Fail Fast, Learn Quick

You are standing on the edge of a cliff. Beneath your feet the blue of the ocean is hypnotizing you. Waves are breaking powerfully on the rocks. “You can do that!” – “Can I do that?” – “You just dive in” -“What if I crash?” – The voices in your head are fighting a running battle. Finally with the heartbeat up to your chin you jump. A rush of adrenaline is taking your breathe before you plunge smoothly into the water.

For a fraction of a second you lose your sense of direction. One moment later you are already back on the surface. A smile arises from your inside while you are swimming with ease back to the boulders you climbed before. “The next time I gonna do a cannonball.”, you think to yourself with a sense of fulfillment.

Jumping down these five meters was just a matter of overcoming your fear of failure. By making a leap you became aware of your true capabilities.

It is by diving into the unknown that we learn. We are learning to swim, we are learning to jump off cliffs (or three meter towers), we are learning to interact with others, we are learning a different language, new skills. At the beginning we are making mistakes: We might land on our belly the first time we jump off the cliff. Or we can’t wrap our head around the verb classifications of a new language. But we are getting there slowly. Our brain gets there, because it creates new connections everytime we supposedly “fail”.

A long time I’d rather do nothing than doing something wrong. What I didn’t understand was that I only learn through my mistakes. More and more in the process of learning to appreciate my own suffering I’m understanding that this “suffering” is just the pain I feel after making a what I consider “wrong” decision. Or it is caused by this fear of making the wrong decision.

At the moment I’m fighting a lot of battles with myself about which way to go, which job to keep, which friends to meet or which new destination to target. Whether if it is on a personal level or on a professional level – these thoughts are stealing my energy and shattering my last nerve.

What I’m practicing is the acceptance of this pain AND the ability to make a decision anyways. Yes, making a decision not the (the only right) decision.

Mistakes are invariable in the process of making anything better (a life or a product). To put it differently – failure is inevitable on the way to success. The inventor of the light bulb Thomas Edison and his team tested around 3000 (!!) different designs for the light bulb before they found a solid solution. It took years.

Without failure also personal growth is not possible. We don’t learn, if we do everything perfect all the time. Because if we do everything perfect we only adjust to the demands, but we never actually seize our full potential.

I’m repeating myself: What had always been holding me back from achieving personal or professional goals was my fear of failure!

Now I’m trying a different approach: I prototype my life. I define, I try, I fail, I improve – “trial and error”.  How ever you want to call it – the idea is the same. A prototype is not perfect. It improves in iterations and so does my life. 

Okay, so far so good. That’s easier said than done. But how are we going to put this in practice?

1. Don’t be Attached To The Image You Have Of Yourself

We don’t realise that we become the slaves of our own thoughts by saying: “This is just how I am.” These thoughts are planted into our head – either by ourselves or by our surrounding. Maybe we are still attached to the idea we had about ourselves when we were twelve years old?

You don’t consider yourself as creative? Maybe you just didn’t find the right way to express yourself or you simply have the wrong idea about “somebody who is creative” in your head? You are not a rational thinker? Only because you spoiled your physics exam in school doesn’t mean you can never be an engineer. The most important thing is to understand, that these thoughts are not us – even if we are the ones telling them to ourselves. What if you have skills you never thought of?

2. Don’t Fall In Love With Your Ideas

There is a rule in the method of design thinking (and other lean/agile working methods) that links to the written above. “Don’t fall in love with your ideas”. We have this overall image about ourselves in our head. On the other hand we also vision the necessary improvements: Things that need to be done in order to become the person we are supposed to be being.

“When I achieve this and this I gonna be happy.” “If I was just a little bit more rational/outgoing/talkative/had more knowledge/more friends my life would be perfect” or “If I just had that much money, I would be able to live a happy life.” Don’t get me wrong – it is good, no it is neccesary to have goals in life, but by focussing on only the things that we already have in mind we might miss the opportunity to find something else that lights up our heart. With this attitude we close ourselves towards our own truth. So, don’t fall in love with your ideas and stay flexible.

3. Be Willing To Change

What teaches me the most in life? Basically the situations where I let go of old patterns. The moments when I try something new. The moments when I have to adapt to a new situation. In these moments I can literally feel how my ability to live life properly (whatever that means, I will think about it) had improved. Exposing myself to adversity, trying new jobs, learning new skills – this is what really teaches me the most.

