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Age Contrasting

“Youth is wasted on the young.”

My impression of the quote is that it’s conveying the idea that we are ignorant when we are young and become wise when we’re too old.

I turned 25 a couple of months ago. It really snuck up on me. Looking back on my highschool and college days, there are things that I really wished I would have done, chances that I really wished I had taken. Honestly, I do have a lot of regrets and it does pain me thinking of them.

The thing is that while I was in highschool and college I told myself “someday” I’ll do X.  I was under the impression that I had forever when the truth is that I don’t. When you’re surrounded with peers it’s easy to think you have forever because your reality is comprised of those your age a majority of the time. As a result, I lived in this closed bubble of a reality thinking my youth was forever and drifting through my days.

Why didn’t I take those chances though when I was in highschool and college? It boils down to a single root that I believe is common in all regrets.

Fear.

The reason I didn’t take those chances was because I was scared of

  • Failing.
  • Humiliation.
  • Looking bad.

Fear is the father of all regret. He’s a bastard that needs to be conquered in order to live a fulfilling life. The good news is that fear has a kryptonite. Steve Job’s put’s it elegantly.

“Fear disappears in the face of death quote”

Outside of magically turning 80 years old, I’ve found one of the best ways to stay close to the truth that my time is finite and that I will die is through what I call age contrasting.

Over the past year or so I’ve purposfully spent time with my nephew and with a hospice patient I volunteer for. My nephew is two while my patient is in his 80’s. Both of them are on the extreme spectrums of life. One is getting started in life while the other is nearing the end.

This heavy contrast grounds me to the fact that my time is finite on this planet and that I need to make the most of it. It serves as my weaponry in the battle against my fears.

If I never started this practice of age contrasting then eventually I’d wake up at 40 years old wondering where the time went and full of regrets again. Much like my 25th birthday.

The inevitable truth is that we have a limited amount of time on this planet. I’ve found that it’s easy to drift along this life thinking that we have entirnity when we’re young. Just think of the number of times that you have said “someday” or “tomorrow.” Those “tomorrows” stack and stack around you until one day you’re 40 wondering where your time went.

Age contrasting helps ground myself to the reaility of the shortness of life. Avoid drifting and seek to expand your bubble of reailty or else you’ll wake up with regrets one day.

Work Faster

Before starting to write this post I set a timer for 45 minutes with the goal of writing 1,000 words in 45 minutes. I set the constraint on myself in order to get myself to work faster.

I’ll start with a story of my first venture into E-Commerce. I had taken a course to learn how to start a drop shipping store about a year and a half ago and I’m only finding out now that the niche I picked is a bad niche. It took me 1.5 years to figure out the niche I picked was a bad one. That’s absolute garbage. The reason it took me so long to actually figure it out was simply because I was too scared. I was afraid of failing so I moved very very slow to try and make the right moves each time.

Everything from picking the right niche, making the calls to the suppliers, and checking my site. I over did everything when I had no reason to. First off I didn’t have any experience in E-Commerce so I should have moved as fast as possible however hindsight is 20 20.

A deadline wasn’t set for me to launch my site so I drifted around. I drifted around for 1.5 years before actually going through the material that the course taught.

If I were to be teleported back in time to 1.5 years ago. What would I have done differently?

I would have moved very very fast.

The standard pace is for chumps

I first came across this concept while reading Derek Siver’s blog. The post is titled: There’s no speed limit. I remember reading it years ago however the concept never really sunk in until I experienced 1.5 years wasted from my E-Commerce experience.

The jist of Derek’s story is that a mentor of his was able to help Derek graduate college in 2.5 years opposed to 4 and graduate with a bachelor’s by the time he was 20. I recommend reading the entire story though.

Derek’s mentor was able to raise his standards, “the standard pace is for chumps.” As a result, he was being tutored at a much more accelerated pace. The idea of setting higher standards and expectations was ingrained in Derek’s head. Eventually Derek was able to sell his company, CD Baby, for 22MM.

