self-improvement

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Different paths

I went to see the Avett Brothers, 2 days ago. I’m not really a fan of theirs, but we had a friend who had tickets and couldn’t go… So we went.

I always feel good in concert venues. I don’t really know why. Perhaps it’s the crowd energy. I guess this why for a period of my life all my budget was dedicated to going to all the concerts I could technically go to. Or perhaps this is why I feel good in concert halls. Because I’m really familiar with them and they just feel like home.

But anyway, the Avett Brothers is not really my kind of music. I’m more an electro/hip-hop kind of guy, that’s it.

So why did I like this show so much? Seriously, I want to listen to the Avett Brothers all the time now, what is happening to me?

This is the answer: this concert opened a little door inside me. And ideas started pouring. This is how I felt during the whole show.

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Really!…

I figured out so many things and came up with so many new concepts, I had to take some notes on my phone when we went out of the concert venue. In fact, I really needed to step into this zone that I’m not familiar with. Simply because this is not me. And I need to extend my parameters, otherwise I get stuck.

And you know what? This happened when I went to see this impressionism exhibition, when I went to this chamber of commerce social event I really didn’t want to go to or when I visited the house of Green Gables… All of these, I was really not interested in.

Every time I experiment something really different from what I’m used to, every time I meet people who are really different form the people who are close to me, this same feeling happens.

That’s how creativity works. When I just listen to same music, when I read the same authors, when I spend time with the same friends, nothing really important happens.

Innovating ideas won’t come to you magically. The only way to have a fresh vision is to experience something really different as often as you can. You probably feel it’s not interesting, that it’s wasted time but it will extend your parameters. If others are curious about it there must be a reason. Different paths exist but we are often too stubborn to see them. If you’re an explorer, you need to experiment them too. Understanding why these paths exist will make you more curious. And also you will learn how others see the world.

And this is how you will figure out your path.

Later this week I will visit an architecture exhibition. I don’t know much about it.

It seems boring. That’s exactly what I need.

 

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A simple motivation mind trick

There is not a really big difference between people who are awesome and people who are just normal. Actually awesome people are really normal. If you don’t know them you just think “great guy, he’s nice”… that’s it. And after you realize is the CEO of some great startup or a guy who traveled the world while you were playing Candy Crush.

This is the big difference between normal and awesome. If you want to be awesome, do awesome. And this doesn’t necessarily means you must travel around the world. Actually there is so many travel bloggers right now that it seems kind of crowded. You know what? Every week I find a new blog of French expats in Montreal talking about how they opened a bank account and asked for a new driver’s licence. Montreal probably became one of the most French populated city outside of France. So, no… The world doesn’t really need more travel bloggers (and it doesn’t need more mommy bloggers either by the way). Or if you really need to travel, stop going to Canada or Thailand like everybody. Go in the middle of Zimbabwe or cross Antarctica. Wow, I’m rambling…

But anyway, you don’t need to travel the world, you just need to make something great. And it can be working on your health, creating a company, be an inventor, I don’t know… Anything! Just do it and let people know about it.

Now, I’m sure you are pretty awesome at something. Everybody is. Perhaps you cook better, or take pictures better than the average. But the difference between you and the person who will succeed is that you have to cut down the distractions.

And this is what ruins the world right now. Distractions. You know what I mean: TV, internet, facebook…. It’s poisoning us. It’s an addiction. Really, it’s like crack. It makes us feel good in the moment but it really doesn’t help on the long term

I was watching this video yesterday.

Yes, you can watch it again. This is not new but we need this to be repeated over and over again because nobody seems to understand.

Everything is made so we can run the easiest life possible. And we think this is cool. But easy is just making you lazy (and fat). And that is actually why somebody get in front of you. Because some don’t care if they have to make the extra effort. Some understand that life can’t always be glamorous. and that it has to suck to get things done.

I know, it’s hard. You know what? Even writing this is hard, I’d like to just lay down and daydream right now, but instead I keep working on my laptop. It would be so easy to just take breaks all the time and let life roll. It’s hard to keep the motivation when you know that watching a movie or talking about your holidays with your colleagues again won’t make a big difference.

