Author Archives: Burak Bilgin

About Burak Bilgin

Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons.

5 Secrets of Worry-Free Productivity


Do you want a successful life?

Or do you want a peaceful life?

What if you can have both?

How?

Today, I’ll share five ideas about worry-free productivity from a variety of sources. These ideas are effective enough by themselves. But in combination, they become powerful.

Let’s go over each of them.

The Ivy Lee Method

Forget about the latest gadgets and apps. Instead of increasing your productivity, they distract you. Our first idea comes from a productivity consultant from 100 years ago.

The Ivy Lee Method is simple.

  1. Determine the six most important tasks on a given day.
  2. Prioritize them according to their importance.
  3. Work on the most important task on your list until it’s complete. Don’t switch to another task.
  4. When the task at hand is complete, start the next task on your priority list.
  5. Repeat the steps 3 and 4 until all tasks on your list are complete or your working day is over.
  6. At the end of the day, move the incomplete tasks to the next day and prepare a list for the next day.

This is such a simple yet effective method.

Having only six tasks on your list gives you peace of mind and confidence that you can complete them.

If you have more than six tasks on a given day, try to batch them together, so that you have only six batches per day.

You avoid losing time by not switching between tasks. Having a single task completed at the end of the day is much better than having six tasks started but none of them finished.

How to decide on the six tasks of the day?

Read my posts on analyzing, prioritizing, and scheduling your tasks to answer that question.

Day-Tight Compartments

The second idea comes from a 70-year-old book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. Don’t let the age of this book and its simple title mislead you. This book is full of wisdom and useful ideas. My favorite idea in this book is day-tight compartments.

Suppose that you determined your most important six tasks for a given day. Does it make sense to think and worry about the days after today? No, it doesn’t. That’s what the day-tight compartments are all about.

You focus on what you have to do today and don’t worry about what comes after today. You take it one day at a time.

If ideas and problems pop up during the day, just write them down and move on, unless they are emergencies. I use Evernote for this purpose. I write down ideas and problems on a backlog note.

I go over my backlog once a week to prepare the plan for the next week. Once the weekly plan is made, I don’t need to worry about future anymore.

Peace of Mind Comes from Doing What Needs to Get Done

Peace of mind doesn’t come from recklessness. It doesn’t come from ignoring your responsibilities. It doesn’t come from indulging in distraction or entertainment. They’ll only increase your worries.

If you want to reach a peaceful mental state, you need to develop your willpower to do what needs to get done. How to do that? I recommend reading the following posts to improve the execution of your plans.

Letting Go

Let’s say you determine and complete your most important six tasks every day and you’re still worried. In that case, I recommend the letting go exercise from the book Letting Go by David Hawkins.

I quoted Hawkins’s original explanation in the post Using Emotional Intelligence to Overcome Your Dysfunctional Patterns.

It comes down to staying with the emotions without trying to suppress them, escape from them, change them, or invest more mental energy into them.

Emotions will come and go, but if you resist them or invest more mental energy into them, you’ll reinforce them. If you don’t do that, their power will decrease over time.

The Power of Now

Eckhart Tolle and his book the Power of Now became popular a decade ago for a good reason.

The Power of Now can be misunderstood. It can be interpreted as avoiding your responsibilities and indulging in pleasure. I don’t think this is what Eckhart Tolle meant in his book.

The ideas in Tolle’s book are more in line with the views in the book Letting Go. If you let go of all the distracting emotions like worries, you can be 100% present in the moment.

Imagine what you can achieve if you can concentrate that kind of presence on the task at hand. Imagine how your relationships would be like if you were 100% present with your loved ones. Imagine how fulfilling your life would be if you savored every moment of your life.

That is what I understand from the Power of Now. In this context, it can be a significant boost to your productivity.

Conclusion

Being at peace and productive aren’t mutually exclusive. On the contrary, peace of mind increases your productivity, and productivity increases your peace of mind.

Time management methods like the Ivy Method increase your productivity. Ideas like day-tight compartments, letting go, and being present in the moment increase your peace of mind.

If you apply these ideas in combination, they create synergy and amplify the effects of each other. As a result, you boost your productivity and peace of mind at the same time.

The Optimal Emotional State for Long-Term Audacious Goals


Regulating our emotions to overcome our dysfunctional patterns and to maximize our performance is a topic that fascinates me.

Getting into a specific emotional state works much better than just “thinking” about giving up a bad habit or performing well. Emotions have greater power than thoughts.

There are three steps to use your emotions to get a specific outcome.

  1. Determine the outcome you aim for.
  2. Determine the optimal emotional state for that outcome.
  3. Get into that emotional state.

Determine the Outcome You Aim For

This sounds like an obvious first step, but I included it anyway. Most of the time, we want to live a good life and be an exemplary person. Yet, we don’t define what living a good life and being an exemplary person is.

We have vague ideas about those goals. Do you know which specific daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals you need to achieve to live a good life and to be an exemplary person?

If yes, that’s great. If no, you need to define those specific, measurable, timed goals first. You can read my posts on analyzing, prioritizing, and scheduling your goals and tasks for that.

Determine the Optimal Emotional State for the Outcome You Aim For

Once you decide on the exact outcome of each moment of your day, it’s time to determine the optimal emotional state for that outcome.

  • I’m going to write my blog post.
  • I’m having a meeting with my colleagues.
  • I’m going to the gym.
  • I’m going to have dinner and relax in the rest of the evening.

There’s an optimal emotional state for each of those activities, and they can be different from each other.

Finding the right emotional state is critical to your success in each of them. You have to find the optimal emotional state even in each situation of each event.

Doing the actual exercise and resting between the sets require different emotional states when you’re in the gym. You need to know those states. It takes time to figure them out and to learn them.

Make an If-Then List for Common Situations

Mel Robbins, the author of The 5 Second Rule, recommends that you make an if-then list of all the situations that you encounter regularly and the reactions you’ll give in each case. I like that idea.

Just write down all the situations you encounter frequently and write down the optimal emotional state for them. Then go over that list often and practice it until it’s a part of your operational knowledge.

