I have a tendency to become obsessed with things.
I have a hard time doing anything casually. Sometimes the thing I’m obsessed with is lucrative, like cybersecurity. Sometimes it is a video game and thousands of hours get sunk into an RPG - I run communities about that game, I plan nights and travel about that game, and I want to become the best I can be at that game.
Sometimes I’m obsessed with a person, or group of people. And I get the rush of making new relationships. Falling in love. Even love of the friend variety where you find a person and think “oh yeah, I’m going to keep this one.”
Often I’m obsessed with money. Not obsessed in a healthy way, but in a “I’m always concerned about it” kind of way. Transparency here, I don’t come from money and never really had a nest egg. Traumatic and very expensive disasters in the last 5 years have set me back about a decade financially too.
Hobbies are easy to hyper-fixate on as well. Most recent hyper-fixations include my newsletter, YouTube, and podcast, which started as hobbies and have now flourished into a company that employs people. A fun side effect of spending too much time on one thing.
On a call with a friend this week, he shared with me, “I’ve learned to stop focusing on what the audience wants to read or watch and just talk about what I’m obsessed with. And I feel like I’ve been watching everything you put out, and I can just tell you’re not obsessed with it. So, what are you obsessed with?”
Sometimes big mirrors being held up to you are hard to look into.
Am I obsessed with cybersecurity news?
I had to reflect on what my friend asked me and maybe what energy I was giving off to make him question it.
Here are some answers I found.
- I’m obsessed with people. Connection is a drug. Simply being loud on the Internet has led to finding people I call my best friends. I can walk into a room where I don’t see a single familiar face and make myself belong - it is majorly uncomfortable for about 5 minutes, and then it’s worth it. This was the same on Twitter. I was a college kid in a dorm, forcing myself into conversations with heads of security for Fortune 500 companies. This has paid off for over a decade. The newsletter is 46 weeks old at the time of writing this and has opened more doors than I can explain here.
- I’m obsessed with storytelling. Turning tech mumbo jumbo into digestible content that appeals to both cybersecurity experts and laymen altogether is a skill I’ve relied heavily on over the years; I enjoy it, too. I’m inspired by Jack Rhysider’s Darknet Diaries in this sense. It is a superpower not many have, and I truly believe it facilitated much of my career.
- I’m obsessed with mental health. I started Vulnerable U to address not only cybersecurity news but also to address the collective mental health of our industry. The newsletter has started to lean more toward cybersecurity news, and YouTube went all the way to news because that is what folks wanted to consumer there. This blog you’re reading now has been the way I’ve kept the mental health and personal growth side of things kicking.
That last one is where the conversation with my friend went. Helping folks on their mental health journey realize they’re not alone, and that we’re all struggling to some degree, is something that I care deeply about.
This exercise has called me to lean into this side of my content more. So, here we are. Another edition of Vulnerable U accompanied by a blog about mental health in some capacity. Today I give you musings of obsession.
Zach has made Obsession his brand. In researching this post I came across his content and there are some gold nuggets in there.
Obsession is a luxury.
To fully invest in any one of the aforementioned like video games or other hobbies, it requires time, energy, and resources. Can you have an obsession that doesn’t cost money or take up too much time? I simply wouldn’t know because mine tap all three!
Perhaps, but generally speaking turning a hobby into an obsession means increasing the time spent on it at the very least.
Time, as we know, is also a luxury. I’m a full time employee, a dad, a husband, a pet owner, a homeowner. All of which are luxuries today, in my opinion. They can be hard to come by, hard to maintain, and easy to lose.
You’ve heard someone say, “Protect your peace.” If you haven’t, maybe you’ve heard, “It’s not worth your energy.” Or possibly, “Don’t spend another second thinking about that.” All of these encouragements are in effort to put energy atop the pedestal where it belongs. Energy is finite. It is a limited resource. We can fuel it with positive influences, healthy habits, and high quality company; or we can drain it with toxicity, unhealthy choices, and relationships with no boundaries.
Devoting time to an obsession means siphoning from a tank of energy. That tank is charged with powering the various parts of life - mental, physical, emotional, social and spiritual. Generally, we do energy math by noting that with enough fuel going back into the tank, we can safely access energy for something else. For example, if I get enough sleep (fuel), I can have the energy for a typical day at work and home. Also, if I spend time in therapy, meditating, going to sound baths and other healing practices (fuel), I will have the energy to manage the stress that comes along with say, owning your own business. Friends who inspire me (fuel) allow me to continue producing meaningful content each week.
So for the purposes of this blog its recognizing how many resources I have at my disposal that allow me the time and energy to fixate on something.
Which brings us to money. The icky part to talk about when we think of luxury. Games cost money. Many obsessions, healthy or otherwise, cost money. YouTube’s most popular creator, Mr. Beast, is a great example of obsession leading to success. He has spent many years of his life fine tuning his videos, creating some of the most attention grabbing, hard to put down content that we consume today. This obsession brings him millions of dollars and followers. He’s openly discussed how he feels bad for folks who feel called to have kids because it doesn’t allow them to be all in on their obsession anymore. He says kids aren’t in the cards for him because they would be a distraction from his immense laser focus on his obsession.
The pool cleaner, dog walker, and nanny cost money. Each of those gives me the time and energy to spend on other things. I’ve freed up my time to work, play, and socialize in a way that allows me to show up for each of those things with a full tank.
Making obsession sustainable.
When our math gets skewed or we forget to fuel our tanks, our obsessions can lead to broken promises, failed relationships, and negative impacts on family life. Some of the things we can fixate on that often lead to a drain on our time, energy, and resources are unhealthy beliefs or patterns in behavior. Preoccupation with weight. Body image. Productivity. Success. Accomplishing. Negative self talk.
The stories of examples of these would exhaust you. It’s all too common. The beauty industry and capitalism that gives us and then subsequently feeds off these obsessions is an entirely different blog post.
The good news here is that there is a world where these are in balance. Where negative self talk becomes constructive feedback. Preoccupation with productivity, accomplishment, and success evolves to self actualizing. As Zach Pogrob suggests, obsessions can be healthy, sustainable, and well intentioned. But how do we get there?
The key is to check in. Part of a longer one of my favorite Anthony Bourdain quotes, “Check in on yourself.” Where is your time being spent? Is that how you want to prioritize it? What gives you energy? What drains you? How are you fueling up? Are you doing ok? Are these thoughts helpful or hurtful? Do you have access to what you need? There’s a longer journey here. Maybe meant for a part two. For now, I’ll leave you with a challenge of your own.
You guessed it. What are YOU obsessed with?
I find sometimes I talk to people who aren’t obsessed with anything. It’s not in their personality. They are very good at enjoying things casually but otherwise just kind of living life. If this is you, spill it. What’s your secret? I could use a tool or two that helps me enjoy the moment and let some fixations fizzle out before they take me for all I’m worth. If that’s not you, however, and you find you are locked in on something at any given time - what is it? And furthermore, let’s take it to the heart.
What would you do if money was no object? Where would you live? How would you spend your days? Someone posed it like this, “It’s the year 2025, and you give 2024 a 10/10. What happened that year?” Are you still fixated on that one thing? Have you started spending your time in some other way? Is there a goal or milestone you’ve reached?
Truly, I can’t wait to hear what you come up with. Please share your thoughts about this post and the challenge I presented. Share your obsessions and hyper-fixations with me. I’m always in the market for a new one! Thank you for your time today. I know it’s hard to come by.