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.
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?
Yesterday I walked home after taking a vinyasa class. I like to walk after yoga. And I like to walk at night too because the city is different.
Around 5~10 minutes before reaching home a guy went to talk to me. Usually I ignore guys who talk to me at night in my neighbourhood. Let’s put it in contest: my neighbourhood is ok but let’s say it’s not the richest part of Montreal. In the area where I met the guy it’s common to see some dealers and some prostitutes and there are often people asking you for weird shit or others randomly screaming. Nothing really dangerous but I just try to not get myself into shitty situation either. Anyway, the guy told me that he didn’t have money and his car, that was parked a couple of blocks away, ran out of gas. He told me he had been asking to people for 2 hours and nobody gave him anything. Basically he needed between 10 and 20 dollars to fill his tank and so he could go home (20~30km from Montreal), he had to get to work at 5am the next day and it was around 10pm. In exchange he wanted to give me some tools (he told me he was a carpenter) he had in his car as a guarantee and then reimburse me in one or two days.
Usually I automatically think it’s some kind of a scam and I walk away. But this time I helped the guy. I gave him $20. I didn’t want to walk to his car and get some tools because it would have got me farther from home. So he told me he would call me today or tomorrow to give me my money back.
I don’t really care if I get my money back. I mean it’s $20, it won’t change my whole life but I usually don’t give this amount of money to a stranger in the street. I mean I would give $5 without thinking but for some reason $20 is making me feel weird inside.
I talked about it with a couple of people today. Some think it’s cool. Others think I’m cheap because I care about my money. And some others think that I’m stupid and it was obviously a scam. The thing is I want to test my faith in people. I really hope the guy calls me, not because I want my $20 back, but because I believed he was a good person and I really want him to be one.
You see, I think having faith in people requires more than sharing a facebook link of “30 pictures that will give you faith in humanity”. I’m really guilty of ignoring a lot of people in the streets. I often have my earbuds on as a defence mechanism. It’s bad. So I’m trying to push myself and I see what happens…
So what do you think? Did I make the right choice, am I cheap or am I just stupid?
ps: last thoughts on this… Whatever you think, this is really a selfish act. Worse, I kind of brag about it on my blog. But even if I kept it to myself I would have heard this little voice inside telling me “you’re so cool for helping people” and it would have been selfish too…
UPDATE: I saw the guy again. He was still asking for money to buy gas to someone else. So yeah… It was a scam. I still think I took the right decision though.
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 :
What is the worst case scenario?
What would I lose?
How could I come back to where I was before?
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?
In my quest to be more efficient, I found that I lose most of my productivity and focus in letting others steal my time. This way to do things is considered as normal or even productive when it is just a way to transform us into robots who deal with pushes, alerts and notifications. This is the push generation.
In the push generation world you get hundreds of notifications every day, your phone is ringing, blinking, virbrating all the time, you get little boxes opening in all corners of our screens and you are constantly connected and available for everybody, but you are never available for yourself. Does it feel familiar?
I went to a conference the other day and one of the speaker was promoting this way of working. This guy describes himself as a creative but all he is doing really is making what others are asking him to do... all the time. That means he answers emails, tweets, phone calls on weekends, vacations, at 5 am, at 1pm at 11pm. And it feels great for him because he has this feeling of being busy. And also this is “new technology so it must mean that it’s efficient, right?” I understand this feeling: I used to work like this and I thought it was awesome except I didn’t get much done really. I actually spent several years doing a project that should have taken a month or two because I let people interrupt me literally all the time. I don’t know… this doesn’t sound like focused or creative work to me but rather like being a puppet.
Turn off all notifications
I’ve turned off all notifications on my Iphone earlier this week. Because I can easily spend 5 minutes navigating without any real purpose on my iphone when I get a notification that someone liked one of my Instagram pictures.
[Actually it’s not really true, I kept the notifications from only one app: Re.Minder (ugly app but it works well) because I program the really important stuff I have to do every day in this app]
As I write this my phone is in the kitchen at he other side of the appartment. It’s turned off. This way I’m pretty sure I won’t be bothered by someone calling me. I find people are more focused when they have to leave a message anyway. They go straight to the point.
