The Most Dangerous Habit That Everyone Has

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900)

In the book, Outwitting the Devil, Napoleon Hill describes a prevalent habit among all people which brings about suffering and destruction. This habit is known as drifting. When someone drifts, the devil, so to speak, takes hold of their life and ends up doing the devil’s work for him. When I first heard that, I didn’t think it was true. But when then I thought about it longer, I realized that people end up making things worse when they are not deliberately and wholeheartedly aiming at a goal.

The Drifters

Drifter noun – someone who has an uncertain direction in life and who does little thinking for themselves. This person accepts anything and everything that life throws at them and doesn’t put up a fight to get what they want. They probably have a great mind with amazing potential but are too lazy and indifferent to use it.  A drifter has many options but none of them are their own.

Drifters practice the habit of drifting. They allow their lives to go wherever the wind blows and do not exercise their will to create a life that they would actually like. Drifters are aimless and there is nothing more dangerous than to be aimless. When we don’t aim at something, we allow space for something else to be created. That something else is always chaotic and much worse than any of us would like. I talk a little bit about this phenomena in my other post about the Reality-Possibility Exchange. If we do not choose what is created in front of us, then something less desirable will be created in its place and that is precisely what the devil, as discussed in Hill’s book, is trying to take advantage of. If we aren’t actively working towards something we want, then our lives will devolve into a mess created by the devil.

Drifting is extremely threatening and super common. Hill suggests about 98% of people are drifters. I think it’s more around 99%.

How do I know if I’m a drifter?

  • If all the options in front of you seem lifeless and boring
  • If your life seems to be filled with unfair circumstances that crush you under the weight of their significance
  • If you find yourself avoiding and ignoring different aspects of your life
  • If you find that your life is filled with negativity and are constantly wondering how all of the suffering you are experiencing got there in the first place
  • If you feel as if you are not where you want to be and it seems like that place is a far and distant land that you will never see

It sounds as if all negative and unpleasant experiences come from drifting behavior, but what about circumstances that are truly terrible and did not come about from our behavior?

There will be many life circumstances that are not ideal but it is always possible to get out of any situation and reach any goal that you set for yourself. There are people who have came from worse situations and achieved more success that you are aiming for. Our negative and unpleasant experiences comes from our judgement of our situations, not from the actual situations themselves. As long as we don’t simply accept what life throws at us but embrace it and try to live in a way that emulates our ideals, then we will not become victims of our situations but the architects of our lives.

You can identify yourself as a drifter through examining your feelings but you can also see it in our actions as well. If you notice someone acting like a drifter, I recommend being mindful of getting trapped by their magnetic field of purposelessness. Drifting is contagious.

24 Other Signs of Drifters from Outwitting The Devil

They never accomplish anything requiring thought and effort.

They are conspicuous by their lack of self-confidence.

They spend all they earn and more too, if they can get credit.

They have little or no imagination.

They are ill-tempered and lack control of their emotions.

They lack enthusiasm and initiative to begin anything they are not forced to undertake, and express their weakness by taking the line of least resistance whenever they can.

They will be sick or ailing from some real or imaginary cause, and calling to high heaven if they suffer the least physical pain.

They have opinions on everything but accurate knowledge of nothing.

Their personality is without magnetism and does not attract other people.

They may be a jack of all trades but good at none.

They neglect to cooperate with those around them, even those on whom they must depend for food and shelter.

They make the same mistake over and over again, never profiting by failure.

They never reach decisions on anything if they can avoid it, and if they are forced to decide they reverse themselves at the first opportunity.

They eat too much and exercise too little.

They are narrow-minded and intolerant on all subjects, ready to crucify those who may disagree with them.

They begin many things but complete nothing.

They take a drink of liquor if someone else will pay for it.

They are loud in their condemnation of their government, but they never tell you definitely how it can be improved.

They gamble if they can do it “on the cuff”.

They criticize others who are succeeding in their chosen calling.

If they work for others, they criticize them to their backs and flatter them to their faces.

They work harder to get out of thinking than most others work in earning a good living.

They expect everything of others but are willing to give little or nothing in return.

