- Mohamad Kalaaji
If you have been following my news for the past 5 years, the two main topics that I talk about are: reading and writing. I would say that they are the two things that helped me in shaping the person who I am right now.
From reading 52 books minimum each year and writing 6 journals up to 1000 pages along writing several blogposts (a good portion got deleted due to their imperfections and lack of clarity), this blogpost serves as a response to everyone who ask why I am doing this in the first place.
5 years ago, I have decided to start reading as a method of finding myself. Back then I failed two years of university confused and sitting in my room trying to figure out what I should do, I have decided to do something that not everyone decided to do: reading.
Taking the decision at the lowest point possible
You might be wondering: someone who is at his lowest point in his life, with an avalanche of failed events overcrowding his mind, why would this person go towards reading books? At a first glance it sound ridiculous but ironically it wasn't.
Back then when I was 18, I knew that I have to change myself so that I can get different results in life. If I stayed the same then I will give the same results and I was sick of this situation hence I decided to change myself. I was self conscious enough to know that the first step towards changing for the better starts from within oneself and I wasn't wrong at all.
A good portion of readers mainly read for leisure and it is a niche market of its own since not everyone likes to read and not everyone read tough books but my purpose of reading is self discovery through the discovery of others, I would read anything that comes in front of my sight hence I wasn't going to read for leisure, I was going to read on a mission towards self discovery.
The wrong type of books: self help
When I first started reading books, I started with self help and it was the biggest mistake I have ever done. They were designed for absolute beginners (myself at that time) and promised a lot of things if you followed all the steps mentioned in the book and I was hooked because in my 18 year old mind: I am reading books and I am getting my shit together but that was not true.
The main purpose of self help books is to exploit damaged people who can't get their shit together in life by giving them an internal yet emotional pat on the back and make them feel special along with promising them a better yet divine life much more than any religion on earth can provide. In short terms: they are forming a cult and they want you to join it.
This is where the fun starts: when you join the cult, you get bombarded with upselling and click funnels to buy more packages and bigger yet expensive packages that promise big amount of gains in your life.
After reading one book, it mentions that the secrets of unlocking more of your life is in another book or the writer created a course dedicated for that topic that he/she expands much more than the book can provide. Since you think you are doing progress in your life, you think it is an investment to yourself till you find out that you are going to pay $6000 for a seminar in Dubai (excluding plane ticket and hotel) for the sake of seeing the writer in person for 2-4 hours with a small chance to meet him/her face to face.
At this point, you have drank the self help koolaid that you don't know what is right or not along the fact that you don't know that you are getting exploited under the "but this is an investment to yourself!" scheme.
Change of book topics
After 2 years of reading solely self help and mainstream business books, it is time to shift towards something that is useful. If you are reading like everyone around you then your thoughts are not going to be that different from your surroundings.
Although the books I used to read are complete bullshit, it did help me get into reading along with identifying what books are shit and what are not. In other words: you have to know what is bad to identify the good.
But I want to give props to those shit books, it got me into the habit of reading daily which is a good thing because I have trained myself to read anything hence shifting topics won't give me an excuse to ditch reading all together.
I watched a Ted talk of Tim Ferris talking about how he got his life together along with how he got himself out of the idea of committing suicide in a parking lot, he mentioned in that talk about Stoicism. I dug into what Stoicism is to what I have found out that it is a philosophy of life (or in other words: Philosophy). As someone who was afraid of philosophy, I decided to give it a shot but started with reading Ryan Holiday's books because he takes the idea of Stoicism but shapes it in a much more modern way:
- Ego is the enemy
- The Obstacle is the way
- Stillness is the key
I got hooked on philosophy to a point that I read Marcus Aurelius's book Meditations then shifted towards reading books from Seneca, Epictetus, and Massimo Pigliucci (How to be a Stoic)
Then I decided to shift towards another form of philosophy, this is where I started to read to Friedrich Nietzsche, Soren Kierkegaard, and Albert Camus.
This type of reading motivated me to read psychology which is a tough subject for myself even to this day but I delved into Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung (not got into super details but I have read a couple of pages).
Then dived into biographies and auto biographies of known leaders like Malcom X, Steve Jobs, and Leonardo da Vinci. Those books were interesting because you are reading a story with a message that happened in this world, unlike fiction were you read about things that would never exist. (Or in other words: I don't read fiction at all)
What changed within me
After the shift, I started to see life a lot different than what I used to see it before. From the philosophy books I have read, I have learned to endure life's cruelty, that there are a lot of things in this world that we are not in control of, settling with what we currently have at the moment, controlling one's ego, and that everyone on this planet has a purpose but not everyone knows what it is.
The psychology books made me see people differently, rather than seeing things in my perspective, I started to see things from the other person's perspective. This method made me realize why there are anxious people, depressed and melancholic people, angry and turbulent people, and much more.
Everyone has issues, everyone deal with shit in their lives but not everyone talks about them. When I started to listen to others and gave them space to vent out, I saw certain patterns like sadness and grief, anger and frustrations, and much more. I watched and documented all those events on my journals but I didn't judge those people, all I did was listen to them not because I want something from them but because I am trying to be a decent human being. (I became a good listener because of this)
I started writing blogposts from 6 years ago, thinking that I would become the greatest technical blogger in the region but that didn't go as planned.
