Bad Decisions

As time has gone by, I think I’ve got better at spotting the likely trouble jobs.

In recent weeks, work has been so overwhelming that I feel like I haven’t had a day off in months, and yet I know that’s not the case. But I do know for a fact that I have almost been working constantly for at least a few weeks, which has really worn me down.

Last night I was on the verge of taking a decision to roll the dice and change my business up completely, but this morning I have once again put my cautious cap back on.

But one thing I have definitely made a wrong call on was a recent call that emerged late on Friday, which I had a feeling would be something very tricky, and has proved to be. Not before a long and excruciating saga involving unsociable hour calls, a threaded screw head that needed to be drilled out, seriously cut fingers which have been stinging for days, and the personality of the customer being far too demanding. All this when I was so close to not even taking the job. I should have trusted my inner judgement…

What has ground me down so much has been the fact that I have got myself involved in too many peripheral things, involving my not-yet-might-never-be business “partner” – which has, again, taken up stacks of my time for no return. This involves tax returns, VAT returns, self-assessment, free IT support, on and on it goes. Time that I desperately need.

Undoing bad decisions is impossible. It feels easier to just to ride with it, accept my lot that I made a mistake in the first place, and see what comes of it. Nothing has now for several years, not through want of trying, but ultimately, I am now beginning to think I should never have gone down this road.

One bad decision that I wish I could undo is the use of my house as a workplace. It is not suitable. It has driven me mad recently. I cannot escape the phone ringing. I cannot switch off. I have a clutch of customers that expect too much, around the clock, and think that I’m just bob-a-job, hobby PC advice, who doesn’t mind helping because it’s not his bread and butter.

They are so wrong it’s untrue. I dearly wish I had made more effort to make my business more professional. People assume that, as I’m working from home, and they have my mobile number, that this isn’t a serious enterprise. That they can just call me anytime because they know I’ll be there, and that they can “pick my brains” because I’m their “PC guy” or whatever vaguely friendly but often diminishing term they use.

The business has the strong smell of amateurism about it. About a guy just bumbling along making bits of cash here and there from fixing people’s PCs in his living room.

At the end of the day, they are wrong. I make good money out of what I do, and I do it because it earns me a decent living and allows me the freedom and flexibility to deal with the people I choose. That, in reality is the state I am at. I don’t have to rely on one particular person, and you don’t have any right to ring me at 8pm in the evening, or 6pm on Saturday, or any time on Sunday. Nothing in the IT world is that cripplingly urgent, I promise you. I have never come across a job that couldn’t wait until normal working hours. It really is just people being extremely inconsiderate.

The only people who could possibly have an excuse are businesses. Businesses do not phone outside of working hours. Why? Because they’re not working outside of working hours!

The facts are now simple and I need to be bolder about addressing them. I don’t need certain customers. The ones who think I am sitting here all day, every day, waiting for them to call, hoping, praying that someone will take mercy on me and throw me a few crumbs from their table. Or the ones who wrongly assume I am some sort of international corporation with staff on hand 24/7 to deal with their most minor troubles. So you lost your Hotmail icon? So you want to know my warranty terms? Do you know it’s 9pm on a Sunday? (both true stories)

Maybe people are just getting more rude? Maybe people expect far too much in modern society? We have got used to websites being online around the clock, and supermarkets open all day every day that we forget that PEOPLE are not the same as fictional corporate identities.

I know this has been a bit of an epic rant, but I needed to get it out of my system. I need more sleep, I need better sleep, I need better food, I need more time to look after myself, I need more time to enjoy myself, I need more time to have a social life. I can’t do all of that and run a business every day too.

Bad decisions of the past cause this. Bad decisions that seemed like good at the time, but on reflection set up all of this.

It has to change soon.

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Being Happy Being Normal

Being happy is not something that comes naturally to me. Being content is just as difficult.

It should be possible to reach a stable point in life where you say, “Yep, we’ll run like this for a while and be happy to have achieved it”. Most people do that at some point. Most people accept their place and go with the flow.

Ever since graduating, I have had to modify my mindset to try to capture this. Ever since I stopped believing in my own hype, probably about age 21, that, actually, not everything is possible, and that the world is definitely not my oyster, I have had to batter and abuse my mindset to try and set it into a path of Normal.

