Fred Dust — On Design, The Power of Conversations, and Making an Impact in the World

the vishipedia show podcast on self management

Fred Dust is the founder of Making Conversation, LLC. He’s a designer, author, educator, consultant, trustee, and advisor to social, political, and business leaders. He works with The Rockefeller Foundation to explore the future of pressing global needs, serves on the Board of Trustees for the Sundance Institute, and is on the Board of Directors for NPR and The New School.

Fred is the former Global Managing Partner at the monster design giant IDEO and was a founder and trustee for IDEO.org, IDEO’s non-profit entity that designs solutions for global poverty.

He writes frequently for publications such as Fast Company, Metropolis, and Rotman Magazine. He’s an author of various books, among which his latest one is Making Conversation.

In this conversation, Fred and I discuss what design really means, the significance conversations play in our lives, and how to get the most out of them and make an impact in the world.

Download | Spotify | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher

Shownotes

Making Conversation
14-day course to improving your conversations (Use the promocode VISHAL at checkout for a 20% discount.)
IDEO
Mastery by George Leonard
Bill Moggridge and David Kelley
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York
Michael Thompson on The Vishipedia Show
Middlemarch by George Eliot

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Akshay Ballal — On 3D Printing and Automation, Achieving Stretch Goals, Scratching Your Own Itch, Taking India Global, and more

the vishipedia show podcast on self management
Akshay is the Chief Product Officer at Fabheads Automation, a startup that automates manufacturing by building 3D printers for fabricating composite products, and is developing automation equipment for manufacturing high-end carbon fiber parts.
 
Fabheads Automation was founded in 2015 and is currently valued at close to $10 million. The company’s primary focus areas presently are the Aerospace, Automobile, and Biomedical sectors.
 
I first heard about the startup a few months ago on the news when they were featured and interviewed for winning a defense development project for the Indian Air Force. As a part of this, Fabheads will design and develop carbon fiber helicopter blades for the Indian Air Force. Almost 50% of the IAF helicopters use metal blades that need to be replaced after 2000 hours, while the blades FabHeads is currently developing will last for a minimum of 8000 hours and reduce maintenance cost by at least 30%, which is a remarkable development and innovation.
 
Akshay’s journey, in particular, is inspiring because he started off as an intern at Fabheads as an intern in 2017 but became the Chief Product Officer in 2019. He’s also passionate about automobiles and robotics, but there’s almost nothing you can find about him on the internet. In this episode, we discover more about the person behind the achievements.

Download Link (Right-click and click Save Link As)
Listen on Spotify | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts

 

Shownotes

Akshay on LinkedIn
Stratasys
Fused Deposition Modeling
Josef Průša
Internshala
IIT Madras Research Park & Incubation Cell
Avishkar Hyperloop, IIT Madras, at Hyperloop Pod Competition
To Engineer is Human by Henry Petroski
Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance
Liftoff by Eric Burger

What did you think of the episode? I would love to hear your thoughts on Twitter.

4 Easy Steps To Make Conversations With Strangers Less Awkward

how to have good conversations with strangers

Which tool is responsible for the most progress in our species? Is it microprocessors? Artificial Intelligence? Or the internet?

Each of these answers is right, but they’re incomplete. Microprocessors, AI, the internet, and every tool you can think of is a means for the real tool that has helped humankind progress in leaps and bounds: collaboration.

Collaboration was what put humans on the moon. It’s what enables humans to address humongous challenges like hunger, poverty, and the pandemic. It keeps us alive in the digital ether. And meaningful conversations are the scaffolding of collaboration.

Deep, constructive conversations turn strangers into friends, unite people to work for causes they’re passionate about, and lay the foundation for relationships that can last a lifetime. Such moments to hold stimulating conversations present themselves each time we meet a new person.

Sadly, they also often get missed. Over the past 100 years, almost every aspect—transport, computation, entertainment—has changed beyond recognition. But our conversations with strangers, like our schooling system, remain essentially the same. We often get asked the same safe yet dull questions, like:

What do you do?
Where do you work?
Where are you from?

Awkward silences and stalemates follow. Such small talk feels so painful that most of us would rather walk on burning coal than get dragged into it. As Bobby Powers wrote in an excellent article:

The sheer lack of imagination applied to most conversations makes it seem like our species only developed speech a few decades ago and we’re still trying to figure it out.

As a result, hundreds of opportunities to get to know others, build an intelligent network, and discover ways to collaborate and embark on fulfilling journeys, are lost.

This is exactly how conversations were for an introvert like me. But I’ve also learned from experience that they don’t have to be. Conversations can open our minds to the world if we open our hearts and minds to them.

Over the last year, I’ve had stimulating discussions with people I admire, which eventually spawned a podcast. These included conversations with:

  1. A career coach and prolific writer, who deleted all social media apps from his phone in front of me on our video call.
  2. A Venture Capitalist, who showed me his entire note-taking system.
  3. The Chief Product Officer at a startup that’s designing solutions for the Indian Air Force.

Such conversations left a deep impact on me, and, by their admission, on my guests as well. I realized that conversations don’t have to be awkward, nor do meaningful ones have to feel as effortful as wrestling a 900-pound crocodile.

Here are four steps I followed to make conversations with strangers an enriching experience for both of us. If you want to build or sharpen this skill, they might prove useful to you as well.

1. Conduct research in advance.

The reason we hold small-talk with strangers is to search for common ground. Finding it makes people appear familiar, and conversations with familiar people are less intimidating and awkward.

This is a common practice, but the outcomes are as predictable as the roll of a dice. Not finding common ground leads to awkward and painful silence. An easier and more effective approach is to search for something interesting about the other person. This enables you to ask them thoughtful questions that stoke engaging conversations.

For instance, I was keen to know how Akshay Ballal grew from an intern to a Chief Product Officer at FabHeads in just two years, and his take on 3D Printing since the startup is in that field. That led to a 90-minute conversation even though he initially said he had only 45 minutes.

Research the person in advance. It shows you genuinely care about getting to know them. Read their LinkedIn profiles. Browse the content they share on social media. Instead of looking for common ground, search for what makes them tick.

When you have a conversation on subjects that interest your counterparts, you come across as an interesting person yourself.

2. Start with a blank slate.

How do you feel when you’re in a conversation with someone who has an agenda? Words like “limited,” “restricted,” and “uncomfortable” come to my mind.

An agenda makes meetings productive. Conversations, meanwhile, aren’t supposed to be “productive.” The memorable ones flow freely and allow an exchange of ideas. which is why boxing them is a bad idea.

