Sometimes, Progress is Continuing Old Plans…

Sometimes, Progress is Continuing Old Plans…

As we get things going in the New Year, I have found myself in reflection, as we all do at this time. The key questions on our minds are – what do we want and what will we do to get it?

If we have been doing this for a while, then we look back to our previous answers to those questions. We look back at our goals and plans from yesteryear. We see what worked and what didn’t, we see where we made progress and where we stalled.

Then we tweak and we move.

In this present cycle, I am coming to realise that sometimes, progress is simply continuing old plans.

If you have done the work to know yourself and craft a purpose for yourself. Then much by way of aim doesn’t change. You know what you want, a fulfilling career, good health, loving relationships, etc.

At the same time, when you first set these goals, you probably thought you could get them done relatively quickly. And sometimes, you can. But often, we overestimate our abilities, and we misjudge the road to our goal. Things usually take much longer than you think.

And that’s pretty cool because, if you are clear about who you are and what you want, you can essentially spend your life pursuing that. You could spend a lot of time executing and refining a plan, over years and decades.

For me, progress in 2024 looks like picking up goals from 2023, from 2022, from 2017, seeing which ones have been achieved and which ones remain untackled. It looks like refining the routine, refreshing the approach, tweaking the strategy, and learning from failure.

It looks like celebrating what has been fixed and looking towards what comes next.

It looks like finally being able to start tackling things that have seemed impossible before.

Refine your systems

The ability to return to my notes and archives after a break and more or less pick up where I left off, is something that always amazes me. That is the power of being organised, of having things in their set place. So when you need to pick up the project again you don’t have to go searching for things. The friction to getting started again is reduced. All you need to do is review the material, load the project onto your mind, and get to work.

This is why we must keep refining and updating our systems. We need to be considered in the way we handle information, keep notes, keep track of resources, organise plans. The ease and effectiveness of our lives depend on the strength of our systems.

It is easy to continue old plans when they are easily accessible.

Embrace the practice

The journey to success is unending. Once one objective is reached, we move to another. The point is perpetual growth, and constant evolution. The point is the journey, not the destination.

We understand that focusing on our systems as opposed to goals is a more effective way to get what we want. Baking the tasks we need to do into our daily routine, and into our way of life allows us to achieve our goals with ease.

In this way, we create a daily texture to our days that keeps us sharp and moving towards our goals. It helps us understand that this is a long process and that we keep weaving the tapestry of our lives, one thread at a time.

So in continuing old plans, we embrace the practice, the day-to-day. Refining our actions, and our rituals. Slowly improving this, slowly improving that.

We embrace the practice in learning, in studying, in practicing…our craft, our roles, our obligations. We seek to make the ‘doing’ always better than the last time. We perpetually improve.

Focus on the goal

Simply practicing is not enough though, we have to be directed. The point is the journey, yes, but the goal gives us focus, it gives us direction, and instruction.

Keep the goal in front of you. Make it lofty.

And pursue it relentlessly, let all your efforts be so directed.

Challenge assumptions

Sometimes we remain stuck, not because of lack of ability, but because of a fault in perspective. Sometimes, all it takes is one shift to make the difference. In prayer, meditation, and journalling, we find the tools to examine ourselves and our views, to tease out insights that unravel the tangled mess of our ambitions by tugging on the strands of perspective.

With these mantras, we can continue to let our moves stack on each other. We can continue to improve, to grow, becoming more capable and more effective.

We can continue our plans and hit heights we never imagined.

End by Doing it Perfectly

End by Doing it Perfectly

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?

  1. By dedicating yourself to the craft
  2. By studying and imitating the best
  3. By studying the game, the craft
  4. By deliberately practising and seeking out feedback
  5. 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.

How to Get Things Done When You Don’t Feel Like It

How to Get Things Done When You Don’t Feel Like It

Winning the war against the Resistance

Around the end of last year, a friend asked me a question. He had two websites to get done before he was done for the year, but he was finding it tough to muster up the motivation to get it done. He had planned the projects out and knew what he had to do, but for the life of him, he just couldn’t actually do it.

He had also been reading Steven Pressfield’s book ‘Do the Work’ and wondered how I tackled Resistance, that force that seems to rise up and trip you up when you trying to do anything worthwhile.

And that got me thinking…

I’ve written about resistance before, here when I spoke about ‘Turning Pro’.

Resistance is that ever present inertia, that force that seems to always be waiting to trip you up when it’s time to do something important. You know the feeling. You really want to work out, but you are feeling lazy, or unmotivated. You really want to pick up the brush and work on that painting but it’s easier to pick up the game controller instead.

