A collection of shorter posts and half-formed ideas. Extracts from my daily writing. Somewhere between diary entry and ‘publishable’ essay.

11 July 2024

11:04 — cool reframe on doing hard things.

Don’t be put off when you’re doing something difficult (e.g. training for a marathon) or building something that’s first of its kind (launching a new product).

It’s supposed to be difficult.

Embrace that. Don’t expect things to be easy.

11:01 — how to salvage a meeting when you’re caught off guard.

A company I’m consulting for had a meeting with one of their partners (or counterparties) earlier this week. I was leading the call from my client’s side — representing their interests in a difficult negotiation about the product they’d like to launch as part of the partnership.

They want to make it more attractive to customers; the counterparty wants to take on less risk.

Ok, so the scene is set. We’ve stated our wishes, the counterparty had time to review them but didn’t send any feedback before the meeting.

As soon as the meeting started, they came out firing, requesting a lof of changes to the initial proposal.

This caught me off guard.

I tried to handle things as best I could, but I wasn’t 100% happy with my performance or the support received from the team. We came across as divided and we didn’t back ourselves, we just took the counterparty’s lead.

I wonder how I can handle things better in future? Options:

  1. Delay. Offer to take their points under review and come back with an answer after we’ve discussed internally. This isn’t ideal, but it helps to buy some time.

  2. Think faster on your feet. This would be ideal. Handle all the info quickly.

07 July 2024

11:37 — slow Sunday.

“I’m big on analogies. In fact, here’s an analogy about why I like analogies: If you’re trying to explain fire to someone who’s never seen it or felt it, then you’re pretty much stuck with comparing it to things they’re already familiar with. Of course, it’s no substitute for the direct experience of fire; it’s just the best you can do under the circumstances. It serves the additional purpose that when they come across real fire, they’ll know what they’re looking at.” — Jed McKenna, Spiritual Enlightenment

04 July 2024

09:33 — Sometimes see it in people that they think the world owes them something.

They’re smart, got good grades, did all the right things, studied the right degree, but somehow are left unfulfilled.

They can’t be happy for others. They don’t understand how other people can be doing better than them when other people didn’t follow the path that was clearly stipulated.

But the path they followed wasn’t for them, it was just a guideline. They got into a role they’re not passionate about and hence don’t perform well at. ‘Less smart’ people are better because they find the work fun and interesting. How could this nightmare be happening?

I know, because I was like that.

Maybe I still am.

I think there can only be freedom from finding your own path. Not comparing yourself to others.

09:30 — I like it when people have a go at expressing how they feel about things.

A former colleague of mine wrote a post on LinkedIn the other day expressing his discomfort with studying to become an actuary and how he never felt like it was a good fit for his talents and inner nature.

He realized that he was cut out for something else, while also acknowledging that his studies shaped him into the person he is today.

It’s cool to reframe your journey like that. Everything up to this point made you who you are. Don’t write it off, even if you didn’t enjoy most/part of it. Maybe you picked up skills, discipline and other intangibles while you were not on the perfect path.

09:27 — on doing the work for the work itself and not for the results.

“Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.” — Thomas Merton

Reminded me of this passage by the Bhagavad Gita:

“Work hard in the world, Arjuna.
You have the right to work, but for the work's sake only.
You have no right to the fruits of work.
Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working.
Work done with anxiety about results is far inferior to work done without such anxiety, in the calm of self-surrender.
Seek refuge in the knowledge of Brahma.
They who work selfishly for results are miserable.”

02 July 2024

17:31 — book review.

I just finished Sam Harris’s 2011 book — Lying.

Definitely one of the books that has challenged my standard operating procedure the most in recent history.

Spiritual Enlightenment by Jed McKenna was also an internal-narrative-challenging book, but in a different way. That challenged my closely-held beliefs and my grip on the world. It was like unclenching my brain, relaxing my constant search for control and meaning, where in fact, there is none to start with.

This book was more of a moral correction, something that centred me and unmuddied the waters. Like adding chlorine to a pool.

His argument is simple - there is very little point in lying. Even white lies carry no benefit.

Now obviously most people know this and practice this. honesty is the best policy. But in certain circumstances, people (I for one), employ deception to get what we want or not hurt people’s feelings.

In his view, the truth, while uncomfortable sometimes, leads to the best outcomes eventually.

By lying, you are either giving people false hope (I did this a lot back when I was dating). Or you’re giving them false confidence (“sure, you’re a great singer”). Or you’re trying to comfort a sick relative (“you’ll be better in no time”).

