Category Archives: Productivity

Making Miracles

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When life gives you lemons, make grape juice, and let the world marvel at how you did it.

What a great twist to an old saying. Sometimes, you don’t get everything that you want, or even everything that you need. If only you had a bit more time, more money, more resources.

Life can be full of challenges, mistakes and failures. It would be great if life worked out the way we wanted it to, but things aren’t always going to go according to plan. Sometimes, you’re going to be dealt a bad hand, and it’s up to you how you want to play it.

That’s the great thing about life. Even though it can be hard, it’s also full of opportunities and any number of wonderful things. As long as you learn from your past, keep your chin up, and face whatever life throws at you head on, you’ll be okay in the end.

Sometimes, life only gives you lemons. You may have wanted oranges, or apples, or anything else but lemons, but you didn’t get what you wanted. Well, now’s your chance. Go on, make some magic happen, and let them marvel.

The Sweetest Reward

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They say that it’s best to aim for the low hanging fruit. A lot of the time this is true, but it isn’t always the case.

In the short term, it might make sense to take advantage of whatever comes your way first. The low hanging fruit are easy to reach, but they aren’t necessarily the best fruit on the tree.

In the long term, only doing what is easy won’t get you very far. If you only go for low hanging fruit, you’ll never taste the sweetness of overcoming a difficult challenge, and achieving something worthwhile.

Learning to climb a tree takes patience and perseverance, but if you take things step by step, you can reach the top.

It helps if you’re not weighed down by stuff. Carry too much, and your burden will hinder your progress. Let go of the things that don’t matter, and focus on the things that do.

You only get one chance at life, so why not aim high? The sweetest fruit grow at the top.

 

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The Most Important Lesson You’ll Ever Learn About Opportunity

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Two shoe makers go to a remote village.

One of them immediately gives up and goes home, declaring, “It’s hopeless! Nobody here wears shoes.”

The other, smiling, declares “What a glorious business opportunity! Nobody here wears shoes”.

Opportunity is something that you discover, not something that you wait for

 

Whether it’s new business idea, a new career direction, a new journey, or a new friend or lover, however you define it, the opportunities in life are endless. They surround you like air.

You don’t have to have an expensive education, or special training to see them. You don’t even have to go looking for them.

You just have to keep your eyes and mind open.

Right now, there are countless problems that needs to be solved, people who need help, places to go, people to meet, and so many things to learn and discover about the world.

Most people trundle through life, blindly, on auto-pilot. Like the first shoe maker, they may see a glass, but they can’t help but think it’s half empty.

It’s not complicated. If you’re waiting for a new opportunity to come to you, you should know, it’s already there.

Can you see it?

 

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How running taught me the value of persistence

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A few years ago, I wrote about the importance of perseverance. The ability to see things until the end – it’s the difference between make or break.

Little did I know, I would one day go through one of the biggest tests of perseverance – a full marathon. I would end up putting my money where my mouth is.


lessons in starting out

When I first started running, it was to lose weight. I dragged myself to the treadmill about once a week, or sometimes just once a month. There was no ‘big goal’, and I was never really that good at it. I got out of breath, my chest hurt, and I made a hundred excuses. It took me a year to run more than three miles.

I wasn’t making much progress, especially weight-wise. Mostly, it was because I didn’t do it enough.

Then one summer, when the weather was particularly good, I went for a run. Just a gentle jog in the June breeze, and to my surprise, I actually enjoyed it. I ran a couple more times that week, then a few more the week after, and within that month, running turned from a chore to a hobby.

While I was running for superficial reasons (ie. to lose weight) and not making much progress, I would be completely put off by just the number on the scales. I would think, ‘What’s the point?‘. But, after that month, I started to truly appreciate running as something fun and healthy to do, not just as a means to an end.

Once I actually got going, it wasn’t so bad. In fact, I grew to love it. Now, I run because I enjoy running itself, not because I wanted to lose weight or impress others. It gives me more energy, the opportunity to clear my mind, and a sense of accomplishment. I had persevered, and eventually, everything clicked into place.

Before I knew it, I was running a half marathon. Finishing it was one of the best things I had done in my life up until then. I felt so proud of myself, and so happy that all of my hard work had paid off. Instead of asking, ‘What’s the point?’ I came to ask, ‘What more can I do?‘.

I read into minimalist running. I took up yoga, swimming lessons and spin class. I had neglected my body for years, but now it was one of my highest priorities. Being healthier became a part of my daily life, rather than something I begrudgingly tried to fit into it.


screw it, it’s now or never

A few years after that transforming summer jog, I found myself signing up for a full on marathon.

