Travel

Screw Excuses, Don’t Overthink, and Act — A Recipe to End Inaction

Photo by  Cristina Pop  on  Unsplash

An Important Lesson From Richard Branson

“Screw it, let’s do it” — Richard Branson

That attitude has led him to start, or help start, over 100 companies. He crossed the Atlantic ocean on a hot hair balloon, made the craziest product announcements the world has ever seen (look it up!), met and befriended Nelson Mandala, Barack Obama and other world leaders, and more.

Another interesting thing I highlighted from his latest book, Finding my Virginity, was:

I do almost everything on emotion” — Richard Branson

Now that interested me a lot because we’re always told to contain our emotions and act rationally. Truth be told, I believe in acting rationally, but where has this led us really?

Rationality oftentimes leads us to inaction.

We analyze something for too long and find a detail we think we can’t overcome, and then voila! we don’t even try. Gone was that good idea we had. We don’t even give it the chance to become a great idea.

I started having this go-getter attitude about 13 months ago when I left Canada to be a nomad.

 

How I Personally Apply This

Everything, with the exception of my game company, is a manifestation of Screw it, let’s do it.

My writing? I gave close to zero thought about writing before I started. I just wanted to improve it, so I wrote on Medium.

My first book? It was an idea I had in the shower, and I put it together, with help, in less than two weeks while working full-time on Soul Reaper and other projects. I did research on how to make this happen after the shower and acted on it right away.

My website? Someone asked me if I had one at the co-working space I was working from. I didn’t. He was right that I needed one though. So I put it together the next day and launched it the day after.

Viking Boutique? I saw a webinar on dropshipping and was intrigued. I put a Shopify store together that same night just to test it out. When I knew how things worked, after one or two more nights of playing around, I decided I would do something serious. That was the first version of Viking Boutique. I put it up in 4 hours.

My photography gigs? I volunteered to take photos for Sundara for a project of theirs in Uganda. I had no clue what I was doing. Back in April, I took photos of the opening of a new WeWork location in Bangalore. I simply asked if they needed professional shots.

This story? Just like 95% of the other stories I write, I have no clue what I’m going to write about when I wake up. Heck, I never even know until I start writing. And somehow, according to Medium, I’ve written more than 400 stories (includes replies).

You see my point?

I’ve left quite a few jobs in the past. Almost every time I thought about switching jobs, I did so at most two weeks after having the thought.

I remember some previous colleagues repeatedly mentioning they would quit; a thought that, at the time, had never occurred to me for myself. And he said it for at least a year. When I decided to quit, I quit. I was gone much before him, and I heard he left one or two years after me.

 

Conclusion

Whenever you catch yourself saying: “I will do <x>”, you should stop yourself and think: “why not now?”. Chances are, you’ll have a pitiful excuse (sorry).

If time is your excuse, I’d say that 95% of the time, it’s a case of bad time management. It’s not the point of this story to explain how to manage time, but reflect on that the next time not-having-time is your excuse. Elon Musk and Richard Branson are busier than you, yet they make things happen.

“If you don’t have time for small things, you won’t have time for big things.” — Richard Branson

So I give you this challenge:

Whatever idea you’ve been off-putting for a while, just put it in motion. Just dip your feet and see how it feels. Slowly, little by little, you’ll catch yourself being in the pool and acting on things you thought were impossible for you.

You can do this!

Thanks for reading, clapping, sharing and following! :)

First published here: https://medium.com/swlh/screw-excuses-dont-overthink-and-act-a-recipe-to-end-inaction-364b9bf02e4

Screw it, Just Do It

An Important Lesson From Richard Branson

Having lived in Canada for most of my life, I haven’t been exposed to the Virgin group, or Richard Branson’s story, much growing up. I knew about Virgin, but that was about it.

I’m currently reading Finding My Virginity, the latest auto-biography from Richard Branson. Now I feel like a complete ignorant fool for not really knowing about him before. That guy has just done EVERYTHING!

His biography is obviously one side of a coin, but his story is one of the most inspiring stories I’ve ever read myself. I never want to finish it, and I’m looking forward to reading his other books.

  • Have you read his books?

  • What did you think?

  • Any particular one of his stories inspire you?

For me, it’s not any particular story that inspires me, it’s his attitude. I’ve rarely seen someone less afraid of failing or living out of his comfort zone all the time. He summed his attitude up in this short sentence:

“Screw it, let’s do it” — Richard Branson

That attitude has led him to start, or help start, over 100 companies. He crossed the Atlantic ocean on a hot hair balloon, made the craziest product announcements the world has ever seen (look it up!), met and befriended Nelson Mandala, Barack Obama and other world leaders, and more.

Another interesting thing I highlighted from the book was: “I do almost everything on emotion”.

Now that interested me a lot because we’re always told to contain our emotions and act rationally. Truth be told, I believe in acting rationally, but where has this led us really?

Rationality oftentimes leads us to inaction.

We analyze something for too long and find a detail we think we can’t overcome, and then voila! we don’t even try. Gone was that good idea we had. We don’t even give it the chance to become a great idea.

I started having this go-getter attitude about 7 months ago when I left Canada to be a nomad. Especially “business”-wise.

How I Personally Apply This

Everything, with the exception of my game company, is a manifestation of Screw it, let’s do it.

My writing? I gave close to zero thought about writing before I started. I just wanted to improve it, so I wrote on Medium.

My book? It was an idea I had in the shower, and I put it together, with help, in less than two weeks while working full-time on Soul Reaper and other projects. I did research on how to make this happen after the shower and acted on it right away.

My website? Someone asked me if I had one at the co-working space I was working from. I didn’t. He was right that I needed one though. So I put it together the next day and launched it the day after.

Viking Boutique? I saw a webinar on dropshipping and was intrigued. I put a Shopify store together that same night just to test it out. When I knew how things worked, after one or two more nights of playing around, I decided I would do something serious. That was the first version of Viking Boutique. I put it up in 4 hours.