They tell a lie rather than admit their ignorance on any subject.

What would happen if I maintain my identity as a drifter?

Choosing to remain a drifter will cause to us fail without even knowing. Most people don’t want to direct themselves to something specific because it becomes glaringly apparent when we fail, and we hate failing. But when we refuse to specify our criteria for failure we still fail, but significantly worse because we’re not aware that we’re failing.

Every day that we’re not dedicated to something, we’re still not doing the things we need to do to get where we want even if we don’t know it. One day we may find ourselves in a terrible life situation asking “Where did it all go wrong?” or “How did my life get this way?” and it will all be due to our repeated failure over the years. It would be better to set a goal and know when we are failing because at least we will have the ability to do something about it. It is possible to fail and not know it.

Do yourself a favor and live with clarity, learn what is failure and what is not. Pretending that it doesn’t exist, does not mean that it is not happening. It hurts to fail, but it hurts more to hate your existence. If we do not create the best for ourselves, the worst will be given to us. Give yourself a fighting chance.

“Many a false step was made by standing still.”

Timothy Ferriss (1977 – )

How do I stop becoming a drifter?

The best way to stop being a drifter is to live with definitive purpose. We must aim at a goal with purpose that inspires us to bring out the best in ourselves. Our purpose should be something so much bigger than us that we cannot help but to live in service of it. Purpose makes life worth living and can even make the most mundane tasks seem exciting and pleasurable.

Being purpose driven is the best antidote to aimlessness. With a definitive purpose, learning will not have to be a difficult task that feels like a waste of time but as a way to develop ourselves in the skills necessary to reach our goals. Definitive purpose helps us find reasons to be engaged in things. It makes being present so much easier, which enriches the experience of our lives.

Watching ourselves take actions that move us closer to fulfilling our goals brings us happiness and fulfillment. We feel positive emotion when we move closer to a goal. Which means, in order to feel happy or fulfilled we first need a clear and definite goal, then we need to chase it down.

Some benefits of being aligned with our true purpose:

  • We will always be determined to bring it about no matter long it takes or the price that must be paid.
  • Once we have our purpose, we will no longer explain away our current situations. We will have the power to create the opportunities that we need to bring about our ideal lives.
  • It provides us with many feelings of accomplishment and we will be happier watching ourselves move towards our purpose.
  • We will be able to easily admit when we do not know the answers
  • We will always be able to take responsibility for our mistakes and have the strength to never blame others
  • We will have a mind of our own and be an inspiration to all those who are familiar with us
  • We will be able to extend to help to many other people while simultaneously accepting few or no favors for ourselves
  • We will never need an excuse for our shortcomings, they will appear as mere areas of impending improvement

I believe that most people are drifters and the people who aren’t drifters have to work really hard to not end up falling back into drifter-esque actions. Personally, fighting drifting is an every day battle and I have to constantly remind myself to be intentional. Similar to when my mind wonders during meditation, when i catch myself drifting I simply acknowledge that it happened and try to get back on track. It’s not about how many times I fell off, but how many times I get on. Drifting is an easy thing to do, which is why we do it, but it allows space for chaos to have it’s way with us and the only way we can defend ourselves is through living with definitive purpose.

Another 5 More Tips for Better Scheduling

“‘Why are you idle? If you don’t seize the day, it escapes.’ Even though you seize it, it still will flee.

Seneca (4 BC – 65 AD)

Scheduling is so important. If we can control our time, then we can control our lives since time is what makes up life. I have two other posts about scheduling which I recommend checking out before you read this one. They’re 5 Tips for Better Scheduling and 5 More Tips for Better Scheduling. This is yet again even more tips that I have for scheduling – take what you love and leave what you don’t.

Always Input Locations

This is good because of all the reasons mentioned earlier in Be As Specific As Possible but also because my calendar app tells me when to leave depending on the traffic. Honestly, I used to forget where I would have to meet people during my mobile tutoring days so it really helps to get that extra reminder to leave a few minutes early. Also, you don’t want to be on time but show up to a completely different location. If you’re a mobile tutor, I highly recommend adding locations to the event. If you’re a college student, I highly recommend putting the building and classroom of your classes in your locations. It’s much easier to pull up your calendar than log onto your portal and check the class number. For a lot of people, forgetting where you have to go isn’t a big deal but during my life as a college student and mobile tutor, it definitely paid off to always input the locations.