I remember when I was young I was obsessed with the concept of normal. I think at about age 13 I decided I’d had enough of trying to conform, and I despised the vast majority of the people in my school. I didn’t want to have anything to do with anyone but my tiny amount of friends. I wanted to be different.

The trouble was I was anything but. Being shy and introverted, suddenly launching into outward displays of “look how abnormal I am” just wasn’t me. I liked to think I had a different mentality to others, that I was clever and astute and with wisdom beyond my years; that was what made me different. I clung onto that.

I tried to think I was different because I didn’t care what others thought. That was always my shield. I tried to think that no matter what others thought of me, how geeky or nerdy or weird I was, I would plough on regardless. I would be the winner in the end.

I liked to think that this was all unique to me, but I realise now when I look back that everyone goes through this feeling at some stage. Some point at which they pull one of their own “talents” and turns it into a way of feeling superior.

This attitude stuck with me for a long time. Through college I enjoyed it, and got some surprising kudos for it. I clung onto it during my gap year, kept telling myself that I was better than what I was doing.

Then university arrived, and, being surrounded by both nerds and idiots (yes, they even make it university), my attitude stayed resolute. I was up the grade. I really would use my intelligence, my abnormality, to achieve something. I relished the positivity that I enjoyed from being good at being good.

As time wore on though, and Iwas ground down with a year in London, I started to change my mind. It was briefly halted when I achieved a first class honours degree. That made me again feel pretty special. But it wasn’t to last. Within a month, sitting in utter horror back in my family home, I realised how much of a charade my mentality had been.

The trouble is that, since that day, I have not really been happy. I decided that I really must try and carve out something resembling normal life. Normal life for people is work, family, friends, social time in moderation, then back to work. Repeated endlessly for decades if you’re lucky, then you retire, and then you die.

I have never wanted that. I have always wanted there to be no normal. That every day is another challenge. Every day is another opportunity. Every day is another chance to make progress to being something different to what everyone else is doing.

As such, I am never happy. I continually say to myself that I should just be content with where I am, and accept that I have actually done pretty well to achieve what I want. But I cannot do it. My mind resists. I just can’t be happy.

More on my various neuroses next time…

Android

This might be the most self-indulgent thing I’ve ever written.

It seems that everyone has smart phones these days. For years I have resisted as long as possible but now I have relented.

It was, to be fair, a matter of time. I had been toying with the idea for months, and then it continued to gnaw on me that someone who claims to be running an IT business as a profession probably should have at least some modern technology with him…

For a little while I thought about an iPhone, but Apple have always irritated me. The phones are especially fun to use, but, at the end of the day, the marketing operation worked. It explicitly told me that I am not an Apple person, and I don’t think I would ever want to be.

Marketing is entirely in the head, and allowing it to rule our lives is the main reason why the planet is going to hell, but, ultimately, I cannot resist it. I try, but I don’t have the power.

My branding brain assured me that I’m not a Mac fanboi. So what were the alternatives? Blackberry, Windows and Android.

Unfortunately, Blackberry’s business branding was nice, 10 years ago, but now Blackberry has two associations: decline, and yoof+BBM. Neither of these are what I want to be connected to. Out it went.

Windows phone. Nokia. It was extremely tempting. I have been using a trusty Nokia for the past 2.5 years. It served me well, and did everything I want. I also liked the idea of being different. I always have. I wanted to go with something no one else had. And, to be fair, the new Lumia phones look awesome.

But then my functional brain kicked in – you know, the bit that I really should have been listening to all along. The Nokia phones were surprisingly expensive. And, for various financial reasons, my decision was that I had to be able to buy the phone unlocked.

Enter the Google Nexus 4. Unlocked at £239. Running the latest Android, and getting rave reviews left, right and centre. It had to be.

It has now been in my possession for a week, and it hasn’t disappointed. It has come in useful in a number of show off situations, and I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of what it can do app-wise. For, again, the main reason why I decided for Android over Windows was the app ecosystem is so much larger.

Sadly though, the ultimate irony is that I started writing this post on my phone, on the bus home today. I managed one line before the clunky web WordPress interface made me give up in frustration. Sometimes you can’t beat a good old fashioned full size keyboard. I haven’t quite got the hang of two thumb typing yet anyway…

You never stop learning with technology.