“Invent yourself new” – is not only a slogan from the fashion industry (?). Sticking with the same hobbies, the same interests, the same people can only lead to stagnation. Our brain literally needs stimulation to build new connections. Once in a while it is important to do something where we once said “I’m not the type for this.” We might fail, we might don’t like it, but if we never try we will never know.

4. Be Open For Advice

The great thing about living amongst other human beings is that we can learn from each other. Everyone of us makes their own experiences and creates their personal reality.

In order to broaden our horizon we need to listen to others. We can’t change our perspective by standing at the same point of view. Sometimes others know better what we are capable of. A lot of times we limit ourselves with the idea about what we can and what we can’t do. If we take our desires and perspectives too seriously we obstruct the outlook for new opportunities.

5. Drop This F*cking Perfectionism

… and cultivate a healthy failure culture. Aiming for perfection leads nowhere. Nothing will ever be perfect or to put it differently: everything is already perfect. With this approach every new start becomes easier. There is nothing to achieve, there is only something to learn. Don’t blame yourself for being a failure only because things don’t turn out how you wish. Accept your mistakes as being a part of the process.

6. Be Willing To Start Again And Again And Again…..

“Nobody said it was easy….” In order to improve anything in our life we need patience. Sometimes I ask myself: “Will I ever learn?” I feel like I’m doing the same mistakes over and over again. But with this question I already hold myself back from learning. Instead I have to acknowledge: “Hmm, again the same mistake. What have I learnt this time?” The lessons we face are always confronting us for a reason. The same mistakes are just reminding us to keep digging. This is the peaceful war with ourselves. 

Conclusion

While we grow older we lose our sense of adventure a little bit. We are trying to predict the future by considering risks, opportunities and values of a decision. A lot of times we are trying to make “the right decision” instead of allowing ourselves to leave things a little bit more open.

What if we admit that we can’t predict the outcome of a decision anyways? Instead we remain in a state of fear. This fear is leaving us in a state of faint. I don’t say we need to fail on purpose, but I say we should allow ourselves more often to jump off the cliff into a deep blue ocean of the unknown.

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley

 

Micro Habit Challenge 3.2 – Pomodoro Mastery

Alrighty, the second week of my challenge is coming to an end. Honestly, sugarcoating is not my style and not the purpose of this blog. I just have to be honest with you – even if it hurts. Well, what had changed? Not much compared to last week. The meditation challenge faded into mediocrity, but at least I started to collect tomatos. But I won’t pull myself down into the pool of self-pity, instead I’m pointing out my learning – which are reasonably powerful. 😉

What had changed?

  • I refined my individualized pomodoro method: Basically I started to use the traditional pomodore concept in order to tally every task of my day. Every day I collected between three and twelve tomatos. These 25 minute-slots helped me to stay focussed. The timebox proved to be one of my favourite tools of effectiveness since I heard the word “agile” for the very first time. 😉 But the good old pomodoro technique is even better: The concept includes my hobby “procrastination” – a five minute creative break is scheduled after every high-concentrated working-slot. Finally time management became fun for me. Sometimes I extended the slots and sometimes I shortened it a bit, but there was no excuse not to finish a slot without interruption.
  • Again I screwed the meditation challege. This time I meditated only three times before I went to bed (if you include dancing as meditation than five times 😉 BUT: I made “meditation” my energy boost during the day! How? When I reached the afternoon low or a peak of my “priority-confusion” (Wwaahh, I don’t know where to start!! The panic monster is beckoning over…) I decided to get off my desk and go for a walk to the roof top terrace of the office building next door. I climbed the stairs and set the alarm for a ten-minute-open-air-meditation (The weather did it’s bit last week, because it was unusually warm and sunny).
  • As I mentioned last week I wanted to set a weekly goal: My aim – finishing some backend tasks (e.g. photo editing, SEO measures) on my blog uliquitous I accomplished successfully.

