Living the reversal of the famous definition of insanity

The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

You have probably heard this quote before. Many wrongly attribute it to Albert Einstein, and it’s used to inspire people to change.

Of course this quote is too simplistic. The definition of insanity is way more complex than this.

Yet we can agree that, if you keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different outcomes, you’re either dumb or insane.

This quote fits those people who only complain about their situation, without taking action. They know what they want but do nothing about it.

This is not my case. Even though I’m a procrastinator, I’ve always been a man of action. If I don’t like something in my life, I think about what I can do about it.

Sometimes, there’s nothing I can do immediately. Then, I’ll pay attention to my surroundings, trying to identify any little opportunity. Whatever can get me closer to my goals, I’ll take it.

And that’s exactly what I did back in 2004.

I wanted to become an expert in Linux even though I didn’t have a computer

We all know you can’t learn computing just by reading. You need to get your hands dirty and do the stuff for real. So, not having a computer was a huge limitation for someone who wanted to become an expert in Linux.

I’ve been wishing to learn Linux since 2000, after I first heard about it when reading an article in a magazine.

The concept of a free and open source operating system was fascinating. Anyone could use, change and redistribute the modified code. Genius! As soon as I finished reading the article, I decided I would be an expert in Linux someday.

But it would not be that easy.

Back in the day, I still didn’t have access to the Internet. I lived in a really small city in the middle of Brazil. My father had a [really old and slow] computer he used in his business, but no way I could install Linux there.

And so I waited.

In 2002, I moved to the capital to attend University

Finally, I had daily access to the Internet. But still didn’t have a computer of my own.

In 2004, almost 2 years after I joined University, I got a part-time job. It was in an office, working as a “personal computer guy”.

One day, when I was heading to work, I saw a newsstand with a computer magazine with the following headline:

Slackware Linux: the favorite distribution of the advanced users

I was hooked.

I wanted to be an advanced Linux user. What better way than learning using the favorite distribution of the advanced users?

At least that’s how I rationalized.

The magazine came with 2 CD’s: one for Slackware Linux and another Live CD called Kurumin. I bought the magazine and used my boss’ laptop to test the Kurumin live CD. It was safe, because a live CD doesn’t change anything on the computer’s hard drive.

It was amazing to see, for the first time, an operating system running from a CD. It got me even more excited to install Slackware in a computer and finally start learning Linux.

Kurumin Linux 3.3, Oct 2004. Source: <a href="http://byteria.blogspot.in/2016/08/kurumin.html" target="_blank">http://byteria.blogspot.in/</a>
Kurumin Linux 3.3, Oct 2004. Source: http://byteria.blogspot.in/2016/08/kurumin.html

And then I finally got the opportunity I have been waiting for

There was an old computer in the office which was not working well.

They needed it only for Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer. So, I came up with a plan:

I would try to replace Microsoft Office by OpenOffice.org and Internet Explorer by Opera. If they could do the job, I would install Linux on that computer. Both OpenOffice.org and Opera browser had Linux versions, so there would be no problems.

I didn’t have to explain myself a lot. My boss knew nothing about computers. He would allow me to do whatever I wanted, as long as they could use the computers to do their work.

I then proceeded to validate OpenOffice.org and Opera running in Windows.

It was now time to format the computer and install Slackware

The magazine I bought had some installation instructions, which I followed. After the installation, I needed to configure the graphical environment.

This would take me some time. so I asked my boss to allow me to take the computer to my home for the weekend, and bring it back working on Monday. He agreed.

I spent all the weekend in front of the computer, trying to make things work and learning. It took me hours just to figure out how to make the graphical environment works. When I finally got I running, I started to run, jump and scream around the place in joy.

And that’s how I got my first opportunity to learn Linux, using a computer that was not mine.

I kept doing the same things over and over again until 2010, when I finally bought my first computer

When you really want to do something, you are just incapable of seeing limitation. You’re 100% focused on finding solutions instead.

I wanted to learn Linux, and not having a computer was a real limitation.

Real limitations exist, and there’s nothing you can do about them. I had to wait 4 years until I had the opportunity to start studying Linux.

