Knowing when to stop really starts with how you broke your skill down. You stop when you’ve mastered or close-to-mastered the mini-skill.
I was sure I would hate writing this piece. Well, I was wrong.
Yesterday for lunch I met with ex-colleagues I had not seen since I had left my job a little over a year ago. When asked the inevitable question about what’s going on in my life, I realized how transformative that last year was.
The turning point was probably ten months ago when I decided I would learn three new skills every month. That completely shattered my belief system about myself and the world. Skill learning, then, somewhat became one of my greatest joy in life and I became much more driven.
It’s when I had this mindset shift that I started revisiting the things I thought were not for me. What if, somehow, with my new-found skills, I could end up liking them?
And that’s the lesson here:
Regularly try things before judging them. Start from a positive attitude and you’ll realize that everything’s not all bad!
1. Writing non-fiction
I don’t know about you, but my University almost killed writing for me — reports after reports on subjects I was forced to write about. It’s almost ten years later that I decided it was the time for me to step up my writing game as part of the 3 skills I learn every month. I thought that writing every day for a month would be a chore, but it turns out I couldn’t stop writing after a month. I’ve been doing it for 9 months now and don’t see myself stopping any time soon.
Of all the things on this list, this is probably the one I was sure I would hate the most, even though many successful people do it and Benjamin P. Hardy swears by it. When I finally bit the bullet and bought a pen and a notebook and started writing in it, I realized I had so much in my head I needed to clear, without ever realizing it. In my first session alone, I wrote for 3 hours straight!
3. Writing fiction
For at least 15 years, I haven’t read a fiction novel. I guess then it makes sense for me to 1) not be interested in doing it myself, and 2) feeling like I could probably not pull it off. Well, it turns out all those years playing video games was not all a waste. I wrote my own stories for Soul Reaper, my game, and for Viking Boutique. And, even though I find it hard, I’m thoroughly enjoying writing fiction. It’s a way for me to escape reality and express my creativity.
I had disdain for broccoli, for, truthfully, I have no idea. Maybe it was the idea that I was eating a miniature tree? Who knows… Turns out, when I was doing research on great healthy foods while I was working out back in January, I understood its benefits and decided to give it a go. Well, broccoli is secretly amazing! I’ve rarely seen a vegetable that absorbs all the flavours from all the other ingredients it sits with. Broccoli is now in a lot of my meals.
During the same time as above, I realized that asparagus also had great benefits. And because I was too afraid to eat broccoli, the second best I could find for me was asparagus. I wasn’t happy with that discovery, but you know what? When you don’t overcook them, they’re actually quite good!
6. Business Networking
I’m an introvert. Networking, for me, is “against my nature”. But lately, I’ve come to realize that I might be an ambivert, the middle-ground between introvert and extrovert. Before living in Spain, I dreaded the idea of joining events and talking to strangers. When I managed to mostly overcome that fear, business networking is surprisingly addictive.
7. Video chatting with “strangers”
The first time I was approached to chat with someone online, I was taken aback. Now, I said “yes” because it was a writer I truly respect on Medium.com, but it was a first for me. I write a lot, but when it comes to having genuine discussions, I feared my conversations would run dry quickly. I was wrong. We’re still frequently in touch and always have things to say. I did it with other writers on Medium.com and outside and it has always been great.
For the longest time, that was the skill I thought there was no way I would ever learn since I’m a logical person after all. Well, like any skill, you can learn it, no matter how impossible you think it is in your head. Drawing was the first skill I wanted to pick up when I started learning 3 new skills a month. I poured my heart and soul into it every morning and made serious progress using Youtube tutorials.
Here’s an example after about three weeks (the original sketch is not my own):
That, along with Journaling, was something I thought would be dumb. At least for me. I can’t shut that monkey brain of mine, so I was sure meditation would not work on me. What I didn’t realize was that it’s a skill, and you can learn to be better at it. When I did get better at it, I was hooked. Now I wish I’d do it more regularly, but I still do it when I need it.
10. Power napping
I wrote about power napping quite a few times. It’s something I do almost every day and has sort of became my superpower. As an eternal insomniac, power napping is a skill that took me years to perfect. It took so long that I really wanted to give up, but I’m glad I pushed through. Power napping is the only way I can have enough energy to go through my afternoons and function at peak state.
11. Leg Workouts
Is it just me or leg workouts just don’t seem as enticing as upper body workouts? People talk about squats, lunges, etc. They never appealed to me, until one day, I tried different variants and saw results for the first time in my life. I had given up on growing my legs but discovering those changed my life.
In Canada, rock-climbing is all the rage, with gyms opening up every week. I had been wanting to try it out for a long time, but I’m afraid of heights, so I was sure it wouldn’t be for me. But I tried bouldering and it was amazing. The problems are not high, but are highly technical — perfect for my logical brain!
- What are some things you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up liking?
- What made you change your mind?
- Why did you revisit doing it in the first place?
Let us know in the comments below!
Life is too short for hate. Try things. A lot of times you’ll realize it’s not as bad as you thought it would be. Start everything with a positive mindset. It’s okay not to like everything, but life is so damn better when you concentrate on loving things!
You can do this!
