Why I don’t tell people what to do anymore

Why I don’t tell people what to do anymore

As you know, I ran a personal finance blog for two years. I created the blog for three reasons: (1) to help people with their finances, (2) to reinforce what I was learning, and (3) to make a living from blogging.

At the start of this blog, I absorbed everything I could on personal finance. I read the classics, Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. I read The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham, followed up by Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

I read numerous other books in the following months and had a good grasp on personal finance. I gave advice to anyone who was willing to listen to me.

I would also write 2 posts per week about personal finance topics that I conjured up during the slow work day.

Do THIS, not that

In these posts I would pick an area people struggle with. Then I would tell them what to do.

Save 10% of your income. Open an IRA account. Don’t go into debt. You get the idea…

I felt like an authority. I believed as an authority it was up to me to tell people what to do.

It was all out of the goodness of my heart. Honestly. I didn’t think I was better than anyone. But I expressed what I thought people should do.

This began to trickle into my personal life

I would give advice to my girlfriend. “Do this instead.”

I would give advice to my sister. “Why are you doing it that way? Do it this way.”

I would have arguments with family members. I told them why they were wrong and why they should think about a particular situation differently. I’m not proud of those moments.

I had my view of the world and wanted everyone to conform to that view. Not necessarily in a negative way. It was just how I believed the world should be.

This changed last year

A year ago I became interested Buddhist concepts and philosophies. As I was reading, I came across a quote that stuck with me:

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

The Buddha himself essentially told people not to blindly follow what he said. It was his way of saying, try this yourself. If you like it, continue to use it. If not, move on.

And this idea struck a chord. All this time I was telling people what to do, what to think, what to believe.

I had my view of the world and what the right thing to do was. But that wasn’t the right thing to do.

The fault in giving advice

Derek Sivers was interviewed last month on the James Altucher Show. In this podcast, he asked James about how he deals with giving advice.

Derek went on to say that he never knew what to tell someone who came to him seeking advice.

For example, one person wanted to know if they should quit their job to pursue an entrepreneurial venture full-time.

Derek said he wasn’t sure what to tell this person. Should he tell them to quit? Or should he tell them to stick with their current job?

The dilemma caused him to think about the fault in giving advice.

Advice is a double-edged sword

Any advice we give to others is based 100% off our personal life experiences. It’s based off the knowledge and actions we have taken throughout our lives. And it may not always be the best advice.

That’s why it’s not useful to tell someone what to do in their life. Especially if you get into a position where people trust your opinion and will do whatever you tell them.

That’s where I could see Derek’s problem. What if he told them to quit their job and dive in full-time and they failed. Would it be his fault? Not really. But I’m sure he would feel pretty bad.

But what if he told them not to quit, and they never get that fire under their ass to turn their venture into something big. Is that also his fault?

I don’t tell anyone what to do, just what I’ve done

From these experiences, I’ve learned that it’s not my place to tell people what to do.

Even in their articles, I do my best to present to you things that I do that work for me, and encourage you to try them out for yourself. But I refrain from telling you what to do.

And this is where I leave it. “This is what I did in this situation. This is the end result. This is how I feel. Try it out yourself.”

I feel better now, not telling others what to do. I merely make suggestions based off my life experience.

Try this out yourself and see how it makes you feel. If you like it, great! If not, that’s okay too.

Do you ever find yourself telling others what to do? Or do you have others in your life who always seem to have advice for every thing? How does it make you feel?

Why I experiment with experimenting

Why I experiment with experimenting

I don’t enjoy being wrong. Because of this fear, I sometimes avoid doing things that I should do. I look at things as a success or failure without other consideration.

I’m working on fixing this. How? Self-experimentation.

How Have I Used Self-experimentation?

One case is the ecommerce business I’m working on.

When I started, I wanted the right product. I didn’t want to strike out and risk losing thousands of dollars.

So I tried something. I wouldn’t commit myself to a product early on. Instead, I looked at what I was doing as an experiment.

My experiment was to test out one product. Only after testing would I make a decision on whether it was worth selling.

Hypothesis

I will sell one unit per day without any advertising or promotion.

Procedure

First things first: I identified what the first product I would test was. Next, I needed to find a supplier that allowed me to place a small initial order.

