Why I Want to Wake Up Early

As I type my first words here, it’s 9:39am.

Considering I was out of bed at 7am this morning, this is pretty insane to me. 2 hours and 39 minutes later, and my work day finally begins.

This basically means that my morning routine took 2 hours and 39 minutes.

Sure, there were some atypical events this morning that are not part of my usual routine, but atypical events are pretty much exactly what life is.

The amount of things I want to do in a given day simply can’t be achieved from a late start.

Personally, I’m defining a late start as waking up after 8am.

When I wake up at 8am, my workday may not start until 10am (at the earliest). And by that point I really only have a 2-hour window before it’s time to eat again and start the latter half of the day.

I like to take my time in the morning.

A 2+ hour morning routine may sound absurd to many people, but what if it made us 2x, 5x, or 10x more productive and/or fulfilled for the rest of the day?

Would it be worth it at that point?

6am has been my on-and-off target for many years now, and if I could just get it to stick I’d be a pretty happy camper.

Resisting the urge to get back in bed or hit the snooze button is a battle every single day, so consider this post as a written plea to myself to get up early every day.

OK, maybe not a plea, but a positive reminder that waking up early is worth it to me.

It reminds me of exercising.

For whatever reason, at times it can be really difficult getting your workout clothes on or making the short commute to the gym. But once you start exercising, you start to feel a lot better.

And then when you’re finished exercising, you feel great about yourself. There are zero regrets.

To me, it’s the exact same thing with waking up early.

The moment your alarm goes off, you feel like death. But after splashing some water on your face, brushing your teeth, getting the coffee brewing…you feel better and better.

Yes, I realize many of us then have to commute to a job we might hate, but if we got up a little bit earlier to simply take the extra time for ourselves, wouldn’t the work day be easier?

The alternative of getting a little bit of extra sleep feels nice in the moment, but what does it really do for us in the long run?

Personally, I’d rather get a bit more out of my waking hours than my sleeping hours.

So let’s see how I do this week. 6am for Tuesday to Friday?

We’ll see how it goes…😳

Can Quality Exist Without Quantity?

As I take a crack at this daily blogging thing, I can’t help but wonder if writing every day just for the sake of writing every day is a waste of time?

Undoubtedly, there will be days where I will have nothing of substantial substance to write about.

Today feels like one of those days.

However, this writer’s block had me thinking…does quantity contribute to quality?

In other words, does writing every day (even when some small or large percentage of said writing is garbled nonsense) help one write better over time?

It seems like a well-established mantra that practice makes perfect, yet there still seems to be some hypocrisy in what we actually believe (i.e. quality over quantity).

But can you actually have quality without quantity?

Does quality just naturally come to us out of thin air?

Does overnight success really exist?

Though these may come off as rhetorical questions, I think most of us would agree that the answer is “no”.

So why do we simultaneously expect quality over quantity if we know we can’t have one without the other?

Is it merely a matter of only sharing our best work, while keeping our worst work behind closed doors?

I personally struggle with this question on a daily basis.

Because I want to be prolific and consistent, but I also don’t want my work to simply take up space and waste others’ time.

Maybe it’s simply a matter of writing every day, but only sharing the work I feel is worth sharing. In theory, this would be a way to balance quantity and quality.

The only glaring problem with this approach is that it can close an important feedback loop.

I want people to know that I’m human, and far from perfect.

Putting stuff out there consistently, regardless of quality, keeps me honest with others, but also with myself.

Having the pressure of public critique (even to an audience that may not exist), is great for quality control purposes.

If I know somebody else may be reading this, I’m going to be more careful about dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s.

So I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I’m not gonna discourage myself from quantity, even if the quality may not be there quite yet.

I think it’s better to just get momentum and consistency before tweaking towards perfect.

I’m using the default wordpress theme at the time of this post’s publication. Who cares? I can address cosmetics later. Right now, I’m more concerned with quantity, because I know quality will eventually follow.

What do you think?

Can You Spend Too Much Time on Yourself?

I’m not really used to life operating at a slow pace.

It seems that the older I get, the faster shit flies from all kinds of different directions.