Anytime we want to do something inspired by our higher self, our baser self rises up to meet it. There comes the fear, the distraction, the self-doubt, the addiction, the timidity, the self-loathing, the perfectionism. The Resistance deploys every weapon in its arsenal to make sure you stop.

But that’s good news. The Resistance means that this thing is important. In fact, you could argue that it is the great thing you want to do that has sparked the Resistance.

Before resistance comes idea. this means that before the dragon of resistance rears its ugly head and breathe fire into our faces, there existed within us a force so potent and life-affirming that it summoned this beast into being, perversely, to combat it.

Steven Pressfield – Do the Work

Whenever you need to do something worthwhile, that sense of fear, that anxiety, that excuse will rise up. So, how do you face it down and get things done anyway?

  • Just do it, just get started. As bullshit as that sounds. Sometimes you just have to do it. Don’t over think it, don’t worry about being perfect. You just have to ignore the inertia and get to it. Start by doing it badly if you must, just start. Many times you will find that once you get started and get the ball rolling, It becomes much easier to keep going.
  • Embrace the pain, lean into the resistance. Acknowledge that it sucks. Work can be painful, you’d rather be doing anything else. Suck it up and do it. Embrace the pain as an integral part of the process. Learn to enjoy it. Become your hero. Become the Spartan warrior staring down the horde. Become Batman cleaning up Gotham by night. Let the fire of work purify you and bring you deep fulfilment.

Hear the late Nipsey Hussle talk about this very thing here

  • Think about how bad do you want/need it. An easy way to overcome the Resistance is to think about how bad you need it. When it’s do or die, when your back is to the wall, there is no time to indulge the Resistance, there is only time for results. It is easy to do what needs to be done when it absolutely has to get done. You don’t need a candle when you are on fire.
  • Listen to the resistance, it might be time to stop. But if you don’t really want it, if the reason is not really compelling, if you are chasing the wrong goal, then listen to the Resistance. Sometimes the right response is not to press on, but to pull back. The Resistance might be there for a reason. To tell you that this thing doesn’t serve you anymore, that there is a better way. If that’s the case, drop it and attend to something greater, something more in line with your spirit.

In what part of your life is the Resistance kicking your ass and how are you going to tackle it?

Keep the Goal in Front of You

Keep the Goal in Front of You

At the time of writing this, it is February, we already just over a month into the new year. And if you are reading this, you are probably the type of person to have made goals and set targets for this year.

How are you doing on those by the way? Are you still excited and eagerly chasing after them or have you fallen off yet?

Most probably the cracks have started to show. Most people approach goals with the intention of making these vast sweeping changes at once, like they suddenly developed a new personality once the calendar flipped over a new year. Unless you have a ridiculous amount of will power, this is typically an exercise in failure.

To stay consistent and actually stand a chance of reaching your goals, you need to focus on tactics that make the changes a bit more subtle, consistent and lasting. Things like focusing on building the right habits, starting small, building new routines and feeding your motivation.

But there is one simple reason we tend to fall off our pursuit.

As stupid as it sounds, many times we lose track of a goal because we literally forget about it.

Every day is a struggle, with multitude of stimuli, questions, requests, demands, and distractions. It is very easy to start off the year with good intentions and then have things just trail off. I know, it happened to me many times.

We get busy, we get distracted, sometimes we even distract ourselves with ‘good’ things. It is often easier for me to just bury myself in work than face something I don’t want to yet. But we must fight to be aware of this tendency, and to take steps to mitigate it.

We do this by keeping the goal in front of us. Having a totem, a reminder, something physical, tangible or otherwise always in front of us that reminds us of what is important, of what we are moving towards.

In this way, when the demands come at us, when the distractions come, we are able to glance over quickly, and have our goals firmly at the front of our minds and thus we can respond appropriately.

My personal experience

2018 was the year I started blogging consistently, and by the end I was able to point to a full year of almost weekly updates. It was the year I really pushed my personal brand forward and made many strides in my life and work. I even released two books in that time. It was a year of incredible focus and consistency.

Up on to this point, I had struggled with pursuing some of my goals. I would start the year eager to get certain things done, and look up months later to see that although I was very busy doing many things, I had completely lost track of what was most important to me.

So what changed in the pivotal year of 2018? Many things, but one of the most powerful things I stumbled upon was changing my diary for the year into a totem. In the front and back inside covers, I had printed out and stuck sheets that highlighted my new personal brand, life philosophy and the multiple projects I wanted to get done.

Every time I opened that book, to take notes in a meeting, to plan, to keep track of tasks, I was reminded of the person I wanted to be, and the goals I was pursuing. It was inescapable. Having that constant reminder changed my life.

Here are 3 ways keeping your goals visible can change yours.