Thanks for reading, clapping, and sharing! :)
All contributions are from real entrepreneurs, curtesy of Arena Virtual Coworking
“I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.” — George Bernard Shaw
Last week I had a nice chat with Margo Aaron, the founder of Arena Virtual Coworking. One aspect I found particularly interesting is how she vets the members to join her co-working. She interviews every single candidate to see if 1) they’re real entrepreneurs, and 2) if they’d be a good match.
I like the first part: Real entrepreneurs. It seems that nowadays, a lot of people have become self-proclaimed entrepreneurs, or as some put it: Wantrepreneurs.
Are you a real entrepreneur?
I asked myself that question too a while back. I had started 5 businesses at that point and still I was pondering on that question.
What defines an entrepreneur anyway?
I had given this much thought. And through my experience as an entrepreneur myself and by surrounding myself with other entrepreneurs, I had come up with a self-assessment “test” to know, once and for all, who’s a real entrepreneur. Check it out after read the tasty quotes on this post.
*The following are in the order in which I received them from the entrepreneurs:
Online Business Growth Strategist
You’re leaving money on the table, friend. LET’S FIX THAT.
“Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.” — Andy Warhol
I had this quote printed on my business cards when I started my business and a print of it hangs over my desk to this day. It’s a reminder to me that entrepreneurship is inherently a creative act. It is art and requires attention to nuance, instinct and chasing ideas that pop up in your subconscious just as much as it requires knowledge of best practices, cash flow management and team building.
“It takes a checkbook to change the world.” — Mother Teresa (source uncertain)
I return to this quote every time I feel guilty for focusing on my business when there’s disaster or hardship in the world that makes trying to grow a business seem like a privileged or silly pursuit. But then I remember that I can’t drop everything and solve every problem in the world- but I can grow my business so I have the financial and emotional bandwidth to aggressively support those who are on the front lines.
“The trick was to stay hammered enough to write courageously but stay sober enough to see the screen.” — Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer
This is an extreme quote and not one that I live literally (I don’t drink) and it still has a place in my daily reminders because it’s such a great description of what it feels like to toe the line of vulnerability and visibility required to build a business. I’d venture to guess every entrepreneur has struggled to toe the line between sharing without a filter in order to be true to themselves, and also being present enough to edit that truth so others can relate and take in the important message without getting caught up in the drama of the share.
“The most exhausting thing in life is being insincere.” — Anne Morrow Lindbergh
This is a tamer version of the quote above that means a similar thing to me.
CEO of ScaleSpark
We make your SaaS tools talk to each other so you can grow faster AND keep your sanity
“Everything sucks at first, very few things suck forever” — John Gorman in this article
Being an entrepreneur is such a roller coaster — some days you’re so excited, some days you’re terrified. Every day is something new, something you’re testing or improving or changing. This is my reminder that when you’re trying something new or learning something new, you’re probably not going to be the best at it, and it’s going to be frustrating and hard, but that it won’t always be that way, and to just keep pushing through.
“All limitations are self imposed” — Ernest Holmes
No one can put limits on us like we can put on ourselves. I have this one written on my whiteboard in my office to encourage me to think about what limits might I be putting on myself. Am I limiting my potential or the potential of my business in some way? To just stop and take a minute to see if there are any beliefs or thoughts that might be holding me back from what I really want.
“Done is better than perfect”
As entrepreneurs, there’s at least a little bit of a perfectionist in all of us. This is maybe less of an inspiring quote and more of a mantra — a reminder that there is a point at which you have a perfectly fine product and it’s better to put it out there in the world than get stuck in perfection paralysis.
Founder of Arena Virtual Coworking
Your Spouse Doesn’t Want To Hear Another Story About Your Business — But we do.
“You cannot invent the future if you care too much what the old world order thinks” — Cindy Gallop, from this talk
Every time I get stuck caring what other people think, I remember this quote. The people who transform the world are not “popular” or “cool” but rather have the “courage to withstand naysayers” (to quote Malcolm Gladwell). Transformation starts with the right attitude of mind. Cindy’s quote always reminds me that if people are looking at me thinking, “You’re a weirdo” then I’m doing something right.
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue” — Maya Angelou
I’ve tried to disprove this SO many times, but it always comes back to having courage. Courage is the foundation of everything else you want in life. I remind myself that it’s my duty to stand up and be courageous. To lead by example. Because there’s a trickle-down effect to courage — if I’m more courageous, you are too.
“The road to hell is paved with adverbs” — Stephen King, On Writing
King was explaining that a sentence is stronger when you say what you mean, without all the bells and whistles. Adverbs dilute the power of sentence. They try too hard. They’re superfluous and unnecessary. Truth is more powerful when you say what you mean (I really wanted to write, “The truth is a lot more powerful when you just say what you mean.” Get it?). It’s a useful reminder that you should be deliberate with your words. And to stop trying so hard. You can be powerful without all the adornment. I think it’s a nice metaphor for life and business.
Cofounder of Caveday
Maximize Productivity With Deep Work — Events and Workshops for You and Your Team
“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us show up and get to work.” — Chuck Close
Chuck Close is a famous hyperrealist painter, and I’ve always been inspired by his work, especially in the last 20 years since he’s been paralyzed. This quote reminds me to not wait around for “right” or “perfect” but instead to trust the process. Great things happen one step at a time, great ideas don’t come fully formed, and greatness doesn’t happen in a lightning bolt of creative genius. They take labor and process.