My photography gigs? I volunteered to take photos for Sundara for a project of theirs in Uganda. I had no clue what I was doing. If you look at my Instagram’s older photos, you’ll see that I was grossly underprepared to take photos of a company’s operations and capturing moments. Now I’ll be taking photos of the opening of a new WeWork location in Bangalore next month.

This story? Just like 95% of the other stories I write, I have no clue what I’m going to write about when I wake up. Heck, I never even know until I start writing. And somehow, according to Medium, I’ve written more than 200 stories (includes replies).

You see my point?

I’ve left quite a few jobs in the past. Almost every time I thought about switching jobs, I did so at most two weeks after having the thought.

I remember some previous colleagues repeatedly mentioning they would quit; a thought that, at the time, had never occurred to me for myself. And he said it for at least a year. When I decided to quit, I quit. I was gone much before him, and I heard he left one or two years after me.

Conclusion

Whenever you catch yourself saying: “I will do <x>”, you should stop yourself and think: “why not now?”. Chances are, you’ll have a pitiful excuse (sorry).

If time is your excuse, I’d say that 95% of the time, it’s a case of bad time management. It’s not the point of this story to explain how to manage time, but reflect on that the next time not-having-time is your excuse. Elon Musk and Richard Branson are busier than you, yet they make things happen.

“If you don’t have time for small things, you won’t have time for big things.” — Richard Branson

So I give you this challenge:

Whatever idea you’ve been off-putting for a while, just put it in motion. Just dip your feet and see how it feels. Slowly, little by little, you’ll catch yourself being in the pool and acting on things you thought were impossible for you.

You can do this!

Thanks for reading and sharing! :)

First published here: https://medium.com/swlh/screw-it-just-do-it-1bf56162b61b

Learn More Skills, For Your Future’s Sake!

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ― Robert Greene, Mastery

I personally love that quote! Truly understanding it was the first step in my journey to improve my future.

And I KNOW you can do the same!

Not that my future was necessarily bad, but I knew there had to be more to life than waking up at 8am, doing a 9–5 job, going back home, cooking, eating, playing video games, and sleeping.

Rinse and repeat.

Do you feel that way too?

Isn’t it missing some kind of “higher” purpose?

What does me doing this job bring to the world?

I don’t want to just “be” on earth. I want to “do” on earth. Or I guess maybe Mars too in the near future!

It’s not that my “9–5” job sucked. It was great actually. I was learning constantly and working with a deeply skilled bunch. I like to think that my performance was great and I was doing a good job, but there was something missing deep inside, but I didn’t know what it was.

When Things Started To Change

When I left Toronto to become a nomad 9 months ago, I had started focusing my full attention on my startup. It was great. I was accomplishing so much.

Yet there was still something missing: I was not learning much at all.

“Live life as if this will be your last day; Learn as if you will live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Learn, learnLEARN.

There’s no limit to what you can learn. I didn’t know that to be true until I started researching how to quickly learn new skills.

The only true way that I found to learn faster in my 5 months learning 3 new skills a month is by learning more diverse skills.

The more you learn, the more you learn.

Your brain remembers patterns and stores them in your memory. The more patterns you’ve “stored”, the faster it becomes to make new connections and quickly assimilate new patterns.

Now, I’m not brain expert, but that seems to align with the more scientific things I’ve been reading on the subject for the past year or so.

Isn’t this great news though?

To learn faster, you just gotta learn more!

Learning is a very enjoyable and painful process all at the same time. Your experiments will fail constantly. And it’s when you don’t give up on them that your learning improves. But once you’ve acquired the knowledge, there’s no limit to what you can do with it. Especially if you take into account the quote from above: “learn more skills and combine them in creative ways”.

The Future And Success

By most modern standards, I’m probably quite less successful than I was a year ago:

  • I don’t have a place to call home;

  • I don’t have a salary;

  • None of my startups have really taken off yet.

Yet somehow I feel more successful than I’ve ever been. You know why? Because I’m freaking happy, and I’m doing more impactful things!

And I’m freaking skilled.

I’m doing so many things I never knew I could. If I never tried, I would still be coding my life away, not knowing that I actually have other things I’m capable of doing.

That’s why I reject the idea of focusing on one thing only. Because, seriously, who really knows what their the best at until they even try other things. Many things. A buttload of things! Seriously!

I didn’t know I could draw until I tried back in October of last year. I didn’t know I could figure out how retailing works until November of last year. I didn’t know I could write until I tried back in January.

A Recent Manifestation Of Skill Combination

Now, I don’t want you to think that the whole point of this story is to advertise my latest business, but I just think it’s a great example of a way to combine skills in a creative way.

I opened up the Viking Boutique yesterday after some time thinking about the concept. To be honest, I actually hadn’t figured it out until yesterday.

On the surface, it may look like a regular store (I hope not), but it really isn’t.

I’ve combined my writing skills, my commerce skills and my drawing skills all together to make it happen.

The Viking Boutique is the story of Harald Goldskin, a Viking from the 8th century. Everything he sells has a story behind it. I wrote the stories. I drew the images. And every week, he sells new wares that he found during a recent raid. Every raid has a story. The Mead Hall is where the stories are told. It’s the store’s blog. It’s not all about selling cheap sh*t from China.

The Evolution Of Learning So Many Skills

If you had told me 9 months ago that I would:

I would have told you that you were crazy.

Yet I strongly believe that this all started with making the conscious decision of planning and working hard on learning 3 new skills a month.

Once you’re committed to your self-improvement and you’ve found a framework that works, there’s no stopping you!

Conclusion

“Who you are today is not who you have to be tomorrow.” — Zdravko Cvijetic

Remember that!

A surefire way to make that happen is to commit to constantly and consistently learn new skills.

You will change in ways you never expected. You will do and achieve so much more than you ever thought you could. You will accomplish your goals. You’ll do things that are impactful, for you, your surroundings, and beyond.

You can do this!

Thanks for reading and sharing! :) 

First published here: https://medium.com/swlh/learn-more-skills-for-your-futures-sake-e816b09472fa

21 Proven Ways To Find Inspiration For Your Stories

Photo by  Nathan Dumlao  on  Unsplash

Bonus tip: Bookmark this story for future inspiration!

