Laziness

There are many characteristics which when reflected in a persons behaviour almost instantly produce a sense of respect for that individual such as loyalty, integrity, passion, and honesty. Other characteristics do the opposite and produce a sense of distaste, for me a big one being laziness. Recently, I’ve been captured by this horrible disease we call laziness, often choosing instant gratification over important hard work.

Laziness put simply, is a bitch. Giving into it once increases the likelihood that you’ll give into it again and before you know it you’ll find yourself binge-watching Netflix all day long. Activities which you before considered to be productive, now become infinitely more difficult to do and saying “no” to bad habits seems almost impossible.

It’s very interesting how quickly our brain forms new habits or returns to old ones. For me, this all began when I decided to go on a strict diet. I began eating far less than I used to and only ate foods considered to be “clean” such as broccoli, rice, chicken breast etc. I got some great results, however, the lack of calories combined with intense workouts caused me to feel exhausted for the majority of the day.

I began playing video games and watching TV more often as a way to take my mind off the food and conserve energy. I stopped reading books altogether, and quit learning software skills outside of my job. I also almost entirely stopped writing blog posts which I had the intention of posting on a weekly basis.

Eventually realizing the effect that this diet had on my lifestyle, I quit. I decided that it isn’t worth the effort and began eating normally. My caloric intake returned to normal and so did my workout regimen, however, my old habits did not. The need for writing blog posts, learning new skills, meditating, and reading just wasn’t there. It literally felt like I became a different person, laziness had taken over.

I’m actually still in the process of rewiring my brain and getting back to where I used to be. I feel it’s important to be conscious of the fact that the only cure to laziness is repeated action. Also, how easy it is to lose your good habits and the difficulty of getting them back. In the next few blog posts, I hope to cover my progress and obstacles that I face along the way.

Arnold Had To Succeed

I recently finished listening to the audiobook Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biography. I’ve been a fan of Arnold for quite some time now, and due to his accomplishments consider him almost a super-hero. For those of you unaware, outside of being one of the worlds biggest actors, Arnold also won Mr. Olympia 7 times, served as Governor of California for two terms, and earned millions in real estate.

Listening to this book, I wasn’t surprised by these achievements since I already knew about most of them ahead of time. Instead, what I found remarkable were the seemingly mundane processes that manifested them.  The book goes into a lot of detail outlining different stages of Arnold’s life, including his routines and decision-making. Each stage seems to follow a similar pattern, almost as if Arnold found a formula for success.

Whether in bodybuilding, acting, or politics, the major breakthroughs only happened after applying a ton of effort for long periods of time. Making progress in any of these areas was slow, and often produced no significant material rewards until years later.

Without the insight into Arnold’s life, one might assume that he was born extremely gifted and that his successes happened overnight. Afterall, all you’d get to witness was the end products of his work ethic, whether it was him on stage posing or playing the terminator. I myself just a couple of years ago(Before I started reading) attributed his success to luck, talent, and the right network of people.

The truth is though that outside of talent, which Arnold definitely possessed, he had an extreme work ethic. I’d imagine that 99% of people would be unable to perform intense weight training for longer than 2 hours without either physically or mentally being unable continue. Arnold is known for spending more than 3 hours in the gym and then working as bricklayer afterward. Sure, maybe you’d be able to pull this off for a day or two, but could you do it for months?

Titles such as Mr. Olympia, or playing the terminator sounds very enticing, after all, they provide status, wealth, and legacy. We spend a couple of hours watching the competition or movie and wish that we’d be able to take Arnold’s place. I think though, that a lot of people don’t consider that what’s being seen is only the tip of the iceberg. That Mr. Olympia competition that Arnold won took not months, but years of daily training, intense diet, and social sacrifices.

When you realize the amount of effort put into everything which he achieved, you begin to realize that the accomplishments weren’t so unlikely after all. Sure, Arnold had great genetics for bodybuilding and probably carried traits that helped him in acting(although I can’t think of any), but with the amount of work and planning invested it was inevitable that he had some form of success.

Understanding this I realized a couple of things, firstly, that planned work ethic will eventually produce results no matter what. Sure, you might not become an action-star, but some form of success will manifest itself.

Second, that being able to enjoy the work you’re doing is just as important as the goal you’re working towards. You will certainly not spend hours doing something out of your own will, possibly tired after work, if you dread doing it.

Lastly, that consistency is key, Arnold sparingly altered his goals, or “visions”. There’s no instance in the book where he switches between focusing on acting, bodybuilding, politics, or anything else on a short term basis. All of his goal decisions were concrete and required daily action for years at a time.