They serve as a constant reminder

Like I mentioned earlier, we often lose track of our goals because we just forget about them. Keeping your goals visible and close by serves as a near constant reminder of where we are going and what we are trying to get done. If we then choose not to pursue them, it is a more conscious decision as opposed to it just getting buried under the pile of other things vying for our attention.

They stimulate our minds

When our goals are perpetually in front of us, reminding us, our brains are constantly thinking about them, churning up ideas in the background, working on ways to achieve them, or build our lives around their pursuit. And if we enhance this by designing your environment in such a way that orients us towards our goals, it all combines us to move us steadily and automatically towards those ends.

Having your goals always in front of you also keeps you primed and sensitive. So that when opportunities come up, or chances for synchrony happen, you are ready to recognise and take advantage of them.

They build motivation

Seeing the vision constantly helps to cultivate burning desire. Something that is essential to helping you stick it out over the long run. Sometimes we set the goal we want, but we don’t want it enough to do whatever it takes. Keeping your goals in front of you stimulate the visions of it in your mind. They help you visualise having it and becoming the sort of person that achieves it. They also help fan the flames of desire until you are going after it with all you got.

Keeping your goals front and centre in your daily life is a small thing, but can have outsized effects. You can do this in many ways. You could keep a vision board close by, in your office, in your room. You could do as I did and dedicate pages of your daily planner to it. You could make it your phone or computer wallpaper, or place post-its all over your apartment. Whatever works for you.

Keep your goals in front of you, and they becomes that much easier to follow through.

Thank you for your attention and reading this to the end. If you enjoyed this post, please share with someone who you think might benefit greatly from it.

Learning to Suffer II

Learning to Suffer II

A lot of the times when I sit down to write, I have no idea what I am going to say. But I trust that as I sit and begin, that the idea will reveal itself. That’s what has happened as I have sat down this Sunday evening to write the first blog post for the year.

It’s been a while away from the page and I wonder…do I still have what it takes? What if I have finally run out of ideas. Yet I must face the uncertainty and create. The blank page is before me, the blank canvas of an entire year lies ahead. We must begin.

And to be honest, there is something that has been on my mind lately and in turn something to write about. (And weirdly enough dovetails very nicely into the podcast topic for this week)

The past week was chaotic, and it seems like I wasn’t the only one. Apparently 3 planets are in retrograde…if that actually does apply to anything. But it was a rough one. I personally dealt with turmoil in my relationships and friendships. I am just glad that I had the presence of mind to be proactive in dealing with and resolving the issues. But that didn’t change the fact that it felt like shit, like the week at some points felt like such a slog. That it was painful to go through.

It’s also the beginning of the year. Things are still slow. Things are gradually picking up. In a month or two, the year will be in full swing and things should be moving all around. But for now, we remain in the dip, especially if you are in the freelance or contract space. That comes with its own anxieties.

And as we move through this inevitable slog, I find myself thinking about a concept I’ve written about a few times on this blog here, here and here – learning how to suffer.

I like to look at life as the weather. So even with weeks like the last one, I am reluctant to call it a bad week. I’d just say that the weather was bad. Life is fine, there was just a bit of turbulence.

And that is okay. Because there must be variety. Things aren’t always easy. Things won’t always be chilled. Sometimes it will be rough. Sometimes there will be trouble. But in all these things, you can remain even keeled. You can practice virtue. You can do your best. You can be patient and consistent.

I think it is a good thing to remind the self from time to time. About the need to be able endure suffering, to embrace the pain. How to get back to the grind, how to hustle, how to push the body past its limits. How to focus and get things done when all you want to do is relax and Netflix. How to let the past die. How to stick to your guns and do what’s right even when your heart is pining to do different.

It is a crucial skill to remember. Because the year is long, and we have only just begun. We have another 12…well 11 now, months to go before this cycle is done. That is 11 months to move forward, to improve, to put to practice and to practice. To act on everything we have learned in the year(s) before.

It will take a lot from us. It will demand our energy, our concentration, our focus, our discipline. And there will be rough spots. Times we feel defeated before we begin, times we feel like we have wasted years, decades with nothing to show for it. Times we can’t see the results.

We must remain calm, and focused on following the plan, on doing the things we know to do. To weather the storm with an eye still firmly fixed on the goal. To not suffer needlessly with things that can be easily avoided but to suffer well in service of the path we take.

Because it will get easier. We will get into the groove of things and the wheel will begin to turn. And as we embrace the pain, we will get stronger. Our muscles will grow, and we become more capable. Our minds sharpen and our hearts get more resilient and we are able to carry more, to be the strong pillar in life’s inevitable storms.

Soon we will be back in still waters, in crystal clear oasis and sunny skies. And we will enjoy the harvest and live the good life. And when the next storm rolls in, we will be ready to do it all again.