“Fear is good…the more scared we are of a… calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” — Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”
“The War of Art” is a brilliant book that reminds me why I started. Every time I re-read it I get new inspiration for pushing through another bout of resistance. And the reason I get stuck so many times (and stuck doesn’t always feel like stuck– sometimes it just feels like doing the dishes are more important right now) is because I’m afraid. I’m afraid of what comes next, afraid of people not liking what I’m making, afraid of not knowing what comes next or being found out as an imposter. And being reminded that fear is an indicator of important work is always a great reminder.
“When you’re in a rut, you have to question everything except your ability to get out of it.” — Twyla Tharp, “The Creative Habit”
This is another book I go back to for insights and perspective every couple years. This, like Chuck Close, reminds me about process and about putting in the sweat to get what I want. This quote also reminds me that as a creator and a creative person, that I got here because of curiosity. And that the best way to keep going is just to ask different questions. To turn the box on its head and ask different questions from a different perspective. Because to get unstuck is not about finding the answer. It’s about searching for the right questions that will feed the process of answering it.
Creator of The Wordshops
D.I.Y. + D.I.T. [Do-It-Together] Copywriting Courses For Unconventional Entrepreneurs
“Know who you are, and deliver at all times.” — RuPaul
The first is from RuPaul, and it’s my favorite go-to quote for all things personal branding and “showing up” online. This idea of always “knowing who you are” and “delivering” is a vital standard for business owners, as we must project consistent confidence in what we know and how we deliver it, and commit to showing up as that force and voice in everything we do for our businesses, from the social posts and emails we write, to who we are at events.
I’ll add to that: learning to exude confidence even when I don’t feel it has me through some really tough times (as every entrepreneur finds themselves in the dungeon of self doubt at some point.)
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” — Antoine de Saint Exupéry
The second is, hands down, the most inspiring quote I can share about anything copy, sales, or persuasion-focused. Choosing to inspire and serve others always goes miles and miles further than giving your audience a to-do list, or going straight for the hard sale. Always aim to help people dream first, and then give them the tools to do.
“If you make mistakes, you’re learning. If you repeat them, well… then you’re just doing a bad job.” — My dad
And finally, this last one is from my Dad. Growing pains are just a fact of life, especially when you run a business. Fall on your face, get your hands dirty. Just don’t plan to spend the rest of your life with messy hands and your butt in the air. Use your mistakes as lessons learned, and move forward. “
- What quotes spoke to you the most?
- Who is most like you as an entrepreneur? As a person?
- What are your own top 3 quotes? Why?
What I personally find interesting from the varied quotes from these entrepreneurs is that I feel like I can relate to them all. Even though, as entrepreneurs, we all work on our own things, there are things that unify us, and that couldn’t be made more obvious than through these relatable quotes.
I repeat this over and over throughout my stories, but here is my own favourite quote:
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” — Jim Rohn
Do you surround yourself with other entrepreneurs?
I say you should! That’s why I love coworking spaces. That’s why I love good networking events. As the Arena’s website says: my wife doesn’t want to hear another story about my business, so it’s nice to surround myself with like-minded people. Try it too!
You can do this!
Thanks for reading, sharing, and following! :)
Looking forward to reading your comments!
Who doesn’t want to be mentally stronger?
Hey guys, no one has time for long introductions, so we’ll get right down to it.
I’ve tested these 5 methods for almost a year each and they’ve greatly augmented my mental strength. They’re backed by famous organizations, famous people, and famous quotes from famous organization and people!
1. Work Out, Even If Just a Little
I used to have periods of time where I didn’t work out for months, or even years sometimes. Not this year. Like a lot of people, I used to think that working out was costly, both in money and time, both of which I don’t always have a lot of.
No matter, in January, I decided to go to the most expensive gym in Málaga and take my health into my own hands. Once it became a habit to workout, the results were phenomenal — not only did I become in the best shape I had ever been, but I had so much more mental strength as well.
I became mentally stronger — I was sleeping better and it felt like my memory had improved.
But don’t take my word for it, here’s what helpguide.org has to say on that:
“Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts overall mood.” — helpguide.org
As a nomad, it’s hard to find a steady place to work out from. When I was on the go again, I had to create a workout routine for myself. Back in February, I posted about one simple full-body workout I was doing that gave me great results:
Start with a small challenge of doing 50–100 of one type of exercise through one day. I had started with pushups.
Can’t do more than 10 in one go?
That’s fine, just do it 5–10 times throughout the day. Your growth will be faster than you expect. Within a few days, you’ll already have doubled your number of repetitions in one session. I’ve seen that with everyone who joined my fitness group back in Málaga.
Get yourself an accountability partner! Do it with someone else and you’ll double your motivation. Do it with 10 other people and you’ll 10x your motivation! This is truer than you’d expect. There were days where I didn’t feel like taking part in the fitness group, but at least two were motivated, and all of a sudden, everyone joined in, even if only two were motivated to start with.
2. Write For Yourself
This has been incredibly more powerful than I would ever have expected it. You may not guess it from the 300+ stories I’ve written in less than 8 months, but I’m a man of a few words when it comes to speech. It’s not that I’m particularly shy — though I am introverted — it’s just that I guess I value people’s time. I don’t like to tell my story to people who don’t ask for it.
In writing, I can do whatever I want. No one has to read what I write. I write about whatever comes to mind. When I write publicly, I think of myself first. I reflect on the lessons I’ve learned over the years, the things that inspired me to do what I do, the strategies I’ve learned to become more productive and learn more, the lessons learned traveling and writing, and more.
