The process of building habits fascinates me, which may be because I struggle to form good habits and break bad ones. I even got a book on the topic, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, which I would highly recommend.
I’ve also written about things that help me form habits. These include announcing your goals so that social pressure can influence you and committing to pay an amount if you fail to implement a habit.
Recently though, I’ve found another useful way to maintain a habit. And that is to tie a habit to an addiction.
This came about from my love of a certain smoothie store at the Waterfront food market. The smoothies are quite expensive, so I’ve been trying to ease up on buying them. However, I realized that I could use this addiction to my advantage. I’ve decided that I’m allowed to have one on any day, as long as I have completed 2 hours of thesis work before hand.
The obstacle to getting my smoothie isn’t massive (I considered making it 4 or 6 hours of work). Instead, it’s just the right amount of time for me to setup my work for the day and get some momentum. But not too much for me to completely stop my addiction.
So if you’re looking to start a new habit, look at something you’re hooked on. And tie your goals into that.
Over the past few days I’ve hit a bit a slow patch with work. Nothing too serious, but it feels like I’m wading through thick mud. So I took some time off this afternoon to walk to the promenade and reflect.
On my walk I realized that one of my key weaknesses was starting to show again. And that weakness is my inability to follow through. I’ll start projects that really excite me, and pursue them with a great energy. But I get distracted when the project has been going on for too long or if something new comes along.
I know this is an inherent part of my personality. It’s a trait that I’ve been aware of for quite a long time. And I know that something like this doesn’t change overnight. But I’d like to focus and follow through on my three existing projects.
The three projects are:
My masters dissertation (yes, I know this has been dragging on)
The Matter Innovation report
The #365of25 project
In an ideal world, I’d like to have these done by the 7th of December, before the summer holiday season begins. This would give me two weeks to get through as much as possible. However, I know these things take longer than I expect and that putting myself under pressure isn’t the best way to be effective.
So I’m setting myself a deadline for the projects of the 14th of December. Before the christmas parties and before the holidays are in full swing.
I’ve had a phenomenal year. And it’s time to end it off in style.
Have you ever had a fear or anxiety that can’t be explained? Something that materializes out of nowhere. It’s a dark shadow, and seems to adapt itself in to whatever might scare you the most. And it washes over you with a flood of anxiety at the least ideal moment.
These are the types of anxieties that other people would find weird. For example, I get really anxious when going shopping for clothes. I don’t know where this comes from. But I know that if I have to buy myself clothes I put it off for months, and then go into a mall with a very specific intention… to get one item and one item only
I chatted to my therapist this week about it and we came up with a great analogy for it. We called this fear “The Boggart” (from Harry Potter for those among you who are uncultured).
A boggart is an amortal shape-shifting non-being that takes on the form of the viewer’s worst fear. Because of their shape-shifting ability, no one knows what a boggart looks like when it is alone, as it instantly changes into one’s worst fears when one first sees it
The fear or anxiety that we have in these situations might have no distinguishable source, or is as a result of a long forgotten memory. So it takes the shape of whatever might scare you most. Essentially, your own boggart.
And the best way to deal with a boggart?
Have someone else around to try and confuse it– this would involve speaking to a friend or therapist about it
Use the “ridikulous” charm – this requires firm concentration and turning the fear into an object of fun.
So when you’re next faced with your own personal boggart, don’t let it defeat you. Instead, bring someone in and highlight the ridiculousness of the fear. And pretty soon you’ll be able to water it down and wash it away.
Image was taken on the last day of packing up my old apartment
The evening before my birthday has always been special. It’s my dad’s birthday, meaning that it was a two day celebration in the family. It’s guy fawkes day, which meant that, just like new years eve, my birthday is ushered in with fireworks. And it’s a day of reflection about the year that has passed.
It seems to have crept up a bit quicker this year… but I’ve been able to experience all of those things today. I had a video call with family for my dad’s birthday, lit a very big sparkler out the window of our apartment and now I have time for a brief reflection.
This year has been one of phenomenal growth for me. My life is so different since it was 365 days ago. I feel freer, happier and more willing to take on the world.
Part of that was because of the goals I set myself… the biggest one being the blog. I used to be scared about sharing my thoughts and ideas, both out of shyness and fear of criticism. But writing every day has helped quell that fear and has made writing easier for me. I may not have gotten to the 365 posts yet, but I’ll do so in a few days time.
The blog has also been a great way to connect with people. I have 30 subscribers and an average of 40 views per post. My family and friends are able to share in my learning and growth. And some of the posts go beyond this to a wider audience.
There have been some speed bumps this year too. Moving apartments, being robbed, friendship problems, family problems, car accidents and massive thesis problems.
But at the same time there have been some things that have been so important. Getting proper mental health treatment, taking on (and finishing) two major consulting projects, lecturing, going to Portugal, finding a new workspace and making some incredible new friendships.
Being 25 has been great. I’m proud of what I have achieved and learnt.