4 years in 1.5

On Steve Pavlina’s first attempt at college he planned on going through the typical process of spending four years at his school however he found himself uninspired and depressed. Four years felt like it was too distant for him so Steve spent the weekends getting drunk, shoplifting, and playing poker. Still he found himself depressed and eventually he was expelled out of school after being in school for three semesters.

After taking a year off, Steve set an ambitious goal for himself: earn a 4-year computer science degree in 1.5 years. This really lit a fire under his ass and got him excited.

What I love about speed is that it pushes me not just to achieve the goal but also to become a better person along the way. In order to achieve a goal faster, I have to change myself. I have to release more limiting beliefs. I have to become more organized. I have to focus better. I have let go of more fluff. I have to cultivate new relationships with like-minded achievers. I have to get better at avoiding distractions.

Steve Pavlina

Steve was able to complete his goal of graduating in 1.5 years and now is a very successful blogger.

Why work faster?

Why should we work faster anyway? Shouldn’t we just enjoy the process?

I agree that enjoying the process is important to sustaining work however that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice speed for it. You don’t need to work at a snails pace in order to enjoy the process.

Engagement

I’ve found in my experience that when you do work fast and set deadlines/constraints, I become much more engaged in my work because there simply isn’t any room for distractions.

For example with the deadline of writing 1,000 words in 45 minutes for this article, I simply do not have time for distractions while I’m writing this so as a result I’m much more engaged in the process of writing.

Efficiency

Each one of us have a finite number of seconds on this earth. That means that when one second is wasted, it’s gone forever. When you work faster you’re able to produce more and gain more reference experiences. There simply is no other way to gain reference experience outside of simply doing.

  • When you work faster you’re more engaged.
  • When you work faster you get what you need to get done more quickly.

The end result of those two benefits combined results in a more efficient use of your time.

Take Bob who decides to write a 1,000 word article for his blog. He has no deadline and no urgency to get it done. Maybe eventually he get’s it done this week or next. He’ll pick and poke at it without full engagement.

Now let’s look at Jill who set a deadline to have her article done by the end of the day today. There’s a hard deadline set for her. She’ll have it done today and that’s that.

Who is using their time more efficiently?

Quantity Trumps Quality

In order to become better at anything in life you need to put in the reps. Arnold didn’t get to where he was simply by lifting the weights really hard for one day and calling it good. Kanye didn’t get to where he is now simply by writing one song really well and calling it good.

Both Arnold and Kanye did massive volumes of work. Arnold did a massive volume of reps with weights while Kanye created a massive volume of music.

In order to get better at anything you need to ship and then adjust based on the feedback.

Create -> Ship -> Feedback -> Create .001% better -> Ship -> Feedback -> etc.

The quickest way to getting good at anything is maximizing the quantity of work you’re doing. You do that by moving very quickly. Ship. Ship. Ship.

Especially for newbies

The idea of moving fast is especially true when you’re a newbie. Move fast on your ideas because you don’t even know the things you don’t know. The only way to find out will be to take action and actually do. The quickest way to move out of being a newbie is to move as fast as you can while gaining as much reference experience as you can.

That was my downfall when starting my first E-Commerce store. I got sucked into perfectionism and as a result it took 1.5 years for me to fully realize the niche I had chosen was a bad one. Had I moved quickly and set a deadline for myself, I would have found out within a month that the niche I chose was bad and I could have picked a different one.

A blogger who I follow recently completed a 30 day drop ship store challenge. He set a deadline for his store and planned out what he was going to do. He moved quick and is now reaping the rewards. His post is what triggered me to write this blog post.

You can read more about his challenge here: Result of the 30 Day New Store challenge

Moving Forward

Is this article the work of an amazing writer? Hell no and I know that. To be honest, it’s probably pretty bad with my many points scattered. I’m aware of that though. It’s literally the fourth blog post I’ve written in my life. The next XX posts will probably be bad as well and I’m OK with that because I know it’s part of the process. All I can do is simply work faster and create more.