It’s somewhat like a public diary for me, and it keeps me accountable. If the lessons I learned are not of value to the reader, I usually don’t publish and keep it to myself.
But back in January, I started journaling as well. An idea I thought would be dumb, but I instantly filled in 7 pages of notes in less than 2 hours. I was supposed to journal for 15 minutes…
Writing for myself, both on Medium and in my journal has made me mentally stronger by increasing my clarity and awareness of my situation and helped me fight procrastination by being accountable to my readers.
I even did that for a week with incredible results:
Grab a pen and paper, go in nature, and start writing whatever comes to mind. Everyone I personally recommend this technique too are uncertain of the usefulness of this method, but without fail, they were all proven wrong. They all report having gained so much clarity within a single one-hour session of writing whatever comes to mind.
Do it every day after waking up. Your subconscious does so much work for you overnight. Don’t let all that valuable work go to waste by checking your phone as soon as you wake up, putting yourself in reactive mode and wasting all the creative juice you got from your subconscious.
3. Surround Yourself With Motivated People
It’s no secret that this quote from Jim Rohn is one of my favourite quotes of all times:
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” — Jim Rohn
The first time I read or heard it, I reflected back on who influenced my life.
I took note of the five people I had surrounded myself with the most at 3-month intervals for the past 2–3 years, during college, during high school, and when I was younger.
I couldn’t believe how true his statement was. I didn’t grow up in a family that cared much for education. In fact, out of my 3 brothers, only two of us even finished high school. The results are even worse in my extended family.
I started working in farms at the age of 8, being surrounded by people way above my age. I hung out with people 5–10 times my age. In high school, I felt like everyone was immature… go figure!
I wasn’t particularly good in school until I met my wife and my good friend Henri, who are both academical geniuses. Having the two around at least tripled my mental strength.
And this quote just kept getting truer over the years.
In the following post, top Medium influencers (and myself) share their own most influential quotes:
Take note of the 5 people you’ve spent the most time with, in the past 3–6 months. Note how they’ve influenced your life — positively or negatively. Noticed how the mentally stronger people around you are impacting your life and bringing you closer to your level.
If your average of 5 people has any negative outcome for you, try to find a way to turn that around. Some people will say drop these people — and sometimes that’s the right thing to do — but sometimes there’s something to say about having a diplomatic and honest conversation with the person. The results are sometimes staggering.
4. Constantly Learn New Things
This is potentially one of the most overlooked ways to get yourself mentally stronger. Common wisdom says: “In order to be successful, you have to focus on that one thing you’re good at and maximize your time on it.”
BS I say!
- How do you know what’s the one thing you’re truly good at if you haven’t even tried at least a thousand other things?
- In a world of 7.4 billion people, what are your odds of even be a top 1–3% in anything?
Wanna do great in this world?
Follow Robert Greene’s wisdom:
“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.”―Robert Greene, Mastery
The truth is, the more you learn, the faster you learn. The faster you learn, the more adaptable you become. The more adaptable you are, the stronger you are mentally. Learning 3 new skills every month has made me much stronger mentally.
Charles Darwin said, on the evolution of species:
“It is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” — Charles Darwin
I often write on this subject. Here’s one of my most recent story on that:
List down all the skills you’re currently using to perform all your productive activities. Now, list down all the skills you need to acquire to become the person you really want to be. How do you get there? How many skills have you listed? Which ones are easier to acquire currently, given your current skillset?
Commit to working on your skill building on a daily basis. Practice 1–3 skills every single day for a month and note the progress along the way. Try the approach I linked above.
5. Celebrate the Small Wins
Another greatly overlooking technique. I started doing that when I started writing.
In our day-to-day grind, we often forget the big picture. We forget the reason behind why we’re doing what we do. We “win” regularly yet don’t take the time to realize that not everything is going south.
Celebrating the small wins means acknowledging a small “victory” that happened. It could be a nice thing someone said to you, it could be a part of your work that went surprisingly well, it could be waking up at the right time without snoozing, etc. Anything that’s not negative really.
That puts you in a positive mindset. And being in a positive mindset greatly impacts how mentally strong you are or will be.
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” — Hellen Keller
During the course of each day, take a moment to reflect on what went right. Take note of it somewhere in a journal (paper or app). I use Evernote. When you’re feeling down and need a reminder of why you’re doing something in the first place, take that journal and view all your small wins.
Take note of the small win as soon as it happens. Review your win journal at the end of every day and shortly after waking up, before starting your day.
I’ve been studying how to get people to action the past month or so. It’s a very important thing because the only way to truly learn is by action. That’s why I’ve included the homework sections for each of the sections of this article.
So don’t waste your time simply having read the article, act on it. If you read this far, I’m sure there are at least one of the ways above that spoke to you.
Here they are, repeated again here:
- Start with a small workout challenge of doing 50–100 of one type of exercise through one day;
- Grab a pen and paper, go in nature, and start writing whatever comes to mind;
- Take note of the 5 people you’ve spent the most time with, in the past 3–6 months. Note how they’ve influenced your life — positively or negatively;
- List down all the skills you’re currently using to perform all your productive activities. Now, list down all the skills you need to acquire to become the person you really want to be; and
- During the course of each day, take a moment to reflect on what went right. Take note of it somewhere in a journal.
