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 🙂

How to make everyday feel like vacation without quitting your job

Sunset St. PeteOkay I’ll start with a confession. If you are an employer, then giving this to your employees, won’t make them magically skip their holidays to work more hours for you. Although if you try and it works, then please transfer a percentage of whatever that is worth to you to my account.

Having gotten  that out of the way, let’s get on with it. Being quite the wanderer myself, I have spent quite a lot of time contemplating how everyday could get to be a bit more like everyday on a vacation. The obvious answer of course is to just lay by the beach all day and sip margaritas. The short term effects of this would probably b y great. A lot of relaxation and no stress at all. Until your boss calls and yells at you for not being at your desk. Then no relaxation, no margaritas and no job – which you could argue would give more time for the beach – but as you probably will have bills to pay, then again, this is a somewhat  shortsighted solution.

What you need to do is look a little deeper into what separates normal everyday life from everyday life while being on vacation. This can of course depend a lot on how you spend your vacation. Some people like to spend them horisonttally on a deck chair in front of a pool, only having to lift their arms to have a cocktail put into them by the all-inclusive staff. Others like to spend their vacations on training camps or hiking around exploring.

Perhaps with the exception of the “all-inclusive-glued-to-the-deck-chair-I-WON’T-move!” vacation all the other actually have quite a bit in common although their expression of it differs. What they have in common is new experiences. What makes a vacations leave such a long lasting and worthwhile impact is the multitude of new experiences you have.

In contrast, what characterizes “normal” everyday living is the exact opposite. A lot of routine and not many new experiences. You could go see your friends, but hey there is Netflix and a day tomorrow, so perhaps it is better if you just stay on the couch tonight, you can do so tomorrow. Then tomorrow arrives. Today you’ll go have fun with your friends, a but wait today is training day with your team. It’ll have to wait until tomorrow. And then each day goes by, followed by each week and nothing new happens. Each week just looks like the previous on repeat, like Christmas holiday television, the same over and over again.

The solution is simple but not easy. Don’t ever confuse the two.

What you need to do more often is break out your regular routines. I had sort of an epiphany with regards to this recently. I grew up near the ocean and always find myself seeking towards the ocean and water whenever possible. I love being near water, on water and swimming in water. It by all means make me happier. Having moved to the capital of Denmark a few years back, this swimming and being close to the ocean was made a bit more complicated. Note; complicated. Not impossible by any means as Copenhagen actually is right beside the coast and ocean, but getting there was a bit harder as I would have to drive through heavy traffic to get there. For almost two years I didn’t swim all that much during summer. Of course I had a few swims when vacation or anything of the like brought me in a situation where swimming was obvious or easy. But even though I lived not that far from the sea I never went there myself even though if I had lived the same distance to the sea on a vacation I would probably have went almost everyday when weather allowed for it.

After a recent move, and while thinking some of the thoughts that is put to writing here, it suddenly dawned on me that I had no more than 15 minutes of drive from my apartment to the beach. If I was unhappy about not spending enough time near or in water, it was totally my own fault! This had to change!

So I made the decision to actually do take the time to go for a evening swim during weekdays. Go out experience something new and be open to what it might bring. I also find myself more often going out to photograph and see landmarks and points of interest close by that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have. Sure the urge for just being at home some days are stronger, and the point is not to always force yourself out of the door, but the point is that some days you do. Some days you DO fight the urge to stay on the couch during weekdays and go out either for yourself or with friends for new experiences.

They are out there waiting for you. Go get them!

Strength training the ultimate supplement for entrepreneurs

There are many views on how you should live and prioritize your life as an entrepreneur. Some find the only way is to dedicate 25 hours of your day towards your company or goal. If you aren’t working all hours of the day, then maybe your competitors are and they are getting ahead. Eating, sleeping, being able to see the sky – useless – you lazy slob!

While this might work for some, primarily robots, computers and others who has the luxury of not being alive, it’s probably not the best way forward most of the time. There can be times where you need to do this because of tight deadlines and in those cases you should of course be willing to put in the work. But if it is your default state then I’ll try my skills as fortune teller and say that it won’t be for long.

One of the hard things with entrepreneurship is not getting recognition for your work. You can work your ass off for days on end without anything to show the outside world. Or perhaps you do have something to show the outside world, but getting traction can then be hit or miss. In other words your work/reward relationship is very non-linear. Over long periods of time this can be very frustrating. Getting acknowledgement for our work is a very basic and natural urge.

But as I have written before and will elaborate more on in the future you should not derive all your identity from one source. Meaning that if you get all your sense of identity from being an entrepreneur then your mood, sense of worth and general well-being is pretty much tied to the highly unpredictable rollercoaster ride of entrepreneurship. You should of course be very proud of your accomplishments but if you are only “The entrepreneur” then you are very one-dimensional and may be more negatively impacted by adversity.

