Tag: motivation

The problem with perfectionism

The problem with perfectionism

Back in the days when I was a student going through my business communication module. There was a class on interviewing skills.

The instructor asked for volunteers and one of the questions went like this:

Instructor: Tell me about your biggest weakness.

Response: I’m a perfectionist. I spend too much time getting caught up in the little details…

Cringe.

This was a decade back where this response was considered the model answer for “what’s your biggest flaw” type of questions.

This poster, found on the walls of... - Facebook for Education | Facebook
Poster on walls of Facebook office

Today, with technology and best practices changing so rapidly, perfectionism would be crippling to most organizations.

Agile, Scrum and Kanban are the buzzwords for innovation for almost every organization nowadays. It focuses on incremental changes, testing, and modifications. Rather than in-depth planning right at the beginning.

“If you think that’s a big failure, we’re working on much bigger failures right now — and I am not kidding. Some of them are going to make the Fire Phone look like a tiny little blip.”

Jeff Bezos on the failure of the Fire Phone

Successful organizations are increasingly aware of the importance of trying out, going fast and making progress instead of executing only when there’s a ‘perfect’ idea.

What’s wrong with being a perfectionist?

It is paralyzing.

“Perfectionism is insecurity with lipstick on it”

Gary Vaynerchuk

The quest for perfectionism is a defense mechanism that prevents us from doing anything. It is the worst procrastination tool around.

The true perfectionist will not try new things, because they know it will never be perfect.

If you’re looking for a perfect life, you will never enjoy living.
If you’re looking for a perfect opportunity, you will never find it.
If you’re looking for the perfect investment, you will never invest.
If you’re looking for the perfect relationship, you will never find anyone.

Many knows that their life could be better by investing, getting insured, publish their content publicly, or pursue their dreams.

But would never do it.

“Investing is too risky, best left to professionals.”

“It has already been done by many others, I’m too late to try.”

“I don’t think I’m good enough.”

We are afraid that we have no talent. That we will be rejected, criticized, ridiculed or misunderstood or — worst of all — not be heard.

But we forget that the path to being good at anything is to start.

The gap between expectations & reality

We often look at our idols, be it Michael Jordan for basketball, Warren Buffett for investing, J.K. Rowling for writing or Jeff Bezos for running businesses and awe at how good they are.

We start setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves as amateurs and compare ourselves with our idols. With what we see on the surface — perfection.

Our perfectionism starts to torture us when we overlook how hard others had work or suffered before reaching ‘perfection’.

The original Amazon website (August 1995)
The original Amazon website (1995)

Amazon did not start out to be the e-commerce powerhouse it is today. Jeff Bezos was rejected multiple times when trying to raise funds in 1994.

He said, “I had to take 60 meetings to raise $1 million, and I raised it from 22 people at approximately $50,000 a person.”

In the book The Everything Store, Bezos started out packing books, rushing to meet customers orders, and struggled to find supplies.

Nothing was easy nor instant. Bezos achieve what he has today with a constant struggle of refining, testing, failing, and improving before Amazon became the number one e-commerce store.

What do we do?

Start the process by not judging yourself.

At least not in the short term. Don’t judge yourself in a day, or weeks, or months. Judge yourself in a life.

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.

Focus on progress, not perfection.


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The S curve of life

The S curve of life

Every process, be it a business, a country, or your life, is like an S-curve lying on its side. Like this:

We first start out by putting more in. By way of education, investment, or experiment before it starts going up. And when it goes up, as one would hope, for it to keep going up all the time. Nevertheless, it is an S curve and eventually, it reaches the top and starts going down.

Everyone experiences their tipping point at different moments in their life. As the curve moves down, we experience what is popularly known as the quarter-life crisis or the mid-life crisis. When work no longer feels as satisfying or meaningful.

In Peter Drucker’s book Managing Oneself, he explains that as our society transits from manual work to knowledge work, our productive years have been prolonged. Most of us get to be very good at our jobs, but it may no longer provide the growth, challenge or satisfaction it once did.

Starting your next S curve

We have to find the next curve while we are still climbing. Before we start hitting the peak of the first curve. Because it is tough to start new when it starts going downhill.