Do the homework(s). Some are surprisingly easy!
You can do this!
Thanks for reading, sharing and following! :)
First published here: https://medium.com/swlh/5-unexpected-ways-to-become-mentally-stronger-4ba34304a5c5
A simple way to get myself to action
“The battle for happiness begins on the pages of our calendars.” — Bob Goff
I rarely procrastinate on my productive activities. But damn do I procrastinate doing the other stuff I should be doing but don’t feel like: calling my dermatologist to book an appointment, get a much-needed haircut, replying to some people, etc.
Last weekend, I realized that I had not yet booked that dermatologist appointment I really needed. Actually, I knew I didn’t it, it had been sitting on the corner of every table from places I’ve stayed at in the past month.
The simple way I finally made that call? I just added it to my calendar. There’s something about having a set time you have to do it. My brain doesn’t want to leave the task unchecked, however much I don’t really want to do it.
So if there’s something I know I don’t want to do, I add it to my calendar. At least 90% of the time, I’ll do it. Even if it’s something I don’t want to do.
Blocking Time for Admin Tasks
Sometimes, the task is so small that it doesn’t really make sense to block a period of time for it. Another thing I’ve been doing for at least a month now that has worked great is blocking time for administrative things I have to do.
From 1pm to 2pm is when I do any admin work. Answering messages, scheduling social media posts, doing some outreach, booking appointments, doing some planning, pay credit cards, etc. Most of the time, I’ll put the things I’ve been procrastinating during that time block too.
Once I reach the end of my admin work block (2pm), I stop and carry over the stuff I haven’t had time to do yet for the next day. The goal is to put a little more than you think you can do and challenge yourself to do them all. I personally find that extremely motivating.
I know what you’re thinking: it’s too simple and it won’t work. Ever since I switched to TeamWeek 4 months back, I started procrastinating less on things I really should be doing. When I put my tasks on there, I do them.
“Yesterday was not your defining moment. The calendar moved forward; why not you?” — Dr. Steve Maraboli
For those of you who have:
- never tried it, give it a shot. Let us know in the comments how it’s working for you;
- tried it and it didn’t work, please leave a comment explaining why it didn’t work; or
- tried it and it worked, let us know your strategy in the comments.
You can do this!
Thanks for reading, clapping, sharing, and following! :)
First published here: https://medium.com/struggle-first-thrive-later/if-its-not-in-my-calendar-i-simply-won-t-do-it-e420b1b8ce4f
How and why I take a vacation frequently
“Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.” — Mark Black
I regularly take a vacation from all my productive activities.
This sentence alone probably brings a lot of questions in your mind:
- Maybe Danny doesn’t like his work?
- Maybe Danny just can’t handle the pressure?
- Maybe Danny is just a slacker?
- Something else?
The truth is, I love what I do. Everything I do.
I’ve been coping surprisingly good with pressure considering the number of things I do all at once, like running Power Level Studios, writing on Medium, writing two books, working on two other startups, etc.
And because of the above, you know I’m no slacker. On the opposite, I work so hard that to maintain a peak state of mind, resting is a necessity.
It’s like when you work out, the most productive thing you can do for gains is to rest in between to let the body recover.
Last month when I came back to Canada to do some paperwork and visit friends and family, I had lost my momentum. Seeing new groups of people every day and rushing to get paperwork done completely drained me mentally.
I had lost the hard-earned momentum I had built from the last 3 months in India.
I didn’t have to energy to wake up at my regular hour. I even skipped working out two or three days in the past 30 days. That was the thing I swore not to skip.
- I hardly made any progress on Soul Reaper.
- I stopped writing every day on Medium.
- I fell behind on all my activities.
I’m sure this kind of lost momentum happened to you as well at some point.
In fact, even though I’m a highly self-disciplined and productive guy, I’d say to happens to me regularly.
It’s normal. Our high-stress environments are not meant to be lived at high pace every day, 365 days a year.
Because of that loss of peak state, I decided to rest for a few days when I arrived in Toronto again a week ago.
Sometimes, you just gotta rest.
It’s not the first time I write about this subject, but it’s so true that I had to write about it again.
This morning is the day I returned to being productive again. I woke up at around 5am, my usual time. I’m excited to start my productive activities again.
Do you ever feel like that coming back from vacation?
I certainly did this morning. I also felt that way the last three or four vacations I’ve taken.
The biggest factor in my excitement to be productive again comes from having rested.
I’m talking about truly resting. A real vacation. A break from everything. No technology, unless necessary (like Maps or Translate).
I did not touch my computer at all until yesterday.
I forced myself not to think about work. I try to empower my team to be self-sufficient, so it’s easier to disconnect. I trust them.
And I think this is an important part of disconnecting. Prepare your colleagues before you go and trust in them. If you can do that, you’ll be able to free your mind.
During my vacation, I slept, napped, did light sightseeing, played video games, read, meditated and journaled.
Obviously, I’ve just started my productive activities again an hour ago, so it’s a bit pretentious of me to even mention “momentum” at this point.
But I’ve been through that cycle multiple times now, and it worked every time.
The thing is, if you have truly rested during your vacation, you’ll have an incredible amount of energy you’ll need to spend.
Use this energy. Get back to your most productive habits. Listen to your body and mind. Don’t overdo it. Follow the principles in my most actionable article:
Little by little, and with perfect consistency, your momentum will be back. Just not right away.