The Optimal Emotional State for Long-Term Goals

Finding the optimal emotional state in a given situation is not trivial. Imagine you were an American prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. What would be the optimal state to cope with that situation and to survive?

You can imagine that being pessimistic and getting depressed won’t work well in such conditions. Those POW’s gave up and died quickly.

But what about the positive ones who dream of getting released in the next Christmas, Easter, or Thanksgiving? Being an optimist should work out, shouldn’t it? After all, this is what the famous Law of Attraction is all about.

That type of optimism didn’t work out well either. It only postponed the tragic end. The optimistic POW’s survived longer than the pessimistic ones, but at the end, they got heartbroken and died.

The Stockdale Paradox

There’s a third group who survived the brutal imprisonment. They had a specific mindset. They believed that they’ll succeed at the end, but it will be a long, brutal experience. This mindset is called the Stockdale Paradox.

The name comes from James Stockdale, a senior American officer and POW in Vietnam. He used this mindset to survive his seven and a half year brutal imprisonment. You can read more about the Stockdale Paradox in the book Good to Great by James C. Collins.

Get Into That Emotional State

Knowing the optimal emotional state for a given situation isn’t enough. You should be able to get into that emotional state whenever needed. That means you need to develop that skill in advance.

This is crucial if the event in question doesn’t happen often. You probably don’t make a public speech or a job interview every day. However, you can practice the necessary emotional state by yourself or in other situations in your daily life.

Getting into a specific emotional state at will is a critical skill for success in life.

Conclusion

Success in life requires knowing the outcome you aim for at each moment, the optimal emotional state for that outcome, and the ability to get into that state at will.

Sometimes, the optimal emotional state for a specific outcome is more complicated than we think. It’s evident that pessimism doesn’t work, but blunt optimism doesn’t work either.

Long-term audacious goals require being optimistic about the outcome but at the same time being brutally honest about the facts and facing them. This mindset is called the Stockdale Paradox.

Getting into an emotional state at will is a critical skill. In some cases, you need to practice that skill in advance, especially when you don’t have enough opportunities to practice it in real life.

In essence, know your outcomes, know the optimal emotional state for those outcomes, and learn how to get into that state at will. That’s the way to maximize your performance and success.

Setting Goals for a Stress-Free, Fulfilling Life


Yesterday, I watched an interview with Vishen Lakhiani on Impact Theory. The ideas shared in the video are in line with my post called Are Your Goals Your Drug of Choice.

In that post, I shared an exercise to find out the unmet needs behind the goals you set. It’s a simple exercise where you ask yourself a simple question.

“Imagine you have realized your goal, then what?”

Keep asking the same question for your answers until you can’t find an answer anymore.

When we do that exercise, most of the time, we start with a material goal like financial freedom and end up with a basic need like freedom or security.

Our real goal is the basic need, but instead of working directly on that basic need, we work on the material goal.

That way, we don’t take the responsibility to meet our basic needs now and postpone that responsibility.

Means Goals vs. End Goals

Vishen distinguishes between two types of goals, means goals and end goals. We pursue our means goals to realize our end goals.

Most of our goals are means goals. When we question our means goals with the “then what” exercise, we find our end goals.

Vishen says that our means goals are mostly decided by the society for us. These are goals like becoming a lawyer, engineer, or a doctor.

Find Your End Goals

He states that there are other ways of reaching our end goals, but first, we need to find them. The “then what” exercise is one way of finding our end goals.

Vishen explains a complementary exercise. He divides the end goals into three categories.

  1. Experience Goals
  2. Growth Goals
  3. Contribution Goals

The idea is to make a list for each category.

Experience Goals

To find your experience goals, ask yourself the following question.

What do you want to experience in your life?

Here are some examples.

  • I want to visit a different country every year.
  • I want to have enough time to spend with my family.
  • I want to complete a triathlon.

Growth Goals

How do you have to grow to realize your experience goals?

You don’t go for a material outcome with the growth goals. You work directly on yourself. You increase your ability to produce greater value.

Material outcomes are mostly out of your control. Going after them stresses you out. Growth goals are entirely under your control.

Material results come as a byproduct when you work on your growth goals.

Working on your growth goals is a saner approach than working directly on material goals.

Contribution Goals

How are you going to contribute to the universe as you make progress with your growth goals?

Pay attention to the formulation of that question. It doesn’t say “once you reach your growth goals.” It says “as you make progress with your growth goals.”

You don’t need to wait until you reach a certain level to contribute to your fellow humans.

As a matter of fact, starting to contribute right now is a great way to make progress toward your growth goals.

Here are some examples.

  • I’ll publish a book.
  • I’ll reach 100,000 people with my public speeches.
  • I’ll help people to reach their potential.

Conclusion

Vishen Lakhiani argues that most of us adopt the goals that the society wants for us. Those are most of the time means goals.

We need to look behind those means goals to find our end goals. We can do that with the “then what” exercise.

Once we find our end goals, then we can find our own way to fulfill our end goals.

Vishen recommends that we come up with three lists to find our end goals, experience goals, growth goals, and contribution goals.

I suggest that you question your goals to find out whether they are means goals or end goals. If they are means goals, do the exercises in this post to determine your end goals.

Go directly after your end goals, and you’ll have a much more fulfilling life.

The Most Valuable Pursuit in the 21st Century


I was going through my Evernote this morning. I went through my old notes and realized how much I learned about blogging in the last few months.

When I looked at those notes, I realized how little I knew about blogging. I had no idea how to come up with compelling titles, how to format my posts, and how to promote them.

I learned all of that and more in the last six months. I learned some of that from blog posts and email newsletters, and others through trial and error.

That knowledge got me from the novice level to the beginner level at blogging. There is still a lot to learn to get to the intermediate and mastery level.

I wish someone handed me that knowledge so that all I had to do was to follow the instructions in a book. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that.

You have to find out what works for you. No one’s going to do that for you.

We have to go through all the information ourselves, try it out, and find out what works and what doesn’t. Discerning the truth is a core skill for success, if not the only skill. Yet, it might be the hardest one to develop.

The Age of Abundant Information

We live in the age of abundance. A wealth of information is freely and cheaply available. That has its advantages as well as its disadvantages.

