Don't put up a zero

    At the start of September I set myself a target of publishing two blog posts per week, on Tuesday and Friday. It didn’t matter what they were, I just had to ship something. The intention, I kept reminding myself, is to build the habit of writing, and not to worry about the quality of what I’m putting out. If I kept at it, by the end of September I’d have eight posts under my belt. By the end of the year, thirty-six. In ten years time, if I maintain the same schedule, I will have published over a thousand posts, and by then I will have improved and, in the process, learned a thing or two about writing.

    It has been anything but easy. Tuesdays and Fridays have been tough slogs, consisting of long hours spent writing and rewriting, and then rewriting some more. I find it an arduous task to put into words what I’m finding interesting and learning, all the while trying to block out the fear of what people will think. I have to keep telling myself I’m writing for me, not for anyone else.

    And then life goes and gets in the way. You’ve got this thing that you’re committed to but along comes a day when the weight of the world is on your shoulders, the universe urging you to lay down and give up. A headache. A sickness. An argument with your partner. Whatever. The last thing you want to do is get to work. This is how I feel today. It’s Friday and I have to ship, but the last thing I feel like doing is sitting down to write.

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    Year without alcohol

    A good friend of mine, Damian Fisher, recently decided to give up alcohol for a year. I’m really excited for him, I get a little buzz when people decide to make big positive changes in their lives. I have little doubt removing booze from his life will result in huge benefits. Why so sure? Because I recently took a year off booze myself, and in doing so transformed my relationship with alcohol, improving my life immeasurably. It has been nine months since I finished my year, and with Damo just starting his, I thought it an opportune time to write about my experience.

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    Reflection

    Every morning and every evening, at the end of each week, and at the end of the month, I sit down with my Bullet Journal and go through my reflection routine. I look at the day, week or month and ask myself questions — and write down my answers to — like: What went well? What didn’t go so well? What did I learn? What patterns are emerging? What did I achieve? How can I improve? The process helps me keep on top of the busyness of life, remain focussed on what’s important, review my progress and acknowledge my achievements. It’s also creating a wonderful resource for me to look back on, both now and later in life.

    Something that I’ve noticed after reviewing my reflection entries is how habitual a creature I am. I repeat the same behaviour — the same mistakes — over and over again. Even after acknowledging a mistake or a habit one month, and defining an approach to rectify it in the next month, I’ll repeat the mistake and journal about it, completely oblivious of the original entry months prior.

    Here’s an example… In my January Lessons Learned I wrote “Being honest is better than bottling things up” — probably in the context of how I handled a disagreement or annoyance with my wife. This last week (September) in my weekly reflection I wrote: Learned: Spoke calmly, open and honestly to Em about [an issue]. Has been good since then.” Nearly nine months between the two instances and I’m still reverting to default behaviour when I’m frustrated, which is to remain quiet, bottle it up and give her the cold shoulder for a day or two.

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    Generalisation, specialisation and financial independence

    I’ve been reading about financial independence a lot lately. I like to think of myself as temporarily financially independent — I’m 3.5 months into a sabbatical and have enough money saved to not have to worry about working for at least another year. One of the better books I’ve read on the subject of FI is Early Retirement Extreme. It’s a gold mine of strategies, tactics and principles to help you achieve FI, and personally, forced me to re-think my place in the world and how I want to spend my time in it.

    An important ideal brought up in ERE is that of the Renaissance man; one who strives to develop his abilities to their full extent in many areas of life. A Renaissance man, Fisker explains, obtains knowledge in a wide range of subjects and excels at many different things. He is a polymath, a jack-of-all-trades. “The Renaissance man is capable of many different things and doesn’t restrict himself to vocational skills. He does his own taxes and researches his own investments. He can fix a computer or a broken appliance. He knows how to drive and fix a car, but he has enough time and athletic ability to ride his bicycle 20 miles instead, or run five miles to get groceries. He can play an instrument, dance, paint, or write creatively. He can recreate interesting meals from scratch rather than recipe.” One of the many advantages of becoming a Renaissance man, Fisker explains, is that you become less reliant on outsourcing your life and operations, which keeps you in paid employment (a Salary man).

    In other words, to achieve financial independence it is desirable to be a generalist.

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    Habit tracking

    Habit tracking has become a huge win for me this year. The knowledge I’ve gained reading Atomic Habits combined with my Bullet Journal habit tracker have helped me cultivate good habits and eliminate bad habits that I’ve struggled with for years.

    I keep it simple and commit to a maximum of five habits each month, but rarely more than four. I find I lose focus and get overwhelmed if I try to do too much. I use the columns in my Bullet Journal’s monthly collection, one column for each habit I’m tracking.

    Habit Tracking

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