In the beginning, I didn’t know how much research on my guests was too much. I spent days browsing their profiles and making a list of 15 questions to ask. I thought this would show how diligent my research was.

But flitting between 15 topics in a 45-minute conversation became tedious for them. The conversation felt like an interrogation. It flowed superfluously while my guests’ real wisdom lay like sediment at the bottom of the riverbed.

Then I changed strategies. I identified just three questions I wanted to ask, shared just the first question with my guest in advance, and went with the flow. As a result, we could go deep into interesting subjects. And my guests got the freedom to express their raw, authentic selves to the listeners and me.

A conversation doesn’t fit in a box. It flows like a river, often in unexpected directions. Figure out your starting point, and then surrender to the flow instead of trying to control it.

3. Turn it into a game.

According to NPR host Celeste Headlee, a constructive conversation is like a game of catch, where you throw as much as you catch. You observe the throw’s direction, height, and speed, and adjust accordingly. Your counterpart does the same.

Many people assume effective listening means shutting up so the speaker feels heard. But think about the last time you spoke with someone who didn’t add much to the conversation. How did you feel?

You probably put a crazy amount of effort to keep the conversation going. You felt unsure whether they understood what you said or whether they were interested at all. The conversation probably felt draining and eventually ran out of steam.

I committed this mistake in the beginning as well. I got so engrossed in listening that I left my guests yearning for some engagement. Now that I know better, I just summarize what they say. This helps me understand their perspectives and lets them know whether their thoughts got conveyed effectively.

Lob meaningful questions, summarize the other person’s views, and add your perspectives in respectful ways. Most of your counterparts want you to engage as if you both are playing a game of catch.

4. Use the 30-second rule.

Alright. So your voice is important to make a conversation meaningful. But how long should you make others listen to you?

Some people use any opportunity to speak as a chance to let their thoughts run amok. They go off on tangents, and speak and speak until the listener loses interest. This dead-end is far from ideal. It also kills any possibility of a potential relationship. (Who wants to keep in touch with a bore?)

Instead, apply a constraint of speaking for 30 seconds at a time. And if what you want to say is too vast to condense in half a minute, pause after 30 seconds to check in with your listener. While checking in, avoid ego reinforcers like “Am I making myself clear?” or “Am I right?” Questions like “Does this make sense?” and “What do you think?” are better because they welcome listeners to open up with their views.

Resist the temptation to hog the mic. You will get your chance to share your thoughts. Maybe not today, but that’s okay. Sometimes one person gets more spotlight, but the scale balances out in the long term. Besides, if you have an important point to make, you can bring it up at the end.

Use the 30-second rule to prioritize what the listener needs to know over what you want to say. This constraint keeps you on point, encourages dialogue, and sets the stage for progress.

Summing Up

The fulfillment you experience in life relies to a large extent on the quality of your personal and professional relationships. And these relationships get built on the back of dialogue.

Conversations don’t have to be awkward. Nor do meaningful ones have to feel effortful. You can take a few simple steps to make them feel as comfortable as sex on a Sunday afternoon.

  1. Research people in advance. This will make them appear familiar, and conversations with familiar people rarely feel awkward.
  2. Go into the conversation blank. Know your starting point, then let the flow guide you. The journey and destination will be more enjoyable than if you enforce an agenda.
  3. Treat it like a game of catch. Switch between the role of a listener and speaker. Pose thoughtful questions, summarize what your counterpart says, and add your perspectives in a respectful manner.
  4. Prioritize what the listener needs to know. Stop speaking after 30 seconds so that you stay on point. And if you need to go on, check in with your listener first.

Like collaboration, conversations can open your mind to a universe of possibilities when you open your heart and mind to them.

How To Ace the ‘2 Beers and a Puppy’ Test

the vishipedia show podcast on self management

The ‘2 Beers and a Puppy’ Test is a simple method to determine much you like someone – a colleague, friend, or cousin. But if you flip it, the method is also useful to determine how likeable you are to others.

When people you admire like you, they help you become better. And life becomes more enjoyable when you’re in the company of such people.

In this episode, I discuss four straightforward steps you can take to become more likeable. (The best part is that “fake it till you make it” is not one of them.)

Download | Spotify | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Stitcher

You can read a blog version here.

How to Ace The ‘2 Beers and a Puppy’ Test

how to win friends and get people to like you

When I joined the corporate world, I was keen on climbing the ladder quickly.

The secret to achieving this was to be likeable, my seniors said, as did books and articles on the subject. But what did “being likeable” mean?

Did I have to appear smart? Did I have to establish my credibility? Did I have to say yes to everything? Did I have to do whatever it took for people to see me as a nice guy?

Nobody knew. So like everyone else, I made up my own answers. Unfortunately, many of them were wrong. And by the time I figured it out, I had left the corporate world and begun freelancing.

Here’s what I learned.

Likability is a polarizing trait. Some think of it as a superpower. Others look down on it because they think it’s about sucking up to people and selling your soul to Lucifer. You’re better off letting your work do the talking.

But frankly, your work cannot do the talking if nobody wants to talk to you. You could have kickass technical skills and solve problems at the drop of a hat. But if people cannot sense good vibes from you, they don’t want to work with you. And your career is as dead as a horse.

In his book Works Well With Others, Ross McCammon proposed a simple method to determine much you like someone: the ‘two beers and a puppy test.’ It’s basically this: Pick a person in your life — a coworker, friend, cousin — and ask yourself two questions:

  1. Would I drink two beers with this person?
  2. Would I trust them to look after my puppy over a weekend?

Some people are “two beers and no puppy,” which means they’re fun to hang out with, but you don’t trust them with the important stuff. Some people are “no beers and a puppy.” (They may not be fun to hang out with, but are trustworthy.) Some are “a pitcher of beer and litter of puppies,” while others are “None of The Above.”

IMAGE

This test gives you a new lens through which you can look at your relationships. But if you flip it, you get a new lens to look at yourself as well, to know how likeable you are to others. Pick a person you respect — a colleague, friend, mentor, senior — and ask yourself:

  1. Would this person drink two beers with me?
  2. Would they trust me to look after their puppy over a weekend?

If their answers are yes and yes, you’re on the right track. When people you admire like you, they help you become better, not just in your technical and soft skills, but also as a person. And life becomes more enjoyable when you’re in the company of such people.

If you think likability is an important trait, here are a few straightforward steps you can take. (The best part is that “fake it till you make it” is not one of them.)

1. Keep your promises.

This is, bar none, the most critical trait that makes people likeable.

