before the trip ’til now.
After thinking about it for a while, it wasn’t the whole cliché “traveling changed my life yada” (although it probably did). But for this specific idea, it was so simple. I just found something that I actually wanted to be busy with. Something that made me go to a local café and work on my own shit, without anyone telling me to do it. Not my boss, not my wallet. Something that made me want to tell my friends, “hey, I can’t hang out tonight. I got work to do.”
It was such a major breakthrough in my life – just this idea that there was ALWAYS something I could be progressing at, and it 100% could be something that I loved to do.
I got home and I got to work. All of the sudden there wasn’t enough time in the day to watch TV or get smashed every weekend.
The Super-Easy, Super-Hard First Steps to Progressing at Something You Love
“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.”
The main point of this whole thing was how fucking simple the answer was. It wasn’t about traveling around the world to find some secret answer to life. It was just this tiny, miniscule tweak to a line of thinking that most people are used to.
Find something to progress at as opposed to settling for “space-fillers.”
I mean I get it. I used to be the main culprit of this. There’s a whole lot of these little roadblocks that we make in our mind that stop us from going for it.
I don’t know what I want to do. I don’t know what I like. I work a lot. I’m fucking tired. I don’t want to be an amateur at something.
In hindsight it’s just a bunch of excuses. Legit excuses, maybe, but in the end, what the fuck is a legit excuse? All it is something that YOU accept to be a good enough reason to not do something. Your excuse is a choice, not a fact.
The only person that these excuses affect is yourself. A lot of people will say these excuses and wait for someone to come over and pet them on the head and feel bad for them or something. Dude no one’s coming. If you’re unhappy with your routine, you’re literally just hindering yourself.
Maybe it’ll be harder for you than it was for someone else. Really doesn’t change anything about the situation though.
Find time. Find energy. Find something you want to do.
Well what have you always wanted to do? What have you always wanted to try? What’s your dream job? There’s probably a hundred easy questions that you could ask yourself.
Those might all be really big goals that seem unattainable. But there is always one, tiny, little, step you could take to advance towards that goal. Don’t get me wrong, the first one is often the hardest and scariest part, but once you do it you’ll be like “holy shit I can’t believe it took me so long to do that.”
Easiest first step I can think of? FUCKING GOOGLE IT. If you are blessed enough to live in this day in age and you haven’t even googled what the first step towards starting something you might love to do is, you’re a moron. I say that like that wasn’t me a couple months ago, but you get the point.
There are SOOOOOOO many resources and opportunities that are out there that people don’t take advantage of that’ll help you along the way. The amount of blogs that exist online for literally every subject known to man is overwhelming.
Proof? Here are a bunch of great free online resources that you might find interesting, things that are in high demand, or just useful things.
• Busuu – the world’s largest social network for language learning
• EdX – Free online courses for career advancement. Every topic under the sun.
• ALISON – Free high quality knowledge and workplace skills training.
• GCF Learn Free – Platform for learning essential computer and life skills. Spearheaded by Goodwill.
• Microsoft Virtual Academy – Don’t know how to use microsoft still? Free expert training.
• Codecademy – Free learning of coding skills.
• HTML Dog – Courses to learn common languages in webpages
• HOW Design University – Great source for graphic design knowledge
• HubSpot Academy – community helping people achieve their business goals.
• Moz – great resource for content marketing knowledge
• LearnVest – Advice on Money Management
• Coursera – Universal Access to the world’s best education
• MIT Open Courseware – virtually all MIT course content
• Stanford Online – Free online courses by Stanford faculty.
• Harvard Extension – almost 800 courses from Harvard
• National Geographic Kids – Inspiration for young adventurers to explore the world
• Nomadic Matt – seen as one of the best travel blogs on the internet. This helped me jumpstart a lot of my trip.
Okay you get the fucking point right? That wasn’t even beginning to scratch the surface. That was one easy google search for free courses, non-specific. If there’s something you want to learn, I guarantee you whatever it is – there is an easy first step to doing it.
4 months ago I googled, “How to Start a Blog.” Let me tell ya, I felt reallllll stupid typing that. Until I pressed enter. And saw that there were a million resources and a million other people all asking the same question, and sooo many articles on how to just get started, step by step, so someone even as simp as me could understand it.
(this is one of the first ones I followed)
So try it. Google it.
I’m going to take a quick side-step and give you some examples of the “projects” I’m currently doing (the airplane spreadsheet stuff); some that are still in the process, some I’m still trying to force myself to enjoy progressing at, some that I’ve always loved doing, etc:
• I’m taking an online writing / marketing / media course. A year ago I was going around telling everyone I would never ever go back to school or take any classes or anything. Another example of stupid naive Elliott. The class is really amazing, I’m learning a ton, I’m progressing at something I love, yada yada yada.