A mass of information is useless unless it’s organized into knowledge. That’s why Google is one of the most valuable companies today.

That’s also why data science is such a hot topic. Even results of elections can be influenced using data science.

The Biggest Challenge in the Age of Abundant Information

Our biggest challenge in the age of abundant information is to separate the signal from noise. Which information is the most valuable among all the information available on the Internet?

I’m sure there’s some life-changing information out there for all of us. How do we find out that information? That’s the biggest challenge of our times.

We aren’t looking for a gold mine anymore. Knowledge is the new gold in the 21st century. We are looking for life-changing knowledge.

Finding Life-Changing Knowledge

I honestly believe that there’s life-changing knowledge for each of us out there. I experienced it in the first hand. Our task is to go out there and find it.

There’s a lot of free content out there, and some of it is useful and valuable. I learned a lot from blog posts, podcasts, and YouTube videos.

There’s also a lot of premium content that is cheaply available. I like Kindle and Audible books. I receive a lot of value from them for a low price.

The primary value of paid content for me is that it is in a condensed form. I can’t listen to every podcast of Gary Vaynerchuk or read every blog post of Seth Godin. But I can purchase their books and audiobooks and learn their most valuable ideas.

Converting Information to Knowledge

When we come across valuable information, we must make it a part of our functional knowledge. The first step to do that is to decide how often we’re going to use it.

If we’re going to use it on a daily basis, we need to learn and internalize it. If we’re going to use it occasionally, we need to add it to our knowledge base. Let me explain each option with an example.

Learning for Every Day Use

Let’s say I have a distraction problem. I distract myself often with my smartphone. My solution to that challenge is to visualize the consequences of my self-distraction habit.

When I get into the feeling of those adverse consequences, checking my smartphone isn’t that fun anymore.

This is a habit I need to learn and apply every day, every time I feel like checking my phone. I need to go through the four levels of learning with this new practice.

The Four Levels of Learning

On the level of unconscious incompetence, I’m unaware that I can cure my distraction habit with a visualization practice.

On the level of conscious incompetence, I’m aware of the visualization practice, but I don’t succeed at using it to overcome my distraction habit.

On the level of conscious competence, I make conscious effort to use the visualization practice to overcome my distraction habit.

On the level of unconscious competence, the visualization practice happens automatically. I get into the feeling of adverse consequences every time I feel the urge of distracting myself. I don’t need to make any conscious effort to carry out the visualization practice.

The Path to the Highest Level of Learning

Getting from the first level to the fourth level takes time and effort. On the first level, you need to become aware that you have a problem. Then, you need to find a solution.

Most of the time, that solution is in the domain of what you don’t know you don’t know. You find it either by reading a blog post, listening to a podcast, or from another source.

Now, you’re on the level of conscious incompetence. You have the knowledge, but you can’t use it in your daily life.

It takes repetition until you internalize that knowledge. Don’t expect your life to change just because you read a blog post. Sometimes, it does, but most of the time, it doesn’t.

The Spaced Repetition Method

You need to repeat what you learned over and over with some time in between until you make it a part of your functional knowledge.

You need to practice what you learn. Only then, it adds any value to your life. But when it does, it makes a huge difference in your life.

Build a Knowledge Base

The second type of knowledge is the one that you use occasionally. That doesn’t mean that this type of knowledge is less important. It can be as important as the knowledge that you use it on a daily basis.

I recommend that you maintain a knowledge base to save and organize such knowledge. I use Evernote for that purpose.

There are some procedures that I have to carry out once in a while. For example, I have to collect a bunch of documents for income tax return once a year.

There’s no way I can keep all the steps of those procedures in my mind. I can’t risk missing a step. I write all those steps in an Evernote note and tag them.

When the time comes to execute those steps, I search that note and carry those steps out. I don’t need to think hard to remember all the steps. I’m also confident that I haven’t forgotten a step in between.

In essence, the idea is to either internalize a piece of knowledge if you’ll use it frequently, or record it somewhere if you’ll use it occasionally. That approach saves me a lot of time and headache.

The Sad State of Formal Education

Unfortunately, the majority of the information taught me during my K-12 education is not only useless, but it can easily be googled.

Sadly, some college curricula are just a continuation of that type of education. That’s why college education has such a bad rep nowadays.

The Significance of Theoretical Knowledge

Theoretical knowledge is misunderstood nowadays. As a software programmer, I’m a practitioner. Yet, I guarantee you that you’ll fail miserably without a theoretical foundation. You’ll hit a wall and be squashed like a mosquito. In my 15 years of experience, I witnessed it over and over.

Value practice, but never underestimate theory. Keep a balance between both.

What Does Theory Actually Mean?

Theory isn’t a collection of information in some books in a library. Theory is the essential knowledge that you have internalized over years of deliberate practice. This is precisely what Robert Greene explains in his book Mastery.

An estimated 10,000 hours of intentional practice is required to reach that kind of mastery. Sure, that number varies among different domains, but it gives a good idea of what it takes to reach the level of proficiency.

That’s why time management crucial. You have to invest most of your time and energy into learning.

The good news is that knowledge is non-taxable. No one can come and tax all the knowledge you have accumulated over the years. It’s all yours, and you can use it to create the life you want.

Conclusion

Accumulating theoretical and practical knowledge is the most valuable pursuit in the 21st Century. You need to learn how to learn.

In some cases, you need to record information in a knowledge base and be able to find it quickly. In other cases, you need to internalize the knowledge by repetition and practice.

If you do that, your knowledge will pay its dividends in return.

Are Your Goals Your Drug of Choice?


No life is perfect, and facing that reality causes pain. It’s our natural tendency to run away from pain. We all have our drugs of choice to avoid pain.

Some of us use recreational drugs. Others use alcohol, cigarettes, or caffeine. The new generation prefer their gadgets.

A Socially Endorsed Drug

There is another drug that is not only socially acceptable but also encouraged, especially by the personal development industry.

That drug is having big hairy audacious goals. I’m not against setting goals. On the contrary, I encourage you to set goals and work toward them.