Starting a new curve is going to cost more than they produce at first. The curve will dip initially as we need new investment, education, and experiment before it starts to go up.

It will look like this:

Due to uncertainty, most of us find it difficult to summon the will or courage to pivot or change direction. For many individuals or companies, as they approach the end of the curve, wonder what went wrong. They start asking themselves why they didn’t change when times were good.

“Most people die at 25 and aren’t buried until they’re 75.”

Benjamin Franklin

Psychologically it is very difficult to start new when we are starting to experience the fruits of success. For individuals, the majority would “retire on the job”, and hope that life post-retirement would be more fulfilling.

For organizations, the inability to change course at their peak meant extinction or a slow painful death. Much like what digital cameras did to Kodak and what streaming did to Blockbuster.

Pay attention when your purpose changes

Learn to listen to your voice, and recognize that goals and purpose in life may evolve over time. Complacency and lack of curiosity are good indicators that it may be time to start your next S curve.

Sometimes, we may not know what our next S curve should be.

The best way to find your next S curve is by taking action. Taking action helps dispel fear and anxiety when undergoing changes. Finding your purpose is less about grand moments of discovery but more of developing the habit of awareness and experimenting.

In his book The Art of Work, Jeff Goins shared “When we say we don’t know what to do, we’re really asking something deeper. What we want to know is this: Can you promise me I won’t fail?”

Finding my next S curve

Starting this blog, reading biographies, and connecting with people has helped kickstart the process. By taking action, I hope to have a better visualization of what my next S curve would look like.

There was a lot of apprehension before writing publicly. But that was quickly dispelled with the privilege of having a supportive community.

In the spirit of celebrating small milestones, I’m glad that the blog has hit 15,000 views per month after writing close to 2 months. I’m also grateful for the kind words and recognition from the internet community.

I was particularly delighted when Gautam Baid, author of The Joys of Compounding shared my post on Figuring out a company’s intrinsic value with PE ratio.

This post gave me the opportunity to connect with many value investors.

Charles Handy puts it across aptly – stuff happens in life, apples fall unexpectedly into your lap, but it helps if you are standing in the orchard.

In short, if you have an idea of what you would like to pursue. Start meeting people, reading relevant books or finding the right online community.

Staying in touch

I’m thankful that you have taken the time to read my blog. If you would like to get in touch, I would be happy to connect with you on Linkedin.

Alternatively, you can reach me at contact@steadycompounding.com

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What basketball taught me about life

What basketball taught me about life

#Attitude. It means giving your best on and off the court. It means showing up on time. It means out-hustling others even when your body is wearing out. It means treating your teammates and your coach with the utmost respect and care. It means to be the best version of yourself.

It has been almost 4 years since I graduated. If there’s one thing that’d define my university life, it’d be basketball. There were many challenging moments that we always overcome as a team. Time spent hustling with my teammates, growing together as a team are experiences I would always hold dear.

Being a student-athlete means spending most of our waking hours training. My day would start at 6:00 A.M. daily with a 5km run, followed by hitting the gym. Evening time would be reserved for basketball practice with the team. Everyone worked tirelessly towards a common goal – to become the best varsity team in Singapore.

I’m grateful for the many lessons and values being a student-athlete provided me. My coach, teammates, and the challenges we faced taught me many timeless lessons. I hope you will find these useful as well.

Deliberate practice

Popularized by Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, 10,000 hours of practice is the magic number to greatness. In the beginning, showing up on the court and in the gym to put in the reps is the most important thing. After a while, we tend to go through the motion. Carelessly overlooking minute errors and missing out on daily opportunities for improvement.

Our brain naturally converts repeated actions into habits. For example, when we practice shooting and aim to make 100 shots a day. After many repetitions it becomes muscle memory. And if our shooting form was flawed, it becomes a bad habit that we subsequently have to unlearn and retrain.

Deliberate practice is the opposite of mindless practice. Instead of simply putting in the repetitions. It requires us to break down the process into parts, set clear goals, identify our weaknesses, and then continuously tweak our learning process.