Many people make promises, even the ones they know they can’t keep because they don’t want to appear as jerks by saying “no.” But when it’s time to follow their words up with actions, they come up with different excuses.

They use “get-out clauses” like, “Well, that’s business!” Or, “It’s ok, they know I’m always busy.” Or they bite off more than they can chew and as a result, cannot keep their promises even if they want to.

Such people don’t just let others down; they also let themselves down. Nothing makes us lose credibility in others’ eyes faster than failing to keep our word.

Sadly, this is a norm in the corporate world. It’s a problem we’ve learned to live with. We treat people’s behaviour of not keeping promises like the weather. We know it’s bad but we just shrug our shoulders and say, “It’s the weather. What can I do?”

But when you keep your word, you instantly stand out. Others can trust you to take care of their puppy over the weekend, and make life better for them and their puppies.

Here are five simple steps you can take to get better at keeping your word:

  1. Organize your work. Keeping track of your completed and pending tasks gives you a realistic idea of how full your plate is. As a result, you get a clearer idea of whether you have the resources to keep a promise.
  2. See it through. If you’ve made a promise, make up your mind to keep it, even if it means working longer sometimes. When you genuinely want to keep a promise, you often don’t let other things get in your way.
  3. Learn to say no. People don’t take a “no” as badly as we think they do. So if you doubt you’ll be able to keep your word, politely decline the request and offer a genuine reason. But avoid going into specifics because that could open doors for people to look for workarounds in your schedule and impose their requests on you.
  4. Break bad news early. You’re only human, which means there will be times when you cannot avoid reneging on your word. Instead of delaying the bad news, inform the other party as soon as you can. Be honest about the reason and give them space to react. When you do, they won’t feel the need to harp on your mistake or hold it against you. Instead, they’ll direct their attention to look for alternatives.
  5. Expect the same from others. Keeping your promises doesn’t mean others reciprocate in the same way. But it doesn’t mean you have to excuse them. Voice your disappointment in a mature manner because the broken promise has cost you. And surround yourself with people you can depend on, and who can depend on you.

Promises are vital in any relationship. When you can keep your word, your word becomes valuable. You build trust, strengthen connections, and raise your likability index.

2. Give them a precious gift that costs nothing.

You know the person who interrupts a speaker to show off his own knowledge? I was that person.

I jumped into conversations to add my voice on any subject. I broke their flow with unrelated topics. And if someone dropped a name I didn’t know, I would instantly Google the name and say, “Oh yeah! That guy wrote a book, right?”

I wanted to appear smart, but I ended up looking like an ass. My colleagues stopped inviting me to Friday-night parties. And who could blame them? I mean, would you want to have two beers with a guy like that?

People don’t like you when you appear smart. They like you when you make them feel smart. As the old saying goes, people forget what you said or did, but never forget how you made them feel.

The Ben Franklin effect states that if someone does you a favour, they’re more likely to think positively of you because, in their minds, they start seeing you as a nice person who warranted their help.

Franklin noticed this phenomenon when he asked a rival legislator, who never spoke to him, to lend him a rare book. When Franklin returned the book, he sent it with a note expressing his gratitude. That incident turned the legislator’s relationship with Franklin on its head. They went from being rivals to great friends until death.

You don’t have to ask someone for a favour. Just be curious about what interests them. Ask questions and follow-up questions, and listen. Give people the most precious gift: your attention.

You won’t just win friends and become likeable. You’ll also collect novel insights that will broaden your horizons and make you wiser.

3. Calmness is a sexy trait.

The workplace is unpredictable. You can never tell how the day will turn out when you get to work. Yet, one thing is for sure — there’ll be plenty of fire-fighting.

Regardless of designation, experience, or technical expertise, everyone is dousing one fire after another. What differentiates people is how they behave while dousing such fires.

The self-proclaimed “God’s Gift to the Workplace” behave as if the building is literally on fire each time they notice a problem. They rarely can solve a problem, but think highlighting problems makes them special. Like armchair activists, they shout, “Why isn’t someone doing something about it?” In other words, they expect everyone to drop whatever they’re doing and solve the problem, much like an evacuation drill.

Such people whine, complain, and create more problems. And nobody likes to have a beer or entrust their puppies to them.

Then there’s the “Don’t worry I’ve got this” kind. When they spot a fire, such people first check whether it’s the right fire to douse, and then work on solutions that could put it out before they bring it to others’ notice. And if they can solve problems by themselves, they do so without any fanfare.

All along, they remain calm. As a result, people who work with them have clarity on how to solve the problem, which makes everyone’s life easier.

My friend was once talking about traits that attract women to men. One of those traits is calmness. “You don’t know how reassured a woman feels when she’s with a man who can keep his head. Calmness almost turns women on,” she said.

I think the same applies in the workplace. While you’re probably not trying to turn your peers on, a calm demeanour while solving problems still makes you 10X more likeable.

Problem-solving is a test of your technical and people skills, and it’s an in-demand advanced cognitive skill today.

Don’t create problems. Solve them calmly. Keep your head when others are losing theirs. You won’t just be more likeable. You’ll also hone your leadership skills and move up the corporate ladder faster.

4. Treat credit like money.

Everyone wants to feel appreciated for their actions, at home, in relationships, and especially at work. In fact, studies show that recognition is directly proportional to how satisfied people feel at the workplace.

That’s why most people jostle for credit. And who can blame them? It’s natural to assume that the more we get noticed, the brighter our chances are to get promoted or get a hefty raise.

Unfortunately, the desire for the limelight makes many people resort to unpleasant behaviours like idea-stealing, scheming, and back-biting. All this makes the workplace a toxic place, a battleground.

But some people turn the workplace into a playground. They might be brilliant individual performers, but they never show it. Instead, they put the team ahead of themselves and work well with others to achieve team goals.

When things go bad, they step up and take responsibility. And when things go well, they step back and let others bask in the spotlight. They invest credit just like they would invest their money instead of accumulating it and letting it lie in a bank.

A colleague of mine created a remarkable Excel sheet. When he wanted to learn the formula to apply in it, he reached out to Adi, an Excel whiz in our team. It didn’t take more than 10 minutes. Yet, when he showed the sheet to the team and the boss applauded his work, he said, “I couldn’t have done it without Adi.”

All of us wanted to work with this guy, because we always learned a lot, and because he always let our work take centre stage. He never hogged the spotlight, yet the boss entrusted him with the most critical tasks.

This doesn’t mean you behave like Katherine Heigl, who was so critical of the credit she received that she withdrew her name from Emmy nominations. That’s shooting yourself in the foot.

