LFK Thoughtful Weekends 005

DSC_0068_2048LE

This weeks installment of LFK Thoughtful Weekends will feature 2 articles and a little film clip. They aren’t all that related, but each of them really caught my attention during the past week.

The first one is kind of philosophic and self-examining, but bears a very important message especially in this day and age. With billions upon billions of dollars being spent on advertising the world over, the advertising industry is more than ready to tell you what you want, or should want if you haven’t yet truthfully asked yourself the important questions. Advertisers sells stories, dreams and lives that can be or perhaps rightfully is really tempting. The message here is not whether or not the life and dream advertisers sell is right or wrong. No the message is for you to personally decide what is right for you. You have to decide what you want to want. If not you could end up spending an entire life chasing a goal that is not really yours and end up getting something that you actually did not even want in the first place.

This article spends a lot of time on this aspect and I found it really interesting and important. And don’t be put off by the name of the link, if you are a woman. This applies as much to women as men: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2016/08/15/what-do-you-want-to-want/

The first article was by no means short, but this second one is more digestible though still bearing an important point. It tells you to stop spending so much time in your head. I may find this interesting as I am super guilty of this and there are numerous articles on the same topic, but this just really caught my eye the past week. To add to some of the points that will presented it also falls right in line with what I am reading at the moment by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience which only halfway through looks to be one of the best and most important books I have ever read and I will probably write at least one post on that one alone. But in that book he also mentions that you cannot think yourself happy. Thinking too much impedes action and for most people actually leads to unhappiness. Which is not to say that you shouldn’t think at all, but the ones who spend too much time in their head probably already know that they are guilty of it – I sure do for my part.

But go read the very good and to the point article here: http://dariusforoux.com/stop-spending-time-in-your-head/

Finally something I found completely by surprise or at least what it also showed apart from the actual topic was quite a fun discovery. Some people are absolute naturals at striking up conversation and make people do exactly as they want. Seeing these people in “action” can be quite entertaining and fascinating. The clip here is from a Youtube channel for photographers, that in these installments give a shitty camera to a pro photographer to test the myth of equipment vs. skill. Meaning that perhaps you don’t always need the latest most expensive gear to get really good results. With the right attitude and creativity you may even be able to get really good results from shitty equipment.

But the surprising element in this clip actually isn’t the pictures in any way. They turn out okay – but nothing special. The thing to just sit back and watch with fascination is the pro photographer at work. I know that he is in the right element and all the people around the venues where they are as a general rule of thumb probably wants to be seen. But the way he works everybody and just strikes up meaningful conversations, not to mention making people do whatever he likes is just so fascinating in my book. If you ever had a hard time striking up conversations with strangers watch and learn from this guy, he is an absolute beast.

And this concludes the fifth installment of LFK THoughtful Weekends. Hope you enjoyed it. And have a very very pleasant weekend!

Sleep comes to you, it’s not something you do

Sunset beachAll my life I have been struggling with, what I think is called onset sleep insomnia – meaning trouble falling asleep. Once I have fallen asleep I usually sleep just fine. So not the serious kind that keeps you from sleeping several days in a row, but still incredibly annoying.

I even think I know how I got it. When I was a little boy my parents and all the other families on our road used to gather around for special occasions which usually kept on till way into the night. I thought it quite cool to be up with the adults so I fought my tiredness and stayed awake as much as possible. I can even remember the adults saying how impressive it was for me to be able to stay awake. If I had access to a timemachine, I would fly right back and throw that “trying-to-be-cool-child” in bed! That “coolness” has sort of kept up with me for some time now.

Over the years I have tried quite a lot of different things in order to combat this annoyance – some with more success than others and I will probably come with several pieces of advice in this regard, although truth be told I haven’t yet totally figured it out. But I have found a lot of little hacks and things that work in favor of falling asleep faster. I can still have nights where nothing seems to help and as if planned this actually perfectly leads into what I will describe in this blog post.

As Epictetus famously said:

“Man is troubled not be events but by the meaning he/she gives them”

Meaning nothing is ever really good or bad, it is all in how YOU decide to frame it. Your perception colors the experience. Not digging to deep into this, but what does it have to do with sleeping? Glad you asked!