Yesterday I was chatting with my friend Prithviraj Pillai and he was asking me how to find inspiration to write stories regularly on Medium. I thought it would be a great topic to write about!

For the month of January, I was aiming to improve my writing capabilities and figured that by writing one story per day, I really should be improving.

But to be honest, I was afraid I would not really know what to say. I thought that after one week, my inspiration would run dry.

I could not have been more wrong!

Turns out I have much more to say then I thought I would. Back in mid-February, I was starting to lack subjects and took 3 days off. When came time to start again, I was overflowing with ideas.

But I didn’t understand how.

So when came time to answer his question, I dug deep into what inspires me to write what I write and I came up with this pretty exhaustive list.

I hope this will help you find inspiration for your next story!

(The ratings I put below are about how frequently I use a trick to come up with stories. 1 means not frequently, and 5 means very frequently. This will be different for everyone. Feel free to make up your own rating.)

Answer A Question

1. Any Answer You Give To Someone Verbally

During your day to day conversation, almost inevitably, someone will ask you a question to which you’ll have an answer. Pay attention your own answer, and if it is insightful and useful to the other person, chances are it probably is interesting for your audience too.

Just don’t write about your answer to directions to the toilets, it’s not a very interesting topic!

My rating: 6/10

2. Write About A Great Answer Someone Gave You

One of my favourite story from MR. Molly Maguire is The Best Piece Of Advice I Ever Got. It’s a genuine story about great advice he received from his Trading Advisor. If you receive great advice from someone, pass it along to your readers!

My rating: 3/10

3. Answer A Question From Your Audience

I’m very often inspired by questions or comments I receive in the comments section. People tend to have good follow up questions to things you’ve written in your story. I’d say about 20–25% of my inspiration comes from that.

My rating: 8/10

4. Browse Quora For Questions To Answer

Quora has an incredible amount of great questions waiting to be answered on any topic. If your answer is in long format, consider moving it over as a Medium story. I believe that’s how Nicolas Cole started, and look where he is now.

My rating: 6/10

Be Aware

5. Pay Attention To Your Conversations

I like to think that I’m a good listener. When people talk to me, I try to genuinely get what the other person is saying and take mental notes on the key points of a conversation. Frequently enough, even in regular conversations, a good topic comes up that’s worth writing about.

My rating: 5/10

6. Listen To Other People’s Conversations

Sometimes you overhear people talk about a topic of interest, or argue about something. Without realizing, you make up your own opinion on the subject in your head. Articles with multiple points of views make for interesting stories in my opinion.

My rating: 2/10

7. Just Pause And Look Around You

A lot of my stories from January and early February come from me taking a moment to look around me at The Living Room or at the beach. There’s something inspiring about watching other people do things, or gazing at nature.

My rating: 7/10

Consume Quality Content

8. Read Books On The Topics You Write About

Chances are, almost everything you highlight in a book is a good topic for a Medium story. There are too many good books to mention, but I’m currently inspired by Tribe Of Mentors (Tim Ferriss), Willpower Doesn’t Work (Benjamin P. Hardy) and Principles (Ray Dalio).

My rating: 9/10

9. Listen To Podcasts On The Topics You Write About

Again, big shoutout to Tim Ferriss on that one. His podcast, his guests and his questions are just that good. Again, a lot of my January stories are inspired by answers provided by his guests.

My rating: 9/10

10. Start With A Quote

When I started writing, and even to this day, whenever I read a story that has a quote that inspires me, I write in down in my quotes collection. Back in January, I made a compilation and shared here: 41 Short And Powerful Quotes To Make You Feel Unstoppable

Any of these quotes is a good starting point for a story.

My rating: 7/10

Recycle

11. Re-write An Older Story Your Previously Wrote

I often write about my 3 new skills a month approach. I try to come up with a different perspective and with new ideas on the subject, but ultimately, it’s just the same story, packaged in a different, and hopefully more interesting way.

My rating: 4/10

12. Write On A Topic You Read From Another Writer

I started reading on Medium 6 months before I started writing. Every day, I would read stories from Nicolas ColeAnthony MooreBenjamin P. HardyZdravko CvijeticElle KaplanTom KueglerTim Denning and more. A lot of their stories inspired me to write my stories.

My rating: 7/10

13. Talk About A Relatable Story From Your Past

You’ve lived a more eventfully past than you think. Did you grow up in a weird/different family context? How was high school? How was going to college? How was your first date? Your first kiss? Your first job? Chances are you’ll find a few interesting things to write about.

My rating: 3/10

Do Things

14. Attend Events

There are tons of great events in pretty much every city in the world. I usually find them on meetup.com or through Couchsurfing. When you attend events, both the topic and the people you meet will inspire you to write.

My rating: 2/10

15. Practice Physical Activities

Back in January, I started getting more serious about fitness. I was obsessed with it. To some degree, I still am. I wrote a few stories on workout routines I’ve tried and worked or didn’t work for me. Physical activity is a hot topic and many people are looking for new things to try all the time.

My rating: 3/10

16. Travel

As I’m writing this, I’ve been the top travel writer on Medium for almost a month. I have traveled quite intensively and my travel stories resonate with a lot of other travelers. Same with my nomadic lifestyle. Anyone who travels a lot will have a few stories to share. By the nature of it, traveling tends to be quite eventful.

My rating: 6/10

Educate

17. Give Your Top Tips On Things You’re Good At

I don’t like bragging and saying I’m good at things, but sometimes I’ve got good productivity advice worth sharing with my audience. I even did talks on the subject. You can get audio to my latest talk: here. If you’re good at something, share it. These stories tend to do really good.

My rating: 5/10

18. Talk About Things That Worked And Things That Didn’t Work For You

I experiment a lot with activities and skills. Sometimes the experiments work great, but sometimes they’re epic failures. A good example is Tim Denning’s story from yesterday where he failed a public speech. It’s personal, emotional and shows his vulnerable side. Readers love that.