Batch Whenever Possible

Batching. This is a common technique that many of us use already. When we want to do our dishes or our laundry we don’t wash each dish or each article of clothing right away, we wait until it builds to a critical mass then wash all the dishes or clothes at once. We can apply the same technique to other tasks. I got the idea of applying batching to other tasks from Tim Ferriss.

I love applying this to errands. Wait until you have a few errands and run them all at the same time rather than constantly running back and forth. I love applying this to groceries too (many people already do). Do your shopping once a week rather than going to the grocery store for every meal. Try that for a week and see how inefficient it is.

Batching – doing similar tasks at once.

I apply batching whenever I can. I reply to my text messages in batches (which is why it takes me forever to reply, sorry ya’ll). I reply to emails in batches. I blog in batches. I write lyrics in batches. I buy my stuff in batches. I batch whenever possible.

One of my favorite places to batch is in music production. If I’m feeling creative, I usually compose a bunch of tracks in one session So in a day, I can make 8-10 instrumentals. The next time I produce, I can focus on just the mixing process for each track. The next session, I can focus on just mastering. So this way I can pump 8-10 songs in three sessions rather than spending a session doing the composing, mixing, and mastering for one track. In this example, the batching method pumped out 8 songs in 3 sessions while the other method would pump out 3 songs in 3 sessions.

Batching multiplies productions because it minimizes task switching, which takes a lot of cognitive load and time. Obviously, this depends on the nature of each track, but the point is that batching is generally better than not.

Don’t Fall for Being Busy

I always laugh a little when people tell me they’re sooooo busy. Being busy is not a status symbol, a badge of honor, or an excuse. Being busy is a delusion. When I’m busy it’s because of two things:

I have no priorities – everything I do is important, therefore nothing I do is important. I’m constantly shuffling from one “important” thing to the next.

I’m giving too much of my time to others rather than keeping it for myself – when I’m feeling busy (or pretentiously claim to be) it’s usually because I’m giving too much of my time to other engagements that are not only for me. I like to keep in mind – life is made of time. Giving your time is giving your life.

Both of these result in terrible production and a shit quality of life. Plus, when we’re busy we can’t stop to appreciate the small things in life that make it worth living.

“Being busy is a form of laziness—lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”

Tim Ferriss (1977 – )

When we’re busy we:

  • don’t appreciate the sunset
  • don’t stop to smell the roses (literally)
  • aren’t present with our loved ones
  • can’t process what’s happening

Rather than accepting the busyness, I try to notice when I feel it coming and reexamine my priorities or where I am spending my time. Usually attending to one of those two things will cure my busy sickness. We all have the same amount of time in a day, but there is always someone who will get more done than us. Being “too busy” is a hollow excuse. Don’t fall into that trap. It’s not the life you want.

45 Instead of 43

I got this idea from Derek Sivers. He’s an author and entrepreneur. He wrote the book Anything You Want and I highly recommend it if you are a creative person trying to break into the world of business.

When Derek was living in Santa Monica, he took up cycling and would ride a ~25 mile bike path often. He rode as fast as he could, red-faced and huffing, pushing as hard as he can. But no matter how hard he tried, he could never get his time under 43 minutes.

Over time, Derek got less excited to go out for bike rides. (Not surprising, the way he was cycling was physically painful and hard work. I wouldn’t be too stoked on it either.) When he realized this, he decided to go half his normal pace and enjoy the ride. He noticed things he never noticed before – the beautiful ocean, a pelican, dolphins. At the end of his ride he checked his timer and it took him 45 minutes to complete it. Derek was shocked that all of that extra suffering from pushing as hard as he could only gave him that extra 2 minutes. Every since that day Derek says he always prefers 45 instead of 43.