I imagine it like this: A million identical Arnolds are spawned, each put in a different universe. Each Arnold experiences a varying amount of luck in his life. Some die due to cancer, others lose a limb, but all exercise the same level of effort. I believe that any Arnold which did not die an early death will achieve success. 

 

 

The War of Art Book Review

As outlined in my introductory blog post, the name thewarofcode.com was inspired by Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. I recently re-read the book since I find its contents invaluable, and thought I’d write a review.

First off, I will say that if I had to choose one book, it would probably be this one.  The War of Art is special in the sense that it’s down-to-earth but at the same time somewhat spiritual. It does an incredible job of telling you exactly what’s stopping you from getting to your goals, and what is required of you to get there.

At the start, you are introduced to resistance, a force that everybody can relate to. Simply put, it’s the thing that stops you from getting stuff done, including going to the gym or writing a blog post.

The author does an excellent job at explaining the nature of resistance as if it were some sort of enemy creature.  Sentences such as“Resistance aims to kill.” are simple, but make it clear that this force is relentless and above all dangerous. As you go through the concise paragraphs used to describe resistance, you realize more and more that you’ve been fighting this beast your entire life, for better or for worse.

Once the reader is informed about the nature of this beast we call resistance, the author explains how it manifests itself in human life and its effects. As I read this part of the book I often have flashbacks to parts of my life where resistance had a played a role in stopping me from taking critical action which could’ve impacted my life greatly. Being able to identify when we’re being affected by resistance is important since due to its sneaky nature it often manifests itself as an emotion that we consider normal, such as fear.

Next, the author explains how to “turn pro”. To me, a simple and aggressive way of explaining a pro is somebody who shuts up and does the work he needs to do, regardless of the circumstances. A lot more detail is given as to what a pro actually is, and much of that is contrasted with the term amateur, a not yet turned pro.  In fact, the pro is defined in such great detail that it’s almost impossible to deceive yourself into thinking that you are one if you aren’t. You’ll quickly realize which of your behaviors don’t align with being a pro.

The final part of the book labeled The Higher Realm is where things get a little weird, especially if it’s your first time coming across this sort of material. The author begins talking about the Muse, a sort of entity whose job is opposite to that of resistance. The Muse helps to push you towards your goals by manifesting things within your reality. The Muse rewards dedication and effort hence why sitting down and doing the work is so important.

This may seem mystical or bullshit at first, but most of us can relate to the following: You’ve been putting off something for some time now dreading the idea of going through all the work to get it done. You finally sit down to do it and the first ten to fifteen minutes are wasted doing nothing. Slowly though, as you begin taking action the task becomes more and more enjoyable, far easier than you had imagined it to be. Sometime later you look at the clock thinking it has been 45 minutes since you started, surprised to realize it’s been 3 hours.

This, of course, doesn’t happen always but generally as you begin taking action things start falling into place. The more frequently you do this, the more results you begin to produce, the closer you get to where you’d like to be. Whether or not there is something called Muse doesn’t matter to me, what’s far more important is the understanding of the work that is required in order to begin this chain of events that lead up to success.

After defining the Muse and its purpose, the author goes over the paradigm shifts required in order to make the relationship with the Muse an effective one. Concepts in this part of the book are quite similar to those mentioned in eastern philosophy, such as distinguishing between the Ego and the Self, and which of the two we need to dissolve.

The final paragraph of the book states “Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got. “. I found this powerful since I never really considered being lazy or indifferent as a selfish act. I now consider the failure of acting upon my true desires as some level of harm to the world.

 

 

 

Being an Android Developer for an Early Stage Startup

For the past three months or so I’ve been developing on the Android platform for a startup called Pitstop. Without going into too much detail, Pitstop’s focus is to provide users with an application capable of predicting vehicle failures before they happen. The Pitstop application communicates with a device that is plugged into a car and using the data retrieved from the device, predictions can be made about future vehicle performance. If you want to find out more you can check us out here.

I began this job straight out of University, only one week after finishing my exams and regardless of the post-exam burnout I was experiencing, I was still ecstatic. I enjoyed developing Android applications and Java was my strongest language, so I felt this was the perfect position for me. A friend of mine who’s worked at a couple of start-ups as an iOS developer mentioned the fast pace of learning he experienced working at a startup, which I hoped to experience at Pitstop.

From day one I was for the most part on my own in terms of Android development, having no senior developer to go to for questions. I didn’t mind this since it allowed me to take on more responsibilities. Any kind of feature I was implementing or bug I was fixing had to be broken down and understood clearly since there was nobody to do this for me. This provided me with a deep understanding of things which I normally would only breeze over and make assumptions about.