The difference is that I never stopped to cry and feel sorry for myself. Like saying “If at least I had a computer things would be different”.

You do the best you can with what you have

Have you ever heard that, if you don’t have a job, then your job is to find one?

Opportunities are just the same.

If you don’t have any opportunities, your job is to identify them.

Yet once again, it doesn’t matter how hard you try, you can’t create opportunities. You can only increase your chances of finding them, but never at 100%. There’ll always be an element of luck.

And because you’ll never be 100% responsible for creating opportunities, you need patience

When there was nothing I could do to have an opportunity to learn Linux, I stayed patient. I waited for the moment I would be able to take action.

Without patience, I would have given up. Or at least would have grown frustrated when trying to make things happen faster.

You become laid back when you believe opportunities are 100% luck. You become impatient when you believe opportunities are 100% work.

Being patient allowed myself to stay in the game, and it paid off.

In 2006, only 2.5 years after I started learning Linux, I got my first corporate job as a SysAdmin. I worked with Linux, OpenBSD and FreeBSD in Rio de Janeiro.

During the following years, I would be hired for different positions in different companies. Each time my salary would increase, and I accumulated knowledge and experience.

But then, in 2011, I decided I didn’t want a corporate career anymore

I was tired of being limited, supervised, controlled.

My lifestyle was not the one I wanted and that’s because all my life was revolving around my job. My job determined the time to wake up, clothes to wear, time to rest, dates available to travel…

All what I wanted was to be able to do things my way. If possible, I’d have the Digital Nomad lifestyle: working online while traveling.

I decided I wanted to have my own business, and so I started to study.

I wish I could say I studied the same way I studied Linux, but no, I didn’t study the same way…

This time, I was in a hurry to get quick results

I wanted to quit my job, launch a new business, and make enough money to match my salary right away. And without investing money!

No kidding, that’s exactly what I wanted. And I believed my expectations were totally reasonable.

Following that utopia, I started a sequence of failed attempts to launch businesses.

In every attempt, it would last just a couple of months before I’d run out of money [and hope] and go running after a job in IT again.

Luckily, my knowledge in Linux and networking allowed me to get new jobs quickly whenever I was in need of one.

But in July 2014, I got my last job in IT. And after 3 months, I quit an IT job for the last time in my life. Months later, in 2015, I finally started making money as a Digital Marketer freelancer.

Working in Marketing was challenging but rewarding. I enjoyed the work because I was good at it.

The only problem was I still wanted quick results.

I wanted to make a lot of money. I wanted my first customer to be the best customer. I wanted the first gig to be the most satisfying gig ever.

Of course, none of those things happened.

I had to work with cheap clients and annoying gigs. I had to waste time negotiating with prospects who would never become clients. I had every sort of frustration you have when starting a brand new business.

It was inevitable to struggle, but I was not willing to accept reality

After I met Shyrwyn and we decided to stay together, we started to work in our new business. We kicked off in February 2016, but it was only in April that we started to work really hard in the business.

Months passed, and the results were not what we wanted.

It happens that Shyrwyn was also impatient, just as me.

We have been working on the short term, focusing on stuff that could bring us customers right away. We were not building a solid foundation for our business.

We wouldn’t “waste time” working on stuff that wouldn’t generate income right away. We wouldn’t “waste time” making new people and friends. We would feel like losers just because we didn’t have dozens of clients fighting to give us their money.

Luckily, we finally snapped out of this insane mindset.

I’ve succeeded in the past in my attempt to become a Linux professional. If I wanted to succeeded again, I just had to repeat the same methods that already worked!

Instead, I was living the reversal of the Law of Insanity: doing different things over and over again and expecting the same result.

I became the Benjamin Button of patience

Benjamin Button is a fictional character who was born an old man and grew younger until he died a baby.

When I was younger I had the patience that usually only adults have. Then, I started to grow more and more impatient.

Benjamin Button couldn’t change his fate, but I could change mine. I’m now exercising patience. I’m working on stuff that will bring results in the long term, while enjoying the present at the same time.

Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. — Warren Buffet

Originally published on Medium: https://medium.com/@davidsonpaulo/