What an idiot. Training went fine until a common cold turned into a chest infection, which turned into a check-in in the emergency centre of the hospital. It happened right when I was supposed to be running the most miles. I had probably made it worse from running outside in cold and rainy weather. The doctor told me to stay in bed.

Flash-forward to the big day. I hadn’t had a proper run in weeks. I had my doubts, but I wasn’t going to give up. I didn’t want to give up. No way. At the start line, I said to myself, ‘Screw it, it’s now or never.’

Twenty miles later, my feet felt like they were going to explode with every step. My hip had locked up, my shins felt brittle enough to snap, and if I had to go up another incline, I might didn’t think I would make it.

Despite all this, somehow, I kept going. I saw a sign that read, ‘Run as if zombies are chasing you!’ In other words, keep going as if stopping wasn’t an option. 

So I put one foot in front of the other. Again and again. I did it ten thousand times until I saw the finish line.

When it was in sight, I sprinted.

My foot crossed the line. I did it! I cried. I waddled. I smiled my oxygen-deprived head off.


5 lessons on persistence

What did I learn that day? That band-aids are a runner’s best friend? Well, yes, but also some great lessons on the value of persistence.

1. Persistence is what separates people who are successful and people who are unsuccessful. They persist and persist until they finish. They may adjust their course, slow down or speed up, but they just don’t give up. It’s as simple as that.

2. If you look at the most successful people in the world, the one thing they have in common is that they didn’t give up. You can look at any field, and at any measure of accomplishment, or at all their different backgrounds, but you will see that to get to where they are, they simply got started, and kept going. Their common characteristic was their perseverance.

3. It’s easy to give up, but hard to carry on. That’s what makes a ‘success’ something to be admired. Anything worth achieving is worth working hard for.

4. Finishing creates momentum. The sense of accomplishment you feel from finishing carries forward into your next project, and then the next one, and then the next one. Life is a series of ‘projects’, whether at work, in relationships, or for yourself. Whether they end in success or failure, you will never know unless you finish. 

5. It’s not about luck. People don’t just get lucky, they finish things and learn from them.  By reaching your goal, you open new doors and opportunities. You end up with more and better chances of doing more stuff. In other words, luck doesn’t find you, but if you just keep going, and you’ll find it.

What can you achieve by being persistent?

 


Phew, now that’s crossed of my life list, where am I going from here? To my next project of course. Sports-wise, my aim is to complete a duathlon in the next year or two, and a triathlon after that. Find me on Fitocracy, if you like. My course has been set, and I’m determined to reach the end. See you at the finish line!

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Minimalize, Focus, Do Part III – Push Publish

Part III of the Minimalize, Focus, Do series.

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“There are three types of people in this world, those who finish what they start and those that don’t.

People have spent entire careers wondering whether there was something special about ‘successful’ people – was there a common characteristic? A secret ingredient? Or just something they ate?

Of course, there are many common characteristics that contributes to ‘success’, but to me, the difference between a successful person and one that comes down to one thing (at the risk of sounding like Ms. Norbury):

Successful people push.

In other words, they:

  • actively put their ideas and themselves out in front of people.
  • make themselves vulnerable to criticism
  • believe strongly in their ideas
  • believe strongly in themselves
  • have the ability to keep perspective
  • strive to finish

On the other hand, unsuccessful people:

  • wait for things to land on their lap
  • hold on to old ways
  • take the path of least resistance
  • stick to only what they know
  • let others put them down too easily

shipping – push your ideas into the crowd

Not everything you think of will be great. Actually, a lot of ideas that have been adamantly stuck to have turned out to be quite bad, but you’ll never know unless you try.

Amazing ideas could be wasted if you don’t bring them to life. Imagine if the greatest inventors and writers cared just that tiny bit too much about how they would look to other people, then we wouldn’t have some of the most useful, innovative, sensational, ingenious, and moving songs, stories, poems, devices, products and services of all time. History is completely made up of people flying into the face of their naysayers (sometimes literally) and going against the crowd.

Imagine all of the ideas out there right now, waiting to change the world. I’m willing to bet there’s one right now, inside yourself. Until you’re willing to ship, no one will know about it.

You have to persevere with your ideas. Don’t be a pushover and let other people put your down. Don’t be pushy and force your ideas onto other people if you haven’t taken a step back to see if it’s right.

