Life is meant to be a never–ending education, and when this is fully appreciated, we are no longer survivors but adventurers. -David McNally
Personal growth and self development has been a primary driver of my life for as long as I can remember.
As a happy consequence, every single year seems to keep getting better and better for me. Sure, since I’ve turned 30 I’ve had to give up a bit.
I can’t engage in many of the activities I used to in my twenties. I’m basically done with contact sports (such as soccer and Muay Thai) for pretty much ever (bruises no longer heal and become scars — and I’ve already accumulated my fair share). And my mind isn’t quite as elastic as it was seven or eight years ago.
But, I feel younger than ever — because my soul feels much lighter. I feel far less burdened by the handicaps that held me back mentally, spiritually, and emotionally in my 20s. I can act upon my ideas and goals quicker, and no longer fear failure or feel the sting of rejection. I’ve learnt how to take everything life can throw at me and bounce back.
I’ve written on this blog about valuable life lessons I’ve learnt from travel, spoken openly about my entrepreneurial failures, and shared a number of useful hacks I’ve developed in my pursuit of personal improvement.
With that said, there’s always room for growth. Although I’ve come along way, I’m still very much flawed. But I look at this as a great opportunity because it means I can make further meaningful improvements in my life, health, well being, and happiness.
So, without further ado, halfway into 2017, here are my six new personal habits that I’m focused on…
1. Consolidate and Focus
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in my formative years as an entrepreneur is trying to do too much.
Ambition without consolidated focus sends us off onto roads which we shouldn’t on in the first place. It’s far too easy to start something, get bored, and then move on to the next thing. At best I feel scattered, at worst I’ve felt as though I’m always “on,” always plugged in and never unable to release myself from work mode. Rather than focusing, getting a task done, and freeing up the rest of my time, I was locked into a perpetual state of doing with no end.
Getting older (I’m 31 now) may be a good thing as life has conditioned me to slow down, be patient. It’s also made me more forgetful, which again may be a good thing – some ideas we need to let go. If they return, then we know they are worth pursuing.
• First, I’m going to stop filling my schedule with lots of minutiae. About 5 – 6 years ago it gave me great pride to write down thirty items on my to-do list and cross out as much of it as possible. But so many of those things were of so little merit to begin with.
• I’m going to do fewer things, but do them twice as well. When I attended Johnny FD’s “Growing Wealth” workshop in Chiang Mai towards the end of last year, I asked Johnny afterwards what his best tips for affiliate marketing were. I was expecting some type of marketing hack, or some other unique insight. Instead, he responded that the most important thing was “just focus.”
This is not the first time I’ve been given this advice. Years ago my mentor Jared Heyman (who made the cover of Inc. as the “Runaway CEO”) said the most important quality for an entrepreneur is focus.
Even before that when I was a pup fresh out of school Russ Mann (founder of Covario and Onvia) imparted unto me with the same advice:
“I don’t mean to be too “tough” but business generally isn’t always soft or easy. And there are no “easy answers” or silver bullets. Just like in golf- people spend thousands of dollars on equipment hoping it will make them better when what they really need to do is practice and play, practice and play, and FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS.”
• Lastly, I’m going to implement repetitive processes: for lead generation, growth, learning, and so on. I’ve come to realize that I’m very good at implementing things quickly, and “settling” the matter once and for all. But then I tend to forget about them the next day and move on to the next challenge. I’m lost when it comes to managing the things I’ve created or performing repetitive tasks day in and day out.
To remedy this, I’m relying on automation as my ally.
2. Double My Rate of Failure
I recently watched an interview with Benny Lewis, founder of “Fluent in 3 Months”, where he was asked for his best “learning hack.” He responded simply that the key is to “lean into failure:” strive to fail at something 200 times per day.
So this is the second major personal habit that I’m striving for: to double my rate of failure.
So far in 2017, I’ve been making frequent failure a daily part of my life. Sure, I’m nowhere near failing TWO HUNDRED times each day, but I’m failing a lot more often than I used to in the past when I thought failure was something to be AVOIDED.
Even worse, I’ve carried around a personal flaw throughout much of my life: I’ve confronted things that make me feel uncomfortable by avoiding them entirely. For example, I might not open an email if I felt it contained bad news. My emotions were compelling me to remain ignorant of things that often had serious repercussions for my life.
Now, I’ve reached the point where I’ve been able to (mostly) but those emotions on ice. By striving, constantly I’ve been getting rejected, turned down, and falling short A LOT. But at the same time, a whole lot of success has come from it. Even with a success rate of only 30%, it’s still far better than 0%.
And yes – some bitterness come with failure, but the more often it happens the better it conditions me to brush it off and forget it.
Some of the ways I’m striving to double my rate of failure are in the areas of lead generation for my productized service Productive Panda, with language learning, and so on. I’m proud to say that two months of this practice has made dramatic improvements to my life: my client roster is the largest its ever been (and my income has grown accordingly), and my fluency in Thai is the most proficient its ever been.
