Sometimes, we all need to shut up (or learn how to speak right)

Being young and brash, I often feel the need to exert my “righteousness” onto people. Whenever I notice something about my friends, I point it out. Not because it had to be said, but because my mouth has the habit of always having an opinion.

 

The Times I Messed Up

One time, I pointed out to a friend of mine that her straps on her backpack looked like seat belt straps. Now, it made a good joke but at the same time, was it important that she now views her once cherished bag as a sack with seat belt straps?

Or the other occasion when I was in a group and a friend of mine told me that a colleague is going to Company A. But I was so sure it was Company B that I mentioned it into submission. (Later I found out it was Company A)

Or this one other time where I was tempted to talk about this one fellow who I greatly admire, but just had to (for no good reason) mention what I think is wrong with him.

Ben, you just had to. Don’t you?
I know I know. I’m a jerk who just can’t shut up most of the time.

 

Getting It Together

Realizing my mistakes lately (always happens this way), I decided to look for answers by reading the classics like How to Win Friends and Influence People and reading articles by my favourite modern writer, especially Ryan Holiday.

His best pieces of advice?

  • Always say less than necessary
    (the more words you say, the higher the chances of saying something wrong)
  • Ask yourself: “Am I saying this because I want to prove how smart I am or am I saying this because it needs to be said?” When you’re just getting started, it’s usually the former.

This was in of itself extremely helpful, but there was a test that was written ages ago by a philosopher named Rumi that is still used today and it goes:

  • Before you speak your mind, let your word pass through the 3 gates:

    At the first gate, ask yourself “Is is true?”
    Is it factually correct? (My error with Company B fits here)

    At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?”Are you saying it to prove how smart you are or does it need to be said? (My seat belt observation fits the former)

    At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?”
    Is it something good and positive? (My for-no-good-reason negative opinion of someone fits here)

 

The Cost of Being Wrong?

Being young and up-and-coming, we all feel the need to prove ourselves or exhibit some form of superiority to show that we got it going on. But at times, this is all merely a facade. Often times, it’s insecurity. But it is alright to be wrong or to keep your mouth shut.

What do you got to lose by being wrong? Nothing much.

What do you got to gain by being right? Nothing much.

On working smart and working hard

If you Google the words “working hard vs working smart” you will see images of hard workers being portrayed as frustrated or stupid whereas smart workers are seen as… well, smart.

Why is that?

This is mainly due to the rise of lifestyle entrepreneurship made popular by best selling books such as the Four Hour Work Week (great book btw).

Why wouldn’t you want do more in less time right?

Now, if you are the type of person whose main concern is to get work done so that you can enjoy your “me time” and have a social life, then the antidote of working smart was created exactly for you.

However, if you strive to be a CEO or founder of a successful startup one day, you should view the idea of working smart with an additional caveat – working hard as well.

The debate about working hard and working smart is getting out of hand.

The real question to be posed is “Why not both?”

As mentioned earlier, being able to work smart seems to confer some form of social validation. Just working hard now means you haven’t taken the time (nor brains) to figure out a more effective way to get stuff done.

I personally struggled with this for a long time thinking it is either working smart or working hard.

But the longer you work in the “real world”, and not the world peddled by most self-help and productivity gurus, you soon begin to realize that hard friggin’ work is equally if not more important than smart work.

Don’t be fooled that by just working smart alone that you are able to get to the top – you can’t.

Working smart often implies getting away with less and doing the Minimum Effective Dose (so to speak), as in doing just enough to get by and not much else. When in actually fact, doing what’s more than needed is what that is going to separate you from the others.

Anyone can be lazy once the needed work is done, but few are willing to do that a little more extra to make their minimum needed work shine like a piece of art.

You learn to work smart so that you can get creating a masterpiece faster, not to producing mediocre work at scale.

So where does hard work come in?

With hard work, it looks like [SMART WORK] + [HARD WORK] = create masterpieces at scale.

Considering the fact that top CEOs have reported an average wakeup time of 6:15 a.m., with many rising before 5, and most worked at least two hours at home after dinner. In some cases, they work 18-hour workdays. Many of these industry leaders credit their success to working while others aren’t.

As Michael Moroney said in his piece on the matter:

“If we want to be successful, we shouldn’t be content to simply work smarter. The most successful people work smart, but they also work exceptionally hard. They maintain the same level of persistence and drive while learning ways to do things more efficiently.

We don’t all have to aspire to be CEOs, but for those of us that do, finding more effective ways to do things is only half the battle….

Young professionals and budding entrepreneurs must work smarter, harder, longer and better — because their competition already is.”

How to Think About Choosing Your Spouse

 

The most important decision you can make in life (as agreed with Warren Buffett and Sheryl Sandberg) is marrying the right person.

I have been reading a lot of mental models (learning how to think) and thoughts on decision making.

Warren Buffett has this notion of the “20 Slots”. He says if you were to imagine that we are given just 20 slots on a punchcard in life and no more, you would think very carefully before you punch any of the holes.

And he believes that all you need is less than 5 good decisions to have a great life – financially, emotionally and so forth.

My aim with this post is to give you my thoughts and how I think about making the most important decision in your life.

 

  1. Your worst is your best indicator

Growing up, I was told to do well in school so that I could eventually get a good job and have my life financially settled before dating someone.

There is merit to this argument as it highlights the importance of financial security.

Given the fact that most couples argue about money more than anything else, I can see why this path is often preached by our elders.

But what if the reason people argue about money is because they expect it to always be there?

In other words, the financial security itself is the set-up for setting expectations that money will always be ready and that the worry for money is distant.

We strive so hard to be the best version of ourselves (well off, educated and calm), but we forget that the worst version of ourselves are still within us (irrational, emotional and unstable).

