Wednesday, 5 February 2014

How to half-ass everything

I wrote a book once. An honest-to- God novel with 175 000 words, complete with all the necessary literary elements such as a plot and all those other fiddly bits that make up every other novel. It was read by exactly 3 people, and while the contents may have been mostly rubbish, I was proud that I stuck with it and finished the damn thing.

How did I do it you ask? A combination of ignorance, narcissism and good old fashioned work. Being blissfully unaware of ones supposed limitations is a big help. Basically I walk around like Mr. Bean, bumbling through things in my own bull headed way. Books are not supposed to be written by guys like me. They are supposed to be written by struggling yet brilliant journalism majors or quirky housewives who sit around all day dreaming up tales of vampire love. On the other hand, if one wakes up thinking, “Hmmm…I think I’ll write a book”, then by all means hop to it young man. The same goes for dry-walling your basement, digging a pond in your backyard or running a ten mile obstacle course at the advanced age of 43. Be like Nike and just do it.

I’m taking the saying “jack of all trades, master of none” to new levels. I've done a lot of things in my day, some of them very badly, while others achieved a solid level of mediocrity. Giving yourself a chance is the key. Most times I go into these things blind, like the time I reformatted my hard drive using very cryptic, hand written instructions from a guy that couldn't really speak English. It didn't end well.

My list of accomplishments reads more like a list of attempts, and that, I think, is a good thing. For example, I play half- assed rhythm guitar in a band. Sometimes I forget the chord progression in the Neil Young song I’m playing and I’ll never learn the solo from Sweet Child of Mine but damn do I have fun on jam night! I’ve written and recorded about 10 songs of which a few might even be fit for public consumption. Are they great songs? No. Am I richer for the experience? Hell yeah, it was amazing. I got to wear the fancy headphones and sing into the microphone with the nylon thingy in front of it that stops your spit from making popping noises. 

How about the time, at age 38, I joined a competitive soccer team after a 25 year hiatus from the game?
“I can run”, I thought. “I've still got my moves from grade six”. 
Perhaps I underestimated the level of play in the league. Most teams were peppered with Europeans who grew breathing soccer the way Canadians do with hockey. Guys with names like Salvatore and Pavel who had footwork moves that could turn you inside out. Fortunately for me, it turns out if you have no skill in men’s over 35 soccer, you can survive on superior cardio and heart. Think Forrest Gump. 

Other questionable yet intrepid things I have done include such undertakings such as re-canvasing a canoe, building a website, starting a blog and wearing skinny jeans. When I learned it was possible to make your own charcoal in a 55 gallon drum, that became my summer project last year. I had one small explosion when gas fumes got into the barrel before I lit the fire, but other than that, it was a smashing success. Once I get going on these things, I have a bit of compulsiveness that takes over – until the next flight of fancy takes my imagination that is. 

There is something very satisfying in trying the unknown whether you achieve success or not. I want to be the guy who brews his own beer and can do a brake job on his car. I am desperate to weld something. Oh…and I’m going to build a wood fired sauna. Don’t fall into the trap of winning and success and all that crap. Wade into the task with a positive attitude and blatant disregard for what you think you can or cannot do. You might make a mess of things and ruin a completely good hard drive, but at the very least you’ll end up with a really good story.

Making charcoal in a barrel....


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