My rating: 6/10

19. Talk About Your Hard Skills

Are you a skilled graphic designer? Guitar player? Programmer? Tattoo artist? Cook? Any hard skill you have is an interesting subject for your audience. You don’t have to be the best in the world at it either. Be honest, and give your best advice, with no pretense that your tips are the best in the world.

My rating: 1/10 (I don’t currently write about my programming skills)

Cheating

20. Listicles Just Work

Don’t know what to write about? Just make a list about pretty much any subject and people will read it. With few exceptions, listicles tend to do much better than the rest. I think the reason is because they tend to be bite-sized and easy to read. Most of my top stories are listicles.

My rating: 4/10

21. Quotes Are Powerful

Building upon “Start With A Quote” and “Listicles Just Work”, assemble a series of related quotes and write a story around them. People love categories, and when they’re about quotes, it’s powerful. People smarter than us have written started things then us, take advantage of this. My top highlights are always quotes from other people.

My rating: 5/10

Conclusion

I hope some of these inspirations will work for you as they did for me.

Now it’s your turn. Be the writer you’ve always wanted to be. Stop looking for topics to write about and start writing thanks to these tips!

You can do this!

Thanks for reading and sharing! :)

Running A Company Remotely Is Possible But Not Easy — Here Are Some Tips To Make It Easier

Photo by  @headwayio  on  Unsplash

Photo by @headwayio on Unsplash

If you have tried it before, you know there are many obstacles to making remote work “feasible”: timezone differences, communication issues, spotty wifi, lack of proper schedule, environment distractions and more.

I have been running Power Level Studios “remotely” since it started having collaborators over a year ago. I say remotely in double-quotes because initially, it was all remote within the same city. Everyone worked from their own homes in Toronto.

Then in June of last year, I left Toronto to work from other places around the world, making me completely remote.

During that time, I grew the company from 4 people to 8.

As far as I know, we have not had any problems with me being away and still “running the show”.

So let’s address some of the problems associated with running a company remotely:

Communication Issues

This is likely the biggest issue of them all.

It’s already hard to have an effective communication system in place when everyone works from the same office, so of course it even harder when you can’t have face to face conversations.

At Power Level Studios, we have a simple but efficient system that has worked really well for us.

Have Everyone Remote

I have worked remotely for a company where pretty much everyone worked from the same office.

I was left out frequently. And it’s not that I wasn’t an important part of the team, it’s just that when everyone else is there, sometimes you just forget the “exception”.

And that sucked. I know I could have been way more productive if I felt like I was really part of the team.

By having everyone remote, everyone is on the same page. There aren’t many different ways to communicate. Everyone uses the same tool.

One of the previous companies I worked for removed their office and started working remotely. That didn’t stop them from making and releasing the successful Halcyon 6 game.

In Power Level Studio’s case, we’re releasing Soul Reaper: Unreap Commander on April 3rd. The game was built from December 2017 to March 2018.

Limit The Need To Communicate Verbally

We never communicate verbally at Power Level Studios. I don’t remember the last time it happened.

In fact, we rarely communicate at all. It’s all about our streamlined process.

We use the Kanban approach.

We have a series of steps a task needs to go through. When the person working on the task is done with the step, they move the card to the next step, where the next person in charge of the task will automatically be notified. In review steps, if it passes, the card moves forward, if it fails, it goes backward, where the person responsible for the work will automatically be notified.

It’s all about the automation and having a clear indicator of who needs to do what when.

Be Fully Transparent

With the Kanban approach mentioned above, we have different boards depending on the type of work. We have boards for Art, Design, Admin, Programming, etc.

Every board is public to everyone at the company.

I’ve got nothing to hide.

Everyone can see what I’m working on at any point. That is very important. People working with me need to know that I’m not just barking orders from the beach working on my sun-tan.

Trust Your Team

I rarely make decisions. I’m not sure if that throws my team off or not, but that’s my management style. I like to have everyone’s input on aspects I trust them on. I would not ask an artists’ opinion on programming, but I will definitely ask them about monster and loot design.

Everyone can submit their design ideas and we collaborate on it. I rarely get the ideas all by myself. We vote on design ideas, names of monsters, etc.

If my artist tells me A is better than B, I rarely argue. They’re the expert.

By trusting everyone, I know they trust and respect me more in return. They know we’re working towards the same goals.

Environment Issues

Spotty wifi, distractions, hard to follow schedule, loneliness — we’ve all been there. How do we overcome those things?

It’s all about making your environment productive and removing anything that goes against it.

Removing Distractions

I hate working from home. I’m way too distracted. I have games, books, and no one to judge me if I’m not working.

When I was working from home in Toronto, I would put console cables places where it would be so much work for me to get that I wouldn’t do the effort to get it.

In my apartment in Toronto, we didn’t even buy furniture, except for a mattress and the desk to work from. The place really was only good for working and sleeping.

Whatever it is you find distracts you while you work, change your environment so that it’s harder to distract yourself as opposed to doing your productive activities.

If your distraction is in your physical location, hide stuff, or better yet, make someone else hide it.

If your distraction is on your computer, use software that blocks access to apps and websites during certain hours. Have someone you trust lock the schedule behind a password so you can’t easily disable it.

Finding Good Wifi

Depending on where you are in the world, wifi can be an issue. Especially public wifi.

I’ll give you my favourite trick straight up: co-working spaces.

I’ve never been to a co-working space (yet) that doesn’t have usable wifi. I’ve seen anywhere from 10 mbps (slow but usable) to 1,000mbps (very fast).

Check using speedtest.net.

Never trust your Airbnb host or hostels to tell you their wifi is fast. It rarely is. Below 5mbps for me is hardly usable. In some countries, they call that fast. My 4G/LTE is 3x faster than that.

Fighting Loneliness

Building on the co-working space idea from above, having other hard-working people around you is extremely motivating.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m 10x more productive when I work from a co-working space.

It’s always nice to meet other people who work on their own crazy ideas. Entrepreneurs care so much about what they do that it’s contagious. You want to work harder and share your ideas with the others around.

You build great personal and professional relationships just from being there. I even made myself a business partner by working at The Living Room in Spain.

Keeping A Schedule

This is key to build momentum. I’ve written about this extensively in the past.

