jasraj hothi's blog

hi, i'm jasraj and this is my blog. i also have a micro blog + an audio diary

a longer version of my story so far (in ~8,000 words)

Gosh, I’ve been tinkering my short bio’s online (e.g. twitter) for what seems like forever now, but it’s been a good while since I penned a lengthier ‘about me’ section.

Come to think of it, I have written a handful of long(er) introductions on the various blogs I’ve run. But it’s been a while since gone all-out with an introduction and given myself permission to share my story at length. And to be honest, lots has changed in the last few years, and even in the last couple of years, so this is probably as good a time as ever.

I was also inspired by other about me stories in the About Me Stories publication, which I’ve recently discovered since recently returning here to the Medium platform.

When I first joined Medium, I shared the below, my first ever blog post:

📝 My story so far (written: July 14th, 2015)

Here’s me checking back in for a more thorough and renewed ‘life update’.

Okay, so here goes…

Little Jas

The very first personal blog I had was my Medium one. That was the first time I introduced myself online, and it was nearly seven years ago now.

I opened that one using my full name, Jasraj. It’s always been shortened to Jas, to make it easier for others to address me, but I’ve recently been trying to try my full name on for size again. Jasraj [“jus-raaj”].

So, hi, I’m Jasraj. And now let me think of little Jas, the guy who lives on in me even if I am thirty-two now. Here he is.

We look kinda similar, don’t we?

So that was me as a kid. Sweet, wide-eyed, playful and naïve. I like to sit under my desk and pretend I was in a rocket-ship, play with my toys, and watch cartoons. I used to wake up especially for the likes of The Smurfs, The Snorks, Tom & Jerry Kids, The Moomins, The Lampies, Aquila, or whatever happened to be showing on BBC2 in that 7–7.30am slot over breakfast before it was time to leave for school.

I also loved to dream up stories for my little brother; one moment I would prepare him for a make-belief battle, and the next I would let him know that his brave efforts had afforded a meeting with the king to praise him. I played the different parts, including the king. I’m not sure he knew exactly what was going on at the time, but I sensed he appreciated that brotherly bonding time as much as I did. I recall we also used to put on little comedy shows to make the other laugh… I still remember the theme music slash intro I made up (“Welcomeeee to the shooow… the show of laughter, the show of joy…”). I’ve always had a rich and vivid imagination.

At school I remember being the same sweet and innocent kid. I loved to learn about things and so I liked my lessons at school. I did struggle a bit when I first started school, though, aged 4. I remember being bulled a little in the playground, and I would dread every PE class; I was terrified by all the gym apparatus — whether it was balancing on the beam a couple of feet above the ground, climbing over things… just generally being away from the ground wasn’t my thing. I generally wasn’t a happy bunny there, and I remember bursting into tears over my homework one evening. Thankfully mum noticed what was going on pretty quickly, and I was fortunate that my parents had the resources to send me to a lovely little school that would become my little home away from home for the next six-and-a-half years.

Oh how I loved that school. The kids there were much gentler, and the school itself was this old Grade-II listed building that felt like a big house. I remember entering through the front door and going up the big, wide spiral staircase to go “upstairs” to my classroom. It was kind of Hogwartsy come to think of it.

It was like we were all one big family there. In fact I remember sweetly-but-embarrassingly calling one of my teachers “Daddy” one time. I wanted to die a little, but Mr. Malam was lovely and he did feel fatherly. I played Chess at school (I played on board #1 eventually, and went on to compete at national inter-school tournaments), and Mr. Malam was the head of chess club so I got to spend time with him and the other chess kids pretty often, both at school and on the weekends for competitions.

So I have very happy memories of that school. Little Jas loved to learn about everything, he thrived in spelling tests (Dad had taught me how to read, something I’d failed to learn at my first, not-so-delightful school that my mum had pulled me out of, and I’d fallen in love with books), and he took great pride in all his homework, taking every piece very seriously, writing very neatly with his fountain pen, and generally getting good grades with smiley faces and gold stars. The teachers and my classmates were lovely, and even my less-favourite lessons like PE/Games were bearable in that warm environment. I have such fluffy memories when it comes to that little school.

“Big school”

I left aged 11 to go to “big school”, otherwise known as ‘secondary school’ here in England (you might know it as ‘high school’), and though it was an adjustment going to a much bigger class size/year group, bigger assemblies and bigger buildings, I slotted in there pretty nicely. I lucked out somewhat when it came to the year group I was assigned to, we were probably the most-well-behaved and nerdy class by overall standards, but it felt like that was exactly where I was supposed to be.

My love of learning continued… like I had at primary school, I pretty much enjoyed alllll the subjects. I had a pretty great time there until the age of sixteen, even with that year being the first “important year” when it came to exams (I’d gone through two rounds of SAT exams by that age, but those felt pretty chilled).

My Gallup Strengths the last time I completed the assessment (as an adult), in no particular order: Input, Intellection, Learner, Empathy, Futuristic

At that point a couple of things happened. Firstly, I had to whittle down my subjects and choose just 4 subjects to take for my first year of A-levels, which would in turn impact and inform what I was intending to study at university. Coming from an immigrant family, and going to a grammar school, and also being perceived as pretty able and “academic” (whatever that means), there really was no other option for me but university.

Up until that point, I had loved to learn for the sake of learning and enjoyed the variety that came from my schooling experience. I’d enjoy creative writing and studying Macbeth in English, or learning about the old language of Latin and accompanying Roman history of that time, about the World Wars in history, about animals and plans in Biology, or electricity and space in Physics, and so on. And so when it came to choose, I honestly didn’t want to choose. But seeing as I had to, I felt I had to choose the “proper” subjects in order to do something prestigious at university. So I picked Maths, Biology, Chemistry and German (dropping German for my second year of A-levels).

The second thing that happened was that we had a bunch of students join from other schools, I became part of a new ‘form group’ and classes were all mixed up according to the subject options you had picked. All of a sudden I had early morning tutorials with a different bunch of people, and I was sharing classes with different folks away from the same group of 30 people I’d spent mornings and all day with in my class. (I literally still remember the order of the register from those 5 years I spent with that class, and I’m also thinking about organising a re-union for us all using the email addresses we all left in our yearbook… this year marks fifteen — FIFTEEN! — years since I left secondary school. Wild.

Those last two years of school were tough for me. Up until that point I had enjoyed just ambling along and learning things for the sheer enjoyment.

I was not prepared to whittle all the subjects down to merely four options, nor was I prepared to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life… which is what I felt I was doing in making those choices.

I feel like I’m a part of somebody’s master plan. Go to school, get a job, get a mortgage. All I’m really doing is dying… (Avicii vs Nicky Romero: I Could Be the One)

When asked “What do you want to do… (at university, as a career, with your life)?” everyone seemed to have an answer. It was like you needed to have an answer. Looking back, I feel like most of us were just making it up and low-key freaking out beneath the surface, and the blasé-delivery of the answer we offered was actually one we were just sort of making up and trying on for size.