Once I found one, I bought 20 units and waited two weeks to receive them in the mail. Once I received those 20 units, I put them up for sale on Amazon. A week went by with zero sales. I assumed this experiment failed…

On day 8 I received my first order. After which, I continued to sell one unit per day until I was completely sold out.

Now I had a decision to make.

Conclusion

I got the result I was hoping, but it took a little longer than expected. What should I do?

I knew this was a product that would sell consistently. People seem to want it, and there isn’t a ton of competition.

I deliberated for three weeks. I was so nervous about making a large investment in a big order. But this experiment made my decision a little easier.

Based off my results, I felt slightly more comfortable and took a leap of faith and purchased of 500 units. (This was not easy for me to do!)

Since then

I sell approximately 3-4 per day. Revenues were in excess of $3,600 in month one. Month two, over $4,000. Not too shabby.

And I continue to experiment with different aspects of online sales.

I experiment with various advertising methods, prices, and product descriptions.

By performing self-experimentation, I am able to eliminate certain biases.

How So?

In self-experimentation you commit yourself for a set period of time, say two weeks. At the end of the trial period, you evaluate results and see if they are in line with your hypothesis.

Then you make a judgment call to continue on or stop.

What is great about self-experimentation is that if you do it right, you maintain a non-judgmental and also non-biased view of your experiment.

In the end, there is no commitment since you had a defined period from the beginning.

A shift in thinking

Self-experimentation has shifted my mindset. Instead of looking at things as a success or failure, I have a more objective view.

I’m trying look at everything in my life as an experiment.

Tweaking Things

Another great aspect of self-experimentation is that you can tweak assumptions, test different hypothesis, and track results.

Let’s say you’re a guy and you want to get better at talking to girls (or vice versa).

You can test out different opening lines with a random person at the bar, and evaluate your results.

You could start by making an opening question about what someone is wearing. Gauge their reaction. If it’s positive, this is something that you could continue to use. If it’s negative, try something else.

Experimenting allows you to detach yourself from the result. It requires you to become more aware of the world around you.

Awareness

If you want to lose weight, test out certain diets in trial periods. Try the Atkins diet for one month. If you like the way you feel, continue. If you don’t, try a vegan diet. See how you feel. If that doesn’t work, try the paleo diet.

The key is to evaluate how you feel and the progress you make.

My Little Experiment

I was getting heartburn all the time. So I experimented with cutting down on coffee. I limited myself one cup in the morning (no more 2 PM caffeine boosts!). This helped a little bit.

Then I experimented with cutting down on dairy and other foods. My heartburn went down even more.

By self-experimenting, I was able to determine the root cause of my heartburn. As a result, I don’t need to go to the doctor and get prescribed some prescription medication that would only cover up the real problem.

My encouragement

Here’s a suggestion to you: experiment with self-experimentation. Test out something you’ve been thinking about for a while. Develop a hypothesis or expectation. Determine the test period, and track your results and form a conclusion. You may just be surprised by what you find.

Have you tried self-experimentation? What have you tested out yourself? What advice do you have for someone interested in self-experimentation?

A reminder to be mindful

I want to improve my mindfulness. So I added the following note to the Google Keep app on my phone and set it to send me a reminder every day at 8 am:

Be mindful. Be attentive.

Observe the world around you. Use all of your senses to their fullest capacity.

Use your eyes to observe the world around you. Look for things you’ve never noticed. What do you see?

Listen to the sounds vibrating around you. What do you hear?

Be aware of what you are physically touching and feeling. How does it feel?

Identify any smells or tastes you have. What do you smell? What can you taste?

Enhance your presence and mindfulness by increasing your awareness of all the senses you have been blessed with.

What other reminders can I add to my list to help me to become more mindful?

I’ve improved my productivity. Here’s how.

I’ve improved my productivity. Here’s how.

It was Wednesday morning. I was struggling. It was hump day but the clock hadn’t even struck 9 am. I wanted to go home.

My eyes hurt. I had a headache that radiated on the left side of my skull. It concentrated over my left eyebrow.

I had it for two days in a row. Maybe it was a migraine? It didn’t seem like it would get any better any time soon. I wasn’t getting anything done. My focus was gone. Then I tried something out. And I was productive again.