Ok this is great, but if you’re so smart Manuel, why don’t you tell us how to keep motivated? Ok… I’ll share it with you. I found some mind trick that keeps me working. When I want to stop, it makes me work extra hours. And I don’t need someone to push me, I can do this by myself. I call it…THE 10 YEAR RULE

Ok, this is simple… Your distractions are ruining your life. Procrastination ruins your life. You know it, I know it (trust me). But you can’t find something that makes you act better.

The 10 year rule is: Will what you are doing right matter in 10 years? That’s it… This is the most powerful question I ask myself every day. If you have a phone or a laptop, put this in your reminders so it fires 2-3 times a day. Put it in capital letters and make it bad-ass: >>>>>WHAT AM I DOING RIGHT NOW? WILL IT FUCKING MATTER IN 10 YEARS?<<<<<. Stop reading and put this in your reminders now… Actually I should make an app to have this reminder pop-up randomly and blink in red several time during the day.

So why 10 years and not 2 or 40? It’s really personal. I used to think that what I will benefit from what I worked on when I’m old. This is what the system wants us to believe. You are working so you can have money to retire, meanwhile you pay for your parents retirement (this is over simplified but this is how it works). And you know what? It doesn’t work for me. I don’t think I will ever really retire and also thinking about life in 35-40 years seems really far. It was even farther when I was 20. But 10 years work good. It’s something you can relate to. Perhaps 5 years work better for you. I don’t know, take what makes heart pound.

Now, I don’t mean you have to constantly remind yourself where you want to be in 10 years but rather if what you are doing today will matter in 10 years.

This, my friends, is the only motivation I need. This is what makes me work when I could watch TV. This is what makes me practice yoga when I could drink a beer. This is what makes me code when I could scroll Facebook. And this is what makes me write this when I could do nothing.

So what are you doing today? Will it matter in 10 years?

Answer and act accordingly.

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Who do you want to be?

When I was 14 at the end of junior high school, I was asked to decide what job I wanted to do after school. Like that: enter a class room, sit down, take a pen and a piece of paper and write down who you want to become.

I remember I asked the teacher if I would be able to change my mind after. She said “maybe”.

I was so fucking stressed. I haven’t thought about that this seriously. So since I liked watching stars I wrote astrophysicist. The teacher took my paper, filed it and the next year I studied more science. That’s it.

A couple of years after before getting to university, same question: Who do you want to be? What? again? Can’t I just figure this one out later? I had several friends who wanted to study electronics so I said electronics. And I went studying for two years in the electronic department of the university.

At the end of that again, same question: what do you want to do? work or study more? I got an appointment with one teacher there. He told me: ” you’re not ready to work but you don’t have the mentality for engineering school”. It was a nice way to say “you’re fucked buddy“. Anyway I applied for an engineering school in my hometown. They told me I had no chance to be selected because I sent my file too late. It was basically that or nothing. I was a little desperate… But in the end they took me. Seriously engineering school was hard but not that hard. Basically sometimes, I couldn’t party for 3-4 days because I had to study. This kind of hard. I got my engineering degree, I honestly think I did a good job and also I  went to all the college parties and concerts I could during these three years.

And after that, nothing. I went out of school and nobody asked what I wanted to do. Hey guys, where are you? Are you kidding me?

I looked for jobs in high-tech companies, the kind of companies who judge you on the way you tied your tie, not your qualifications, I did some interviews… I couldn’t stand it. I had no desire to work for people who wanted to make me a robot. I wanted to create stuff, not being told what to do.

So I worked in a hardware store. I was being told what to do from 5 am to 1pm and after that I was free. I’ve always been a morning kind of guy anyway.

One day I met a friend in this hardware store. When I was in engineering school I did an internship in the company he worked for. He told me the company decided to hire an engineer. The next week I was working for them.

And the same thing happened every year: What do you want to do? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? I want a raise. I want more responsibilities. I want to go to Canada.

So they sent me to Canada (in case you don’t know, I’m French). I worked for them for three years in Montreal. But, hey… I was still not free. I was still doing what I was being told to do. I was not creating stuff at all. It was not the company’s fault, it was mine. I was not doing what I wanted. I was a robot. And in some ways it was comfortable because I just had to follow, tell some people what to do, tell other people what I had done. And it was ok but not really.

