What It Takes (Reminder for Self)

What does it say about my long term vision and the manifestation of it, if I am incapable of saying ‘no’ to short term escapes and pleasures?

What does it say about how clearly my long term goals – a fruitful podcast, music school business, performing career, motivational speaker, writer, notable investor, holiness – are articulated and festering in my mind, if I do not have the motivation to stop scrolling on Instagram, or to go to sleep and wake up punctually?

Jordan Peterson, when talking about porn, alcohol, and other addictions, that the reason people are still addicted is because there is no clear, crystallised, and loftier purpose, vision, mission, and drive for something beyond the immediate pleasures? We give up on our future selves when we submit to our old habits – habits and pleasures we KNOW do not and will not truly satisfy and fulfil us.

So, what’s the cure?

Write down, read, and visualise one’s goals, purpose, and mission in life everyday. Be accountable to yourself through your own word. If you set your eyes on heavenly and mountainous tasks, your hunger and craving for the broken, temporal, and fickle treats of this world will diminish.

I will never get back the hours I’ve spent mindlessly scrolling on Instagram. Pursuing, seeking, and suckling on the parched teat of a medium that holds no tangible nourishment, I’ve been there so much it will no doubt dismay my future self.

And that’s the thing too. Every moment I work hard, do what is right, pursue meaningful relationships, practice deliberately, pounce on what is uncomfortable and difficult, relentlessly fight for perfection and holiness, is a moment not wasted on my future self.

That future self does not magically find itself successful, holy, accomplished, righteous, knowledgeable, wise, and influential. It’s built on these moments: these minute-to-minute micro decisions that accumulate over time to build a life worthy of having lived.

Giving your best everyday

I wanted to share this from James Clear’s Friday emails:

“Improvement is a battle that must be fought anew each day.

Your next workout doesn’t care how strong your last one was.

Your next essay doesn’t care how popular your last one was.

Your next investment doesn’t care how smart your last one was.

Your best effort, again.”

I relate to this because although knowledge and mastery of a piece can develop away from the instrument, ultimately, the wrestling, the refining, and the craftsmanship is consistent work.

Sometimes, I’m working out and I ask myself – why is it still so painful? And that’s wrong. It’ll always be painful because I’m pushing myself. There are easy workouts, just as there are easy pieces of music and less deliberate practice. But it ought to be painful because I’m giving my ‘best effort’ everyday.

I LOVE IT. I hope this inspires you.

photos by the amazing Stuart Lowe

Mental Warm-Up

Warming up at the campfire  watching the sunset

Getting started is not easy, especially if it’s something monumental (in your head or in reality). In spite of all my efforts to try and psyche myself into action, I’ve always found myself procrastinating more.

So here are some things I’m trying to overcome this hurdle to my hurdle.

1. Situate yourself in the environment of work. Sit in the chair where you’ll be doing the work. Then, instead of scrolling on Instagram or Tiktok, open up a notepad and read a non-fiction book, ideally something inspiring like a business book. I’ve been getting into Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things.

2. As you read or meditate in your seat, jot down any ideas or tasks that come to mind. Our brain instinctively knows what we need to do and it’s constantly working within our subconscious to come up with ideas for the task at hand. BUT our mind is also fearful, full of doubts, and worries.

3. At some point, you’ll want to do things related to the task at hand; writing a simple email, researching something small, and a little bit at a time, we warm up to the idea of this task. Mentally, we’re riled up to tackle the task at hand.

So whenever something is too big to face, don’t forget to warm up. It takes some time to get into the zone. As with piano, our fingers are not instantaneously prepared to tackle difficult études or concerti without warming up. But after some preparation, it’s game on.

Why I love opera

Every musical phrase starts with a breath. And with that breath, we paint the poetry of life’s joys and sorrows. Inevitably, some phrases reach a climax, a cadence. In that moment, just before the release, we hold our breath, in awe of how powerfully these words, these cries, these vibrations in the air, can pierce into the shell of our masked human-ness.

It strikes, it pierces, and then it evaporates. Comforting, enfolding, and surrounding us with warmth and strength of feeling as we exhale, foreshadowing and reminding us of the phrases within our very own existence.

Buffer time

I feel incredibly creative and motivated when I have buffer time. Buffer time includes train or bus rides where I have no choice but to sit and wait. Or when I was in quarantine. The parameters of buffer time include an unexpected or expected large X amount of time where they’re physically and logistically in limbo.