I struggled through those two years at school. Those “proper” maths and science subjects I’d chosen and had quite enjoyed up until that point suddenly became not so interesting. They took over my school-life, learning became more rote, to get top grades for university for a course… i.e. a course I wasn’t sure I wanted to do, at a place I didn’t know I wanted to go.

It all felt very overwhelming and disorientating.

My yearbook photo, taken in my last year of secondary (high) school.

University and my first office job

I ended up applying for one course, studying another, and dropping out after a year. I then had a year of working in my first “proper job” in an office for the first time, which was actually pretty novel and fun for me. It was a corporate with a friendly and laid-back culture, and I had my first taste of working in a professional environment in a team, and I had my own group of customers in Northern Ireland who I was process orders for, and deal with any stock-related enquiries as they arose, through a little bit of internal research and gentle haggling with company colleagues in other departments. It was a long journey each way, we’re talking two hours on a couple of trains, which made for long days but I quite liked the train ride. I re-applied for university during that year of working, securing an offer to study a difference course at a different university. So I went back and, again, dropped out after a year.

Especially that first time at university, I’d felt like a fish out of water. It was something to do with being in a new environment, away from home, and having all the freedom in the world (I could… skip lectures with like no questions aske?), but not quite rooted in who I was and what I was doing there.

Up until that point, innocent little Jas had been carried along by the currents, with a structure telling him what he was supposed to be doing (go to school… do these exams… make these choices… and so forth). All of a sudden, I was at university but I was away from home and I felt like I had these choices and decisions I could make for myself but I wasn’t used to having this level of responsibility and I really didn’t know who I was or what I wanted.

Deep down I was scared. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and committing to something felt scary. Not least because, whether it was my A-level classes during those last couple of years at school, or university lectures, the way things were taught just felt so… mechanical and boring, without any real variety. Like I was being spoon-fed all of this stuff for some apparent meaningful purpose beyond passing these rote exams. And then maybe end up doing something vaguely related to those exams. When, in actuality, I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I couldn’t help but feel that what I’d end up doing would take some sort of discovery process. Hmm. You know, looking back, everything I studied in a formal education environment (school and two stints at university) just felt really dull and meaningless.

I feel like being all alone at university represented one of the unhappiest chapters of my life. I didn’t know who I was, what I was doing there, what my interests and passions were, and who “my people” were. And I was yet to really become aware of my personality and temperament, insofar as being an introverted and sensitive guy. I would just hang out with anyone and everyone, living for these temporary bursts of excitement when I’d go out and party with people I felt no connection with, and then end up hungover and miserable. This would happen both times at university, slowly I became more disconnected and miserable, skipping lectures and literally holing myself up in my room for days, emerging in the middle of the night to get something to eat when no one else was around. During this time a pornography addiction took hold, too, as I looked to numb out from the deep unhappiness I was feeling about everything.

And so after dropping out from university for the second time, something I felt really uncomfortable about when it came to my parents as I figured I would be made to stay and finish my course, despite being so unhappy and having zero clue about what do with my life. And I also felt guilty for letting them down and being a failure and all those things too. I felt pretty isolated and alone and unsettled during this whole period.

Joining — and leaving — “the City”

By this point it was shortly after the economic crisis and I was degree-less in a country — and a world — still trying to recover from the deep recession. At that time, I remember feeling like my life was f*cked and over. It feels ridiculous now, but my reality at that time had been so primed and set for “school — university — prestigious job” that I felt I’d f*cked my life up and I didn’t know what my future would now look like. Moving away from this deeply-held story would be a process.

Looking at the options I felt were available to me, I knew I enjoyed working with and helping people, and at that time I still felt I needed to make lots of money.

Why lots of money? I felt like that’s what I, able and “academic” grammar-school Jas was supposed to do, and I felt like I owed it to my parents for everything they had done for me and how hard they had worked to put me and my brother through great schools. And I quite liked the quality of life I had been given (a nice home, annual holidays, and such) too.

So I ended up in a recruitment job. I’d had some office job experience from my ‘year in between stints at university’, but I wasn’t quite prepared for picking up the phone to random people to headhunt them, or to try and take on clients to help them fill the vacancies they were hiring for. Going through a ‘training programme’ with a cohort of fellow (mostly) twenty-somethings helped, but even so it was a case of trial-by-fire.

The first recruitment company I joined was a big firm, and after the training I ended up in a team with a boss I found tricky. He was a micro-manager and always asking what I was up to or looking over my shoulder. What made it worse was that he sat next to me and so after about a year of being micro-managed, plus the long and exhausting days as an introvert doing sales (I’d often leave my house at 6.30am to commute in, and sometimes not get back until 8 or 9pm, or sometimes even later) I was eventually worn down until I could take it no more. I ended up getting off the train one day, diving into an internet café, and putting together an email to say I’d had enough and wouldn’t be coming back in. The Director who had been in charge of my training programme found out what had happened, invited me for a coffee to find out what had happened, and invited me for a position in a new team that she was taking over. I was kind of grateful and also surprised… she was someone I looked up to and clearly liked me and saw enough potential in me to offer me something in her team, after I’d done this whole maverick thing of firing my old boss via email. So I ended up joining this friendlier team with a way more chilled vibe, but I found myself in a position where I was sharing a speciality with someone else (a guy called Andy), and because I was the new kid on the block Andy was given like 80% of the existing client-base, whilst I was given very few existing clients and tasked with finding new business. I spread myself far too thin and so never really got off the ground. And so long story short it felt my time at this place had come to an end, so I looked for a recruitment gig in financial services somewhere else, and I knew I wanted a smaller firm with friendly folks and a healthier culture.

After interviewing at a few places there was one in particular that I really liked, I interviewed with the CEO and after finding out I had been turned down shortly before a summer vacation with my family came to an end, I remember sending an email to him to ask him to give me a chance and that he wouldn’t regret it. It worked, it turns out CEO Rob liked my pushing back, and it turned out to be a good move for both sides because I enjoyed my time there, as much as I could enjoy recruitment, I really liked the people and I ended up becoming one of the top-performers there. The days weren’t quite as long either, but this was still me doing a sales job in an open plan office which, with my introverted temperament, was tough on my energy levels.

And even during that last full year at that company where it felt like the previous three-and-a-half years had paid off and I was finally seeing the rewards in my success a recruiter, I knew deep down that recruitment just wasn’t “it” for me, and I’d started to read about folks who had changed career. I remember stumbling across the world of blogs, and coming across these folks who were making a full-time income as bloggers. I think I also just really enjoyed connecting with other people’s stories through their blogs.

Towards the end of my time in recruitment, I would attend evening meetups at places like Google Campus (to immerse myself in and learn more about this exciting ‘startup’ world I’d heard about), and Escape the City which was a community for disillusioned worked in the City who wanted to find work that they cared about.

I still remember well the moment when the penny felt like it fully dropped for me… I was at the 2014 Christmas party, I’d just been jointly awarded the Employee of the Year prize with a fellow colleague, and I just felt worn out and empty, whilst everyone else around me was drinking and being merry and having a good time. I skulked off earlier and I knew that my time was up. I’d had a “successful” year in recruitment, I’d proved to myself that I was capable of sticking at something and doing well at it. And I knew that I didn’t want to “rise up the ranks” and manage, nor did I want to do exactly the same… i.e. bust my balls and have another “successful” year as a recruitment consultant.