Listen to your voice

Fear and self-doubt always strike at the most untimely moments. Surround yourself with supportive and positive personalities who believe in you. Avoid negative people who love bringing others down. It will drain you emotionally, preventing you from achieving your goals.

Throughout life, many will provide advice and opinions on how you should do things. Many of them are well-intended. With experience, you will learn how to filter out those that don’t sit right with your values and goals.

There will always be players who play dirty. Risking the safety of others and potentially inflicting career-ending injuries. They will convince you to do the same and they will rationalize their behaviors. In times like this, listen to your inner voice. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

This brings us to the next point on team culture.

Team culture

The speed and extent to which a team is able to grow together is largely dependent on its culture. A great team culture encourages open communication, promotes constructive feedback, and fosters a desire amongst teammates to see each other become better.

Our team set aside 10 – 15 minutes after every practice. Talking about what went well and what could be done better. A good advice would be to praise by name, criticize by category.

Alumnus would often be present to share their experiences. Every new batch of players did not start from ground zero. Under this environment, we were able to build on the experiences of seniors and alumnus quickly.

We never shunned difficult topics after every loss. As a team, we will trash it out and be critical of our performance. To find out how we can overcome challenges as a team. This form of candidness must be nurtured over time. And setting this tone starts from the top. Never let a loss go to waste, for setbacks provides the best opportunity to learn and grow.

Life isn’t a straight line

Life does not always move in straight lines. Sometimes you hit a plateau and move sideways for awhile. Other times you backtrack a little. It is tempting to think that everything moves in a linear fashion. As time pass, your career gets better, your relationships get better, and you become more fulfilled.

But the truth is that life will always throw you curveballs. Sometimes I don’t feel like I’ve gotten anywhere. Mid last year I had my ACL reconstruction surgery. Something that is dreadful to any athlete. Having to go through that prolonged rehabilitation process.

What matters though, is to focus on making tomorrow better than today. As the saying goes – if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Don’t be too hard yourself and focus on planning your next step. Get yourself out of that hole, one step at a time.

What you can’t count matters

What isn’t counted doesn’t count. That is how the saying goes and it is true that much of life is a numbers game. Headlines of sports articles are filled with how much points a player scored. How many rebounds were snatched. And how many assists and steals did a player achieved for the game. Was it a double-double or triple-double?

What counts can’t always be counted; what can be counted doesn’t always count.

Albert Einstein

Numbers, however, are incomplete. They don’t always paint the full picture. The points recorded for the game will not capture team players who fought for every loose ball. Hustled back for every defense. Team players who communicated on the court. And especially, selfless players on reserve who spent all their heart and energy cheering their teammates on the court.

All these added together create a lollapalooza effect. And it is what makes a winning team. This experience helps me appreciate beyond what is measurable. At work, in life, and with investments.

#Attitude

Having the right attitude counts. It is what makes a team succeed. And it is what makes a team complete. Attitude means to be the best version of yourself. Only with the right attitude, can our experience in life be satisfying.

I end off with my favorite pictures, which encapsulates much of my love for the game, and for my team.

On retirement, happiness and life

On retirement, happiness and life

Listened Navel Ravikant’s podcast and his interview with Joe Rogan, and Shane Parrish this week. The interviews were absolutely mind-blowing. Throughout both interviews, Navel delivered compelling wisdom on almost all aspects of life – retirement, happiness, education, etc.

In today’s post I will share my biggest takeaways and my thoughts.

On Retirement

“Retirement is when you stop sacrificing today for some imaginary tomorrow. When today is complete in and of itself, you are retired”

I don’t care how rich you are. I don’t care whether you’re a top Wall Street banker. If somebody has to tell you when to be at work, what to wear and how to behave, you’re not a free person. You’re not actually rich.

Navel Ravikant

For Navel, retirement is not receiving a cheque every month at 65 years old. Retirement is achieved when you can be fully present, today. And there are 3 ways we can achieve retirement:

  1. Save up so much money that your passive income covers your burn rate
  2. Drive your burn rate down to zero and become a monk
  3. Make a living doing something you love

There are multiple ways to achieve retirement. Most of us don’t give much consideration, or have the courage to pursue option 2 or 3.