I think this story is fantastic because it demonstrates how pushing ourselves to our limits may not always yield us proportional results. At 50% of the effort, Derek only lost 4.6% in time. Sounds like a good trade to me. Giving 50% more effort for a 4.6% increase is definitely not worth it.

After reading this story, I took a look at what I was “red-faced and huffing” about in my life. Turns out, I was pushing too hard with everything. Ever since I dialed the intensity back, preferred the 45, my quality of life has seriously improved. It’s easier for me to do the things I want to do, and when I do them it’s not as difficult as they used to be. It’s allowed me to enjoy my life rather than subject myself to suffering thinking I’m going to get a fair compensation.

If It’s Not a Hell Yes, It’s a No

There will be a point when opportunities can become more of a hindrance than a benefit. I believe it’s important to say yes to things that make us uncomfortable. It’s a great way to cultivate ourselves. Saying yes gives us fantastic opportunities to try new walks of life, however, once we know what we are good at and what we want to do, we should stay focused.

Once my aims are set, new opportunities quickly turn into distractions. Unless I’m feeling a “Hell Yes” when something new comes up, I keep it far far away from me. My focus, energy, and attention are limited resources and I believe it’s so important that I keep them triangulated on the important things.

Learning to say no is a metaskill and has so many other benefits outside of scheduling. Developing this skill for scheduling is great because it keeps order within my calendar and keeps me on track but the value it has brought to the other areas of my life are unimaginably positive.

What are my morning rituals? What do the first 60 minutes of my day look like?

“Who is going to make sure your life plays out just as you plan it?”

Seneca (4 BC – 65 AD)

This question was originally pulled from Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans and I thought it would be fun to answer it for myself.

For a long time after college, I had trouble setting up a morning routine that made me feel like I could own the day (as cheesy as that sounds). I completely rejected the idea that I needed a morning routine to work at a high level. I foolishly thought that “if I just maximized my time during the day,” then I could still produce the results I wanted. But I was still stuck with the same questions:

When I performed well, what was I doing that allowed me to be a high performer?

What can I do to accomplish what I want?

How can do I get excited about life?

After reflecting on the most accomplished times in my life, I noticed one thing these times had in common: I had a routine, or rituals, that focused on my aims. I performed the best when I had both morning and night routines, but sometimes I just had morning routines or just had night routines. I’m able to perform well and achieve what I want with excitement through implementing a routine that allowed me to rack up easy wins early in the day so I can bring that momentum into the rest of my life.

My morning rituals are a large part of how I am able to accomplish what I want. When I’m in my routine, my body feels like it’s getting a signal to prepare for war, so to speak. When I successfully complete my morning routine, I feel:

Morning Rituals

Use the bathroom

Needing to go to the toilet is usually what wakes me up in the morning, usually around 6 am to 7 am (TMI? idc). After I use the toilet, I proceed to wash my hands, brush my teeth, and judge myself harshly when I walk by the mirror.

Greet my dog

I love greeting my dog, Aries Targaryen, he’s always so excited to see me and he’s a beautiful reminder that it is genuinely exciting that we’re both here for another day. If you have a dog, I highly recommend spending a few minutes with them in the morning trying to empathize with their excitement. I like to think that Aries is thinking: “I’m alive! You’re alive! This is great!”

Make my bed

This is when I finally start my wins for the day. Making my bed helps me start my day off accomplishing something. A small win is still a win. It also cleans up my room a little bit, which helps keep my life in order. My favorite part though, is coming back home to a well made bed ready to crash in after a long day of work.

Take my supplements

This is a ritual that gets intentionally left out every once in a while. I don’t want my body to develop negative feedback loops from the supplements I take, so I break at least once a month for 4-5 days. In the morning, I take Vitamin D for my Vitamin D deficiency, Cod Liver Oil for omega-3 fatty acids, L-glutamine to prevent muscle soreness, and Iron because I’m anemic.

Turn on Music

I like to make playlists for different moods and in the morning I like to put on my EDM or my intense hip-hop playlist to get me pumped for the day. Sometimes I like to play some instrumentals that I produced if I’m in the middle of a musical project. It makes working out so much easier. Especially now that I don’t listen to music as much as I used to, working out is a fantastic excuse to enjoy some good music.