If you have trouble falling asleep you’ll with guarantee recognize the scenario where you lay in bed trying to fall asleep and nothing happens. You turn to one side – no help. The other side – no help. You start to count sheep – 1,2,3…7…24…78..167…498 – okay this is jus stupid. You try all you can to get to sleep – and nothing happens. If anything you may feel more fresh than when you initially put your head on the pillow. You frame yourself as being bad at getting to sleep. You can’t seem to do it. You put pressure on yourself for being bad at something as simple as falling asleep.

Well this is where this concept comes into play. I actually didn’t pick it up from some famous sleep-article or research paper, but read it in a book that hasn’t really got anything to do with sleeping. It does have a lot to do with how you live your life and how to think, so under that wide umbrella you could say that sleeping somewhat must find itself. The book is the somewhat famous Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. First time I read this book several years ago I didn’t actually finish it. I was in no way impressed with it and probably only got halfway through – but all that is for a different time. Luckily I picked it up and read it again a second time where I really enjoyed it, at least most of it.

But staying on track. If I remember correctly there is actually at least two times in this book where he mentions/touches on this concept. It is only as a strayed out sentence each time and something that could easily be missed. I probably only picked it up because of my long troublesome relationship with sleep, so anytime I see something that has to do with this subject I automatically pick it up or dig a little deeper.

Paraphrasing from memory, the first time this “concept” is mentioned it is written something like:

“I lay there in what seems like eternity but no sleep comes”

And the second time something like:

“It is 5 am, way too early, but no more sleep to be had”

So there are some subtleties in those two sentences that might go unnoticed, but really clicked with me. What he does here is speak of sleep as something that “comes” and something “to be had”. Framing sleep this way, it suddenly goes from something you do to something that either comes or not.

But what is the difference, why is this important. Good question! And “important” might be overselling it, but at least in my opinion rather interesting. The subtle difference between seeing sleep as something you do as opposed to something that comes to you lay in the difference of control.

In general, things you do are things you can be better or worse at, but in the end it is you doing it, meaning your responsibility whether the outcome is good or not. Things that come to are out of your control. They either come or they don’t, not much you can do about it.

Herein lay the interesting difference of looking at sleep. If you think of it as something you do, then you are in control and you can beat yourself up about not being good at it. On the other hand if you see it as something that either comes or not, then it is out of your control. You can’t or shouldn’t beat yourself up over something out of your control does not come to you. It can be really annoying still, but no need to beat yourself up about it.

For me this actually helps when I have evenings where sleep does not seem to come. Then okay, it is not yet time for sleep, then I get up and read and try again a little later when I feel more tired.

Of course this won’t magically make you fall asleep in less than a minute, but in my experience it actually lightens some of the stress of not being able to fall asleep or waking up early. Well okay, no more sleep to be had.

I will give a lot more tips on sleep in the future, so please stay tuned. Whether taking advice on sleep from one that isn’t an expert at it must be for you to decide 🙂

Stop worrying – get to the confirmed objective facts

Boat beachThere are numerous articles and blog-post that promises to help you get rid of worry. This won’t be one. Try as you might you’ll never get to a point where you’re free of worry in your life. You will probably have periods with more and periods with less, but avoid it altogether won’t happen. What’s way more interesting and important is how to deal with it once it arrives.

Worry is closely related to anxiety and stress. They are all fear based feelings, that try to tell you that something is wrong in an attempt to protect yourself from whatever it is that causes them. They are totally natural and occurs to everyone whether people admit it or not.

As they are natural feelings, there is no real reason to try to get totally rid of them. What you need is a better way to handle them once they arrive. Today we will focus on worry even though as said earlier; worry is closely related to anxiety and stress and can in some instances it can be hard to know one from the other. But as this advice will work with all of them, there is no real reason to really pinpoint which of the feelings you have.

Worry has a lot to do with control. When you are in total control you aren’t worried. If you had an exam where you knew all the questions in advance and could prepare so intensely that you knew all answers by heart – then you wouldn’t worry. Your brain would probably then try to worry about whether those actually was all the question, try to come up with potential “unknowns” that could hamper with the end result. But if we keep all what-if’s out of the question; you wouldn’t be worried at an exam where you knew you all questions and all answers. You would be in total control.

Seeing worry from this angle starts to point to a solution, or precaution that can help in situations of worry. You just have to be in control, then there is nothing to worry about. Well yes, thank you! I’ll just lock myself into a room where I’m able to control all the variables and live from there. NOT really viable.