Going into January the following year, I’d pretty much made my mind up. And the huge “pipeline” of possible deals I’d accrued proceeded to collapse into nothing. It might’ve been a little test of my nerve to walk away from a wad of commission money, but with each of my interviewing candidates not receiving an offer, I wasn’t faced with any such test. To the contrary, it was as if the Universe was saying to me “Yep Jas, I’ve got your back, your time is up… trust in yourself”. In February I went away on vacation with my family and was doing Headspace every day on the beach, and with the stillness that that afforded me things became real clear.

It was time for me to move on, and… in the last few months, I’d gotten into reading Positive Psychology books, around the “science of happiness”. I was fascinated by this field, and I wanted to know how I could live fully and by happy in my work and in my life, at a time when I was feeling pretty meh and increasingly disillusioned by the work I was doing.

I got myself onto a Masters course at a university in London (yep, it was totally fine that I didn’t have a Bachelors degree… it was a pretty new course which wasn’t heavily applied-for and, more importantly, universities are businesses that will happily take your money), and I handed in my notice the very same day I had written confirmation of my offer. In fact, I remember the day I was waiting on my offer and, after a few weeks of being pretty switched off from my work, I actually resigned before the email had come through (it actually arrived in my inbox whilst I was resigning).

My notice period in recruitment was, as is pretty typical, just a week and I think I was out of there a couple of days after I had resigned, after I’d done a little handover. I feel like they wanted me out of the office before I could tell too many people I was “leaving to figure out who I was and what I was passionate about”.

Studying (again) and the start of figuring things out

Around the same time as leaving, I started writing and posting some of my thoughts on LinkedIn and then on Medium.

And soon after that I started the first of many little blogs, A Happier Introvert.

The next couple of years after leaving my job were this fuzzy, stick, disorientating period of coming back to centre and figuring out what on earth to do with my life.

Truth be told, this process of self-discovery had begun in a more theoretical manner about a year or so before quitting my job, whilst I was reading various career change, psychology and self-help books (from Quiet by Susan Cain, to The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau, to Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar). But the big difference was that at this time I still had the solid ground of being in my corporate job, even if it was increasingly becoming ground I didn’t want to be on, and also the busy day-to-day rush of commuter life had meant I was too busy to let myself truly be still and really sit in the discomfort.

For a long time, I had just been carried along in the currents that whooshed me along through school, university and then into work… I’d lost sight of who Jas even was. Isn’t that crazy? That little guy was still there inside of me though.

Even though the safe ground I mentioned had started to crumble from beneath me as I realised just how much I no longer wanted to be standing there, I wasn’t yet brave enough to leave with no ground beneath me. Doing that Masters for a year was to be my safety blanket whilst I spent that year figuring out what Jas was going to do with his life.

Alongside the Masters, I took part in a 3-month ‘tribe’ with Escape the City, the community I mentioned earlier for disillusioned folks who needed a career change. It started around the same time as my Masters did in the September of 2015, and we’d meet one evening each week. I was one of the few who had actually left my job at that point; most of my tribe-mates would venture to class after working in their day job that they had fallen out of love with.

Early morning sober-raving at MorningGloryVille with some of my Escape Tribe, November 2015

📝 9 things I learnt during the Escape Tribe (written: February 21st, 2016)

Beyond that, my so-called “full-time” year-long Masters had just a couple of days of in-person lectures every three weeks, a couple of hours away on the other side of London.

Which meant I had in-person stuff to attend one evening in the week (Esc the City tribe) and a couple of days of lectures to attend on campus every 3 weeks (at the University of East London). Which meant I had a lot of free-time. Going from the structure of those long days in my full-time job to much emptier days was quite the shock to the system. I had a lot of time to think. At the time, it felt like too much time to think. It felt like I was spending much of my waking hours low-key figuring out (and freaking out) about what I wanted to do with my life, I was desperate to figure out what it was and having the “magic answer”, to have a new purpose and identity. All of that time to feel angsty about my life actually made me unhappy and probably provided the embers that would eventually lead to my depression diagnosis (more on this a little later).

In an attempt to figure out this answers and make use of all this free time I had (I had far too many hours in the day for this supposed full-time Masters, and pretty much everyone else in my cohort was doing employed work of some kind), I started my first business, Thriva Programme, an alternative to university which I worked on and ran a pilot for the summer after I’d left my job, in July 2016.

📝 Higher education: Creating a new story (written: September 5th, 2016)

Something else that happened that Summer was I attended World Domination Summit, hosted by one of the first bloggers I had come across and whose The $100 Startup book was one of the first ‘business’ books that introduced me to this concept of doing my own thing as a “company of one”, embracing slower growth over time, not needing to be a big company that took investment, starting with no overheads, and just generally being able to have a business that fit around me and my lifestyle and that kept me close to doing the work I cared about.

LYL meetup at WDS 2016 — my head is small (I’m at the back) but my smile is wide. (photo: Live Your Legend)

The conference had a bunch of familiar speakers and meetup hosts (like Chelsea Dinsmore and Corbett Barr), and it was attended by folks who wanted to do work they cared about and, more specifically, be doing their “own thing” as a solopreneur (or they were already doing so).

If you like, it was like the Escape the City community but these folks had decided that they wanted to do their own thing, and were at different stages of the journey, and there were a bunch of talks, meetups and social activities (connection 🙌) for a week in Portland, Oregon.

I had an amazing time, but I was to come back after the high of this trip to the miserable reality that I was still some way from where I wanted to be and was also figuring out exactly what sort of solopreneur business I wanted to focus on. I’d had blogs but they’d always quickly fizzled out and making the jump from “fun blog” to “making money from a blog” seemed like a big hurdle I was yet to overcome.

There was a glimmer of hope on the horizon, though.

📝 WDS 2016: The experience of a lifetime (written: August 26th, 2016)

Therapy and travels

Shortly after I ran that pilot programme, the Masters programme officially came to an end with the handing-in of my thesis, and it had become apparent that Thriva wasn’t a sustainable business for me, health-wise, nor — whilst I was passionate about the mission — was it the sort of business I actually wanted to build. All the moving parts were overwhelming, and took me awai from what I was actually passionate about. It was my first experience running a business (if you don’t count the tutoring work I had also done at that point), and I’d learnt a few things but mostly what I didn’t want.

Honestly, I knew deep down pretty early on that Thriva didn’t have the legs. I find that when I start things, pretty quickly my intuition gives me a sense of how realistic or sustainable something is. At the time, I ploughed on with Thriva and — hey — I’m glad I ran that pilot programme, but another reason for why I stuck with it for a few months was because I felt under lots of pressure to make a success of whatever I chose to do after leaving recruitment, I held this weird and irrational belief that my ex-colleagues, friends and family on social media were all keeping an eye on me and were judging me… if Thriva failed, it meant maybe I was a failure and hadn’t I been a silly boy for leaving recruitment… looking back, I know now that this was most certainly irrational, but it felt strangely real at the time.