Given that for the most part the majority of my day was planned entirely by me, I quickly had to become effective at self-managing myself. Without someone telling you exactly what problems to work on and the sequence of steps to take, it is very easy to get off track and spend a lot of time working on things which aren’t a priority. I realized this quickly and began setting weekly milestones in writing as well as specific tasks to work through daily.

One new skill which I previously did not find myself using was the ability to find and prioritize problems. In school and other jobs, I was pretty much always handed the problem and responsible only for finding and implementing the solution. At Pitstop, these problems weren’t always handed to me, it was occasionally my responsibility to figure out what problems existed on both a software and user-experience level. This turned out to be harder than I figured since there are countless possible improvements and having to pick the few that matter requires a lot of planning and team communication.

There were many other skills which I improved on as well, but I believe the mentioned ones resulted in the most profound changes. It is almost unbelievable the amount of knowledge and experience I have gained in the short three months. Much of this I attribute to throwing myself into a semi-unstructured, very driven, and closely bonded team work environment at Pitstop.

 

My 3 Favorite Ways of Increasing Energy Fast

Often I find myself in a situation where work needs to get done but my brain simply isn’t cooperating in the focus department. I’m not talking about the lack of will power here, instead of that feeling of being nearly brain dead where even a simple puzzle seems like a monster obstacle.

This usually happens to me either first thing in the morning, or later in the evening after I’ve been working awhile. It is especially frustrating when this occurs during a focus intensive activity, in my case, programming. I found a few ways to get rid of this feeling quickly and unfortunately only temporarily, as a way of being able to either kick start or finish off my day in high gear.

Caffeine

I’m sure this is your go-to as well; most people consume caffeine in the form of coffee, others like energy drinks. I’m personally a coffee guy myself, however lately I’ve been taking caffeine in pill form since it’s a lot less work and has the benefit of not yellowing your teeth. When drank in liquid form I notice that my energy levels rise almost immediately, in contrast, the pill is a little slower to kick-in. To get rid of the anxiety or jitteriness that caffeine naturally causes I sometimes supplement with L-theanine, a natural relaxant also found in tea.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are what fuel the majority of people’s bodies, the exception being anyone on a ketogenic diet (fat for fuel).  This macro-nutrient can come in many different forms, some of which digest very quickly, others far more slowly. Sugar, is an example of a carbohydrate that digests rapidly, especially in pure form. If you’re looking for a quick 30-minute energy boost sugar can do that for you by providing energy almost instantly, but be careful because it causes a significant crash right after. Something like a sweet potato digests far more slowly due to the carbohydrate structure and fiber content.  I find that a slower digesting carbohydrate provides a more sustained energy over a longer period of time.

Walking

This one may be counterintuitive, after all, if you’re having trouble focusing and possibly lack energy, why in the world would walking help. From my experience, I found that by getting out of my seat and going for a casual 20-minute walk outside, it’s almost as if my brain performs a reset. I find myself returning to work in a relaxed state often with solutions to the problems that I was stuck trying to solve prior to leaving. Give it a try, worst case scenario at least you got a little sun and some exercise.

Choosing My Career

As mentioned in previous blog posts, throughout high school I was a slacker. I put just enough effort into school to get away with playing video games all day long without my parents nagging. At the back of my mind, I knew I wasn’t making the right choices but I didn’t see enough value in studying to justify doing so.

At the time my goal, or rather my parent’s goal was for me to become a dentist or an architect. These careers promise good pay and a fairly comfortable working environment ensuring a secure and stable lifestyle. Every parent wants their kids to be wealthy and safe, hence why so many aspire for their kids to become doctors, engineers, dentists and whatever else has the potential for a six digit salary and with no injuries.

Thing is, the idea of becoming an architect gave me zero to no excitement. Furthermore, I dreaded art classes and performed below average in anything that centered on drawing and measuring. I saw no other options though, in my mind this was the profession which would ensure happiness later down the road.

In my first semester of grade 11, I ended up with an extra slot for an elective and decided to take computer science since it was the closest thing to sitting in front of an Xbox. After attending a few classes I quickly realized that this is something that I am not only good at but also enjoy doing. I took the follow-up course in grade 12 and quickly realized that this was what I wanted to pursue after high school.

It’s interesting because if the situation played out differently, let’s say I didn’t have the opportunity to take computer science, maybe I would have studied architecture. Instead of waking up and looking forward to going to work, I could’ve ended up in a situation where work seems like a total chore, a means to an end.