What we need to do is take a stoic look at “events”. The stoics made this really good distinction between event. They divided them into 3 groups. Event over which you have total control, events over which you have some but not total control, and events over which you have no control.

The first and the last are the easiest and are the ones you should spend the least time on. If you have total control, then just make it the way you want. If you have no control, then do not worry because your worry won’t change anything.

Going back to the example with the exam. You are probably not worried whether you will show up or not to the exam. You decide to go or you decide not to go. Then that is out of the question. The cynic will probably then see any number of things that could go wrong on the way there. Again, some of those you will have control over, some of them you won’t. If you are worried about getting late, then go really early and spend the extra time waiting at the destination. Being hit by lightning on the way there is not something you can control, so don’t worry about it. These are of course simple examples but, they should be adequate to bring home the point.

Then we arrive at the last one; events over which you have some but not full control. This is where most energy is spent. The final grade of your exam is a good example of this. You can push it in either direction by more or less preparation, but you cannot control it fully. Even in the example of having all questions and answers in advance, you still can’t control the final grade from the censor.

But what you need to do to control your worry, is get to the confirmed objective facts. And the words “confirmed” and “objective” is there for a reason. “If I go talk to that girl and she rejects me, the whole world will laugh at me and my life will be over.” or “If I don’t get straight A’s in all my exams my life will be over.” – That could be felt as very strong facts inside yourself, but to an outside person or even when having the experience somewhat at a distance, it’s totally obvious that those are not “confirmed objective” facts. They are strong feelings, yes. But facts – no.

I love doing this on paper. If I’m very worried about something I start by writing whatever it is that I am worried about on the top of a piece of paper. Then I test my hypothesis.

“If I can’t X then Y will happen, which will be an absolute disaster.”

Then I start by saying am I absolutely certain that Y will happen. Can anything else be the outcome of this? If not, then I start to look at what it will actually mean to me if Y happens. Is it as big of a disaster as I have in my mind. It could mean a minor or major setback, but total disaster?

Then I just work my way through and test all the hypothesis and all my conclusions. The funny part about this is that even just the act of doing this calms me down. I am back in control, I am not contemplating all outcomes and can decide which of them I find most attractive or least disastrous. As said in the beginning worry almost always stems from a feeling of loss of control. Getting this control back, or even just working on getting it back can seriously dampen if not totally rid yourself of worry.

Try it for yourself. The next time you are really worried by something. Write it down and objectively test all your hypothesis and conclusions. I bet you’ll feel the worry lessen almost immediately.

The Myth of Sisyphus starring the hopeful entrepreneur

One of the hard parts about entrepreneurship is the lack of acknowledgement and appreciation when starting out. No one really knows what you are doing. A few people may know the hypothesis behind what you are trying to accomplish but for most unproven ideas they start their life as just that – an unproven hypothesis.

If you are a bricklayer building a house your work is very linear. The more you put in the more you get out. The goal of your work is to build a structure. The more hours you spend laying bricks the closer you get to reaching that goal. This is relatively easy to comprehend both for yourself and the people around you. You may find the work boring, but you can see you are getting closer to your goal and so can the people around you. Keep working you are almost there.

Now enter the core of entrepreneurship – prove the unproven hypothesis. This is where work gets anything but linear. The myth of Sisyphus describes meaningless work and therefore isn’t in its original meaning a good description of entrepreneurship, but with a few alterations the picture of one pushing a big rock to the top of a mountain, actually depicts entrepreneurship rather well.

First of all we need more rocks. You may have somewhat of an idea that your end goal should be a rock on top of a mountain, but exactly which rock is not all that apparent – so enter more rocks. You now run from rock to rock trying to push them uphill, spending all your energy pushing one rock only to see another roll back down the mountain, you then sprint to recover this and with herculean effort makes good progress with this one.

Now strolling around comes your good friend whom of course needs pictures for his Instagram profile. He takes a snapshot of you pushing a rock uphill. This of course somewhat shows you are working hard, but it does not show the full truth. It does not show the other rocks, all your sprints and efforts to keep them moving in the right direction. It does not show whether you are halfway, just getting started or near the end goal – and honestly you do not even know that. Your friends can show some sympathy towards your work, but they will never know the full story.