Stretch

Nothing too crazy here, I just want to give my muscles a break from being immobile for the last 7-8 hours. I just get on my yoga mat (which is already laid out) and stretch the muscles I feel like I need to. When I first started this, I started with simple at-home yoga videos to get an idea of which stretches would work best for specific muscle groups. Nowadays, I just stretch wherever feels tight.

Two leg bridge progression

This is the first “work-out” that I do in the morning. For me, it’s a great way to ease myself into the rest of my routine. Right now, I’m doing about 20 of these to wake me up a little bit. I like to spend this time (and all other exercise time too) aligning my breathing with the movements. I find it an excellent practice in meditation and it helps get me through the tough portions of the workouts.

Flying dogs, 1 set on each side

These are a little more intense than the two legged glute activation. For me, it’s a little more intense than the glute activation but less intense than the crunches or the kettlebell swings. I usually feel my muscles waking up at this point.

Myotonic crunches

These are the best ab workouts, according to Tim Ferriss, and I would have to agree with him. By the time I hit 20 of these, I feel my pseudo-abs busting through my gut. I usually my exercise ball right next to my matt so there’s little to no friction between steps.

Kettlebell swings

This is great not only because I get a good work out in, but I do this while looking at whiteboard which has my daily goals and monthly themes. I love this because while I prime my body for the day, I am also priming my mind. I get aligned with what I want to accomplish. Compounding effectiveness. 😍I’m always trying to get as much as I can out of every little thing I do.

My girlfriend says I could accidentally link stress with my goals, but I think it’s the opposite. The workout forces me to be present, and while I’m present – I’m able to clearly see what I want to accomplish today. My goals are usually written the night before, so I know that my goals are coming from the part of me that wants to tomorrow to be better.

Make and eat breakfast

3 eggs and black tea while looking at my calendar. I like to keep my breakfasts light and protein heavy so I’m light on my feet for the first part of the day. I’m usually most energized between the hours of 10 am -1 pm. So I want to make sure I’m not held back by my mortal enemy – the food coma. My light keto-ish friendly breakfast ensures our paths don’t cross.

Change clothes

This is when I finally “get ready” for the day. If I stay in the same clothes that I slept in, I’m a lot less productive. Comfort is the enemy of my productivity. Being in my “day clothes” puts me in a different mode than my sleepwear.

This process looks a lot longer in writing than it actually is. The entire ritual takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, if I’m taking my sweet time (which I prefer). If I’m in a little bit of a rush, because life happens, then I could cut this down to 20-30 minutes.

Completing this routine in its entirety can almost guarantee that I end up completing what I want for the day. At the very least, it ensures emotional stability and self regulation. I find it so much easier to stay on track when I’ve completed my ritual. To be honest, I usually complete this routine about 40% of the time, but I always hit 1 every day. It’s nice starting the day out with a win but it’s even better to start the day off with a streak of wins. I noticed that completing one ritual makes me want to complete another and once the morning routine is over, I’m excited and driven to take on my goals for the day.

I used to think morning rituals and routines were total bullshit, but they’re a cheap free and powerful tool that can give you an extra boost to make meaningful moves and drastically improve the quality of your life. I highly recommend taking the time to design a morning routine that works best for you. The benefits are too worth it. Architecting a morning routine is a creative process and I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for everyone to design a little bit of their lives.

One big take away I learn from morning routines, is that it doesn’t necessarily matter what you choose to do in the morning. All that matters is training your mind and mastering yourself. A morning routine helps create momentum to make achieving easier but the ultimate goal is total mastery of the mind.

5 Tips for Better Scheduling

“These things, they take time.”

Gabe Newell (1962 – )

It took me about 3 years before my scheduling skills were good enough to actually rely on my calendar. Today, scheduling is an integral part of my daily life and it’s a skill I’m happy I decided to take some time to develop. With better scheduling came better performances at work and school, plus I was forgetting less and never double booking myself. Here are 5 tips from my years of practice.

