Every once in a while, I publish a failure report, outlining ways that I’ve failed (and what I’ve learned from them) since the last month, in my past, etc. These may be failures that I brought upon myself, or circumstantial, but the message is the same: we all experience failure and setbacks. What we do after the failure is what matters.
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“You’ll come to see that a man learns nothing from winning. The act of losing, however, can elicit great wisdom. Not least of which is, how much more enjoyable it is to win. It’s inevitable to lose now and again. The trick is not to make a habit of it.” –Henry Skinner
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Late last year, I stumbled into an amazing bit of success. If you don’t know, I love board games, and have been learning all I can about being a board game designer by interviewing game designers at andhegames.com. One of my favorite games is Pandemic, which is a tense co-operative board game by Matt Leacock. I make a mini parody version of Pandemic, and I requested the blessing of the publisher to release it as a fan project, even though I didn’t technically need their permission (parody being protected by law, etc.). The publisher wrote back to me with notes on the game by Matt Leacock himself.
So, that was pretty cool.
My daughter was a few months old. I was working at Starbucks, tutoring, and doing freelance graphic design, frantically trying to stay afloat, while paying off medical bills. When you work at Starbucks, you get a free pound of coffee/week, which was perhaps the only thing that kept me alive. Lots and lots of coffee.
When I could manage it, I would carve a little more from my already stripped-to-the-bone new-dad sleep schedule and work on my business, because I really didn’t want to have this crazy schedule long-term.
I drove 45 minutes one-way to get to my Starbucks job, and while I was driving, I listened to inspirational podcasts – I was bound and determined not to waste my precious free time staring out the windshield and drooling. The podcasts were about 50% encouraging and 50% massively discouraging and rage-inducing. I remember screaming in frustration in the quiet of my car, because the podcasters would give impractical advice that totally didn’t apply to my situation – advice that seemed only to work if you were an independently wealthy single male. The most annoying and frustrating was this: I needed to get at least eight hours of sleep to be productive.
I hated that advice so much. Those successful podcasters who had their own businesses and oodles of money and free time would tell me to get to bed, like I was spending my time staring at the wallpaper or something.
After I figured out that eight hours of sleep was literally impossible, I felt a little more free to search for options: I figured out a way (when I was getting up at 4:30 to go to my job) to feel alert and awake in the morning, even if I didn’t get the coveted 8 hours.
One thing. Not a list of techniques and should’s. One thing that works for me, and I hope it helps you out, if you can’t get enough sleep right now:
Every week, my brother and I record vlogs to each other, under the name Doubtful Solutions Brothers. Our vimeo profile is here, our website is here. The videos don’t always pertain to this blog, but when they do, I’ll post them with added commentary.
In this video, I outline four things I do to make my habitual procrastination, laziness, and self-sabotage in line.
Instead of outlining every point that I made in this video, I’m going to give you two specific tasks that will help you be more productive. Choose one, and GO!
1. Head over to Beeminder and set up 1 commitment device for a future action. Make it something that you feel like you should do, but you have a low likelihood of follow through.
2. Decide on some temptation bundling you could do. Bind a tempting item or activity with a good habit, making sure that the temptation doesn’t cancel out the good habit (Only smoke when you’re at the gym? Really?). I would give you examples, but it’s better if you figure them out for yourself.
I’m not one of those slick, greasy successes showing other successes how to be more successful. When I read the blogs and books of people like that, it’s easy to come up with an excuse not to do amazing stuff, because my circumstances are different. They’re perfect. Their life is perfect, or pretty close. How can I be expected to do what they did when I’m so flawed, and they seem to be the ideal human being who has never faced a setback in their life?
I want to make it very clear with every blog post that I’ve screwed up way more than I’ve succeeded, and will continue to fail, in many, many ways.
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It’s common for many people to come out of college and stop learning. When no one is forcing you to learn and improve yourself, it’s easy to do nothing. Sonia and I recently realized that we’ve really slacked off in the learning category since college – we still read good books, but the focused, intentional learning has gone out the window.
We decided to change things by reorganizing our lives to look more like college – focused, limited, intentional blocks of learning.
Fear tells you stories. Fear of action (procrastination), fear of failure (anxiety), fear of success (self-sabotage), they all speak countless lies into your ear, but they have problems keeping their stories straight.
Fear will often tell you two lies at once – one vary convincing lie, and another lie, also very convincing, but the exact opposite of what it told you just a minute before. Examples:
“I don’t know enough to succeed.” / “I don’t need to study, I need more natural talent.”
“You’ll never have enough time to write a book.” / “You’ve got so much time, you can afford to put it off.”
“They would be a huge help, but you’re not good enough to meet with them.” / “You don’t need them.”
“People with natural talent succeed, not me.” / “I can succeed on talent alone, no need to practice.”
“If it was really your passion, it wouldn’t feel like hard work.” / “You only succeed if you suffer a lot.”
“They succeeded because they knew someone.” / “I know someone, but I can’t ask them for help, because _____________.”
Yeah, fear will play ping-pong with your mind until you call it out – take note of the false, contradicting messages that you’re feeding yourself all the time, and work hard not to give in to the lies.
“Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and do the work” – Chuck Close
…yeah, but buckling down and focusing on something for hours is tough, isn’t it? Often when I’m working on something that I really care about, I feel a deep anxiety that scares me away from the work. My solution has been to take the road of distraction – if my brain is slightly distracted by a movie or a radio show, I can usually work in peace, without the fear rising up and crushing out my attempt to create. I’ve been reading “Daily Rituals” by Mason Currey, which details the daily rituals of artists: all of the rituals are different, and a majority of them border on the insane. I felt better about my distraction routine when I read this quote, again by Chuck Close, speaking about his habit of watching television while he painted: “I like a certain amount of distraction. It keeps me from being anxious. It keeps things at a little bit more of an arm’s length.” Is distraction an optimal solution for every occupation/every artist? Of course not. Distraction doesn’t work for me when I’m writing. But if a routine or technique works for you, do it. Do whatever it takes to do your work.
Yup, I’m moving.
When you move, you realize how much junk you have – it’s incredible how much is accumulates. I just talked to a guy a while ago who moved halfway across the country using the biggest u-haul available, and he still had to rent storage area in California to store a bunch of his crap.
This was seven years ago. He still hasn’t gone back for the rest of his stuff.
Having stuff is expensive, time-consuming, and at some level, your stuff starts to run your life.
So, think about it – how much of your life is spent organizing, dusting, moving, and maintaining your crap?
Are you OK with that?
…you need to choose what to do and act.
You don’t need more money, you need more creativity and flexibility.
You don’t need advertisement, you need hustling.
You don’t need a better tool, you need to be a better artist.
You don’t need better circumstances, you need to have a better attitude about the circumstances.
Whatever’s holding you back probably isn’t.
The thing that you think is keeping you from your goal isn’t – but you think that it is. It’s the placebo effect: your belief that you’re helpless makes you helpless.