• I’ve been messing around with a lot of video editing and stuff. Nothing major, just my GoPro and whatever free software I can get my hands on. I used to think this stuff was really complicated and out of my league, but it’s not at all. And I’m not particularly good with tech and stuff. It’s super fun. I recently finished a travel video. If you’d like to watch, here’s the link ( SE Asia – 7 Countries, 4 Months ) [I just want to preface that this is only the second video I ever made. No one helped me. All just google’d resources.]
• This website! I’ve barely put my toe in the water, and it feels like there is literally no end to learning about web development. It’s stressful but rewarding. Before I made this website, as well as another website I have in the works – I was pretty positive that I had zero interest in web dev, just another subject I thought would be way out of my league. I planned on just hiring someone to do it all for me, but being abroad and broke led me to just do it myself anyway, one step at a time. And it was super doable. So many online resources to walk you through every step of the process. If I can do it, you can do it.
• I just started Rosetta Stone-ing Korean. It’s about fucking time, right? Not going to lie this one is still tough for me to get through, but it is rewarding. (rewarding in the fact that I won’t be a complete embarrassment to my family anymore)
• And the last and pretty obvious one – writing stuff like this. Nothing I enjoy more than finishing one of these articles and being able to help motivate people or help them see stuff differently.
I know what you’re thinking, that’s a lot. But lemme tell ya: I AM NOT SPECIAL when it comes to any of this. A year ago, I wasn’t doing a single one of these. I was going to work every day, coming home, watching TV, sleeping. Getting smashed Friday night, laying in bed hungover all day Saturday. Getting smashed Saturday night, sleep all day Sunday. Repeat.
Safe to say I was pretty unhappy with this routine. I hate doing the same shit and I love change and progression; I just didn’t know how to go about it. This trip kind of opened me up to that – but you don’t need to go on any trip. Just go find something you want to progress at. I promise you, every single person has something.
[Another funny observation, I was always kind of a shitty student. I mean I passed and stuff. But I always shot for the bare minimum, barely made it to classes, if I did, I slept through them, typical stuff. (There are maybe 4 classes in school in my LIFE I’ve ever really fully enjoyed enough to give it full effort – a writing class [duh], a restaurant management class, a festival management class, and a leadership class about speeches and stuff. Not relevant to this article but kinda weird huh). Thing is I didn’t give a fuck about any of the stuff I was learning in school – and I’m not saying everyone’s like that, but I think a lot of people are like that. I think some people are like that. Okay to the few of you that are like that – this is a chance to choose something that YOU want to study. The point I’m making here is this is the first time I’ve ever actually enjoyed studying for something in my life, and if you never have, well here’s your chance.]
I literally just asked myself, if I had a spare minute, what kind of stuff would I want to be good at? Hm. I want to write stuff. I want to design a simple website to post the articles on. I’m traveling, so I kind of want to record some of it and make it into a video. I want to learn Korean. I want to take a photography class. I want to be better at cooking. I want to start playing piano again. The list goes on.
Still can’t find things you want to do after asking yourself the simple questions? Go outside. Outside the comfort zone of your house and your phone and the “space-fillers.” You just have to try new stuff. Don’t look at it like a chore. Look at it like you’re investing in your future – skill-wise, happiness-wise and fulfillment-wise. You’re going to find something you love at some point.
I like comparing it to buying a book you’ve never heard of. It’s kind of risky, maybe if you don’t like it, you might “waste” a little bit of your free time. But at the very worst, now you know more about that subject – you know what you don’t like. At the very best, you discover a whole new world or subject that you never knew you were into.
Example, I bought a book while I was in Thailand called Prisoners of Geography.
Why? Idk I thought I should learn more about maps and stuff and I liked the color of the book. (Go press that link and tell me that’s not a pretty cover). Read a couple pages in and found out it was about Geopolitics. If someone had ever even said the word “Geopolitics” to me in the past, I probably would have rolled my eyes and fallen asleep and thrown up simultaneously. Long story short, I ended up reading this book faster than I’d ever read a book because it was one of the coolest and most interesting things I’ve ever read.
Geopolitics. Turns out I like Geopolitics.
Point is you don’t know what you like until you try it.
Back up a couple paragraphs, I’d like to add I’m not particularly talented at any of those “projects” up there. They’re literally just fun for me. No doubt, I spend a lot of time thinking about how I could turn any of these hobbies into money, how to spread influence, etc., but to be honest, I enjoy them so much, even if “success” didn’t come to fruition, at the very fucking worst – I enjoy spending my day doing them.
