A couple years ago, I wrote this piece – Start by Doing it Badly. Inspired by a Jordan Peterson video by the same title, it is a powerful concept that can be used to free you from the shackles of perfectionism and serve as a vital tactic in the war against Resistance.
In the pursuit of our goals, it can often be hard to get ourselves to do the things we need to do. We doubt that we are any good, and paralysed by the fear of failure, we do nothing. However, It is our willingness to look foolish, to suck at first, to begin by doing it badly that will make our eventual success more plausible.
Once we have gotten started though, we need to sustain that effort. With every iteration, we learn, we improve, we get better. We create the rough drafts to work with, we make mistakes and learn more about the thing we are doing. Over time we should definitely get better automatically from repetition, but how much better we get is also within our control.
To really improve, to truly operate at higher levels, we have to embrace the craftsman’s mentality. We must seek to be excellent, to strive at perfection.
It is like playing a video game. At first you suck, dying to enemies, not sure what button to press or how to wrangle the many mechanics. But the more you play, the more you get into flow. You know what to expect, you know when to attack, when to draw back. You learn what abilities and resources to invest in. You learn to play the game.
At this point, you could just coast on your abilities and get right through to the end of the game, barely eking out your victory. You could take what you know and survive, doing good enough work. Doing okay, being average.
Or you could strive for more. You could seek domination. You could know this game inside out that the hardest bosses eventually seem trivial. When you enter the arena, it is they who hear the boss music, quaking in their boots.
So it is with life. You start by doing it badly. But whatever you choose to do, eventually, strive for perfection, strive for excellence. Strike to give at least more truly remarkable performance, in your career, in your calling, in your art.
And how do we do that?
- By dedicating yourself to the craft
- By studying and imitating the best
- By studying the game, the craft
- By deliberately practising and seeking out feedback
- By being obsessive
This improvement is not something that happens automatically. But something that must be fought for and hard won. It is through dedication and hard work and practice that we can approach perfection.
But understand that perfection might not be possible, but it is the trying that matters, giving every drop of what we have for the cause. By running the good race, fighting the good fight.
Start by doing it badly, end by doing it perfectly.
So it has been about two weeks into the new year. Things are getting into full swing. With school and work opening again, we are all easing back into our normal lives and routines. If you are reading this, you have probably already done some form of vision boarding and planning for the rest of the year ahead. You probably have things to improve, achievements to gain, habits to form, routines to commit to, etc.
All the best, I am rooting for you. And I’m hoping that my content would be of some help over the next 12 months. I intend to put out content on multiple platforms weekly this year and grow this into a more cohesive platform aimed at building a Life by Design, so if you like what you see here, please like, share and stay tuned.
This specific piece will be the usual fare but with a twist. Instead of drilling down on a specific topic like we usually do. in my minds eye right now, you and I are seated on beach chairs with our toes in the sand and drinks in hand while we shoot the breeze.
I am entering the next 12 months with a mix of being very open to whatever happens and being quite specific of what I’d like to do and create in the next year. I think both seemingly contradictory ideas are important to keep in mind. The past 2-3 years should have served as a humbling lesson to us all that we might make plans but life has the final say. It is important to plan, to have a sense of clarity of who you are and what you are trying to do. It is doubly important to be flexible and responsive on the path to take there.
Here are some ideas I’ve been mulling over as we begin the year.
It is okay to take things slow
The tempting thing to do when the new year rolls around like this is to hit the ground running hard and fast. With the adrenaline of a new start, we tend to go all out, trying new routines, diets, lifestyles, etc all at the same time. Unless you have an unusually high amount of willpower and discipline, this is a recipe for quick burnout.
The better thing to do is to take it a bit slow. Sure, use the excitement of a new year to make changes. Try everything and sample all the changes you want to make, then slowly scale it back to be more manageable. Focus on one main habit or thing to change. Better still if it’s a cornerstone habit. The kind of thing you can stack other habits on.
Popular cornerstone habits are daily meditation or daily exercise. Starting your day with meditation puts you in an intentional space everyday and once you approach your day with that clarity, it is easier to keep doing more positive things. Same thing with exercise. Beginning the day with your endorphins pumping and some sweat energises both the body and mind and sets you up for success the rest of your day.
If you did nothing else, implement one of those two.
You can break the ‘rules’ if you respect core truths
The personal growth space is chuck full of many rules and routines to follow to ensure success. Apparently you need to wake up before 5am, and then exercise, meditate, read, journal, eat a healthy breakfast and then go to work. That is a great routine. But once you break that into its core truths of wake up at a good time, move and feed your body, clear and strengthen your mind, then you can break the rules of how where and when you get that done.