I subscribe to the idea that happiness comes from working toward a worthy goal. There is a pitfall when setting a goal though. Your goal might be a distraction to avoid facing your reality.

Audit Your Approach to Goals

There’s a simple test you can take to figure out whether your big hairy audacious goal is a vision or a distraction.

Just answer these simple questions.

  • Which actions did you take yesterday, last week, or last month toward your goal?
  • Which progress did you make yesterday, last week, or last month toward your goal?
  • What is your plan and your milestones from now until the accomplishment of your goal?

If you can answer these three questions with specific, realistic answers, you have a vision. If you can’t answer them or your answers are vague, then you have an illusion.

Evaluate Your Answers

Write down your goal and answers on a piece of paper. Stand up and walk around a little. Come back and pick up that piece of paper. Imagine the goal and the answers on that piece of paper belong to another person.

  • What would you think about that person?
  • Is that person realistic?
  • Do they have a good chance of realizing their goal?
  • Or are they fooling themselves?

Correct Your Course If Necessary

If you took this test and you figured out that your goal is more of a distraction than a vision, don’t worry. You can always correct your course or adjust your goal.

If you need some course correction, the posts mentioned in this thread might be a good starting point for you.

Then What?

Let’s do another exercise on your goal. Suppose that you have accomplished your goal. Then what?

  • What’s going to change in your life?
  • How will your days, weeks, and years look like?
  • How will you feel?

Keep asking the same “then what” question until you run out of answers. The “then what” exercise is similar to the “five whys” exercise. In the “five whys” exercise, we go back in time. In the “then what” exercise, we go further in time.

The Unmet Basic Needs Behind Your Goals

If you do this exercise, you’ll end up with some basic needs. Here’s an example.

  • I want to make ten million dollars.
  • Then what?
  • I’m going to retire.
  • Then what?
  • I’m going to have enough time to rest.
  • Then what?
  • I’m going to feel good.

The basic need you’re aiming for is feeling good. If this sounds familiar, I have two questions for you.

  • What keeps you from feeling good now?
  • What makes you think that you’ll feel good when you have ten million dollars in the bank?

Take Responsibility Now

Most of the time, we avoid taking the responsibility to take care of our basic needs. We postpone them to the future. We associate them with some big hairy audacious goals so that we don’t have to deal with them now.

If you want ten million dollars in the bank, because your basic need is security, I have bad news for you.

When you don’t feel secure now, you won’t feel secure with ten million dollars in the bank. You’ll always find something to be anxious about.

Your feelings determine your perception, not the other way around.

A person with a million dollar net worth might think that they’re rich, where else another one with ten million dollar net worth considers themselves middle class.

Fear of Success

We’re all aware of the fear of failure. Deep down, you might also be afraid of success. The best way to find that out is to do the “then what” exercise above.

  • Suppose that you want financial freedom.
  • Then what?
  • You’ll have a lot of time and money on your hands.
  • What are you going to do with that extra time and money?

Think about what you do with your extra time and money now. How does it feel to do that on a 10x scale?

If you don’t do anything interesting with your extra time and money now, how will you motivate yourself to work toward that 10x extra time and money?

If you indulge in drinking, partying, and drugs in your spare time, you might be afraid to do that on a 10x scale.

If you waste your spare time with distractions, you might not want to have that extra time and money, because your current job is more meaningful than that.

What If I Lose It All?

You might be afraid of success because you might be afraid that you’ll get used to the lifestyle, and it would feel much worse if you lost it all.

To clarify your mind about what success means for you, do the “then what” exercise. Write it out in detail. Write down your life story from the accomplishment of your goal until your death.

In other words, write your obituary.

  • How do you feel about your story?
  • Is it a congruent story?
  • Do some parts contradict each other?

Contradicting Desires

It’s natural that we have desires that contradict each other. That doesn’t mean that we have to let go all of them. You can do the obituary exercise for each desire.

Suppose that you can live as many lives as you want. Your task is to optimize each life for one of your desires. If you had multiple lives, how would you live each of them?

Don’t underestimate this exercise. It helps you set aside your limiting beliefs. As a result, you can come up with some exciting ideas to realize your goals.

When you complete the exercise for multiple desires, merge them into a single life story by making some conscious choices to let go some of your conflicting desires.

Conclusion

Happiness comes from working toward a worthy goal. Yet, you might use your goals to distract yourself from facing your reality.

To see if that’s the case, audit your approach to goals using the exercise explained in this post. If your answers don’t satisfy you, you can either upgrade your approach or modify your goals.

Sometimes, we postpone our basic needs by associating them with our goals. You figure out which basic needs you avoid by doing the “then what” exercise.

We think that our life situation creates our emotions. In reality, it is the other way around. Therefore, we need to take the responsibility of our emotions first.

Even though it sounds absurd, we might also be afraid of success. That could happen if our vision doesn’t inspire at all. We might be afraid of the realization of our vision, or succeeding and then losing it all.

In either case, the first step is to come up with a compelling, congruent story about our future.

A Self-Coaching Template to Work on Your Challenges


We all have challenges in our lives. Some of our problems are small. Some of them are big. In either case, there are some actions that we can take to tackle them.

Today, I’m going to share a self-coaching template that you can use to find solutions to your challenges. Completing this template should take around one hour.

If finding a solution to your challenge takes much longer than an hour, I recommend that you divide your challenge into smaller problems. Our goal here is to find a solution, not to solve the problem altogether.

Find a solution. Apply it for a week. And evaluate the results. If the results don’t satisfy you, do the exercise again. If the problem is solved, move on to your next challenge.

The Template

The self-coaching template consists of four steps. Each step includes a principal question and auxiliary questions.

  • What’s the problem?
  • What would be the ideal situation?
  • What keeps you from creating the ideal situation?
  • What’s the solution?

Asking the rights questions is the first step of success. This is precisely what we are doing here.

The first three steps are about analyzing your situation. Don’t think about solutions in these steps.

Our minds don’t like uncertainty. We tend to jump to conclusions and come up with quick hacks to avoid the discomfort of uncertainty.

Stay with the discomfort of your situation. Write down your current situation accurately, but don’t go into unnecessary details.