By working remotely, it’s hard to stick to a schedule because you don’t have office hours.

But to be honest, I don’t like office hours. Not everyone works great from 9–5. In fact, I don’t think anyone at Power Level Studios work from 9–5.

I start my day at 4am, but start my actual work at 9am. I take two naps during the day, usually around 8:30am and 2:30pm. I’m always super tired in the afternoon. I don’t work well unless I do a power nap. I try to reply to my messages only between 1:30 and 2:30, after lunch. I then finish work around 7pm.

I’m much better at sticking to this schedule when I’m at the co-working space. I know no one is monitoring me, but I need to feel like someone could judge me for not following my schedule.

Conclusion

Running a company remotely is possible but not easy.

I’ve been doing it long enough now and have found strategies that work for my video game company, but I know could work for other types of businesses.

Having everyone remote and limiting the need to communicate makes project management more efficient. Be transparent and trust your team. Apply these principles and communication will not be an issue.

Remove distractions, find good wifi, fight loneliness and keep a schedule.

Make your environment work for you.

You can do this!

Let me know what you tried that worked or didn’t work for you in the comments below.

Thanks for reading and sharing ! :)

First published here: https://medium.com/swlh/running-a-company-remotely-is-possible-but-not-easy-here-are-some-tips-to-make-it-easier-7bfa6e16a105

Top Tips On How To Be Pumped About Going Back To Work After A Vacation

When’s the last time you were pumped to get back to work after a vacation?

Most of the times, you’re either too comfortable to want to go back, or you exhausted yourself by cramming too much into a small vacation.

I’m just back from a small 4 days vacation in Mumbai, and let me tell you: I was pumped to get back to my productive activities!

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy my vacation, because I really did. But like everyone, I know how much it sucks to get back to work after being unproductive for a few days, weeks or months.

But I turned that over. I set myself up for wanting to come back without sacrificing quality time in a city I didn’t know.

Here are a few tips that worked for me to be pumped about going back to work after a vacation:

Tip #1: Disconnect From Work And Technology

This was, in part, my topic for yesterday’s story.

This is obviously not that easy, but if you can pull it off, it will help you want to get back to work. Truly disconnecting means not doing anything work-related.

No email checking, no calls, no social media. Nothing.

Don’t bring your work laptop. If it’s the same as your personal one, don’t turn it on unless it’s for researching things to do or book flights and accommodation.

Shut that phone off. Use it for the essentials only, like Google Maps and Translate.

Relax, get back to your hobbies. It’s your time, do things you want to do that doesn’t work towards your productive activities.

Tip #2: Plan Your Return On Your Last Day Off

This is critical.

Don’t go back to work not knowing what to expect. It’s the same principle as planning your day the night before. You’ll have clarity on what you need to do and you’ll be pumped to clear off that checklist the day of.

Be precise in your planning, and break your tasks in the smallest possible chunks.

I had 18 items to do just yesterday, most of which took between 10 and 30 minutes to do.

Everything was realistic.

Try not to schedule your hardest tasks on the day of your return. Or maybe not even in the first week. Give yourself a chance to be back.

I was pumped to accomplish the tasks on my list.

Now, I realize not everyone is in the same situation as me and have limited control over their work task, but if that’s your case, make sure to ask your superior what tasks they’re thinking of assigning you and try to negotiate with them.

Most bosses would be happy to help you get back to it.

Tip #3: Be Positive About It

“I hate Mondays” — Garfield

That’s the attitude you don’t want to have.

Do not tell yourself that coming back will suck. Even if you know it might. Think about the positive aspects of your work. Think about the things you like about your work.

  • Is it your colleagues?

  • Is it the work itself?

  • Is it the learning?

  • Is it the free snacks or lunches?

  • Is it the salary, or the benefits?

Whatever it is, capitalize on it.

If you struggle to find anything positive, well, maybe it’s worth considering other options? There are almost always other options.

Tip #4: Be Grateful

Some people don’t have the luxury of taking a vacation.

Too often, we take it for granted.

Be thankful for being granted vacation. Be thankful that your work made your vacation possible.

Some people can’t afford it. Both in terms of money and time.

When you stop taking your vacation time for granted, you start appreciating what made this vacation possible in the end: your work.

I traveled around the world for a year without working. I was in vacation mode for a year. It’s not as nice as it sounds.

Work gives you purpose. Be thankful for the opportunity to do something productive.

Tip #5: Exhaust Yourself, Just Enough

We’re creatures of comfort. It’s against our nature to do things out of our comfort zone.

When you take a vacation that’s too relaxing, you become too comfortable. It’s hard to break out of it and want to go back to doing productive things.

You definitely should relax on vacation, but make sure to spend some energy too. Spend energy on things you like to do. On things out of your comfort zone. Learn new things. Meet new people. Eat new foods. Let your imagination run wild.

But don’t overdo it!

Have you ever gotten back from vacation more exhausted than you were before?

Yeah, I’m sure you have. And you know it sucks.

Plan your most relaxing activities for the end of your vacation. That way you’ll have spent energy in the beginning, and won’t have time to get too comfortable before going back.

Tip #6: Change Your Mindset About Work

Everyone talks about work-life balance.

I reject that mindset. Work and life go together. There’s no balance.

Work is life. Take this definition of work for example:

“activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result”

We all want to achieve results. The moment you start seeing work as a way to get things done and not about a paycheque, you’ll start to understand that work gives a meaning to life.

When you believe that you’re doing things that work towards your goals, you’ll stop thinking of work as a chore, but as a way to achieve your greatest ambitions in life.

Coming back to “work” then becomes coming back to achieving your goals.

And that is enticing and will get you pumped.

Conclusion

Going on vacation is great, no questions there. But coming back from it is not always easy.

Make sure to truly disconnect, be positive and grateful, exhaust yourself enough, change your mindset about work and plan your return before coming up.

That will pump you to be back to your productive activities.

You can do this!