Also my email client is closed. And I have blocked email domains (gmail, etc…) with SelfControl. Self Control also blocks Twitter, Facebook, Reddit (etc…) for an amount of time that I predefined. In this case: 2 hours. I know that I can be weak and open by Facebook news feed several times an hour if I don’t pay attention (really!).
You can totally explain this strategy to your friends, your colleagues, your clients… They generally accept it without any question. Actually they often respect you for being organized and straight with them.
Now, read your emails at least once a day (on work days), consult your answering machine too. A few years ago, I had a colleague who tried to apply read his emails only once a day because he didn’t want to be interrupted. Good idea except he actually processed maybe 3 or 4 random emails every day and let the other ones unread… After a while he had several thousand unread emails in his inbox (I puked a little in my mouth when I saw his inbox one day). It was really bad and nobody really trusted him or his method.
Talking about urgency…
When you start to master your own time, you realize that most urgent problems are really not that urgent. And it’s really frustrating when you consider them as important and realize then that you could have done something that mattered instead of letting someone interrupt you. We have been trained to answer to stimuli as urgent life-or-death signals. Just watch the reaction of people when their phone rings, their facials expressions, how they move… You can have a really important discussion with someone and they will stop listening to you to say hi to their Mom who randomly called in the middle of the day (or worse because one of their friends from college posted a cute picture of their new cat on Facebook). And they act like they had absolutely no choice. When that happen, I leave. I start something else. And also I lose a lot of confidence in this person I was talking with.
My suggestion is to ignore the “pushes” and notifications you get. You don’t really need them. Keep the ones you really need (if you think you really need Facebook notifications, think again). And also organize your email account so that most mails get processed automatically with rules (it’s not rocket science), you will only have to process important messages and you will save hours.
And finally: you know what is important. I know you do, so focus on that.
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…
I don’t really like weekends. I mean, yes I do like weekends and I like to just relax and enjoy life but I generally don’t feel good about myself at the end of Sunday if I just kicked back and did nothing for two days – whereas I feel really great after a Tuesday of good work. That’s my thing, I need to get stuff done.
I started my company more than a year ago and working for myself is probably one of the hardest thing I did in my life (but it’s also one of the most enjoyable!). I can’t count the number of times I failed. Actually I noticed that it’s quite easy to think of all these failures and just spiral down an endless state of pessimistic laziness. My brain is wired like that: if I don’t make an effort it focusses on all the crap that I get into instead of moving forward. I hate being in that state… It’s worst than just failing, it feels like another layer of failure bullshit on top of what I’m already dealing with… You know what I mean?
There is only one way to go around that: focus on your successes. “Oh really, that’s it? Well, since you’re so smart Manuel, why don’t you tell us how to do this? Because it’s easy to say to focus on your successes but you don’t know my life and everything went wrong today…“. Ok… First, let’s redefine the term “success”. Success is not a goal, it’s not a state you will attain at some point, it’s a process. Let’s say you want to become one of the best iphone app programmers around (which is one thing I’m working on), well, it won’t happen in one day. But perhaps you can read 30 minutes about app development and practice for an hour today. If you consistently do that, you’ll make progress. But you can’t expect to become one of the best and just kick back. The more you progress, the more you have to work on how to continuously evolve. See what I mean? There is no big success but just an accumulation of little successes. So when I say “success” I mean the process or the little steps of this process.
Even if you work on your big life project every day, some days will just be plain shitty. It’s normal to fail and deal with crap, that’s how we learn, right? The simplest way to increase your chances of keeping a successful state of mind is to multiply your activities (the multipotentialites can help you with that). This is why I’m working on becoming one of the greatest app developer but also on growing my company, working on my client projects, writing on this blog, studying to become a yoga teacher and generally hacking/improving my everyday life. With more activities, I just can’t expect to fail at everything everyday (or that would be a very shitty day, but even in that case I’m pretty sure there would be something positive aspects in all that mess). So every night, when I go to bed, I have at least one (if not many) small victory(ies) to focus on.
