The counter-intuitive way to get freedom

July 2, 2020 in Life, Mindset, Productivity

It’s rare that I read an article and think – I wish I had written that. That’s exactly how I felt after reading Wise People Have Rules For Themselves by David Cain.

I agree with every single word.

It sounds odd to say ‘discipline equals freedom’ – but it does. It’s counter-intuitive. When you set rules for yourself that you know are good for you, it’s actually liberating. It’s a huge relief. You no longer have to flip flop between things that work, somewhat work and don’t work. You lean in towards what works for you. You live a life on your terms.

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The thing about hard things

June 18, 2020 in Life, Mindset

It started off easy, but it was about to get much harder.

I jumped on the assault airbike and got my first twenty calories done. I held a fast (ish) pace, which took about a minute.

Next up was Ella. She had fifteen calories to do, which also took about a minute. Whilst one of us worked, the other rested. So, we both worked for roughly a minute, followed by a minute of rest.

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Planning for the year ahead

December 18, 2018 in Focus, Life, Mindset

Planning for the year ahead

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I haven’t made any for the last few years, and I failed to keep most of the ones I made before that.

Instead, I prefer to be thinking about this stuff in a different, and ongoing way (more about that at the end of this post).

That said, there is something about one year coming to a close, and another starting. It feels like a good time to take stock of where you’re at. 

I’ve been doing that for the last couple of days, and wanted to share the process I’ve been going through.

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Three reasons morning routines don’t work (and how to stick to one you love)

August 30, 2018 in Focus, Life, Mindset, Productivity

Waking early and making good use of the early hours is the biggest life hack there is — no exception. It’s a competitive advantage that almost feels like you’re cheating. You’re getting stuff done whilst most other people are sleeping like babies!

But, it can be hard to find one you like doing and will stick to (these are linked).

In my experience, there are three things that are at the root of not sticking to a morning routine:

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How to solve big problems in your life

August 17, 2018 in Life, Mindset

I’ve settled on a solid process for solving big problems in my life and I want to share it.

The first step to solving a big problem in your life is to take full responsibility for it. What does that mean? To start with, you need to commit to fully understanding the problem yourself – whatever it takes.

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You know a wise man once said nothin’ at all

July 3, 2018 in Life, Mindset

You know a wise man once said nothin’ at all – Drake

Most of what I write about usually comes to me in one of two ways.

Sometimes I randomly start thinking about a topic. I then start to notice a bunch of related things that enforce or help shape my thinking on it. And then I write it up (which also helps further shape my thinking on it).

However sometimes it works the other way. I notice a bunch of related things over time and I start to think about it more. I gradually realise the importance of it and develop a view on it. And then I write it up.

This post is no different. Continue reading »

Focus and productivity is only half the battle

May 14, 2018 in Life, Mindset

I’m fascinated with the topic of productivity. For me, it boils down to two things — being able to focus (identify and work on the right things), and then, actually getting things done.

It’s why I think and write alot about goals and the best way to set vision and areas of focus — that’s the ‘identify and work on the right things’ bit. I also geek out on habits, routines and planning frameworks — that’s the ‘getting things done’ bit.

This stuff is important. If you’re not deeply connected to who you want to be and where you want your life to go, you’re more likely to flap around and work on the wrong things. And if you don’t have self discipline and a system for planning, your productivity will suffer.

So, that stuff is super important. But, I realised recently that it’s only part of the battle. And without the other part, you’ll be severely limited and frustrated. The other part might even be more important.

The other part is mindset. Continue reading »

My favourite life changing books

February 12, 2018 in Focus, Life, Mindset, Money

I read a great article recently — If It’s Important, Learn It Repeatedly. It makes a good case for going back and re-reading important books.

So, I went back and read Deep Work by Cal Newport. It’s one of my favorite books and it was even better the second time round. It gave me a renewed enthusiasm for doing deep work and some fresh ideas for how to go about it.

It got me thinking, what other books could I go back and read again?

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Why you need to become a morning person

December 12, 2017 in Focus, Life, Mindset

I’ve written about morning routines, quite frankly, more than anyone should. That’s because I believe waking up early is about the most life changing thing you can do.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the people I consider successful and happy, get up early and follow some type of morning routine. I challenge you to think about this too. Look at well known people, colleagues and friends. I bet you come to the same conclusion.

But, I’m just not a morning person” you say. “I do my best work later in the day”.

I’m not buying it. For 99.9% of us, it’s much better to become a morning person.

Why? I think it boils down to these 3 things:

  • Getting up early sets a tone for the day. It builds positive momentum from the get go, which then flows into the rest of the day. When I get up early and do things that are important to me (without distractions), the rest of the day usually goes well. I feel satisfied at the end of the day. When I get up late, I almost always drift into bad habits and have a bad day. I know I didn’t make the best use of my time and wasn’t the person I wanted to be.
  • It allows you to make consistent progress on things that are important to you — whether that is exercise, writing, working on a personal project, reading etc. Morning routines build consistency, largely because of the lack of distractions (everyone else is asleep). Over time, that establishes habits.
  • Getting up early builds a certain strength in character and mindset. You start to feel stronger and more disciplined than others. That breeds confidence and influences how you attack the day. It’s hard to beat the feeling of watching others come into work, knowing you’ve already exercised, worked on a personal project, got ahead of your email and done a block of focused work. Not only are you ahead on output, you’re ahead on mindset.