We’ll spend most of our time on analyzing the problem. Once we find the root cause of the problem, the solution will be evident.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Albert Einstein

What’s the problem?

  • Formulate the problem.
  • What’s the current situation?
  • Don’t jump to conclusions.
  • Don’t think about solutions.

What’s the ideal situation?

  • Don’t think about limitations.
  • Imagine you have all the resources you need. Time, money, skills, mentorship, assistance, and so on.
  • What would be the ultimate you could create?

What keeps you from creating the ideal situation?

What’s the solution?

  • Which steps can you take in your current situation?

An Example from My Own Experience

What’s the problem?

  • I didn’t make sufficient progress on my blog in my first six months.
  • My stats don’t satisfy me.
  • I can’t produce content effortlessly.

What’s the ideal situation?

  • My products are in the market. They provide me with a decent income.
  • I have a robust daily schedule to work on new products, to write blog posts, and to interact with my readers.
  • My schedule also includes some downtime to enjoy my life.
  • I produce content effortlessly.

What keeps me from creating my ideal situation?

Let’s go over each bullet point and analyze it. In this example, I won’t do all the five why’s to keep the length of the post reasonable.

Why don’t I have any premium products?

I didn’t create any premium products, because I have a small audience.

Why do I have a small audience?

I was inconsistent with the topics I wrote about. I wrote posts about personal development, writing, marketing, entrepreneurship, management, investing, and cryptocurrencies.

Every time I switched between topics, I lost a portion of my audience. I also lost momentum on each subject. Even though I blogged for six months, the end effect was the same as blogging for two months on each topic.

A Mistake or a Lesson?

Blogging on different topics in my first six months wasn’t a big mistake. I learned some valuable lessons.

  • I’m inspired to write about personal development and life lessons.
  • I write effortlessly on writing, blogging, and marketing.
  • I won’t write about investing anymore, because I have a simple investing strategy.
  • I won’t write on cryptocurrencies, because I don’t get along with that community.
  • Writing on management doesn’t inspire me.

I also experimented with other platforms such as Steemit, which didn’t contribute anything to my audience.

What’s the solution?

Even though writing on personal development is hard, I’m going to stick with that topic. That topic inspires me the most and provides the most value to my readers.

Thinking and writing about personal development provide the most value to me as well.

If I mention other topics in my posts, it will be in the context of personal development. They will be used as examples only. I won’t go into the details that would only interest the hardcore followers of that topic.

Why don’t I produce content effortlessly?

I’m not sufficiently focused on personal development. I distract myself with news and YouTube throughout the day.

Even though I don’t distract myself all the time, I could invest that time to consume quality content. I can also spend that time doing nothing so that I can recuperate my mind and have more mental clarity.

Even if I distract myself for five minutes a day, that’s too much. Those five minutes break a process in my mind when my mind is processing an idea in the background.

Distractions also tend to propagate themselves throughout the day. Sometimes, I watch a three-minute funny clip. Then, that clip keeps playing in my mind for a few days. It’s amusing, but at the same time distracting.

I’m not going to analyze the daily schedule problem, because it has the same reasons as I explained in this problem.

What’s the solution?

Reading news doesn’t add any value to my daily routine. I choose to let go of that habit altogether.

I’m going to clean my YouTube feed. I’m going to keep only personal development related videos on my watch later list and only watch from that list.

Conclusion

When we face challenges in our lives, we either avoid them, complain about them, or jump to conclusions or quick hacks to circumvent them. None of those strategies provide a definite solution to our challenges.

We need to go deeper into the reasons that create our problems. To do that we need to analyze our current and ideal situation first. Once that analysis is complete, the solutions are either obvious or easy to find.

You can use the four-step template in this post do analyze your challenges, find their root causes, and come up with your own solutions.

The Zen of Entrepreneurship


David Hawkins, the author of Power vs. Force, mentions 17 levels in his map of consciousness.

  • Enlightenment
  • Peace
  • Joy
  • Love
  • Reason
  • Acceptance
  • Willingness
  • Neutrality
  • Courage
  • Pride
  • Anger
  • Desire
  • Fear
  • Grief (Sadness)
  • Apathy
  • Guilt
  • Shame

Map of Consciousness, a Useful Tool for High Performance

I find this map useful to regulate my emotional state for high performance.

I find emotions of shame, guilt, sadness, fear, desire, anger, joy, love, and peace useful for different purposes.

  • Peace and sadness are suitable to reflect on my life and make plans.
  • Joy is useful for long distance running.
  • Anger is useful for working out with weights in the gym.
  • Shame, guilt, fear, desire, and love are powerful motivators to execute my plans.

Peace vs. Apathy

Even though I read the book Power vs. Force years ago, there were still some open questions in my mind. I always wondered what the difference between peace and apathy was.

Apathy is the lack of intense emotions. So is peace. Then, what is the difference between them?

I think I’ve found the answer.

The GDPR Will Destroy Email Lists

Yesterday, I had a challenge. The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect starting from May 25, 2018.

This regulation affects my email newsletter as well. I have to collect explicit consent from my newsletter subscribers before that date. After that date, I have to delete the subscribers who didn’t provide explicit permission.

If you ever operated an email newsletter, you know what that means. I expect only 10% of my subscribers to complete that procedure. That means I’m going to lose 90% of my email newsletter subscribers in two weeks.

The GDPR Makes the Subscription Process Harder

It doesn’t end there. The new law requires me to have a checkbox in my subscription form. If a visitor doesn’t explicitly check that box, they won’t be able to subscribe to my email newsletter. I expect at least 50% of the visitors to overlook that box.

I know that you’ll suggest some hacks for that, such as loading the form with that box checked or making it a required field. Both practices are forbidden in the new regulation.

On May 25, 2018, I’ll lose 90% of my existing subscribers and 50% of my future subscribers.

The Most Productive Level of Consciousness

On which level of consciousness would you be if you were in my shoes? Anger? Fear? Grief? Apathy?

Surprisingly, I felt acceptance yesterday. There is nothing I can do against this law. Neither anger, nor fear, nor grief, nor apathy is a productive emotion at this moment.

