Welcome To The Party, Pal

Boats anchored at Peppermint Grove, Western Australia.



It’s been a while, hey?

The holiday season afforded me time and headspace for some long-overdue personal reflection, and this post is one result of that reflection.

This site – Toward Vandalia – has been around for nearly nine years. In that same time, my life has seen some major transitions and changes: I completed my MBA, got married, began and completed my PhD, and had a son. Through all of this, ToVa has been lurking in the background – sometimes changing with me, sometimes sitting still, but never forgotten about entirely.

I began the site during my MBA studies in 2014. The initial focus of posts was personal development, which was also my personal focus at the time. However, one tends to hit a point of diminishing returns with the personal development discourse. The revelations come fewer and farther between. Eventually, you realize you’re reading more or less the same ideas over and over again. I didn’t want to contribute to that cycle, and so the site went quiet for a while.

Between the end of my MBA studies and the start of my PhD candidature, I eased my mind by writing “microfiction”: very, very short stories (that I was tying to photos on my Instagram feed). However, Instagram became less fun as they constantly altered their algorithm. I lost my [small, but fun] community there, and so I stopped sharing photos and stories at the same pace. Starting my PhD candidature in 2016 put the final nail in the lid of that particular coffin: my life became consumed with non-fiction.

Though I managed a few short essays and notes on the site during this time, the PhD only took more and more of my time and energy, up until I submitted my thesis in June 2020 – yes, three months after the COVID-19 pandemic started. At the same time, I was teaching the maximum allowable courseload to get the experience that would hopefully lead to a faculty role. So: still no time for “fun” writing.

My son was born in June 2021, introducing me to a whole new world of all-consuming thought patterns. While I was [am] often too tired to think, let alone write, I began to feel the “itch” again: the need to write.

February 2022 brought the faculty role that I had been working so hard to achieve, but I was right into the “fire”: the semester began only eleven days after I started in the role. And so 2022 was consumed with keeping my head above water with the job, and trying to be the best husband and father I could be.

Which brings us to 2023. My third year as a father, my eighth as a husband, my fourteenth in Australia, and my thirty-ninth on Earth.

And, as noted, nearly the tenth year of this site.

As The Girl and I settle into our new “normal”, I finally see not only a place for creative writing in my life, but also the need to do that writing. So, I have resolved to return to ToVa. There will be no broad theme to my posts. Mostly, I’ll write about whatever is on my mind at any given time. Sometimes this will be a movie I’ve just seen, sometimes it will be some photos I want to share. It will be consistently a record of my experience, and I hope that reading the posts will bring you some of the same joy that writing them will bring to me.

Know This: Motivating Yourself Can Be Difficult

Rupert is watching.

Questions often asked of me by people who frequent ToVa include: How do I find the time? How do I maintain the energy? How can I be so organized?

Confession: it’s not as easy as I try to make it look.

I started taking personal development seriously nearly three years ago. I’ve always chased opportunities to learn so when I say I began to take it seriously I mean that I began to pursue development with intention and purpose. It was the difference, I guess, between aimlessly surfing Wikipedia and actually chasing down intellectual resources on topics I was interested in learning more about. It truly changed my life.

This “awakening” coincidentally (but fortunately) coincided with the commencement of my graduate studies and for two and a half years these two segments of my life complemented each other in tremendously satisfying ways. I concluded my studies in early June this year and launched ToVa about a month later. I planned six months of Monday / Wednesday / Friday posts and got to work.

For the first two months this went swimmingly. I was having fun, I was learning new things and a few of my friends were coming along for the ride. Unfortunately, this didn’t last.

There were no posts last week and in the two weeks prior to that there were no Friday link posts. I had fallen behind and I began to let the Friday posts go so I could spend that time getting Monday and Wednesday posts caught up.

Last week was meant to be a week about sleep: sleeping better, leading to better health and improved focus on our goals. Ironically, my own sleep was suffering at the same time as the hours that I work at my day job shifted from day to night (meaning I finish work between midnight and 1:00 AM). I began to feel hypocritical and the voices that always ask me “how do you do it?” rang in my head, growing louder and more accusatory in tone. I felt like a fraud.

