James Clear

James Clear is one of my favorite habit bloggers. I came across him some time last year. I am reading his blog ever since. It changed me for better. I love his content, consistency and writing style. His work has been immensely helpful to me while I was forming my habit philosophies.

Until last week he published two high quality articles every week on his blog JamesClear.com. From this week he is only going to publish only one. I welcome this change, wish him all the best and look forward to continue reading his posts.

I can go on talking about the lessons learned by reading his blog. But if I were to pick only one, it is this post titled Identity-Based Habits. And this image in that post sums it up.

habit-layers

“Decide the person you want to be and prove it to yourself with small wins”, he prescribes. This idea has helped set up my exercising habit.

I told myself exactly what’s in that image. I have been consistently showing up three times a week to exercise. I can’t do 100 pushps in a row yet but I did 30 this evening on my toes; my highest ever in a row. I have proved myself that I can do pushps on toes, over the last 128 days. I have no plans to stop; so I may be able to do 100 pushups in a row some day. I lost a bit of weight by the looks. Nevertheless, performance and appearance are external and doesn’t matter as much as my identity. I don’t pretend that performance and appearance are not important. They are. But focusing on them isn’t going to take me far. What if people don’t say anything about my performance? Does that mean I am not performing? Instead, I focus on my identity and see performance and appearance as offshoots.

I have few other identities that I would like to keep to myself at this stage. But the point is, identity is a powerful concept. Once you find who you want to be, it is difficult not to prove your identity to yourself. Do it often times and it becomes your reality.

I have no affiliation to James. I have only emailed him once to thank him for his great work and he thanked me back. But I always like to spread the good work and endorse its creators as much as I can. So go to his newsletter page, scroll down a bit and give your email id. You will learn a thing or two.

Gutted

I feel sick in my tummy as I write this.

Both my grandparents, who raised me, are dealing with an unfortunate health conditions. My grandfather had an eye surgery recently and is recovering. But my grandmother’s situation is what is making me sick.

She was operated yesterday as she broke her hip. She was knocked down to the floor by an electric shock while she was trying to switch on the water motor.

I spoke to her yesterday on phone just before she was taken to the operation theater. She spoke very briefly in a feeble voice that she is going to be operated soon. She then handed over the phone to my aunt saying she can’t talk anymore.

Now she is in ICU after surgery. The surgery went well but she is suffering unbearable post surgery pain. Doctor said this pain is expected after operating on such a weak body. But she is finding it very difficult to cope with the pain.

She also needs some blood and my family are trying to find it. Apparently to be able to draw some blood from a blood bank, we need to first give the equal amount. My family is trying to donate and get some blood in return, as I write this.

She is about 75. She broke her leg once and has to drag one of her legs to be able to walk. The day before yesterday’s mishap aggravated her situation. I felt the helplessness in  my grandfather’s voice. They both are supposed to reunite at their home after my granddad’s eye surgery but fate had other plans.

I am feeling terrible to see something like this happening not just to one but for both at the same time. And for a silly reason. She absolutely has no reason to turn that damn motor on. There are other people around who would have done it if she did not bother herself. But she is not a kind of person who mucks about. And it cost her dearly.

Hopefully this is it and I can’t wait to see them getting back on with their simple lives.

Exercising enough

I used to wonder if exercising only three hours a week is enough. Now I am convinced it is.

I exercise on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. I train equally hard on all three days. But the after-burn (that nice and mild pain in the muscles) of Thursday’s kettle-bell workout lasts until Sunday. So if I push myself hard enough on Thursday, the seemingly long three day break between Thursday and the  Monday allows my body to recover from the worthy suffering.

I sometimes dilute the exercising gains by making poor food and sleep choices. Although I am aware of it and am making increasingly wiser food choices, I am far from eating sensibly. And eight hours of sleep a night continues to be elusive.

Nevertheless, I am convinced quality, not quantity matters for exercising too.

Loving Coffee Again

I started drinking coffee in August. I had a coffee everyday except Tuesdays.

