Learning From Failure Vs Learning From Others

There are many different ways to learn things, books, tutorials, teachers, tutors, videos and video courses. But if you break it down far enough, there are essentially only two ways of learning. Learning from failure, or learning from others. Learning from failure can be hard, as it’s easy to be dejected by the failing and become unwilling to move forward and learn from it, but the lessons learned can be some of the most memorable, and valuable you learn in life.

Nothing Teaches You To Keep Your Hands Up Like Getting Punched In The Face!

There’s a saying in martial arts(or sports fighting) circles that goes something like this:

“Nothing teaches you to keep your hands up like getting punched in the face.”

Whether you’re sparring or fighting, chances are if you drop your hands you are going to get punched in the face. Especially as a beginner. And as a beginner, the first few times you spar you’re going to drop your hands.

Drilling on bags and shadow boxing in proper form helps a lot, but with the added stress factor of someone actually punching and kicking you, you start to revert back to old bad habits. You wing punches. You bring your head back and your chin up. And you leave your hands down or in front of you when you throw combinations.

If you spar someone who is at your level or more experienced, you are going to get punched in the face. Not too hard, hopefully, but hard enough to remind you that your hands should be in between his/her fists and your face. Nothing says keep your hands up like a bunch of nerves sending pain signals from your nose, or cheek or even eye socket. And then when it happens again, and again, it adds up and teaches you a lesson quickly that is hard to learn without actual practice.

But of course, martial arts or fighting is not the only area where you can learn from failure.

Failing And Learning

Today when I was experimenting on the theme I’m creating for my writer’s site, specifically making a page template with a completely different layout, I made a pretty big mistake. (For those who understand this is what I did: Instead of just using the body class to qualify all the items I wanted to change the CSS for, I edited every single Class and ID, including those from the header.php file.) Basically I edited a lot of code unnecessarily, that now needs to be changed back. Before that I made a few smaller mistakes, and got stuck a few times, having to go and seek out solutions after messing around for more than 30 minutes.

While this seems like a terrible way to learn, and I’ll admit that it’s not too time efficient, what these mistakes become are lessons. Lessons that usually stay with me much longer than something I just read about in a guide and implemented quickly, or borrowed from another theme or website.

Best of all, failing in this way motivates me to get better and learn more and come back and knock things out of the park. I think this might be a development that has happened to me after I started doing martial arts. Something about sparring against someone and getting your ass demolished (especially when you’re almost 2x bigger than them) makes you want to improve your skills.  And it seems like that mentality is transferable.

Now I’m not saying that these two are mutually exclusive, far from it. I think you get the most out of either form of learning when you compliment it with the other form. As in don’t JUST practice by yourself, learn from others. And don’t just learn from others, make sure you practice and experiment by yourself. Learning from others helps you get the tools you need faster than you’d get there by yourself. Experimenting and using those tools, helps you internalize and remember them much better than if you just read about, listened to or watched someone else do things.

Every Day Is A Fresh Start, Don’t Let Guilt Stop Your Journey

prairie-679014_1280Every new year, people take January 1st, and make it their excuse for making changes they’ve wanted to make for a long time. January 1st isn’t a special day in your life, and it’s not even astronomically significant according to Neil Degrasse Tyson. If you’re serious about making changes, randomly postponing until some date in the future isn’t the best idea.

To make matters worse, according to some reasearch only 8% of people manage to follow through on these resolutions. And sure, some people achieve great things because of their New Year’s Resolutions, but could these changes perhaps not have been achieved faster if they had not postponed making the change until a more or less arbitrary point in time? After all the only moment we have any real grasp of is the present. We don’t know when something might change and make it harder, or even impossible for us to achieve the things we’ve dreamed about achieving.
So if there’s something you want to change in your life, don’t wait until next year, start working towards it today.

Already Missed A Day Or Two? Skip the guilt, keep going.

For those of you who have hit your first hurdle with your new years resolutions, this post is a quick reminder that every single day is a fresh start. Every day is a chance to make a change or to keep moving in the right direction. If you slipped up, get back on track.

Don’t feel guilty about not going running, learning, or eating 100% healthy one day, just double down and make sure you show up tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after.