Instead, be a pusher – a special kind of person who acts on their passions and gets their creations out there.

how to be a push publish

1. Passion is number one. You can’t push for something you don’t believe in 100 per cent. It can take all of the energy and motivation you can muster to push something to where you want it to be and if your heart isn’t in it, then you’ll burn out before you can get there. Choose something that means everything to you.

2. Be willing to put your neck on the line. Put yourself out there and don’t care about what the trolls have to say. There are people out there who will try to put you down because they’re just too scared to do something great themselves, so they’d rather drag you down with them. It’s a tragedy, but it would be much worse if your joined their ranks. Nobody knows everything and nobody can predict the future, it’s up to you.

3. Take a step back. On the above note, if you receive actual constructive criticism, take a step back and see if any improvements can be made. Remember, don’t be a pushover or pushy – it’s extremely important to remain mindful as much you can. It depends on a person’s character and strength of conviction whether they let people put them down or if it leads to improvement and eventually what is just a good idea becomes a real idea.

4. Keep a balanced standard. Have faith in yourself and aim high. Setting a challenging standard for yourself is a very good thing but don’t aim for perfection, because there’s no such thing.  Try not be too self-critical, otherwise you’ll always be waiting for something that’s impossible.

5. Create something of value to other people and you’re bound to succeed. It’s as simple as this : if people need or want something you can give them, you are already on the way to success. All you need to figure out is how you can give it to them and how you can receive something valuable in return (this doesn’t necessarily mean cash). Something of value in return can be anything from useful criticism, encouraging comments or spreading your name via word of mouth.

Pushing publish doesn’t have to be hard, but unless it’s good, people won’t take notice. Posts like these take me some time to write because I always have to make sure I’ve done my best before publishing something I’ve created for everyone to see.

Anybody can change the world. But not everybody does. Don’t let it be you.

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Minimalize, Focus, Do Part II- Mastering Focus

Part II of the Minimalize, Focus, Do series.

I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest“. ~ Dalai Lama

Into the Eye of the Storm

A storm is coming. Thick, dark clouds are gathering in the distance, rolling closer and closer towards you. The echo of a deep rumbling shakes the ground beneath your feet. Lightening pierces the sky in great thin flashes. Suddenly there’s a giant clash and everything goes white.

You open your eyes.

The first thing you notice is not what is there but what isn’t. The chaos and uproar is gone and in it’s place there is a tranquil silence that almost seems to ring in your ears. You fill your lungs with the cool, thin air. It calms your thumping heart.

You are in the eye of the storm.

Everything you have done until now has lead you to this moment.

Being focussed is about transporting your mind and body to a place of serenity. There’s nothing to pull you away from what you’re about to do. For now, nothing beyond your bubble really exists. The past is behind you and the future hasn’t happened yet. The world is at your feet.

This moment is a fresh start, a new beginning, a clean slate.

Has there ever been one moment in your life when you’ve been completely, utterly focussed? If you have experienced it, then you might know the feeling of infinite joy that comes out of being able to perform your very best.

You feel awesome, inspired and unstoppable. 

If you haven’t had the chance to experience that kinds of momentum yet, you can try to bring the moment towards you using some focus mantras.

25 focus mantras for genius, creativity & greatness

  1. disconnect
  2. breathe deeply
  3. intensity is vital
  4. drop your expectations
  5. play and stay curious
  6. lose yourself and
  7. know who you really are
  8. be present
  9. embrace solitude
  10. make your own rules
  11. listen honestly
  12. savor the silence
  13. life is the journey
  14. love everything
  15. just feel
  16. let go of the past
  17. passion is key
  18. move with purpose
  19. reject fear
  20. strive ahead
  21. freedom is in your mind
  22. gratitude goes a long way
  23. make a difference
  24. dive deeply
  25. be human

It’s your chance to fill the pages of your life. Write your story. It is in these moments that you decide who you are and what you’re alive for.

Now go do what you are supposed to do… and give it everything you have.

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Minimalize, Focus, Do

How do you get things done?

David Allen, amongst countless other life coaches, business men and women, time management ‘experts’ and so on have spent and earned millions trying to figure out this question.

As people, we can do more than just spend our days hunting, eating and procreating. We’re lucky in that way because we have the chance to do something really world-changing or life-fulfilling, but only if we choose to.

