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Live for today, Death is around the corner

How much time do you think you have left in your life? How much time will we spend with our partner or our children? It won't be nearly as much as you think. It might feel like forever and 'tomorrow's another day'. But what if tomorrow isn't another day?

Today is all you have. Right here, right now.

Tomorrow you could slip and crack your head on the pavement, be diagnosed with cancer, or be run over by a terrorist. You just don't know what could happen.

The thought is frightening and scary, but what are you going to do about it? And no, locking you and your family up at home while eliminating all safety hazards is not the answer. If it is your time to go, it's your time to go.

You can't stop Death's selection process – the Final Destination movie series proved that. Jokes aside, there are too many factors you can't control in ensuring your lifespan. You will fret, worry, and stress yourself to the point of no return. And what will you get in the end? Yourself, six feet under.

Whether you're 26 or 86, we all end up in the same place. So why waste time worrying?

Seriously, it's as simple as that. Is it easy? Shit, no.

I struggle with comprehending this truth. It's so easy to forget just how fickle and fragile we are. I get irritated with my children. I forget to tell my wife how beautiful she looks and how I appreciate her support. Why? Because there will be time for that 'later'.

I forget that 'Later' might never arrive.

It's time to stop fretting about the future and appreciate what we have today. Plan what you can, but don't worry so much. Because all you can control is right here in front of you – your family, your children, your friends, your happiness.

The useless class has arrived

I read an article recently about how humans are becoming the useless class. Historian, Yuval Noah Harari, reckons we are not too far away from a future in which the technology we've created to assist us will put us out of work.

This isn't a new concept, but the reality of it actually happening has become much more prevalent than before.

The article states the jobs we do are all just algorithms – algorithms that are easy learnt, and in turn easily replaceable with technology (because – think about it – most jobs are pretty straightforward).

However, Harari also states that ancient hunter-gatherers had to perform a shit-ton of skills in order to survive – ranging from tracking and hunting animals, to knowing which berries to eat, and to making fire and cooking said food. Making it a much harder algorithm to figure out.

Today, we're "specialised and professionalised" in one career only, so when the machines learn – we're out in the cold.

Although it's good to specialise in a certain craft, it will be necessary for us to specialise in multiple streams. Don't get me wrong, specialisation is needed (doctors, engineers, psychiatrists), but the majority of jobs in our society are easily replaceable and will efficiently and effectively be done so with technology.

We've heard all this before, yet there was a very interesting point I took out of the article:

"Very soon this traditional model will become utterly obsolete, and the only way for humans to stay in the game will be to keep learning throughout their lives and to reinvent themselves repeatedly."

Having undergone a few mini "reinventions" through my own career, I can totally relate to this statement. I've realigned myself, learned new skills, new habits. Learned that there are different ways to solve a problem and that we are just one peg in a big-ass machine.

By reinventing yourself you learn how different areas of business work. You learn how to deal with situations that can't be solved with a hammer and duct tape. You learn new skills that add to your repertoire and can only benefit you when the going gets tough.

"But I'm good at what I do!" I hear you say, "Why do I need to change?" Because you become better, stronger, more versatile, and less replaceable by an algorithm.

Yes, it may be outside of your comfort zone to learn a new technology. It's damned stressful when you are now responsible for a group of people. You will feel out of place when you move to a new role in a new team.

There is nothing wrong with feeling any of discomfort.

Just push through, keep plodding, and be open to learning. Before you know it, you will be drawing on your multifaceted previous experiences in order to counteract whatever is in front of you now.

It's a scary world we're heading into, but I truly believe if you are adaptable enough and continue learning and changing, you'll be ok.

On a side note, the study to which the article refers to predicts that archaeology is one of the least likely professions to be replaced by technology (1% chance). Maybe I should follow one of my dreams and become an archaeologist (haha).

The answer to remembering passwords

Today, we have passwords for everything. Social media accounts, bank accounts, email, shops, fitness apps, games, the list goes on and on. How are we expected to remember all of them without using the same password more than once?

Easy. With Lastpass.

In Lastpass' own words they "Securely remember your passwords, so you don't have to".

This basically means you store your passwords in one location, ready for easy retrieval for when you need them. With plugins available for Firefox and Chrome, you also have the option of accessing your passwords straight from your browser.

Lastpass synchonises across the devices you have Lastpass configured on, as well as a plethora of additional security features to assist you even further with your passwords.

Oh yes, it's free.

My experience with Lastpass

I've been using Lastpass since 2011 and I store most of my passwords in there for easy retrieval later. It has helped me many times over the years wherein I've gone to a website to register or sign up, only to find that I already had a log in (because I had saved it to Lastpass years before)

They are super-secure. Since this is their business, I trust security would be their primary concern.

And if you're conscientious about your privacy, you could always just put a password reminder in the password field to act as a trigger for you to remember the full password (which I sometimes do too).

Interestingly, why don't you have a read my thoughts on Privacy. I'd be keen to know what you think too.

Generating passwords

There are many schools of thought regarding password complexity and usage. They range from 16-random-characters-confusing-as-shit to full sentences with spaces and everything.

My personal preference is 2 random words and numbers. Then a combination of letters depicting the service I've signed up for.

For example:

  • 2 words: Sunny beagle
  • 2 numbers: 93
  • Separator: –
  • Letters for service: Facebook (fa), Google (go), Amazon (am)

The passwords for these services would be:

  • Facebook: Sunnybeagle93-fa
  • Google: Sunnybeagle93-go
  • Amazon: Sunnybeagle93-am

As you can see, the password is the same for all except the 2 letters of the service you're logging in to. Easy peasy!

Additionally, the password is secure(ish) as it is 16 characters long, has uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. All the basics are covered.