Accept credit and compliments. But invest them too. Like money, credit invested in the right places yields exponential long-term returns. You become likeable in the right people’s eyes. And when such people like you, they agree to work with you, and you reap the benefits in your career.

Summing Up

You can’t make everyone like you. Even Nelson Mandela had haters.

It’s better to set a goal of surrounding yourself with people you respect, who’ve already achieved what you want to. The company of such people lifts your standards and quality of life.

And to land in their good books, ensure you’re the kind of person they want to have two beers with and entrust their puppy with over the weekend.

Four simple ways to do this are:

  1. Keep your promises. Nothing builds your credibility in others’ eyes more than the ability to follow through on the promises you make.
  2. Give people the gift of your attention. Ask them questions and listen to their answers with genuine interest. This won’t just make you likeable, it’ll also open your mind to new and amazing insights.
  3. Remain calm while solving problems. Calmness is a sign of maturity, and mature people always command respect.
  4. Invest credit. Like money, it loses its long-term value when hogged, but compounds when invested in the right places.

Likability is not about sycophancy. It’s about being a genuine human being. And everyone should try to be one.

5 Simple Tips to Survive A Bad Day

how to deal with a bad day

Ever faced one of those days when you dread getting out of bed? Me too.

Ever started a day filled with energy, only to see it turn into a drag halfway through? Me too.

Ever wondered why the clock appears to stand still when you’re burning out? Me too.

You attend meeting after meeting but no work gets done. The project you’ve spent days reworking has exhausted you, but it just won’t finish. Your child has suffered from an illness for days, and there’s no sign of it getting better. Yuk!

Lousy days are inevitable, and their effects can leave you feeling low for long. But it doesn’t mean you have to wallow in them. In fact, if you want the results to get better, you must keep taking small but important steps to get out of the rut.

I’ve been through phases when lousy days extended for weeks, only for events to suddenly work out. When they did, I double- and tripled-checked whether I was missing something, but I wasn’t.

So I began to journal my daily activities to identify what I did on good days and on not-so-good ones. Now I know what to do if I want to get out of a funk.

Here are five steps that have helped me and many people I know. Hopefully, they’ll be useful for you too.

1. Cheat a little to indulge yourself.

A large part of where we are depends on our mood. How we feel in the moment impacts our actions which impacts results to a large extent.

As long as we feel mopey, we drag our feet on what we should do and things stay the way they are. But research shows that a tiny shot of dopamine is enough to motivate us to take meaningful action.

So when you’re having a crappy day, read a few pages from your favourite book. Listen to your favourite upbeat music. Treat yourself to an extra coffee from your favourite mug, or to a portion of pizza or cake. Do anything that makes you feel good.

People often use such activities as rewards for achieving a milestone or making it through a rough day. But these activities can also fire up your brain and trick it into feeling good. When your mood improves, you return to the stalemate feeling energized.

It’s important to practice moderation though. Overindulgence might feel good in the moment. But in the long term, you’ll feel guilty, which will further aggravate your stuck-ness. So avoid binging on dessert or junk food, going on shopping sprees, or scrolling Instagram for hours.

2. Work smart and score tiny wins.

On a recent podcast episode, Jordan Gross narrated an insightful anecdote.

When he played baseball as a child, Jordan tried to smash every ball out of the park. In doing so, he got out a lot. One day, his team coach said, “Jordan, a single is as good as a home run. You get to the next base. Run four singles and you complete a home run.”

What his coach was teaching him was that collecting small wins inevitably leads to larger ones.

When we feel stuck in a rut, we either passively surrender to circumstances or swing for the fences. Both extremes only worsen our days further. A simpler and more potent option is to score tiny wins.

If you’re exhausted by meetings, delay attending the next one by 15 minutes. In that time, make a note of tasks to be completed. Just putting those points down on paper will substantially ease your anxiety.

If your current project is stuck, shift your focus to a quick task you can complete. Finishing such a task will instantly put you in a better mood. If your child’s health isn’t improving, tell her a funny story or watch a cartoon while she cuddles up with you.

When I’m stuck while writing an article or working on a project, staring at the screen never helps me get unstuck. Instead, I email someone I admire. Or I hit the gym and try to have a good workout. Or I figure out a tune I like on the guitar.

Tiny wins don’t just make you feel better. They also help you salvage something from seemingly hopeless days.

Keep taking quick singles. You’ll have a much healthier strike rate than the batter who swings for the fences each time.

3. Be selfish in connecting with friends.

Talking to someone is a definitive way to de-stress. It lets you understand your own emotions and see things more clearly.

But talking to anyone you know just because they’re available at that moment could spiral into larger problems if they don’t understand you. Instead, choose whom you talk to. Engage with loving criticspeople who have your best interest at heart but will also tell you what you need to hear.

Such people will let you give your feelings an outlet. But when needed, they’ll also tell you things as they see them. And many times, such perspectives are exactly what you need to get unstuck, take action, and turn bad days around.

Texting is an option too, but I’m not a big fan of it because:

  1. Texting is slow, and I think faster than I can type.
  2. I tend to censor myself rather than express my true feelings.
  3. There’s plenty of scope for misunderstanding.

Pick up the phone. Don’t be afraid to vent your true feelings or disrupt your friends’ schedules. It’s okay to be a little selfish during such times.

4. Get up and get out.

Much of how we feel stems from our environment. And one reason for bad situations to turn worse is that we stay stuck in the environment that led to the problems in the first place.

Such environments put us in a state of mind that’s too close to the problem. And as Einstein said, we cannot solve problems with the same mindsets we used to create them.

The first step to shifting your state of mind is to change your environment. Move. Get out of the space where you feel constrained. Take a walk in nature without your headphones. Visit the nearby marketplace and spend some time there instead of hurriedly running errands. Sip on your favourite coffee in your favourite café and observe the people around.

Someone I know visits unknown places and chats with strangers, or just stands in a busy place and observes things around him. Such activities either clear his mind and offer fresh perspectives, or they let him accept the inevitability of what cannot be changed and move forward.

Another friend goes for long walks in the park late in the evening every day. And she uses this time to catch up with her friends and vent if she really needs to. The break from her home environment leaves her feeling fresh at the end of any day, including bad ones.

5. Suck it up.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference: Serenity Prayer

You cannot control outcomes, no matter how hard you try. The only things you can control are your perceptions, actions, and willpower.

Sometimes, the day will refuse to get better regardless of what you try. You will still get dragged into meaningless meetings, the project will remain stalled, your child’s illness will continue to frustrate her and you.