Option 1 has been the most popular choice for most of us – trading in hours to make more money in a linear fashion. Because most of us were taught to work for other people and climb our way up the ladder. And hopefully, we will reach that promised land.

There’s a great story to illustrate this – the Mexican Fisherman.

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.  Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna.  The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos.  I have a full and busy life.” The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”

“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part.  When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

This story reminds me not to lose sight of the forest for the tree. One of the biggest mistakes people make in their careers is to treat work primarily as a means to an end. Whether that end is money, power, or prestige, this instrumentalization of work leads to unhappiness.

Since young, I have always practiced delayed gratification to eventually arrive at the promised land – to be able to spend more time with loved ones, pursue meaningful work, and to be present.

This is a reminder to me that the time is now. That doesn’t mean that everything has to change immediately, but start building joy into your life today.

On keeping up with the Joneses

Social media has degenerated into a deafening cacophony of groups signaling and repeating their shared myths.

Navel Ravikant

In today’s day and age of technology, the impact of signaling has been amplified. Posting on social media when we go on holidays, fancy restaurants, working out, volunteering, or reading books.

Rather than looking at ourselves, we are looking at how other people look at us. It builds up a strong self-image based on likes and compliments. Which could easily be torn down. It doesn’t take many insults to drown out all the compliments.

“As you get older, you just realize that there’s no happiness in material possessions.

“I think a lot of us learn as we get older that happiness is internal.”

Navel Ravikant

Happiness and fulfillment come from within. When we are trapped thinking all about how others view us, we stop living our lives. It disrupts our journey to retirement and prevents us from being present. To quote Dave Ramsey – We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.

Acknowledging that I have been guilty of this as well and to stop myself from falling into this trap, I have refrained from posting on social media. To avoid subconsciously doing things for the sake of signaling.

A good question to ponder when making any spending decision – Would I do this if no one else will know of it?

“The eyes of other people are the eyes that ruin us. If all but myself were blind, I should want neither fine clothes, fine houses, nor fine furniture”

Ben Franklin

On education

“The ability to learn, the means of learning, the tools of learning, are abundant and infinite. It’s the desire that’s incredibly scarce.

Naval Ravikant

For Naval, our current education system has been made obsolete. Today, we have the internet. If we have the desire to learn, we can attend online courses from Khan Academy, MIT, and Yale online lectures. We can read blogs and books published by brilliant people. If it is purely learning we are after, it can be done through the internet or by uniting through the internet with like-minded groups.

In the age of Google and smartphones, memorization is obsolete. Our education system still places undue weight on it just because that’s the way it has always been done in the pre-Google world.

As a one-size-fits-all model, the current education system is like a cookie-cutter. Many who don’t fit into this mold would feel inadequate at a young age. Everyone has to go through this model regardless of their strengths and interests.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Albert Einstein

On being yourself

“Looking forward to holidays takes the joy out of every day.”

Naval Ravikant

Many of us will tell ourselves we need to do this.. we need to do that. But what we should be doing more often is asking ourselves what we want to do. If we can’t wait for work to end or if we find ourselves always looking forward to the next holiday, we may want to stop and listen.

Stop trying to figure out how to do things the way other people want you to do. Listen to that little voice inside your head that wants to do things a certain way and then you get to be you.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Steve Jobs

No one in the world is going to beat you at being you. To Naval, our goal in life is to find the people, business, project, and art that needs you the most. There is something out there just for us. And we need to discover that for ourselves.

On compounding interest

“Play long-term games with long-term people. All returns in life, whether in wealth, relationships, or knowledge, come from compound interest.”

Naval Ravikant

Compounding is a concept at the very heart of this blog. This applies not just to wealth. But to everything else in life – relationships, business, knowledge, and fitness.

Establishing long term relationships – be it romantic or business – makes life easier because you know that person’s got your back covered. If we want to be successful, we have to work with other people. And trust is the core for any successful partnership. Mutual trust makes it easy to do business.

This applies to health and fitness as well. The fitter and healthier you are, the easier it is to stay that way. Whereas the more you disregard your body, the harder it is to come back. Even clawing back to the baseline would require insurmountable efforts and willpower.

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