I think for this reason it’s super important to not commit to a particular career path until you are certain that you will enjoy the daily work it requires. Many people are lead onto the wrong path by their parents who have not taken into account whether their kids actually find it interesting. Luckily my parents are quite reasonable and proposing to do something very different wasn’t too difficult. To my past high school self, I would advise, focus on enjoying the journey rather than an imaginary future destination.

Willpower Awareness

I recently completed listening to the audio book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg which opened up my eyes to just how influenced everybody is by habits. One concept from the book stood out to me more than the rest, strongly relating to my situation and changed the way I’ve been planning my days since. What is this concept? Quite simply, the fact that our willpower isn’t limitless and can be depleted.

For a very long time, I’ve always believed that the ability to get stuff done was only a matter of determination and effort. I thought that there is no limit to how much you can work given you are physically able. This way of thinking caused me to plan my days full of work with little time for rest or entertainment.

Surprisingly this strategy actually worked quite well, only on occasion would I crack and go binge drink with my friends at a club. Recently though this plan stopped working almost altogether. What caused it? Working my way to getting a summer body.

As discussed in a previous blog I recently implemented a strict diet and training program into my daily routine. At the start, I simply added a couple more cardio exercise sessions to my weekly plan and put a meal plan into place. Everything else was kept the same, I assumed that I’d be able to get the exact same amount of work done every week, minus the extra time I’d be spending in the gym or cooking.

I was very surprised to find that after a week or so I wasn’t able to finish even half of the work I used to be able to. The tasks that used to be a breeze now seemed like huge obstacles and sustaining focus for long enough to complete them seemed almost impossible.

I rationalized that I’m not determined enough and that I need to work harder but no matter how hard I tried I simply was not able to do nearly as much as before. Then one day, while walking on a stair machine at the gym listening to The Power of Habit the author began talking about how willpower is limited. The studies used to prove this theory involved examining how people performed and reacted to certain activities after already exerting willpower versus people who hadn’t.

It turned out that the people who had exerted willpower performed worse in later mentally straining activities than those who hadn’t. People who exerted willpower became more frustrated and weren’t able to persevere through failures.

This is when I realized that my own willpower is also limited and that by introducing a meal plan and exercise the remaining parts of my day were affected. Saying no to junk food all throughout the day, or jogging for 30 minutes will make it far more difficult to write a blog post or read a chapter of a software book.

Several things began to make sense at this point, like for example why I would cheat on my diet if I put in a lot of effort into doing work in the morning. As a result, I began taking the limitations of my willpower into account when planning my day, setting just enough “tasks” such that all of them could be done without me snapping and going on an eating spree.

After only a couple of days of toning it down, things began to fall into place. I was able to complete whatever work I planned far more effectively, and with a lot more joy. I began to have more energy throughout the day, and actually had time to sit back and watch a movie or two. My diet fell into place as well, with ice cream binges happening nowhere near as often. The lesson I learned is that mental energy has to be treated as a previous resource and invested into what is important now.

 

Benefits of Commuting to Work

Almost immediately after graduating University I got a job working for a start-up as an android developer. Everything about the job description excited me, except the offices distance from my home. Google predicted that it would take me about 25 minutes to drive there without traffic. Unfortunately I did not have a car at the time, so the one-and-a-half hour bus trip was the only other option.

This was quite discouraging at first, knowing that I’ll be spending nearly three hours commuting. To make matters worse, the travel wasn’t just a single bus trip, but several. It involved a 20-minute walk at one point which on an early Monday morning I suspected I wouldn’t be excited about.

It turned out to not be so bad though, commuting actually had many benefits. For example, the fact that you can sit and do whatever you like while somebody else operates the bus. This allowed me to read, program, or sleep if I felt I wanted to, something you can’t or at least shouldn’t be doing while driving.

Another major benefit was the walking that the commute involved. Each trip involved around 30 minutes or so of travelling by foot which allowed me to get some sun and exercise. It felt very refreshing, and pleasurable to walk after sitting on a chair idle for many hours.

Lastly, commuting was a lot cheaper. I only had to worry about loading my bus card with credits and that’s it, no insurance payments, gas, maintenance, and repairs.  The overhead associated with making the payments was a lot smaller too since the card loaded itself almost automatically.

That being said, a lot of things did suck about commuting. Since there was a lot of walking involved, the quality of the walk was fairly dependent on the weather. If it rained, I’d show up to work uncomfortable and soaked, especially if I forgot an umbrella. Other things such as over-crowded buses and following a fixed schedule were also often annoying.