On such days, don’t take rash action that you could regret later. Like losing your cool in a meeting or at your child, or deleting the document that has frustrated you for days. Instead, cancel the pity party.

Allow yourself time to wallow and feel angry or upset in private, then suck it up. Accept that the situation is beyond your control and that better days will come if you’re patient. Go to bed early instead of drinking your day away or binging on Netflix and Instagram.

When I go through days where I feel stuck, burned out, or angry, I shut off all electronic devices by 8:30 PM. I play my guitar for some time, journal how I felt during the day, and meditate for half an hour. Observing my thoughts doesn’t just give me clarity; it also makes me feel lighter in the head. Then I sleep by 10:30 PM. And almost always, I wake up the next morning feeling better.

You can make it through to bedtime regardless of how heavy your burden is. That’s all you have to do. Just make it through the day. Because each new day brings myriad possibilities with it.

Summing Up

Without the dark, we cannot know the value of light. Likewise, without bad days, we cannot understand the value of good ones.

Bad days bring balance to our lives. But it doesn’t mean you have to surrender to them. You can take simple steps consistently to overcome them.

Indulge yourself in moderation. Score tiny wins. Connect with friends. Change your environment. And if nothing works, suck it up and go to bed with the hope that tomorrow will be better.

Life is not what happens to you, but how you respond to what happens. And you can always make your response count.

Jordan Gross — On Storytelling, Building Reading Habits, and Handling Uncertainty

the vishipedia show podcast on self management

Jordan Gross is a trailblazer, a son, grandson, writer, speaker, guide, editor, and soon-to-be therapist. He is a Northwestern and Kellogg School of Management graduate where he studied absolutely nothing to do with writing. He’s a former startup founder, restaurant manager, and soccer goalie. A solopreneur, podcast host, and 2 Times TEDx speaker, he is also the #1 bestselling author of Getting COMFY: Your Morning Guide to Daily Happiness, and The Journey to Cloud Nine. His third book, What Happens in Tomorrow World, is scheduled to launch on April 6th. Jordan is also an editor of the widely popular Medium publication, Mind Cafe.

 

Download | Spotify | Apple Podcasts

Shownotes

Jordan Gross on LinkedIn and Medium
61 best personal development books summarized in one sentence
27 best personal development books that use creative storytelling
What Happens in Tomorrow World Book Trailer
Private LinkedIn group “Help-Self” that emphasizes creativity, fun, and storytelling in the personal development world
Animal Farm
Why read a book more than once [Ryan Holiday video]
Tuesdays with Morrie
The Defining Decade
Standpoint Theory
Podcast episode with career and communications coach Michael Thompson

 

Highlights of the podcast

(2:40) How stories can excite and inspire others to learn and live.

Stories are entertaining ways to learn about topics. My first book was George Orwell’s Animal Farm. It was about the Russian Revolution, but was told through the lens of animals on a farm, and was explained in a clear way. I wasn’t just memorizing facts and statistics, I was speaking (metaphorically) to the characters and understanding the emotions behind the animals. It was my first real glimpse into how storytelling can excite someone to live and learn rather than just go through the daily motions.

(5:30) Why stories are more impactful than self-help advice.

Allegories, parables, and fables provide readers with opportunities to apply lessons to their own lives as compared to prescriptive, “do this do that” self-help. We cannot tell people what to do in order to change their minds and identities. But stories provide the persuasive elements we need to ignite someone’s mind to change.

(7:07) On the importance of rereading books to get more out of them.

My main objective for 2021 is to reread and listen to a lot of books. When you read something when you’re 20 and reread it with you’re 25, the book doesn’t feel the same. That’s because you change and the world around you changes. So neither you nor the book is the same.

One book I’m rereading is The Defining Decade by Meg J. I first read this book when I was 22-23, and it’s like a blueprint about how you should live in your 20s, which I think I’m doing well. But the underserved population that I’m studying in school cannot apply the techniques from this book. I was not thinking about them three years ago. But now I am, because of where I am in my life.

(13:00) On “Imagitevitation.”

Imagitevitation means thinking about who you want to become in the future and working to attain it. It stands for “Imagination,” “Interpretation,” “Creativity,” and “Implementation.” So if I want to write a book, I imagine myself with the book in my hand, what people are saying, how my parents and grandma are smiling. Next, is interpretation, which comes down to why is the dream important? Then comes creativity, which is about making a creative plan in the present moment to get to the goal. Finally, implementation is about acting on that plan. It’s trial-and-error, experimenting, and assessing how you’re doing on the journey to achieve that dream.

(17:45) The importance of embracing uncertainty.

The more we desire certainty and clarity on things we cannot be 100% certain of, the more anxiety and stress we undergo. Sometimes, we have to lean into the unpredictability and build the experimentation mindset as opposed to believing there’s just one way to do things and that if we follow it we’ll get what we desire. When we make peace with uncertainty, we can see opportunities even if we’ve not achieved what we wanted to.

(20:12) How to open up to experiences that lead to uncertainty?

Either surround yourself with people who are doing things that make them uncomfortable, seeking new experiences, and being adventurous. Make them a source of inspiration. Or remove some of the certainty from your own life to create space for uncertainty to enter in.

(28:00) What optimism means in the practical world.

My belief about optimism is not that everything will be great. Rather its the belief that if something goes wrong, I’ll still make things right again. Things don’t always have to be okay, but I’m optimistic that they will be okay again.

(32:02) The best way to manage uncertainty.

It’s not optimism or building a sage mindset. It’s fostering hope, love, faith, and being there for the people who need us. That’s how we put one foot in front of the other and support people who’re not managing uncertainty as well as we are.

(34:00) 3 must-remember points to get better at storytelling.

If you want to tell better stories, imagine your work in form of a story for another human being. How is your work impacting someone else’s life?

When I was a baseball player growing up, I always tried to hit home runs. And when you always try to hit home runs, you swing too hard and a strikeout. So my friend’s dad who was the assistant coach would say, “A single is just as good as a home run. Hit singles, get off base, and get home.” So when it comes to storytelling, aim for singles. Don’t try to tell a jaw-dropping story or hit that home run.

Also, to exercise your storytelling muscle, think of a banal situation in your life and reimagine how it could’ve been. For instance, you bump into a person on the street, said sorry, and moved on. But you could reimagine that normal incident as the person is an old high-school acquaintance who’s now a startup founder and invited you to work at his/her company and that your life changed.

Finally, make meaning out of the mundane. So if you bump into someone on the street, make meaning out of that experience. Appreciate it for what it is — a one in a million chance that you knocked into that specific person, who in turn, responded with grace.

