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63 straight days of meditation and the false expectations of the art

Andy Puddicombe speaks to me in the mornings and evenings. His voice plays in my head, even as I write this....

Why chasing your passion may be a wrong approach

I wanted to marry his daughter. So I took the brave step to schedule a day to introduce myself formally to...

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There are many reasons that may cause you to struggle to fall asleep.  You may suffer from insomnia, or you’re so...

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May 19, 2018 in Experiments, Personal Growth

63 straight days of meditation and the false expectations of the art

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April 6, 2018 in Personal Growth, Productivity Hacks

Why chasing your passion may be a wrong approach

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March 14, 2018 in Life Hacks

These are the three best apps to help you fall asleep

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Andy Puddicombe speaks to me in the mornings and evenings. His voice plays in my head, even as I write this. 63 straight days, 115 sessions and 20 hours of hearing him give me instructions cross-legged in my bedroom is in theory weird. In practice, …!

I had always been an advocate for the practice of meditation. You would think it was my father that started meditating first, passing it down to me as the family’s secret spice. And here’s why!

In my first year meditating, it dramatically helped me with depression. I wrote about it here. It opened the door of my mind to the wonders and the power of the mind. Many days I would lay in bed, launch that meditation app and fall asleep listening to guided meditation. That’s how I learned to sleep within three minutes at will. Soon enough I was this very calm person under pressure. I once heard my driver tell people that my calmness was communicable. In the heat and chaos of the cursed Lagos traffic, my patience would be palpable, I could feel a lot of empathy when people made dumb decisions.

I had done a 30 day meditation challenge that rewired my perspective of a lot of things. Including my sensitivity around people. I was now able to feel people’s energy(no, my screws are still knotted).

I use the app, Headspace for meditation. It’s probably the best app out there for meditation. The fact that I can track my daily streaks probably makes it easier for me to be more committed. It’s that commitment that finally opened my eyes to the misconception of what meditation actually is.

Misconception #1: Meditation will ease your stress

I recently made a life-altering decision. One that changed my entire trajectory. It didn’t leave me without worries and stress. When people would open up to me about some stressful situation in their lives, I would normally just smile and give a non-empathetic comment like ‘awww poor you, you need to know how to meditate’. 50+ days of meditation switched on the lightbulb in my head! It was never the meditation. It was the proper understanding of what meditation is- which is just watching your emotions without judgment! I wish I could describe this realization better! Meditation will not take away the stress. The observation of what your mind is doing when it is stressed is what helps you manage stress. That is the real art of meditating. Sounds like a foolish statement but if you get it you get it!(This is just like when I found out your hunger level is not directly proportional to the time you stayed away from food. When you feel hungry it’s literally a hormone called ghrelin just marking register. Nothing more. But I digress).

Misconception #2: When you meditate your mind is blank

I look at pictures of people who meditate and just envy the peaceful state that I can see- after all, their mind is BLANK and mine is a minefield of detonating explosives(pun intended). Is it possible for you to have a totally blank mind- where you’re not thinking about anything? Technically, that’s bullshit. Technically. Technically!

But hey! The sooner you realize that you can’t quiet your mind, the sooner your mind gets quiet. That’s the real paradox of it all. For most newbies and inconsistent meditators, the time you sit to meditate is the time your mind jumps out of the box making a mess of your internal state. This is a phase called ‘Monkey Mind’. Noticing this mess is in fact productive meditating.

Misconception #3: People and Monks who meditate are saint-like. They never get angry, sad etc.

Have you heard about the Buddhist monks in Myanmar and how they are currently persecuting the Rohingya minority and muslims? It’s one of the saddest happenings of this decade. This says a lot.

The human race is innately wicked and selfish! We all need Jesus!

That firmly said and out of the way, it’s interesting to know that people think that those who mediate have learned to suppress anger, sadness, disappointment, heartbreak. Fun fact: suppressing the negative emotions would make you worse and the potential outburst and backfire is nothing different from pumping a bottle of Coke with mentos.

To properly deal with anger and all those negative emotions, you have to take a constructive approach: discuss it, let it out, go to a confession booth, use the app Whisper(lol. you’re on your own), see a psychiatrist, talk with friends.

Conclusions

The art of meditation is the easiest form of self-mastery, yet the hardest. It’s the simplest way to rewiring your biology yet the most complex. It’s the most straight-forward way to read your mind, yet tricky!

