To Learn You have to Fail

Fail
Fail

I dislike failure porn. When I fail, I feel horrible. Whenever I fail, I get upset. I become ineffective with the task that I am supposed to do. Failure is everywhere. Life is about failing. However, failure is also the best way to learn. 

“When things are going bad, don’t get all bummed out. Don’t get startled, don’t get frustrated. If you can say the word good, guess what? It means you’re still alive. It means you’re still breathing. And if you’re still breathing, well then hell, you’ve still got some fight left in you. So get up, dust off, reload, recalibrate, reengage, and go out on the attack.”

Jocko Willink

To learn a new skill, we have to go through a series of failure. There is no escape from it. We first learn to walk by stumbling and falling on our bottom. As we grow up, we forgot about the lesson of stumbling and falling.  

When I first starting to Data Analytics. I love it. I see that it is my future. I can do simple presentation through Tableau. I think I can make a career out of data analytics. 

After two weeks of fun, I start to hit a wall. I spend hours watching videos that I do not understand. I could not get Tableau to present charts that I want. I compare my dashboard against others in the public domain. My work is like kindergarten work. 

I need to understand the theory behind Data Analytics and functions of Tableau. I feel overwhelmed by its depth. 

I have hit the “Dip”. 

“At the beginning, when you first start something, it’s fun. Over the next few days and weeks, the rapid learning you experience keeps you going. Whatever your new thing is, it’s easy to stay engaged in it. And then the Dip happens. The Dip is the long slog between starting and mastery. A long slog that’s a shortcut, because it gets you where you want to go faster than any other path.”

Seth Godin. 

I spend the whole weekend trying to load data into Tableau and to find that I have misunderstood how Tableau load data. The whole weekend is gone and I have nothing to show.  

Such failure is common and there will be more to come. Are you ready for more of the same? I need to be ready to spend hours on something that may yield little or no results. 

I could have taken the easier path. Maybe I should just stay with something that I already know. It feels safer. I have more confidence.

It is through the dip that separates superstars and the rest. Why superstars are rare? It is because they go through the “dip” but also create extraordinary work while the rest has quit. 

How do I survive failure? I choose the next smallest logical step. I focus on that step and do it with my best effort. To focus like a Roman. 

 “Concentrate every minute like a Roman-like a man— on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can— if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centred, irritable. Do you see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life? If you can manage this, that’s all even the gods can ask of you.”

Marcus Aurelius

I share stories of my failure. I let my audience know that I am like everyone else. I cannot escape failures and mistakes. I have to learn from it. If I fail to learn the lesson, I will keep repeating the failure until I learned or I quit. Quitting is not an option. 

The world is getting competitive by the day, regular job opportunities are getting fewer but opportunities for interesting jobs remain abundant. To stay competitive, I rather face the failure in learning rather than failure in miss opportunities. 

To move forward, we have to accept failure. It is the only way for us to learn. Let the scars on your heart and soul be the signs of victory. Without trying, there is no failure. Without failure, we do not know the taste of victory.  

I am not afraid to fail. I am afraid of quitting when I should have continued in the path. 

How to Find Time and Ways to Study While Working

I get nervous whenever there is an announcement on company restructuring. Someone is going to lose their job. Loyalty is underrated. The company only assess our skill and its alignment with the business strategy. Any misalignment will be deal with swiftly.  We have to find time to improve and stay relevant in the job market.

Anyone who draws a paycheck is at risk of losing their jobs. Many of us may feel trapped in our jobs. We put up with it because we need it to put food on the table. The only solution is to skill up and grow beyond the job. 

As a full-time employee and a full-time dad, to find time to study is not easy. I have signed up to many online courses but I never got around completing any of the courses. 

My excuse is I could not find time to study.  

I have decided to challenge my excuse. I will find time to study. In about two weeks, I have completed multiple short courses in LinkedIn Learning

Some find my method and dedication extreme. It is to the point of obsession. There is a worry of burning out. Yet, the more I studied. The more engaged I get into the act of studying. 

No alt text provided for this image

In any journey, you must know why you are doing it? By having the correct mindset, you will find time to do the necessary work. 

In my 30s, I have wasted most of my life believing that I can achieve success by merely thinking about it. I hang out with bad friends. We did nothing but bad-mouthing our jobs and life. It was only a series of retrenchment that woke me up. I may lose my job and I do not have a plan B.

Time is ticking. The race is to improve is on! There is no turning back. I cannot gain back the time that I have wasted. I can only keep moving forward.

We cannot be greedy. If we aim to study as many hours as possible. We will soon burn out, frustrated and quit. The aim is just to improve 1% a day. In 72 days, we would have double our knowledge.  

Here are my methods. My methods may not work for you. I encourage you to explore and feel free to share in the comments section.