It took a lot of mental energy to continue not drinking coffee. I missed the routine more than caffeine. And I couldn’t find a substitute routine. I tried very hard. I wasted more than fair share of my day’s cognitive budget on just deciding whether to have coffee. How silly is that! So I told myself this struggle is not worth it. I am now back to sipping coffee every workday except Tuesday – I fast till evening on Tuesdays. However, this is not the only reason I took the U-turn.

I did not go looking, but all the following posts came my way. Two of them appeared on my twitter feed. The other two were written by the people I admire.

Moderate doses of caffeine is exactly what I drink, as mentioned in Reaching Peak Productivity Is Easy (5 Simple Strategies) :

Our mind and our bodies are intertwined and Davis encourages us to focus as much on our physical health as our mental health. He recommends the usual: stay hydrated, eat smaller meals more often, moderate doses of caffeine and moderate exercise.

“Do keep drinking coffee”, suggests this post titled 11 Morning Habits That Will Change Your Life (And Make You More Creative), among other useful tips. It elaborates:

Caffeine makes us more alert, yes, but perhaps more importantly, it also increases our brain’s production of dopamine, which gives us a feeling of reward and motivation when we start having good ideas. Making it a habit to grab a morning latte in the morning adds structure to a morning and helps create the aforementioned windows of creativity.

Structure is what my coffee break adds to my morning.

Jeff Finley, who coached me on how to wake up early, wrote a great post on why he started drinking coffee. I can relate to some of the thoughts he shared.

Lastly, Jeremy DuVall advises on CNN:

Don’t forget caffeine. Coffee lovers rejoice! It turns out that cup of java may give you more than just an energy boost midday. When researchers gave subjects coffee and then measured their caloric burn, they found that the caffeinated individuals burned more calories than their decaf-ordering counterparts.

I am sure there will be heaps of material on the internet explaining at great length on why coffee is bad. But the above information is from the people I admire and sources I trust. So it is valuable to me. I experienced some of it first hand.

That’s the end of my coffee chronicles. I certainly learned a lot from this experience. Not hesitating to retract from opinions, being the foremost lesson.

Unsubscribe, Unfollow, Unread, Unfriend, Unplug.

One thing I started appreciating after becoming a dad is the value of time.

Like many dads, being the best possible hands on dad is non-negotiable to me. You don’t need a lot of money to be a good parent but you certainly need a lot of time and patience, things money can’t buy. However, this is not the only challenge I have.

I am three decades into my life and still haven’t figured what do I want to do with it. Thankfully I haven’t given up and I refuse to settle. This means besides trying to be a good dad, I also need time to find my life’s purpose. While I do this, I need to make a living, exercise, learn to write well, run errands, form and keep up habit streaks; all while getting eight hours of sleep.

All these things put unprecedented pressure on my time. So earlier last year I audited how much free time I have and how am I spending it. That’s when I realized a relieving fact that I can still put time on the things I want to do and be there for my son.

These are some things I do to free up significant chunks of time.

Unsubscribe to most of the RSS feeds. Google helped me a bit with this by killing the Reader. Now I only read less than a third of my original feeds.

Unfollow most of the tech celebrities, tech blogs, tech journalists and everybody who spam. As a result, I brought down my twitter following count from few hundreds to under 50. This saves a lot of time I am otherwise spending to scroll through twitter timeline. Now I follow only a few interesting people.

Unfriend with Facebook friends with whom I am not in touch for years. It may sound weird but with how many of your 500+ Facebook friends did you attempt to make a genuine connection? How many of them share their genuine thoughts on their feed? Most of them don’t. So I unfriended with all but 30 people on Facebook so I don’t have to deal with their Farmville requests and passive shares.

Unread news. I only spend less than 15 minutes to scroll through headlines of two newspaper sites. The one I grew up reading and the other, to get in touch with current affairs of the country and city I live. I only occasionally read through the main content. Most of it, most of the times is useless anyway.

Unplugging is challenging. Especially when technology is your passion and you have a handful of gadgets around. I would be lying if I say I can unplug when I wish. But I am making slow progress. Disabling notifications in the iPhone is one thing that helped me with this.

Few years ago I always looked forward for the next Apple event and used to waste lot of time reading speculations in technology blogs about what Apple is going to release. Now I did not even know when was the last Apple event and what was it about.

