So this particular sojourn nears its end. After almost four months in Europe, life continues on with its strange evolution. To say I’m now in a different state of mind than when I arrived would be to put it mildly.
By the time I actually get back to Panama, I will have been out of “Andiamo mode” for more than nine months. In many ways, those mere nine months seem like a lifetime. Strangely enough, I thought it would be much more difficult to shift gears the way I have managed to. I thought by now I was sure to be having withdrawals for the water, the islands, the boat, and the life I’d known for more than seven years before. I was sure I’d find myself questioning whether or not I made the right choices in handing the reins of Andiamo to other hands and venturing out here. Only to find, that despite various issues and challenges in continuing the transition, that things are for the most part, relatively ok.
Also strangely enough, I’ve discovered how much I can really accomplish when placed in the right setting. I’m impressed at how much I’ve been able to get done in a relatively short time. All despite the various jaunts and tempting distractions I’ve had to contend with while being here. Surely the kind that only being in Europe in the summertime can bring. Yet despite it all, I found myself to be surprisingly focused and productive. So much so, I’m even more excited and motivated to nurture other new ideas, and take on new projects and challenges. I can only hope that the time needed manages to stay available for them.
It never ceases to amaze me how many ideas and concepts a brain can process and nurture when it’s given the time and bandwidth to do so. All my life, I’ve usually had trouble organizing my ideas and projects in a way that I can see them through. Usually because there were just too many distractions, or life would get in the way. Granted, I’m still not as efficient as I think I can be, but I attribute that to not wanting to work all the time than anything else. So on that level, I can only give myself a pass. I have learned that it sometimes depends on the ideas that come along themselves as to how productive or efficient you can be.
For example, when I arrived here in late April, I had already challenged myself to write a screenplay based on an idea that I had been nurturing in my head for a very long time. I just wanted to know if I can do it. It seemed like a great idea, and I just wondered why no one else had ever thought about it. So hence, it became my pet project. After starting to write it, I had to accept some changes early on. The project evolved in mid-air from a screenplay to a novella. I realized that the narrative would fit better for the story as a novella, and allowed the change to happen. Since then, I’ve found the flow of the story to be much more consistent.
And though I’m not finished with it yet, I continue to make steady progress. To the point where I can actually see myself finishing it. To see an idea that has been bouncing around in my head for more than a decade, materialize itself into something tangible is pretty exciting stuff. At least it is for me. So taking this as a cue, I find I’m nurturing other ideas and concepts that draw something out of me. Most have to do with writing, but a few of them are business ideas or may have to do with some other sphere of my life.
Over the last few months, I’ve come to realize that I have so many ideas and projects bouncing around my not-so-young mind, that I had to do something about it. I had to organize and nurture my thoughts and ideas, and determine which ones were worthy of developing into projects. It’s something I haven’t had to deal with in a very long time. About a decade to be more exact.
Back then in my crazy, frantic, “dot-com” life during the 90’s, I lived and died by my whiteboard. In my office, wherever that happened to be, I kept a large 4’x 6′ one on my wall. My brain was literally scrawled on it, illustrated and diagrammed. There were flow charts, checklists, task lists, questions, pros/cons lists, and much more. Whenever something got into my head, it ended up somewhere on the whiteboard.
Over time, it developed into a strange cryptic “code” of abbreviations and acronyms that apparently only I can understand. My then-wife, my assistant, and my staff could never make out what I was trying to organize and plan with the bizarre gobbledygook they saw on that board. I was able, however, to easily explain things during our various brainstorming meetings. It was an impressive process that worked for me, in the environment that I was in at the time.
So here’s the funny thing. It’s now a few months ago back in Panama. My loosening grip on the Andiamo day-to-day activities allowed me to start nurturing ideas again. So I used my tried and true formula. I went to the local Office Depot and got myself an “old-school” whiteboard. I put it up on the wall of our apartment’s dining room, and there it sat. Empty. For months. I didn’t actually use it until it was time for me to execute my first extracurricular website project. And for that particular project, it came in handy and was perfectly useful. Then, after that, it became stale again, until I found it was time to leave for stateside and then Europe.
Of course, I grew a bit frustrated about this. Why couldn’t I effectively layout my ideas and thoughts like I once could?? Did I forget my cryptic whiteboard code? Did I somehow “lose it”? “It” being the ability to visualize ideas and concepts? What if I couldn’t organize my ideas and thoughts in a way that I could evolve them into tasks and projects? What then? To be honest, the concept that I couldn’t go back to my old way of being productive scared me a little bit. Had I been away from it too long? What would I do then if that was indeed the case?
Not long after that, I find myself spending the bulk of my sojourn in Sweden. In a small and sleepy country town, as the guest of a certain someone I had met only a few months before. She somehow convinced me that being a guest at her little house for the majority of the summer would somehow be a boon to my productivity and my creativity. I would have the entire days alone at the house while she was off at work or tending to her horse. Though I acknowledged that she probably had ulterior motives and some hidden agenda, I took her up on it anyway. It seemed like the perfect antidote to the near burnout I was feeling towards Panama City at the time.