Then one day you can see a summit. You must be getting close now – all your work must have payed of. With endless nights of all out effort you get the rock you are pushing to the summit. You have looked forward to this day for so long and is ready to explode with relief – but then. The rock rolls over the summit and down on the other side. Everything goes downhill and eventually you find yourself in an even lower valley with a steeper hill to climb on the other side. What you thought was the summit was only a small step on the way. You almost had time to celebrate what you thought was your victory, only to find out – it wasn’t. You still have a long way to go – presumably – you don’t really know. You can’t see the summit, you know somewhat the direction, but whether it will take you a day, a year or you’ll never reach the top – you don’t really know. You just have to keep pushing your rocks in the direction you believe in and hope that some day it will all pay off.

This is entrepreneurship. One long education in delayed gratification. You spend all your energy on work you can’t be sure to ever return anything. You can work hard, you can work smart – but in the end you still need a good topping of luck sprinkled on top. You can do everything “right” with the best of intentions and still end up failing or do everything “wrong” with the worst of intentions and still end up succeeding – no one really knows.

This is the beauty of entrepreneurship and the reason why it is a crash course in life it self. Life is full of randomness and adversity, there is no panel of judges keeping score and giving you prices for good effort. Good, bad, lazy effort there is no score. All you can do is live in the moment move towards your goals and enjoy the journey.

 

Awareness in daily living

Almost no matter who you are daily living can be both mundane and boring. Even if I wanted I can’t change that. But I do believe there is value to be had and perhaps I can make a little change in the way you go about your day which will make them seem a little more worth your time.

The thought about writing this post actually came about several months ago watching my then roommate doing the dishes. I have since observed other do somewhat the same.

Awareness can sound very spiritual and fluffy and to some people it might be just that, but in the context I will use it here it’s neither. It is more in the realm of being present. I am quite sure that whoever you are there are times when awareness comes very natural. Usually this is doing things we enjoy such as playing with friends or working on something we love. Making love could and should be an example of this – but most people are way more in their head than their body, thinking about whether they perform, how they look, “does he really like me”, “will she see me again” etc. that they perform the most enjoyable physical act without actually being present in their physical body.

Then how does making love tie into doing the dishes? I’ll get to that.

Unless you’re a Prince(please drop a comment if you are), then you probably have to do with quite mundane tasks in your life. They are tasks that needs to be done but aren’t all that enjoyable. This could be as mentioned earlier doing the dishes. Then why will awareness and doing the dishes ever merge into something beautiful? Beautiful might be overselling it, but they can actually meet and have a nice pleasant conversation.

Doing the dishes from a standpoint of “this is a dull task that involves putting water on plates and brushing a bit” not only makes it more annoying but also makes your end result sloppy. If you do it that way you miss the end result which is actually making the dishes clean. Thats what I observed with previous roommates. They just splattered some water on each plate, knife and fork, rubbed a bit with a brush and then dried them. This often left the dishes with stains that then ended in the dish towel – then you have a dirty dish towel and semi dirty dishes – good job!

The “goal” of much meditation is to bring more focus and awareness into your life. Be more present. Doing mundane tasks is an obvious chance for doing this. Being more aware means being more clear about the objective. When you do the dishes you make sure you do a good job, you do the dishes in order to make them clean. You do not do it as a strange act of splashing a bit of water on things in your sink. You shouldn’t necessarily enjoy it, but you should be present enough to know the objective of your task and do a good job of it.

If your mind is 10 different places and none of them are with your physical body doing the dishes you end up doing a very bad job, maybe dropping plates or glasses. This is exactly the same as with making love without being present – you can’t enjoy the experience if you’re not actually there. You’ll end up doing a bad “job” and perhaps even setting yourself up for anxiety next time around.

Of course this won’t suddenly turn mundane tasks into pleasurable experiences and sometimes you’ll just be in too much of a hurry to do anything other than storm through them. But just once in a while try to be a little more present while shaving, doing the dishes or cleaning. Even though it is mundane tasks there is still satisfaction to be had from doing a good job rather than a sloppy one.

Perhaps in time you’ll end up being a “artist of the mundane”.

Cleaning up your procrastination

This may come of as a very unconventional tip for breaking procrastination or even hard to believe – I found it that way when I first read it somewhere – but again and again it somehow works for me, so it might work for you.

Even though I keep my productivity in close check and am very much aware of when it starts to drift, I still from time to time find myself struggling with procrastination or trying to fight my way through thick layers of “bran fog”. Sometimes work and creativity just comes easy. Getting in the zone and banging out several hours of creative work just comes as second nature – but then at other times this “zone” just seems to have disappeared altogether.