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

Ira Glass

 

2014 Annual Review

2014 is coming to an end and 2015 is starting two days.

Time has been flying very quickly. It’s as if every time I blink my eyes, another year goes by. You know when people tell you that time flies the older you get? It’s true and I’ve only recently been able to truly able to appreciate the truth of that statement.

I didn’t accomplish nearly as much as I set out to accomplish. There was no sense of urgency in me to get the things I wanted to get done done.

I’m going to be brutally honest with myself because rationalizing my way out of it is only going to worsen the problem. I fucked up. I fucked up this year and squandered it away. Time was wasted on frivolous and meaningless things. I didn’t push myself nearly as hard as I “should” have. Therein lies the problem. Should. I should have this. I should have that. Should means absolutely nothing. It’s either I will or I won’t. The gray area of should is a death zone for dreams.

1. What went well this year?

Business. I’m a freelance web developer and it was a good year for me. I doubled my revenue from the previous year. More billable hours and more client work. I learned a lot of new technologies and developed a lot of new skills.

Martial Arts. In June I decided to start training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I’ve lifted weights for nearly 7 years now. It’s fun and I enjoy seeing my body change as well as my strength increase however I’ve always known that it was all a “show.” If I were to end up in an altercation, I honestly wouldn’t know how to handle myself “properly” because my time spent in the gym was simply lifting weights around.

The decision to start training jiu jitsu was triggered from listening to Joe Rogan’s podcast. After listening to him mention the benefits of martial arts over and over I decided to say fuck it and figure out how to start.

My first choice wasn’t to start jiu jitsu though, I simply wanted to learn some form of martial art so I called a Krav Maga place several time. The thing is that they never picked up which led me to call a local jiu jitsu academy. Went to my first trial class and signed up that day.

Since then I’ve:

  • Attended approximately 65 training sessions of both technique work and randori. That equates to about 97.5 hours of training jiu jitsu.
  • Blown my knee out due to an electric chair submission. Put me out of commission for two weeks.
  • Won my first tournament.

Fitness. I started out 2014 really fat. It was the tail end of my first ever “bulk.” It went horribly wrong because all I did was eat pop tarts and barely work out. I reached around 220lbs at my heaviest.

It’s now two days until the end of 2014 and I can say I’m in the best shape of my life. Both from a body composition point of view as well as from an athletic point of view. The lowest I ever weighed was around 170lbs however I had zero endurance and to be honest it was all show.

The combination of jiu jitsu training as well as strict dieting has pushed my body to be the best it’s ever been so far and it’s only going to get better in 2015.

What didn’t go well this year?

Business. Although I did mention that business was something that went well this year, it’s also something that didn’t go well this year because it’s not what I want to do with my life. It just happens to be something that I know how to do and am comfortable doing.

I’m making the jump now to something I’m truly passionate about because I can no longer live my life this way. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to pursue yet but I’ll have made a decision to pursue something outside of web development by the 1st of the New Year.

Self expression. To add to the point before this, I believe that I’m much more of an extrovert than and introvert which means my career so far as a web developer is going completely against what I believe my strengths are. Sitting in front of a computer writing code doesn’t excite me. I’m not able to express myself in ways that excite me.

Three core skills that I am going to work on in 2015 are

  • Writing. I will be writing at the very least one article per week for 2015. The articles will either be on this site, other sites of mine, or guest posts.
  • Speaking. I will give a speech at least once a month in 2015. Currently I will be using my Toastmasters membership to accomplish this however I will expand to paid speaking events once I’ve polished my skills enough.
  • Videos. I’ve always wanted to release Youtube videos expressing my ideas and myself but simply haven’t. Why? There’s no good reason why I haven’t. This year I’ll release one video per week on Youtube.