All of a sudden, there was no business and no Masters. I had no structure again in my life, and I was freaking out even more about what I would now do with my life. I felt lost and overwhelmed and alone. And, looking back, anxious. As we moved into the last quarter of the year, the days were getting shorter and darker. It was only later that I would realise that I seemed to get some sort of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and no doubt with everything going on this wouldn’t have helped.

Before I knew it, I didn’t even want to leave the house, not even to go the gym which had long been a trusty place that would raise my mood. I didn’t want to see any friends (or strangers), and I barely wanted to talk to my closest family I shared a home with, my mum, dad and brother. I didn’t want to burden them with my low mood and I felt like such a failure — as a son and older brother — for putting them through all my sh*t and dropping out of uni twice, quitting my job, going through a wobble during the Masters where I was threatening to quit, Thriva not working out, and then after all of this still having no clue about what I wanted to do with my life.

(Though, deep down, I did have a clue. I knew what I wanted in an ideal world. I just wasn’t brave enough to follow-up on it and didn’t believe that it was possible for little ol’ me).

I’m not sure I’d ever felt that as low and depressed like that before, and thankfully my perceptive mum realised something was up and, after some persuasion, I agreed to see a psychiatrist. So we took a train together into West London to see one who had been recommended to her by someone.

Long story short, I filled out some forms, was given a generalised depression and anxiety diagnosis, and was prescribed a low dose of an SSRI called sertraline, as well as a course of group therapy and individual therapy. The group therapy ended up being several days’ worth over a number of weeks at a private therapy centre… thank goodness we had private medical insurance as a family (again, thanks mum and dad) as this would have been very expensive to have paid for out-of-pocket. I was an out-patient, but there were also in-patients at this clinic. I got to meet folks from different walks of life who had been diagnosed with different ‘mental health’ conditions, and it was interesting to spend time folks who were on the one hand different to me, but on the other hand strangely similar… it was interesting to connect some dots when it came to our temperaments, experiences and patterns.

So I took a few months off for therapy which, as well as being a useful place to explore inner stuff, gave me some much-needed routine, stability and community. All things I realise I need as constants in my life, wherever I am in the world or whatever my life circumstances happen to be. After starting to feel better, and with the days of spring joyfully returning (this always make my soul happy after the period of dark winter months), I did some travelling.

I stayed with a friend of mine and her family in Luxembourg, she was someone I had met during the Masters course along with Mat. Her name is Angie, and Mat, Angie and I have fond memories of the three of us meeting up for breakfast before our day’s lectures. In fact, I ended up dedicating my debut book, The Indie Author, to Mat and Angie for their friendship, love and support during this period in my life when I needed it the most. I will forever be grateful to the both of them.

My debut book, published in November 2021 under my own imprint: Indie Writer Press

I hopped on a train to Luxembourg from Paris, where I had spent a couple of weeks watching the tennis at Roland Garros (known as the French Open if you’re into your tennis). And later that Summer I went to Las Vegas of all places for the ‘fight week’ that was Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor. Watching tennis started out as just being this fun thing (I still love watching tennis to this day), but somewhere along the line I thought I could be some kind of sports coach. When I happened to bump into the CEO of the US Tennis Association during one of the matches I thought the universe was trying to tell me something… and when I later met the CEO of Mayweather Promotions at a weigh-in event in London, I went up to him and asked him for a job. A story for another time, but the whole sports coach thing didn’t materialise.

Another example of, even on fun travels, how much I was still trying to solve the whole what do I do with my life? thing. I didn’t manage to find the solution that summer, but I had a fun time being away and travelling on my own for the first time. (Note: being away in Las Vegas alone is… interesting. And I can confirm it’s possible to be in that crazy desert city without doing an ounce of gambling. The boxing helped… and I was having fun posting to a sports blog — I thought I might be able to become a sports journalist slash coach or something — and, for the first time, a little youtube channel).

📝 I’m in Vegas. And I’m excited. (written: August 21st, 2017)

Mat’s company

When I got back home in England, and summer was drawing to a close, I again needed a healthy dose of structure in my life. My good friend Mat who I met through the Masters, and really helped me when I had my I’m-not-I-want-to-complete-this-thing wobble, then helped me even more when he offered me a job at his financial services startup. So I had about a year of working remotely, with monthly-ish train rides to Manchester, where I’d stay in a budget hotel overnight (handily in the same little complex as a Nuffield Health gym, where I had — and still have — a membership that lets me use most Nuffield Health centres in the UK). I’ll always be grateful to Mat as a dear friend and mentor who saved my bacon in giving me that job (and persuading me to finish the Masters) — just what I needed at the time to provide me that solid ground and community I’ve talked about.

During this time I got the experience of working a) remotely and b) for a startup with a decent culture, and run by a good friend of mine. I felt pretty fortunate, and it was nice to be a part of a startup in a suburb in (south) Manchester, as opposed to one of the several I applied to in the friendly beast that is “the city” aka London.

I found myself doing sales, though, rather than more content and marketing stuff away from the sales I’d done for five years in recruitment and ideally wanted to step away from. So, ultimately, I got bored. By now I’d started and stopped various blogs (aside from the A Happier Introvert one I mentioned earlier, there was always Quarter Life Introvert and Awkward Brown Guy), and around the summer of 2018 I started this blog called Introvert Jedi* whilst I was working at my friend’s startup.

*are you noticing a theme here?

A guide I created for my IntrovertJedi blog subscribers, and the first ebook I ever wrote.

I ended up leaving the startup at the beginning of 2019, and by now I was beginning to realise that maybe the employed world, even one with the freedom of remote and a decent culture, just wasn’t for me. I took a couple of weeks off in Slovenia where I brainstormed my next business idea.

It was around this time that I really began to look into how I could do this whole writing thing as a career.

So my next step was to try being a freelancer and I started HonestContent, to help write guides for financial services clients I’d gotten to know during my time working in sales for the startup. I properly started working on this business after getting back from Slovenia and taking a month’s trip to the Canary Islands for what was to be my first official stint as a “digital nomad”. Smartly, knowing my need for structure and community, I stayed at a co-living space and had a great time.

So I want to write things. Now what?

I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to “do” for my clients… I was trying to find the right way to pitch to clients but, truth be told, I didn’t want to write for anyone else. I realised that even doing writing gigs on more fun things I was into like travel or psychology just wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to have to write under rules or guidelines, or be at the mercy of writing for just a specific topic or theme…

I feel like I had to go through this process of “ticking things off and realising they weren’t for me”, to ultimately realise what I had known deep down all along, ever since I had come across those bloggers making a living prior to leaving my corporate job a couple of years previously…

Honestly, what I’d really wanted to do all along was write things freely and make money as a writer, it was just a case of:

a) exhausting all other options (and bringing this dream of mine into focus)

b) finding the confidence to pursue this dream (and proactively work towards making it happen)

After trying the freelance writing thing, sending lots of pitching emails and attending lots of networking events and securing literally zero clients (again, less of an indicator of my abilities and more of a sign from the Universe to say — “nope, Jas, this isn’t it”), I also tried working as an intern in a publishing house for a couple of weeks. This was after attending London Book Fair and attending various meetups and sending out a bunch of emails to folks who were working in publishing.