I use these pieces of software (Things, Re.Minder and Lift) to remind me to do things… Because I can’t rely on my brain to remind me what I have to do and also I don’t want to clog my thoughts with stuff that can be automated. For example: if I don’t practice my handstand every day I tend to forget how to do it well and I go backward. That’s why I have a reminder to practice handstands at least once a day… It doesn’t have to be long, it just takes me 30 seconds in the morning, then I check it on Lift and I already told my brain “See, one victory!”. Here are examples of other activities I told myself to do every day… (some are work related, some concern more my personal development, other are just habits I’m trying to build…)
(alternatively, you can also play this song every time you succeed at one of your everyday task)
It’s really that simple: make a list of small steps you have to work on every day and get as much small victories you can. Pretend it’s a game, just focus on that. If you just get one done, that’s already great… It will keep your success momentum going.
Do you already have a list of small steps you work on? Are you planning to make one? Share some of these steps in the comment section… It might inspire others.
It’s nice to not really be an English speaker because I can say “Fuck” and if people are offended they can still think “it’s okay, he’s French and he’s a little stupid like French people are“. But anyway, I’m not that stupid and “fuck” is my favorite english word. (I know I’m a yogi, I should say my favorite word is “Bliss” or “Lotus”… But no, it’s “Fuck”) The sound of it… It ‘s powerful… I was reading about its etymology and it’s kind of hard to trace… It’s like one of these words that literally sounds like what it means. It couldn’t be something else.
So when I talk naturally, without trying to censor myself I usually say “Fuck” quite often, not a lot but often. It’s like in French I say a lot of “putain”, “merde” or “enculé”. I don’t know why… Perhaps I have childhood problem I haven’t dealt with yet or perhaps I don’t think it’s impolite or vulgar either, because it’s not. There’s much more vulgarity in many politically correct expressions and falsely polished ideas. I mean, just watch the news…
But what I feel really impolite is: the “F-word” or “F*ck” or “F%*!”. Why do people say/write that? I see it everywhere on Facebook or in emails, twitter. Why? Seriously, everybody knows that you mean “Fuck”. Kids know it, they are not stupid… Your Mom knows it too. So why are you doing it?
And you want to know what is even more fucked up? It’s that you actually don’t say it so you feel good about supposedly being polite. But when I read it I think “ah yes, he means ‘fuck’…” and you make me say it for you. You are not doing anything but you make me swear in my head and I’m supposed to feel bad about it since you censor yourself because swearing is wrong… How twisted is that? When I think about it it gives me headaches…
So next time you write “F*ck” and you think you’re so clever, just go back and write “Fuck” for real (or don’t at all!) and stand for what you say. It’s not a big thing really but it’s a little step towards being more aligned with who you are (even it’s about saying “fuck”).
For long I thought I was respecting myself but I was just wasting my time. I was just doing what I wanted to do. This is not respecting yourself, this is listening to your lizard brain who only wants to survive and get lazy. This is not what I truly want to be: I have no desire to be remembered as lazy. And as I keep reminding myself: I’m probably the laziest guy I know. This is quite embarrassing actually. All this time I have wasted just because I did “what I wanted to do”.
“What do I want?” is probably not the right question… “Who do I want to be?” seems more appropriate.
I would like to decipher the code of this world. I have the feeling that most people wear distorsion glasses. Perhaps if you are a Zen master or a Swami you have found a way to take these glasses off. I’m still wearing them and all this time I thought I was living in the world, I was just blindly being carried by something I didn’t even see. It takes a lot of humility to accept it that your vision is probably false. And at the same time it’s easy to accept and have a glimpse at this real world.
Letting go is a way of not making your distorsion glasses worse. That’s why many people tell you to let go and this is great… But it doesn’t make your glasses clearer either. Observing the way you appreciate your experiences is much more useful if you want to advance in deciphering the world. Quite often I find myself judging instead of observing. Do you think scientists who study Cancer judge this disease? Probably not… They would get too depressed. They observe it, they observe the way it works, the way it infects tissues. I’m pretty sure they can be fascinated even! In the end they find a way to understand the disease and they realize that their vision was just distorted the whole time… But without these countless days of observing they would not be able to figure out shit.