The number goals are the minimum and may increase as the year goes on.

Focus. One of my weaknesses is indecision. This leads to scattered focus on different projects and ideas. Ambition towards 20 different projects leads to a graveyard of 20 half completed projects. This is a pattern that’s been part of my life. No more though. My focus will be laser focused towards a few select items.

James Clear wrote an article on Warren Buffett’s Strategy for Focus that not only resonated with me but hit me in the face.

I believe the tendency to spread my focus across different projects is because I’m afraid of the projects failing. That means that if a project did fail, my brain would be able to rationalize by saying “well I didn’t put 100%” into it, but if I did…” It’s all just bull shit in my head.

This habit of mine was apparent in my college career as well. I was smart in high school without even having to try. This led me to believe that I was “naturally” smart. When I tried that approach in college, it kicked my ass. My brain rationalized it by saying that it was because “I didn’t try, but if I did…”

I will attack this problem by only working on one project at a time and consciously single tasking at all times to train my focus muscle.

Action Oriented: Books are great however they are useless if you don’t apply the principles you learn from the books. If all you do is constantly read then all you’re doing is mental masturbation. It feels good and it seems like you’re getting somewhere but you’re not. You’re just running in place.

This is something that I’ve fallen trap to. Information overload and lack of action.

I will attack this problem by always having a bias towards action. If I’m uncertain on something, I’ll make a decision as soon as I can and roll with it then learn from it if it was the wrong decision. The solution will be to do more and less theory.

Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit. – Conrad Hilton

No More Grey Zones. Fuck Yes or No: Derek Sivers wrote about this in his blog post “No more yes. It’s either HELL YEAH! or no.” and Mark Manson wrote a piece based on that titled “FUCK YES OR NO“. They are both short reads so I won’t go into it. The idea is that anything I do will either be a “FUCK YES” or a “NO”. There will be no gray area of if I’m pursuing something or not.

Goals for 2015

Tony Robbins created a system called Rapid Planning Method (RPM). The premise of the system is to decide what you want. What is the result and desire that you’re after. The reason for this is because clarity is power. Ambiguity is death.

The system consists of three parts when setting your goals.

  1. Result. What is it that you’re after. What is the specific result?
  2. Purpose. Why do you want to do this?
  3. Massive Action Plan. How are you going to do this?

Goal #1

  • Result: Consistently and easily make $10,000 per month in net by December 31st, 2014.
  • Purpose: To retire my parents and be able to give them $5,000 per month to live on.
  • Massive Action Plan: Build a product based business that provides at least $20,000 in value per month.

Goal #2

  • Result:  Reach 170 pounds by March 31st, 2014.
  • Purpose:  Reaching 170 pounds will get me to the leanest and best shape of my life.
  • Massive Action Plan: Consistently exercise at least 4-5 days a week. This includes weight lifting, jiu jitsu, rock climbing, etc. Meal prep 90% of my meals.

Goal #3

  • Result: Speak in front of 100 people by December 31st, 2014.
  • Purpose: Being able to speak in front of 100 people will mean I’m confident enough to express myself to the world.
  • Massive Action Plan: Give a talk at least twice per month through Toastmasters and any other venue.

 

Week 52 2014

Christmas was this week. Was able to spend time with family at my brothers house. A couple days left of my 30 days of being sober challenge. Feeling very very good and making a lot of gains in the gym.

Nothing ground breaking or new experiences this week but good times overall with family.

New year in two days. Time to up my game and crush 2015.

The gray zone between work and not work

The internet has given humanity a lot of things. Access to almost any type of information you can think of. Worldwide social connection through social media. A level playing field in terms of media creation.

However it’s also given us something else that’s not good and that is the ability to distract ourselves with a single click. This has led to the gray zone between work and not work.

The gray zone is when you’re not entirely focused on the task at hand. It’s when you’re switching between work and not work.

