Change up sleep routine

It’s pretty scary to realise you prefer to sleep early and wake up early based on old tweets you have done. Then somehow you slipped up and you find yourself sleeping later.

And how much later, you might ask?

Try three hours after your supposed sleeping time. It’s well beyond midnight, mind you. Then you got to wake up early for work. What’s worse is when you go through this kind of sleep deprivation for longer than two months with no end in sight and you don’t even know why. Your mind just refuse to sleep early.

This isn’t doing me any good. The long term effect of this sleep deprivation includes making one feel very tired, depressed and lack the motivation to do anything.

It’s probably why my consistency when it comes to writing or blogging in general has fallen off the cliff. And I suspect it’s the root of my problems. Been having trouble trying to write the short stories that I have planned. All those writer blocks…

So I decided to change up my sleeping routine by turning in before 10pm starting today. And I’ve got an excuse to do that now. Need to wake up an hour earlier than usual for my military reservist training tomorrow.

Lack of experiences kill your creativity

It’s very easy for us humans to fall into the trap of sticking to what’s familiar. We like it because of how it make us feel. Comfortable is the word to use here. After all, who likes to struggle every day of their life?

I definitely don’t. But I recognised that it had crept up on me. I grew comfortable with what I’m doing with my life that my blog is suffering from lack of content. Comfort leads to writer’s block and that leads to no content created.

So being comfortable is bad.

Right?

Probably…

By allowing yourself to grow very comfortable and remain status quo, it’s very easy for you to find you are unable to think out of the box or come up with new solutions fast enough. It’s just a fact. Similar to how you keep doing the same set of exercises and your body has grown used to it, comfort leads to strengthening of existing neural connections that you have already established, and after a while the brain stops doing that because there’s no more necessary changes to the signalling.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable. Comfortable sometimes could be you have reached the pinnacle of whatever skill you are developing. That means you could do that thing faster than before.

However, the key here is moderation.

New challenges and experiences forces the brain to create new connections and reshape existing ones. And when you keep doing that, the brain is constantly changing and reinforcing certain connections that ultimately results in its ability to come up with new ideas. This is where you can think out of the box when the time comes. If you keep practicing doing that, it can also make you more confident as a person when it comes to dealing with new problems as they come.

For those who are neurotic, constantly worrying about stuff or have low self-esteem, they would probably go like, “Are you crazy? Take on new challenges? I’d rather kill myself.”

I know. I can relate. It’s very difficult to get yourself to experience new things. Personally, I have this issue because of my innate desire for stability and consistency in life. I’ve lost count of how many times I need to will myself to do something different just so that I expand my knowledge and experience.

This is why you won’t see me asking someone to do something drastic just to increase or revive your creativity. For example, there is no need for you to jump out of a perfectly good airplane just so you can jumpstart your creativity. You won’t see me doing that either.

Yet, it’s not good either to leave the “lack of experience, can’t create” situation unresolved. Not if you want to grow any further.

Instead, what you probably could do is find and know where is your comfort zone. Then ask yourself if you are willing to go out of your comfort zone by just one or two steps. If you do, then do it. And if you do manage to go out of your comfort zone by three to ten steps, then it’s even better. If not, then it’s better that you don’t complain about your situation and just live with it.

And you know what?

Sometimes, the new experience can come from simply changing up where you stand or sit when you are riding the train to work or to go back home. Or having a drink at your local coffee shop. Or maybe just take a different route to go to your usual places.

To grow, just 5 percent more

Personal growth is really just an umbrella term for improving oneself across different aspect. It could be your skillsets, knowledge, interpersonal relationship, emotional intelligence, and many more. Depending on the aspect that we want to improve on, we could go for short courses, get advice from friends and have them monitor our progress, or even learn it from videos indirectly.

Many times, we fell into the trap of attempting to grow quickly when we were at the beginning of that journey. There could be many reasons for that. The best reason I could think of is, impatient. The other reason is spite.

And I’m writing from my own perspective because those are the two reasons why I want to grow quickly despite it being irrational and not practical.

