Life’s Obstacles

In the popular 1994 movie The Shawshank Redemption, the character Andy is wrongly convicted of murder and is incarcerated in the notoriously harsh Shawshank Prison.

Shawshank redemption

Andy (left in picture) works in the prison library which has very few resources except for some old tattered books and magazines. he begins a campaign to improve and expand the library and approaches the prison wardens for funds.

The warden is reluctant to spend taxpayers money on luxuries for convicted criminals. Andy is not deterred and so he asks the wardens permission to write to the State Senate for funds. Despite believing Andy’s efforts are a waste of time, the warden promises to personally mail the letters.

Andy sets about sending one letter a week to the Senate, asking for assistance, believing that they can’t ignore him forever. It takes six years but to Andy’s amazement boxes of books are delivered to the prison, together with a cheque for $200. A note is attached from the Senate stating thet they now consider the matter closed!

Some of the prison officers are surprised that Andy’s persistence has paid off. Andy becomes even more determined and starts writing two letters a week! The State realizes Andy can’t be bought off with $200 and a few boxes of books. In the hope of silencing him, the State approves an annual payment of $500. Andy makes that $500 stretch as far as it would go. He did deals with book clubs and charity groups. The library was refurbished and it became the place to be. It was the best prison library in all of New England.

Despite the desperate situation, he found himself in and the many obstacles he faced, Andy never gave up. His determination, his persistance and his commitment was rewarded.

This is the same for all of us. Most of us are not as hampered as Andy. We are free. We can fight to live or we can give up, wither and die.

I happened to watch this movie when I was jobless and frustrated from applying for tens of jobs without any replies. When you’re down and out, it is so easy to give up in despair.  But what this movie teaches you is not to stop asking. Keep knocking on doors, several times if you must, until you find and get what you want. Persevere. Dont stop knocking until your last breath.

Persevere

When you’re down and out, it’s easy for people to tell to keep on persevering.

You feel like punching them in the face.

Don’t.

You feel like they don’t know how much effort you’re already putting in.

But all they are saying is that don’t give up.

Life is tough.

Life isn’t fair.

But when you have a goal and, more importantly, a desire to achieve it, even a disease won’t be an obstacle for you. Have you heard of Bill Porter? Even though Bill Porter has cerebral palsy, he wanted to work in sales. He achieved his goal, and later he became one of the best salesmen in America. The movie ’Door to Door’ is dedicated to his spirit, and it’s recommended for those who think something will hold them back from achieving the desired career.

Persevere.

Don’t stop knocking. You will never know which door will open.

Have faith.

Life is Never Fair

It took me around 40 years to realise that life is not fair.

You can work as hard as you want but there will be times when unexpected things will impact your life. Like working hard in a job and then one morning the boss comes to you and says you’re redundant because there is no more suitable work for you. (In other words, they can’t find any more high-end work for you or they need to save some cost because of the financial year end and you’re the scape goat).

You never saw this coming.
You take a moment to absorb this.
Your world stops.
How are you going to support your family?

Always remember that life is like a sine wave.

There will be up’s and down’s.

When things are going well for you, always remember to save money for the rainy and unexpected events.

When the chips are down, draw down on your savings so that you have enough time to find new work.

If you’re technologically savvy and think you can easily find work from the job portals, think again. When the economy is bad, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people just like you.

What will differentiate you from them?

I’ve learnt the hard way that the only way to find work is through your network. Only your friends and your network will help you find work during these times. They might know of someone who may need your skills.

When times are good, remember to be in touch with your friends. Dont go to them only when you’re in dire straits; they may be reluctant to help you.

How To Get Things Done – Buffett Style

 

“Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.”

~H. L. Hunt

This advise was given by Warren Buffett, one of the richest man in the world, to his pilot who has been flying him around the world for the past 10 years.

Warren-Buffett

 

When the pilot asked Warren on how he manages to get things done, this was what Warren said:

  1. List down 25 things you would like to do.
  2. Circle the top 5 things that are most important to you.
  3. Break the list to two: one has your top 5 items, the other has the balance 20 items.
  4. Now make plans on how to achieve each item in your top 5 list. These plans should be concrete, step by step items.
  5. The other list with the balance 20 items becomes your AVOID AT ALL COST items. Dont touch them until you have reached your top 5 goals.

The secret in his method is not in choosing what to do. It’s choosing what not to do. This is where everyone errs. We try to juggle and dissipate our energy over so many things that we achieve average results in everything. High performance people focus on only a handful of items and excel in them.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is how Warren Buffett achieves his goals in life, don’t you think it might work for you?