Thus, three tips to flex your storytelling muscle are:

  1. Go for singles instead of home runs.
  2. Reimagine banal incidents on how they could’ve been.
  3. Make meaning of the mundane.

(40:45) Non-negotiable activities in my routine.

My routine changes every day since I’m back at school. But my non-negotiable tasks are:

  1. No snoozing, because the more I hit snooze the lazier I’ll be.
  2. Have human interactions with friends, family members, peers, podcast hosts, and others.
  3. Get outside and take in the fresh air.

(42:50) The advice I would give 16-year-old Jordan.

When I was 16, I was under the impression that I didn’t need to know what I wanted to do with my life. So I didn’t even start to explore it. You don’t have to know exactly what you’re going to do in the future, but you should start thinking about it. Start exploring curiosity, learning about who you are, and who you want to become. And always remember that your stories are YOUR stories. They make you unique, and you’re the star in them.

(P.S. Download a free ebook on 10 simple lessons to create a life you look forward to each day here.)

Michael Thompson — On Family, Relationships, Communication, Taking Big Chances, and more

the vishipedia show podcast on self management

Michael Thompson is a career coach and communications consultant and a mentor at Startupbootcamp – a global network of industry-focused accelerators.

He’s a prolific writer whose articles on leadership, relationship building, communication, and career advice have featured in renowned publications like Fast Company, The Ladders, Business Insider, Forbes, INC, MSN, and Apple News. He has close to 45,0000 followers on the popular blogging platform Medium and is the top writer in six categories.

In this episode, Michael deep-dives into the simple yet crucial aspects of life, like how his stutter made him a better leader, how he makes time for family, how to invest in relationships and intelligent networks, how the quality of your communication improves the quality of your life, how to be productive, and more.

Download | Spotify | Apple Podcasts

Shownotes

Episode Highlights

(02:13) On choosing what matters most in life.

My son wanted to have a peach while they were walking home, but I wanted to get home and answer some emails. My son won and we sat down on a park bench for five minutes and had a peach. When we finished and were walking home, my son said, “Thanks dad! That was a really good peach.” We scream “family first” but want to get back to emails as fast as possible. We know the right thing to do is to spend time with the family, but our natural instinct pulls us towards work. At such times, it’s good to have a reminder. For me, it’s a park bench and a peach.

(6:16) The philosophy behind his writing.

Some writers come out as an authority, using the “you need to do this” voice. But many people don’t respond well to it. I take a softer approach to write articles — gentle self-help ones with stories — that connect with just enough people. Even the articles I remember are not the ones that tell me what to do, but the ones that let the reader determine the next step. If you want someone to change, they need to have their own reasons. My articles are simple reminders in my life, and we all need reminders.

(09:20) The path to massive wins is through small steps.

Sometimes you have to make big jumps, but most times, improvement comes by making the simple right choices consistently. Keep your running shoes beside the bed, stock healthy food in your fridge, send one short email to thank or appreciate someone who’s doing work you like or because you’re looking for a mentor. All these steps will pay off rich dividends in the long term.

(10:43) How to find people you want to connect with?

You can connect with people on the internet, read their articles, see their videos, meet them in other groups, and connect with them to hold more meaningful conversations than you can at any networking event. There are plenty of smart people in the world, people you think are cool. Surround yourself with such people in your own backyard. You won’t just have interesting conversations; you’ll also get information and access to opportunities outside your close circle when the Weak Ties phenomenon kicks in. Five good friends and 100 connections are enough, but you need to keep those connections moving forward through email, WhatsApp, and quick messages. If you share opportunities, they’ll come back manifold.

Since COVID, we’re seeing people are trying to stay on top of others’ minds through small gestures like monthly group calls with friends and coworkers. We’ve now noticed that if we’re just sitting at home replying to emails all day and don’t have some way to reach out to people, we’re in trouble. We’re not taught how to keep in touch with people, how to email them asking about their family or suggesting a book they might like, but these are simple ways to invest in relationships.

(19:36) On bold decisions and stepping outside your comfort zone.

(Correction: Michael was 23, not 33 years old, when he took up a sales job.)

It’s a misconception that shy people like to huddle indoors all day. In fact, we crave connection with others even more since we’re not good at it. When I got out of college, all my friends were doing good stuff. I got a job at Wells Fargo and ended up making a blunder, and was asked to leave. But it taught me I didn’t want to sit in front of a computer all my life. Some friends suggested a job in sales because though my stutter was a thing, they saw I was good with people. So I took a sales job to build some confidence and overcome my fears. And I made 100 phone calls a day, every day. By the end of the first year, I was among the top salespeople in the company and moved into training leadership positions. I also taught new salespeople. Thus, sales opened doors for me to see the other strengths I had. There’s often just one thing holding us back, and if we can overcome it by doing the small things, we can discover much more about ourselves.

(28:43) How to add value to others’ lives?

Most people think of what they have to do immediately after waking up. A person like Conor (Neill) wakes up and asks himself, “Whom can I be useful to today?” One of the things that helped Victor Frankl survive the concentration camps was that each day he woke up and asked himself, “Who needs me?” It’s sort of egotistical to think about how we can “make others’ lives better.” Instead, it’s better to ask, “how can I be useful today?”

(38:50) The significance of whitespace in our daily schedules

Whitespace is a half-hour or an hour a day when I do nothing because if I’m stuck, I never get unstuck staring at my computer. These blocks of time allow me to step away and come back faster and better after a break. Renowned coach Dan Sullivan works 150 days in a year and takes the rest of the days off. He plans his vacations at the beginning of the year and schedules his work around them. As a result, he’s one of the most productive people in the world.

(41:30) Hunch hours

Fred Dust is the founder and Managing Director of the non-profit side of design company Ideo. He applies constraints to conversations to make them more engaging. When he meets new people in a group, each person is asked to give a hunch about what the world will be like in a year, but you can’t talk about the pandemic, politics, and bitcoin. And the other people either say they “confirm” to support the argument, or say they “complicate” it to provide evidence that makes the argument difficult. So it’s not an “opinion hour,” it’s a hunch hour. You can be wrong about a hunch and not feel stupid, and choosing to confirm or complicate is softer than agreeing or disagreeing.

(43:20) The language you use is generally the world you see

If you use the word “conflict” a lot, you’ll see conflict. So instead of that word, Fred uses “creative tension,” trying to figure out a way for everyone to work together. Another example is when we say “Like I already said”, others interpret it as us implying that they’re not listening. It’s all about simple reframing of your arguments, and if you do, people will get along with you just fine.