And that’s normal. It takes me 2–3 weeks to reach my peak state.
Once you’ve earned your hard-earned momentum back, you’re on your path to “success” again.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed and can’t perform at your peak performance, it’s time you start thinking about resting.
You don’t need to go away or even take a few weeks off. A few days is usually enough to “recharge your batteries”, provided you really do switch off during your break. No technology, no work, nothing.
Relax, get back to your hobbies. It’s your time, do things you want to do that doesn’t work towards your productive activities.
When you’re rested, get back to your productive habits and be consistent with them.
So next time you feel overwhelmed, dare take a break and rest and rebuild your momentum. You deserve it.
You can do this!
First published here: https://medium.com/swlh/dont-burn-yourself-out-just-do-this-for-your-sanity-s-sake-c00b398043d8
“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ― Robert Greene, Mastery
Nine months ago, I was a software engineer, specializing in backend and video games. If you ask me today, I don’t have a clear answer for you.
I remember the day everything changed. I was in Cambodia, working from the AngkorHUB co-working space, slowly chipping away at my video game, working 14 hour days, 6–7 days a week.
Needless to say, it was exhausting.
Have you been in a similar situation?
Then one day I woke up at 5:30am as usual, thinking to myself: “How can I learn more — faster?”. I started reading and watching videos on learning new skills and came across a video debunking the myth that learning a skill takes 10,000 hours of practice. Mastering a skill may take that much, but simply learning to be proficient at something can take much less time. As low as 15 hours from my experience.
In the video, the speaker went in front of an audience with a guitar. The short version is that he claimed to have never played guitar until 45 days ago. I was baffled when he started playing. To me, it sounded professional. He was playing existing songs, but also improvising on the spot. He claimed it only took 15 hours of consistent practice over a period of 45 days.
I had to try for myself.
That same day I brainstormed skills I thought I’d never be able to learn. The list was too large, so doing one every 45 days would take me years to learn them all.
What skills do you think you simply cannot learn? Why not?
So here’s the approach I have used for nine months in a row, learning 27 new skills along the way:
Learn 3 New Skills Every Month
Granted, going from learning one skill in 45 days to learning three in 30 days is borderline insanity, but it’s not as hard as it seems.
Why 3 Skills
The first step for me was to cut down on the number of hours I was doing. 14 hours of the same type of work on the same day is not healthy. So I did some simple math: “how much time must I do in a day to reach 15 hours in 30 days?”.
The answer is 30 minutes.
Everyone can find 30 minutes in their day. I knew I could easily find 90 minutes in my day, so that’s how I went for three skills instead of one.
From my experience so far, I found that doing too much of the same type of activity during the day drains your brain power, but if you vary your activities and work different areas of your brain, you can stay energized longer. I’m no brain expert, but it’s as if the different sections of our brains had different energy levels.
How to Choose the Skills
Given the information above, and if you do want to become a polymath, you have to choose skills that work different areas of your brain. You don’t have to be an expert to figure this out.
Start with this well-known fact: the left side of the brain is more logical and the right side is more creative. Knowing that, you can choose a creative skill and a logical skill. On the creative side, think about music, art, writing, etc. In the logical side, think about math, science, programming, business planning, etc.
Once you’ve decided on a “branch”, be specific. If you’re thinking about music, are you thinking about an instrument or singing? If it’s an instrument, which one? If it’s the violin, what cords do you want to learn? If you’re thinking about singing, what type of songs? What techniques?
For my first month, I chose these three skills:
- Logical: Classification using Machine Learning techniques;
- Creative: Learning line-drawing + coloring using Photoshop; and
- Language: Learn the past and future tenses of the most common Spanish verbs.
How to Practice Them
Now that you know which skills you want to learn, you have to plan the “what” and the “when”. For each skill, start by asking:
What steps do I have to take to learn that skill? What is the 20% effort required to learn 80% of the results (Pareto Principle)?
For the “when”, start by figuring out how much time you can afford to spend on skill learning, in blocks of 30 minutes. I’d suggest at least two. I do three on average.
The next step is figuring out when you can, on a daily basis, get blocks of 30 minutes of uninterrupted time. For most of us, that’s either early morning or late at night. I personally do it in the morning when I still have all my energy.
Now that you know the “what” and “when”, take your calendar out and put exactly what you need to do for each day. You may have to adjust along the way.
For example: learn how to read music 1/3 on Monday, 2/3 on Tuesday, and 3/3 on Wednesday. Also, write the intended quantifiable results. Wednesday I take this specific test and score 90%.
Every day, give yourself a score on how well you achieved your desired result, on a scale of your choice, with 0–10 recommended. At the end of the week, sum up your performance and ask yourself these questions:
- What went right?
- What went wrong?
- How can I do better next week?
Then re-adjust accordingly. I’m usually pretty satisfied with 50+ out of 70. I never want to go lower than that. And it’s extremely motivating.
This approach turned me into a high performing polymath in a very short timeframe. What’s important to know is that the more skills you have, the easier it is to learn new ones, as proven by science. And I’ve certainly witnessed that.
Being a polymath also makes you a more interesting and relatable person. When you meet new people, you have more chance of having something in common with them.
Want to know if you’re high performing? Try this out (from Brendon Burchard).
Try this 3 new skills a month approach. Choose new skills at the end of every month and take a few hours to plan it out, then execute on each of them daily, reflecting on your performance along the way.