The biggest con was the time though, the fact that during the commute I had only a little flexibility with what I could actually do. Due to this, I didn’t commute for very long, I ended up purchasing a car only a few weeks in. Now I find myself making up those walks to work on a treadmill at the gym.

Book Ripple Effect

All throughout elementary school and up until about the end of my first year of University I probably only read a total of three or four books. These few books I read only because teachers provided time windows during which you were forced to read. Even when the majority of my English class grade depended on reading a book, I would usually cheat my way through doing so by “researching” online.

Most of this was due to my addiction to video games and the lack of interest in anything but slaying dragons and attaining killstreaks. After completing the first year of University things changed. I realized my actions weren’t aligned with my future goals and wanted to figure out what aspects of myself I needed to change.

I didn’t know whether information related to self-improvement actually existed, so I turned to Google. After searching some keyword, a list of books appeared at the top of my browser and I began reading the reviews of each. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill was listed and had plenty of positive reviews. I purchased it, read it, followed by the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen Covey and continued down a path of other Amazon suggested books.

Each book had profound changes on the way I viewed the world, immediately changing my behavior. My video game addiction was pretty much entirely replaced with programming. My goals became far more ambitious and I gained better control of my emotions. The books provided me with a high sense of belief which in turn made me crave working towards what I wanted.

Often I would run into philosophies which not only changed how I acted but also why. The initial goals that I set out to achieve when beginning to read were far different just a few weeks down the road. I began to realize just how little I actually knew and the vastness of knowledge that can be attained.

Later when I began my second year of University, the information that I gathered through these seemingly irrelevant books had a major impact on my performance. My grades were far better than ever before, and I truly felt like I was on track. It was odd because for the first time it didn’t feel like school was a chore.

Through time changes rippled into almost every area of my life, today, a large portion of my knowledge and behavior can be traced back to particular books. It is not to say though that books did all the work, after all, it takes an effort to implement the knowledge they possess.

Currently, I still try to read on a regular basis but find myself listening to audiobooks a lot more. Books which are more technical I read, such as Code Complete by Steve McConnell, whereas more laidback material I enjoy listening to.  I think it’s important to read(or listen) on a regular basis as a way of not only gaining new knowledge but also being reminded of what you already know.

Following an “Intense” Diet

I’m currently in the process of dieting for a bodybuilding competition taking place in about twelve weeks near my home city. I and a friend decided to compete in a local show, which every day I pretty much regret committing to.

First off I’ll go ahead and admit that dieting is extremely difficult for me. It is probably the most challenging thing period. I love food, and probably have some sort of an eating disorder lurking subconsciously. For this reason, traditional dieting simply does not work for me. Instead, I leverage supplements, exercise, sleep and other things in order to get through the day.

One major challenge is the fact that from Monday to Friday, I have to be able to fully focus on my work for around 8 hours a day. I love programming, and 8 hours is not very long but without careful planning, it is easy to burn out by 2 pm and feel like a complete zombie.

So let’s dive into some of the specifics of what I do. Firstly I follow a low fat, moderate carbohydrate, high protein diet. For those of you who aren’t into nutrition, it pretty much means that the majority of what I eat is rice and chicken breast. By keeping my diet low fat I am able to fit more carbohydrates in, which from experience seem to give me more energy and keep me full.

I also try to exercise twice a day, lifting weights in the morning and doing cardiovascular exercise at night. My training sessions are quite short, ranging from 30-40 minutes. I only lift weights 4 times a week, the rest of the days I only do cardio. This is to ensure that my muscles are recovering for the following workout.

On top of eating primarily clean foods, I don’t get to eat a lot of them. It is necessary that I am at a caloric deficit on a daily basis. This causes me to experience a major drop in energy levels which affect pretty much every area of my life. In order to combat this, on an almost everyday basis, I use supplements to get me through the day.

A lot of people consider supplements scams but I believe they are miracle workers. I use ephedrine whenever I lack energy or experience extreme hunger. Coffee, or caffeine I’ll use for pretty much the same purpose, usually drinking some before exercise or during work. Whey protein is great for after exercise in order to feed your body amino acids that help to produce muscle growth.

Even after supplementing though, things just aren’t the same. Following an “intense” diet is not easy and takes a major toll on productivity. For the next twelve weeks,  I’ll have to carefully invest energy only into the necessary things such as work(programming), exercise, and maintaining order at home. If you’re looking to lose weight fast here’s my advice, don’t. It isn’t worth the mental and physical strain, instead do it slow and steady by procedurally changing your eating and exercise habits.