You can wake up whenever you want, exercise however you want, meditate, read and journal wherever you want. You just have to make it suit you.
Be creative in how you tackle your goals
We are all going to face obstacles in the pursuit of our goals. We might apply over and over to jobs and get no responses. We might start executing a plan to scale our business and come up short. We might want to go back to school, but not be able to find the course we want to do.
The same concept of looking at core truths applies. What are we really trying to do here and how else can we get it done. Maybe we need to change how and where we apply for jobs. Maybe instead of just applying, we come up with solutions and ideas for the company and come prepared with them. Maybe we focus on nurturing relationships instead to open doors. Maybe we bite the bullet and start our own businesses.
Think outside the box and approach your goals in unique ways.
Explore new pleasures
I take fun seriously. I like to have a good time. I do believe it is an important part of the human experience. At the same time, without temperance, it can become a breeding ground for bad habits sending you tumbling down rabbit holes at the expense of many other things. It then becomes imperative to expand your idea of pleasure, and cultivate a diversity of interests. Sure it is fun to hangout and shoot the shit with the guys. It is also a lot of fun to sit down for hours working on your idea/concept. Expand what pleasure means to you, and explore new things, activities and experiences.
Evolve into the next version of you
The new year comes with the chance for evolution or reinvention. You don’t have to be who you have always been and it is never too late to be who you might have been. You can pick up old dreams, you can let go of old weight. You can transform yourself. Take the time to evolve, to become better, to become unrecognisable even. To move with more grace and strength. To gain new skills and experiences, to operate on a whole new level. But it will take commitment, focus and intentionality
But shout out to you, I know you can do it. Let’s kick ass and have a fun time doing it.
The world is going to hell in a hand basket.
At least that is what it seems like.
Everyday there is something else going wrong. In the last week, war broke out in Ukraine, and South African artist and icon Riky Rick committed suicide. It is not like war isn’t going on everyday somewhere in the world. And it’s not like people don’t commit suicide every day. But at this time, as a result of media obsession and celebrity, these events stand out and weigh heavy on our collective consciousness.
It was a dark week. In the past few weeks, I’ve had people close to me admit suicidal ideation or attempt. I know what that feels like, I’ve been there before. And as I write all of this now, I’m realising just how heavy the dark cloud has been the past few days.
And I don’t know what to say or how to help.
I generally try not to feel…too much.
I’m not a robot I know, and I think I am actually a sensitive and emotional person at the core. But I’ve never felt comfortable with it, with feeling. Emotions are powerful, the true definition of compelling. But they are often inaccurate, or counter productive. They are an inescapable part of the human experience. Between the ego, our history, our trauma, our fears and desires, they are always there, pushing and pulling us.
We live through the entire gamut of emotion – joy, pain, sadness, elation, desire, fear, jealousy, love, anger, impatience, anxiety. And if we do not learn to live with and master them, they can rule us. They are strong drives and urges. And with a world and society that seems to exist to prey on and manipulate those drives, we are stuck in a web, a matrix of impulses and results.
Which is why I’ve always like stoicism as a philosophy, as a practice. To help train ourselves and our minds. To be able to embrace emotion and yet see it clearly. To see the world as much as possible, as it truly is, and to remain even keel through it all. Never giving in completely, unconsciously to extreme happiness or extreme pain.
The master does not block himself from feeling, nor does he allow himself to be swept up in the passion incessantly. He lets it in, delves in it fully, and teases out the useful information from the noise, and then takes the right action. Emotions are not his master, but another tool in the work belt of life.
Too often we are the opposite, unable to truly judge our emotions, understand what the root issues are and deal with them. More often that not, we just feel and react. And so we stay stuck in loops. We are triggered and we react. Over and over again, to the same stuff without change.
And it remains a wild world out there. The pandemic rages on, climate anxiety is at peak levels, late capitalism is groaning and straining against its limits, and people are realising that they can’t keep on sacrificing themselves to the system. Our problems are real, but not insurmountable.
To deal with things appropriately, we would need to be our own eyes of the storm in the chaos that is the world. Which means to cultivate an inner citadel. To build an oasis of peace. To come to terms with ourselves and still the storms within. Only then do we have a hope of acting correctly.
We have to do the work.
We have to learn heal our traumas.
We have to learn to escape from the spaces that hurt us, and cultivate the ones that nurture us.
We have to stay focused.
We have to get clear and get to know and accept who we are, and what we want.
We have to take care of ourselves.
And if we need help, we have to speak up and ask for it.
And if we can help, then we have to reach out and give it.
We have to build what we want and create anew.