Changing your passwords

It's generally a good idea to change your passwords every now and again. Having the same password for years on end is not the most secure method for remembering your password.

Without giving all my secrets away, I have 3 different password variations that I switch between. In this way, it will only take me 3 attempts to remember my password.

And please, whatever you do, don't (do. not.) use 'password', 'password1', 'password123', or anything even slightly related to that. Not your name, your daughter's name, your date of birth – actually, pretty much dont' use anything of a personal nature. These are the first things bad people will try when cracking your password.

Onward and upward

Now that you know where to store your passwords (and how to set some secure ones), I would highly recommend you review your current password situation and get it sorted – at a minimum, your important ones like banks, email, and popular social media accounts (since they can be used to log in to other services).

Any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

That time I helped raise some cash for charity

What a gratifying experience it is to be deeply involved in a charity event. To be a part of something that is so much bigger than me and you. Have a seat while I reminisce a while.

My only previous involvement with charity work was donations every now and again, sometimes attending charity events, and a one-time raising of funds when my wife shaved her hair to raise awareness for child cancer.

In February 2017 I was part of a team that ran a 100km Charity Relay event raising awareness for 4 different charities in the Wellington region. Each team had to raise their own funds as an 'entry fee' and all funds were split equally between each of the charities.

As a member of one of the participating teams, I was directly involved in trying to figure out how the hell we were going to raise money. We didn't have a lot of time either. We received a late invitation to the event, which left only a month and a half to raise thousands of $$ during January and February. Not the best time of year, especially after Christmas and New Year.

Yet, we did it! Not only did we raise the 'entry fee', but we raised the 2nd highest amount out of all the teams!

But, I digress…

It's one thing when we open our wallets and give a donation, it's a totally different experience when we're the ones trying to get other people to do it. Rather than my single $5, $10, or $20 donation, I had a direct influence is raising at least 10 times that amount.

What a feeling it is to be able to help others in this way! I have to be honest, it's a crazy-good feeling.

I'm still coming to grips with how, as a team, we managed to raise so much money for these awesome charities (over $8000 and counting). I'm also so grateful to the people who graciously donated their hard-earned money to the cause we were supporting.

This is definitely something I want to do again. And with this little experience and more time, who knows what we could achieve next time round…

Learn a new skill before your time runs out

When was the last time you truly learnt something completely out of your comfort zone? A new skill that wasn't directly related to any of your current skills?

I haven't written anything new for a few weeks. Why? Because I've been creating my own WordPress theme for helpgrowchange.com. It's been a great journey of self-learning and something you could try out (the self-learning, not so much the development).

Maybe you want to understand the human mind better by learning about social psychology. Learn about a popular career choice such as digital marketing? Or maybe you'd like to finally learn a new language.

But if learning is so awesome, why haven't we done it yet? Time. He is not our friend, right?

Well, the truth is, time won't open itself up for you – you have to make the time to learn.

"Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching."

Cast your mind back to a time when you last learnt a new skill? Remember the feeling of satisfaction and triumph in realising you had now gained something new.

Bring back that feeling.

Where can I start?

There are many, many online course websites offering a plethora of courses for free. Most of them are designed to make it easy for you to begin – no confusing entry or special multimedia requirements.

I've mentioned in a previous article about how I personally used Coursera to learn about business strategy and social psychology, and I have a few more courses added to my shortlist to learn soon.

If you're looking to learn development, one of the most popular learning sites is Codecademy. I started on that a while back, but other learning took priority (heh).

No matter what it is you're looking to learn, with a bit of effort you could probably find a beginner course online for free.

I'm too old to learn

Hogwash.

People change careers and jobs all the time. The people in the article are prime examples of the change you can make for yourself if you continue to learn new skills. And they weren't in their twenties either.

Here is a random Google search of 10 people who changed careers when they were over 50 years of age.

You're never too old to learn. What will you learn today?

What is ‘career-limiting’ anyway?

What does it mean to 'limit one's career'? Why are there preconceived ideas about what we 'should' be doing to progress our careers? Where is this unspoken ladder we talk about, and where can I break it?

Between 2010 and 2016 my career was a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I went from database administrator to team leader to service manager to team leader of another 2 teams, then Service Delivery Manager, back to team leader, and finally to middleware administrator.

Phew.

After about 6 months in each role, I started getting itchy feet again and searched for the next challenge. I gained a reputation among my colleagues on when I'd be moving next. It's funny, but not funny at the same time.

My latest role of Middleware Administrator is a technical role again. It's been 9 months now and I still enjoy working on anything I can get my hands on. I've found true joy in my job (which is rare for many people) and I don't foresee any role-hopping in the near future.

What people think

In the eyes of many people I've spoken to, though, they see this as a 'demotion' of some sort and a step backwards in my career. "Why would you go back to technical?" is a common question I get from them.

To add some context, in I.T. a technical role is lowest on the corporate food chain.

I can feel their confusion (and sometimes disdain) about why I went back to technical. I can feel them thinking he's taken a step back in his career or he's taken the easy road.

Career or happiness

Does it really matter how successful someone is? Does it really matter how high up in the corporate ladder we are? Does it really matter how much money is in our paycheck?

I don't believe it does matter. And, deep down, neither do you.

We talk about this all the time. We complain about our unhappiness in our job. We describe how we're under strain due to the extra pressures of managing a team or client. We live for the weekend, dreaming Friday can't come soon enough.

Why?!

Why do we put ourselves through this day in and day out – because we were told it's what we should do? It's completely ludicrous.

What do you want to do?

The big question is: Would you rather be the head honcho, or be happy in your role?

I'm certainly not telling you to 'follow your heart and fly with the birds'. That's just as bad. For me, I still work Monday to Friday – the difference is I want to and I'm happy.

We spend 80% of our lives working in a job. We may as well make it count, right?

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