Thoughts, bills, family, events, etc. I guess this is just part of adulthood.

But as life gets more complicated, do we really get better at managing it?

It seems that most of us are simply concerned with advancing our careers/making more money to somehow combat everything that is coming at us from every direction.

But how much time do we actually spend on developing ourselves outside of work?

And should personal development always come second to professional development?

As a self-employed individual, I’m certainly at an advantage when it comes to making decisions about how much time to allocate to work vs. personal development.

Still, I find that I catch myself being self-critical if I take an hour out of my work day for a walk in the park or a midday Krav Maga class.

But if I really start to think about it, is physical activity ever a bad use of one’s time?

If exercise releases endorphins, doesn’t this carry over to our work when we finally return to it?

Even a simple walk gives us time to think without the incessant distractions that come from the work place.

Work Comes and Goes, But You Are a Constant

As I write this post, I’m technically not “working” on my day job. But my day job is constantly changing, and many of these changes are outside of my control.

I can’t control if a client decides to cut their advertising budget.

I can’t prevent the economy from tanking.

But I can control my personal development, regardless of what’s happening with work. And considering my feelings on a personal level play a big role in my feelings at a professional level, I’m not going to beat myself up if I’m spending a lot of time on myself.

I don’t want to only be remembered for what I did as a professional. It’s more important for me to be remembered for who I was as an individual.

So if you’re taking time to work on yourself at the expense of work, remind yourself that a) the time you spend on yourself is likely helping you more than hurting you at a professional level and b) it’s not worth sacrificing who you are as an individual in order to appease a job or career that can change at any point for reasons outside of your control.

I understand that we all have bills to pay and mouths to feed. I am definitely not exempt from this living in a city with an insane cost of living and in a state where it’s very expensive to be a business owner.

Still, I’m ok with sacrificing income in the short run if I know I will be better off physically and mentally in the long run.

When you’re healthy and in a good state of mind, it’s easier to  solve problems at both a personal and professional level.

What do you think?

It’s OK to Give Up on a Book Written by your Favorite Author

When Ryan Holiday sent out an email announcing the release of his latest book, Conspiracy, I couldn’t hit the “buy” button on Amazon fast enough.

You see, I’m a big fan of Ryan Holiday’s work.

He’s smart. He’s authentic. He’s prolific. Basically, all things that I admire and aspire to be in my own life.

Of course, I don’t know him personally, but my guess is that I would probably enjoy his company based on his work alone.

I was first exposed to Ryan Holiday through his book Trust Me, I’m Lying. This book was ahead of its time in many ways, as it revealed that sometimes bad press can be more effective than good press.

Even more shocking was this notion that a brand could intentionally create bad press to grow its sales (American Apparel is the foundational example in this book).

Holiday then proceeded to write 3 books that had pretty much nothing to do with Trust Me, I’m Lying.

He exposed me to the benefits of stoicism in The Obstacle is the Way, which to this day is still one of my favorite books.

Then he touched on the danger of our egos in another classic, Ego is the Enemy.

Finally, he wrote another excellent book in the marketing genre that really struck a chord with me: Perennial Seller. In this book, he actually talks about a Twitter debate I was partially involved in between he and Derek Halpern, over a quote that said something along the lines of “You should be spending 20% of your time creating and 80% of your time promoting.”

Perennial Seller’s main argument was that not only is this a fallacy, but in order for anything to withstand the tests of time and sell year-after-year, it must have timeless elements of quality.

This isn’t to say that promotion should be ignored, but promoting poor content will always be a losing strategy, especially in the long run.

Anyways, I was expecting yet another classic from Ryan with Conspiracy after writing so many consecutively classic books, but I was thoroughly disappointed.

And that’s what brings me to today’s musings.

I had a really hard time giving up on this book because it was written by one of my favorite authors. But it’s ok to quit on things that just aren’t doing it for you.

Sure, some things are slow-burners that you’d benefit from with just a little bit of patience. But not everything is a winner, and I finally came to accept that this is ok.

I’m sure that there are plenty of people who would still enjoy this book, but I wasn’t one of them.

It was a long, dragged-out story about two celebrities I could really care less about.