I messed up almost all of last week. I was off the wagon and not going towards my goals for more than 6 months before of that. If I spent my time wallowing in guilt (as I sometimes have been known to do in the past) I would not be surpassing my daily goals today, and I would not have surpassed them yesterday either. I would not be moving toward the Ragnar that I aspire to be. I would not be taking on small web projects for friends to help them (and selfishly gain experience and build my portfolio).

Guilt has stopped a lot of wonderful changes, even transformations from coming to fruition. Don’t let guilt stop yours.

New Year, New Habits, New Goals, Old Goals, Old Habits – 2015 in review and plans for 2016

As I write this, it’s been around six months since I wrote anything for this blog, or anywhere/anyone else. I never made a conscious decision to quit, but between my full time job, new relationship, new friends and new habits, the time and mind space needed for writing seemed to slowly slip away. This hasn’t been all bad, however, as the past year has probably been the best of my life. For the first time, I’ve been able to consistently stay more positive and enjoy myself for the vast majority of the whole year. Sure, sometimes bad things would happen, and it would cross my mind that the universe conspired against me and that I needed to pity myself – old habits die hard, right? – but they never became more than moments. There were no weeks.

The most negative period of last year was perhaps a few weeks after I stopped writing in which I sometimes felt guilty about it. In hindsight this might have been the last straw that actually caused me to stop writing for a time, as guilt adds another barrier between you and actually getting things done.

 

New Habits Acquired Over The Past Year

As far as new habits go, there are two main ones that I added to my day to day life. I started practicing martial arts, not any one in particular, but an unusual mix of JKD, Shooto, FMA, etc. Other than randomly starting to shadow box at any given point during the day, I’ve been going to martial arts practice for the last few months (2-3 times a week, 3 hour sessions).

I started hanging out with friends doing actual things (not just playing video games or drinking/eating.) This wasn’t an entirely new habit, as I had started doing this 2 years ago after I started my new job, but after I moved to a new office at school and made new friends, it became a bigger part of my life I guess.  Although a lot of this took place during weekends, or breaks, it still played a big part in the past year, making me healthier(getting me out and about and moving, and even was what got me started with martial arts) and happier. Instead of ending most weekends feeling like I did a whole lotta nothing, many ended with a feeling of time well spent, having gone to a new place or done new things. Again, not a new concept or experience to me, but a much more regular occurrence than before.

I Enjoy Life

Between these two things the way I fundamentally feel about life seems to have changed. I’m generally enjoying myself, and I know it. Sure, I may not look forward to work on some Mondays (or other days), but that no longer seems like some sort of overwhelming significant thing that is part of a larger pattern of ‘everything sucks’. I’m more confident in general, I feel more grounded in myself and my own habits rather than outside opinions and influences.

Old Habits To Revisit

First and foremost, writing. Not just for the sake of the innate benefits of writing, but I also intend to rekindle my freelance writing efforts – slowly but surely this time (as to not overwhelm myself again). Writing (and sharing that writing online) is what finally got me out of a 1 year rut after I came back from my exchange studies and graduated. I was unemployed, had 1-2 friends in the country that I rarely saw, and my thoughts about my life and future generally involved self-pity and despair. This is not an old habit to revisit, just something to remember, as good a reason as any to restart my writing efforts.

Secondly, restart learning about Web Development and WordPress other CMS. While teaching English here has been an enjoyable learning experience, I feel like I’m gradually approaching a time for me to move on to a new stage in my life, and having valuable, marketable skills will surely help me in getting there.

Thirdly, meditation. Although I do yoga at the end of every martial arts practice, and there seem to be some meditative moments interspersed throughout, over the coming weeks and months, I want to take up meditation again. Not only for the many general cognitive and emotional benefits, but to maintain the brainspace needed for writing consistently.

Old Goals

After all this I still have the same goals. The freedom of body to go and do what I want. The financial freedom to be able to afford to do what I want (not talking millions of dollars or even hundreds of thousands, just a buffer of a few thousand that means I can afford to quit my job or move to a new country without any real risk) and the freedom of mind to enjoy day to day life.