You see, it all stem from being hurt when someone points out a flaw, mistakes or something that you have or made. Then you feel like you want to shut them up for good and shove their words back down their throats. And so you went full swing into fixing the flaw or mistakes someone mentioned.

At first it would go well. You are happy to practice. But it won’t last long. The passion or the drive to change just fizzle out one day. Nothing sticks. Your old habits come back again. Mistakes happen again. And the other party wins.

Or in other words, you dropped out of the infinite game all because you don’t understand or get the real why you need to improve on certain things. You had failed to reconcile the purpose of the change with your personal ‘Why’. So, your attempt to change in such a short time is simply playing the finite game to achieve the goal of proving the other party wrong just because you don’t feel good about it.

Therefore, it’s very important to calm down, understand what was the issue and how you can reconcile with your personal Why. By that, I mean how does that change or growing in that specific direction helps you with your personal mission.

After that, you can actually make plans so that you can improve yourself at a steady pace. And to make that growth even more effective, all you need to do is apply 5% more effort, energy, attention or awareness in whatever it is you are doing.

The idea of 5% more was introduced to me two years ago by an ex-boss of mine. It was from the book by Michael Alden called 5% More: Making Small Changes to Achieve Extraordinary Results.

Back then, he was attempting to get all of us to be at the top of our game. To deliver quality work. To be more resilient when it comes to stress, etc.

So I bought the book and read it because I really wanted to be better then. Only managed to read till mid-way of the book before I gave up. Since then, I have moved on from the company, had to deal with multiple episodes of situational depression, and went back to a software development role. And in hindsight, fictional books are definitely more interesting.

But I digress.

Even though I managed to read half of the book, the idea behind it was simple. In whatever you do, all you need to do is apply 5% more of whatever it is you need to. Time. Energy. Attention. Focus.

Let’s put 5% into perspective.

You have already spent an hour on a task to create a report and you are about to complete it. Just the last page. However, you decided to call it a day and go home. You promise yourself that you will come back to finish that last page the next day. The next day comes and then new tasks came in that are of a higher priority. The task you promised to finish yesterday now sit undone. Later in the day, your boss tells you he or she needs that report on the desk in five minutes time. So you scramble to finalise the report. But because you are in panic mode, you forgot what was the report truly about and now you have to spend more time to understand it first before finishing that last page.

Now what if you have spend 5% more time on that report the day before. 5% more time isn’t a lot. Considering that you have already spent an hour on it and you are left the last page. 5% more translate to 3 minutes. If you had spent that 3 minutes the day before, do you think you would suffer now?

And what about 5% more energy, attention or focus? If you apply it to your tasks, do you think the end result will be better? Maybe it could be a simple adding of margin to a report. It doesn’t take a lot of effort right? But it could potentially make it easier to read or more presentable. Your client could be subconsciously impressed. Or maybe you could have picked out several spelling and grammatical mistakes in your writing by applying 5% more attention to details.

If you are consistent with the application of 5% more as part of your personal growth, you may just find yourself putting out high quality stuff without even thinking about it. All because you have trained that muscle well.

Not to brat but this application of 5% more is how I am able to write better, cleaner codes than my colleagues despite being younger than them without being intentional about it and write out test cases that fulfil the criteria without much thoughts.

Taking a silo pause as a creator

Pause. Break.

It doesn’t matter which word but they are scary words for some. And just the mention of it could potentially trigger an anxiety attack in creators who have relatively low amount of followers and viewership. After all, at the beginning, there’s no other metrics other than view and like counts that matter more to the creator. He or she probably isn’t confident enough in their ability to attract and engage people to take a look at their content. So every view or like serves to validate their thoughts and feelings that they did something right. It’s serves as a micro fuel for their next content release.

Well, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s only wrong when you tie your overall well-being to being validated. The moment you think you aren’t validated, you slipped into depression. And that’s bad.

For me, I came from that and have been slowly learning to not seek validation in what I do. It’s a difficult journey. And that’s why I never like the word “pause” when it comes to content creation. I feel like I should keep churning out content.

But for the past two days, the creative well that drive my writing is really empty. Every time the level is pulled and the bucket rise up, all I see is empty. Best part is, I knew it was coming ever since I put up the article titled, Focus on playing the infinite game. The metaphorical weather hasn’t been giving me the rain necessary to fill the well.