I start my Monday on a Sunday night. I plan out the work that I need to do and the study topics that I want to cover for the week. On LinkedIn Learning, the courses are broken into multiple videos. Base on each video, I know how much time I need to finish and understand the video’s content. 

I am a person who is easily distracted. I cannot study in a group or an environment is highly engaging. I choose to study alone. I prefer to lock myself in a quiet room and do the necessary study. If I have to hide in the kitchen or the toilet, I will do it! For as long as I can study. 

You may prefer to study in a group setting. The choice is yours. You have to be honest with yourself that you are finishing your studies. 

I am a morning person. I guard the first waking hour with my life. The first hour is my time. That’s the time where I find myself most engaged and feeling refresh. My first hour is always a mixture of study, exercise and meditation. By completing two or more of the task, I feel good about myself and I am set for the day. 

What is the time where you can be most effective to study? Guard it with your life and schedule that time for your studies. 

I have been practising intermittent fasting for about two years. I would only eat between 1 pm and 9 pm. I may feel hungry during late morning but I noticed I can think and concentrate better. I do not feel sleepy in the afternoon. 

While everyone in the office is away for lunch or coffee break. I would fire up my learning program. By skipping breakfast and coffee break, I found time to study. 

LinkedIn Learning has a goal tool that allows you to set the hours that you want to study for the week. Make use of the tool. Gamify the whole learning experience. Every week, I would try to match or exceed the study hours. When you have the motivation, you will find time to study.

You may not agree with this approach. I always have two topics in the pipeline. Whenever I am tired of one topic, I will switch to another. It takes twice the amount of time to master one topic. Nevertheless, I find this approach effective. If I have to force myself to study when I am bored. I am not able to retain anything that I have learned. 

There is never a perfect moment to study or to chase your dream. Therefore you should not wait for the elusive perfect moment. If I have pockets of time for as much as 10 minutes. I would take the opportunity to write or study. There are certain topics would require longer concentration. I will have to schedule a time for it. It is normally early in the morning or after the kids are all asleep.

The best way to learn is to share your knowledge. I write about what I learned through my blog and LinkedIn. Writing helps me to gather my thoughts and challenge my understanding. Without writing it down, I do not know how much I have grasped the idea. 

By sharing my ideas, I can reach out to like-minded individuals. 

These individuals are chasing the same dream as me. They offer opportunities to network and provide valuable feedback on my work. Getting feedback is not for the faint-hearted. You put your ideas and hard work for the world to see. The feedback will come back hard and fast. It may not be anything that you want to hear but necessary to take heed. You have to suspend your ego when asking for feedback. It is better to have a bruised ego than not improve at all.

These are all the methods that I have used to find time to study and improve my knowledge. It has served me well. I encourage to dig deep and explore within you. Have faith that you can learn new skills and remain relevant in this ever-changing world. Ultimately you will find the time and put in the effort if you want it bad enough. 

To create, You Have to Face the Blank Page.

Blank Page
Blank Page

I have been staring at the blank page for at least 10 minutes. I do not know what to write. My mind is blank. I procrastinate by reading more. I do not dare to face the blank page. A blank page is a perfection. There is nothing to edit.  

Before you can create, you have to face the blank page. The is a page that challenges us to dig deep. It urges us to create. To put out our work and show to the world. 

We all now living in the age of information abundance. We have no more excuse for the need to know more before we start working on a project. 

“The wonderful thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting.

The terrifying thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting.” ― J.K. Rowling

We cannot wait for inspiration to come. Every day, we have to show up to create. It does not matter how you feel, you have to show up. The process of creation is scary. You go from nothing to something. You are the creator of your world.

To face down the blank page, you have to sit down and do the work. What happens if you are not inspired or do not feel like doing the work? You still sit down and face that page. You are allowed not to do any work but you are not allowed to do other things. It is boredom or creation. The choice is yours. 

“…she (the artist, the writer) doesn’t wait for inspiration, she acts in the anticipation of its apparition.”

― Steven Pressfield

Start small. We dream of big dreams. Each journey starts with a small first step. Start putting one word on the page. Repeat the process until the page is filled with your words. 

Know your energy. When do you feel best and most creative? The hour belongs to you. It the hour is in the morning. You have to protect it with your life. The world can have the rest of the 23 hours but the hour of creativity is yours. 

It is not the tool it is you. My dream pen is the Pilot 823. I have never tried that pen but I want to own it. It is recommended by Neil Gaiman as his workhorse pen. I know I will not buy it. Having that pen does not make me a better writer. That pen will not give me the courage to face the blank page. I have to face the empty page. Do not blame the tools. It is never the tools. It is us who has to find the courage to start writing down the words. 