(50:01) Don’t let too much planning get in the way of action

Malcolm Gladwell had a professor who lived by the philosophy that Hamlet was wrong because Hamlet spent too much time planning and thinking instead of taking action. Planning is guessing. Plan, but don’t think too much. Get out there, say yes, and don’t quit in the first three months just because you don’t like the job. Choose your blisters over your bliss. Choose the hard work, get your hands dirty, and as you get better you get at a job, you’ll begin to enjoy it.

(P.S. Download a free ebook on 10 simple lessons to create a life you look forward to each day here.)

Why We Hate Changing Our Minds

how to change your mind without feeling stupid

About a decade ago, when I was employed, my manager assigned our team a project and asked us to distribute the responsibilities among ourselves. I got tasked with watching a video and capturing its highlights.

I put the task on the back burner and spent days scrolling Twitter instead (it was new back then). On the final night before the deadline, I skimmed through the video and made a few quick notes. I knew I had not done a good job, but hoped I would get away with it.

What happened the next day caught me off-guard.

We met in the conference room to present our work to the project leader, who was also our teammate. When I showed mine, he highlighted a few points I hadn’t captured and said I hadn’t watched the video. He was right on both counts, but I took it as an accusation, probably because he flung it at me in front of the whole team.

I countered by saying I had watched the video twice, and that the points he mentioned weren’t in the video. Immediately, he played the part of the video to call out my lie. And I accused him of targeting me. Tempers flew, things got ugly, and the meeting had to be postponed.

For the next hour, I told anyone within an earshot how I was being victimized instead of being appreciated for my effort. By lunchtime, I genuinely believed I had watched the video twice and worked on it for three days.

In fact, I lugged that lie around as a truth for a long time.

One day about six years later, the memory returned while I was meditating. Instead of dismissing it, I chose to observe it. That’s how I meditate — I let thoughts rise, fall, and flow like waves. Sitting with thoughts and memories helps me gain clarity on them.

Staying with the unpleasant memory made me see it for what it was for the first time. I remembered everything. I hadn’t watched the video, I had lied about watching it twice, and shockingly, I believed the lie for years.

In hindsight, this wasn’t shocking because though I didn’t know it at that time, I had fallen prey to a cognitive bias named the backfire effect.

What is the Backfire Effect

David McRaney presented a simple explanation of the cognitive bias:

The Misconception: When your beliefs are challenged with facts, you alter your opinions and incorporate the new information into your thinking.

The Truth: When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.

I believed I was a dedicated executive. But the project leader’s accusation, however accurate, challenged that belief. The added fear of being seen as a screw-up in front of my teammates was enough to activate my fight-or-flight response. And more evidence he presented that challenged my beliefs, the deeper the untruth that I had watched the video twice embedded itself in me.

In his book You Are Now Less Dumb, McRaney wrote:

Once something is added to your collection of beliefs, you protect it from harm. You do this instinctively and unconsciously when confronted with attitude-inconsistent information. Just as confirmation bias shields you when you actively seek information, the backfire effect defends you when the information seeks you, when it blindsides you. Coming or going, you stick to your beliefs instead of questioning them. When someone tries to correct you, tries to dilute your misconceptions, it backfires and strengthens those misconceptions instead. Over time, the backfire effect makes you less skeptical of those things that allow you to continue seeing your beliefs and attitudes as true and proper.

This effect is more common in our daily lives than we know.

If someone who prides himself on being a great human comes across evidence that challenges his belief, he may not just reject it; he could use it to reinforce his existing beliefs. The same occurs with investors who get emotionally attached to a stock or people who view their toxic partners through rose-tinted glasses.

In fact, this phenomenon is just all in a day’s work on the internet. Climate change, vaccination, politics — the more people come across facts that challenge their beliefs, the more they cling to their misconceptions.

How to Overcome the Backfire Effect

Facts that challenge people’s beliefs don’t change their minds. In fact, people see them as attacks on their identity. As a result, they either recoil into their shell or fight back with everything they have.

Here are better ways to help them overcome such a bias:

1. Appeal to their identity

I wonder what would happen if my teammate had said, “If you’re saying the point is not in the video, then it probably isn’t. You’re not a liar,” rather than proving that I’d done a slipshod job.

Instead of a conflict between him and me, his words would’ve created a conflict between me and myself. I would’ve lied about doing good work AND about not being a liar. I probably would’ve felt like crap, confessed to him after the meeting, and never repeated the mistake.

Appeal to people’s self-esteem and allow them to save face when they walk away. You might lose the battle, but you stand a better chance to win the war.

2. Paint a bright picture

I also wonder how things would’ve turned out if he shared his thoughts in a positive way. What if he had said, “This is well done. Just a couple of points are missing. Could you have a quick look at it again?” Bright chances are I would’ve gladly complied instead of getting into an ego war.

Instead of calling people out, encourage them for their effort and then ask for a few rough edges to be smoothed out. This technique is simple, but it’s not easy. I succumb to my ego and fail to apply this lesson far more than I would like. But I try to get a wee bit better each day.

3. Don’t fool yourself

For six years, I lived with the feeling that I was wronged when the truth was that I was wrong when I should’ve taken less than 24 hours to figure this out.

As humans, we’re good at spotting cognitive biases in others, but weak to spot them in ourselves, Tali Sharot wrote in The Optimism Bias. This creates a bias where we believe we’re immune to cognitive biases, which is the irony of cognitive biases.

You’re just as prone to the backfire effect as anyone else. Train yourself to be objective while looking at evidence that challenges your views and readjust your perspectives accordingly. As Daniel Dennett wrote,

“The chief trick to making good mistakes is to not hide them — especially not from yourself.”

Making mistakes indicates that you’re human. Acknowledging and working on them indicates that you’re learning.

Final Thoughts

The backfire effect makes us cling tighter to our deepest convictions when we encounter evidence that challenges us. This cognitive bias makes us get in our own way of seeking growth and the truth.

Overcoming it is no mean feat, and we’re never really done. Because like all cognitive biases, it shows up over and over again and demands that we stay on our toes.

Being aware of this effect is the first step in the right direction. It makes you flexible, lets you remove the shame from saying “I don’t know,” and broadens your horizons.

It’s impossible to be smart all the time. A better approach is to be less foolish, a part of which is allowing yourself the luxuries of accepting that you were wrong and changing your mind.

Such a mindset is incredibly liberating. And a liberated life is a happy one.