Conclusion

At the end of the day I’m still a chaotic person and I have to admit that this kind of stuff requires a lot of discipline of me. But as I can see small steps into the right direction I will stay motivated. Tiny “bites” of focussed work let my to-do list shrink. The next week(s) I will definitely continue with the simple but yet powerful pomodoro method. And meditation? As a support I ordered another book of Osho, which will hopefully provide some guidance on my way towards the silent mind.

 

Ooooommmmmmmmm…..

 

Micro Habit Challenge 3.1 – Finding Routine in Chaos

This challenge didn’t look hard to me in the first place, but somehow it turned out to be demanding. To make it short: I failed – at least in the meditation challenge I couln’t cheat my weaker self. I meditated only on 4/7 nights due to a lack of motivation or tiredness. But to be fair – I mastered the second part of the challenge with flying colours: Finally I managed to find time slots to get something done. And actually this challenge even pushed me to integrate more of these 25 minute slots into my day. So finally there are a bunch of tasks I completed which I postponed since weeks or even months. I understood that I can achieve things, if I just do one step at a time.

What had changed in detail?

  • My downgraded pomodoro method (25 minutes slots) actually helps me to get in the flow. I finally stoped postponing.
  • I learned that it is hard to integrate routines if I don’t have any other routine. The solution: I find flexible times during my day to integrate a small meditation. For example at lunch break or during the afternoon low.
  • Plus: I was more aware of my breathing during everyday activities like driving in the subway, just sitting in the sun, walking or even working. During my day I tried to go for short walk, which helped me a lot to stay energized during the day.
  • Finally: I learnt that meditation is not a practice, it is actually a state of mind. Every action can be meditation.

What do I want to make differently this week?

  • Still keep trying to meditate to finish my day – additionally to every type of relaxation I’m doing during my day.
  • Setting goals for the next day before I go to bed.
  • Setting a weekly goal I want to achieve.
  • Keep growing!

 

Micro Habit Challenge 3.0 – Finding Morning and Evening Routines

The new year is already in full swing. The new years resolutions are not forgotten yet, but the activism is fading with everydays madness. Basically not much had changed: I’m trying to harmonize my work-life-balance, find the time to realize my own ideas, live up to my own beliefs and in the meantime I’m trying to stay calm.

What can I say? My brain is still tickling me with a thousand ideas and focussing on my goals gets hard sometimes. Today is Monday, the calender already shows the end of January. I decided that this month can’t pass without another challenge.

This one is another experiment. On the long run I’m hoping to find the best routine for my meditation practice.

1. I will work on my goals for 25 minutes every morning

Either if it is working on my blogs, writing in my journal, excercising or reading a book. Every morning I want to invest 25 minutes into my personal development. This implies a bit more discipline in the morning – getting up a bit more early and not getting caught in distress already before the day even really started. The idea is to think of what I want to do in the morning, the night before.

2. I will meditate for 10 minutes at night

Basically my only new years resolution is to chill out more, because I’m still stressing myself with my own demands. It’s getting less, but it is still there.

Everybody is talking about there morning routine. But I don’t have one – sometimes I get up at 5.30 because I have a videoshooting, but sometimes I work until seven in the morning at the bar. To be honest with you, I tried to integrate meditation into my morning routine, but it was impossible for me.

Also I found out that sometimes after a working day my brain is full of clutter. This clutter holds me back from calming down at night and I assume from a healthy sleep. So, instead of morning routine I will try to cultivate an evening routine, a really nice procedure to finish my day.

The “Why”

There is something that I learnt from last year: Pressuring myself doesn’t lead to anything besides slowly burning out. So I decided to change my approach a bit and practice more and more to “let go”. Hopefully I’m not over-stretching this phrase in this blog. But “letting go” seems to me more important than anything else in order not to strain my nervous system more than it already is.

So, I go for small steps and I try to do the possible in order to reach the impossible.

I already started with this challenge this morning. And this blog post is the result of investing roughly half an hour into my personal goals. Crazy, isn’t it?

 

Micro Habit Challenge 2.1 – A Life without Coffee is Possible

Allright, ten days without caffeine are over. What had changed in the meantime?
At the beginning of my challenge it seemed like an insurmountable hurdle not to drink a single cup of coffee for an entire week. I was already so used to have a coffee in the morning and the next one before lunch. In light of the fact that an existence without this dose was unimaginable for me, I easily renounced. It actually turned out to be just a small change of my morning routine, but the effects were mind-blowing.