I no longer ask people to get into the habit of meditating. I now tell them to research. Hopefully, someday they would hear a voice like Andy’s saying “Welcome to day …”

I wanted to marry his daughter. So I took the brave step to schedule a day to introduce myself formally to her parents. I had prepared to be drilled with questions(almost like I had prepared the clothes I would wear days beforehand). I had rehearsed all the possible questions they would ask. I had all the backing answers to potential questions. I had even asked her for ‘tips’.

My then girlfriend’s father asked about my ambition. I was confident enough telling him about my career history and about my passion and how I was going to quit my job in the upcoming months to face my passion. It sounded bold and it sounded wise, me laying out all these ambitious plans. If I had a projector, I may have made a good presentation.

And then he stopped me cold, catching me by surprise. “You boys of nowadays. You should chase a living before chasing your passion”, he said and I paraphrase. “When you have money, you can chase your passion”. I went home thinking about this. In fact that entire year, I had that as one of my deepest reflections.

In his book, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love”, Cal Newport goes against what he calls the Passion Mindset and instead advocates for the Craftsman Mindset.

He writes, “Whereas the craftsman mindset focuses on what you can offer the world, the passion mindset focuses instead on what the world can offer you. When you focus only on what your work offers you, it makes you hyper-aware of what you don’t like about it, leading to chronic unhappiness. More serious, the deep questions driving the passion mindset “Who am I?” and “What do I truly love?” — are essentially impossible to confirm. “Is this who I really am?” and “Do I love this?” rarely reduce to clear yes-or-no responses. In other words, the passion mindset is almost guaranteed to keep you perpetually unhappy and confused.

A Passion Mindset focuses you on only the type of work you want, you forget other critical parts of learning- which includes doing work you don’t like. With a Craftsman Mindset, you are more focused on offering value which eventually leads to fulfillment. With a Passion Mindset, you are inclined in a different direction- find fulfillment and then people would realize your value. This works sometimes but are we not many who realize that it doesn’t work for everyone this way.

Is it possible to have the Passion Mindset and eventually be well crafted? I believe so. However, because passion dwells in the emotional range, you are more likely to not show up when you feel uninspired(and those days will come). Whereas with a Craftsman Mindset, your only job is to show up!

It’s been 3 months now that I have been learning an aspect of technology. It’s been very difficult. You only have to look into my daily to-dos to see the entry to learn every single day. No, I am not joking. Every single day! I must confess, there are days I am too weak to even attempt learning. There are days I tell myself it’s too hard and I just want to resign to mediocrity. I don’t know when I will eventually tell the world I am at expert level but one thing I know is that with each week, I am getting better and better- even by a bit.

I recently read a CNN interview with Steve Martin. He was asked about his strategy for learning how to play the banjo. He said, “I remember when I was going through a particularly difficult time of learning, I’d go, “Well, if I just stick with it, one day I’ll be saying, ‘I’ve been playing for 40 years.’ “

This singular statement got me so pumped up and allowed me to create personal strategies to nail the Craftsman Mindset.

Focus and Rely on Daily Habits

Instead of depending on feelings, inspiration, and passion rely on Daily Habits. This strategy has been invaluable to me thanks to a few lessons from Michael Hyatt. In the spirit of Craftsmanship, I created daily tasks out of what I’m being deliberate about learning. Slowly these tasks become a habit and the habit becomes a lifestyle.  I have learned that you have to be very purposeful about what you want to take out of your duties. Focusing makes the process easier. For instance, I worked a job where all I had to do was assign projects to teams, evaluate quality, talk to clients etc. I have always loved to work in the trenches- to get my hands dirty. But this time around that wasn’t in my role. What I did then was to focus a given time during the day to these administrative responsibilities while consciously learning how to engage clients more positively. You see, I am naturally not extroverted and would rather sit at my computer.

Source and list your motivation channels

If we agree that chasing your passion is good but motivation can be fleeting, you’d agree also that certain events trigger your inspiration. For me, it can be reading a good article, reading a book, watching a Youtube channel, the environment I get motivated the most. I carefully study these, making a note to recall these variables when I need them the most.  This is the reason why Vision Boards are useful.

But why is this important? Merging your passion and your craftsmanship can produce exceptional qualities.  I love to perform magic tricks. I am also good at creating very creative presentation templates. But I am ironically very shy. Being called to speak at a gathering used to be very daunting for me. Merging all the things I love with what I am not keen on makes me more optimistic and eager to speak at events. When the motivation is not there, I go to my list and pull them out.

Don’t forget the Fuck It List

I keep a Fuck It List. Once you stop pushing yourself through life, you’ll be amazed by how much more energy you have. Update your list as you go through life.

In the craftsman-passion dilemma, I am reminded to always remember to ask myself what I want to offer the world!

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