As a person who has been obsessed with the ideas of personal development and self growth for a long time, I have espoused many times the usual mantras of hard work, putting in the time, waking up early, and so on.
In my life experience however, I’ve noticed that even though a lot of these things are useful and definitely do have their place in the pursuit of excellence and fulfilment, sometimes, doing the opposite can also have positive effects.
In my last post, I briefly highlighted how you can actually break the rules if you respect core truths. Here are some of the ‘bad’ things you can do that could actually help you succeed.
This piece was inspired by this article by Jessica Wildfire. So if this intrigues you, definitely check that out as well.
So without further ado, here are 8 bad habits that could help you succeed.
Wake up whenever you want
Shout out to the 5am club. I am just not one of ya’ll. At least not yet. At least not all the time. A little caveat. Of course this would not work for you if you have a job, or a routine that demands that things happen at a certain time. But if you are unmarried and without kids, and also working remote or for yourself, then you could indulge yourself by waking up whenever you like.
For the past couple years, I have had the most erratic sleep and wake up times. But more often than not, I am awake till very late at night. These days, I am up until noon the very next day when my body starts to shut down, and then my day would begin around 8pm. It is admitted weird, but those all night work sessions are some of the most focused and productive I ever have. It doesn’t matter so much when you wake up or go to sleep. What matters is the quality of your sleep and what you do when you are awake.
Hard work is key. I believe in pushing hard. I believe in being obsessive. I believe in putting it all on the line. The work is the work, and the work must be done. However, too many times, we are working furiously climbing up the wrong ladder, trying to scale the wrong wall. Sometimes when we feel the urge to be lazy, the lack of desire to engage with work, it is because we really do not want to, it is because we are misaligned. This is a good time to be lazy, to ease up. To do the bare minimum, to recover and refocus. To discover what we really want to do, what will excite us, what will drive us. Be lazy long enough and you can discover a better way. Often, our obsession with working hard is just an excuse to not apply ourselves in working smart. It can be much easier to do what we normally do, instead of putting in the effort to allocate our time effectively.
Disappear from the world
A big part of success is being engaged and connected with the world. No one lives in a vacuum and the more tapped into your network, the more opportunities come your way. There are times we must do the opposite, times we must withdraw. In times of overwhelm and burnout. When we have given all and we are empty. Pulling away can give us that much needed rest and perspective to make the changes we need to make and come back stronger.
Follow your obsessions
In the midst of being lazy and withdrawing from the world, you might start to feel something well up within you, a new interest, an old obsession. Nurture it and indulge in it. For a long time, I was completely over watching or listening to anything growth related. I suddenly grew a deep interest in political systems, long breakdowns and analysis of modern media, and video games. None of them have been directly useful to my business yet, but they have enriched my mind, my life experience, my thinking and the way I engage with the world around and indirectly affected my creative output and connection to the people around me.
All work, and no play makes Jack dull af. Life is short. Enjoy it. Sure, this is an area where you can overdo it. But it is okay to go out, to be social, to see and be seen. It might be vain and futile sometimes, and even a waste of time and money. But it can also be a great time to connect with friends, to make new memories, to bond, and sometimes, even to network.
Play video games/Have hobbies
Some people say you shouldn’t play games at all. And I used to be in that camp. I always wondered what the point of engaging in virtual worlds was, when you could simply just engage with life itself. Life is the biggest open world RPG you could play. But video games as a whole are an incredible achievement, a mix of art, science, technology, design and storytelling to give you some of the most immersive and engaging experiences every created by man. So play if you like. Play helps us see things in new ways, helps us grow, process trauma, and grow and learn. I for one have learned a lot about life playing video games. Sometimes when I’m facing something tough in life, I think about bashing my head repeatedly against a particularly hard boss, and I think to myself, if I could do that, then I can do this.
There is nothing like a good binge. Whether that is partying, watching that new show on Netflix or spending 12 hours straight at your desk working. the idea is dive completely into whatever you are doing. It would be a bit intense, but you will come out of that session better for it. You would have scratched the itch you needed to, and come out relaxed and chilled enough to get back to work. Or if you were bingeing work, you would have let it all on the court and come off exhausted ready to rest. The point is, sometimes it is good to binge.
Work when you feel like it
Some people think you should show up every single day, whether you feel like it or not. There is surely a place for that. Sometimes you just have to show up. The muse should find you waiting and ready. Other times though, the inspiration just isn’t there. If you aren’t feeling it, the best thing to do might be to just not do it. Do something else. Go hangout with friends, go play 6 hours of your favourite video game. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left the work to do something else, and then inspiration hits me at the weirdest time and I’m good to go.
Even typing this right now is a good example. The whole day yesterday, I was in the dumps, so I did nothing but sleep really. Today, I’ve been been at my desk since 4:30am. C’est la vie.
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.
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.
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.