Getting things done – ponderings over a dream

This morning I woke up from a dream dealing with change.

I was on a party held by Boris (from “The Next Web”) and asked for some advice on what to do for my next startup. This time there were no zombies or warzones in my dream, and the sun was shining, so stuff was quite OK.

His advice was to take “this object”, picked up from some table at random and turning out to be a red handled bottle-opener and: “trade it for other things until you get a house”.

In the dream I refused to do so, refused to take the advice Boris gave me and walked off.

After I awoke (or at least thought I was awake) I contemplated the dream.

Five pointers from my contemplation

  1. To sell stuff, you need to go out, meet people and sell – There is no escaping this. Sitting in my hidden laboratory and write blogposts which are read by 5 people per day is not going to pull it off
  2. To do stuff other than what your focus should be, is a waste of time – I guess that is why I said no to the well meant advice. If you want to do: “A” then to do: “B” to “get better at A” is a diversion and a waste of time unless “B” is applied on “A” and delivers extra result.
  3. Limitations? Too hard to do? You need to overcome your own bullshit –  Any time you stop doing something you wanted and you started, it is in most cases due to your own bullshit excuses. This “you” includes me. I have excused and given up my way out of a lot of things I could have done.
  4. Stick to what you do: it will take time – The Next Web (the blog) itself has taken 3 years from 2008 to 2011 to grow to one of the top ten technology blogs and is recently more and more quoted in the one I read: “Engadget”. They could have done many other things apart from doing what others were doing as well: blogging about stuff others blog about as well. But sticking to their guns paid off.
  5. I do not take advice I think is irrelevant – This makes me many things. Including: hard to deal with and: following my own path.

Mixing and matching

There is a balance in what you force yourself to do, what you like to do and what you expect out of your own life. This balance can be put into three platitudes:

  1. Do what you say/say what you do – A simple rule of no bullshit. If you are going to work on a list of 10 items, you will finish that list of 10 items. Not 9, not 6, not 5 but 10.
  2. Run your own tempo – Do not overstretch, but also do not be lazy. There is no use in burning up before you reach the finish. There is also no use in walking, if you can run, as it will only take longer before you reach your goal.
  3. Only change your plan when needed – There are many people with many different opinions and it is easy to get side-tracked or to start doubting yourself. As long as you can afford it and as long as your dream is not fueled by schizophrenia or some other mental instability, stick to your plan.

Three things that might make you give up

There is a lot of stuff that can make you give up on what you are doing, including these three:
  1. Fear – Of failing, of other people beating you to the game, of losing respect/face/whatever, of succeeding, of wasting your time, of going in the wrong direction and so on
  2. Boredom/being fed up/impatience – At a certain point, after trying again and again and again it might seem as if nothing is changing.
  3. Other people’s opinions – Maybe they do not approve. Maybe they do not understand what you are doing. Maybe they are jealous. Maybe they are projecting their own ideas and fears over your plans. Maybe they are just full of shit and out to make anyone and everyone feel bad about themselves.

The role of self discipline

If you ever did any sports, at a certain point the only thing remains between you and giving up is your self discipline. Self discipline is the strongest (when you have it) and weakest link (if you do not have it enough) in your own life.

For many people “giving up” is easier than breaking through that barrier and push through to the other side. I guess in general we are a lazy species and determination is only natural for the few.

That is why self discipline is important to train.

Five things to: get started/do while you are doing it

  1. Learn to ignore your own bullshit stories – Your mind is – in most of our cases – trained into telling you how much this new discipline stuff sucks. Especially the new stuff that costs you so much effort. Especially the stuff that gets you out of your confort zone.
  2. Learn to deal with your fear/resentment – Fear or resentment is the second stage in your progress. Your mind, loves, loves, LOVES your comfort zone. Stepping out of it and doing something different can become really unpleasant due to it. Very likely because a lot of people used to die in the past by doing something new and crazy and dangerous (like cleaning your house or calling other people as in my case). The best way is to keep breathing and go on. In my case, I pretend I am not there and my body is just following orders.
  3. Learn to love what you do – It is easy to hate your new stuff, because you do not like it. What is important is not to feel anything at all, but to feel your body (or mind) doing the work. Everything you feel against what you are doing costs you energy. And in the end you are just wasting your own time.
  4. Learn to deal with backdrops – Things go wrong. Things will take more time than you thought. Other things will happen. Your plans will change. Learn to deal with that. And if you tend to get emotionally affected by it: get over it, get over yourself and move on: towards your goal(s)
  5. Love yourself – It is also easy to force yourself by being a bully and to punish yourself (in mind or by action) when you fail yourself. That too is a waste of your time. Love yourself. Be kind. Be firm. Be true. Be forgiving and simply continue to do what you planned. That’s all you need to do.

Seven keys to extend your self discipline

  1. Knowing your own strength – Knowing what you can do is the first starting point
  2. Knowing what you are capable of – Knowing what you might be able to do is the second step. Maybe there is more. Maybe you can stretch further, go faster, reach more people.
  3. Knowing your own limits/weaknesses – Third: you need to know what you are not capable of. You need to know your weaknesses. You need to know your own specific boundaries and respect them. For instance: you can work 18 hours per day for a while, but after 6 months your productivity rate will be zero. For instance: when you are running out of money, you are in trouble.
  4. Knowing where you are going to – By setting goals. By describing what the end result will be. By setting out – and exploring the route(s) you will follow. Including “alternate plan B” and “C”.  The more specific you are (also on the “damage” done elsewhere), the easier it will be to catch surprises beforehand.
  5. Knowing how to build up – Going from “A” to “B” takes time, investment (of time and effort) persistence and patience. Being aware of that transition period and allowing yourself to go through it – including the failures and disappointments it might bring – is key to actually arrive at “B” in a way that did not break your balls.
  6. Making a plan – Without a plan you are just “doing stuff” and your progress is not measurable. This plan always has to be catered to your qualities and your own limits. It has mile stones (you can celebrate), result lists and deadlines.
  7. Sticking to the plan – It is easy to quit. It is
    easy to get side tracked. It is easy to have people on the side line telling you “how you can do better” or “that you suck”. If your plan is solid, you stick to it and everyone and everything else (including yourself) can fuck off.
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