A few lessons from years of experimentation and research…

Start by Scheduling High Priority Events First

When I build a schedule, I start by scheduling the highest priority events first. This ensures that I have enough time to get the important stuff done. Everything else comes after. If I didn’t know what to schedule first, I would take some time to reflect on what I would be proud of accomplishing by the end of the day. The famous business consultant, Jim Collins, says “If you have more than three priorities you have no priorities.” Get clear if you aren’t. Open a fresh schedule and start with the important things. During my semesters sessions in college, I’d make sure I would schedule my classes first. Nowadays, when I’m building a new schedule I start with my work schedule on the ambulance since it’s the least flexible commitment I have.

Plan Everything to the End

I cannot even begin to express the amount of half-baked plans that have ruined otherwise great days. From not studying everything I should for my exams to wasting time being bored with my friends, not planning to the end has totally blindsided me time after time.

Robert Greene talks about the utility in planning to the end in his book The 48 Laws of Power, which is on my Must Read List. It’s Law 29 and I highly suggest checking out the whole book, at least that chapter.

It really would have helped if I took the extra 5 to 10 minutes (or even 40 minutes) to bring my plan all the way rather than complacently telling myself “ah, this is good enough.” Planning everything to the end helps with managing overwhelm and gives you a clear finish line. Just the planning to the end in itself (not even executing your plan) is a great exercise in patience and foresight.

Immediately Schedule when a Task will be Done

And by immediately I mean right when you find out you have to do it, schedule it. I like to put it down in some free space for then readjust it to a more reasonable spot once I get a free moment. If done properly, this prevents me from forgetting the little things that slip through the cracks. And as long as I maintain integrity within my calendar, I can consider that task already done. Honestly, I probably open my calendar app more than any other app!

This really helped in college when I was drowning from the flood of assignments. I would always ask myself “Where am I going to find the time to do all of this?” As long as I scheduled something in my calendar, and I knew myself as the kind of person that follows through on my commitments, then I didn’t have to worry about how or when this was going to get done. This little tweak helped me be more present, which allowed me to perform better in classes and have more fun when I was enjoying my leisure time.

Be as Specific as Possible

Set up a time AND place. Be as specific as possible. Leave nothing up to choice when you schedule something. I find that having to make decisions increases resistance.

For example, if I wanted to study I am going to

  • schedule a time I am going to start and stop
  • decide which library to go to
  • which chair to sit in
  • which back-up chair to sit in
  • which subject to study.

When you schedule something, do yourself a favor and make as many of the decisions early on as possible so it can be an effortless process when you’re on the go.

I want to leave as little decisions for Future Chris as possible because he will do anything he can to wiggle out of a less than ideal situation.

Best selling author and social psychologist researcher Heidi Grant Halvorson argues, it is not enough just to articulate what needs doing, it also requires clearly laying out what needs to be done, by who and by when. This is know as If-Then Planning. Halvorson also makes many decisions early on too. Planning the choices that I make has saved me tons of time! This is a huge secret for getting myself to do what I say I’m going to do.

Schedule Entropy Management & Downtime

First, let’s learn a little bit about thermodynamics. There are three (kinda four) main laws of thermodynamics, but we’re just going to focus on the 2nd law for now.

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that the entropy of the universe, if viewed as an isolated system, increases over time.

So what’s entropy?

Entropy – en·tro·py /ˈentrəpē/ – noun – lack of order or predictability.

The first time I heard of entropy was during the thermodynamics unit in my AP chemistry class. Actually, I was absent that day and my classmate, Matt, explained it to me. He told me the easiest way to think about it is as a measure of randomness. The more entropy there is, the crazier things are. I think its so funny that there’s a way to measure how chaotic something is.

So what does this all mean?

It means everything gets more chaotic over time. This applies to your calendars, finances, grades, anything. Don’t believe me? Just watch what happens to your room if you don’t clean it for a year. You could neglect anything for a month and watch entropy increase indiscriminately.

The natural state of things is that they decay and become more entropic. It is not the default state for things to get better, or ever work properly. So we have to actively maintain the entropic growth that naturally occur in our calendars.

Yportne (2019) – Christopher S. Mukiibi

How do we stop our lives from getting too chaotic?