Thanks for reading and sharing ! :)

First published here: https://medium.com/swlh/top-tips-on-how-to-be-pumped-about-going-back-to-work-after-a-vacation-5e8aab3d25d0

Resting Really Is A Crucial Part Of Your Success — Embrace It

Photo by  @heftiba  on  Unsplash

Photo by @heftiba on Unsplash

“I regularly take a vacation from all my productive activities.”

This sentence alone probably brings a lot of questions in your mind:

  • Maybe Danny doesn’t like his work?

  • Maybe Danny just can’t handle the pressure?

  • Maybe Danny is just a slacker?

  • Something else?

The truth is, I love what I do. Everything I do.

I’ve been coping surprisingly good with pressure considering the number of things I do all at once, like running Power Level Studioswriting on Mediumwriting a book, working on two other startups, starting a podcast, etc.

And because of the above, you know I’m no slacker. On the opposite, I work so hard that to maintain a peak state of mind, resting is a necessity.

It’s like when you work out, the most productive thing you can do for gains is to rest in between to let the body recover.

Losing Momentum

Last month when I came back to Canada to do some paperwork and visit friends and family, I had lost my momentum. Seeing new groups of people every day and rushing to get paperwork done completely drained me mentally.

I had lost the hard-earned momentum I had built from the last 3 months in Spain.

I didn’t have to energy to wake up at my regular hour. I even skipped working out two or three days in the past 30 days. That was the thing I swore not to skip.

I hardly made any progress on Soul Reaper.

I stopped writing every day on Medium.

I fell behind on all my activities.

I’m sure this kind of lost momentum happened to you as well at some point.

In fact, even though I’m a highly self-disciplined and productive guy, I’d say to happens to me regularly.

It’s normal. Our high-stress environments are not meant to be lived at high pace every day, 365 days a year.

Because of that loss of peak state, I decided to rest for a few days when I arrived in Mumbai 4 days ago.

Resting

Sometimes, you just gotta rest.

“Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.” — Mark Black

It’s not the first time I write about this subject, but it’s so true that I had to write about it again.

This morning is the day I returned to being productive again. I woke up at around 4am, my usual time. Part of it is jetlag (I landed in India 4 days ago), part of it is my wife being restless next to me, but the main part is: I’m excited to start my productive activities again.

Do you ever feel like that coming back from vacation?

I certainly did this morning. I also felt that way the last three or four vacations I’ve taken.

The biggest factor in my excitement to be productive again comes from having rested.

I’m talking about truly resting. A real vacation. A break from everything. No technology, unless necessary (like Maps or Translate).

I did not touch my computer at all until yesterday.

I forced myself not to think about work. I try to empower my team to be self-sufficient, so it’s easier to disconnect. I trust them.

And I think this is an important part of disconnecting. Prepare your colleagues before you go and trust in them. If you can do that, you’ll be able to free your mind.

During my vacation, I slept, napped, did light sightseeing, played video games, read, meditated and journaled.

Restoring Momentum

Obviously, I’ve just started my productive activities again an hour ago, so it’s a bit pretentious of me to even mention “momentum” at this point.

But I’ve been through that cycle multiple times now, and it worked every time.

The thing is, if you have truly rested during your vacation, you’ll have an incredible amount of energy you’ll need to spend.

Use this energy.

Get back to your most productive habits.

Listen to your body and mind. Don’t overdo it.

Little by little, and with perfect consistency, your momentum will be back. Just not right away.

And that’s normal. It takes me 2–3 weeks to reach my peak state.

Once you’ve earned your hard-earned momentum back, you’re on your path to “success” again.

Conclusion

When you’re feeling overwhelmed and can’t perform at your peak performance, it’s time you start thinking about resting.

You don’t need to go away or even take a few weeks off. A few days is usually enough to “recharge your batteries”, provided you really do switch off during your break. No technology, no work, nothing.

Relax, get back to your hobbies. It’s your time, do things you want to do that doesn’t work towards your productive activities.

When you’re rested, get back to your productive habits and be consistent with them.

So next time you feel overwhelmed, dare take a break and rest and rebuild your momentum.

You can do this!

Thanks for reading and sharing ! :)

First published here: https://medium.com/@danny_forest/resting-really-is-a-crucial-part-of-your-success-embrace-it-a6e0a0ae121

Thinking Of Volunteering Aboard? Read These Tried And True Tips

Photo by  me  in Uganda

Photo by me in Uganda

When my wife and I left Toronto to travel the world for a year, we didn’t want to just see sights and selfishly “take from the world”, we also wanted to give back, and we thought volunteering aboard was a good way to do it.

We ended up volunteering in Bangalore, Siem Reap and Busan during that trip, and in Uganda during a different trip.

Having done it only 4 times, I certainly don’t consider myself an expert on the subject, but I’ve been asked the same questions multiple times and I think it’s worth sharing to help anyone wishing to volunteer aboard.

The following questions come from Maeghan Smulders:

1) how did you pick what organizations to volunteer with / how did you find them?

You can find travel expos in most major cities in the world. The general purpose ones usually have a few booths for volunteering organizations. But there are also volunteering-specific expos, like the Go Global Expo in Canada.

That’s where we found a good match for us. We had two potential opportunities: one in Ghana and one in Bangalore.

As for choosing the organization, we looked into projects we could do together, the reputation and seriousness of the business, the reviews and the location. Prices were pretty much all the same.

We picked a location that was on our way and where we really wanted to go. In fact, we planned the first half of our travels based on the project we chose in Bangalore.

We were serious people looking for serious work. It wasn’t a checkbox for us. It wasn’t to put in our resume. Some organizations were more catered to less serious people. And I’m not judging here, but it’s just not what we were looking for.

For the projects in Siem Reap and Busan, we found them through workaway.info. It’s a great website for finding projects where you exchange your time for lodging and sometimes food. It’s a great way to help local business owners or families while you’re abroad.

I also want to point out that we’ve met travelers and know people who do volunteer work through their religious institution, so it’s worth checking out for some people. We haven’t done it ourselves though.

2) did you apply or pay fees to do so? Did you notice a difference in opportunities where you have to pay vs free?

For the Bangalore project mentioned above, we paid an organization a fee.