So I’m coming clean.

People… I got lazy. I stopped nurturing my systems and they atrophied and died.

The insights that I share on this blog are the ones that make the most sense to me. The methods I describe are not always the methods that I use; the suggestions are not always ones that I employ in my own life. There is truly no one size fits all solution to enhanced productivity or relentless high achievement, there are only things worth trying.

Even the very best of us – and, for the record, I do not count myself among the best – do not knock it out of the park on every swing. The important thing (and pardon the well-tread cliché here) is that we keep swinging; that we find better ways to swing or different attitudes to bring to the plate.

While I have fallen behind on the blog I have also fallen behind on my novel. Both are passion projects for me and – having completed my studies – I have plenty of time to work on both. I have woken up every day over the past three weeks with a goal to write and most days I went to sleep (too late) having written nothing.

What happened?

Even our passion projects can come to feel like work. Mix in a day job (with irregular hours), a relationship, planning for a wedding, a broken camera, etc. and you begin to justify taking time off here and there to unwind. That is, you make excuses and convince yourself they’re good ones.

I’m not even saying it’s not okay to take a break. What I am saying is that your passion projects will not complete themselves. Eventually you will need to get back to work.

We all fall off the horse sometimes.

Only the best of us – and that can include you and me – possess the strength of character to climb back on and continue riding.

So I’m doubling down and inviting you to do so with me. I’m working on my blog and my novel every day – what are you working on?

Welcome to Toward Vandalia!

IMG_2142 (1024x693)

Welcome to Toward Vandalia, a personal development blog that I hope will empower you to discover your truest self and maximize the potential of that self. The aim of ToVa is not to be an airy-fairy feel-goodery that encourages you to “Reach for your dreams!”. No, the goal here is to offer practical insights and wisdom. I do want you to reach for your dreams, of course, but I’m hoping to help you conceptualize those dreams before developing and implementing a plan of attack based in the realities we all face out in the real world.

What you will not see: a poster featuring a hand reaching for the sunny sky and a caption telling you to “Reach!”

What you will see: advice on engaging in constructive introspection that will indicate where you should reach and practical tips on how to get there one step at a time.

That said, inspiration will feature on the site (on Wednesdays, specifically) but it’s going to be practical inspiration in the vein of real life success stories or lessons to be gleaned from creative works. You’ve probably read stories similar to the ones I will share, but the mission of this site will be to help you bridge that gap between “Man, I wish I had the ability to do that” and showing yourself – by doing it! – that you’ve always had that ability.

Each week is going to have a prevailing theme. The meat is going to appear on Monday and Wednesday, while Friday will feature curated content gathered from around the interwebs that particular week.

Monday is going to set the pace with a longer thought piece and discussion of the theme that week. These themes might be general like “leadership”, but the Monday post will typically have a specific point to make on the topic. Occasionally the topic will be quite specific – such as a specific tool that will help you achieve forward momentum – and I’ll break the article into parts so as to give you the option of reading a brief overview or an in-depth walk-through.

Wednesday will give you a mid-week blast of practical inspiration. Typically this will fall in line with the theme of the week but every now and again something ‘breaking’ might be featured instead.

Friday will close out the week and give you a few pieces to check out over the weekend. Typically these links will be from that week (a “best of” the articles that I found helpful) but I’ll also include “throwback” links when they’re appropriate matches to the theme of the given week.

The Monday posts may sometimes be broken into two and concluded on the Tuesday. Off-topic issues that I feel might interest some segment of the readership (but may not appeal to the whole readership) may occasionally appear, but always on an “off” Tuesday or Thursday.

The goal will always be to get you thinking constructively about yourself and your goals. Whether your ambitions are to tackle and finally complete a pet project (like that novel you’ve been “working on” for the last ten years) or to scale the ladder at your company, ToVa aims to help you along the way.

I hope that you find the content to come both helpful and interesting. If you ever have any comments or suggestions, I urge you to get in touch via the “Contact” link in the main menu. Alternatively, feel free to comment on any given article so that the readership at large can benefit from the ensuing discussion.

Thanks for reading – best of luck out there!

Montani Semper Liberi,
J. Greg Joachim
J. Greg Joachim