 

What is Awareness?

A man took his new hunting dog out on a trial hunt. Presently he shot a duck that fell into the lake. The dog walked over the water, picked up the duck and brought it back to his master.

The man was flabbergasted! He shot another duck. Once again, while he rubbed his eyes in disbelief, the dog walked over the water and retrieved the duck.

Hardly daring to believe what he had seen, he called his best friend for a shoot the following day. Once again, each time he or his best friend hit a bird, the dog would walk over the water and bring the bird in.

The man said nothing. Neither did his best friend.

Finally, unable to contain himself any longer, he blurted out, “Did you notice anything strange about that dog?”

His best friend looked at him, rubbed his chin pensively and said, “Yes, come to think of it, I did! The son of a gun cant swim!”

 

It isn’t as if life is not full of miracles.
It’s more than that: it is miraculous, and anyone who stops taking it for granted will see it at once.

 

Bridge – An Actual Social Network

 

Finally, a real social network. And what do I mean by real?

Bridge is an app which lets you meet your Facebook (at the moment it only links to Facebook. Google+ users will have to wait) friends for real life activities. When you log in and depending on your preferences (mine was photography, chess and computer programming), you’ll see bridges (or connections who sahre the same interest) close to you (you’ll need to actvate your GPS for the app to work).

bridge-social-network-2

 

So lets say I saw a friend doing some yoga. I click on the yoga bridge and I get more details. I can then RSVP, so that my friend knows that more people are coming or I could send a message to ask for more information.

The map view below shows all bridges close to your location of your friends who share similar interests.

 

bridge-social-network-1

You can then click on the activity that you’re interested in and see who’s coming and even check on people’s profiles, just in case you’re worried on who’s attending. You dont want to be in the same place with your ex-, I understand!

bridge-social-network-3

At least now you get to meet real people, in a real environment!

Finally, an actual social network!

 

The Secret Skill of Productive People

We all yearn to be productive, or at least I do. I want to wake up early in the morning and start working on my tasks immediately and finish them. 18 months ago that was a dream until I listened to a short talk on the Internet by Anthony Robins on mimicking the habits of successful people. So I started reading and tried to see which of their habits I could apply.

Keyword: habit.

To change your life around, you need to develop new habits. Doing a single productive thing today, say waking up early, is not going to change your life if it’s not something you’re willing to do constantly.

How Do You Develop Habits?

You cannot remove old habits. You can only replace them. Say you like to sleep late. And you can’t wake up early. To wake up early, you will need to replace the habit of sleeping late with going to bed early.

21 days. Apparently that’s how long it takes for your brain to start doing this automatically. You will need to willfully force yourself to perform this new task for 21 days. Then your brain will automatically start to understand this routine and your subconscious mind will automatically take over this tasks. And waking up early now becomes a new habit.

You want your subconscious mind to take over the task. This is the key to productivity. This is the secret of successful people.

Your Actions

Your action for today is to list the habits that you would like to acquire. Sort them by priority. Beside each habit, write down why you want it. Studies have shown that you will only form new habits if there is a “pain” in not achieving what you desire. Write down this “pain”. Let this pain drive you.

For example, if losing weight is your pain, write down the things that you can’t do with your current weight. Also write down the consequences of having so much weight.

Make the process of moulding your new habit into a game. Push yourself to see how much weight you can lose within a week. On the contrary to what people say, and I agree with them that your weight fluctuates daily and also during different times in a day, weigh yourself daily at the same time, naked. Yes, naked.  Jot down your weight. You’re in for a big surprise when the week is over.

And spend the next 21 days working on this habit.

Dont screw up this process by working on multiple habits at a go. There are no short cuts in life. Put in the effort and Mother Nature will do her part. Pick up one habit and work on it. Remember, Rome was built in a day and neither will your productivity. Work on this slowly and surely, within a year, you’ll be amazed at how productive you would have become.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
–Aristotle

The most famous book on habits was written by Dr. Stephen Covey many, many years ago. His book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, explains how to change habits by changing your perception of the things you don’t want to do. This is a book you can read in a day. It takes time to read and digest the ideas in this book. My copy of this book has a lot of notes written on the side, underlined passages and it really changed the way I perceived my behaviour and my spouses behaviour.

Another excellent and new book on the power of habits is The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg, Pulitzer Prize–winning business reporter.

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg, takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. He mixes facts and stories that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to the sidelines of the NFL and to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.