They took care of our lodging, airport pickup, security, etc. The owner also took us on weekend cultural trips quite frequently. Here’s one I took part of: Ancient Jain Temples. We had a terrific experience with them.

The Siem Reap, Busan and Uganda projects were free. In fact, we got free lodging and food in exchange for our work.

In Siem Reap, we helped the AngkorHUB co-working/co-living space. A place I went back to for 2 months 7 months ago.

In Busan, we helped at the LZone Cafe for conversation exchanges.

In Uganda, it was an organization my wife started volunteering for remotely when we came back to Canada: Sundara. It’s a USA-based company.

The difference between paid and non-paid seemed to be on support mainly. For people who are concerned about security and support, paid volunteer experiences are the way to go. For more adventurous and potentially more authentic volunteer experience, free is sometimes better.

We had incredible experiences both when we paid and when we didn’t pay.

3) the software projects you did — did you identify the problem and solution yourself? Or was it a request from one of the NGOs that needed help?

When volunteering abroad, it’s hard to find projects that require hard professional skills.

One, it’s hard to find people willing to do it for free, and two, it’s rarely something that can sustain itself when you’re gone.

I was never meant to do software-related tasks in the projects I volunteered for, yet I did do it at AngkorHUB and LZone Cafe. I went there doing what I was meant to do, saw they had needs and proposed solutions.

4) do you continue to maintain the projects you created?

Sustainability is a key concept of any good volunteer project. We always aim to do things that are sustainable.

My work in Bangalore was to support teachers of a skill development centre. I did give a class or two, but it was always meant to teach the teacher. That way, the teachers keep the knowledge and can teach it to all their future students.

My wife put up a hygiene education workshop with the help of a local Indian employee. She presents the workshop all around India now.

In Siem Reap, the owner is a software developer himself, so he maintained the project after.

In Busan, I think they ended up not using the software after I was gone. I had proposed to maintain it, but since I was coming back to North America right after, I couldn’t afford not to do it for money.

In Uganda, we helped raise funds to build a borehole well for a village that had no access to clean water. The fund also covers maintenance for 10 years. The village leaders were taught on how to do the maintenance of the well.

5) did you organize the volunteer opportunities before traveling? Or coordinate while on the road?

We organized the Bangalore project before leaving, same with the Uganda project after.

The Siem Reap project, we found it on the go, 2–3 weeks before going. We did a Skype interview with the owner while we were in Vietnam. That same week, we did a Skype interview for the project in Busan, which was a few months after.

Organizing it on the road is definitely feasible. It’s just that it might be harder to get access to travel expos.

LZone Cafe is always looking for volunteers.

Reaching Hand, the local organization we volunteered for in Bangalore, is also always looking for volunteers. They are an excellent organization and we are very happy to see them again while we’re there next month.

Conclusion

Travel expos are a great place to find volunteer experiences that provide better support and security, but for a fee.

Workaway.info is a great place to find authentic experiences to help locals in exchange for food and lodging.

Sustainability for volunteer projects is an important concept you should always consider. Projects that are not sustainable may hurt more than they help in the long run.

Organizing volunteer work while already abroad is definitely feasible, especially if you’re flexible in your travel plans. It’s also a great way to have an impact on locals while reducing your costs dramatically.

Hope this helps!

Thanks for reading and sharing ! :)

First published here: https://medium.com/@danny_forest/thinking-of-volunteering-aboard-read-these-tried-and-true-tips-bb546b563897

We All Need Someone Who Truly Understands Us

I don’t live a conventional life by any means.

I’ve been with my wife for almost 14 years and we’ve been married for 6. It took us 7 years, 7 months and 7 days to get married. We got married after hopping on a helicopter in Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon with two friends.

We had decided on that option two months earlier, but got our rings the week before in San Francisco and we found our tux and gown two days before the wedding.

I don’t know how she agreed to that, but it makes for a good story.

We’ve been together for that long, yet we don’t have children or don’t own property. Or not anymore at least (the property part). We had bought a brand-new condominium in downtown Montreal when we were 21 and 23, which we sold for good profit a year after. We were still students at the time.

I did over 12 different jobs, starting when I was 8 years old. I’m a terrible employee. It’s not that my work ethics are bad, it’s just that I’m more of an entrepreneur. In fact, I’ve launched 5 companies, most of which “failed”.

Three years ago, my wife and I left to travel the world for a year. We both left our really nice job and gave all our belongings away. When we came back to Toronto after, we couldn’t stand having a “regular” life, so we left again a year later.

Audrey went to work for Doctors Without Borders and I switched to having a nomadic lifestyle.

Any of the above sounds normal to you?

And I’m not saying it’s good or bad. It’s just different.

But if you tried to be different yourself, I’m sure you’ve noticed how society has a way to cast away people who are different.

People have a hard time getting it when you’re different.

They judge. The reprimand. They lecture you.

They can’t accept that you’ve chosen a path that’s different than theirs.

And that last part is what gets me the most.

Why can’t people accept that we’re not all the same? And that’s for the better. For everyone.

Being Understood

Two evenings ago, Audrey and I went to dinner with her aunt, Hope.

We always love chatting her. Every time we chat with her, we feel so uplifted. She lives in a very different context than we do. She lives a more traditional way of life, yet she gets us.

She’s always happy for us. She shows interest and gives the right input on everything we say. She’s incredibly wise.

A lot of our family doesn’t get our lifestyle.

“No kids, no home, no stable job at our age? There’s something terribly wrong with you!”

But that’s not how Hope thinks.

She doesn’t have kids herself, but she’s got a home and a stable job. It doesn’t stop her from understanding us. She knows not everyone is the same.

She is one of the rare ones who truly understands us.

Conclusion

You see, it’s okay not to be understood by everyone, but you need at least one person who truly understands you.

The feeling you get when someone listens to you and understands you is so uplifting.

It gives you the courage to keep going. To work towards the change you want to make in life.

It gives you the power to accomplish your wildest dreams and aim higher.

It makes it okay to be different.

  • Are you different?

  • Who truly understands you?

  • Have you told them? Have you thanked them for it?

  • Who do you show your support to?