What are my learnings?

  1. Ginger tea and a cold shower substitute coffee perfectly. The additional plus: It is actually much better for my health. Instead of “poisoning” myself I detox in the morning.
  2. Indeed the monkey in my head calmed down a bit. Well, I’m still hyperactive, but my mood and my ability to focus stabilizes without caffeine intake.
  3. My sugar consume increased a bit. At the middle of the week I bought chocolate cookies and I ate half of it at once – probably as a surrogate-satisfaction. But I will manage that. 😉
  4. Decaffeinated coffee is not toooo bad. Well…

How do I want to handle my consume in the future?

My most valuable insight: A life without coffee is possible. Yes, it is. I still love coffee and I can’t deny a good cappucino or italian espresso. But the experiment proved my addiction. One approach in my life is enjoying the good things thoroughly without abusing them. If you listen to your favourite song every and every day it gets boring at some point and isn’t it the same with coffee or any other addictive substance? From now on I want to be a pleasure drinker not an caffeine junky anymore.

 

3 Habits that Help Me to Live in the Present Moment

Do you know this feeling of losing control over your time and energy? This feeling of being controlled by external forces? If not I envy you. These days I feel like I’m burning out a bit.

Jobwise but also socially a lot of commitments gnaw away my energy – finishing video projects in one job, long nights at the bar-job, mulled wine at the Christmas market ;), family meetings and so on and so on. Plus: I stress myself out in order to finish my personal goals for this year. The end of the year should be the time to hibernate or at least recover and reset, but somehow it is the opposite – busy as f***.

Of course it is up to me, but somehow I can’t help myself right now. Well, there is something I can do in order to reclaim control: Aiming for a life in the present moment!

Time to pull the handbrake – Another threesome is overdue! 😉

1. Breathing Actively

Yes, the good old breathe. Without it our whole body wouldn’t work. It doesn’t only provide every cell in our body with oxygen. It also relaxes us. If we pay attention to our breathe we become aware of our body. And as soon as we focus on our body we forget our daily and mainly trivial problems.
That’s why I started to breathe more thoughtfully. Especially in stressful situations a few rounds of deep inhalation and exhalation release a lot of tension.

I always imagine how clean air is flowing into my body. From my nasal wings the air flows into my lungs, where it spreads out into every tiny fibre of my chest. All of a sudden my chest is filled with fresh air which starts circulating through the rest of my body. It wanders through my arms into my fingertips and from my belly into my legs and toes. Every part of my body gets subserved with oxygen. Through this image I arrive in the present moment as my thoughts become obsolete. Just try it yourself.

2. Acknowledging My Location

Well, often the breathing goes hand in hand with locating myself: On the way to the subway I acknowledge my surrounding – the trees, the sky, the colours, the air. I try not to think about my tasks at work.
The other day I read something interesting about “stress”, which made me realise that stress is just an invention of the western society. In Namibia for example the word stress doesn’t even exist. They divide time into rooms. In every moment you are present only in one room. You only act, live, love or work in one room. The next action will eventually take place in a different room. But now you exist only in this one room, so there is no need to be bothered about the next room.

Everything, every action has it’s time and it’s space. If you brush your teeth you don’t tie your shoes. If you tie your shoes, you are not at the subway. If you are in the subway you can’t be bothered about your job. If you experience the present moment – the room you are in – you can’t be bothered about the future.

3. Remembering that I am Not My Thoughts

We were born with the absence of thoughts. When we were born we didn’t have thought in our head. Basically we were the essence of life, pure existence, true love or however you want to call it. We didn’t have all these doubts and questions in our head. Sometimes in stressful situations I really like to go back to this place in my head. It helps me to take things more easily. I try to see my thoughts just as something temporary that can’t effect my mood.

Just give it a try and drop all your thoughts. Remember that your thoughts are just something superficial you can easily leave behind. Feel the relief and the freedom. This is meditation too.

“That is the simple secret of happiness. Whatever you are doing, don’t let past move your mind; don’t let future disturb you. Because the past is no more, and the future is not yet. To live in the memories, to live in the imagination, is to live in the non-existential. And when you are living in the non-existential, you are missing that which is existential. Naturally you will be miserable, because you will miss your whole life.”