The most productive emotional state at this moment is to accept what is, comply with it, and carry on.

My livelihood doesn’t depend on this list. But there are people whose livelihood depend on email lists. They are going to lose at least 90% of their income in two weeks.

The New Law Won’t Accomplish Anything Useful

You might defend the new law because there are so many spammers out there. I know that a lot of people add all the emails they could find to their lists. As a result, we all receive a bunch of irrelevant emails every day.

  • Will the new law prevent spammers from populating their lists with every email they come across?
  • Will it prevent auto-followers on social media?
  • Will it prevent bots from spamming the comment sections and contact forms of blogs?

It’s not going to happen.

The New Law Will Only Hurt Legitimate Businesses

This law will only reduce the revenues of honest people and businesses who comply with the law. That reduction in revenue won’t serve anything.

The revenue will be reduced because a prospect will overlook a checkbox in a sign-up form, not because they didn’t want to sign up to the email newsletter in the first place.

I always had a double opt-in mechanism in my email lists. I never added someone manually. I never sold people’s emails. I never sent irrelevant emails to my subscribers. Yet, I’m punished by this law.

Take It on the Chin and Carry On

Acceptance means to take it on the chin and to carry on. That’s exactly what I’m going to do in this case. Quitting is not an option at this moment. Neither is breaking the law. If my content is worth the attention of people, it’s going to find its way to their screens.

Now, I get the difference between peace and apathy. When you’re on the level of apathy, you don’t feel any intense emotions, and you give up. When you’re on the level of peace, you don’t feel any strong emotions, but you keep on going.

High Involvement, Low Attachment

The lower levels such as anger, fear, guilt, and shame are strong motivators to take action. But at a certain moment, you need to accept the reality and let go of your attachments to the results. There’s no way around this.

In a previous post, I called this attitude high involvement, low attachment. You take massive action and do your best without being attached to the results.

While taking action, anger, fear, and similar emotions are strong motivators. But once the work is over and you’re waiting for the results, you better get to the level of acceptance and peace, and don’t get attached to those results.

A Nontaxable Asset

At the end of the day, there is one asset that governments can’t forbid or tax. That is your knowledge and the lessons you learn. I owe that lesson to Warrant Buffet.

Sometimes a lesson learned is more valuable than 90% of your email list. Understanding the difference between apathy and peace was such a lesson for me yesterday.

Emotional Intelligence for High Performance


Yesterday’s post was about using emotional intelligence (EQ) to overcome dysfunctional patterns. Today, we’ll learn how to use EQ to maximize our performance.

In yesterday’s post, I introduced the 2×2 model of EQ. That model involves the awareness and regulation of emotions of yourself and others.

We’re interested in becoming aware and regulating our own emotions when working on our dysfunctional patterns and maximizing our performance.

Emotions Drive Us

We are mostly driven by our emotions. Even the most rational people are guided more by their feelings than their reasoning.

There are two entities in our psyche. The first one is intelligent but weak. The second one is strong but dumb.

These two entities are mentioned in multiple resources. Nobel Laureate psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls these entities System 1 and 2 in his book Thinking Fast and Slow.

Ray Dalio mentions two levels of self in his book Principles. Sigmund Freud has a three-piece model, id, ego, and superego.

I like to call these entities David and Goliath. Our executive center is like David, intelligent but weak. Our emotional center is like Goliath, strong but dumb.

The Battle between the Two Systems in Our Psyches

There’s a battle going on between David and Goliath all the time.

David is pulling us toward our long-term goals, while Goliath is pulling us toward short-term rewards.

The quality of our lives is determined by the result of this battle, day after day, moment after moment.

The good news is that we can use our executive center to regulate our own emotions. That way we can break our dysfunctional patterns and maximize our performance.

The Secret of Success

We can’t succeed if our emotional center isn’t in alignment with our executive center, because the emotional center is stronger than the executive center.

Once we align our emotional center with our executive center, we operate on autopilot and maximize our chances of success.

The Map of Consciousness

Before proceeding, let’s take a look at the map of consciousness by David Hawkins. This map is useful to determine and regulate our emotions.

  • Enlightenment
  • Peace
  • Joy
  • Love
  • Reason
  • Acceptance
  • Willingness
  • Neutrality
  • Courage
  • Pride
  • Anger
  • Desire
  • Fear
  • Grief (Sadness)
  • Apathy
  • Guilt
  • Shame

For more information about the levels of consciousness, I recommend the book Power vs. Force by David Hawkins.

Emotions Are Neutral

We tend to label some emotions as positive and others as negative. In essence, emotions are neutral. It’s how you use them that makes them positive or negative.

Anger can be a positive emotion if you use it constructively. Anger is a sign of optimism. It means that you feel like you can change the situation that makes you angry.

Sadness is a sign of pessimism. That doesn’t necessarily make it a negative emotion. Sometimes, we need to let go of trying to change some situations and accept them. Sadness helps us doing that shift.

Use Your Executive Center to Steer Your Emotions

We’ll use our executive center to determine and change our emotional state. Let’s go over an example.

Suppose that you feel an urge to distract yourself with social media. What’s the underlying emotional state that’s causing this urge?

In some cases, it might be apathy. You might be bored and think that it won’t make any difference to waste a few minutes on social media.

Default Behavior Is Determined by Emotions

Your executive center thinks that the right thing to do is to not waste time on social media and to work on your project.

Your emotions don’t agree with your executive center. Your Goliath thinks it’s completely OK to kill some time on social media.

Since your Goliath is stronger than your David, your Goliath will win this battle. The only way to win this battle for your David is to switch the emotional state of your Goliath.

You Can Regulate Your Emotions

Your target behavior is to work on your project. Which emotional state would cause your Goliath to work on your project? You can use guilt, fear, anger, and even love and joy.

  • You can trigger guilt by thinking about your responsibility to your colleagues, boss, family, accountability partner, or your mastermind group.
  • You can trigger fear by thinking about the consequences of not working on your project.
  • You can trigger anger by thinking about not getting what you want from life.
  • You can trigger love by thinking about the people who will benefit from your project.
  • You can trigger joy by thinking about how other people’s lives will be changed as a result of your project.

