Adventures in Growth Mindset & Mastery.

"This is just a ride…"

Thoughts On Turning 29.

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Like almost everyone who has an all-consuming & torrid love affair with productivity, I have a white board which rests on my desk as a backdrop for my laptop.

And I use Expo markers to write down motivational quotes, bill reminders, calendar updates, more bill reminders. But off to the left, I wrote down something I never cared to think about in my early twenties: I wrote the corresponding years when I turn 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, etc.

They are years I neither recognize nor fathom, demanding my attention every time I peel my eyes away from what’s in front of me. They’re finally real-ish. They’re not dates so far into the future I don’t even have to worry about them, as if they were an era & a half away. Those bastards are right around the corner and coming home to roost: a terrifying formlessness taking shape as they drop out of the ether and into my champagne glass every time I toast to a New Year.


Log Out & Wake Up.

The years between my 24th birthday and today have been increasingly troubling to my soul. It’s like the Universe is trying to tell me something through good & bad experiences, and I’m only now allowing the light to enter the cracks in my huge ego to hear the message: Wake up, you (magnificent) bastard! You’re running out of time!

It might have been that anxiety attack I had while driving. The one that forced me to pull over, clutch the steering wheel, and pray it wasn’t anything worse than just another anxiety attack.

Or that other time I was totally enjoying my favorite show on Netflix and yet paused it midway through to open up a new tab and search, “depression”.

It was definite indicative of the times I would do anything to bolt away from social situations, or bumping into someone I know. Holing myself up in a coffee shop, or working a non-9-to-5 job just so I could get a different schedule and use work as an excuse for not being available like old times.

Or the times I found myself for the first time experiencing derealization/depersonalization while doing the hobbies or hitting up the scenes I thought I enjoyed. Looking around, eyes wide open, registering the uncomfortable fact that I’m just not having fun anymore.

It was definitely the exhilarating experience of being a part in the Houston start-up community(winning StartUp Weekend Houston, working with Code For America and NASA, co-founding Hack Houston with friends), Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit in 2012-13 and Burning Man in 2013. That burst of untamable art, science, and humanity. The overwhelming love and acceptance. Meeting tons of people, men and women, who are doing all the things I want to do & living the kind of life I want to live. Those experiences fueled my soul and shattered my apathy.

The breaking point might have been seeing my dad almost die of pneumonia early last year. There’s no greater gut check than seeing an immediate family in the hospital and, with that metastatic pit of fear in your stomach slowly consuming your whole body, thinking, “Oh holy shit. Past that devil-may-care smirk & confident-man image I try to sell, I’m still a kid. Just a kid. Just a kid. Someone please make this stop”.

I didn’t log out, tune in, and wake up for the longest time because I was more concerned with others than myself.

(My virtual mentor Elliot Hulse, entrepreneur and trainer, drops some knowledge)

System Reset/Redesign.

All these blips on my mind’s radar slowly started to outline a thought that, when fleshed out with introspection, brought down a sledge hammer on my reality. I’ve been stuck in a holding pattern; stuck in 2nd gear. Wheels spinning, going nowhere fast. And worst of all…

I’ve been running on fumes for the past few years. And I finally hit the wall. I couldn’t hide anymore with quick jokes and an easy smile.

I didn’t take the time to discover & create myself because I was too busy trying to be anything to anyone just for acceptance and validation. I didn’t have a plan for my present and future because I thought, arrogantly, I could go with the flow and improvise. And, most damningly, I consciously and unconsciously engaged in self-defeating & self-limiting behaviors in order to avoid doing the soul work necessary to figure out just who the hell I am.

But wait, hold on now. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. I’ve done a lot of cool things, worked awesome jobs, and been there for friends. I’ve turned the tide, flown by the seat of my pants, and made things happen when others couldn’t. But I realized that my strengths, like creativity, analysis, deep learning, emotional IQ, etc. were actually weakness when they weren’t being harnessed properly. There was no foundation, no launch pad, for them to reach newer heights. They weren’t rockets ready to take my reality into the stratosphere. They were anchors.

Going Back To The Fundamentals.