Osho

 

Micro Habit Challenge 2.0

Hold on – this is a tough one! 😉 I already introduced you to the concept of the micro habit challenge a few weeks ago. The last time I challenged myself with three new habits, this time it is only one: I don’t want to drink caffeine for one week.

It all started, when a friend of mine told me to try Ritalin in order to work more concentrated on my projects. Methylphenidate – the chemical term for the commonly known Ritalin – is a central nervous system stimulant that is used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – better known as ADHS. It kind of “mutes” your incentive system by decreasing your level of dopamine in your blood. A positive effect is that nothing can distract you that easily anymore – a negative side effect (besides the physiological effects) is that you don’t feel much at all anymore. (Can you imagine that kids are forced to swallow this stuff?)

Well, I’m into productivity and I don’t want to leave any stone unturned, but I don’t support the idea of abusing drugs in order to get more productive. ‘Wait a second…’ I thought to myself and I figured ‘I am already abusing drugs da f***???!!’. Nearly everyday I have at least two to five high doses of caffeine!

Caffeine acts as a serious central nervous system stimulant as well. As soon as it reaches your brain it puts your body in a state of alterness – you feel more awake and your heartrate is increasing. At least for a certain time this might be useful, but when the caffeine level drops, you are even more tired than before and your body wants mooore.

Why do I want to reduce my consume?

  1. I noticed that the monkey in my head breaks free after too much coffee. Sometimes I can’t even focus on chores like washing the dishes.
  2. Usually I have a strong coffee in the morning. It puts me instantly in a good mood but it can instanly switch into anxiety or small panic attacs – especially if I’m not in the best mood. Sometimes I even get a bit aggressive.
  3. The crazy monkey in my head hinders me from going to sleep at times.

Of course – probably there are concurrent causes of these issues, but I believe that caffeine has a massive impact on my psyche. And because I like to adopt brutal measures I decided to cancel all sorts of caffeine (coffee, mate, green tea, guarana, energy drink,…) from now on for one week and see how it goes.

Now you might ask: “Why do you even drink coffee??” Well, mainly because I’m an addict I guess. But I also because I like it. If you don’t drink coffee this sounds like a baby challenge, but I am definitely a “coffee person”, so it is hard for me.

What happened so far?

Today is actually already day four of my challenge. I want to continue until the weekend with this challenge. So far I already feel the positive side effects of my cold withdrawal: I was in a better mood today. My midday low was not that heavy and my mood didn’t drop the bottom in the afternoon as it every so often does. And: It is nearly 10 pm and I’m sitting here writing this article.

I keep you updated by the end of the week…

 

3 Habits That Make Me Happy(ier)

I still suck at meditating. I’m far away from being a non-smoker (after announcing “I quit smoking” several times.) Sometimes I even leave the house without brushing my teeth (luckily I store a toothbrush at the office). I feel so ill-disciplined in many ways.

BUT in order to stay motivated in the process of incorporating positive new behaviors, I want to share even my small successes and learnings with you. (That’s the whole idea of growthbuddy). There are some healthy things I integrated (nearly) without any effort into my everyday life that improve my day.

I figured that “three” is a good number to skim through. 🙂

1. Showering Cold

In July I read a facebook post about cold showers. This friend was literally raving about the revolutionary effect of cold showers on his life. I was fairly impressed. The benefits of contrast showers in “Kneipp” manor in order to increase the blood circulation were not new to me. In the past I experienced cold showers as an unbeatable hangover-cure. So I gave it a go.

The water in Munich is freezing cold, but luckily it was boiling hot summer during that time. “Why not have this feeling of jumping into a mountain river every morning?”, I thought to myself and ever since I’m finishing (not beginning;) my showers cold.

What can I say? The effects I’ve noticed after three months are staggering:

  • I feel more awake – also during the whole day. No coffee can unleash this level of energy.
  • I feel stronger and happier, because I already master a challenge before I even leave the house. 😉
  • My body is toning automatically: Hot showers increase the blood circulation too, but cold showers are also triggering the so called “brown adipose tissue”. In other words: They burn more fat! Besides that cold showers help draining fluid retention in the body.
  • My hair is more healthy as cold water treats the hair structure.
  • Hungovers are easy to tackle as cold showers help detoxing.;)

2. Stretching and Squatting

During the past ten years I’ve been trying different sports: Yoga, Functional Training, Parcours, (Russian) Martial Arts, Qi-Gong, Running. During the last years I went to the Bouldering gym regularly, but the gaps between my visits vary a lot.