The worst was that I could see myself doing the same job in 20 years. And I got scared. So I quit.

And now I’m on my own.

It’s hard to know what you want to do. When you have no clue, people decide for you. You think you had a choice because people asked you but in fact no, choices are really limited… What if you want to be a fisherman in Alaska or a shaman? There is no school for that.

Now I know who I want to become. I know that I want to be on the edge. I don’t want to be comfortable.

And I’m the only one who can make it happen. It’s liberating.

I’m working on this right now.

Do you?

Playing idiots

There is this trend that is semi-popular among personal development bloggers: some of us are awake and others are zombies. From my experience if I tend to think that someone is a zombie it’s probably that I missed something. Everybody has something great to share. Not seeing that is actually a sign that you don’t see others for what they really are.

That being said, many people are idiots. I’m probably the worst idiot I know. I’m naive, I make very stupid decisions, I miss huge opportunities all the time, I can be extremely awkward in social events and despite all this, I continue to believe I am a smart guy. Pretty funny, but I’m okay with all this. I’m at ease with being an idiot.

Not always though… I’m not okay with pretending I’m an idiot. And I feel I consciously play the idiot because this is what everybody does.

For example: I know that many businesses put profits before the quality of their products/ services. This is no surprise. But sometimes it is so obvious that they use their customer’s lack of intelligence to make more money that I have to question if they care even a little about them. This is what I saw earlier today in a Metro supermarket in Montreal.

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You don’t need to speak french to get it. But if despite this really easy translation issue, you still don’t get it then you are like all the people who bought this tropical juice (there was none left). This means that there is a significant part of Metro customers that can’t multiply 1.25 by 4. Or they simply didn’t pay attention and trusted that this supermarket act for their best interest.

Sweet! This business that has absolutely no remorse to sell us tomatoes that taste like water, OGMs that we don’t have a clue if they are good or bad for us, expired meat covered with barbecue sauce and  plastic containers made in factories that barely respect human rights is probably trying to help me save money because its management cares for me!

I’m one of those naive guys… This is what I mean when I say I’m really an idiot. I wish businesses like this one tried to not insult my intelligence and tried more subtle marketing campaigns. But it works and nobody cares, so why not take the opportunity, right?

What terrifies me is that we still buy most of our food in stores like this one, that we continue to support a system that we know is wrong simply because it’s a pain to deal with smaller, honest but more expensive businesses. We are lazy and we are cheap ; that’s why we are okay with playing idiots. 

So you can continue to do that and blame it on the “system”. But in the end, the system is not the cause, you are because you are maintaining the status quo.

If you see me pretending to be an idiot again, please kick me in the balls.

 

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How to be smart

I’m usually disappointed by smart people. At first,  I meet them, I think they are awesome, I want to be friend with them. And then I realize it was just a show (or plain bullshit) and it takes a lot to actually be smart. That’s when I’m disappointed.

I used to think that knowledge was this thing that make you a smart guy. It’s not. Knowledge is the show. Knowledge was important before, not anymore. Because knowledge is free, thanks to google, wikipedia and your public library. You want to know something: use google, wikipedia or your public library. You can just gather knowledge from there when you want. Right now if you are reading this and you wonder how to change the belt in your dryer, you can google it. You may not be as quick or as a repair guy to figure out how to do it. But if you do it for you, for your neighbour and for your aunt, chances are you’ll be as smart as the repair guy in terms of dryer belts. And then you’ll be known as dryer belt smart.

For instance: I’m good with computer. It’s following me everywhere. I don’t even have to advertise it, it’s like people already know. They ask me where to buy their new laptop, if I can have a look at their printers, change the time on their bluray player, transfer music on their ipod, install or worse: “boost” their old Windows Millenium computer … Yesterday I was sitting in a mall doing absolutely nothing. I was just waiting. I was not trying to give any hint. An old man came to ask me how he could connect his laptop to the free wifi! I’m telling you, it must be written “I’m a fucking computer engineer. Ask me anything” on my forehead. So yes, I’m computer smart. That’s one thing.