Even though these lies might provide momentary comfort, you are taking quite a patronizing view. You are deciding for them that they can’t handle the truth. You are stealing the opportunity for them to get critical feedback and improve.

Why would you do this to the people love and care for?

So what now?

I’d like to be more honest and forthright going forward. I usually strive for honesty because it requires less effort (don’t have to remember your web of lies). But I do sometimes tell white lies or deflect certain tough questions. But my white might be someone else’s black.

Even if this involves more conflict and uncomfortable talks. I agree with Harris’s sentiment. There seem to be edge cases (cheating and then stopping, being in an intolerant society, surprises), which I don’t like.

01 July 2024

18:02 — reflecting on the 75 Soft Challenge.

My fiancé and I started a fitness challenge in May.

It was based on the 75 Hard Challenge, with a few tweaks.

Instead of doing the full challenge which requires 2 x 45min exercise sessions per day, no alcohol, a strict diet, drinking 3.7L of water, taking a progress photo and reading 10 pages per day, the toned-down challenge requires 1 x 45min exercise per day, no alcohol except on social occasions, and the rest of the challenge stays the same.

It was quite fun and motivating initially. My partner and I ate clean and we reduced our alcohol intake while increasing water consumption. The reading and selfie parts were easy. Things were going well for the first month.

Eventually, I could feel that my performance on runs and in the gym was getting progressively worse. I was never fully recovered. I couldn’t get my pace up, I couldn’t increase the weights in the gym. My body needed rest.

The final straw came last week when I got a vaccination against tick-bite fever. The doctor warned me that I’d have some side effects and shouldn’t exercise. Luckily I had already gone to the gym earlier that day so my next training was only the next day.

24 hours later I set out for a full track session and completely crashed and burned. After three 667m intervals at goal pace (3:30min/km), I could hardly hit 5min pace on the next lap. Something was wrong. I decided to step out and join the coach on the sidelines. It was the first time I quit in the middle of training.

38 days into the challenge my body was telling me to take a break.

I tried to gym the next day and it was also a sufferfest (way too much sweat and fatigue for a relatively easy session).

I decided to take the rest of the week off. 4 days doing nothing. Giving up my streak.

I’m fully recovered and back to normal performance again.

I guess the moral of the story is:

  1. Listen to your doctor. They know what they’re talking about. Rest after vaccinations.

  2. Take fitness challenges with a grain of salt. I was trying to protect my training streak at all costs without listening to my body (which I always used to guide me previously). I consciously ignored the signals of fatigue and tiredness and pushed through the training every day, overriding my inner instincts in favour of some arbitrary challenge.

Thoughts on the challenge:

  • It’s a fun way to exercise and eat clean together.

  • I’m not sure exercising every day (even when sick) is healthy. There’s room for rest and active recovery. If you already have a decent fitness routine and you know your body, I don’t know if you need a challenge. If you’d like to make drastic changes, this could help to instill some of those lasting good habits.

Verdict: 5/10. I can neither encourage nor discourage you from doing the 75 Hard/Soft Challenge. Do it for the right reasons (to build a habit), but listen to your body first and foremost.

17:57 — why it’s important to actually get shit done. To free up space in your mind.

“A task left undone remains undone in two places—at the actual location of the task, and inside your head. Incomplete tasks in your head consume the energy of your attention as they gnaw at your conscience.” — David Allen, Getting Things Done

17:55 — one of my all-time favourite quotes.

“Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur's indispensable allies. She must be clueless enough to have no idea how difficult her enterprise is going to be and cocky enough to believe she can pull it off anyway.” Steven Pressfield, Do the Work

17:51 — the school of life.

““Experience is what you got when you didn’t get what you wanted.” Good times teach only bad lessons: that investing is easy, that you know its secrets, and that you needn’t worry about risk. The most valuable lessons are learned in tough times.” — Howard Marks, The Most Important Thing

17:49 — Kundera on how living as an expat in a foreign country feels.

“Being in a foreign country means walking a tightrope high above the ground without the net afforded a person by the country where he has his family, colleagues, and friends, and where he can easily say what he has to say in a language he has known from childhood.” — Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

17:38 — new quarter.

That’s 9 months of logging — Q4 2023, Q1 2024 and Q2 2024.

I might have found something sustainable. A lifelong practice? Let’s see. I like how the logs help me write lots of messy first drafts on all topics, which I can then clean up and curate for the newsletters I publish.

Log history

Q2 2024

Q1 2024

Q4 2023