Being truly understood is important for anyone’s sanity and development. Think about that concept, and show support to the people you care about.

You can do this!

Thanks for reading and sharing ! :)

First published here: https://medium.com/swlh/we-all-need-someone-who-truly-understands-us-9f5f3430abcc

You Are, Or Will Become, your Environment

Photo by  @rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by @rawpixel on Unsplash

In a series of stories, I wrote about how you are, or will become, what you readwhat you listen to, and what you do.

In this story, I’m going a little deeper on the same theme.

A lot of the inspiration comes from my own experience living in completely different areas of the world in the last few years.

In the past 7 months alone, I’ve changed more than I’ve ever changed in my entire life. I have many theories on how specifically it happened, but for the most part: it boils down to my changes of environment.

If you are not in the right environment, hopefully, my story will inspire you to change it and make it work for you.

To be honest, It’s not something I had given much thought until I read Benjamin P. Hardy’s book: Willpower Doesn’t Work. So thank you for the inspiration, Benjamin!

Toronto — Earlier than 7 Months Ago

Back then, I was living a more normal life. I had a nice 9–5 software engineering job in a rapidly growing tech startup in Toronto. I had worked there for at least one full year.

I was living in a modest apartment with my wife in the downtown area.

I was doing good, but I wasn’t standing out from the crowd. I felt I had stronger ambitions, but my environment was not prone to making me what I wanted to be.

Cambodia — 7 Months Ago

My wife and I went separate ways due to her job with Doctors Without Borders.

We would not see each other for 6 months, with the exception of a week-long break in between.

I had to choose where I’d go.

I ended up going to Siem Reap, in Cambodia, helping a friend who owns a co-living/co-working space.

That was quite the change of environment!

There, I finally started working full-time on my own startup, a video game studio called Power Level Studios.

The most important part of the environment there was the people. Everyone was working hard on their own projects, which they cared deeply about. 9–5 was not a concept anymore.

I was so motivated that I was working 15 hours per day, 6–7 days per week. And it wasn’t even that hard.

I become such a high achiever and came up with my 3 new skills a month framework.

But outside of work hours, I would go out for dinner with friends every night. There’s no way I would do that in Toronto, that would be way too expensive! In Cambodia, I could eat a meal for $3. That was with a beer.

That environment was perfect for working hard, but also playing hard.

In the two months I was there, I had finally started working on my own dreams. I also made many new friends and became way more sociable.

I also somehow started looking like Conor McGregor haha.

Thailand — 5 Months Ago

After Cambodia, I went to travel with a friend to Thailand for about 3 weeks.

We met new people almost every day and I did things way outside my comfort zone, like rock climbing outdoors and surfing. I’m afraid of heights and of drowning. We also crashed Turkish tour groups and went to ping pong shows with them.

I was a way more fun person than I was when I was in Toronto. I had ditched the excessive video game playing or toying around with my phone. In fact, my phone is pretty much a brick now. I use it for Google Maps while traveling and that’s about it. Oh wait, it’s also my alarm clock and music player.

Spain — 4 Months Ago

After my vacation in Thailand, I went to Málaga, Spain, for 3 months.

When I arrived, the co-working space I wanted to join didn’t have any desk left for me, so I was working from my Airbnb.

Honestly, I was pretty depressed. My productivity went down to about 10–20% of what it was back in Cambodia. The weather was nice. I had access to mountains and beaches. It was really hard to stay home. Plus the Spaniards live quite a relaxed way of life when you compare to North America. And I’m not saying it’s positive or negative, just different.

Anyway, the co-working space finally had a desk ready for me after 10 days. BOOM! Productivity went back up to what it was back in Cambodia.

There, I managed to continue with my 3 new skills per month. I gained 5kg of mass in one month (while losing 2% body fat), hiked almost once a week, gave public speeches, learned good conversational Spanish, started a fitness group, earned a grant for Power Level Studios, grew the company to 8 people, started writing and became top writer in less than one month, and made a business partner out of another co-worker there.

Gone was my introversion too. I would approach everyone and have wide-ranging conversions about everything.

I had become someone so entirely different from what I was only 6 months before. I had become much closer to what I’ve always wanted to be.

Toronto — 1 Month Ago

My wife and I were reunited on Valentine’s day.

She had a hard time adjusting to what I had become. I was so different mentality, but physically too. I had gained a lot of muscles and started looking like a Viking because I was about to launch a Viking store (it’s still coming soon).

But it’s been only one month, and somehow I’m starting to get back to my other habits from before.

I’m less motivated. I play more video games. I work less. The only thing I do without fail is working out. I started writing once every 2–3 days instead of every day. My environment inspires me less here for some reason.

India — The Next 3 Months

In four days, my wife and I are flying to India. We’re going to be spending about 3 months in Bangalore. We found our apartment and our co-working space.

I’m excited to be in a similar routine as in Spain, but in a completely different environment. I have much to learn from India. Apart from Canada, Spain and Cambodia, it’s the country I had spent the most time in before, and I absolutely loved it.

I’m excited to see how my environment there will shape me. I have a feeling India will have a very positive impact on my life.

What About You?

Take a moment to think about your current and past environments. Ask yourself the questions below:

  • What environment are you in?

  • Are you satisfied with it?

  • Why is that?

  • What could be improved?

  • What could not be improved?

  • What is positive about it?

  • What is negative about it?

  • What would be your ideal environment?

  • How do you get there?

  • What are the major roadblocks?

  • How do you overcome them?

  • How long will it take you?

Conclusion

I never asked myself these questions before. As a result, I “wasted” years of my life where I wasn’t where I really wanted to be.

I changed my environment many times now. I can only agree with Benjamin’s theory on how environments have the biggest impact on how you can change/grow.

I know it’s not always easy to change your environment, but you don’t have to go to extreme lengths like I did.

Baby steps.

With each small change, you’ll be more motivated to change more things, until without even realizing it, you will be in the environment you always wished you were in.

You can do this!

Thanks for reading and sharing ! :)

First published here: https://medium.com/swlh/you-are-or-will-become-your-environment-95d28aa4c583