The journey is lonely. You can sign up for the mastermind group. A group of people who will encourage you to start work and keep going until you are done. They can lead you to the blank page but they cannot write it for you. You have to pick up the pen and start writing on the blank page. The journey of creativity can be lonely. The people around you can only be your cheerleader. Let the solitude help you to know yourself better. 

“I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.” ― Audrey Hepburn

It is all on you. The blank page, the work and the results, it is all on you. You have to be responsible for your work. It is scary. There is no one to blame but yourself. Take ownership of your work. Give your best effort. Most importantly, sign off with your name. 

Everything starts with facing the blank page. 

Start Small to Chase Your Dream

Start Small
Start Small to Chase Your Dream

I have big dreams. Many of us have big dreams. The dream of living the life that we want. The dream of quitting a dead-end job and start a business. 

We are encouraged to dream big. We are encouraged to aim for the moon. When we miss, we can be among the stars. Well said. 

For myself, aiming for the moon is scary. I am never fully prepared for it. I want to know more. There is always one more book to read. One more detail to plan out. 

I did not take any action. I want to chase that dream but I am overwhelmed by it. I did not wake up from that dream to make it into reality. 

 “Stop thinking about it. Stop Dreaming about it. Stop researching every aspect of it…Start doing it. Take that first step and make it happen. GET AFTER IT.” – Jocko Willink

We just need to start small. 

“A thousand miles starts with a single step.” – Tao Te Ching

Stop the research. Do not use the excuse of needing to know more to start. We are in a world of information overload. If perfect knowledge is what need, we all would be billionaires. The need to get collect more information is just an excuse.

Sketch it out. Get a piece of paper and sketch your dream. Let your finger do the talking. Do not edit your dream. There is no thinking here. Nothing is too big or unrealistic. When you finish, look at the paper, ask yourself if this is what you want? Is this your dream? 

Chances are that it is not what you want. You have to start over. 

Do not feel deflated when you have to start over. At least, you know you will not be chasing the wrong dream. You have to dream the right dream; wake up and do the right things. 

Start without being told. The Internet has even out the playing field. There are no more gatekeepers. If you want to publish your book. You can publish without engaging any publishers. 

If you want to sing and perform. You can perform in front of a camera and publish onto the internet. You do not need to speak to any record label. Start now. You have my permission. Now, you must permit yourself to chase your dream.

 “Reject the tyranny of being picked: pick yourself” – Seth Godin. 

Do the simplest task. Did I skip a step on breaking down the dream into a list of tasks? No. I did not skip that step. Instead of planning your dream to death. I want you to start with the simplest task. 

If you dream of writing the novel, start by writing a blog. Andy Weir published his work – The Martian on his blog for free. It was due to the reader’s request for an e-book where he self-publishes the book through Amazon. Andy started small. He started with one blog post followed by another and another.

Do you have a business idea that might make you millions? Start small by having only one paying customer. Use the simplest tools. Do it manually and get as much feedback as possible. When you are ready, start to acquire your second customer. Invest the money back into your idea when you confirm your second customer. 

Do you have an app idea that you might change the world? Sketch out your ideas and post in on a bidding site. You will receive feedback and questions from bidders. You will know whether you should continue to pursue your idea. 

Use the 80/20 rule. This is the Pareto principle. 20% of your task will determine 80% of your results. An aspiring writer should just focus on writing and publishing quality work. Activities such as marketing and SEO is important, but it is not as important as writing. 

If you are developing an app. Focus on 20% of the functions that are most important to your users. 

When I started this blog I kept the design simple. I used the standard template. I did not spend too much time thinking about its design. To me, I just want to write. I want my writing to engage the readers and have them to come back regularly. 

“Ninety-nine per cent of people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for “realistic” goals, paradoxically making them the most time-and energy-consuming.”

Timothy Ferriss

Learn what you need to know. I get it, there are many things that you need to know to make your dream into reality. Instead of learning it all in one sitting. You should learn as and when the need arises. There are many free contents available on the Internet. If you prefer to learn through visual and audio. You can try YouTube. YouTube is the second-largest search engine. If you require something more structured, there are many online courses available. The online courses can be either free or paid. The important thing is not to overspend in pursuing your dreams. For every dollar that you put in, the dollar has to give you the maximum return. Be it knowledge or profitability.

Publish it. Start small. It is a fact, your first release is not going to good. You have given it your best. Time to push the publish button. Publish first your first blog. Release your first piece of music. Deploy the first version of your application. By putting yourself out there you will find immediate feedback. It is through feedback you know what you need to improve.  

 “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” –Reid Hoffman

Today, take the first step to reach out for your dream. Start small. It should not cost you a lot of time and money. The journey to realise your dream may be still far away. At least, you are one step closer.