Stop Letting the Fear of Pain Control Your Life

how to not be afraid of pain but use it to make yourself better
A caterpillar undergoes metamorphosis to turn into a butterfly or moth.

It’s an amazing transformation. Animation movies show a larva spinning itself into a cocoon that eventually bursts open to reveal a beautiful, colorful butterfly. It flaps its wings twice before taking flight the third time, officially signaling that its transformation is complete.

But that’s how the metamorphosis plays out. In real life, it’s actually painful and risky.

Here’s what really happens.

Each time a little caterpillar outgrows its current skin, it molts, which means it sheds its old skin to make way for new growth. After it molts about five times, the larva hangs upside down from a twig or a leaf, and spins a silky cocoon around itself or molts into a shiny chrysalis.

Inside this cocoon or chrysalis, the caterpillar digests itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve its tissues. If you would cut open the cocoon at the right time, caterpillar soup would ooze out.

But the entire contents of the pupa don’t dissolve. The imaginal discs, a highly organized group of cells, survive the digesting process. These discs use the protein-rich soup all around them to fuel the formation of wings, antennae, legs, eyes, and all the other features of an adult butterfly or moth.

The butterfly slowly exits the cocoon (it doesn’t free itself at once like movies show), and this process of exiting the cocoon strengthens its muscles to function optimally in the world.

If the metamorphosis is interfered with, if the cocoon is split open for any reason, or if the chrysalis falls to the ground, the caterpillar often dies.

For a caterpillar, metamorphosing into a butterfly is a painful process. Yet, it has no choice, unless it fails to spin a cocoon, in which case, it remains a caterpillar until death.

The Loathing of Pain

As Homo Sapiens, we’re lucky that our bodies don’t have to undergo a painful metamorphosis.

We also prefer to avoid pain, which is a good thing. It’s why we don’t put our hands in a fire, or jump from the first story of a building, or get into relationships when we know we’ll get hurt (although I’m not quite sure about the last one).

This subconscious behavior to avoid anything painful originates in the amygdala, the part of our brain that governs our fight-or-flight response. The amygdala limits or overrides other brain parts when we face potential threats and is critical to our survival.

When our hunter-gatherer ancestors unexpectedly spotted a predator, they didn’t apply reason or logic, they simply fled for their lives. When we find ourselves in the path of an oncoming vehicle, we don’t use our knowledge of math to calculate its speed and distance. We get out of the way as fast as we can.

That’s the good part.

The not-so-good part is that the amygdala also activates when we want to engage in any task that departs from our usual, safe routines. Any situation where we foresee even a hint of pain sets off alarm bells and the amygdala overrides every part of the brain to force us to avoid the activity.

As a result, we often do what’s easy. And many times, this comes at the expense of what’s useful. We mindlessly scroll the web to conduct “research” for an article instead of writing it. We deliberately work longer hours so that we can avoid exercise without feeling guilty about it. We give every unnecessary email the same attention we would give an email from our boss instead of dedicating time to an important project.

We don’t just choose easier options; sometimes we even manufacture them to keep ourselves busy and avoid tasks that could potentially cause us discomfort.

Here’s a personal example.

For months now, I’ve been struggling to make any headway with my larval podcast. In fact, I’ve ignored it for extended periods of time in favor of writing more articles, since writing is easier than podcasting for me. I tell myself that I’m creating content, so it’s okay.

But it’s not okay. The easy way out offers short-term comfort but also forces us to remain caterpillars. And in the long term, it leads to regret, sourness, and even a feeling of anger.

Pain sucks. But it also leads to growth. As Anangsha Alammyan highlighted, pain can help you recognize pleasure, teach you to live in the present moment, and enable you to form meaningful social bonds.

Pain also makes you a better version of yourself. When the larva endures pain, it transforms into a beautiful butterfly. When your muscles feel pained after a workout, they build strength.

Likewise, it’s only when you do something that causes discomfort in the short term that you experience growth (as long as the task doesn’t cause physical or emotional harm).

“If you’re evenly split on a difficult decision, take the path more painful in the short term.” — Naval Ravikant

The brain has a tendency to overvalue short-term comfort and happiness, and the only way to cancel this tendency is to lean into the pain, to embrace it.

“But it’s impossible to embrace pain.”

You’re right. It is. Not because you’re lazy or incapable, but because the amygdala won’t let you.

The key is to make your brain hit the snooze button each time the amygdala sounds the alarm bell. And the best way to do this is to break a Herculean task into smaller, simpler ones that you can be consistent with.

If writing 1000 words a day feels painful, write just 100 words daily for a week.

If lifting weights feels agonizing, do just five light reps daily for a week.

If saving money is a struggle, save just five percent of your monthly income for three months.

When you get comfortable with this, stretch yourself gently. Increase your daily writing goal by 50 words each week. Increase the weights you lift by five pounds each week. Start saving ten percent of your income each month.

This increases your threshold for pain without waking the amygdala. Slowly, what’s difficult becomes easy, and what’s easy turns into a habit. And in the long term, these results compound.

At the end of six months, you’ll be lifting weights well over 100 pounds. You’ll be writing well over 1,000 words daily without breaking into a sweat (and will have written over 100,000 words, or the content for two books).

And you’ll have saved about 8 percent of your income or almost half of a month’s salary. Even if you do nothing else but stick with saving 8 percent, you’ll save a month’s worth of salary at the end of the year! (Do the math if you find it hard to believe. It adds up!)

The more progress you witness, the less likely you’ll be to avoid the task that appeared painful in the beginning. Progress is the ultimate antidote to fear, laziness, and procrastination.

I’ve simplified my outlook towards my podcast. Instead of getting overwhelmed by questions like how to build traffic and how to get on the radar of potential guests, I just dedicate 30 minutes to the podcast each day. 15 of those minutes are spent thinking, and the remaining 15 are spent taking one tiny action. That’s all.

All You Need to Know

A caterpillar doesn’t get a second chance to pupate. But you do.

You get chances over and over again to try, fail, learn, and try again. You can take as long as you want. You can start slow and then build momentum like a snowball that gathers speed as it rolls downhill.

Self-improvement is incredibly gratifying, and it cascades into every other aspect of your life. And it’s also within your reach.

The only person worth competing with is yourself. The only transformational story you should truly care about is your own. And you can write an amazing “before-and-after” story if you put in the effort to do what’s painful in the “during” stage.

This doesn’t take much. Simply break a difficult task into easier sub-tasks and show up every day. Focus on consistency more than authenticity or the results.

Even if you don’t turn into a butterfly, you’ll turn into a shiny silkworm.