The best way to manage the chaos is to schedule time to manage it. Since we are aware that things get more chaotic over time, we know that we have to set aside time to restore order.

I literally schedule time in my calendar to clean up any of the inaccuracies or mistakes in my calendar. Just like when we have to do our laundry, clean our rooms, or take showers, we need to set time aside to clean up our calendar so it can help us. I like to schedule in an entropy management (EM) session at least once every two weeks.

Sometimes I have longer time periods when I don’t have an EM session but then I notice my life starts feeling more stressful.

Some quintessential signs that I needed an EM sesh were:

  • feeling like I didn’t have enough time to do everything I wanted
  • accidentally double booking myself or miss appointments
  • forgetting to do my assignments
  • feeling spread too thin
  • feeling like I’m reaching my limits

Scheduling downtime is a concept for the people, like me, who get so excited when working on something that they forget to attend to their other responsibilities. Honestly, sometimes I forget to eat, sleep, or even go to the bathroom when I’m pulled into my zone.

Downtime is a time of inactivity or reduced activity in order to recover and allow better performance for the primary function.

Sleep is a fantastic example of downtime in nature. Our bodies have to rest for roughly 8 hours a day to function properly. There have been plenty of studies done that explain how terrible losing sleep is for us. Creativity is one of the first things to go when we don’t allow ourselves time to rejuvenate, and when we lose creativity, we lose our ability to problem solve. If you are interested in how sleep affects us, I highly recommend checking out Dr. Matthew Walker’s research on sleep. It’s alarming to say the least.

I schedule downtime every single day. I usually have my downtime at the end of the day (after 10pm), but sometimes I’ll take a few moments throughout my day if things run a little ahead of schedule. I like to give myself some contingency time in between my scheduled events. I simply leave an extra 15 (sometimes 30) minutes in between some of the events just account for this.

I’m not as efficient, but it takes real life into account. Sometimes things run a little longer than expected or shit happens and we will need that extra time to make up for it.

Plus, if we don’t have a few extra minutes to enjoy a beautiful moment in our lives, then do we really have a life at all?

This is a skill like everything else and takes a while to become proficient. Remember, it took me 3 years before I could really count on my scheduling skills. The first 3 years were months of me making mistakes and figuring out what works best for me. I’m still tweaking things and developing myself in this skill every day and every day that I do, I am making my life a little easier in the future. Scheduling is for everyone, we just need to figure out what works best for us as individuals.

The Transition Curve

“You realize that you will never be the best-looking person in the room. You’ll never be the smartest person in the room. You’ll never be the most educated, the most well-versed. You can never compete on those levels. But what you can always compete on, the true egalitarian aspect to success, is hard work. You can always work harder than the next guy.”

Casey Neistat (1981- )

Beginner’s luck — it’s totally a thing. There’s actually an entire pathway that illustrates our levels of competence when we learn a new skill. This pathway easily explains the stages from day 1 to total mastery, The Transition Curve was developed as a result from a study at Cranfield University School of Management.

The study suggests that the transition curve can be applied to the individual and organizational level. So people and companies would follow something similar to this pathway whenever they are learning something new.

The transition curve shows competence and confidence levels over time. This is scientific evidence for the idea that:

At first you’re going to stuck, but if you keep practicing you will get better.

or the age old dictum:

Practice makes perfect.

I found that this curve to be pretty accurate with my own personal experience too. I’ve gone through these stages with multiple skills. It was true when I was learning how to play the guitar, bass, drums, ukulele, produce music, tutor, write, drive, be an EMT…you name it.

Stae Jez Ov Comp Pe Taunce (2019) – Christopher S. Mukiibi

The Stages of Transition

Shock

When we are first introduced to a new activity we are shocked that we encounter something that we are unable to do. It sounds arrogant, but it’s true. It’s surprising to encounter something that we don’t know how to handle. Check out the slight dip that happens right at the beginning of the curve. That’s from the shock. We usually start off decent at most skills, but the shock from being confronted by unexpected circumstances throws us off our game a little bit.