And there’s going to be a lot more in the year to come
Image is of a rainbow this afternoon, as seen from our flat
I’ve spoken before on the blog about how we can be our own worst enemies, with two sides (or “wolves”) within ourselves competing with one another. And I’ve followed this up with a blog on how we should support both sides here, the ambitious side and the scared/broken side.
When discussing these, I’ve highlighted how the “bad” side has the potential to impact our goals and dreams. How it causes procrastination, laziness, sadness and frustration.
But it’s not just this side that can have a negative impact on us.
The ambitious side, the hardworking side, can also be very detrimental. It can set goals that are not viable. It can lock us in to a series of to-do lists that don’t allow us space to breathe.
We build obstacles for ourselves and get frustrated when we can’t overcome them. Even if they were unreasonable in the first place.
I think that’s the point that I’ve reached with this blog. I have 24 posts left to go, with only about a week left. And I’m starting to feel like I’ve failed. This results in me trying to push myself way over my normal limit. I keep promising myself 3 or 4 posts a day but get to the end of each day without completing any.
So again, as I have said before, I need to learn to be gentle with myself. There are 341 blog posts that have been written. And even if I don’t finish on the 6th of November, I will make it to 365.
And I’m going to be damn proud of myself.
Image is from the Cape Town City game this weekend
Today’s blog post is about a role model of mine that I am very close to, Dale Williams. I’ve interacted with Dale in so many different ways. In 2014 I was a student in his course. In 2015 I tutored on the course and he was my boss. In 2016 I was his assistant on the course. And more recently we have become colleagues.
In addition to being my lecturer, boss and colleague, Dale has been a mentor, a coach, an angel investor, a consultant and, most importantly, a great friend.
I could give 50 reasons as to why he is a role model to me. But I’m going to settle on the 4 most important ones. His lean philosophy, his strategic insights, his humility and the support he shows… for everyone.
Reason 1: Lean Philosophy
Dale operates on a lean philosophy with most of the things he does, which are loosely based on the “Lean Startup” principles. This means that current work and new ideas are built on learning feedback loops (e.g. Kolbe learning styles) that allow them to be continuously improved.
The loops consist of roughly four components. The first is abstract conceptualization, which is having an idea of how things are currently done or could be done. The second is active experimentation, where the idea is tested before going our. The third is concrete experience, which involves implementing the idea. And finally, reflective observation, where the impact is analysed.
This results in being able to quickly and effectively implement new ideas. In the time I’ve known him, we have been able to improve the course in at least 20 different ways, mostly because of the rapidness of his lean philosophy.
Reason 2: Strategic insights
Dale uses a combination of a wide knowledge and a natural instinct to generate some of the most interesting and impactful strategic insights. He uses this when implementing his own ideas or when helping people with theirs. And I’ve been fortunate enough to observe and receive these insights.
For example, we once had a situation where a group of students were unhappy with an aspect of the course. The normal reaction from a lecturer here would be to push back or ignore the students. Instead, while he was gathering information about the issue he took time out to reflect. And in the space of just a few minutes, he decided on a path that was both unconventional and lead to the students being happy with the outcome.
Reason 3: Humility
Despite helping so many people, from students to executives at big banks, Dale always remains humble. He rarely name drops or sings his own praises. Instead, he highlights the work of others that have worked with him, and is quick to acknowledge their contributions.
Reason 4: Mentoring and Cheerleading
Finally (and most importantly), Dale is one of the greatest supporters/fans of people and their ideas that I have ever come across. As mentioned in my blog yesterday, he has inspired and taught me how to do the same.
Over the last four years I have watched him support many students and business leaders in their projects. He sits on the board of a number of student startups. He has given funding and invested in ideas and businesses (including my own). He consults and supports whenever he is able to (for free). And he will never hesitate to put you in touch with someone who could help you further
Dale is an incredible mentor, leader and friend. He is connected to the people around him, thinks critically and creatively, supports people and is humble.
And I can’t wait to continue learning from him.
Image is from Dale speaking at an event organised by a student last year
Today I got excellent news from some of the people I have been a cheerleader to this year. Two students who struggled through their post grad in accounting messaged me to say they passed, and that they’d be applying for masters degrees next year.
And a student that I wrote a reference letter for and mentored got accepted into one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world.
And one of the entrepreneurs I mentor was featured in a magazine and showed up all over social media.
I love hearing and seeing people flourish like this. I love celebrating their achievements. And I love standing on the sidelines and being the biggest cheerleader I can be.
Sometimes we’re all too concerned about our own successes and forget that we can be a function of someone else’s success. We can support people, cheer them on and celebrate when they cross the finish line.
So congratulations to the four incredible people that achieved great things today. I will continue to cheer for you and can’t wait for the epic things you’ll all do in your lives.
P.s I haven’t forgotten about the Role Models series…. in fact, tomorrow’s role model is who has shown me the value of cheerleading. Tune in to see who this person is 🙂
Image is of a butterfly I saw this morning that had just emerged from it’s cocoon. The symbolism to this blog post was too great to not upload the picture