Which Emotional State Works the Best for You for a Certain Task?

You need to know which level works best for each type of task. Let me go over four activities and which level works the best for me for each kind of task.

You might have different activities in your life. Different emotional states might work the best for you for each type of task.

Planning

When I’m in the planning mode, a peaceful state of mind works the best for me. In this state, I don’t feel any intense emotions.

In the absence of intense emotions, I have mental clarity. I can reflect on the challenges in front of me. I analyze, prioritize, and schedule my tasks.

To get into this state of mind, I use the letting go technique that I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

Execution

When the planning phase is over, and I’m in the execution phase, the level of anger works the best for me. When programming or writing a post, anger helps me focus on the task at hand and give my 100% to it.

Getting into the level of anger isn’t that hard for me. I just focus on the end result that I want to get and try to accomplish it as fast as possible.

Lifting Weights

By lifting weights, I mean working out in the gym, exercising with weights, doing 4 sets of 12 reps. These exercises require a similar emotional state as the execution phase.

A set of lifting weights takes around 45 seconds of intense effort. That requires full focus. The anger energy provides that kind of concentration.

Jogging

Recently, I started jogging three times a week. Last week, I realized that jogging required a different emotional state than lifting weights.

In my case, jogging takes around 25 minutes of moderate effort. The moderate effort leaves room for random thoughts to rise.

When random thoughts rise and keep my mind busy, my performance drops. It becomes harder to complete my target distance.

When I let go of all the thoughts and aim for peace of mind and mental clarity, completing my target distance becomes easier.

Anger doesn’t work in jogging. Peace of mind works better. Therefore, I practice letting go during jogging.

What Works for One Task Doesn’t Work for Another

If I use the same level of consciousness as in lifting weights, and try to complete my laps as fast as possible, I won’t be able to finish my target number of laps.

For me, jogging is all about feeling good, enjoying the process, and letting go of intense emotions and the thoughts they bring with themselves. I focus on putting one foot in front of the other until I pass the finish line.

The Influences on Your Emotional State

Your thoughts, the state of your body, and your environment impact your emotional state. Your emotional state affects your thoughts and your body in turn.

You might have different thoughts about the same subject according to your emotional state.

At a particular moment, you might feel love, and your thoughts about a person would be positive. At another moment, you might feel anger, and your thoughts about the same person would be negative.

Thoughts vs. Your Emotional State

You can also influence your emotional state with thoughts. In yesterday’s post, I mentioned an if-then list to catalog your patterns and the thoughts to use to change your emotional state in each situation.

Environment vs. Your Emotional State

Your environment impacts your emotional state as well. I realize that I’m more reflective and peaceful on rainy days. I become more driven on sunny days. Different types of music trigger different emotions.

The State of Your Body vs. Your Emotional State

The state of your body affects your emotions as well. Think about the emotions you feel when you’re hungry and when you just ate. Or think about the effects of coffee and tea on your feelings.

You can use all of the variables above to regulate your emotions to maximize your performance.

Summary

Your performance depends on your emotional state, more than what you think on an intellectual level. If you want to maximize your performance, you need to regulate your emotions to produce the best results.

In summary, using EQ to maximize your performance is a four-step process.

  1. Which emotional state am I in now?
  2. What is the ideal emotional state for the task at hand?
  3. How do I get out of my current emotional state?
  4. How do I get into the target emotional state?

The answers to these questions are different for everybody. To get the most out of this process, you need to find your own answers to these questions.

In essence, align your emotional state with your goals, and you will succeed. If your emotional state and your goals contradict each other, your emotional state will always win.

Using Emotional Intelligence to Overcome Your Dysfunctional Patterns


Prof. Jason M. Satterfield discusses many models of emotional intelligence in his course Boosting Your Emotional Intelligence. One of those models stood out for me, because of its simplicity.

An Emotional Intelligence Model

In this model, there are two essential skills.

  • Being aware of emotions
  • Regulating emotions

These skills are applied to two subjects.

  • Yourself
  • Others

We first become aware of an emotion and then regulate it. We either amplify it, reduce it, or switch to another feeling.

Applying these techniques to your own emotions is already an accomplishment, but it’s a superpower to be able to use them on others.

Application on Distraction

Suppose that you have a distraction problem in your daily routine. You have a difficult time concentrating on your work after the lunch.

You start distracting yourself with social media. Once this starts, you can’t stop it for an hour. This way, you waste an hour every day.

This is a typical scenario. We all have patterns in our lives that we repeat every day or week. Yet, these patterns don’t serve us.

The First Step: Awareness

To overcome this pattern, the first step is to become aware of the craving that starts it. Once the desire for social media starts, take a moment to do nothing and to feel it fully.

Breathe deeply and observe the craving. You’ll feel discomfort when you first start doing that, but the discomfort will subside slowly. If you keep doing it for a few minutes, you’ll be relaxed. The craving will already be reduced.

“Letting go involves being aware of a feeling, letting it come up, staying with it, and letting it run its course without wanting to make it different or do anything about it.

“It means simply to let the feeling be there and to focus on letting out the energy behind it.

“The first step is to allow yourself to have the feeling without resisting it, venting it, fearing it, condemning it, or moralizing about it.

“It means to drop judgment and to see that it is just a feeling.

“The technique is to be with the feeling and surrender all efforts to modify it in any way.

“Let go of wanting to resist the feeling. It is resistance that keeps the feeling going.

“When you give up resisting or trying to modify the feeling, it will shift to the next feeling and be accompanied by a lighter sensation.

“A feeling that is not resisted will disappear as the energy behind it dissipates.”

from the book Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender by David Hawkins

Go One Step Further: Trigger another Feeling

In the example above, we become aware of a feeling and regulate it with a simple breathing exercise. Eventually, you could go one step further and trigger another feeling in yourself.

Eckhart Tolle explains that our feelings are our body’s reactions to our thoughts in his book The Power of Now. We can trigger a feeling in ourselves by thinking a specific thought.

For example, you can think about a failure that your time wasting habits caused. Use that thought to get into the emotion of anger. Then, use the anger to motivate yourself to ditch the Internet and start working.