So that was all a long-winded “true story” way of explaining why I’ve been an frustrated, bummed out, book-reading, coffee-inhaling hermit lately. It explains why I’ve down right had to lie to friends to avoid social situations and, as many of you know, it explains why I’ve reached out to many of you to ask, “So…how did you do it? How’d you get out of your stall and get the wind underneath your wings again?“.

I used to be all talk. All, “This is it man, this is our fucking year.“, then I’d go back to old behaviors. I think we’ve all been there. But I’m done with all that. Which leads into the main reason I’ve been in hermit/monk-mode: I’ve been deep-diving into personal development books and blogs, studying and learning from virtual mentors like Elliot Hulse and Hamish Patterson, in order to improve myself, adjust the sails, and tack a better course. I’m putting theory into action.

I’ve finally worked up the courage, and more importantly self-compassion, to rebuild myself. From the ground up. I’m starting from scratch. And I’m not worried about competition or comparison anymore. I’ve learned to let go & focus on what brings me joy in life.

(My virtual mentor Hamish “The Illusion” Patterson, a surfer and carpenter, drops some knowledge)

Here’s What I’ve Done So Far In 2015

– I applied to become an electrician apprentice. Passed the test, did well in the interview, and got a high score. I’ll be on their list for two years, so I could get the invite to join the union at any time. I’ll keep y’all updated. (And down the line, I’ll write a blog post on the coming economic storm we’re all facing due to the demonization of  blue-collar work which has lead to a low replacement rate in the skilled trades. Hat tip to Mike Rowe)

– I’m 80 days sober. That’s the longest I’ve ever been sober. Like, ever. Having a close friend and fellow & former rage-aholic who has been sober for almost a year has been great support & motivation as well. I feel a bit better. Less cognitive fog. Less impulsivity. And a bit more embarrassed at the time, money, and energy I put into the bar scene, but happy for all the good times and good friends I’ve made. I plan to be sober this whole year. We’ll see what all that sets up for me.

– I’ve been learning computer science via the Harvard CS50 course on edX. It’s going slow, but I’m picking things up. It’s totally free and there are no prerequisites, so if you want to get into technology like me, I invite you to check it out.

– I’ve reduced my impulsivity. I’ll never again be that young buck who’s smart enough to understand the problem on a superficial level, impulsive enough to talk/blog/fight about it without deep diving into the issue, and dumb enough to get overwhelmed due to lack of planning, while still coming out of the debate bruised yet victorious. The guy who was so sure of his position, but so unsure of himself. My values haven’t changed, but my anger has become more…tempered and focused. Less fire shut up in my bones, more ice water in my veins.

– I’ve slowly become more social again. The old Varun doesn’t exist anymore. Sure, you’ll see the same fun guy that likes to make people laugh, but the core is different. And being social again by hanging out with friends in small groups has been pretty good for me.

I’m definitely calling bullshit on my past self & behaviors, while also leaving room for compassion and understanding while recognizing the accomplishments I’ve seemed to either downplay or completely forget. That’s why I’m not saying stuff like, “new year, new me”. Talk is cheap. You’ll see the improvements. You won’t hear me say stuff like, “20XX was the worst year of my life” anymore because I know it can get worse. I’ve just realized lately that no matter how bad, I’ll be able to handle it.

So I’m ready to put in enormous amount of work in my last year of my 20’s in order to set myself up for my 30’s and beyond. I’m not loathing the past or fearful of the future anymore. I’m actually looking forward to growing older. And that’s something I’ve never said nor felt before.

I wouldn’t call this maturity. I don’t know what that looks like. I don’t know if I even want society’s version of maturity foisted upon me.

But I am growing, without pomp and flair and “likes” and stage lights and a crowd. Nothing external, everything internal. Just getting back to the fundamentals, the core of my being, and growing.

Not a bad start to my 29th year on this rock. Thanks for being a part of it.

Varun Ambrose
March 22nd, 2015

Written by Varun

March 22, 2015 at 8:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. I have never been more excited to see someone’s thoughts written down. The first time I met you I knew you’d be a brilliant writer, in addition to whatever else you set your mind to.

    Your story is encouraging, and challenging. It makes me want to sit and take a hard look at my life, where I’m going and where I’ve been.

    Go for it. Live it to the max.


    March 22, 2015 at 8:36 pm

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