You’re either determined to do something, or you’re not



The piece, “Start living today,” of 6 February 2000, contains the following paragraph: “The times when I’ve written the most and produced the kind of material I have a preference for have been times when I was bored – when I not only had a few hours every day to think and write but days and weeks of doing whatever I wanted. Of course, those times were unfortunately also when I had the least amount of money, when I couldn’t even afford proper cigarettes.”

On Saturday, 9 November 2019, I wrote the following comment on the above paragraph: “I was successful in 1995 and the first half of 1996 in my attempt to create the life I wanted – I was left alone and I had time to think and write. If I had to go out and do things to make money it would have messed things up. Korea worked out from the second half of 1996 because I wanted to leave. So, once again, I created a successful way out – even if it meant spending a few hours a day making money. I complained a lot about my financial situation, but what I wanted most in 1995 and in 1996 I got.”

* * *

Interesting thought about things I desired, and what then manifested:

* I wanted to study at Stellenbosch University in 1989/1990 – finally did it in 1991, despite the fact that I didn’t have enough money for the move, and had no place to stay

* I wanted to study theology – did so, to a large extent, by focusing on Biblical Studies, and then Religious Studies

* Did not want to pursue by 1995 what I saw as a conventional career, and I didn’t want to do work that I considered too mundane – I did not

* I still had to make money – Korea was manifested by the end of 1995, even though I didn’t have money for a plane ticket

* Wanted to return to South Africa after almost two years in Korea – I did return to South Africa

* Wanted to get away from the dead-end in which I found myself in Johannesburg in October 1998 and I needed to earn more money, and I wanted to write – Taiwan was manifested, even though I once again didn’t have money for a plane ticket

* In Taiwan, I wanted to spend more time writing, and less time teaching – this happened by 2001

* Wanted to work from home by 2003 and earn more money than I could with English classes – received numerous ideas but did poorly with execution

* Was lonely by the beginning of 2004 and needed companionship – met a wonderful woman who I thought was completely out of my league, but I nevertheless acted correctly or appropriately enough to attract her (was also after I wrote material that I probably would not have written if I had met her earlier in 2004)

* Was enthusiastic again from 2005 to work from home and earn more money than I could with English classes – once again received numerous ideas, but once again failed in correct execution

Why did Stellenbosch, Korea and Taiwan work out, but not “make money from home”? One reason is certainly because Stellenbosch, Korea and Taiwan were specific targets, with strong emotion behind it and strong visual results. Make money… from home? Not exactly. After all, I was already at home; I was already working when I was at home even though I didn’t make money, and I already had money – more money is to a significant degree an abstract concept.


Did I burn a hole in the wall with my focus on Stellenbosch in 1990, on Korea in 1996, and on Taiwan in late 1998? No. But I was determined.

“Determined” is another of those words, like “focus” and “desire”, which are difficult to pin down. You have to focus on something specific to make a success of it. You have to manifest a strong desire to achieve a goal. You need to be determined to achieve your goal. When do you know if you have enough desire? When do you know if you are focusing enough on something? When do you know if you are determined enough?

When I decided in the second half of 1990 that I was going to go to Stellenbosch in 1991 and that nothing was going to stop me, I made a list of steps that had to be taken. Again – I didn’t burn a hole in my bedroom wall with laser focus, but I knew what steps I needed to take; I took the steps, and I spoke and thought as if what I desired was going to be realised. When I decided Korea was the solution to the dead-end in which I found myself by the first quarter of 1996, I did what needed to be done. Ironically, I wasn’t enthusiastic about Korea specifically, but I knew the process would be empowering. By the end of 1998, I was certainly not enthusiastic about the idea of teaching English again in Northeast Asia, and Taiwan was never high on my list of places to do so, but again, I took a series of steps with the determination of one who knew there was no other way out.

It would therefore seem that desire and determination to accomplish something or to get somewhere are essential. Then you need to know what needs to be done. And you need to focus on getting the steps done accurately enough and on time.

Laser focus with which you can burn a hole in the wall? I really don’t know what that means. But I do know that you are either determined to do something or you are not. And you know where that marker lies within yourself.


To summarise:

1. Know what steps you need to take.

2. Take the steps.

Determination, desire, visual result, and focus all play a role in both points. If you have a strong desire to do something and you have a visual result in your mind’s eye, you will spend the time and put in the effort to figure out what steps you need to take to achieve the result. And if you are determined and you focus on what you’re doing, you will take the steps. But it’s no more complex than that: Know what steps you need to take, and take the steps.