Finally, to fail more often I’m going to push myself to reach higher. I’m going to aim for greater goals, especially ones that seem unrealistic or beyond my ability. There’s an interesting concept I’ve learned of recently called “The Pygmalion Effect.” Wikipedia defines it as thus: “the phenomenon whereby higher expectations lead to an increase in performance.”
I see this as an easy win – I can improve myself simply by expecting more of myself (and of course, doubling my rate of failure).
3. Calculate, and Implement.
This is an especially important for me because I’m not one to plan things out much in advance. Throughout most of the last six years, living as a nomad, I often don’t where I’ll sleep tomorrow (or tonight).
The reason I’ve never focused too much on the future is because it distracts us from the present. The present is the only time I have full control over; the only moment I have full autonomy to act upon.
John Lennon famously said that “Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans,” and this beautifully sums up why, I believe, the future cannot be trusted. We can make plans for the future but they are only hopes and abstract notions; reality happens in the present moment.
With that said, forgoing advance planning has definitely hurt me, especially when it comes to enjoying travel and operating my businesses at a higher level. Too often I’ve arrived at new locations without any sort plan or idea of what I’m going to do. This really hurt me when I took a trip to Bali with no idea what I wanted to do or where to stay.
No question my last-minute spontaneity exasperates my friends and dates as well.
So I’m going to commit myself to being smarter about this, and research and plan in advance before I make important decisions in both business and life.
4. Periodic Rest Days to Recharge
This is extremely important, and probably the most difficult item on this list for me to implement. I constantly feel like I’m always on the go, always feel the pressure to do something. Travel has exacerbated this – I always feel as though I’m on borrowed time, because there’s always a deadline to count down towards until my visa expires. Every day matters, and I always feel as though I have to push myself to do things constantly.
The problem is my focus becomes scattered and I don’t feel centered. This is even worse when one lives without a home and is constantly on the go. Last night I slept in a hostel next to a gentleman who snored so loudly that he sounded like a drunk cow. But I’m going to force myself to take weekly or bi-weekly coffee-free days where I can double down on rest, and regenerate the brain.
It feels terrible and everything inside of me wants to reach for a coffee, but I sleep the deepest and always feel amazing the next day. Suddenly I’m able to access regions of my brain that haven’t been active for a long time. I’m articulate, and able to fully formulate my ideas. My productivity shoots through the roof, and it feels like nothing can go wrong.
Secondly, I’ve begun forcing myself to take up periodic intermittent fasting. I’ve tried this for a while and even though I’m not a huge fan of fasting because I love food, I realize that performing this periodically can have great benefits. Fasting is important for detoxing and removing dead, unhealthy cells and helps to repair healthy ones.
I listened to a recent podcast where Tim Ferriss interviewed Art De Vany, called “How to Reverse Aging,” and it impressed upon me the importance of dietary restriction. The verbiage can be a bit complex and over-my-head at times, but as far as I understand it, we need to recycle protein within our bodies. If we don’t, the excess protein leads to build up of mitochondria, which accelerates the onset of aging.
5. Gain Weight, Respect Myself
I love Thailand because, outside of my home of California, it’s the most convenient place on earth. Here I can get anything I want. Supplements like cissus quadrangularis, turmeric, gingko, greek yogurt, protein shakes… are readily available at every 7-11 in Thailand, for dirt cheap!
It doesn’t get any better than that.
And of course I love to travel but the tradeoff is it becomes more difficult to stay in great shape. Earlier this year, after four or five months on the road, I no longer carried a healthy self-image. I looked in the mirror and saw a scarecrow. I no longer respected what I saw – and anyone who has been in that position knows how terrible and deflating that feeling is.
I’m pleased to say that after a month and a half of serious training at the gym and overfeeding I’m back to where I want to be. I’ve accomplished through a high-protein diet, with plenty of milk and milk products. I have no love for milk, but it’s a necessary evil to help me gain my mass back — and it’s working.
Most importantly, I want to develop a regular practice of loving and respecting myself. This starts with being proud of my body and the way I look, but also means incorporating a regular practice of appreciating myself. I’ve always been too hard on myself as a means to push myself onward, and while it can be useful for getting things done, it can also tear my sense of self-esteem to tatters.
6. I Will Not Cause Permanent Damage Because of Temporary Feelings
Wow! This last personal habit is extremely important but has always been difficult, for me personally, to follow.
I’ve failed at enough relationships to fuel my own soap opera, and made one too many boneheaded decisions with serious consequences due to temporary emotions. And once something has become strained, such as the dynamics of a relationship, it’s almost impossible to go back and undo what you’ve done.
There is a saying that “life keeps teaching you the same mistakes until you learn them.” I cannot claim to have discovered all of the answers as a result of these firsthand trials by fire. But I do, as much as possible, try to remind myself not to react in anger to offenses; and to let time pass. I’ve found that if I sleep something off I tend to forget what it was that made me upset in the first place.
The key to good mental health is to forget all the bad. And of course appreciate all the good 🙂 Not always easy to implement in practice, but I’m setting myself up for the challenge.
And, of course, I appreciate you too!
So there’s a rough list of habits that I’m working to actively incorporate to improve my life in all areas. Which personal habits are important to you?
Drop me a comment and join the discussion 🙂