Look for a person who can deal with your worst side, because anyone can deal with you at your best, but not anyone will bother with you at your worst.

Have someone who will love you at your worst, not your best.

 

  1. She will not always love you

Like all things in life, they don’t last forever.

The more poetic way to say this is “This too shall pass.”

I learnt a concept from Seneca on making friends, he contends that one should not make friends so that he will have people be there when he is in trouble, but instead make friends so that he can help them when they are in trouble.

Simple, but profound.

Don’t view marrying someone as a having a lifevest when you are sea, but view it as being the lifevest when they are at sea.

This goes contrary to popular belief, I know. But it is this that brings true joy.

Shakespeare once said that the mother of all disappointment is expectation.

When we put the onus onto us to do what we can do for them, every little act done by them is greatly appreciated on our end and that forms the basis of most relationships – being appreciated for each one’s efforts.

Don’t make friends so that they will be there for you, make friends so that you can be there for them.

 

  1. Good things only come about through compound interest

What does this mean?

It means that little things done everyday add up to something stronger over time.

I can attest to this personally.

I used to hear that marriages are soul-sucking affairs; not to mention all the marriage jokes one hears.

But it does age like wine if you put in effort everyday to make it good.

Little things done daily amount to great things over time.

 

How to Be Productive: Eliminate Distractions

SH*T. IT’S 5 O’CLOCK ALREADY?!

 

I hate it when this happens.

 

You were researching for just one article. But you end up reading 99 other unrelated ones.

If you come across cat videos… GAME OVER.

 

You say to yourself:

“You know what, I need a break anyways.”

That break resulted in nothing important getting done during the day.

Then you say:

“Actually, it ain’t too bad. I can always get a bunch of Red Bulls and power through it tonight!”

*checks in at 9pm* watching videos

*checks in at 11pm*
“You know what I’m tired, time to go to bed. I need sleep in order to do REALLY GOOD work.
I will wake up at 4am if I have to!”

But you snooze and end up waking up at the same hour every other day that gives you just enough time to get ready and not be late for work.

 

And the worst part?

THIS HAPPENS ALMOST ALL THE TIME.

 

All this pasar malam negotiation with yourself would stop and can stop if you just put in the work when you are supposed to work.

In other words, keep your focus during office hours so you don’t need to think about work once you clock out.

 

Focus is a muscle. It gets stronger the more you use it.

But this being the introduction into productivity will be talking about creating an environment that makes focus all the more easier – that is to Eliminate Distractions.

 

 Eliminate Distractions

– For your laptop (I’m presuming you are using Chrome like the other 90% of people)

Install the following extensions:

  1. Block Site
  2. Facebook Feed Eradicator
  3. DF YouTube
  4. Pocket

 

  • Block Site

First things first, identify what are the no. 1 time sucking website?

For me, it’s YouTube.

Insert in just one website for now and make sure you can’t access it for a period of time.

I know that I’m at my peak in the morning.

So I set my active hours to 8am to 12pm everyday.

That way I’m not allowed to access the site no matter what during those times.

 

Once you get comfortable with the blocking, add more and more time wasters into the tool.

 

  • Facebook Feed Eradicator

As much as I rather not use Facebook entirely, I still need to as part of my job to contact certain media outlets.

What this tool does is that it removes the major distraction – the news feed and replaces with an inspirational quote.

 

  • DF YouTube

I use this tool even if I’m not working.

It gives you the option to block out what you know will distract you – the recommended section.

I personally block out everything except my feed for my subscriptions which are narrowed to just 10 channels.

I check them every morning and watch them on my way to work.

You can see what I am subscribed to here.

 

  • Pocket

You need to download this app on your smartphone as well. I repeat – you NEED to.

This app essentially solved my “bookmarked – read-it-later” problem.

If you are a productivity and personal growth nut like me, you would bookmark ANY article that you deem is valuable.

But then it ends up in a folder or your bookmarks bar alongside all the random shit you have bookmarked like the next book to buy or the next movie to watch.

So what this app does is – whenever you come across a particular blog posts that you know is gold, you Pocket it and it saves a barebone version of it without the sidebars and ads – JUST THE GOOD STUFF for reading on your phone.

Just turn on your WiFi or data and download the saved files and read from there.

P.S. this technique helps you fill up your time especially when you and your other half goes shopping. (instead of randomly scrolling through your Instagram and Facebook, I mean)

 

Side note: Check your e-mail as little as possible. Batch your sessions to at most 3 times a day.
I have found sweet spot to be at 7.30am (since I get my groove on at 8am), 11.30am (before lunch) and 4.30pm (before leaving).

 

 

– For your phone

All those extensions may still not be enough if your smartphone buzzes harder than a bee beatboxing (?)

  1.  Turn off all push notifications except Messenger, Whatsapp, Call or Text.

Side note: It’s okay to turn off your phone completely when doing heavy concentration work if you know that there is no one who would call you first in an emergency.

If there is someone who would ONLY rely on you in an emergency and you are the best in position to help them, keep your phone on.

Why turn off push notifications and not messenging apps?

BECAUSE STATUS UPDATES CAN WAIT. COMMENTS CAN WAIT.

Plus, if it’s really urgent and the person contacting you is close enough to know your number, they would know that calling you or texting you is the best choice.

 

 

– Your desk

Your work station is where you spend most of your time at.

For this I recommend the Only In Use Method, which is:

  1. Clear your desk completely (place the rest on the floor or in your bag or in the cupboard)
  2. Use your desk as usual (only putting what you need on your desk to do your work)
  3. That’s it.

You would be surprised how much stuff you thought you need to work didn’t need to there.

The photos, the papers and the stationary.

When your desk is as clear as can be, your mind has nothing to focus on besides your laptop.