How did I become computer smart? Google, wikipedia and public library… I also studied computer science during 5 years in college but what I learned was: be good at finding information, that’s what I did. That’s it. I have a nice paper saying that I studied 5 years for that. If you can figure how to use google, wikipedia or the public library before going to college, you’ll save 5 years of your life. When I have a computer problem, I google it. That’s it. When I ask people I help if they tried to google it, they say no.

I was talking with some friends the other day. We were wondering how many people live on Prince Edward Island. We all had smartphones. But I was the only one to google it. The reaction was “Wow, it’s wonderful what we can do with technology now!” Are you kidding me? Everybody has access to internet almost 24/7. It’s not even new, it has been years. You pay 60$ per month to have access to the whole internet in your pocket, what is your excuse for not using it? Candy crush saga? You’re “too old”? I feel literally blessed to live in a world where information is free. We should all be so glad for it… It’s insanely awesome, how can we not enjoy it?

Now a lot of people are smart because they went to college and they memorized a lot of stuff. I know people who can literally recite some equations. They can give you the exact definition of “fuzzy logic” or “computer-aided manufacturing”. The guys were always first at my engineering school. They used to piss me off… But these are the same people who asked me if I can help them set up their new computer. See what I mean? They were trying to be wikipedia but no one needs another wikipedia or another google. If you can recite a super complicated programming algorithm but you’re not able to install the computer it’s going to run on, you have a problem.

Knowledge is just the surface of things, it has nothing to do with how things work. Worse, knowledge is constantly changing, it’s changing fast. Memorizing stuff like a monkey only makes you good in the past. Too bad, you are not living in the past.

What really matters is your capacity to adapt and figure out a solution to a problem. Basically being smart is trying that at least…

If you can’t find the answer on google, wikipedia or at the public library, it doesn’t mean there’s no answer. It means it’s your turn to figure it out. It means you are on the right path.

This is where you can really make a difference.

Kids in disguise

I turned 33 a month ago. People told me that after my 20s the world would be different, that it would be too late to start something new. So far I don’t see much difference between by 20s and my 30s except that it takes me a little more time to adjust if I mess with my sleep time. Apart from that I’m really happy to be in my 30s.

The thing is I don’t really know if I’m an adult yet. A friend told me 5 years ago that I was living like a college kid because I was going to a Metallica show. I was 28 and honestly most of the people at the show were older than me. I mean, it was Metallica so I guess it was normal. But for my friend going to a concert was a college kid thing, I was 28 I should have stayed home and put some Ikea furniture together like a good 28 year old adult.

I suck at adulthood. I have to admit it. Nobody told me what it is. And I don’t think anybody really knows either.

It’s this thing: you spend around 20 years being treated like a kid – because it takes 20 years to be ready for the complicated world we have created – and then… ta da!… you are an adult. Since all you know is being told what to do like a kid, you continue to listen to what you are told like a kid. You work for a company where teachers are replaced by managers, you consume cultural products that are said to be good for you, etc… In fact adult life is really similar to a kid life without the fun. But you think you are an adult so it seems that everything is A-ok.

I would like to think it’s conspiracy but it’s not, that politicians put us in a box. But It’s not that, it’s just laziness. We don’t want to explore what is possible because it might be uncomfortable. Fuck that!… Kids don’t care to fall, open a knee and bleed. They know they won’t die from what they try and that yes it might hurt but at least they experience something. But us, “adults”, we are so stubborn. We think we get it, when we don’t have a fucking clue. And that’s what prevents us from trying new things.

The conspiracy is just in your head. The conspiracy is your excuse because you don’t want to get up and do something. The world is made a certain way but it’s just a limited perception. There is much much more possibilities outside of the spectrum of the world you accept to see. And yes it is just your will to see more that will make the difference, nothing else.

If there is something that would make us adults, it would be the ability we have to think like innocent kids and imagine new alternatives to our world. It would be to remove the layers of illusions and assumptions we’ve built up over time. This is what matters: to keep this inside light shining and to not worry about being conform to what have been taught.

So what could you start with. If you were a 6 year old kid right now… What would you do? What question would you ask?

Photo by joeflintham.

