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.
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.
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.
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?
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.