What you need is a way to spend your time that is more linear in terms of work/reward. You could of course always turn to drinking. Generally the more you drink the more drunk you get and the more days in a row you drink the more miserable you feel – all very linear. But perhaps an activity where the work/reward curve goes in the opposite direction will be more appropriate.

There are numerous way to go about this, but my personal recommendation would go towards strength training. You get to work with your body, you get to work with your mind, you get to work with your hands, you get to meet people who are not neck deep in the world of entrepreneurship.

Strength training is very linear in terms of work/reward. You can even put all your knowledge about 80/20 analysis etc. to good use both in terms of the training itself and nutrition. You’ll get a good break from whatever your endeavor is and may even find that during your workout you come up with solutions to problems you haven’t been able to solve or new business ideas.

A side effect of getting stronger and in better shape may even be more successful meetings as you standing more proud and erect before any person, will alter his or her perception of you. This may seem shallow but never underestimate the subtle cues of body language.

In other words the only real downside to strength training is really the time you need to allocate for it. And allocate it you should. Otherwise you’ll be very prone to postpone in the beginning and find ways in which working can be seen as more important. But 1-2 hours 2-3 times a week should be manageable for most – even the most prolific and busy entrepreneurs. It might be the best investment you’ll ever do.

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.

 

Steve Jobs the movie starring Ashton Kutcher

By some strange coincidence the film about the life of Steve Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher aired on tv yesterday, the same night as I had written my review about his book. It can be seen as nothing else than the world conspiring to make me write about the film as well – so here goes.

This was the first time I saw it, and had no idea what to expect. Or let me rephrase that – having read the book I had a pretty good understanding as to what COULD be in the movie but no idea as to what they had chosen to focus on or frame it as.

First of let me start by praising the caster/producer that chose Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs – it is striking how much he looks like the real deal! Furthermore Ashton Kutcher does quite a decent job portraying him. The way he walked with forward lean almost stumbling each step to keep up with his center of gravity while his limbs hang loosely from his slender body. The way he wore his feelings outside the body on most matters while totally denying the existence of other feelings in some cases. He really hit bullseye on those.

What I lacked having read the book was an even more detailed look at the person Steve Jobs himself. While they didn’t exactly try to portray him as being a super nice guy, they somehow in my opinion did not spend enough time on how impossible and evil he could be for his surroundings. There are some outburst at people he works with, cold feelings towards friends and lovers, even his daughter – but even with this included I somehow thinks he is portrayed as being to nice or framed as a person you should end up having sympathy towards.

The narrative of the story they portray, focussing on Apple can of course go a long way towards portraying him as a character you should feel sympathy for. The whole thing about him being forced out of the company he eventually started is by no means pretty or deserving for anyone. But if I had only seen the movie I would probably only feel sorry for Steve Jobs whereas having read the book I feel sorry for what happened with him being pushed out of Apple computers, but I still do not feel sympathy for him because he was to much of a jerk towards his surroundings – and that cannot be excused.

It is like hearing a story about a boy who is kept out of a game of basketball in the schoolyard, who you would feel sorry for and sympathy towards. But how would that change if you knew that he had again and again kept others out of basketball games in the past, ridiculing everybody’s abilities and clothes – then your sympathy towards the boy would probably change. That’s my issue with this movie – it frames him as only unsympathetic enough that you still end up feeling sorry for him in the end.

But with that in mind I still think it is a decent movie and by no means bad. It does have some inspiring and motivating parts in it, but overall it focusses more on rise – fall – re-rise, than the entrepreneurial spirit which could have made for an inspiring watch. The girl I watched it with liked it very much and felt more informed about his life and Apple when finished. So while I have no idea whether the movie has been a hit or not, it does a decent job at entertaining and informing.

 

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.

Accelerate global learning with XPRIZE

Heard about this project a few weeks ago. The XPRIZE organization is a non-profit organization that creates public competitions to tackle big world problems. They are usually backed by very big checks to the winners of each competition.

This specific competition is their global learning competition. In short and completely stolen of their site:

The Global Learning XPRIZE is a competition to build Open Source software to teach a child to read, write, and perform arithmetic, by themselves, without a teacher. Teams will compete to win a $15 million reward to build this revolutionary technology.

I totally love these initiatives – they really fire the entrepreneurial spirit inside of me. Taken on big world problems and really making a difference. Whether you are a entrepreneur and wants to join the competition, wants to back one of the competitions or simply share the message, you should go visit their site.

http://www.xprize.org/