My usual ques to get into the zone, as for instance the same hour long mix played through earplugs, just do not seem to have any effect. And even the act of sitting down and put on the music is a feat in of itself. As though the body or the head somehow resists putting up the work. This is where this little tip more often than not have helped me tremendously.

Whenever I find myself in this deep hole, walls covered with brain-fog and with a heavy lid of procrastination on top, I clean my shit up.

Quite literally – whenever I end in this situation I will clean up my room/apartment. Whether it being putting everything back to its intended place, cleaning off dust or vacuuming – it just has to look mint again. The reason why this works for me might be that I make these small unconscious notes of where things are not in order or where in the apartment it needs cleaning. They are of themselves not that big of a deal, but they seems to pile up inside my head and at some point they tip over.

You need to clean up at some point anyway and if you are procrastinating you are not getting anything done anyways – so you might as well try cleaning your home.

As U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McCraven says in his commencement speech:

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed”

And then goes on to say:

“Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

The full commencement speech is here if it caught your interest:

Give it a shot – you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Identity diversification

When you have figured out what your goal is, you should spend all your energy on reaching that goal, right? Yes and No. You should always strive to move towards it, but activities that may not seem to move you closer in the short run, may keep you from stumbling and rolling backwards in the long run. Let me explain.

If your goal is to travel around the world, you of course need some money, but what you do not need is to buy a house or get a full time job, apart from the latter being a means to get your money. You probably do not need to look for a steady relationship, unless you plan on bringing him/her along or loves to dilute all your experiences with a constant longing for your significant other and counting down the days until you are reunited.

If your goal on the other hand is to start a company or try to reach a certain position within your current one, then traveling the world for half a year may certainly not bring you any closer to that goal. A significant other may keep you sane at times, but may also limit your drive or ”hunting instinct.”

But let’s stay with the last example where you strive to build a company – that is what I can most easily relate to at the moment.

You could argue that in order to be successful you need to spend all your waking hours working on your idea. This is the goal you want to achieve – so more time and energy invested must equal more achieved – well not always. If you are building a pyramid and laying bricks, then yes – the more bricks you lay each day, the closer you will get to completion. But most endeavors are not that straight forward. Must are somewhat one step forward – then two back, two steps in the other direction – then one back etc. etc. This is where identity diversification comes into play.

If you derive all your happiness and feeling of achievement from one source, you could potentially dig yourself into a very deep hole, at times where your company are struggling. If you have given up all your leisure activities in order to spend 16 hours a day on your start-up, then you are signing up for some very dark days when things go bad – coupled with having getting rid of all your non-startup friends, then you can really sit in a depressing circle with similar friends all discussing how bad and hard you feel.

What you should do on the other hand is not only be Mr. Startup, but also be Mr. Fitness, Ms. Dancer, or whatever you may have of interests. These may seem like distractions when everything go according to plan, but once things start to get hard and against the plan they can keep you somewhat sane.

Let’s say you have had a very bad day because all the sales you tried this day failed, you feel somewhat down but still go out the door to join the weekly swim-session and your mates there. You are not that much in the mood for talking, because of this burning feeling inside of failure. Then comes the timing of your 50 meter crawl. You just propel all your anger out in each stroke and low and behold you end up beating your lifetime best, which you have tried to do all year. Now this is a good day! What before looked to be a bad day ends up being a good one. Your business-ego may have taken a beating, but as your swimming is completely un-related it does not in anyway dilute the awesome feeling of reaching a personal best.

The above could have been anything from you being a good spouse, sprinter, weightlifter or whatever. Then entire point is to not derive all your sense of worth from one source.

I nearly wrote of my gymnastics, because the cost would take a few weeks of cash away in a time where we were running on empty in my start-up and had no direct source for future income. But as I thought about it, it just made me so sad to think of all the good times and people I would miss by saying no to gymnastics. I luckily came to the conclusion that a happy and sane version of myself would out-work and out-smart a slightly depressed version of me, by way more than what I would save by saying no. The people I am around during gymnastics is by no means going to help my company – but that is somehow part of the point. It makes me relax and think of other things which makes me way more productive when I return.

Your main priority, whether you are a CEO, a father or an athlete is keeping yourself sane and feeling great – once you do that, you can perform at your best.