Mindset

Aging and the Growing Sense of Urgency

I came across a draft of this post in my notes. I originally wrote it about five years ago but did not publish it as it seemed a bit too gloomy for my liking back then. I made some minor changes to it, but kept the tone. Looking at this text again, I see no reason not to release it. Also, as you may have noticed, I have been writing about basically anything I feel like in the last few years, even if some readers may find my more recent material alienating.

A once good friend of mine used to refer to me as a “flaneur”, which was a pretty apt description. I used to spend a large part of my life not really giving much of a damn about societal expectations. I always did extremely well academically, though, which allowed me to win a couple of scholarships for study abroad. Yet, I was not studying with the goal of finding employment. I just did what I thought was engaging. I graduated from a top university at the height of the Great Financial Crisis. Jobs were not so easy to come by. Besides, I was in London back then and really wanted to get out of it, so I did. Then I spent a few years partying, traveling, and banging chicks. This was all good fun.

One day, though, I woke up one day and asked myself what the hell I have been doing with my life. Granted, this thought was also motivated by my father threatening to cut off financial support. My life plan, in all seriousness, was to enjoy myself until I no longer could and then gracefully exit. Then, the threatened financial blow to my bohemian lifestyle put me back on track. Starting from zero at that age is no fun, but I was suddenly motivated to get out of the hole I had found myself in. No, this is not some bullshit story along the lines of “I was sleeping in my car”. I was never in economic distress and if I had been, I could always have lived off welfare. That is something I never wanted to do, though.

Putting my life back together was tough at times, but in the end, it worked out just fine. I entered a field in which there was a lot of demand at the time. Well, my big advantage is that I am pretty smart and at one point HR has to look at that offbeat candidate, even if they’d rather not. It was not completely straightforward to get a foot in the door. I had gigs that were not particularly great and which I quickly removed from my CV, but I still learned a lot. I also worked really hard and thus it did not take a long time to find a solid footing in industry. Yet, as it turned out, if you are willing to work as an intern to gain some experience, then suddenly it does not matter all that much that you are quite a bit older than your peers or even that your mentor may even be younger than you. On a side note, I also learned that you can be too smart for some jobs. One company made me do a psychometric test, in which I scored in the 99% percentile. I was told that this was by far the best result anyone they have given the test to has ever achieved, including all current employees. This made this chick pretty uncomfortable, perhaps because she did not do quite as well on this test. In the end, I was told that they really enjoyed talking to me but unfortunately they got the impression that I was not a “team player” and wished me good luck on my job search.

I don’t think I was ever a lazy person, far from it, but it was certainly the case that plenty of my projects I only worked on when I felt like it. Still, among others, I even managed to write a few books over the years, because I felt like it. Looking back, I thought that I could probably have done a bit more. It’s tough to do that if you are juggling two or three women who make demands on your time. My first wife was also not overly supportive of my writing. Once she was gone, a huge mental burden just evaporated and I began reevaluating my life. Consequently, I began writing a lot more consistently. So far, this has worked out quite well. I released one book in late 2017, another one in early 2018, and a third one will come out in early 2019. I am close to finishing a draft of a fourth book. My goal for 2019 is to release three books. Of course, I do not know if I manage to do so, but releasing a second book this year is almost certain. Even if that will be the final outcome, it will be a big step up compared to every single year since the release of my very first book. [Note: I released Sleazy Stories III in 2019, Online Game in 2020, and finished Sleazy Stories IV in 2020 as well, but this book has not been released yet. This was indeed a very productive time in my life. Then the Covid gay-op consumed a lot of my energy, directly and indirectly.]

When I was younger, I did not think much about aging and death. However, it is quite possible that I am closer to my death than my date of birth. Thus, it sometimes bothers me when I am idling away my time. This does not mean that I am productive on every waking moment, far from it. That being said, I did dramatically cut down on time sinks like YouTube or Internet browsing. I sold my PlayStation 4, too. The immediate consequence of this was that I ended up with more spare time. When I sit down on my desk at home, I tend to think that it’s time to start working, and I do. If you believe that you can already see the outline of the Grim Reaper on the horizon, you better get going. So far, aging has helped regain focus and reevaluate what I want to get out of life. Of course, a more cynical view is that the party lifestyle I used to have is not sustainable past a certain age. This is true, too, of course.