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You need to make a decision

Right now, there is something that is waiting for you. Perhaps it’s an email that you are not sending or just some work that you are not doing.

Of course you could check Facebook real quick and then take another sip of coffee, look around, change your desktop background but you are just not making a decision. Actually that’s not true, you are making a decision: you are deciding to wait (perhaps not consciously but still this what you decide). And your email or your phone call or that important work that you have to do, well… it’s still not done.

It took me at least 15 minutes to start writing this. I’m sitting in a café and I spent 15 minutes doing absolutely meaningless things. I also have an email that I have to answer to and I’m thinking of it and not doing it. I’m sure it would have been faster to just write it, it’s a 4-5 line email anyway. But instead I wait. I don’t even know why…

You know what? I’m sure that like almost everybody you think you don’t have enough time. I know the feeling… The question is not about time, it’s about the decisions you make. Time goes as fast for everybody and some people just make awesomeness with it. It doesn’t even seem possible that they put so much focus to make these things happen.

I guess their secret is that they don’t even take time to think they do not have enough time. They just take a decision to do something. And then they take another one and they keep that pace.

I’m sure by now you have a little something in mind that you have to do. You wanted to spend some time reading this? Instead I’m offering you some time to get stuff done… Now you can go and come back when you’re done, it’s your decision. I’ll wait here… (and send my email).

So, back already? What decision did you make? Did you decide to do what you had todo or did you continue to read this post? How did it feel?

Now don’t lose your focus. Take another decision, a conscious one.

You don’t need more time, you just need to make decisions.

 

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Connect with nature

I spent last week at an intensive yoga retreat. This was the last part of the yoga teacher training I followed this year. The retreat was located somewhere in the middle of the Eastern Townships mountains in Quebec. Apart from practicing yoga and meditation extensively, the true benefit of this retreat was that we were all immersed in nature. No phone, no money, no TV, no radio, no internet… It felt great!

I didn’t wear any shoes or sandals during the whole week. At first I was strangely anxious of walking barefoot all over the forest in the mud, on rocks, under the rain… But honestly there is no better feeling than being able to touch the ground with your skin, lay down in the middle of the forest and observe the micro-life happening everywhere or eat roots of wild plants you have just picked.

Nature is not like technology. It doesn’t try to get your attention with beeps and notifications. It’s just there and you can enjoy it as much as you want if you accept it. When you’re not constantly interrupted but you can contemplate what surrounds you, parts of who you are start to be more accessible. During this week I’ve accepted to explore some parts of my soul that I didn’t want to touch before. By connecting with nature I allowed myself to travel deeper inside my consciousness and discover a little more who I am. It’s hard because we have been raised in a control environment. We have been programmed to think that this environment is good for us. And then when we find ourself in the wild and we let the nature rhythm get inside us we get scared of all that we could discover. It doesn’t seem reasonable. We are not used to explore our true self anymore.

This adventure of discovering who we are is our true mission in life. And it is actually easier than it seems when you put yourself in the right conditions.

If you’re like me and live in a city it might seem difficult to connect with nature because you’re still in this control environment. Actually you don’t need much: just go to a park, lay down in the grass and observe what is happening on the ground. Kids do this naturally, they don’t need anybody to tell them how to do it. I did the same yesterday evening. I needed to re-connect so I went for a walk in a nearby park and I just looked at the wind in the trees for 5 minutes. That’s all I needed to tune in with nature. Alternatively you can just look at your skin, your hair, feel the pulse of your blood in your veins. You are nature too after all, you can have access to it… right now!

How often do you reconnect? How often do you get mud on your feet or walk under a heavy rain? When was the last time you felt your heart pounding inside?

How did this make you feel?

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The worst case scenario

What is the cost of failing? I don’t know… It seems big, right? When I think of failing, I think of this homeless guy I see near the metro station. It scares me. There’s a good part of decisions I didn’t take in my life because of that feeling. I think it’s mostly because of education. I’ve been raised to live in a world with some kind of boundaries that we are taught not to cross. If we cross them, we get the image of the homeless guy. Although these boundaries are not here to keep you safe, they are here to keep the system you live in safe from evolving. It’s just some kind of self-preservation mechanism. I don’t really understand why it is like this, some people must have a lot to lose. But that’s not your problem…

It would take a lot of failures to become homeless. Even if I had no job, no one and no money I know I could still find some kind of shitty job and it would actually be ok. I did it before. I worked for a little more than a year moving boxes in a hardware store. Honestly I kicked some ass at this job and it was not that bad. Actually if I didn’t have this job I would have missed a lot of opportunities. Perhaps it would have been better, perhaps worse, I don’t know. But I’m happy where I am.