In no time, you’ll be a more skilled individual who can take on many more challenges.
You can do this!
Thanks for reading, sharing and following! :)
First published here: https://medium.com/swlh/how-this-powerful-approach-made-me-a-high-performing-polymath-a2f6e61b455e
Three years ago, my wife and I “left” our jobs to travel the world for a year.
It was an amazing journey.
We saw the most impressive sights, ate the best food, had empowering volunteering experiences, but most of all, we met the most incredible people.
Lately, many people have come to us to ask for advice on long-term travel. So I decided I’ll share part of our story here.
When I said “left” our job, I meant we didn’t work for the year. We actually both negotiated a leave of absence.
So when we were “done” with our travels, we came back to Toronto. Back to our well-paid full-time jobs.
The Not-So-Glorious Return Home
It was painful.
We both liked our jobs. We both really enjoy Toronto. But it just wasn’t the same.
Most people didn’t give a damn about our journey. A lot of our friends were at a different point in their life. A lot of them just had kids. They had settled, we didn’t.
One of my brothers was completely avoiding me. To this day, I don’t even know why. Maybe he was jealous? Maybe he couldn’t handle our non-traditional way of life?
We were even kicked out from one of our family’s house because they could not handle the fact that we were helping people outside of our own country when, like any country, we also needed help.
- Gone were the new amazing sights.
- Gone was the deliciously cheap food.
- Gone were the volunteering experiences (for me).
- Gone were the incredible new acquaintances.
Coming back from traveling long-term is hard. I’m far from the first to write about that. Thankfully I was traveling with my wife, so we were in this together.
Whenever we could talk to other people who also traveled extensively, we did. It felt great to share experiences, but it was mostly great just to be understood by someone else.
Poverty And NGO Work
We were somewhat miserable coming back.
The biggest thing for us was that we saw so much poverty everywhere that every time we heard someone complaining about their first-world problems, it was hard for us to relate.
Audrey (my wife) started volunteering remotely for an NGO called Sundaraalmost as soon as we came back to Canada. That was her way of remaining connected to the world.
But it wasn’t enough.
That October, we went to Uganda to help with Sundara’s operations there. We had partnered with other NGOs there to provide them with water. Long story short, they had no access to clean water. People were dying from diseases and dehydration.
I helped bring awareness to the cause by taking photos (like the one above) and Audrey handled the operations and the outreach.
It was a life-changing experience.
The Turning Point
Then on November 11th 2016, we were sitting at the Foggy Dew Irish pub. We were talking about how we were not satisfied with our current situation in Toronto. At one point I told Audrey:
“Why don’t we just leave and travel again?”
That was our turning point.
We were so in agreement with this idea. Truthfully, I never thought she’d be up for it, but it turns out she needed that even more than I.
A few months later she applied for Doctors Without Borders. She got the job really fast.
In my case, I had applied for a competitive grant for Soul Reaper and got it. I could work from anywhere. My team was already remote, so it wasn’t even that big a change.
So with that, we left our jobs for real this time. We took a vacation in June and July 2017, and then we parted ways for her to do her first mission in Central African Republic, and for me to work as a digital nomad in Cambodia.
You will be more interesting
With all the places you’ll have seen, all the food you’ll have eaten, all the activities you’ll have done and all the different friends you’ll have made, you will have a repertoire of interesting stories to tell for years to come.
You will make new friends
The connections you make while traveling tend to be really strong. You share wonderful experiences that most people don’t get to live. When back home, you’ll occasionally meet like-minded people and the bonding will be that much easier.
You will have a deeper appreciation
A deeper appreciation for everything. When you see that people in other countries don’t have the things you take for granted, well, you don’t take them for granted anymore.
You will be more positive
When you are in new environments frequently, it’s stressful. You panic. You yell. You cry. Then you’re back and things feel so “easy”. You start thinking positive about every situation.
You will be more open-minded
You’ll have met people with all sorts of backgrounds. You’ll have eaten food you never even thought existed. Your prejudices will go away and you will start to appreciate everyone and everything for what they are.
You will be less tolerant of meaningless problems
The so-called first-world problems become so hilarious at times. You’ll hear people complain about the most meaningless of things when you’re back home. Sometimes you’ll find it funny, but sometimes it will irritate you.
You will become really cheap
A lot of countries can be cheaper than home, depending on which country you’re from. When you’re used to paying little for meals, it’s hard to come back and pay 5–10x the price for less authentic meals. It’s the same for accommodation and other things.
You will lose connections
I mentioned that above. Your friends will have a different lifestyle. You won’t connect on the same level anymore. Striking a meaningful conversation becomes harder when you don’t have anything in common anymore.
You will annoy people
You will be interesting to some, but you’ll be annoying to others. You will be perceived as pretentious. You will be so excited about your wonderful journey that when you talk about it, people will think you speak in a superior tone.
If you watched The Big Bang Theory, it’s similar to when Howard came back from space.
You will not be understood
People will not have lived the things you have. A lot of your close family will not agree with your new lifestyle or ideas. This can be difficult.
Traveling long-term is an amazing way of life, but is not without its downsides.
- Your journey will have its ups and downs.
- It will shape the person you are and will be for the years to come.
- It will change your life, sometimes for the better or sometimes for the worse.
Ultimately, once you go past the bad, nothing beats the good you get out of it in my opinion.