14 thoughts on “Aging and the Growing Sense of Urgency

  1. I sold my PlayStation 4, too

    Since you wrote that years ago, I understand that later you went back on your decision. What was the reason for that? I myself like gaming, but the problem is that easy games are boring, and hard games are so addictive that I spent way too much time and effort on them, and that ruins my motivation to work or do anything else. That’s why I’m going through months long periods without gaming, and, hopefully, those months will stretch to years and beyond at some point

    1. I did not repurchase a PS4 yet, but I ended up getting a PS3 later, which I still own, and a Nintendo Switch, which I sold later. In addition, I picked up a few PS4 games on the cheap. One reason for wanting to sell the PS4 was that I had been binging on The Witcher III and had no interest in repeating this with another RPG. When I played Dragon Quest XI on the Switch (Lite) a few years later, this was not an issue, though, as this handheld is excellent for a pick-up-and-play approach. Besides, there is as certain discomfort with the small form factor, so I was not even inclined to spending hours at a time on this game.

      I tend to also fluctuate in my stance on gaming. By and large, I find it to be a perfectly fine hobby, as long as you stay away from mindless time sinks. Currently, I am back to playing my small and devilishly difficult handful of favorite Japanese arcade games on MAME. You can’t be fully productive all the time, and I do not think there is a fundamental difference between reading a novel and an RPG in this regard. There are also games that require a lot of critical thinking. This reminds me that I should get back to The Witness at some point.

    2. Excellent, this comment touches on a couple of things I’ve been thinking about a lot.

      By and large, I find it to be a perfectly fine hobby

      And that’s the problem. Here is my (extreme) take on the hobbies: we only call something a hobby when it both requires effort and brings no tangible benefits. If it had results, we would’ve called it a career, or a side hustle, or even a chore. If there is no effort, then it’s entertainment, not a hobby. That’s why people make fun of those who call watching Netflix a hobby. And once you put it this way, another question arises immediately: why even bother putting effort into something which brings no returns?

      You said that you cannot be productive all the time. I agree. And I think that if you don’t have energy to put into work/career/something useful, you shouldn’t be putting it in a hobby, either. Instead, just do something chill. I think reading requires significantly less effort than gaming. Which brings us to the next point:

      I do not think there is a fundamental difference between reading a novel and an RPG in this regard

      I see two important differences. First, a typical novel takes only 5-6 hours to read. No matter how interesting it is, it will never derail my life because after I’m done reading it I will have to put it down. You can say that I can start reading the next one right away, but it takes time and effort to find a good book. Video games, on the other hand, often have no end, and when they do, you can play them again. So when binging you can sink in dozens of hours a week easily. That happened to make the last time I gamed.

      Another difference is that a game is interactive, so it exploits your reward system. A book cannot do that. It’s one less vector of attack, so to speak. Before I realized it, I was thinking that if I don’t play any video games, I’m missing out on good music, visuals etc. Now I compare video games to a coffee with sugar: sugar (which represents art in this metaphor) is tasty, but it is the caffeine (feedback loop in video games) which is an actual drug making people addicted. It’s silly to take the risks of becoming a drug addict if all you wanted is some sugar. (You may not share my extreme stance on caffeine, but for the sake of this argument pretend that you do, to make the metaphor work). Likewise, it’s silly to play video games only for all those secondary factors.

    3. I tend to play either games that require a lot of dedication and have a high skill level — those are the same few arcade games I have been playing for years — or tell a serviceable story. Examples of the latter are RPGs, which are escapist in nature. Normally, anyone can beat them, provided they put in the time. Games in the former category are not quite so tolerant of a lack of mechanical skills. I full agree with your point that games should not be one’s major focus in life, of course.

      Regarding the comparison between books and RPGs: The novel I am currently reading has about 750 pages. You are not done with it within five or six hours. The time commitment is quite comparable to a medium-length single-player RPG. Also, I do not find it easy to come across games that catch my interest, just as it is the case with novels. If you are referring to MMORPGs, you are fully correct. Those games are designed to be never-ending time sinks. I have never played any of these games. However, it seems that they are getting a bit less popular whereas competitive multiplayer games have been growing.

    4. “You can’t be fully productive all the time, and I do not think there is a fundamental difference between reading a novel and an RPG in this regard.”

      Yeah,spending your time reading an entire harry potter book isn’t going to yield you any more real life benefit than spending that time gunning NPC’s in Max Payne. even though normies seem to have the impression that you’re doing something productive doing the former over the latter.

      I mentioned this to someone elsewhere,but I don’t think my fundamental worldview has ever been significantly impacted by fiction,even if they hit me emotionally hard. Maybe I was when I was very young,but I can’t remember anymore. I’ve heard other folks claim they have however,that certain fictional works changed their lives/perspectives.

      Have you personally,Aaron?

    5. No, I do not think any novel changed my life. I certainly enjoyed some more than others, but I only ascribe genuine changes in perspective to some of the philosophical works I have read. I should also add that my world view has been shaped by studying proof-based mathematics, formal logic, and statistics. This is a major reason why I have no tolerance for bullshit.