I’m trying to get to the point where I come home from a long day and the first thing I want to do is get to work bettering myself at some of these things – as opposed to plopping onto the couch and watching TV. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not there yet. (Game of Thrones just started again…)
It’s basically a choice between using your spare time for turning your mind off, or for bettering yourself. Turning your mind off is way easier to do. Instant gratification and comfort.
Bettering yourself sucks at first, even if you like doing it. It still feels like a chore sometimes. There’s that huge initial hump of even beginning the process. There’s that uneasy, uncomfortable feeling of venturing into something you don’t know about. But trust me when I say that when you start, which is the hardest part, you’ll wonder why you wasted so much time wondering if you should just go for it or not.
In my opinion, once you take a step back and realize how fleeting time is, you should get massive anxiety from wasting any of it – especially if you’re in your twenties or thirties, in the prime of your life. I don’t know about you, but every time someone tells me I’m in the prime of my life, I instantly feel a huge amount of pressure to grow and perform. But it’s the good kind of pressure.
Accomplishing your own goals is the greatest fucking feeling. It’s something you get to be busy with that no one else told you to do. It’s not like its some annoying extracurricular your parents are making you do to become more well-rounded. It’s not a goal at work that you have to do or you get fired. It’s something you want to do, for yourself.
Anyone can finish a goal that’s given to them by someone else – because there is usually some repercussion to failing that motivates you. But it takes a lot of self-discipline to finish goals given to you, by you. Because if you don’t make your goal, guess what, nothing happens. No one’s mad. No repercussions.
But at some point, you’ll hopefully feel that pressure to perform pushing you from the back, and that unbelievable feeling of self-satisfaction pulling you forward.
Why Would You Let Your Happiness Be Dependent on Outside Factors?
“Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.”
-fucking BUDDHA that’s right
On a whole other level, we’re talking about a happiness that’s based completely on yourself. It has nothing to do with other people, or things, or money.
It’s a personal purpose.
Back to “space-fillers.” Part of the reason why I was depressed before this whole realization was I found that my happiness was almost completely dependent on other people and things. Imagine (or maybe you don’t have to imagine) having all of your happiness be dependent on who’s around or not – who’s giving you enough attention – how popular you are – how many likes you get on social media – getting drunk – going to the comfort zone of your couch and TV – how much money you make and if its enough to impress people – shit the list could go on and on.
I’m sure you could add more of your own personal vices. Just a bunch of outside factors that maybe you let your happiness be dependent on.
Just to note, I don’t believe any of those things are inherently bad things. But they’re all super easy to get sucked into when you don’t have a solid foundation of happiness beforehand. My point is that there’s a balance that comes with everything. Without balance – anything can turn into something that’s not good for you. All of those things are pretty neutral things that affect you as much as you let them affect you.
[Just saying TV or social media is bad for you is like fat people blaming McDonald’s for making them fat. Uh, don’t fucking eat there then.]
BUT in my opinion, other people, other things, money, they’re all cherries. (cherries? Cherries. Like yada yada with a “cherry on top.”)
All those things can be amazing parts of your life in the correct balance after you prioritize your life. Sharing your love with your friends or similar minded people is awesome; I’m beyond blessed to have the friends and family I have – and yeah I’m passionate about sports and love TV shows and all this other stuff – and of course money will always be a factor and goal in life – BUT when it really comes down to it – if your whole source of happiness is based on something that is out of your control, it’s not a question about “if” you’re going to get let down, it’s “when.”
Shit if I let my happiness rise and fall with the Lakers, I won’t be happy for another decade. (I use this example because I 100% still do this.)
If you let your happiness depend on other people – when your friends can’t hang out, when you’re on the other side of the world from your family, when you go through a bad break-up – you’re going to be shit out of luck at some point.
So what can you control? Your own personal growth. The things you’re passionate about. That’s all you.
Once you’re able to prioritize what matters in your life – everything else will only make you even happier, and will have less of a chance of being detrimental to your happiness.
And fuck, you know what? All this stuff kind of makes you need to be selfish. You need to be selfish enough to put your own happiness first before you try and make everyone else happy. Obviously its important to help other people, but if you’re not happy and growing on your own in the first place, you’re not going to be able to do much for others.
If your goal is to donate money to help poor people but you don’t have any money, you’re not going to do much for them.
Good intentions don’t mean shit unless you can back them up. Put your oxygen mask on before you put it on the person next to you.
Which leads to…
Dealing with Asshole Resentful People as Well As Your Own Asshole Resentment
“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
Rest in peace.