There is always enough time for anything, but not for everything.

2014 in the hindsight

2014 has been a great year for me with few exceptions.

I did not have any grand resolutions to start with. I instead chose to intensify the tiny habits method I stumbled upon in 2013. As a self-reminder, I forked some markup on Codecademy and created a three point manifesto for myself. I think I lived it very well.

Remembering Infosys

Ten years ago on this day I received one of the most anticipated emails of my life: the job offer letter from my first employer, Infosys [NASDAQ:INFY].

I was waiting for the outcome of the interview and I knew they’d email me the outcome. I was very keen so I could not wait more for their email. But I had no way to instantly know if I received any email.

At that time the internet was not prevalent and was only available at cybercafes. Yahoo was cool. So I was using Yahoo Mail. My mobile phone was a Motorola Talkabout I loaned from my uncle. It has no silicon that could hook it up to data networks. Mobile notifications were literally unheard of.

But thankfully Yahoo used to offer a service called  Yahoo SMS Alerts. Yahoo will send an SMS with the subject of the email to the registered mobile number whenever a new email arrives in the inbox. So in 2004, on this same day, I received a text that conveyed the good news.

I became an Infoscion (scion of Infosys family) and remained so for little over 6 years. This experience changed me in few interesting ways. Because Infosys is not like any other company in its class. I say this not just because I worked there or people are world class or campuses are magnificent. I can never forget my training experience at the then unfinished Infosys Mysore GEC. [Yes, what’s seen in this video is the training facility of an IT services company].

Visions diverge and things change so I eventually moved on. Now I am an Exfoscion (ex-Infoscion)  and a minority investor. I miss a few things but if I have to pick one single thing I miss about Infosys, it would be the InfyBLOGS, a LiveJournal based internal blogging platform. I will write more about this later.

Unfortunately, once the darling of the Dalal Street is now going through the challenging times but I am confident that Infosys will reclaim its leadership under the guidance of Dr. Vishal Sikka.

Microsoft Mouse II

Microsoft Mouse I.jpgMicrosoft Mouse II

My first wireless mouse – which I bought together with my first laptop in the September of 2006 – has finally died after working relentlessly for more than 7 years. It seems its circuitry finally gave up. I could not be more impressed by its mileage.

So on the weekend I picked up a new Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 1000.

It’s interesting to see the side by side view of both mice that were bought nearly 8 years apart,  from different parts of the globe.  The first one cost  ~ INR 1200 in 2006 September and the second one, 135 stale Fly Buys.

Both mice have the same form factor but the current USB dongle is dramatically downsized.  Although I wish the dongle could be tucked into the mouse, just like the earlier one. I was just closing the computer and had a second look at the mouse to find the slot next to the battery that takes in the USB dongle. Silly me!

Microsoft included a Duracell battery to power up this mouse out of the box, which I totally unexpected.

Meeting Matt Mullenweg

Today is one of the most important days in my life because today Matt Mullenweg happens to be in the town on his last day of Asia , Australia and New Zealand speaking tour. So I got a chance to hear Matt speaking live and shake hands with him. It is cool because Matt is one of my role models.

I have been following and listening to Matt ever since I came across WordPress few years ago. As always, he is thoughtful, witty and down to earth.

It is probably redundant to detail what Matt shared this evening at a free public lecture at Raye Freedman Arts Centre here in Auckland. So I instead point to some blog posts – furleydigitalthreadnz and dialogcrm – that did a great job of detailing Matt’s talk.

There’s cool WordPress swag, shades, Moleskine notebooks and a free copy of The Year Without Pants ebook given away at this event. The twitter hashtag is #wpakl for his talk.

It turned out that I am the only guy who brought the camera to the talk so I clicked as many photos as I could. I wish the photos were of better quality but unfortunately this is not something I can go back and correct.

Also, Matt gave a great interview in Auckland to Josh Janssen as part of Josh Speaking audio show. Josh Speaking with Matt Mullenweg is a great listen.

I treat this amazing experience as a present for my 31st birthday, although the present arrived a day later.

JOSH JANSSEN
JOSH JANSSEN
JOSH JANSSEN