Categories
Education Productivity

The Valley of Disappointment

“We often expect progress to be linear. At the very least, we hope it will come quickly. In reality, the results of our efforts are often delayed. It is not until months or years later that we realize the true value of the previous work we have done. This can result in a “valley of disappointment” where people feel discouraged after putting in weeks or months of hard work without experiencing any results. However, this work was not wasted. It was simply being stored. It is not until much later that the full value of previous efforts is revealed.”

James Clear

The Expectancy Curve

In James Clear’s fantastic book Atomic Habits, he explains the idea of the expectancy curve. I think it’s a great tool to overcome imposter syndrome or any other form of the attack. The expectancy curve helps us keep going by giving us a frame to understand our insufficiencies.

Whenever we learn something new, we expect our progress to follow a straight line but in reality our progress is more parabolic. This results in a period of time when we are performing at a lower level than we’re expecting. This time period is called The Valley of Disappointment and it’s duration depends on the skill and how much deliberate practice we choose to put in.

When we feel like we’re underperforming, it’s easy to feel like we aren’t “meant” to do that new thing but all we need to do is stick with our newfound skill until we reach the critical point. The critical point is where the level of our skill matches our expectations. When we reach the critical point we stop suffering from imposter syndrome, feel more confident in our abilities, and (most importantly) keep developing our skills.

Most people stop cultivating their skills when they’re in the valley of disappointment but the ones who make it to the critical point can start to reap the benefits of their faith, consistency, and hard work.

I’ve seen this play out in a number of skills but I found this especially true in music production, hurdling, and cooking.

It can take weeks, months, or even years to get to the critical point. When I first took up music production, I was told that I would have to practice producing for 5 years before I would be able to compose, mix, and master a song from start to finish.

This was me kind of understanding The Expectancy Curve and The Valley of Disappointment years before I could articulate it. The idea of The Valley of Disappointment and taking 5 years before I could complete a song gave me a longer time frame for proficiency. This longer time frame is what made it easier for me to cut myself some slack. That freedom to make mistakes helped me grow. I always thought that made me a little insane but [Kobe Bryant] talks about having the freedom to make mistakes and how that leads to accelerated growth too.

This isn’t to say that The Valley of Disappointment isn’t a tough place to be. It’s easy to think all the work we’re putting in is futile and insane but it isn’t. The work we put in while we’re in the valley is exactly what gives us the ability to move out of it and enjoy the fruits of our labor later on. Deliberate practice is never wasted effort. Our efforts compound over time and this is especially true with skill development.

It’s difficult to move past The Valley of Disappointment but I do think as we learn more we find peace in our insufficiencies. The more I learned about music production, the more I realized that the experienced producers who said music production had a 5 year valley of disappointment were right. The more I learned, the more I realized how much I didn’t know. (Which totally applies to everything btw)

“Be not afraid of going slowly; be afraid only of standing still.” 

Chinese proverb

The whole idea is to stick with things for a while. Ask people in the field how long it took them to feel comfortable and confident in their position. I remember an ER doc saying it took him 10 years before he felt like he reach his critical point. Proficiency take time.

I find that knowing The Valley of Disappointment exists helps me get through it. The upset is temporary and I know I’m right around the corner from being a badass.

Categories
Lifestyle Productivity

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.