Last subject. Touchy subject. (I know this post is long bear with me this is the last part)
To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever really felt much outside resentment towards myself most of my life, idk maybe I’m just ignorant. That is until now.
I felt it a lot, the second I decided to go off the beaten path and do my own thing, for myself. And I felt it from (what seemed like) the most unlikely of places.
That whole, “you find out who your real friends are when you start to gain success or happiness”
Or “the second you start doing something weird and different, people are going to try to pull you back down”
I used to think all that was the corniest shit ever. I mean I get it now, but to be honest, I ain’t even mad. Cause I’ve definitely been that person before.
In the past, whenever people were doing better than me, were happier than me – like at anything – I would get resentful as fuck. I would try to be happy for people, but truth is, it’s hard to be happy for other people when you’re stuck in a way without a purpose keeping you busy. It’s like this hopeless arms race with anyone that’s better than you at something, or is enjoying life more than you, or is further than you at something, is making more money than you, whatever the fuck. Even if you’re doing better than someone, you’re only looking at the people that are ahead of you, and you’re like, “oh fuck that guy.” At least I was like that.
I always really admired those people in my life who could always be happy for other people, no matter what their own current circumstance was. Those people always seemed so god damn mature for their age, and it made me feel like a little kid who wasn’t getting their way. I always wanted to be that perpetually happy person. What the fuck was their secret though?
These past few months, I wasn’t looking for the answer. Tons of other stuff was on my mind. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you know that I was going through a lot of stuff, good and bad. But I found the answer along the way. For myself, at least.
The place I got to where I could finally just be happy for everyone else’s success, was just the simple idea in this article – finding that thing (or things) that I personally wanted to be busy with – something no one else told me to do. It didn’t have anything to do with money, or popularity, or mindless “space-fillers”.
It was something that gave me a purpose that I chose on my own, regardless of everything else. Something where I would wake up in the morning and actually plan out my day or week or month around. It’s not like I’m really making money off of it yet. Nor am I getting much recognition for any of it. Shit I suck at a lot of it still. But it’s these kind of “purpose-driven” things that create an internal happiness that isn’t dependent on other people or things.
And now that I’m at that point, it’s crazy how much easier it is to be happier for everyone in my life. I don’t know if everyone else feels like this, but it’s hard to be happy for other people’s success when you’re sitting your do-nothing ass on Instagram every night, wishing you were living someone else’s life. In my opinion, it’s not them you’re resentful of – you just need to find your lane.
When you find your “THING,” you realize everything’s not a competition. (Maybe that’s what those mature people knew)
When you find your “THING,” you’ll get to the point where you actually don’t have enough time in the day for other people’s immature bullshit, other people’s resentment. To the point where you have to look straight forward the entire fucking time, or you’re not going to accomplish the objectives you set for yourself.
I understand why people might resent me right now. I’m blessed as fuck to be have been able to travel for so long and pursue the opportunities that I have now. A lot of the things I’m doing right now are pretty selfish. Everything I’m doing, all the money I’m spending, every moment, is for my own growth.
And I understand why I used to be so resentful. Instead of finding my own lane, I either spent my time chasing needless things that didn’t add value to my life or competing with people in situations where there was nothing to be won.
I guess my point is, if you feel resentment towards someone because of the life they live, someone who didn’t actually really do anything to you, it’s probably not about them. It’s probably about you. It’s probably a sign. There’s probably something you need to go find, and it is 100% in your power to find it.
Or maybe I’m just an asshole.
5000 Words Later…
4 small points I touched on in this.
1) Limit mindless “space-fillers.” Don’t let them control your routine. Keep ’em in balance.
2) Finding that thing that will make you love being busy is accessible as fuck – you just gotta take the first (and usually the hardest) step.
3) Don’t let your happiness be dependent on outside factors.
4) Resentment is born from inactivity. Go find your lane and you won’t have time for resentment – whether it’s your own, or from other people.
After all that, at least for me, depression and lethargy turned into purpose and drive, and anxiety and self-guilt turned into excitement and self-confidence.
All the people I used to resent became insignificant to my progress, and all the people that resent me just got quieter and quieter.
I just want to say, maybe it took me too long to get to this point, but I just want all my friends to be happy and successful. So I hope that everyone can find their lane, and I hope I can help.
Go find that thing. Outside of your phone. Your TV. Your routine. Your comfort zone. Do something that will bring you a step closer to your dream job. Find something you love so much, that even if it didn’t make you money, or get you famous, you’d still be ecstatic to be able to do it every fucking day.
(but then find a way for it to get you money and recognition).
If I was able to get my lazy ass into this mindset, you can too.
I just wrote this whole 5200 word article and realized I could basically have just said go find a hobby