Interested vs. Committed

The one thing that changed my life was when I read about interest vs commitment. Too often I hear people wish that things were different, or they want things they will never have or accomplish. They don’t know what it means to be committed to something, so they wander through life like a leaf on a stream, never knowing they’re holding themselves back and maybe they blame others or circumstance.

Someone asked if they should just give up on the OSCP certification. They had failed it multiple times. They said they had learned so much and stated that hacking is their passion and it brings them joy. Giving up wasn’t in their nature but after three failures of the OSCP exam, they were doubting themselves.

If it’s your passion and brings you joy, that tells me that you shouldn’t give up and you should keep trying.

Let me tell you about the revelation that changed my life and led to getting OSCP. Ask yourself if you’re interested or committed. If you’re interested, you’ll make excuses and give up or only do what you said you were going to do when it’s easy or convenient. When you’re committed, you don’t make nor accept any excuses. You’ll find a way to get it done and nothing can stand in your way. It’s a mindset. A few years ago when I was trying to change my life I read about “interested vs committed” and applied it to my life. I stopped sleeping in late and skipping my morning workout. I lost 35 pounds and felt great. I got the CCNA certification that I had been working on for years but never finishing because every time I got close, overtime work would get in the way of studying and I’d put it off.

I got to a point in my career when I realized that all I wanted to do was hack stuff and be a pentester after years of dabbling in it during my IT career. I enrolled in PWK. It was an emotional roller coaster. There were numerous times that I thought that maybe I just wasn’t cut out for being a pentester and I doubted myself. But each time I’d get a good nights sleep and hit it hard the next day and eventually have a breakthrough and root a box in the lab. I was working overtime. I needed some sleep and give my mind a break after an exhausting day at work but I also needed more time for the labs. What did I do? I was committed so I started waking up at 4:30 every weekday morning to work on the PWK lab before work. It didn’t take me 3 tries to pass the OSCP exam, but I did get three lab extensions before I took the test. After each lab time was up I’d take a break for a few weeks to clear my head and focus on learning things that I perceived to be weaknesses then I’d hit the PWK lab again and get further than before.

It didn’t end there. I thought it would be easy getting a pentesting job after getting OSCP. It wasn’t. I wasn’t able to relocate and I was told that nobody wants to let a newbie pentester work remote. Remote work was for experienced pentesters. I didn’t give up because I was committed. I took other security jobs that allowed me to do some pentesting and kept gaining experience. I found 3 zero days in web apps while I was working on sharpening my web app pentesting skills because I knew that was a weakness of mine and I knew that’s where the demand was for pentesting. I added those CVE’s to my resume. I continued to wake up at 4:30 every weekday morning to study, lab, and sharpen my skills. I kept interviewing and failing because I didn’t have consulting experience or I had gaps in my knowledge. Each interview allowed me to realize where I was weak. After each interview I would study and lab more and strengthen those weaknesses. Eventually I was hired to be a pentester. Now I never feel like I’m working because I love what I do. I still wake up between 04:30 and 05:00 every weekday to have quiet time for studying and trying new tools, techniques, and exploits in my lab.

I may never be the smartest person or a rockstar hacker, but I’ll never stop working to improve because I love what I do and I’m committed to it. When I think about retirement, I see myself looking out over a lake view at my laptop and hacking stuff, doing bug bounties instead of bingo. (Edit: I’m now one step closer to that goal as I recently bought a home on a lake! Another one of my goals achieved due to my level of committment)

Some may think that I was just privileged and others aren’t so lucky. All I can say to that is that we all have to start somewhere and we have to change ourselves because that’s all we can control. I don’t believe I was privileged because it took me decades of hard work and sacrifice to get to where I am today. I started out in a bad way due to growing up with the one thing that’s worse than a missing father, an alcoholic and abusive father. Luckily I didn’t do anything bad enough to get an arrest record, I was just lazy. I dropped out of school. I blamed my failures on my circumstances and others instead of taking responsibility for myself. I joined the Navy as an E-1 and put in 20 years of hard work and sacrifice. I learned the difference between interested and committed. I got my high school diploma along the way and took college courses when I could. Once I retired, I didn’t rest. At one point I was working my full time plus overtime job during the day, taking a full time college courseload at night, and working part time computer repair gigs on the weekends. For about three years I lived on 4.5 hours of sleep each weeknight. It was unhealthy, but I was committed and got it done. Nobody gave me anything that I hadn’t worked for.

At one point I was giving intro to hacking presentations to an infosec group at a local college. Everyone in the group WANTED to get into infosec and penetration testing. Over a period of months of presenting and getting to know some people in the group, it was obvious that very few of them were actually willing to put in the work to get there. They weren’t committed.

What’s your top goal right now? Are you interested or committed to achieving it?

“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.” ~ Ken Blanchard

Written on November 19, 2018