I still exercise as often as I can, but I just don’t really stick with anything. But there is something I found out, that helps me to improve my over-all well-being during the day: Stretching!

What do I do and why?

  • Before I go to bed and in the morning I do back stretches like a forward bend, some qi-gong movements or tricks of my favourite youtube fitness trainer in order to relieve stress and sleep (or wake up) easier.
  • Bridge or downward-facing-dog or even practicing handstand at lunchbreak before the afternoon-low is kicking in (or to cure it).
  • Writing an e-mail or brushing my teeth or doing whatever (sometimes even waiting for the bus, if not too many people are watching) in deep squat position.

Stretching is good. We all know that. The trick is, that I try to integrate it into my day-to-day life as often as I can. I don’t need to “find the time”. But these small exercises help me to relieve stress or tension in my back and my whole body feels more refreshed. I can’t really give you the scientifical reason for it, but it feels like my feet are warmer as well.

3. Walking Different Ways Home

Even if I live in the self-pro-claimed “bike city” Munich, I prefer walking to riding the bicyle. Sometimes I move my ass on the seat of my mountain bike to cruise down Isar – the river in Munich, but I avoid the city traffic completely.

Mainly I’m just lazy, but also I’m afraid of dying – it might sounds ridiculous, but I’m paranoid because of the traffic and the other bikers (because they are so fast and rude, haha.) Instead of stepping into the pedals I read books in the subway and go for extensive pavement walks across the city.

After work I’ve started to drive one station too far or I take a different line to a different area from where I can reach my home within a 20 minutes to two hours walking distance. (depending on how much time I have).

On Sundays the “left-right-left-game” became my favourite occupation. Instead of choosing a route, I navigate into a rough direction and turn left and right alternately. It always leads me to suprising places. I discover new interesting restaurants and meet different people.Sometimes I even walk home 10 km from the city centre just to get “a better feel” for the distances.

What are the benefits?

  • Walking calms my nerves down, when I feel over-exerted or brain-wrecked it improves my over-all well-being.
  • An additional plus to the physical and mental benefits is the fact that I get to know the city much better. Sometimes I even walk slow intentionally to acknowledge my surrounding.
  • I walk between 8 and 15 km nearly every day.

 

My Personal Not-To-Do-List

Things I want to stop doing….

  1. Asking myself “What the fuck is wrong with me?”
  2. Being nice to everybody.
  3. Feeling responsible for everybody.
  4. Being unorganized and not sticking to my personal plans.
  5. Being online all the time.
  6. Being available for everybody.
  7. Eating half a jar of nutella or “rewe bio-nuss-nougat-creme” or any other chocolate spread. (Am I still a teenager?!)
  8. Feeling sorry for myself. (Bathing in self-pity, yay.)
  9. Apologizing for no reason.
  10. Trying to please everybody.
  11. Not listening to my intuition.
  12. Being fucking indecisive all the time.
  13. Doing too many things at the same time.
  14. Comparing myself with others on facebook or instagram.
  15. Comparing myself with others in real life.
  16. Forcing other people to listen to my “problems”.
  17. Giggling to cover my lack of self-confidence.
  18. Waiting for the man of my dreams.
  19. Hoping that the man of my dreams is waiting for me.
  20. Falling asleep drunk in the subway.
  21. Falling asleep sober in the subway.
  22. Using my smartphone in bed.
  23. Using the elevator.
  24. Let the smartphone lay under my pillow.
  25. Being caught in my own spiral of negative thoughts.
  26. Asking myself: “What’s happening next year?”
  27. Thinking to myself “I’m not good enough.”
  28. Considering myself as a victim of society, who can’t change anything.
  29. Getting drunk instead of climbing a mountain.
  30. Seeing obstacles instead of opportunities.
  31. Questioning my needs.
  32. Doubting my desires.
  33. Hesitating.

A list of things I want to do is coming up soon…

 

To be continued….