The Technolaaji blog
The name "Technolaaji" is derived from my family name and technology which was given by a friend of mine in a Facebook post when I asked for a name for my blog, that name stuck ever since for the past 6 years.
My writings have shifted throughout the years and I shifted from writing technical blogs solely to writing anything that comes into my mind (which is what this blog's state at the current moment). Now the blog is more about writing my adventures and documenting the things I do in my life which is much more interesting than writing technical blogs (there is a plan on redoing this but adding other writers in the mix, separate future project)
I left the name as an identifier for myself, a pseudonymous name that is easier for people to identify me with (since it is easy to let people know that I am into coding and tech)
Two years ago, I decided to do the craziest thing: to write about my life on a daily basis. I started with a bullet journal which I would write my daily tasks for the day then shifted towards full blown daily journaling that stretched towards 6 volumes and around 1000 pages (impressive in a 2 year span)
I documented everything that I would think of, in full details along with how I feel about it and much more. I shifted back to bullet journaling to track my daily tasks but I kept documenting my life to this day.
Recently I got into it, I never used to write notes of the things that I used to learn about but decided to give it a try. I have written around 2 notebooks worth of notes (450 pages) of several topics from book highlights, technical topics, and much more.
Then I have combined my notes in a map of content based on the content type, using Obsidian I am able to do this and planning on publishing those notes online on a dedicated site when they are ready (around 2% have been documented on Obsidian and they are a lot of notes to cover)
What changed within me
Documenting my life was the biggest thing I have ever done, I never knew of events that happen on a daily basis that slip without my knowing and I was able to handle things differently because I might have passed on this particular thing in the past or similar to it which I able to perform much better than before and since it is documented, then I am able to recall it anytime I want to in full details.
I became more self aware of myself, I became more aware of the things I say and do towards others. This self awareness puts you ahead of your surroundings because you are capable of watching over your actions and not do something reckless and dumb not to forget that when you write your actions on your journals, you can use them as evidence on what you have done in a particular day, useful when someone tries to frames you for doing something that you haven't done.
As for the notes, I have always wanted to share my knowledge with the people around me and I think this might be the best way to do so. When all the notes I have written are migrated to digital and the site is ready, my knowledge will be spread upon generations and it will be constantly updated every time I add new notes, but the most important thing is that I have a reliable source for my notes incase I needed to access them later on in life.
Not a slave, not a man-child
I have written about the reasons on reading and writing, now it is time to mention the circumstances of what would happen if I didn't do any of those.
an uneducated person will become a slave
What education mean here is lack of learning beyond the academic field, even if you have a PhD degree but lack the ability to learn beyond college and school then you can mark yourself as an uneducated person.
A person with a fixed mindset will become a slave to his/her employer (whether the employer is part of a company, educational institution), you will dedicate your time for your job but you will never dedicate your time for yourself.
Today as always, men fall into two groups: slaves and free men. Whoever does not have two-thirds of his day for himself, is a slave, whatever he may be: a statesman, a businessman, an official, or a scholar - Friedrich Nietzsche
By reading and writing not only you are learning new things, you are training your mind to accept new ideas and think in a different way. I heard from a lot of people who reconnected with me after 2-3 years that I have changed a lot and that is the point of all this in the first place.
the consequences of becoming a man-child
When you become a close minded person and become a slave to your employer, you get stuck in the same position that you are in. You don't advance yourself for the better in your life in general hence you get stuck with what you currently have till eternity.
A good issue with this is becoming a man-child, it is something that nobody likes but a good portion of people face with it. Have you ever faced with someone at work that is like a child? Doesn't listen to what you say, stubborn, claims that he/she is always right, becomes fussy and angry when you prove them wrong, and thinks learning new things is a waste of time? Congrats! You are dealing with a man-child
Peter Pan syndrome
When we were kids, we were told that we are full of potential and that we are able to do anything in life. Even at the age of 25 that you can do something that can mark you as "potential" but that becomes different when you reach 30.
When you are between the age of 18-27, you can screw up as much as you want and you can get off the hook with it. In the eyes of others, you can be an idiot. You are young, inexperienced, and clueless. That is what young people are like in this age, but they are full of potential.
When you reach the age of 30, people aren't thrilled about you anymore. They will start asking you what the hell you have been doing for the past 10 years of your life? You will shrug and act dumb, but you are now an old infant, and that is an ugly thing.
Peter Pan Syndrome is a pop-psychology term used to describe an adult who is socially immature. Peter Pan never changed himself and decided to stay the king of the lost boys in Neverland. People with Peter Pan syndrome will settle with a dead end job, eat pizza, drink beer, go to parties, and play video games as a mean of purpose but never consider changing to a different medium that might be better than his/her current medium
Why I am writing this
The reason I wrote those two points is because I have seen it on people in real-life. Don't think they are happy, they curse the day that they decided to stick with their comfort zone and indulge themselves with drugs and alcohol as a mean of forgetting their pain at the current moment. They see people around them getting better and better while they are in the same position they were from the past 10 years of their lives, it is hard to accept it and it is hard to get away from it.
When I was 18, I have anticipated this phenomenon and know that if I didn't change myself, I will get stuck with what I currently have for the end of my life. I am grateful for what I have thought of at the age of 18, currently at the age of 23 and I have achieved certain milestones that people at the age of 27-30 wish they have did it at my age. It is not an act of showing off but it is an act of appreciation for what I currently have at the moment.