I had also thought about being a journalist (see my summer of 2017 travels and foray into the world of tennis and boxing, above) in, say, sports or something like working for online publications focused on things I cared about.

But, ultimately, I discovered that I did not want to “play the game” and “work my way up” in the world of traditional publishing (especially as I didn’t even want to do this in the first place — I wanted to write!), and that any sort of freelance/journalist gig would mean me having to write about particular things, under certain guidelines and to particular deadlines and constraints… in an organisation which — even if it was a friendly one with a great culture — would involve some level of office politics and “playing the game” and (at that time before the pandemic happened and remote/hybrid working become more of a thing) a commute and going into an office.

📝 How I came to work as a writer. (written: January 25th, 2022)

By now, I was starting to realise that I wanted:

1) to write

2) for myself

3) with freedom

In other words this blogging thing I had been doing for fun in the background, and trying to ‘figure out’ how to make money from, was what I wanted to do.

I re-joined a community started by Corbett Barr (another of the first bloggers online I had come across) called Fizzle, and started Introvert Jedi in the Summer of 2018, before this became INF Club a few months later in 2019, and for the next couple of years I got more serious — and consistent — about my blogging. I focused on this blog alongside a tutoring business (tutoring was something I had been doing on-and-off now for years), which worked well because my tutoring was local (through leafleting I picked up a handful of clients who lived near me), and then when the pandemic happened tutoring went online which was even more convenient for managing my time and energy.

That blog was moved to Substack, where I started a paid newsletter, and then I co-hosted an online summit with Lauren Sapala, someone who I’d connected with over twitter, we’d read each other’s blogs, jumped on a couple of video calls, and then decided to host this Summit together. Lauren has since become a dear friend and mentor of mine. And in fact, as I write this, we’re just finishing up putting our second online summit together.

That first summit involved us inviting a handful of folks to chat with us about their experiences being introverts — the Summit was called the INF Summit, and most of those we interviewed identified as being INFP and INFJ personality types, and everyone identified as being somewhat introverted and/or sensitive or creative. It was great fun, and it was actually after having so much fun recording those interviews that I started the INF Club podcast, which I went on to run for nearly 2 years and more than 60 episodes.

In the next year or so INF Club had a membership community, a Mastermind programme I ran, a couple of workshops I ran, and 1:1 coaching. There was something special about earning those first few dollars before the Summit, and then my first $100, and then $1000. Those early milestones are so big and special, when you see someone somewhere else in the world offer you money for something you’ve created. It really is special. And so I experimented with offering different types of services and ended up making more than $6000 from INF Club.

I was some way off this making a full-time, sustainable income but making some money from INF Club was enough to psychologically shift me into another gear and realise that this whole ‘solopreneur blogger’ thing was possible for me.

As the Summer of 2021 came around I was working pretty much full-time on INF Club with a couple of hours of tutoring a week. After a long year of pandemic and several months of winter and then a really cloudy-and-not-so-sunny spring, I was in need of some adventure and a boost in Vitamin D levels #SADproblems.

I was looking to spend another stint as a digital nomad somewhere, having had a good time at the co-live in the Canary Islands a couple of years prior. I was looking for someplace in Europe where I could work, roam, and be surrounded by community. I was aware of a digital nomad podcast run by a previous member of Fizzle, and I came across this digital nomad village initiative in Madeira which was amazing and exactly what I needed. I love islands (the size, the beach, the climate) and this place was being set up as a place to foster a digital nomad community in a way that integrated with and supported the local community.

After some interactions in the group on Slack, and a quick video call, I committed to staying for a month in a spacious house with five fellow housemates. I lucked out — the house was beautiful and spacious, and nearly all of us were thoughtful introverts and ambiverts. We had a happy month together with a shared car, we had “family” movie nights and weekday trip and hikes, as well as integrating with the wider community via the co-working space and the various activities going on in the village on the beach, and at the nearby beautiful hotel where some nomads stayed, but had its facilities open for us all to use and enjoy (like the weekly Friday sunset party, or the various meetups that would take place on the grass there… one that stands out was the wonderful music jam session).

That time in Madeira was just what I needed. Time away from regular day-to-day patterns tends to give me clarity, and this trip helped me realise that INF Club had been an amazing phase of personal growth, self-belief, and meeting many warm introvert friends as well as actually committing to a blogging practice (I published a post nearly every week for two years), and also made my first $5000 from blogging.

My book, The Indie Author, was soon to be ready for eBook release and my intuition was telling me it was time for a new chapter.

So I started a new site, The Indie Writer, and closed off my INF Club blog and podcast.

This chapter still feels pretty new, and one I’m gently navigating.

Some final words

Thank you for reading all the way to the end.

I had no idea I’d write as much as I just did, but it’s been a really interesting and reflective experience to process and simmer over everything that’s happened for me so far, right from the beginning to the most recent couple of years where, looking back, more has happened than I’d expected or realised.

I feel like I’ll need to write some kind of annual summary every year, as I’ve now realised just how much has happened for me and it’s nice to process and (re)connect with it all properly through writing about it.

Apparently, lots has happened in the last 7 years since I walked home from that Christmas party and knew that something had to change.

I suppose I shouldn’t be that surprised, as more than two thousand days have passed since then.

Here’s to the days, the weeks, and the months ahead…

See you around ✌️

Jas

Taking a rest during a hike in Madeira, Summer 2021. (📷 by a friend + fellow hiker I met on my travels, Zdenek)

Thanks for reading my story.💛

I’m Jasraj, a writer who likes coffee shops, mini-adventures and autobiographies.

Growth, connection and freedom are things that are important to me.

The rest is still unwritten… but I’ll be sharing it as I go :)

I had a brief-but-memorable interaction in the gym locker room recently.

I was in a good mood after a workout/spa session, and I noticed this guy wearing a Chiacgo Bulls shirt.

We talked about NBA and The Last Dance, and it turns out that he was a business owner. His dad before him was, too.

I have a good friend of mine, whose dad has sadly now passed, who is also an entrepreneur. His dad was, too.

We aren't completely the product of our experiences, but I believe they play a part. My own dad is very passionate about what he does, and he is very skilled at it, but I know he wouldn't be offended if I said he doesn't have much of an interest when it comes to business.

I remember as a kid growing up, I wanted to make my dad proud.

I remember trying really hard at math (what we call maths here in England). I understood it, I was okay at it, but I never had the same logically-inclined brain my Dad and my brother have. I was good enough at it... I remember my dad would sometimes get frustrated when I didn't grasp mathematical concepts too well. Looking back, I think he just wanted what was best for me and was perhaps a little surprised as to why I didn't grasp these black-n-white concepts.

I don't think either of us knew then that I wasn't naturally wired to be a black-n-white guy.

I remember getting into Chess, even getting to Board 1 at primary school, and eventually going to a Saturday chess club where the standard got higher, it felt more competitive, and I lost the joy of just doing chess for fun.