Note – the more unexpected the new skill or circumstance the larger the initial dip in competence

I like to think that we’re pretty tough cookies, and it’s true because most people don’t usually quit during this stage.

Denial

We deny that we’re bad at something and it actually makes us perform a little better but eventually our delusions get the better of us and our competence starts to decline.

Barring the incredibly few exceptions — without hours of deliberate practice and mistakes, we cannot be highly competent at anything. Any skill worth mastering will be difficult and anything difficult will take time to master. Do not let the guise of a slight short term improvement delude you into thinking that you have mastered something.

Awareness of Incompetence

Awareness of our incompetence starts to dig at us. Our confidence and competence plummets. We start feeling worse and worse about our abilities. This is where most people will get trapped and stop practicing a skill. This is where the quitters get off the train.

This stage is where all the convincing excuses will come up. “I’m not a ___ person anyway.” “This is way too hard.” “This is pointless.” “I’m too busy for this.” The list is endless.

I think the best way to get through this stage is to know that difficult times are coming and they will pass. Keep practicing and remember that every urge to quit is just a trap preventing us from learning something new.

Acceptance

Once we’ve hit rock bottom, we finally accept that we don’t know how to do this. This allows us to learn as much as we can about it with minimal egoic resistance. This can be a brutal place. Rock bottom is lovely for our growth and development but it feels terrible when we are there and is often hard to recognize too. So that leads me to the question:

Why do we have to reach rock bottom before we start getting better?

There are many reasons. One is to breakdown the ego which can prevent us from taking in new information. Another is because we don’t understand the dangers of our actions. Rock bottom is a natural place, so don’t be spooked once you’re there. We can try to avoid it, but true mastery comes after we’ve risen from the ashes.

I believe some of the lessons to be learned from hitting rock bottom are:

  • humility
  • discipline
  • rigor
  • consistency
  • tenacity
  • there are so many that they need their own blog post…

It’s one thing to read about these lessons or keep them in mind for others, but it is another thing entirely to internalize these lessons from life experience. Go out and make mistakes. Learn as much as you can.

Testing

This is when we start applying the new things we learn, smoothing out the rough edges, and learning from our mistakes.  We start to see the big things that we do which prevent us from being competent and correct them accordingly. We start to toss out techniques or perspectives only held by novices.

If we are tenacious enough to get to this stage, then us could consider ourselves “official” students of the craft. We’ll experience the most growth and strength from this stage and the next. According to Nietzsche, “People do not seek pleasure and avoid displeasure. People seek more power and in the will of that seek resistance. For aiming at a lofty goal and being thwarted in that pursuit builds strength within us.” When we see our actions move us towards a goal we feel happy, but we feel even better when we meet resistance while trying to reach that goal. This stage is filled with opportunities for that level of growth. Our competence is really low here but we feel pretty good striving to be better.

Search for Meaning

Once we get decent at this skill, we start to dissect why certain methods work and others do not. All the hours of trial and error, along with the deliberate practice, gives us a clearer understanding of how to be competent. We use multiple perspectives and experiences to synthesize our results and draw conclusions as to why certain techniques work. Now, we can really develop ourselves strategically within a skill.

Once we know why we are doing something, we are able to apply our knowledge in various situations. My girlfriend tells me that’s what real intelligence is — the ability to apply knowledge in different situations. In terms of The Transition Curve, this stage is a fun place to be.

Integration

In this stage, we have found ways to weave this skill into our everyday lives. We take our competence (consequently raising our confidence) to a place higher than ever when we internalize the knowledge and skills required for mastery. A thorough understanding of strategies, hours of deliberate practice, and a steady foundation of the fundamentals can take us here. This is the ideal stage and where we want to be with everything we learn. It’s the best place to work from. Your skill takes less energy to execute and you are able to maneuver well through complication situations.

So what does this all mean?

There are stages to learning something new, similar to grief or change. These stages are temporary and will pass with dedicated practice and a rigorous commitment to learning.

Learning about The Transition Curve has helped me get some clarity around why I felt like I was on a rollercoaster every time I was learning something new.

Know the tough times are coming. Prepare for them. Meet them with a strong belief in yourself. Work diligently. Master everything.