Based on my experience, this is how a typical study session for a college student went.

  • Plop your ass down to study.
  • First you need to check your Facebook to see if you have any new notifications.
  • Study for 30 minutes.
  • Check Facebook.
  • Study for 12 minutes before phone vibrates from a new text message.
  • Study for 17 minutes before that person responds.
  • Repeat for hours.

What you end up with is a study session comprised of broken blocks of focus. You were not able to truly get into a flow state while studying because you were constantly in reactive mode. Reacting to text messages, emails, and Facebook notifications.

This habit I’ve noticed also carries on into the workplace. Employees are at the office for eight hours but how many hours are they actually working? If you were you peep over the shoulder of the average employee, I bet they are doing no more than 2-2.5 hours of actual work. The rest is spent off task on things like chatting with other employees or surfing the internet.

Not only are 75% of the working hours wasted, but they are spent most likely doing shallow work instead of deep work.

Knowledge workers dedicate too much time to shallow work — tasks that almost anyone, with a minimum of training, could accomplish (e-mail replies, logistical planning, tinkering with social media, and so on). This work is attractive because it’s easy, which makes use feel productive, and it’s rich in personal interaction, which we enjoy (there’s something oddly compelling in responding to a question; even if the topic is unimportant).

But this type of work is ultimately empty. We cannot find real satisfaction in efforts that are easily replicatable, nor can we expect such efforts to be the foundation of a remarkable career. – Cal Newport

So not only are you wasting a lot of your time in a fuzzy gray zone of half working, you are shooting yourself in the foot because the time you spend while “working” doesn’t provide you with any real satisfaction.

Either Work Or Don’t Work

I’m guilty of spending a lot of my working life in this gray zone of work and not work. I’ve only recently developed the awareness to be able to pull myself out of the gray zone. Along the way I’ve discovered techniques and strategies that prevent me from entering the gray zone 95% of the time.

Work in Chunks

Every time I sit down to do work, I fire up focus@will and set the timer for 90 minutes. For those 90 minutes I know what I have to do because it’s written down in front of me. I do nothing but do those tasks for the next 90 minutes. Once the timer is up, I set a timer for 20-30 minutes and rest my brain. This can be anything from going for a walk to getting a drink of water. Clear your mind and prepare for your next focus block.

If you’re new, you may want to try setting it for 45 minutes to an hour at first.

Block Temptations

Don’t waste your will power trying to resist checking Facebook and Twitter, simply block the sites on your computer with an extension like StayFocusd. Block the sites from 8-5PM or whenever you plan on working.

Zero Notifications

Turn off your email client and silence your phone. Chances for me are slim that there will be an emergency so important that I need to attend to it right then and there. Any missed calls or texts I get are responded to during my 20-30 minute break.

This will depend on your situation though. If you work in EMS then you probably shouldn’t silence your phone.

If not, then I highly recommend silencing your phone because it takes on average 20 minutes to get back into the flow of work after being distracted.

Know that it will be difficult at first

If you’re not used to sitting down, focusing for extended periods of time without the ability to check your email/facebook/twitter then it will be hard at first. Focus is like a muscle, you need to train it in order to strengthen in.

When I first stated doing extended period of focus my brain jumped around. It kept wanting to check Facebook to see if I had any notifications. I would unconsciously pull out my phone to check and see if I had any new text messages.

To be honest I still at times still get those urges but I’m able to manage them.

Why do all of this?

Why restrict yourself and do this at all anyway? From my experience I’ve found the following benefits.

  • More effective use of my time. I’m going to need to do it anyway, might as well do it with my full attention so it gets done as quickly and effectively as possible.
  • I create better work. When I was in the gray zone of working, I churned out mediocre work because I wasn’t focused. The work do now is higher quality simply because I’m engaged in it and not constantly switching my attention.

So now go forth. Set your timer and try it out. Let me know how it works for you in the comments below!