Archive for September, 2015

Be water, my friend.

Posted: September 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

I have a tendency to seek control over most of the things in my life. I treat time as a sacred commodity that must be utilized to its fullest. One of my greatest frustrations is wasted time, an irksome pet peeve that has grown over the years to make it hard for me to even enjoy a rerun. It can be useful, as it pushes me to seek out spare time and fill it with reading, writing, or pursuing the myriad of other habits I am seeking to install in my life. But it can also lead to an inflexibility, a resistance to spontaneity and general r&r. That was the principal driving force behind my pre-vacation rant about rallying against the power of a holiday to derail well-planned, well-structured day-to-day plans. As the first day of my vacation arrived however, I realized that I had two choices. I could stick to the plan, forcing my dailies into play amidst pool-time. beaches and some excellent revelry with friends and family. Or I could submit to the moment, suspend all of the current demands I had placed upon myself, and be like water. Become the revelry.

I chose the latter.

I realized that my entire motivation to keep plugging away at these things during my one week of vacation was spawned by a fear of failure, a fear that not maintaining my coveted plan that had mastered my freetime to maximum effect would derail the whole plan. Missing a single day meant abandoning the flow, breaking the chain, and ending a two week streak of completing my daily habits.

It meant letting go.

So let go I did. I watched football, played in the pool, visited the beach, looked the stars and saw the Milky Way and a shooting star… I let the week take me within the tides of its own design and allowed myself a week without control.

It was simply great, culminating over the weekend with a spontaneous stay in Savannah rather than making the full drive home in one go. It was my first time there and I loved it. The people were grand, the atmosphere was fun and energetic and historic all at once. The great trees with the beards of Spanish moss lined the streets, leading to 18th century cemeteries and beautiful parks. By the time we made it home Sunday night, I could truly say I had filled my time with fun without having used a minute of it.

With Monday of course came a return to work and the dailies. The site I use to manage my daily goals, Habitica, thankfully has a ‘Stay at the Inn’ feature, which enabled me to pause the goals for the week I was gone. I checked out Monday morning and began once again engaging with these goals of reading, writing and working out that I find so much value within

I also left on a new project in the Everglades. I have been lucky enough to work from home these last two months, but it was at last time to head back out into the field, hiking through forests and grasslands in search of buried history. Despite the knee-high water and the mosquitoes, the physical work itself, my coworkers and being back in nature has made my return that much more satisfying. As always we have our random animal encounters. There have been a few gators, a water moccasin, herds and herds of staring, half-interested cattle, bounding deer and a great array of bird species. Something about it all just adds a certain extra value to my life I cannot quite explain.

So now the dailies are being integrated into my hotel-living lifestyle while I travel and dig, and all the while I am hoping to incorporate new plans into this system as I become more acclimated to being back in the field. The book is coming along nicely, and if things continue as they have I am hoping to be ready to go into editing mode and start pursuing publishing options as soon as the new years starts.

In the meantime, I must remember Bruce Lee’s wonderful advice. I must be like water. Be fluid. Adapt. Evolve. Do not be a slave to your goals. Pursue them vigorously, but enjoy the everyday while you do.

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How do I learn to follow through?

Posted: September 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

Answer by Michael Offord on Quora:

I have always found this to be the most difficult and necessary aspect of any successes I have had in life. You can dream, organize and plan until the idea of what you want to achieve is hovering right there before you, and then it all falls to ashes the moment you fail to follow through.

I believe that we each have our own motivations, that learning to follow through is different for each of us, but I can speak to the ways I have found brought me the most success.

Central to any plan I have set into motion is a built-in rewards/punishment system. When I was younger, this involved writing out scenarios where I had succeeded in my plan and where I had failed, and truly trying to put myself in both of those futures and actually feel the success and the loss.

To keep this system of visualization strong, I then incorporate these ideas and images into my everyday life. A ringtone that reminds me of the cost of not following through, a desktop wallpaper containing bits of what I hope to achieve, or even a dry erase board that I face everyday presenting these realities side by side.

My second system I installed to keep me motivated to act was actually borrowed from Seinfeld. Just google “Seinfeld chain” and you’ll see how big this idea has grown. It basically entails using a calendar to mark each day you succeed at a said goal or list of goals, and then after a few days of success you start building your chain. The key is to not break it. At one point I was using multiple colors to represent multiple goals, creating multiple chains that I did not want to break.

More recently in my life I have begun to add to this a third element, what is now referred to as gamification. If you haven’t come across it, it is the art of transforming the daily activities of your life into a game of sorts, where you can gain levels, earn things, have your health injured or have privileges taken away, etc. It has been the most fun and rewarding system I have used. There are a ton of apps and sites dedicated to this, and it really has held me accountable to following through everyday on the habits and tasks I have set up for myself.

And really that is what it comes down to through all of these little devices, it’s accountability. You have to create a situation in which you find yourself accountable each day that you follow through or do not follow through. If your interested, I have been keeping a blog about my most recent foray into gamifying my life at Chatter of the Ego. Specifically the entry titled
The Tao of Gamification explains the process of gamifying your goals, and goes through some of the tools I have found over the last few years.

I hope this helps!

How do I learn to follow through?

To be clear, nothing has gone awry quite yet.

In fact, progress has been unwaveringly positive. Since the commencement of this plan I have not missed a day nor a task.

So why the negative preamble? From my experience, holidays and vacations have a strong tendency to derail momentum and unravel patterns of behavior. It is in the very nature of these breaks in regular time to disrupt the status quo for a day, a week or more, to remove us from the monotony of life and tease us with freedom.