      Some video games had a profound effect on me, too. Playing through all of Super Mario World (96 exits) as a kid was an achievement. Discovering everything in Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, as indicated by a complete inventory screen, was probably the first time I put sustained effort into anything, and overcame non-trivial challenges. It was certainly more difficult than school work and doubly so pre-Internet. Also, my English improved a lot via playing RPGs like Final Fantasy III/VI and Chrono Trigger. On a related note, I was quite surprised when I learned that the other kids who had a Super Nintendo at home tended to give up very quickly. There were kids who did not even make it out of the castle at the very beginning of ALttP.

    6. @Cycle Path

      “If there is no effort, then it’s entertainment, not a hobby.”

      – You know,I’ve always felt that saying that watching a TV show is a hobby is incorrect,but didn’t know how to put the “why” of it into words. I think you’ve done that well with this.

      “no tangible benefits”

      – Interesting definition,though I’m not sure I can entirely agree here. I like Combat Sports/Martial Arts and consider it a hobby. would I say the practice of it brings me no tangible benefits? I feel that would be incorrect.

      It gives me a way to get/keep in shape in an enjoyable manner,helps develop fighting skills that may aid me should I need it for self-defense,may even be something I could profit from should I decide to go that route. And then there’s all the other stuff about how some people use the Martial arts for Character development. (you can argue that last one falls into the “less tangible” however),etc.

      To dive a little further on that first point I mentioned,I’ve always had the theory that,while exercise is healthy,you only get the maximum benefit from it if you are doing it in a form you enjoy. I think the guy who plays a sport he loves and keeps in shape that way is healthier than the guy who begrudgingly forces himself on the treadmill/stationary bike all else equal. Its a personal theory though,I can’t really prove it. I’d be interested to hear what you guys think about it however.

      “Another difference is that a game is interactive, so it exploits your reward system. A book cannot do that. It’s one less vector of attack, so to speak.”

      – I’m not going to say I agree with the general idea of demonizing video games and saying they have no place in a healthy life (Search the term “Hamza” here if you want to find my more detailed thoughts I’ve shared regarding the topic here on Aaron’s blog),but this is a pretty interesting angle here. If this is relevant,I’ve also mentioned that the addictiveness of video games seems to get magnified the moment you insert a social element into it. Some of the most unflattering memes about gamers we hear about are usually about multiplayer gamers. (i.e. People who spend all day playing World of Warcraft in mommy’s basement,etc.)

    7. Cycle path: in general I agree that gaming can be more addictive that books.

      However, I knew of a guy who was going on days reading fantasy novels. This isn’t much better than gaming all days.

      Overall, it’s up to you to have the power to not read too many novels and not game too much.

      I think an advantage of reading novels is that if you read them at night you get sleepy (well that happens to me). That’s why I try avoid electronic devices and try to read 30mins before sleeping.

    8. I’ve always had the theory that,while exercise is healthy,you only get the maximum benefit from it if you are doing it in a form you enjoy.

      I agree with “you only get the maximum benefit from it if you are doing it in a form you enjoy” but don’t agree with “exercise is healthy”. I’m yet to find evidence that exercise is healthy. Most studies are inconclusive at best, because either:

      The study is correlational (aka “epidemiological”) , those are always garbage, they can only show correlations but don’t give you any idea on causation. Do fitness people live healthier and longer because of doing sports? Or are they doing sports because they can, while sick people can’t? We’ll never know the answer from the correlational studies
      Now there are interventional studies. Those, in general, work. You measure something, make an intervention (change in diet/exercise/drugs/whatever), and measure results again. The issues is, what are you going to measure? You cannot measure health as it is. You can only measure proxy endpoints, such as V̇O2 max , but then there is always a question, do those things actually measure health? What if they are measuring something else? What if you think they measure degree of health, but they actually measure degree of trauma instead?

      Which means that when deciding how healthy exercising is, science is of no help. What do I have left? Why, my own feelings. Healthy things generally feel good. Unhealthy things feel bad. The exceptions are all caused by difference between modern and ancestral environments. There was no sugar and drugs back then, so we like them even when they are bad. There were also no surgeries back then, so we hate them even if they are good in many cases. But opportunity for exercise has always been around. You could always lift some stones or jog around. Why doesn’t it feel nice then? My answer is because it is actually not healthy.

      Now we are finally getting to the “you only get the maximum benefit from it if you are doing it in a form you enjoy” part. In line with my reasoning, exercise you do enjoy is most likely healthy. Walking is both enjoyable and healthy, for example. Two caveats you need to have in mind:

      Are you really enjoying the exercise, as in “I would do that even if I had option to do no exercise whatsoever”, or are you only enjoying it because of having deep conviction that exercising is good for you, as in “well, I have to do some kind of exercise, and exercise X is way more fun that Y and Z, so I’ll say I like X, even though in reality I’d prefer to not exercise at all.”
      Are you enjoying for the right reasons? I do some social sports to meet people, and I do mountain skiing because I love challenge and I’m a bit of adrenaline junkie. In both cases, I assume that it brings injury risks and wears my body down. So I’m not enjoying it because it’s healthy, I’m enjoying it despite it being unhealthy.