The only thing that prevents me from taking a risk is the fear of losing my current status and for some reason find myself in an uncomfortable situation (and uncomfortable is the word… in most case the worst situation would just be “uncomfortable”). Here’s how I think about risks before I take one :

  1. What is the worst case scenario?
  2. What would I lose?
  3. How could I come back to where I was before?
  4. What would I learn in the process?

(full disclosure: as far as I can remember in my adult life, I had this idea of what would be the worst case scenario when I made an important decision. It’s not new. But I watched an interview with TIm Ferriss recently and he had formalized these questions – I think he only had three though…)

This is what went through my head when I decided to move from France to Canada, when I quit my job or when I chose to invest a whole year in my yoga teacher training while starting to work for myself. Every time I was scared, but when I thought about it, the worst case scenario was still ok.

Right now I’m trying to reduce my client work to focus on apps I design myself. I still do some client work though and it’s easy to keep doing it and forget about my personal projects. Because my personal projects are risky, they might not work. What would be the worst case scenario actually? I would lose a couple of months of income. This is a pain but it’s not that bad. If it really doesn’t work I can stil work on an other product or do more client work. And actually I’m always more efficient when I do something for a second time, knowing what are the traps I must not fell into.

I don’t know about you but I have no interest in living a normal balanced life. I don’t want to have a boring job and go to the mall on Saturday to buy stuff I don’t need. I don’t want to watch CSI Las Vegas because my brain is too tired to enjoy a better activity. I don’t want to go on vacation in these big concrete resorts somewhere in the Bahamas and get smashed to forget about how stressful my life will be when I’ll go back to work.

What is the worst case scenario of running a normal life? Well, you might just have nothing interesting to tell your grand-kids. It sucks.

On the other hand, the other worst case scenarios (or scenarii) might just make you a little more exceptional and bring you opportunities you would never had otherwise.

When I think about it even seems safer and more clever than the normal life, doesn’t it?

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The good guy strategy

I have this draft post about all the lessons I’ve learned while working for myself. If you are interested in reading a 1200 word boring-as-hell post, I can send it to you. But actually I can sum it four words: stop being a dickhead.

Seriously… Nobody think highly of you when you act like you fucked everybody to get in the first place. This is not success, this is actually failure. I know people who did it, they are rich, they have a big house and two big cars but they are miserable.

Let’s just talk about entrepreneurship a little because this was my prior intention. If your business is just to make a shitload of money it doesn’t serve any purpose. I can’t count how many people gave me “good tips” to make more money. Some of them include promoting illegal or totally immoral activities for the sake of “success”. I might as well become a pimp or a drug dealer if morality doesn’t matter…. Half of “entrepreneurs” who tried to help me mentioned deducting more business expenses (that were actually not business expenses) to get higher tax returns. And honestly, I tried because it sounded like a good idea but it takes a great amount of time to cheat, so I gave up. And also I was feeling really bad about myself. I’d rather invest this time into doing awesome work.

It’s like they are thinking money and not good honest products or work. Actually I’m really surprised by the number of people who don’t give a fuck about the quality of their work. And that does not apply to entrepreneurs only. It’s so bad that we almost find this normal to get paid for doing nothing (actually people just sat behind me in the café where I’m writing this and they are complaining about their jobs and also discussing how they can get more time off this summer by faking being sick. You see what I mean?).  

You won’t get far with this way of thinking… And this is not the kind of person I want to become even if it means more money. This sums up my values as an independent worker (and more generally as a human being): don’t try to fuck the system but make the system better. Don’t try to screw others, give them an awesome experience instead. Don’t do shitty work, do work that matters.

And stop being a dickhead, be the good guy. It always (always!) works…