We have to remember that it can’t always be night. Even though it may be dark today, the sun will shine again.
That is how we stay sane. That is how we prevail.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the concept of “Relaxed Productivity”. The past few weeks have been a bit manic. I’ve been juggling multiple projects, chasing new business, creating new products and producing more content than I usually do. It has been a bit crazy.
So last week, I wanted to try a different tact. Or at least, I could afford to try. See, I always have the experienced of being almost at the edge of overwhelm. My fingers are always in a lot of different projects, I’m always doing a lot of work. But that comes with its cost. Eventually things devolve. The work gets a bit sloppy, projects are rushed and I slip into extreme fatigue. Something has to give. I spent most of the other week in a sleep deprived state. I got stuff done and done very well, but it left me exhausted.
In 2018 or so I came across the concept of ‘Working to Live’ and it started to change the way i approached work. The thing as a freelancer, one man band, mercenary, is that it is very easy to get overwhelmed with work. There are always requests coming your way, projects to be finished, projects that were finished coming back with more stuff or edits or changes. There is always more work.
You can also be incentivised to take on more work. Because the more you work, the more you earn. At the same time, it can be difficult to charge as high as is needed, because otherwise then you don’t close the deal, and sometimes you need the cashflow however small so you take the hit. Plus, people almost never pay when they say they will, projects get stuck in limbo or fall off completely. And when they do pay, they want things yesterday. So you get stuck in a loop, taking a lot of work to make the money you desire and then bumping up against time and energy constraints. You end up working ridiculous hours and crashing and burning repeatedly.
Is there another way?
Is what I’ve been wondering.
I have come across local creatives talking about how they are fully booked for months. So I’d imagine they are simply spending the next few months only working on what’s already on their plate. That seems nice, like they already have enough in the bank, or charged high enough to be able to maintain such a schedule. Also it means that they have enough time to really dig into the project and get things done to a high standard.
Must be nice, I want in also.
To Work to Live means to schedule ones life around life as much as possible, instead of work. It means scheduling the things that are important first – like rest, like exercise, and eating, or chores, and then scheduling work around that. Now sure, this is a very privileged place to be in. But if you already have control of your time as an entrepreneur or freelancer then this is a worthy goal to strive for.
What principles would have to be in place?
If your bills and needs are high, then you will always need to be generating income. And if you generate income from your work/labour, then you are going to have to work a lot. Reducing your footprint and reconsidering your lifestyle can give you the space you need to position yourself better and work more sustainably.
Plan at least a week ahead
To have a more relaxed and productive workflow, you need to have clarity over your time, resources and tasks and set things up accordingly. You would need to plan your life at least a week a time and front load it with the right amount of work. Know what needs to be done each week and really be honest about how much time things will take. Any other tasks that come up would have to compete against the already assigned task or move to the next week.
That means probably no rush projects, if you can help it.
Strive to be as effective as possible
If you only have limited time to work, then you have to make sure you are working on the most important things. Prioritise the important things and the things that will give the biggest results. Then you can get around to all the other stuff. Make the time you spend working count.
Be more valuable
To enjoy more relaxed productivity, you are probably going to need to increase your income. And you can do that by increasing your value, improving your skills, and selling your value to the clients who can afford it. You are going to raise those prices to attract and service the right market.
Innovate your business model
To be able to strive to a more relaxed level of productivity, you would need to work differently. Make your business or setup less dependent on you and built upon systems that can run without you. That could mean selling products, hiring people, or leveraging digital platforms. Position yourself for scalable exponential growth and that could earn you your freedom
Enjoy the time off
It can be easy to fall back into old patterns of toxic hustle culture. And there’s a time and place for that. Sometimes you do have to go all out and work like crazy, but when we in relaxed mode, we want to allow ourselves to actually enjoy the time off. For a workaholics like me, it can be hard to turn the brain off and just do something else. But invest the time in yourself, in your experiences, in your relationships and funny enough, it might just make you even better at your work.
It is something that we all strive for. We want to improve, be better. We would love to radically improve our lot if we could. That is why we chase the products, the programs, the latest book or fad. We seek the insights that would change the game.
Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we come across a gem, an idea, a method that does truly change the game, that enables us to transcend previous limitations. Many times, we are left dissatisfied, with yet more broken promises and dashed dreams.
Over the past few weeks, I have noticed a marked difference in how I operate. I have felt clearer, more focused, a bit more balanced. I mean it is not perfect, and I still dip in energy and vibration. But all in all, I am able to cycle right back. With this has come new ideas, new ways of engagement and opportunities to pursue.