I look back and I think I see that a part of my dad was wanting to be to have – and grasp – the opportunities that he didn't have. Though he got into a good grammar school for secondary, he wasn't afforded the privilege of a private primary school like I was.

I think if my dad had gotten into chess when he was a kid, he would be really fricking good at it. And I think a part of him wanted me to lean into that, his first-born who looked so much like him, and be really fricking good at chess.

He's very skilled at logical and motor functioning pursuits. Whether it's intricate clinical work, or playing tennis or golf, my dad has a natural knack for it. My dad would play with a wooden racket and make me and my brother look like novices with our graphite rackets. This was well into our teens, and into early adulthood when – apparently – a man is in his sporting prime. It was quite embarrassing, really. Whereas I had tennis lessons for a time, my dad's youth practice would involve hitting a ball against a wall out in the street where he lived. Self-taught.

For a time I felt like I was letting my dad down a little, but looking back I realise he was just a father wanting to see his son fulfil his potential and make the most of the opportunities I had which he didn't. Each being complex human beings, it just turned out that our brain wiring was a little different.

--

I think, as boys, we look up to our fathers whether we realise it or not. Naturally, our experience – and perhaps even what we aim for – is shaped by our fathers. I feel like I got my smarts and my academia from my dad.

As I've stepped into my creative, entrepreneurial side in the last few years, I hadn't realised that there was a natural entrepreneur there with me all along.

My mum's father arrived as an immigrant from India in the 60s, and walked for miles to the nearest factory to sign up for a job. He didn't speak a word of English when he arrived and shared a room with a bunch of people. He ended up working in a shop, before going on to buy his own shop.

My mum, his first-born child, would come home from primary school and help out with household chores that included bathing her siblings. She would also help out in the shop, observe everything that was going on, and perform reconnaissance on competitors' shops and their prices. She learned negotiation not from self-help books or YouTube channels, but simply by observing, learning, and doing.

Shortly after she and my dad got married, they managed to knock together the money to buy a space for my dad's practice. They've worked together for more than 30 years, both crucial pieces of the family business; my dad being a skilled and caring surgeon, and my mother responsible for all things business-related.

In bringing me up and sending me to the schools I went to, my parents wanted me to have all the things they never had. Having an education was extremely important, and it was very important to have something to fall back on.

I don't think I even knew what entrepreneurship was when I left secondary school. There was this thing for sixth formers (year 12 and 13s) called Young Enterprise, but it sure as heck wasn't for Jas. Jas was brainy, academic, destined for university and a job in science, so he thought.

It would take a little while longer for the creative and the entrepreneur in me to emerge.

It was there with me all along, both inside of me (in my being), and outside of me in my lived environment... as my mum would diligently go about her day's activities, effortlessly switching between family life and business life.

Over more than three decades, my mum and my dad have made a phenomenal team. I'm not sure each of them would ever have found a more worthy co-pilot.

Swimming against the tide, and the challenges that have come with choosing an indie-shaped path. 👣

One of the most difficult things I've had to contend with as I've chosen a path of “doing my own thing” are the comments, judgements, or just plain differences I've felt with most of the people in the world. Or, at least, my world.

From my family and friends, to the people I'd encounter in cafes, on the bus, at social gatherings ... when out in the world, “doing your own thing” just isn't what's normal.

Not only is there the judgement that comes from taking the solo path, but an underlying expectation that you must know what you're doing (surely you must know what you're doing to be so reckless...), and thus at least be “making it” (i.e. somewhere between making a reasonable, sustainable income to making a lot of money from your business).

And therein lies the great challenge I've experienced. Navigating “the messy middle” that is my own doubts and gaps in knowledge and just experience, all the while having to keep up appearances to the outside world, and sort of pretend that all is well even when sometimes... well, it's not easy.

There was a time when I was worried about what every person knew would think about me doing my own thing, and would be there watching y every move and waiting to see whether I'd “make it” or fall flat on my face.

Now that I've made some money from 3 businesses I've started* (not counting the many more ideas I've had, which I've pursued to differing extents), mixed in with the real-world experience I've gotten, I feel different.

[*I don’t count the little money I’ve made from Medium and selling copies of my book “money from a business” – as I consider this my writing, and not a business]

There was a time when I used to dread going to large social gatherings for the fear of being asked “So, what do you do?” It was worse when my parents were around at things like weddings, when curious-to-nosey-to-prideful parents would ask my own: “So, what does your son do?” My parents, as supportive as they have been on my journey, of course feel their own stuff when it comes to sharing what I'm up to... and the changing answer I've given them, or the judgements they feel from others – as well as from themselves – hasn't always been easy for them.

I continue to answer the “So, what do you do?” question in different ways, depending on who's asking the question and the setting we are in. I work in marketing” is an easy answer, and one which is true. I’ve realised that not everyone can handle “the whole truth” or they simply don't deserve to hear it.

This sounds harsh, but I’ll try to offer an explanation here. If you tell me you work in corporate law or consulting, I take your word for it and no further enquiry ensues. If I introduce myself as ‘a writer’ (or someone who ‘writes things’), all sorts of questions have then been asked of me. Some of the responses I’ve gotten include: “Oh, what do you write?”, “You're not famous, are you?” or “Where can I read your stuff?” Even when this comes from a good place, sometimes (depending on the person), I'd rather not offer up too much to a stranger I've just met.

And then I had an interesting experience this weekend.

I was at dinner with my uncle, his partner, and his friends, all of whom I had met before, a couple of them with their partners who I hadn't met.

It helped that I had met most of these people before, but the couple of times I was asked about my work during the evening, I felt comfortable owning and sharing what I do. This was not the case five years ago, so this is new, and a market of my growth in character and confidence. I was – I am – proud of myself.

And the very next day, heading to a cafe for some Sunday writing and reflection... I found myself in one of the most interesting conversations I've had in a long time, with anyone let alone two cafe strangers. With the two of them, I was happy to show up as myself without question. We covered a great deal of intimate ground over the course of twenty minutes (possibly longer, but it the time simply flew).

Whilst I still prefer connecting in small groups, my dinner on Saturday evening was a lovely experience, and one which told me I have grown into myself – and with the confidence to own and share where I am in my journey – and that's something worth celebrating.

I'm currently reading Rob Walling's book, Start Small, Stay Small, in which he writes, when it comes to the solo pursuit that is a business:

“Surprisingly, anything is much easier the second time. And the third. And by the fourth time you can’t even feel the hair on the back of your neck, or the sweat in your palms because it’s no longer there. The terror goes away surprisingly quickly.”

It would appear that there's something to be said for that. I think, over time, my own terror has diminished, and thus I’m able to show up from a more confident and comfortable place. And that’s quite a satisfying realisation.

In turns out that being Jasraj is, in fact, the most normal thing in the world.

Yesterday, I caught up with a good friend of mine I first met on the internet on a platform called micro.blog.

I remember the first time I came across Laurence, aka Cerulean, on the platform.

This guy is as wonderfully weird and quirky as me, I thought, as I read the things he was writing about and sharing, and stumbled across his delightfully-wacky email address, and just everything I was seeing come from this quick-witted human being.