Coming back from a year abroad in hot and busy Asia to a breezy summer in my seaside home in England, it’s been all too easy to slip into a lazy routine of reading, surfing the internet, hanging out with friends and going on the occasional jog. Short of writing one essay, a few songs and getting through a pile of books, I admit I haven’t ‘done’ too much since I’ve gotten back. I haven’t felt so relaxed in such a long time and it’s quite a relief just to lay back for once.

However, the inertia is starting to get me and lately I’ve been feeling a little restless again as I try to find ways to output all of the energy and momentum I’ve built up whilst travelling. I feel like a train that was travelling at full speed and has come to a screeching halt. I need to get back on track, even if slowly but surely.

Back in March, for my birthday post I wrote about things that matter. Even though this is a minimalist blog, I’ve long since learned that it’s not enough to just ‘minimalize’ your life. Just cutting down on things and getting rid of things is only half the battle.

We have to minimalize, then focus, then do.

What to minimalize, focus and do is something I’ve written a lot about (these posts remain some of the most popular). I feel I’ve concentrated a lot on why as well – happiness is one of the most important things in our lives, and yet there are too many people who have forgotten about it or are trying to ‘chase it’ in the wrong ways.

But one thing I haven’t talked too much about is how.

How do we go for what we want? How do we make our dreams into realities?

These are the kinds of questions I hope to be tackling over the next few weeks.

[Edit] Minimalize, Focus, Do will be a three part series, check back here for links or subscribe via RSS feed or my Twitter to get instant updates!

‘No’ the difference…

A lot of people mix up travelling with ‘escaping’. They think that people who travel are trying to run away from bad things in their lives, or bad things that will/might happen to them like work, debt or demanding bosses.

But the problem is, it’s not simply enough to ‘run away’. That’s what a vacation is for. Real travelling isn’t running away, it’s running towards something – something new, different, mind-blowing and world-rocking, things that challenge the way we think people are or should be. Travellers may not have much, but what they gain is invaluable, even if you can’t see it.

And the same can be said of minimalism too. When we get rid of stuff, we’re not simply ‘getting rid of’ a piece of furniture or clothing. It’s not about the negative, but the positive side of the coin too. When we refuse to buy something we don’t need, we’re welcoming something better than a second car into our lives – the least being the chance to give  back in our own way, no matter how small, to Mother Earth and to fellow human beings.

a case for ‘no’

Despite what most people think, saying ‘no’ can open up as many possibilities as ‘yes’ can.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m always looking for new opportunities and when I feel it’s right to say ‘yes’, great things can happen. Projects get  started, I get to meet new people, ideas get pushed into reality and so on.

But the opposite is also true – saying no can be just as important. We don’t have unlimited time in our lives, or resources on earth. We have to stop saying yes to more and more stuff and start saying no to over-consumption, pollution and debt. ‘No’ can be a powerful weapon as a minimalist’s best friend.

‘No’ gets a bad rep because it’s mistakenly only thought of as a door-closer. But if you think about the kind of things ‘no’ unleashes – time, freedom, resources – you’ll see that in most cases, ‘no’ is not the opposite of ‘yes’, just it’s (sometimes more practical) counterpart.

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Minimalism and work – a balancing act?

by Jessica Dang
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Most of you will probably know the popular college drinking game ‘Would you rather…?’ where you have to choose between two (usually horrifying) dilemmas.

Apart from being an entertaining drinking game, I’ve discovered it to be a rather useful life tool to create ultimatums for yourself, especially when it comes to the difficult yet important issues in our lives.

For example, how do we balance our money/job needs with our desire to be more minimalist?

The best way to answer this question is by asking a different set of questions…

three better questions

When we think about work, it’s all about choices. A lot of people neglect asking themselves important questions regularly. They just blindly go with the flow from school > university > job > retirement and forget to stop and check if they’re even going where they would like to go

Now, here is where most people ask obvious questions like, “Are you passionate about your work?” or, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?” and so on, but those aren’t the kind of questions I’m interested in. I prefer something more challenging.

Most of us are so lucky to live in a day and age when it is possible for us to do anything we want. We have more freedom of choice than any other generation in history. Most of us are no longer hindered by the information and communication obstacles that stopped our predecessors from learning and doing what they wanted to do, when they wanted to. So it’s time for some new and better questions that make the most of the opportunities we have.

Money or Time?

Would you rather:

  • work 8 hours a day and have extra cash
  • work 8 hours a week and have only what you need

How you answer this question is important because it decides what kind of job you want to do. Some jobs simply cannot be done in less than a full day’s shift (such as working in retail or service)—you’re paid by a company to help customers out for that many hours a day. This kind of job can be done by anyone, and it shows on your paycheck.