So I sat down one evening and thought to myself, wait, why do I feel so good? And how can I capture this state or at least the recipe for it so that when I needed it, I could go back to it. Have I possibly found the secret? Is this is actually the way? Do I have an answer for the question – How to break through to the next level?
Perhaps. I think I do, I mean it’s still early to tell. But so far the results look promising. So this is me sharing my epiphany, my recipe. And we’ll see if time is kind to it.
In my opinion, and experience, to level up, to break through to a new level of acting and being, you have to take a three pronged approach – you need an exposure to greatness, you need to maintain and raise your vibration and you need to do the work.
Expose yourself to greatness
Things started to click for me in an interesting way, when I stumbled on a few classes on SkillShare and videos on YouTube. I was introduced to a couple of content creators who are very successful, and also shared their mindset and methods as to how they are able to get so much done and be productive.
And just watching these pieces of content showed me that yes, it was possible to be creatively productive and prolific. That many people had developed hacks, and tactics and put in a great deal of work to make sure that their workflows moved as smoothly as possible, and made it possible for great quality output.
It opened up something in my mind, and so I had a close look, I took some classes, made some notes and implemented them. And that loop has been great – being exposed to what success in the field looks like and learning to mirror that.
We are social creatures. We are heavily influenced by the people we engage with and the content we connect with. They do not just bombard our conscious mind with information but also work on the subconscious to tilt us towards certain things and away from others. Monkey see, Monkey do, is a real thing.
If we expose ourselves to greatness, which means to be able to observe and learn from the best, or at least from those who embody that which we want to be, we are able to learn deeply not just the mechanics of things, but also the nuances, the attitudes, the execution, that feed us all the information we need, consciously and unconsciously to get there ourselves.
And more importantly, they provide us with key proof, that the thing we seek is attainable.
Raise your vibration
Weeks prior to coming to this recipe that I’m sharing now, I realised that I had fallen out of using the law of attraction. Not that I think that I can magically manifest whatever I want out of thin air.
But there is great power in recognising that your mind and your emotional states affect your mood, your energy, what you feel is possible and in turn the action you take, the energy you put behind it and eventually the results you receive.
I typically tend to default towards some level of anxiety. My mental state is usually drawn towards the reality I don’t want to create. How things could go wrong or not work out. So I have started to deliberately hold on to the energy I want, and when it dips, to work to maintain it and pull it back up.
I imagine things working out, I visualise what I desire. It is important to actively hold an expansive and powerful energy within. Rise up above the noise, and see good things happening.
Connect with the things that inspire and uplift you. Pray, meditate, consume high vibration content. In so doing, you will draw in opportunities, connections, audience, open doors, creativity, collaboration, and so forth.
This is will in no way replace doing the work. But it will put you in the right frame of mind to approach it effectively and supercharge your efforts.
Do the work
There’s no substitute for it. You have to do the work.
Do what you know you must do. Take right action. Take the right steps. Because nothing will happen if you don’t move, if you don’t push. Be prepared, be focused, be unrelenting in the pursuit of that which you seek.
It is in the application, in the practical, in the work that the lessons we learn from greatness really sink in. It is in the doing that new insights are gained, that we move from knowing the path to walking it. Here, the learnings become embedded in our bones, in our routines, in our very selves.
But I don’t just mean work work. Although that is a part of it. I also mean The Work. The important stuff. the thing that makes your heart sing. The one that deeply fulfils you. The work that exercises your true gifts, stimulates your true interest.
We might not all be fortunate to do what we are passionate about and make money from it. Many of us have to make money in different ways. But it is important to make space for passion in our lives. To hold space for purpose.
We are all here for more than just to eat, sleep, consume, work and die. We are here to breathe, to love, to dance, to laugh, to cry, to feel, to be. To claim our little speck of existence. To be fully human. And a big part of that is giving our gift, giving our message. Adding our true selves to the tapestry of human existence.
For me, that’s this blog, and all the other spaces I make content. It is my privilege to plumb the depths of the human experiences as it presents itself to me and try to make some sense of it. As I teach, I learn and I grow. It is as much for me as it is for you reading this right now.
And that’s what i believe we all have to find. For each of us, the work is different. Some want to save the planet, we should all try to save the planet. For others, the work is family and relationships. For others still, it is invention. For some, it is to entertain, for others it is to help. Whatever it is. We have to find that work, and do it.
It is in the expression of our full and highest selves that we find deep fulfilment and purpose.
In doing so, in holding these three principles in mind, we can make sure we are receiving the right stimuli, sharpening our minds, habits and perceptions. We are able to hold a strong center, keeping our energies focused and rising to the occasion. We are disciplined in action, and steadily levelling up.