Yes, I think the story is important in a lot of ways, but I thought the book could have been condensed significantly. It felt like a chore to read.

So I finally gave up on the book about 2/3 of the way through. Now, I’ll be able to shift my attention to a new book that will provide me more utility.

This seems like a rational approach, no?

Moral of the story: it’s ok to not like everything your heroes say or do. This will not only help you focus on what’s best for you, but hopefully it will also help your heroes adapt to feedback from some of their biggest fans (if they’re even listening).

Write, Write, Write…Right?

I am of the strong opinion that writing is the most powerful catalyst to an individual’s success.

Why?

Because good writing is always needed, regardless of the industry it’s being applied to.

Writing is the foundation of pretty much every communication medium. The only exception to this is perhaps in improv, but even improv requires a good amount of reading and writing behind the scenes I’d say.

It’s a personal goal of mine to not only be a great writer, but also a prolific writer.

The former is subjective, but the latter is pretty concrete and definitive.

Because of this, I wanted to put together a public display of my writing to not only hold myself accountable, but also to have my future readers (you?) hold me accountable.

Considering the 4 components of habit-building that I outlined previously, I figured it would be a good idea to practice what I preach to see how I’m applying each of these 4 habit-building components to my writing practice.

My Writing Plan

500 words a day is what I’m aiming for.

This is not only a specific goal, but it’s also both measurable and hopefully,  achievable when considering S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Skin in the Game

Although I don’t have any skin in the game at the moment, I’m considering some negative reinforcement options to discourage me from not meeting my goals.

I’ve heard of services that allow you to donate to charity of your choosing if you don’t meet your goal.

I like this idea, because it’s a “punishment” that can at least be used for good.

Still, I will need to find some way to put skin in the game to develop my regular writing practice.

Feedback

For now, my feedback will merely be a growing log of quality posts.

Unfortunately, this will largely have to be regulated by own feedback at first. An honest assessment of whether my writing has improved or not over the course of this practice.

At the very least, keeping track of my monthly posts should be plenty of direct, non-subjective feedback for starters.

Time of Day

I’d like this writing practice to occur every day after my meditation practice.

Given my late starts lately, this might be tough to pull off. However, this might give me some good motivation to start regularly waking up at 6am again.

9am seems like a good target here, as it will give me plenty of time to go through a morning routine (which includes meditation) without having to lose work hours.

Personal Writing to Business Writing

My hope is that once I’ve gotten into a writing flow for personal stuff, I’ll be able to transition to business writing for Search and Perch and The Coffee Concierge (my current businesses).

In many ways, the lifeblood of both of these businesses is writing. So it’s important to not only develop a personal writing habit, but to also apply it to my businesses themselves.

How Do You Keep Up With a Regular Writing Practice?

I’d love to hear about your experience developing a regular writing practice. What has worked for you? What hasn’t worked for you?

Leave a comment below!

Applying Habit Building to a Meditation Practice

In light of solidifying good habits, I’ve set out to try and finally establish meditation as a daily practice. So far, I’m 7 consecutive days in.

To assist in getting these habits to stick, I’m using a combination of techniques that coincide with the 4 components I outlined yesterday. To recap:

  1. A plan
  2. Skin in the game
  3. Direct feedback
  4. A dedicated time of day

I wanted my plan/goal for meditation to be a little bit more than simply “10 minutes a day, every day”. So I have thrown in a little bit more specificity and randomness to make the goal more enticing.

You see, I live very close to Golden Gate Park here in San Francisco. The park is not only quite large (more than 1,000 acres), but it has a lot of benches scattered throughout, which makes for excellent meditation settings.

As such, my goal is to not only meditate every day for 10 minutes, but to find a new bench every day to practice the meditation.

This adds an element of “newness” to each meditation sitting, which keeps the practice fresh and exciting every single day.

As far as having skin in the game goes, I’m not quite there yet.

Right now, I’m using the free guided meditations from the Headspace app. My plan is to eventually subscribe to the full package of guided meditations in Headspace, though I’m not quite sure when I’ll take the plunge.

I’m confident that the sooner I do it though, the more likely it is that this habit will stick.