Purpose

This post is a mish mash of ideas for how you can be more productive.

These are a few things I’ve tried in recent weeks that have enhanced my productivity at work. This isn’t the end-all be-all of productivity posts.

These are some things that I have been working on recently to maintain a level of productivity that has amazed co-workers. (Not to brag…I just want you believe what I’m saying.)

So what am I doing to be productive?

Get rid of blue light

I had a massive headache. 10 hours in front of the computer was getting to me. My eyes hurt. My vision blurred. I was tired but found myself unable to sleep at night. So I decided to try something. I got rid of the blue light.

I installed f.lux on my work computer that Wednesday. Immediately I noticed a reduction in eye strain. With a day or two my headaches dissipated.

If you don’t know, f.lux is a software that adjusts your computer light to the time of day. If it’s day time, then your screen is bright. If it’s early morning or late evening, it gradually reduces the blue light and brightness of your screen.

I used this software to reduce the blue light of my screen, even during the day.

I felt great. I could sit at the computer for hours without losing focus. The glare of the blue light in my eyes was no more. I didn’t feel like I had to step away from the computer every 20 minutes.

By using f.lux on my computer, I survived 10 to 12 hours of staring at the computer without having the awful migraines that accompany it.

Reducing blue light not only makes me more productive, but I’ve been sleeping better too. For instance, reducing blue light, especially before you bed, has been shown to improve sleep.

I also use a blue light filter on my phone and tablet. I can read a book on my tablet before bed every night and not have to suffer from the effects of that awful blue light permeating my eyes.

(Keep in mind, some blue light is good for you. This is how your body knows that it’s day time and time to get to work. That’s why I step out of the office every few hours to get some natural blue light from the sun light.)

Have a purpose

This seems obvious. When you have a purpose for why you are doing something, you are more likely to do that thing and stick to it longer.

A purpose makes a task easier to do. You know exactly why you are doing what you are doing. Even if the purpose is weak or insignificant, it will help you get through something you don’t really want to do.

For example, there are times when I am assigned to do something I don’t really want to do.

When this happens, I could do one of two things. I could complain about how I don’t want to do that thing. “Why can’t so-and-so do it?” Or “this isn’t fair, why do I have to be punished by doing this?”

I’m sure you can think of times where you were assigned something you didn’t want to do. How did you react?

Most people go the first route and complain. I know, because I used to be a complainer. (I still am at times, but nowhere near as much as before.)

I shifted my mentality early on. There is an alternative to complaining. Now I look at things as a learning opportunity. I look at this (unwanted) opportunity as a chance to learn a new area. I use that project to expand my knowledge and add to my repertoire.

This is my purpose when I do almost anything new. “What can I learn about X?” Or, “oh well, I have to do this whether I want to or not. I might as well learn as much as I can about the topic at hand.”

For me, using learning as my purpose has greatly improved my life. When the purpose is to learn something you, it restores that natural curiosity that escapes many of us once we become older.

But you’re purpose doesn’t have to be to learn something new. That’s just one idea.

Your purpose could be to make your customers happy. Or it could be to connect with new people. Or it could be to help those around you.

Whatever it is that you are assigned to do in work, or even life, always have a purpose for why you are doing that thing. No purpose = no drive. And without drive it’s almost impossible to get anything done.

FOCUS

John Lee Dumas, creator of Entrepreneur on Fire, has this saying of “FOCUS.” To him, FOCUS means to Follow One Course Until Success.

This all ties into the mindfulness and awareness that I’ve been practicing recently. When you have a lot on your plate, it’s easy to jump from task to task and never get anything done.

Have you ever had a day like that? A day where you seem to be busy. But then but they end of the day, you feel like you got nothing done?

This is what happens to me when I multi-task and try to do a bunch of things at once. I feel busy but I don’t actually get anything done.

When you focus on one task until completion, you are able to get into a flow state which enables you to focus or get in the zone as athletes call it.

When you’re in a flow state, time seems to slow down but also speed up (as weird as it sounds). You become engrossed in your work. You become one with what you are doing. Next thing you know, you are knocking out stuff left and right and the work day is over!