      Finally, a schizo angle: if sport or exercise is good, why do our hostile and incompetent elites promote it? Why did people in the past knew that physical work leads to quick aging, but people nowadays do such work in gyms after paying for it, not being paid?

    9. I do not have the impression that there is excessive promotion of health and fitness from the elites. This industry is primarily driven by hucksters. In contrast, for example, in NS Germany the government did indeed promote health and fitness. There were national programs for it. An excellent example in this vein is Leni Riefenstahl’s movie Olympia:

      The first part is essentially a celebration of exercise and its effect on the human physique.

    10. Re: novels. You can like some, even love them, but it’s hard to get epiphanies from them since most artists (and that includes writers) lean to the left of the political spectrum, even in ancient times. It seems part and parcel of being on the creative side.

      @Cycle Path: or should I say Psycho Path?

      Hah, but that is an angle I had never considered regarding exercise. You might have a point, since body-building is essentially a constant cycle of breaking up and healing muscle tissue. I mean, how did the ancient Olympic athletes, portrayed in contemporary art not as roided-up freaks but definitely more muscular than average, did it? As Maou said, martial arts or competitive sport are enjoyable ways to work out.

    11. Another point about reading books: I agree that, even if they’re captivating at the moment, I find reading helps me sleep, even on a tablet or cell phone. Other activities involving bright screens, not so much, and that includes gaming.

    12. @Cycle Path

      “Why did people in the past knew that physical work leads to quick aging”

      – When people are Training (and not just “exercising”,Mark Rippetoe explains the difference between Exercise vs Training here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vze1nSkKXc& ),assuming they are following a proper program,there are scheduled rest days and “deload” periods. People who have to do Manual Labor for a living don’t have a choice. they can’t just go take a rest day whenever they want/need to.

      I think my pointing out the difference between Training vs Exercise and scheduled breaks/deloads are one of the major factors that makes the difference whether or not working out is healthy. People who work manual labor for a living can’t just rest whenever they need. They HAVE to keep working even when their body is screaming for a break (unless its extreme enough for them to get excused if they’re lucky) and that is part of the reason their laboring ends up being more harmful than it is beneficial to them.

      You might be right in general that “Exercising” (working out without a structured plan/program and with no purpose other than to work up a sweat/burn calories),over the long term,probably does more harm than good. Look at running addicts for example. so many cases of overuse injury among them.

      I do believe however that “Training” (Exercising towards a goal that has meaning to you. In my case,I lift weights and train Martial arts for this: https://mythicalstrength.blogspot.com/2018/04/more-trouble-than-youre-worth.html ) is healthier than being a complete couch potato. Maybe its not totally 100% healthy in comparison to following a program that is only concerned about your health (I would imagine this would be some combination of a resistance training program + a Yoga/Flexibility program + Swimming or some other low impact exercise/sport for your cardio),but its still healthier than being an inactive couch potato.

      I think you’re already familiar with the anecdotes from folks who have begun to see QoL improvements after they started training,so I’ll spare my own story. But its real,I feel much better all around ever since I started working out. I almost never get those random nasty cramps that I used to get in the past.

      “exercise you do enjoy is most likely healthy.”

      – I enjoy Sparring,even hard sparring. That’s not to say that I like getting hit (I don’t,and I hope to get better at the art of not getting hit. lol),but I have found that fighting for sport is actually fun to me. I have no illusions about it being healthy whatsoever though. This,I would say,is an area that I’m aware probably hinders more than helps “health”,but I compromise for reasons similar to why you Mountain Skii.

      I’m aware you used the word “most likely” here. Maybe you’re correct in general,but felt this was worth bringing up.

      Anyway,you definitely bring up some interesting new angles to this discussion. Maybe we agree more than we disagree. Do you feel that physical “training” towards a goal that has great meaning to you,is healthier than a life of physical inactivity?

  2. I think as growing older and ageing, its still important to have a life plan as “…was to enjoy myself until I no longer could and then gracefully exit”.
    What i have realized as getting older, not everything can be controlled by ourselves. It kind off took me away in 2023, to see “childhood heros” like your uncle, friend of family getting pretty sick. When i was in my twenties, these things happend too and you have been cool with it, but the closer you get to 40, you’re not able to shake it off that easy.

    What i realized over the years too, if you’re pushing yourself really at work over months or years, you’re becoming one of the top players. As i got promoted my job got easier with each promotion. Tasks i dont want to do get delegated and i coodinate and studying stuff i want to do. So at the end i have each day after work, sports, cooking/cleaning a few ours for myself and can be wasted withouth bad conscience.

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