So here I am, back to writing again. It feels good.

 

 

 

The Surprising Results of my No-TV Experiment

Going into this, my hypothesis was that by tackling my unproductive habits, like watching TV or flipping through popular images on imgur, and substituting these with relaxing but productive habits, like learning a little bit of code through experimentation or reading up on work topics, but mostly reading and listening to books, I would end up getting a lot more done, writing in particular, because of the extra ideas that I would be able to get out of these new habits.

Downsides

And this held true for the first week or so, when I still had a clear image of what I was doing, and I was still fresh and motivated.. but as the weeks went on, I ended up spending a lot of time and energy on making the decision to read, or listen to an audiobook, so that when it became time to work, I had a lot less mental energy to spend. I was experiencing decision fatigue in the afternoon, as I was making work related decisions at work, and then coming home and making decisions to eat healthy and read books, over defaulting to a habit.

It also impacted my mood negatively some days. Because I was focusing very hard on not watching any TV, I would opt out of TV-related conversations, and if someone else were to watch TV with me in the same room, I would be quite annoyed (I share a studio with my girlfriend who was not joining me in the experiment). And just not getting the same amount of humor in a day, and possibly the fact that it kind of tricks me into feeling like I’ve had sufficient social interaction on days where I didn’t talk to anyone outside of work.

Reading about different topics, in particular philosophical ones, proved to just as much spillover distraction as watching TV, just in a different shape. If you’re caught up in a good TV show, you’ll feel a desire to keep watching a lot of the time, even when you need to work. When I was reading, I ended up not being able to put unrelated ideas out of my mind.

Perhaps as a by-product of the disappointing final results I ended up not posting about it sooner, and with the my 11 day trip that followed right after the last day of the experiment, and the transition into working again when I got back, it’s now been over a month, almost two, since my last post.

Things That I Could Have Done Better

If I had finalized a healthy eating habit first, with a few clear options that don’t rely too much on outside factors (some of the healthy dishes I like to get from the market are not available consistently because the vendor is not there every day of the week) completely substituting reading and listening to audiobooks, learning some code with TV series and other shallow entertainment would have gone smoother, and it might have had the positive effect on my work that I’d hoped it would.

Another thing that could have helped, is if I had stocked up on books that were inherently interesting, energizing, and maybe a little bit funny, to me. Not necessarily all qualities in all books, but a few options that meet one of the criteria, so that I could choose whichever book would be the best for a certain time. One of the things that I turn to TV shows for is to be mesmerized, entertained and when I was reading fiction or non-fiction that I honestly enjoyed reading 100% through and through, it was a complete non-issue. When I had to force myself to keep reading and it felt like work in and of itself, it negatively impacted the amount of work I was doing.

Not sure I should have tackled the Infinite Jest audiobook in the beginning.  It is 40+ hours long. The book makes you reflect on a lot of interesting things, and although I enjoyed many parts quite a bit, the fact that it would take over 40 hours to get to tell yourself that you completed one book combined with the slower parts of the book makes it maybe not an ideal choice for first book to read.

Benefits

I have probably added some extra stuff to a sort of backlog of useful information in my head that could lead to more, or better, ideas in the near future.

While I still struggle to stop in the middle of a TV-series marathon, it is now a lot easier for me to choose not to watch it in the first place. Which means that I can more easily convince myself to do work earlier in the day, and even use it as a reward for doing other, more productive things, like writing and doing other work.

I found it easier to commit to hanging out with people and go out and actually experience real things(except when I was reading fiction that I got completely hooked to).

Going Forward

Will I be trying to do another similar experiment in the future and take even more care in how I set it all up? Trying to incorporate the lessons I learned this time around? Perhaps. Or I might just start adding a little reading to my daily habits as I gain some further momentum with my daily routine.

My next experiment will probably be about freeing up the absolute maximum amount of mindspace by creating a routine where all food and other small choices are already planned and taken care of before the day even begins.

Alternatively, I’ll try keeping a journal about beating procrastination. Where I would write entries every time I successfully get to work, and then read the last entry about how I beat procrastination every time that I’m struggling to get started.