So try it out. When you write out your next to do list, only list 3 things, and put full focus on concentration on that first item on your list before proceeding.

Do nothing

What if I told you that you could be more productive by doing nothing?

I do nothing for a big chunk of work each day.

That’s not to say I sit around all day doing nothing. Let me give you an example:

Every day I get into work around 7 or 7:30. I focus on my work for a solid two or three hours. I really focus on one task and do my best to complete it in that time frame.

Then, around 10 am every morning I step outside the office and go for a walk. I’ll take about five to ten minutes to just walk around.

During this walk I really try to become aware of the world around me. I shut my mind off to the work I was just doing a minute earlier. I become completely aware of the world around me.

I take in the environment and the trees around me. I look up to the sky at the clouds. I listen to the birds chirping. All while I am taking a slow, leisurely walk.

It’s all very relaxing and meditative. I’m able to step away from the voice inside my head for a few minutes in the morning. Any worries and fears that I was just thinking about while in the office dissipate for those brief moments.

By the time my ten minutes are up, I’m ready to dive right back into what I’m doing.

By doing nothing for a 10 minutes in the morning, and again in the afternoon, I’m able to feel refreshed once I dive back into the task that I was doing.

Too many people plug away at something for hours and hours because they need to get it done.

They believe in powering through the morning and working through lunch. Then they feel sluggish around 2 pm. So they pound coffee and try to power through the afternoon.

I know because some of my co-workers are like this. What they don’t know is that constantly being “plugged-in” is actually making them less productive.

I’m under the impression that you need to get away from what you are doing every few hours if possible. Taking mini-breaks throughout the day can add to your productivity by leaps and bounds.

So try this next time you work. When you are on your work break, step away from your desk (or work station), and go for a walk (or sit outside) and practice mindfulness of the world around you.

Let go of those thoughts you have from work. Practice some mindfulness mediation in these few minutes. Then see how you feel when you get back to work.

This works for me

This isn’t your typical list. Some things are your normal productivity tips, like having a purpose and focusing on a single task. But implementing these in my life I really do feel more productive.

As for those unorthodox things…I really believe that reducing blue light at certain points in the day has helped me focus on the computer, where 99% of my work is performed. My headaches are gone and I sleep better at night.

And finally, doing nothing intermittently throughout the day is a sure fire way to survive the day.

This works for me. Try them out and let me know what you think.

What are some tips you have for staying productive? Is there anything out of the ordinary that makes you more focused and productive?

Your thoughts are like a dog on a leash

Your thoughts are like a dog on a leash

It’s 10:10 pm, and I’m winding down to go to bed. I’ve implemented meditation into my life. You can read more about that here. Or here.

I made a decision to meditate before I go to bed.

Why? I noticed that I sleep better on nights where I meditate right before bed.

Am I supposed­­ to medita­te right before bed? Some experts say no. But I don’t care because I feel better doing it.

A few minutes go by as I’m sitting in my chair, trying to go through my mindfulness meditation routine. I have some light music playing in the background, and I’m really trying to focus on my breath.

“What should I have for breakfast?” pops into my head. Shoot. That brought me out of my focused, peaceful state of conciousness.

I take a few deep breaths and focus on my breath and body.

“How am I going to get all of that stuff done at work tomorrow? There’s no way I can do it. I’m so sick of all this…” Arg! I did it again.

Okay, for real this time. I close my eyes and focus on my breaths. I count to three breaths.

“I forgot to schedule my dentist appointment again! I need to make a note of this.” I grab my phone and make a quick note to remind myself to schedule an appointment tomorrow.

“Well that ruined any chance of meditating tonight.”

How many times has this happened to you?

It seems to be happening to me more often lately than I would like.

I sit down to meditate. Then my thoughts explode.

All of the things that I forget about during the day magically appear in my conscious mind. All those thoughts, worries, stresses, appointments, meetings, and so forth.

You name it, and I’m thinking about it, when I least want to.

What could I do to fix this?

A wise friend once gave me some advice when it comes to meditating. They told me my mind is a dog.

“Okay…what?” I asked.

“Just hear me out,” said wise person.

“Imagine your mind as a dog on a leash. Every time you meditate and have a thought, your mind suddenly wants to chase after it.”