Unfortunately this tease and the sort of plan I have in place are not well met. Labor Day alone almost broke my string of successes. Now I venture northward for a week at a remote house on the Atlantic coast with nary a concern. Nice try universe. I will not be swayed.

In fact, I will cause the universe great weeping and gnashing of teeth and add to my daily habits. Since the writing, reading, running and working out has proven successful, I think it’s time to introduce a new daily into the mix. Enter the Matrix!

Or rather, I will return to my daily coding lessons, which I have left buzzing in the background for months now. This way it is I who knocks, who changes the status quo. I will write science fiction. I will write code. I will continue to feed my body with unwelcome exercise and my mind by reading endlessly into the night. This vow I cast into the teeth of Dionysus, to dare tempt me with a week of leisure.

Clearly I do not know how to vacation. Perhaps I will find a balance, all work and no play, etcetera, etcetera… To be fair, the writing and reading are as much play for me as anything else, but the effort of daily practice alongside these other goals makes it become a bit more like work. So I will do my dailies, but I will find peace in the moment, and enjoy the freedom of being elsewhere and not bound to my job.

I will NOT allow it to break my string however. Priorities first.

I know, it’s still early, but day by day, I can already feel things clicking into place.

The reading has been of course the easiest to habitize, as I’ve been a passionate reader for as long as I could turn a page, and it only took reminding myself to open  a book every day to reignite that fire. The writing has been a little tougher, but at one point or another I am always at my computer. Now that I have blocked all the rather distracting bits of the interwebs from myself, when I take breaks from work I have my novel opened in the background. This allows me to jump in and do some editing here and there throughout the day. This does not replace my required bloc of writing through, which I do either in the morning, or more often in the late evening (just wrapped up and it’s midnight). There has to be a solid half-hour to an hour a day dedicated to nothing but writing (hopefully I’ll work up to two hours soon), and so far I have been exceeding that goal. I am still not putting out the heavy word counts I’d like to see, but I am at least putting out some words every single day.

The exercise has been tougher. The yoga yesterday proved once again that I am one of the least flexible men in the universe. The workout was better, and the soreness today is more of a reward than a discomfort. The running has been a little labored but hugely satisfying. I am not the type to get that so-called runner’s high, but I was feeling a little rough today, and after my run I felt pretty fantastic. It also might have been due to escaping a herd of zombies and bringing supplies back to my base (seriously, Zombies, Run! is a blast).

Overall I don’t think I’m deep enough yet to truly appreciate any great, fundamental changes, and yet I feel it on the horizon. Already my body is responding positively to my physical efforts, and my mind is opening up like a long-closed flower savouring long-missed sunlight. That has probably been the most promising, this surge of creativity and lightness I feel. The writing, the reading, the meditation, and the re-engagement with music (my primary accompaniment with writing since I started my first novel 20 years ago) has filled me with inspiration to achieve these and future goals. I cannot waver. I must maintain and grow. The reward is too great.

Alright, so a day deep and probably too early to say much, but so far it’s been a success, and the echo back from the various apps and motivators I am using is resolving itself into an eventual whittling of those tools. It’s late (because I’ve been writing, so that’s a plus!), so this will be short.

First the primary gamify apps: HabitRPG and LifeRPG… still too early, but a few things of immediate note.

HabitRPG has a depth I had not explored before. Besides the satisfaction of seeing my character already growing, with better equipment and a steed (it’s a freaking seahorse!), there is a social aspect that really helps keep you engaged with the Habitca site. You can join parties to fight bosses (the success of which is based on you and your companions completing your tasks each day). You can also join guilds of varying interests, from writing and learning Spanish to simply gathering to discuss pop culture. It reminds me of the old message boards and chat rooms I encountered when the interwebs first opened to me decades ago, strangers chatting about like-minded things, sharing ideas, interests and actually motivating one another to succeed. It’s a far cry from the endless comment threads elsewhere on the internet that are simply rank with derision, anger, hatred and ignorance. It’s a great feature.

LifeRPG on the other hand is the app and nothing more. While originally it was my favorite in this fight due to the ability to feed skills based on completing tasks, the lack of anything else starts to make it feel a bit hollow. We’ll see how I feel as the days go on and I see my Writing, Coding or Strength skills increasing with completed tasks.

As far as the fitness apps go, Zombies, Run! is proving to be brilliant. With your headphones on you start your run with the sound of a helicopter, and a voice on the radio trying to guide them in, and eventually you as well, amidst the hoards of zombies roaming the land. You are prompted to run when zombies are near, you are given missions like raiding the local hospital, and you collect random items along the way. The key to its success, besides the voice actors and the immersive story, is that you don’t actually have to look at your phone or ever change direction. When they say go to the hospital, just keep running. When they say there are zombies, just run faster! To top it off, in between the dialogue and sound effects, you can overlay your own background music, so you still get to run to your favorite playlist.

Fitocracy so far is great at keeping track of my activities, and rewarding me for those, but I simply have not been using it long enough to make a final decision on its value. On the other hand I think I have already had enough of FitRPG to determine it still has a long way to go to be of any use. The quests are too simple, I’ve already acquired some of the best loot possible, and it constantly has issues with freezing and syncing with the data from my FitBit app. It simply is not worth the effort, though the idea is fantastic and I hope they can make it better in the future.

That covers my first 24hrs. So far it’s been satisfying and very promising. I am very optimistic about the adventures to come.