Adopt the Growth Mindset

Regulating your emotions might be difficult at the beginning. It’s a skill you can develop with practice over time. Don’t get stuck at the fixed mindset. Adopt the growth mindset.

Prepare an If-Then-List

A tool to develop the skill of regulating your own emotions comes from Mel Robbins, the author of The 5 Second Rule. She suggests creating an if-then-list of your patterns.

We all have our dysfunctional patterns. We repeat those patterns over and over. If you could ditch one habit from that list, you would make huge progress in your life.

First, there would be one less dysfunctional pattern in your life. Second, you would learn a way to overcome a dysfunctional pattern. You would know that it works and apply it to other dysfunctional patterns as well.

Try It!

Pick one dysfunctional pattern in your daily life. Maybe, you buy cookies every time you go to the groceries store. Maybe, you become irritable in the morning and lash out at your children. Maybe, you waste an hour every day on social media.

Write down the dysfunctional pattern and how you’re going to address it. Let’s say, you pick the social media habit.

Every time you feel the craving to waste time on social media, remind yourself that an hour wasted a day adds up to 15 days a year and an entire year in 24 years. That’s a whole year wasted in the most productive years of your life.

I also remind myself my Audible listening list. There are 380 titles on my listening list. Listening to an excellent audiobook is much better than wasting time on social media.

Focus on One Pattern at a Time

Ray Dalio suggests making a list of three habits that you want to let go of and three habits that you want to adopt in his book Principles.

I suggest you make that list, but work on a single pattern at a time. Go through all the four levels of learning on that pattern before moving on to the next one.

  1. Unconscious Incompetence. You aren’t aware that you have the dysfunctional pattern.
  2. Conscious Incompetence. You’re aware of your dysfunctional pattern but can’t help it.
  3. Conscious Competence. You can address your pattern, but you have to make conscious effort.
  4. Unconscious Competence. You operate on autopilot. Craving social media triggers feelings of anger and motivation without even thinking about it. After a while, you don’t feel any cravings at all.

Conclusion

The 2×2 emotional intelligence model is a useful tool in your private and professional life.

It involves becoming aware of and regulating your emotions and the emotions of others.

Becoming aware of an emotion, not acting on it, and staying with it until it subsides is an effective strategy.

Another useful strategy is to remind yourself a thought that triggers a counter-emotion.

Make a list of your dysfunctional patterns, but focus on a single pattern at a time. When you overcome a dysfunctional pattern entirely, you can move on to the next one.

Once you master becoming aware of and regulating your emotions, you can use the same techniques on others.

If you can master that as well, you will have developed one of the most effective leadership skills.

Where Does Joy Come From?


An Ideal Day

Imagine an ideal day. You wake up early. You work out and take a shower. You have a healthy breakfast.

You work hard toward your goals. You’re focused. You’re in the zone. You do your best throughout the day.

In the evening, you spend quality time with your loved ones. No distractions, no TV, no Internet, no gadgets. Just some relaxing background music. Everybody is entirely present.

How would you feel at the end of such a day?

A Mediocre Day

Imagine a mediocre day. You don’t want to get out of the bed. You hit the snooze button repeatedly. Finally, you wake up and rush out of your home.

You grab a doughnut and coffee on your way to work. You’re only physically present at work. You just want to be there for eight hours to collect your paycheck. You distract yourself with the Internet to get through the day.

You switch on the TV when you get home. You eat some home delivery junk food and drink alcohol. You keep distracting yourself with the Internet.

Then, you realize that it’s past midnight. You go to bed. You have to repeat the same routine tomorrow.

How would you feel at the end of that day?

Those are just two days in your life. Aren’t they?

I disagree.

We repeat the same day over and over. If you had an ideal day yesterday, you tend to have an ideal day today. If you had a mediocre day yesterday, you’d probably have a mediocre day today.

Before you realize, your whole life will be over. It will be either a string of ideal days or a string of mediocre days.

The Feeling You’ll Have at the End of Your Life

Do you know what’s more important? Do you remember the feeling you felt at the end of your day?

You’ll have the same feeling at the end of your life, but this time 1000 times more intense.

Remember how you felt yesterday when the day was over. Do you want to feel the same feeling 1000 times intensified at the end of your life?

16,348

That’s the number of days I’ve got left. Maybe more, maybe less. You can check your number here. It isn’t that much, and that figure can crash to zero at any time.

“Since death is certain and the time of death is uncertain, what is the most important thing?” Pema Chödrön

Let that sink in for a moment. Your life can be over at any moment. Do you get it? Are you aware of it at the gut level? How do you feel about wasting your precious time now?

Pleasure Makes You Miserable

We try to optimize our lives to maximize pleasure. We feel like more pleasure would make us happier.

  • More food.
  • More sex.
  • More entertainment.
  • More distraction.
  • More downtime.
  • More goods.

We all know where all of that ends, and I didn’t even mention alcohol and other drugs.

All of that ends up in apathy, bad health, boredom, emptiness, depression.

Our strategies to make ourselves happy make us miserable at the end.

Discomfort Gives You Joy

Then, there are practices that we avoid.

  • Working hard.
  • Exercising.
  • Living a clean, simple, healthy life.

We think that those would make us feel miserable, and at the beginning, they do. But at the end, they make us happy. They give us satisfaction.

Optimizing your life for pleasure makes you feel miserable. Doing your best working toward a worthy goal gives you joy.

For your own well-being, do yourself a favor and do something useful with your life.

We try to escape discomfort. The more we run away from it, the deeper we sink into it. The more we embrace discomfort, the more comfortable we get.

It takes courage and self-discipline to get out of your comfort zone and to stay out of it. Satisfaction, joy, happiness, even comfort is out of your comfort zone.

Doing Nothing Is Hard Work

Giving yourself the time and space you need and doing nothing once in a while is a critical part of success. Yet, no one does it nowadays. With all the distractions within arm’s reach, even doing nothing is hard work nowadays.

Peace of Mind

Peace of mind doesn’t come from avoiding discomfort. It comes from knowing that you have done what you had to do.