On the other hand, there are jobs that are highly paid per hour because of the high value you deliver. What kind of job would you want?

Which one you prefer usually depends on which you value more—having cash in the bank, or having free time.

BUT you can have both money and time! It all comes down to how much money you need to sustain your lifestyle. In my case, I don’t have a costly life overhead, so I don’t need to work more than a few hours a week, and then I use the rest of my free time to do what I want—read, spend time with my loved ones, etc. So now I’m left with enough money, and plenty of time.

Connection or Freedom?

Would you rather do a job that requires:

  • your presence
  • what you create

There are advantages and disadvantages to both sides, and they’re not always mutually exclusive, but which one you choose largely depends on the kind of person you are. Jobs that require your presence usually involve being interacting with customers and usually some sort of trained skill. Some people find these jobs quite fulfilling too, because they’re able to connect with new and different people.

The flip side is that you have to show up to wherever the customers are, which, if you like your freedom, can be a pain in the ass. Jobs in service sector are examples of these. On the other hand, jobs that only require what you can create, provide more possibility of freedom. You can create something of value, and send it to the customer from wherever you are.

Now or Never?

Would you rather:

  • do great things when you’re retired
  • do them now (even on a shoestring)

This one is a trick question. A lot of people think that they have to choose between the things that truly matter, and the things they think they have to do right now, like getting a well-paid steady job, buy a nice car/house, start a family etc. But they forget that they don’t have to wait until they’re retired to do what they’ve always wanted to. Or until they’re rich. You can live a millionaire’s lifestyle from right now.

There’s no guarantee you’ll be rich, or even alive, when you’re ready to retire. The only guarantee you have is the present moment, make the most of it!

As for myself, I tutor English for a few sessions per week. My fees are quite high per hour, so even if I have to show up for work, it’s worth it. I’m also working on moving towards freelance translation so that I would be able to work from anywhere in the world… and/or from the comfort of my bed. I’ll see how that goes.

EDIT February 2016: A few years after I wrote this post, I started freelance translations in my spare time, and now I run my own investment business which gives me a comfortable passive income. I’m living my dream from five years ago.

In any case, it’s important to keep asking status-quo-challenging questions because you may discover a new path in life. Some of the best ideas and revolutions in history came from people asking the right questions at the right time.

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Plugging holes

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been trying hard to not log on my laptop everyday like I used to, and enjoy my time offline a little more.

So the other day, when I sat down to relax but found a slew of comments from people informing me that I had a spam post on my site, I was horrified to see that someone had managed to publish a post of complete nonsense under a different username! What cheek! I can’t say that I wasn’t a bit upset for losing a couple dozen geek points too for having my security breached.

To all my readers that received it in their feed (damn you google caching), I’m so sorry about that!

I was quite upset and I spent the next hour looking up what could have happened and what I could do to fix and prevent it. Then for the next few days, I logged on twice everyday to check that the spammers weren’t back.

Slowly, I noticed that I was regaining some of my obsessive habits again, so after a few deep breaths,  I came to realize something very important.

We can’t spend our lives constantly plugging holes.

Things like this can happen anywhere and at any time, so I could either let incidents like this push me back on track of constant obsessing or I can fix it, learn from it and move onto bigger and better things.

If we spend all of our time meticulously tracking stuff, looking for problems, and trying to keep every single thing in our lives working, it would be impossible for us to get anywhere. There are too many things in our lives to keep a mental eye on, including anything from our weight, news/gossip, email, finances to our work/grades, gadgets and a thousand other things. To keep something working 95% of the time is infinitely easier than keeping it working 100% of the time.

Being careful about important things (like the security of my blog :S) is definitely helpful, but becoming obsessed can be more destructive to our goals than constructive.

It’s like spending all out time trying to patch up every hole in a run-down house instead of realizing that we’re supposed to be living in it, not maintaining it. So we can either stubbornly stay and worry about all of the things that are wrong with it or we can stop wasting our time and move on.

This doesn’t mean we should give up when things start getting tough, but instead that we shouldn’t let fear of our weaknesses and failures stop us from trying for successes.

In any case, if we happen to make mistakes, we should just take them as lessons learned (I had deleted the spam post straight away but looking back I realized it was probably best to have changed it’s contents to a proper post), and be glad that we even showed up in the first place, which is more than you can say for most people.

Sorry again, and thanks for reading! You can find me on Twitter for daily updates, subscribe to MS via email or leave a comment below!