It allows for reading, listening to podcasts, reflecting and thinking, blogging, creating social media posts.

What buffer time, when used wisely – having a window seat helps immensely with creativity and joy – allows for the brain to feed. Often, our brains are geared towards output and processing, in the case of work and practice. Or the brain is involved in managing movement and mediating between the conflicts of pain prevention and pain absorption (as in the case of workouts). Or it’s forming language and articulating ideas, balancing various emotions and intuitive senses as one holds a conversation.

It’s not often the brain is left simply to eat in peace. The ever changing visual stimuli of being on a vehicle is unimportant and rudimentary. The brain feeds lightly on what is entering the brain through the speakers – yet it knows that it does not have to engage fully in response. Sometimes ideas can be observed in various perspectives like a glass prism. Other times, it can feed, sit back, soak in the sun, and chill out.

Surprisingly, this is when the brain is able to come up with pretty excellent ideas. It’s the force of not having to try too hard that allows for soft whispers of revelations in the breeze.

Thus, the crazy idea for today isn’t to give your brain any particular demand. Give it that train, bus, or plane ride (if possible), or even a leisurely walk. Sit by a window and watch people walk by. Being momentarily and intentionally unproductive can lead to some pretty interesting things!

How to breathe better

Breathing deeper and exhaling slowly activates the diaphragm, which sends messages to the vagus nerve to turn on the parasympathetic nervous system. Once your body believes it’s in a more parasympathetic state (even if your mind is still trying to manage the stress), you’ll be calmer, more relaxed, and able to lower your heart rate.

This is vital for performance anxiety. Or any anxiety in general.

Inhale through your nose with your diaphragm (or your abdominal muscles), and gradually exhale. The more you’re able to train this diaphragm (a muscle that is essentially the lid on top of a cylindrical support for your spine, your posture will improve, your breath will be your anchor during times of stress, and your quality of life will improve.

Try it. Do the unusual.

How to be fearless

If I may venture to give advice, although I don’t believe I am qualified to as this is also something I’m in the process of working out fully, I think this may be one way to become fearless

It came to me whilst I was reading a 3-2-1 article by James Clear. Of satisfaction, he quoted author Ann Hastings on the availability of satisfaction:

“Satisfaction is always available. It is just not always looked for. If, when you enter any experience, you enter with curiosity, respect and interest you will emerge enriched and with awareness you have been enriched. Awareness of enrichment is what satisfaction is.” Ann Hastings.

It dawned upon me that fear should also be treated in the same way! If we can treat something we fear with curiosity, paint the task, person, or the event with respect, build interest and knowledge within that looming darkness, we twist the arm of that which we are afraid of. We become aware of this shadow in our lives via a different lens.

And this is perhaps how I’ll work on my procrastination and my fears.

Same Interview

This is not particularly radical but upon watching Billie Ellish’s Same Interview, I really do think it’s worthwhile for me to do the same. For my YouTube channel.

I’ve always been obsessed with having a record of my thoughts, my development, and my change throughout the years. At the more arrogant age of 20 or so, I thought I would be some famous person one day and someone would need these diary entries to write a biography about me.. ahahaha

But I think this is ultimately an amazing way for me to reflect on my life and provide a portrait of who I am, who I was, and who I’ve become.

On a slightly separate note, I’m still working out whether I make content for me or content for others. To sort this out would get to the crux of how I could stay inspired more consistently.

In any case, for my podcast, I think I might do the same for my friends who I interview.. a series of the same-ish questions I ask each time they come back on. Just to see how things are. I believe humans are intuitively hooked on observing change – thus sunsets, the sky, gardening, time lapses, and character development in entertainment intrigue us so much. I’m going to lean into that.

How to get inspired

Get inspired with documentaries. Get inspired by how real people, not fictional characters, overcome adversity, find solutions, and seek that victory. Get inspired by knowledge, by story, and by fellow human beings doing the best. They suffer like you and me. They worry, get frustrated, become unmotivated and uninspired. Watch documentaries like The Last Dance to see how our heroes became our heroes.

Even if the next day is depressive, slow, and painstaking, at least you’ll be armed by stories, anecdotes, and the right ideas to fuel that battery – emotional, spiritual, and physical.

I wish you all the best. You’ve got this.