I love science and I believe scientists are probably the best philosophers. And I’m seriously quite surprised that most Swamis have a really good knowledge of physics and science in general. I wouldn’t have thought of that before studying more of their writings. We should act like them and use a scientific approach. However most people (including me) are so confident that their own bullshit is so “right” that they don’t take time to observe what is going on in their lives. It’s easy to judge and say others are wrong but you are probably as wrong as many. Judging is faster. But how can you judge if you know when you realize that you are probably not seeing things clearly? Judging is probably the worst form of disrespect you can give yourself.
This is why I’m observing more. I want to adopt the scientist mind in all situations.
I’m facing a problem: How can I analyze it and make it easier to solve?
I’m having a good time with friends: What are the sensations? How does it change my perception of the world?
Someone giving me some bad news: What process do I enter in? Am I in control or am I letting my feelings take over?
I’m bored: What is going inside me? How deep is this feeling of emptiness?
When you stop judging the situations you are living things become lighter and distorsions fade off a bit. Most situations are much simpler when you don’t let your emotions making you spiral out of control. This is what I think of when I start doing “what I want to do”. Am I doing it as a reaction to escape a situation or am I truly respecting myself and observing what is happening?
Just try to observe what is going on in your daily life, it doesn’t need to be extraordinary to start with. Most “insignificant” situations can often tell you more about yourself and the world than the emotion charged ones.
And when you consciously observe what happens and respect yourself, you become a better part of this world. It’s probably the best way to start deciphering the world, don’t you think?
Last week, one of my facebook friend (whom I could call an acquaintance more than a friend) posted a racist meme on his wall. This day when I opened my news feed I saw this image saying that basically Muslims are all terrorists in disguise (and it was trying to be funny and clever but it was really not). It’s not the first time this guy posts shit like this but usually I see it and I don’t do anything except this time I couldn’t take it and I surprised myself : I told him he was a fucking jackass.
Most people usually don’t do anything in this case . They probably disagree with this kind of statement but they just take it in and it stays somewhere inside them until they start to think it’s normal. It’s probably what happened to this guy: he got used to certain situations and thinks that it’s funny to discriminate a whole culture because he has simply become a douchebag. And most people don’t react because they think it’s ok to express yourself like this about others because … I don’t know… just take a look at how TV and movies depict other cultures: they’re either evil or cute and innocent poor bastards.
I’m probably dumb for realizing this now: all of us are genuinely good persons but we absorb so many tensions that we’re becoming someone else. People are not really happy but they don’t know why and in fact it’s simple: they are just dealing with too many tensions! There is nothing new here, reacting is normal… you probably think you act when in fact you react to something (I’m hungry –> I need food –> I need money –> I’m working). So why not extending this and get cleared of all tensions?
Someone post a racist meme, I clearly comment back to tell him that he’s a fucking racist and I block him… I don’t want see more of this shit.
Yesterday I’ve been yelled at by a driver who thought it was appropriate to tell “I’m going to kill you fucker!” because I was in front of him with my bike and he couldn’t pass me. So I answered to him… in the same tone. I think he will remember it.
I see people asking for change, I give them some change.
Every of these actions have an incredible impact on my well-being. I thought my journey to self-realization or whatever was to be quiet but in fact I was not being quiet I was being passive. I was just accumulating tensions in silence. I don’t find any peace in this. Peace comes from rebalancing your tensions. And yes this is extremely selfish. That means that ultimately you help others because you feel uneasy seeing them suffering (and you don’t want to feel uneasy). Or you’re being really strong with someone because he’s being an asshole and it makes you feel bad. Yes, it’s extremely selfish but any kind of action is ultimately really selfish, you have to accept it.
My quest is to find and work on who I truly am and accumulating more tensions is just making it more difficult. I can’t take that shit anymore.
What tensions are you getting used to? How do you compensate for them?