We exchanged numbers, and – true story – during an exchange about “minimal phones” – I dropped my smartphone… what was to be the beginning of the end of my iPhone.

The first time we met up we spent a good couple of hours walking and talking in a West London park. We shared our stories and put the world to rights.

There’ve been other meets and chats since, our most recent yesterday with Laurence driving down to my neck of the woods, as part of a couple of days in London for his putting together his most recent album. I was even treated to a sample play of a couple of the tracks. I say treated because it was no less than an honour. Like any writer who graces me with their writing, whilst it is being birthed, a musician or any artist who does the same… words cannot describe.

It is the deepest of privileges that fills my human heart. Truly, something that can only be felt and not done justice with even the most eloquent words on page.

And, of course, we shared more stories and put the world to rights. He gave me some very sensible advice too as I navigate a new path and find myself in the throws of passionate emotions and – admittedly – reckless irrationality.

The magic of the internet, the best thing about the internet, no doubt, is being able to connect with people through their words (or, in Laurence’s case, through music *and* words. And he makes videos too – each medium carefully crafted with Laurence’s essence – so he really does offer different ways to intricately connect with him) and develop a heartfelt friendship.

My life is all the richer for the people I have in my life I can speak honestly and meaningfully with. Those connections are deep and rewarding in both written/artful form, as well as in ‘meeting in real life’ form.

Thank you, internet. 💛

With everything else I see going awry with the digital space, this is truly the one thing about the worldwideweb I will hold onto and cherish deeply.

I remember the first time I typed out websites into my browser… “double-you, double-you, double-you, dot….”. Wondrous. Magical. Beautiful.

ps. I was previously offered the gift of talking ‘Smalltown Dreamer’, Laurence aka Cerulean’s debut album, and discovering more of his story (in his backyard) –> a small portion.

I started the day with a workout, before settling down to my coffee shop working.

I also tried somewhere different for lunch, one of those casual cafes places with wraps and baguettes and such. I noticed a lot more masks around today, there's those daily updates now being a thing of the past, there's been a surge in COVID cases which has led to things like staff shortages; British Airways cancelled dozens of flights yesterday, adding to the already-manic Easter-holiday-crowds at the airports.

I worked from home this afternoon. I decided to look for a free Pomodoro app for my laptop I could use offline, and found this one. It's neat because it automatically switches from “work” (25 mins) to “break” (5 mins) sessions, so you don’t have to keep pressing ‘start’; the latter accompanied by a gentle metronome to invite you to really take that break. I just checked and you can adjust timings and the # of rounds, too. Simple and effective.

Truth be told, I'm still trying to get better at the whole focus thing. It's a little trying to rein in and gently tame one of those wild horses with a rope (the rope starts out real long to let the horse roam freely, and is gradually shortened to – quite literally – rein it in. I recall one of the free videos on the Headspace app depicting this.

I think this might be a little easier once the new site is up-and-running (getting there), I've found a system for my marketing (getting there), and so my work is somewhat more business-as-usual.

As well as the tomato timer, I was also accompanied by ambient beats and then Kanye West later in the afternoon. I've been listening to his music a lot lately, and discovered some new stuff of his I hadn't heard whilst I was at the gym this morning and listening to a YouTube mix.

His song 'Hurricane' keeps playing in my head. It’s so catchy. Mm-mm-MMM-mm-mm.

TLDR: I find Notion both mind-blowing and… mindblowing.

I went down a big rabbit hole yesterday, the sort of rabbit hole that Pomodoro timers can help me with.

It all started when I came across someone's beautiful blog site. I've recently been refamiliarising myself with Wordpress, and I can't help but feel this safe and solid option feels old and outdated.

This blog I stumbled across was modern, with clean UX, and full of heart. I loved it. It turned out it had been built with a modern Notion-website builders, with his particular product focused on using notion as a blogging CMS.

I'll be honest, the product itself is great. It’s in beta but I had never seen anything like it; there was this dashboard that neatly and intricately links to your notion database.

The founder is a developer based in India working on this full-time, and so a solopreneur I knew I would love to support if I could. I gave it a good shot, I really did, and Bhanu was very helpful in walking me through getting me set up. I get the impression that he's building a neat product he cares about that he wants to last.

I do feel the notion ecosystem is young and has lots of potential. Notion-as-a-website is attracting its own little crowd, with the likes of super.so, simple.ink (I had a brief exchange with Daniel there over the chat, with his brother he’s building out a whole suite of products serving the notion community) and fruitionsuite.com offering ways to help you publish your notion as a site (the latter letting you do so completely free).

And yet, I'm not sure what it is, but I just can't get my brain around notion. Or, rather, notion literally makes my brain go crazy.

I was reading recently about expansive thinking, and I'm recently realising that my brain is one of those creative brains that gets really excited.

Whereas I've seen other creatives use notion effectively (folks like Yihui whose beautiful notion-built blog + site it was that I stumbled across, to Porter's own neat task-organising (+ mind clearing) notion template; in fact, you can find dozens of notion templates out there, on a notion.so itself but also on blogs, gumroad, etc as more folks adapt and tinker and develop use cases (and unique templates) that others can also use, too. It feels like this great big open-source community, and there are already of passionate notion-ites out there.

It's just that for me, personally, I can't seem to find a way to use notion that serves me. I think it's something to do with the never ending possibilities that I find overwhelming. I was intrigued – and amazed – at the idea of using notion as a blog, and “upload” posts as pages on there, ones which could even be scheduled, and be labelled with tags, and so forth.

For me I think there's also the idea of my blog being on this public database, which I might accidentally delete at any time. In theory, you can backup and export your notion database for safety, but it also feels a little to alien to me at this moment in time to upload my posts onto a database.

It would also take me a good few hours to “work notion out”, where time would better be spent on building out a blog that is pretty-enough for me (the more possibilities there are, the more my crazy mind wants to tinker...), and lets me frictionlessly upload posts in the mist conventional way.

In other words, a place a little more familiar, and simply requires pasting text from my editor (Notes app on Ipad for this post), before pasting, formatting and hitting publish on my blog. Being a professional site I'll want to use headlines, meta descriptions etc effectively, but that's pretty much it for me.

And so there goes another step into the world of possibilities that is notion, for Jas.

As for this post, it's being typed out on my iPad, will be emailed to myself, and will then be pasted and uploaded onto my Write.as blog.

Getting the words from my brain to my blog as smoothly as possible.

That seems the way for me to go, whether it’s my personal blog or my professional one.

It was grey here today so I decided to make a slightly longer journey to what is usually my “afternoon” coffee shop; the one I normally go to is pretty dark inside, even when you sit near the windows, and being Monday I figured it could be pretty busy.

I did some reading whilst on the bus (Mindwandering, by Moshe Bar) and read a particularly poignant extract on “associative thinking” which really resonated:

I got to the “quieter, brighter” coffee shop and, of course, when I got there there was a child making a lot of noise and what looked like a grandparent trying to keep him occupied with some kind of kiddie's TV out loud. You have to laugh a little at the irony.

After getting some writing done, I got started on my new site.