Jocko Willink, sums it up more succinctly than me:

“Discipline equals freedom, and that discipline begins every morning when my alarm goes off, well before the sun rises.” Jocko Willink.

And for proof, he posts one of these every day:

If you’re not waking up early, how do you start?

Simple and small.

Go to bed a little earlier. Get up a little bit earlier (i.e. 30 mins), and do one or two things. Meditate for 5 mins and take a short walk. Read or work on a personal project. Whatever is important to you. Keep it simple, easy and small for at least 30 days.

Once you get to 30 days, extend the time and perhaps add something else in. The biggest mistake you can make is to go from simple, easy and small — to complicated, hard and big. And I guarantee, you will make that mistake. Learn from it. Go back to simple, easy and small and then layer in a little bit more for the next 30 days.

It sounds unambitious, but it’s the best and fastest path to a longer, more impressive morning routine. By starting simple, easy and small — you establish the habit of getting up early and doing important things. And that’s the key to it all.

I just switched up my morning routine (part of what inspired this post). Here’s what it looks like:

  • 04.30 — 05.15: GMB Elements
  • 05.15 — 05.30: read a chapter from ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’
  • 05.30 — 06.30: write
  • 06.30 — 07.00: plan day

I’ve only done it a couple of times, and it’s feeling really good. It’s a good mix of exercise, working on myself, working on a skill and setting myself up for an awesome day. I should also note, I go to bed before 10PM so I can get up that early.

If you’re not waking up early — try it. I’m confident you won’t go back.

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Being self critical: My biggest strength and weakness

July 9, 2017 in Mindset

It took a recent crossfit session to remind me of my biggest strength, but also my biggest weakness — being self critical.

We had to pick two movements that we hated and sucked at. I went with thrusters and kipping pull ups. We practiced them throughout the session and used them in the workout at the end.

6 thrusters, followed by 6 kipping pull ups — repeated for as many reps as possible in 20 mins.

Pretty tough. I found the movements awkward throughout. As I was driving home after the workout, here’s what played through my head:

Thrusters felt super awkward:

  • Picking the bar from the floor isn’t so bad. But, getting the bar into the front squat position is hard on my wrists. I can’t get my elbows higher enough either. Need to work on wrist flexibility in general.<li>
  • The front squat part of the movement is OK, but the transition from top of the squat to overhead press is super awkward. Hard and painful on the wrists. Wrist flexibility again.
  • Overhead press is OK. I got pretty good strength there
  • Transition from bringing the bar down from the press into a front squat is horrible. I have to reset the bar on my shoulders to avoid too much wrist pain. Then I have to adjust my grip before I squat. Pretty painful. Wrist strength and flexibility again.
  • Overall, quite a few awkward bits in the movement. The transition from front squat to press, and back to front squat, was awkward and jerky.
  • I was using 35KG. Not heavy enough. I want to be using 50KG in wods.

Kipping pull ups felt even more awkward:

  • I need to get momentum with the swing (hollow body hold to superman) before I start the kipping pull ups. This slows me down in a workout. Some of that is because it allows me to make the first rep a good one. And that gives me more chance of getting the second and third rep right. Some of it is habit. I need to force myself to jump onto the bar and go straight into a kipping pull up. Need to work on that.
  • The pull up part of the movement is actually OK. But, I struggle to fall into the right position, that then lets me flow into another pull up. So, I tend to be able to pull off a second rep, but hardly ever a third. Unless I get the falling motion right, I won’t be able to pull off 5+ reps and use them in workouts.
  • I got tired super quick. The first few rounds I could get 3 + 2 + 1. But, after 4 or 5 rounds, I was pretty much doing 2 + 2 + 2 and then finally 2 + 2 + 1 + 1.
  • I keep ripping skin on the palm of my hands. Super annoying.

On top of the above, there was a girl next to me focusing on the same two movements. She was nailing 50KG thrusters and sets of 8 or 10 kipping pull ups. It made me realise how far I have to go.

The above was running through my head the whole way home. I started plotting priorities for how I can get better, stronger thrusters and kipping pull ups. I started to feel overwhelmed and a bit annoyed that I was so weak and behind the curve.

And then, something clicked and I got another perspective.

Six weeks ago, I couldn’t even go to crossfit. I had to take two months off because of tendonitis in my foot. That was super annoying and I was very frustrated.

Here I am actually able to go to crossfit and push myself. This wasn’t possible six weeks ago. I’m doing thrusters and kipping pull ups in a WOD. I’m pushing myself hard. I made some good improvement in the thruster transitions. I also made progress with the kipping pull ups falling movement. I’m absolutely better at those movements from when I walked into the gym an hour before. I’m clearer on the one or two things I need to focus on to be better at them.

That’s actually a good position to be in.

Yet, I beat myself up for all the small things I could be doing better. I beat myself up for being behind the curve compared to other people. I completely lose sight of appreciating that I AM moving forward and getting better — one step at a time.

It’s just one example of how being self critical on myself stops me appreciating the progress I’m making. I do this at work and almost every category of my life by default.

Being self critical and beating myself up like this might be my biggest strength. It drives me to get better and improve. But, it often means I don’t appreciate the progress I am making. It stops me being happy with where I am, and appreciating the present moment.

The key takeaway I have is I need to be OK with the self critical behaviour. It’s a strength, but I need to keep perspective too. Let it happen, but pull back from it and focus on the few things I can do to move forward — and just do them. And to then spend time on appreciating the progress I’ve made and where I am today. Be OK with where I am. Relax and appreciate the present moment a bit more.

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