- Are you considering a similar path?
- Are you ready for the most amazing ride of your life?
Let us know in the comments.
You can do this!
First published here: https://theascent.pub/is-the-nomadic-lifestyle-for-you-it-really-does-change-your-life-for-better-or-worse-4918c395ece9
300 stories later…
I’ve written 300 stories on Medium in the past 7 months. That’s a pretty freaking high number if you ask me. Very rarely there’s a day where I wake up, sit in front of the computer, and no inspiration comes to me for writing a story.
Normally when that happens, I just turn away and don’t write anything in the moment. In fact, it’s one of my tricks from one of my latest stories: don’t force it. I only write when I’m inspired. On average, I’ll write once a day.
Somehow, today is different. There are many things I could write about just from things that happened yesterday: I bought property in Montreal, I’m back in Toronto after 13 months on the road, I had a really nice chat with the founder of the Arena Virtual Coworking, I met a lawyer turned hip hop “star”, I realized I made more money by being sloppier, I learned some new awesome quotes, and more.
But I didn’t want to write about any of this. For 10 minutes, I brainstormed ideas in front of my computer.
When I started writing back in January, my sole purpose was to improve my writing skills, it certainly never was to write 300 stories in a little over half a year. I thought I’d have nothing to say to the world, even though I was living a lifestyle a lot of people are jealous of, I run a video game studio, I started an “innovative” approach to learning new skills, etc.
Today, for story #301, I wanted to write something special. None of the above are out of the ordinary:
- Other people buy property (though probably not as quickly as I do…);
- Other people live a nomadic lifestyle;
- Other people chat with other interesting people;
- Other people meet other people who dramatically change careers;
- Other people are making money by being sloppy; and
- Other people read quotes and learn lessons from them.
None of that stuff was original enough in my mind. I stayed there, staring at my monitor…
A little while back, I wrote a piece about how authenticity makes a story original. Everyone writes about the same shit. I had that sad realization a few months back, which actually made me want to stop writing. Most of the stuff I had written and have written since that realization was not original.
You can easily find the same advice I give reading people like Nicolas Cole, Darius Foroux, Christopher D. Connors, Zdravko Cvijetic, Tim Rettig, Aytekin Tank, Tom Kuegler, Aleesha Lauray, Benjamin P. Hardy, Zat Rana, Tim Denning, Elle Kaplan, Dave Schools, and more.
And it’s not that I copy them. To be honest, I don’t even take the time to read them anymore. But we all read the same books, experiment and come to similar conclusions. And there are others who just read from these guys above and simply rehash their stories with a not-as-good headline.
Every time I find myself writing something that’s not authentic, I don’t publish. I couldn’t find true authenticity from my brainstorm this morning. Staring at my monitor, I still hadn’t written a single word.
My coffee was already empty and had not written a single word.
Then I told myself: “Screw it, why don’t I just write about that!”. Truth is, that’s not original either. Writing on writer’s block is probably even more common than any of the topics I was brainstorming.
Fun fact: I usually don’t brainstorm and just start writing, so that could be why nothing was happening on my page.
But here’s why this story matters: even someone who has written many stories before will not always have something authentic to say. Stories are about experiences you’ve lived. If you haven’t lived something worth writing about, it won’t be authentic. That’s the sad truth.
Another truth is that a lot of times, one doesn’t realize what makes them authentic. People write about productivity tips they read somewhere else, when in reality their most interesting stories are when an event triggered on their way to work, when they do things differently, when they have an handicap, when they have an addiction, etc.
This is where the real value is. This is where people relate to your stories.
F yeah, I’m sure you can relate to that. But I do have a “cheat” for that, which I wrote about here:
Most of the advice in there will showcase your authenticity.
Anyway, I guess my page isn’t blank anymore…
With all that, my point is:
Your experience is what makes a story authentically great.
Something as insignificant as the premise of this story is relatable, authentic, and hopefully inspiring to other writers.
It doesn’t matter how many stories one has written. I wouldn’t be proud of saying I’ve written 300 stories if most of them were not authentic. I could have written 1,000 stories if all I was writing about came from things I read in the past.
So here it is: Story #301. Is it the big story I envisioned? F no. But seriously, who cares. Another truth is that as a writer, you never have a freaking clue as to what stories will do well.
Seriously, no clue at all.
What I think are great stories, I have close to no views. “Shitty” stories I write in 30 minutes sometimes get a great number of views and generate $50+. What I think is my best piece yet got a little number of views, yet took me over a month to put together. Please check it out after:
But that’s usually how it is when you self-publish. For that one though, it didn’t make sense for me to send to a publication. You’ll see why when you open it.
Random fact: this story is my highest “ranked” ever on first try on Grammarly!
A great storyteller can turn a mundane event into a truly authentic piece.Don’t write what you read, write what you experience. Write what’s on your mind, not what you think people will want you to write about.
Next time you find yourself staring in front of a blank page, either follow the tips from the article I shared above, or just write about that noise you just heard outside, about the dropped glass on the floor, about how you chugged your coffee in 2 minutes without realizing, etc. Write about something.Anything. When authentic, publish it.
You can do this!
Thanks for reading, sharing, and following the wonderful writers in this post (and myself)!
First published here: https://writingcooperative.com/15-minutes-later-blank-page-how-overthinking-diminishes-authenticity-in-your-writing-9e332423d923