It's the first time I've been back on Wordpress for a while, and I had flashbacks of my time starting various previous blogs on there; taking ages thinking of a name, and choosing a theme, and getting it set up.

This time, I'm trying to embrace a more laid-back approach. I already have a name for the blog, and I took a few minutes to consider themes but I landed on one. I’m still experimenting with the layout, and the sections I’ve written are very early drafts.

But here's what it looks like so far in its (very) embryonic stage:

I then met my dad for lunch, he cycled to me and we walked to Nando's, his Fiido electric bike in tow. With the battery it's a pretty heavy thing to carry down escalators… once we reached the bottom he let me try carrying it, I'd guess it must be around 20kg. At Nando’s we shared a whole chicken between us, though dad gave me ¾ of it. With two portions of spicy rice, I was pretty full.

This afternoon I spoke for over an hour with a blogger I reached out to online whose blog and writing I loved. We talked about all sorts, from the jobs we've had, about our lives as modern-day writers, travel, publishing, and so forth.

After dinner, I felt pretty full and sluggish and fancied a trip to the gym. I've not done an evening workout in months, possibly over a year. Monday evening is really busy at the gym, though it got a little less so as I worked out. It's almost a whole new owe at the gym; there's like a whole different evening-crowd to the daytime-crowd I'm more familiar with. I had a few minutes in the sauna, too.

I'm writing this out in the kitchen whilst my parents watch an episode of Masterchef, and I'm planning on watching the second part of a new Muhammad Ali documentary I started watching last night, before I head to bed.

1pm in a gently-bustling bookshop cafe.

It's sunny and about 14 degrees out, after a chilly start to the morning (minus 4 at daybreak).

I enjoyed a lie in, before a workout and spa session, and now here I am with decaf flat white latte and putting fingers to keys.

Focused activity is the plan this afternoon.

After exploring the idea of travel the last few days, it's looking like I'm being asked to stay put in the UK for the next couple of months. It seems the weather in Europe is unpredictable of late, with wet a particularly wet March in Portugal and particularly strong winds in the reliably balmy Crete.

I explored the idea of putting my own little co-living space together, and I'll keep that option open for June-time instead. I'll need to tell tweak the landing page accordingly. Truth be told, I'd like to release my paperback book and get the foundations in place for my new site and business, and it makes sense to hunker down and do that here in England. I think it makes the most sense. Travel plans, at least for now, on pause.

I've also been leaning into focus this week, and in particular focused and productive mornings. Whilst I will never be someone who structures every hour of my day (I shudder at the thought), I also feel that structure and focus allow for freedom. For example, a focused 4-6 hours of work on any given day, allows one to rest and relax and be wonderfully free, resting in the knowledge of a good day's work. I'd like to build my focus muscle with a morning 3 hours of focused work, 1 hour spent on a meaningful activity; for this month, that is blog posts, working through the early stages of the Fizzle roadmap, and building out a new site for The Indie Writer.

I've mentioned that focused work gives me freedom for later on, but I also believe it gives freedom in the present moment, too. To be focused is to be present. And so perhaps a live well lived is living a life of focus and simplicity.

With the first quarter of 2022 behind us, I'll be endeavouring for more of both of those things over the coming ninety days.

I think I’m going to become good friends with the pomodoro timer this month. 🍅

I started the day with a morning workout, and it started lightly snowing on the way to the gym. Later this afternoon, there was a short burst of what looked like hail and then snow. In spring…

I got to work on my book’s formatting, with a pomodoro timer tool I found online, before then realising that Atticus has its own in-built timer. Result. Pretty handy for getting the head-down and focusing, which is what I’m trying to get better at lately. I actually formatted right to the end of the book (I just need to fix up the back matter pages tomorrow), and I just need to make a few tweaks and I should be good to go.

Tomorrow I’ll be sending the final page-count to my cover designer, so she can send me a cover file with the correct “width” for the book’s spine, and I’m planning on starting my new Wordpress site for The Indie Writer. One of my goals is to have a new site drafted by the time I next meet with my mastermind group. Speaking of which…

Last night was my mastermind group’s second meet which went really well. Here’s me at the bar getting a little work done and waiting for my two mastermind pals to arrive:

It’s been a while since I was in a mastermind, and I’ve not been in an in-person one for 6 years, and so I’m really relishing it.

I’d made good progress since the first meet, we had some great discourse, and I’m feeling good about the goals I’ve set between now and our next meet in two weeks’ time. We’re also thinking about doing a “book club” between the three of us which I’m also feeling excited about. I’m looking forward to our next meet already.

The afternoon’s activity was less focused and taken up with more research on my forthcoming travel trip, but I did get some writing done.

I recently came across Alex West’s blog, and was reading a post of his where he breaks down what he would like each of his days to look like.

I am fascinated by the concept of lifestyle design, and the simplicity and effectiveness it brings with it. He describes how he works from 8am to 1pm each day, before having lunch and having afternoons to do as he pleased, before a workout in the early evening.

I loved this idea of “getting a good day’s work done” before lunchtime.

It continues to be a challenge for me to focus and get things done. In fact, aside from vague memories I have of diligently working from 5-7/7.30pm each night on my school homework (after my daily glass of milk, snack, and 30mins of after-school telly), and the extrinsic motivator of not getting told off and getting good grades (I took pride in very neat handwriting, too), I don’t recall working with such focus since.

I dropped out of university after that and then I landed in recruitment, where my bad focus habits probably developed as I struggled to balance the changing, day-to-day tasks of a recruiter, and balancing the people-time with focused-work time. I spent very little of my day focusing, perhaps the very first thing and the very last thing.

At the same time, I do like a degree of freedom and flexibility, but I like to know what I’m working on to keep me on track.

I like the idea of working from 9am to 1pm, with 3x 1hr of focused work, interspersed with 15 minute ‘breaks’.

So something like:

15 mins 1hr of focused activity 15 mins 1hr of focused activity 15 mins 1hr of focused activity 15 mins

= 4 hours in total

I’d use the first 15 mins of the day to think/plan on the day ahead, and the remaining ones for a mixture of emails/social media/stretching my legs or just sitting and zoning out.

I have realised just how relaxed weak my ‘focus’ muscle has gotten. Generally, I am very easily distracted. By technology, by people, by myself… I got some good focused work done this morning, before doing a little more travel planning. I’m noticing that I’ve been on screens late at night and also sleeping late (the two are connected for sure), and I know this also affects my ability to focus.

I’m also highly sensitive, with a creative sort of brain (I’ve noticed some ADHD/bipolar traits in myself, and a previous psychiatrist initially thought I may have the latter).

However, I do believe that we can all learn to focus better, and the same goes for myself. So I’m wanting to stick with this ‘block of focused work’ in the morning, with the view to getting a good day’s work done before lunchtime.

As I’m now looking to book my 3rd trip away as a digital nomad (I prefer to call myself a “slowmad”, actually), I quite like the idea of productive mornings with the option to have free time for myself or exploring in the afternoons.

It’s interesting to note that I’ve not worked with such focus since my school days, and the extrinsic motivators of my teachers and my parents. It goes to show how the value of having some accountability, which I’m hoping my mastermind group will help provide.