“It’s like when a dog sees a car or a ball or another dog. They start going after it and trying to get it.”

“During the day, your mind is an unleashed dog. It chases whatever it wants and goes wherever it wants.”

“But when you meditate, you want to put the dog on a leash. Put your mind on a leash.”

“Your mind is going to chase thoughts for no reason.”

Like when I started to think about breakfast, work, and appointments for no apparent reason.

“So what you need to do is let your mind pursue those thoughts to an extent. And once they’ve gone too far, pull them back in. Just like you would do to a dog on a leash.”

“It’s okay to let your mind pursue different thoughts to a degree. But if you let them go too far, you are defeating the purpose of the meditation.”

“Let your mind wander very slightly, and once it’s gone far enough, pull it back in.”

My wise friend may also be a little crazy. But he has a good point.

So I’m going to try this out next time I meditate. I’ll let my thoughts go a little bit, but then I will pull them back in. Just like a dog on a leash.

Maybe this analogy will help me focus better with my mindfulness meditation. Or maybe it’s just crazy talk. Whatever the case may be, I’m going to test it out tonight and see how it goes.

But I don’t want to work 50 hours a week

But I don’t want to work 50 hours a week

I haven’t had the chance to write a post in almost two months. And it sucks.

On January 13, 2016 at 10:34 am I got the call from my supervisor.

“Our projects across the company are behind. We are requiring everyone to put in 50 hours workweeks at a minimum until further notice.”

“So we need to work 10 hours per day?” I asked.

“If you don’t want to do that, you could come in on the weekend. Just as long as you get in your 50 hours.”

“Fuck that.” I thought to myself.

I know many people work more hours than that. But they also make more money than me.

Broken Promise?

I chose to come to this company because it promised 40 hour work weeks and a work life balance. In return I make less money than those who chose to go to bigger companies.

It’s been a struggle.

Some days I work from 7 am to 5:30 pm (lunch is unpaid).

A couple of days last week I worked 7:45 am to 8:30 pm. All just so I could leave just a little earlier on Friday.

I place a lot of value on my free time. I am not a workaholic. I never have been and never will be.

I prefer to participate in leisurely activities to fill up my time outside of work. I play basketball and tennis. I try to read a new book every couple of weeks. And I enjoy writing on this blog.

But I haven’t been able to do that lately. Work has filled up my time. It’s made me stressed out and unhealthy.

Learning to Cope

I’ve been learning how to cope with the long work hours. The first week I didn’t get enough sleep.

The second week I binge drank on the weekend to escape from my worries. (Note to self: don’t do this.)

The third week I struggled but was able to get back into a routine and working out and reading (albeit much less than usual).

The fourth week I remembered about the power of meditation and yoga.

It hasn’t been an easy journey.

Why Do So Many Others Choose this Path?

My question is this: why do people choose to work so many hours? Are people looking to escape from their lives through work?

Maybe I’m being selfish. Maybe I should just suck it up and accept it for what it is.

Or maybe I’m not.

I don’t know the answer.

I’m still working 50 hours. Hopefully it will end soon. But who knows?

Have you had experience working long (50+ per week) hours? How did you cope with it? Did your personal life suffer?

 

I Wasn’t Going to Do This

I Wasn’t Going to Do This

I didn’t plan to write about my year in review. I guess I don’t think much of New Years.

People on Facebook post “new year, new me!” I think these posts are ridiculous. Why should the new year change who you are?

Many people don’t keep their new year’s resolutions. Isn’t this enough to show a different year doesn’t change who people are?

Despite this, I’m going to write about my year in review. I had an amazing 2015. The purpose of this post is for me to express my gratitude to the past year, and touch on what I hope to accomplish going forward.

“We Should Go to Europe!”

In early April, my girlfriend asked me if I would like to go to Europe with her in the summer. Travelling Europe was a dream of hers. She would be getting her Bachelor’s in May, and the upcoming summer would be the perfect time to travel.

I’d never been out of the country before. I was hesitant. I read news stories about horrific things that happen to tourists.

You know the stories – terrorist attacks and random acts of violence.

Prior to the trip, I did my research. I read about people who got pickpocketed or scammed.