And you know what? My blog viewership have pretty much dropped to just a couple of visitor and even then those visitors are only here for the review I wrote about the Ogon Designs’s Stockholm V2 Smart Wallet. It’s in fact my most popular piece of content by view count. As for likes, it’s pretty much zero.

And I’m perfectly okay with that.

Even then, it doesn’t mean one should be ok with not creating. It’s a pause from writing for me but not a pause on other creative work.

You see, if you view yourself as a creator, there’s really no restriction on what you can create. The only possible limitation comes from whether you’ve got the skills for it or not. Even then, it’s probably a weak excuse.

Let’s use the following example.

You could be a full-time writer but at the same time you enjoy making cupcakes. And you know what? Making cupcake is a form of creation. So you have the skill to write and make cupcake. Now, you decided to take a break from writing because you are suffering from some kind of writer’s block. However, you can continue to make cupcake. And I’m pretty sure you will learn something from the process.

In my case, I may be suffering from a writer’s block but the other creative work that I can do is building software. I have learn and developed the skills for it over the last ten years or so. That’s why I’ve decided to spend some time to setup various development studios on my computer and learn different kind of development platforms. The next step would be to figure out a pet project to do so that I can take on the challenge of developing an iOS app (never done it before) for the frontend and a .NET Core web application for the backend.

This way, my coding skills can continue to improve, which in turn allows me to make more money. And what does having more money means for me? It allows me to create art because I won’t find myself starving, stressed out by how am I going to pay the bills and still can take my family out for meals.

So that’s why it’s important for one to be multi-skilled. It’s even better if you have totally different kind of creative skills. That way you can take a pause, switch between different kind of creative work and don’t feel like you hadn’t achieve anything. Furthermore, you become a more diverse person and that is fuel for your overall creativity.

The moment

It’s my belief that everyone would have a certain moment in their life when they realised something only after an event have long passed. And at that point in time, you would be in this weird situation of being simultaneously aware while still unwilling to accept the fact. The fact that the moment is already here. Slowly but surely, you accept the situation and move on with your life.

In my case, it was this realisation that I’m in my thirties only after months have passed since my thirty-first birthday, had achieve some stuff but not quite made an impact on the world. There is this doubt lingering at the back of your head whether you have enough time to achieve what you want in life and that people knows who you are. At the same time, you also know you have done your best and is ready to give your younger self some advice.

Now, in terms of personality, people can find me behaving still like a man-child on certain things because of my idealism. Seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses is still pretty much the thing I do. The inner-child in me is still pretty much alive when it comes to taking on new challenges and seeing new things. At the same time, certain aspect of my personality have changed as a result of the real world smashing in and slapping the idealism and inner-child around. So parts of my mind has been hardened by challenges it faced.

And it’s a constant struggle to keep that hardening process at bay because once that happen, it could potentially erode your ability to see the world differently and be creative. As a creator, I would hate for that happen.

Well, the biggest change that you grudgingly accept when you enters your thirties is your stamina and physical capabilities is no longer like in your twenties. Excessive sitting down makes you tired. Excessive standing makes you tired. Eat too much and you feel sick. Work too long you feel like sleeping for days. And if you are a gamer? You will find that your reaction times in first person shooter games drop dramatically. So you end up dying more often. And lastly, your weight just keep piling on despite your effort to exercise.

But it’s not the end of the world.

This moment, this very act of being aware of your age and proud of what you have achieved, is cause for celebration. At least, you didn’t fumble through life aimlessly. You are still alive. You have also gone through enough life challenges to enable you to make better decisions for your future as you enter your mid and late thirties. And maybe give you enough confidence to do the thing you really want to do as well as increasing your potential good impact on the world. It’s also a moment of your life where people can at least start taking you slightly more seriously than when you are in your twenties or teens.

For me, I will still keep doing what I do because deep down, I’m a minimalist when it comes to interests. The only problem to deal with is how to find the intersection of all my interests so that I can do and put out my best work for the rest of the world to enjoy.