The app has been great for feedback purposes. At the very least, I can see how many total minutes I’ve meditated. Plus, I can determine how I feel throughout the rest of the day to see what kind of impact meditation is actually having on my life.

Finally, I’m making this a part of my morning routine. Sure, I get started on my work an hour later than I normally would, but the hope is that my work day will be much more efficient because I took the time in the morning to practice meditation, and really just take in the fresh air and beauty of the place that I live.

I don’t imagine I will live in this great location forever. So while I’m here, I may as well take full advantage of it.

How I’m Attempting to Build Positive Habits

2018 is a year of personal development.

Last year was such an alternate reality, in that so much time and money was spent on an event (wedding) and other events (other weddings), that there seemed to be no room left over for anything else.

Of course, these are all just excuses that don’t change anything.

The good news is that I have no excuses this year. I have no kids, no pets, no mortgage. Really, the only people my wife and I need to support are ourselves.

The bad news is that this all could change in the next few years, and these long term responsibilities never really go away once they arrive. In other words, if we’re going to face them, we need to be prepared by being the best versions of ourselves that we can be.

With that said, I’ve been really focused on habit-building this year. Namely, good habits.

For the longest time, I’ve been aware of the habits I wanted to have in my life, but for some reason I could never get them to stick.

One particular habit I couldn’t get to stick was regular guitar practice.

In theory, it shouldn’t have been so hard. My guitar sits on a stand out of its case in both my work and living space every single day. Yet, I was hardly ever picking it up and actually plucking the strings.

What was stopping me?

I think there were 4 main reasons I couldn’t solidify the habit:

  1. Not having a plan/structured practice routine
  2. Not having skin in the game
  3. Not having feedback or a way to measure progress
  4. Not choosing a time of day dedicated to practice

No plan

Improvisation is all well and good when you have already solidified a habit, but whenever you set out to develop a new habit that hasn’t yet stuck, I feel there has to be some kind of plan or goal.

With guitar, it was a painful process trying to decide what song to work on, or what scales to practice. I would basically end up picking up the guitar, playing the same songs I always play, and then ending the session dissatisfied because I didn’t learn anything new.

Not only this, but if my wife caught me playing, she’d quickly get annoyed by the repetitiveness of the same handful of songs I would default to playing.

The truth is, I was also annoyed with the repetitiveness.

No skin in the game

This is probably a controversial bullet point, because by no means should you have to spend money to develop a habit. Still, I continue to find that if I don’t put money down on something I want to learn, it becomes a whole lot more difficult to learn.

With guitar, everything I’ve learned has been from free tab and videos online.

Yes, it’s pretty cool that we live in a world where education is so freely available through the internet, but there is literally no consequence for not learning things that are freely available.

Anybody could go to a library and read self-help books non-stop, but what are the direct consequences if we don’t do these things? And even if we do read hundreds of self-help books, who or what is holding us accountable for not applying what we learn to our real lives?

I never paid for guitar lessons, and while this worked up to a certain point, it didn’t help me maintain the positive habit of practicing every day.

No feedback

Without a way to measure progress, it’s hard to know if your efforts in developing a good habit are even paying off.

I could play guitar every day for 15 minutes, but who would tell me that I was getting better if I was only paying for myself (and at times, my poor wife)?

Having a way to track my progress has been key in helping me solidify good habits. It not only allows me to recognize how far I’ve come, but it also helps me recognize how far I have to go.

Dedicated Time

4:00pm is guitar time.

It works for me because it is at the tail-end of the work day, my wife usually isn’t home, and it’s also about an hour before the time I like to workout. Having this dedicated time for practice has made it so much easier to establish the habit.

There are 24 hours in a day and I’m awake for roughly 16 of them. This opens the door for about 32 different time slots for half hour habits, and 64 different time slots for 15-minute habits. That’s a lot of room for dedicated habit-building times.

Once you can start dedicating different times of the day to different activities, you’ll likely find it a lot easier to solidify those good habits you’ve been longing for.

What are some habits you’re trying to develop?

So tell me, what are some of the habits you’re looking to develop this year? What are some tips and tricks you have for getting them to stick?