I read horror stories about people getting caught in the airport or losing their luggage.

Oh yeah, my other concern had to do with the 10 hour flight from the U.S. to Europe.

I knew flying is safer than driving. But I still had thoughts of the Malaysian airline plan that randomly went missing.

Despite these (completely irrational) fears I couldn’t say no. These worries weren’t going to prevent me from taking the trip of a lifetime.

“I can’t wait to go!” I said to my girlfriend with slight hesitation.

I’m Grateful I Had This Opportunity

I’m grateful I could take a month off from work and travel. This isn’t a privilege that many people get to have, and I had it.

In July, my girlfriend and I traveled throughout Spain by car for two weeks. Afterwards we hopped on a plane to Amsterdam, Netherlands for a few days. Then we took a train to Cologne, Germany for a couple of days. Then a short bus trip to Brussels, Belgium. And finally one last flight back to Spain to visit my girlfriend’s family for a week.

A Wonderful Learning Experience

I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to observe different cultures and the different ways of life.

I was exposed to the Spanish culture of taking afternoon siestas and lunches being the biggest meal of the day.

I saw a more laid back, slower pace of life in these countries. Contrast this with America, where everything is quick, full-throttle all of the time. The slower pace of life was a nice change.

I’m grateful that I got to see many beautiful landmarks. I saw countless Cathedrals throughout Spain, including those in Avila, Seville, and Barcelona.

I also got to see breathtaking museums in Amsterdam and Cologne. Museums which chronicled the rise and fall of Nazi Germany in World War II. Others that exposed me to the art of Rembrandt and Van Gogh.

I’m grateful because I found a greater appreciation for the world.

I appreciate the other cultures that share the world.

I appreciate how far we have come as a civilization.

What Else am I Grateful for in 2015?

Going to Europe was the trip I will never forget. But it’s not the only thing that I’m grateful for in 2015.

I’ve learned to become more present. I’ve learned to live in the current moment.

In years past I would fret about the future or the past instead of enjoying the present.

As a result, my mind focused on those things that I cannot control right now.

I’ve learned to live in the present and savor each and every day that I have.

You Know How You Savor a Good Meal?

You smell the food prior to eating. You chew the food slower, and try to identify its many flavors. You strive to make every bite count.

This is my new approach to life. I try to savor every moment that I have. I don’t rush to get things done.

I’m more present. I live in the current moment. I work daily to become more aware of where I am and what I am doing.

As a result, I’m more in touch with myself. I better recognize how I really feel.

If you read my last post, I don’t worry about the past or the future any more. Life’s too short to worry about those things. Time is just an illusion. All we have is the moment that is given to us right now.

I’m extremely happy with 2015.

Most people are ready to turn the calendar over to the next year. They hope for a better year. This year I don’t feel that way. I’ve grown a lot as a person. And I couldn’t be more pleased.

Moving On to 2016

I’m not asking much more from 2016 than I got from 2015. But, if I had to list out some goals, here they are:

1. Continue to learn every day.

Learning keeps you young. It makes you grow.

Not only that, but growing and learning helps you identify opportunities.

I also talked about this in my last post. I strive to make every moment a learning and growing opportunity.

2. I want to help others more.

It’s easy to focus on what I want.

In 2016 I strive to help others out more.

I think I do a decent job of this, but I would like to improve going forward. And I want to help others continue grow and learn as well.

That’s why I enjoy blogging so much. If only one person learns something new from what I write, then I have accomplished my goal as a writer.

3. Create an ecommerce business that will allow me to quit my job.

This last goal is one that I’ve been working at for a couple of years now.

I want to make money selling products online. This goal is completely unrelated to this blog. I have no intention of making money from this blog.

But I do have plans to grow my ecommerce business online. My goal is to generate enough income that will allow me to quit my job and focus on this business full time.

If this doesn’t work out, will 2016 be a bust? Of course not!

I had a goal of generating income from eBooks in 2015, and I failed miserably. And here I am, calling 2015 one of my best years ever.

These are my goals. But they’re not really goals as much as they are reminders. Reminders of who I am and who I would like to become.

What about you?

What is one thing you are grateful for in 2015? And what is one goal you would like to accomplish in 2016? Let me know with a comment below!