In the first month, I found myself hammering away at my screenplay-turned-novella. More story ideas came down the pike, more business ideas showed up on the radar screen. Despite my few poker runs, various jaunts, visits with friends, and side-trips, I was being amazingly productive. And in what seemed to be a very short time. In the midst of all that, I even managed to close a very nice business deal. Things were happening at a breakneck pace. And still, I found myself needing to figure out how to ORGANIZE myself again in order for things to flow effectively. And there I was lamenting the whole whiteboard ‘letdown’ back in Panama again.
After a bit of thought, I decided that perhaps there could be a way to “organize” digitally. After all, I have a laptop and a droid phone, who over the past year has become an indispensable friend. Maybe these tools can answer the call in a way that my old whiteboard couldn’t anymore.
So to cut to the chase, I looked for solutions on that front. Within a very short time of searching and researching, I scored a nice little free application via Linux’s software center that seemed to fit the bill. Once I downloaded and installed it, I got right to it. A couple hours later, I had organized every aspect of my life into this ridiculously simple app. I literally emptied my brain into it, and organized it accordingly. It was disturbingly easy, and I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.
Since then, this plain and simple tool has ridiculously simplified my life. Incredibly, I had organized my thoughts and allowed myself to organize and develop my projects through an incredibly simple and straightforward process. And, in a way that my old whiteboard never could. The ideas have become bolder, better and more defined. I know all this sounds nerdy, if not mundane and trivial. But for someone like me who’s always operated on some strange ad-hoc plane between “barely organized” and “semi-chaotic”, this is nothing short of a major development. It made my whiteboard look like child’s play.
I even noticed an unexpected result. I became even more enthusiastic about the actual act of “doing”. More so than I have in a VERY long time. If anyone had asked me seven years ago before embarking on my Andiamo venture, if this kind of evolution would happen to me at this stage of my life, my response would be in no uncertain terms, “no fucking way”. Then again, I had no idea what the future was going to be dishing out to me back then.
So what’s the point of me writing all this? Is there a moral to this disjointed, convoluted story? Well, if there is any point or moral at all, and I’m not quite sure there is, it’s perhaps this: To arrive at a particular stage in life, where what you “do” matters far more than what you may “get” from what you do, is a place you may not necessarily reach on purpose. In my case, it wasn’t even conceivable. At least not from a creative standpoint. Seeing something that seemed perhaps at one time unreachable, that you have dreamed about your whole life, become a reality is a very rare thing. It’s something you “get” from what you “do”.
When you realize a life dream, isn’t that supposed to be life’s reward? In my case, yes. Seeing the whole “Andiamo” dream come to a reality did seem exactly that. The boat, the name, the life and adventures I’ve had with her were all visualized long before I got there in reality. For me, it’s what I “got” from all the years of toil, stress and seemingly endless hard work. It was proof I beat the odds. No doubt was it a testament to my many failures. And fortunately, my relatively few successes.
Yet, in the end, the “dream” was rudely interrupted by real life on several occasions during its course. The interruptions were very sudden, unexpected and even traumatic in many ways. And they showed up very early on into the story. It started in earnest with my marriage imploding just a few months after the dream’s illustrious beginning. Then, to have that followed by losing my father just a few months after.
I found myself having to adapt to the realities, and fast. I had to in order for the dream to somehow survive. I was incredibly reluctant to do so. Everything that happened didn’t seem at all fair, to be sure. I managed to trudge forward each time to newer and brighter horizons.
Then, when my dream got slammed by what was most certainly a fatal blow, I was dumbfounded. I became angry and disappointed, mostly at myself. After all the endless trials and tribulations to keep the dream alive during all those initial years, I felt downright cheated. Destiny screwed me. It seemed like a cruel joke. I got as close to actually making some sense of the dream despite all the changes and challenges. And still, it was essentially deemed null and void by this final fatal blow. At that point, it seemed all for naught.
I went into a strange if not sobering survival state. Trying to figure out ways how to get back on my feet after the financial tidal wave that pummeled me in mid-2008. When a very enticing job offer which would require me to temporarily venture back to LA and the “real world”, arrived to save the day, I resisted with everything I had. Despite the fact that doing so seemed to be the only logical choice (I’ll write about all that on another post someday). Instead, I would stay and work with what I had, which was all I had. I would use the boat. I had a “Plan Z”, I would put it into action.
Fast forward more than three years after being slammed back to earth by what I call a major ass-whipping by reality. After getting through the latest set of incredible challenges, since those grim days of mid ’08. There came a revelation. All this shit had to happen. The dream had to adapt, evolve, and in many ways, end. Destiny, since I don’t believe in any kind of deity, wasn’t done with me yet. There was more to do, more to dream.
Like it or not, life does not necessarily level off on some consistent cruising altitude, just because you manage to achieve a particular life dream or success. No matter how badly you may want it to. It may for some people, but not for others, no matter what they do. Continuing to elevate, to push to the next level of life’s challenges, dreams, or whatever, is needed. Even if it’s not initially welcome and it even feels forced on you. It is what evolves you, it’s what challenges you.
By realizing that, then zeroing in on those particular things that will motivate and excite you to continue to elevate, and not necessarily because of what reward it may bring you in a material or tangible sense, is the best part.
It sweetens the challenge.