Tag Archives: family life CEO

The power of a streak

One very intensive day of language training can teach you something, but in general, it will not improve your knowledge significantly. However, consistent 15-minutes a day is sure to bring results.

One very intensive day of sports training can teach you something, but the same as with a language, it will neither significantly improve your sporting abilities, nor your condition. However,… you guessed it right! Consistent even only 15-minutes a day exercises will render much more sustainable results.

I have been talking about the power of small steps for a while, but here is an important add-on to it —

coupled with the power of a streak, you will be surprised how far you can get.

The most important caveat here is consistency. When I say “every day”, that means “EVERY day!”. With all capitals in “every” and an exclamation point at the end. 🙂

No excuses like “I will skip today because I am so tired…” or “I will have to skip today because we are going to that party”. Nope. That doesn’t work like that. If one day is lost, the streak is lost. As simple as that.

In the language app I am using (Duolingo), my streak recently crossed 200 days mark. That means that for more than 200 hundred days EVERY single day I spent at least 15 minutes doing exercises in Dutch. I can tell you, it got me far! As far as being able to have a fluent conversation in Dutch at a party we attended last month. For the record, Duolingo is of course not the only source of learning for me, as the app is more for practicing and — which is probably the most important — for streak-keeping.

Now, the last part is actually very important.

It is a pure psychological trick — a “satisfaction-banana” for our “monkey-brain”. If we see the counter and it is consistently increasing, after a very short while it is kind of sad to lose this streak. For instance, you have already the proverbial 21-days (needed to form a habit), you would not want to go back to zero and start all over, would you?

(Even more, if you do, there is a big chance that you will not pick it up again).

Keeping streak helped me make the learning of Dutch into a daily habit, but it likewise worked for 5 minutes of meditation, a daily plank, and some other small habits – my small steps – of improving my life. Thus I wholeheartedly believe that streak-keeping is an important power working together with the power of small steps towards getting to any big hairy audacious goals you can come up with.

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Don’t mistake possibilities for probabilities

Anything is possible — that’s inspiring and in a way assuring phrase. Indeed, anything can become possible with the right targeted effort and… with the right conditions. Now, this is a tricky one. The right conditions can be just there or they can be created. How probable is that both the effort and conditions will materialize is a completely different question.

To give some examples, it is perfectly possible for me to learn Chinese. If someone else has ever succeeded in doing so, why wouldn’t I? Well, what is the probability that I will learn Chinese? Pretty low. It is not one of my goals nor even dreams. Therefore, despite the theoretical possibility, it will remain impossible for me, or better — it is improbable.

It is theoretically possible for me to become an athlete. Even now in my thirties, if I put all my efforts into reaching this goal, I am convinced I will get myself there. At the expense of what? Pretty much everything I guess, so the probability of this event is likewise pretty low.

If I would put percentages, practically everything where there is at least a tiny chance of occurrence is possible. There are examples of successes that defy all odds. Like a million to one, and still… a possibility is a possibility. However, the probability is a likelihood of occurrence, which can easily be close to zero for this or that reason.

This difference sounds pretty obvious, yet the problem arises when a person mistakes a possibility for probability. If someone says: “It is impossible!”, what is meant on many counts is not that it is impossible, but rather that: “It is improbable!”. Slight nuance, but a huge difference in meaning.

In his book “Principles” Ray Dalio explicitly stressed: “anything is possible. It’s probabilities that matter.” and I cannot agree more.

Unconscious habits passed through generations

One of my habits which my husband finds annoying is that I never finish my tea. Usually, I would leave a teabag in to get my tea strong enough, yet by the moment I reach the very bottom of the cup, those last drops are already way too strong and no longer tasty. So I leave them. It actually never occurred to me that it was something weird. Moreover, before recently I had no idea why do I actually do it like I do. It dawned on me, when my mother was visiting us recently and I made her a cup of tea. The puzzle pieces fell in place… 

There is a story I heard in several iterations, where a kid is asking her mother why does she always cut off the ends of the sausage before baking. The mother couldn’t answer anything else, but that her own mother was doing it like that as well. So the kid goes to her granny, who is likewise ignorant of the reasons and encourages to ask the great-granny. The old lady three generations up replies with the question: ”Oh, you are not still frying on that small pan, do you?”.

That story and revelation about my tea drinking habit origins made me think about habits in general, or better about unconscious habits passed through generations. The way we do laundry, brush our teeth, fold clothes, or boil eggs (I had a separate post on the last one – check it out here: Understanding people and what hard-boiled eggs have to do with it ) is something we probably do without much thinking. We learned it by mimicking our parents, who probably learned it from theirs and so on. Nevertheless, the “pan” we use might already be significantly different. I wonder how many other habits have we acquired unconsciously? What if we ask a question of whether they are still relevant? What if we ask the proverbial “why”? What if the underlying assumptions no longer hold? 

Another facet is, of course, to which extent should we go in our questioning spree? The beauty of a habit is that it saves us, let’s call it, brain battery. If we would do absolutely all things consciously by the end of the day we would probably just be depleted. Nevertheless, some degree (and I am still convinced that higher is better than lower) of consciousness and inquisitiveness is good to have. At least then we would be able to spot the “changed pan” situations and make timely changes.

What do you think? Do you have habits it is time to question?

The silently allowed discrimination

Had a meat-eater written something like: “Learn to love meat. If you don’t love it, you don’t know how to do it right. It’s the best for you. Start with these simple steps:…”, vegetarians would have gone berserk. Frankly, I would not appreciate such a style either, as that excludes the possibility of making a choice. However, when a lark is writing something like: “Learn to wake up early. If you don’t love to wake up early, you don’t know how to do it right. It’s the best for you. Start with those simple steps:…”, owls just suck it up. But wait, isn’t that the same narrative just in a different context?

Moreover, this narrative keeps on coming at you in all forms possible: “you definitely need to write the Morning pages!”, “The best time is Morning!”, “It is scientifically proven that a person is most effective in the Morning!”, ”Let me teach you how to start waking up early!” — that’s just by skimming through several pages of popular public speakers and coaches. The silently allowed discrimination! Well, I do not know which science has proven what, but I am dangerously aggressive (LOL) before at least 8 or better 9 in the morning … Am I doomed? Efficiency and balance are not for me by definition?

Actually if one looks around, it might seem like a conspiracy. The social life seems to be made by and for the larks, which personally, I consider to be the cruelest injustice of this world. I will tell you more: if you dare to openly admit that you prefer to work at night, very often you can hear sympathy or comments like: either you do not know how to organize your day, or you cannot prioritize. “You steal your own efficiency!”, “You crush your balance!”, and as a cherry on the pie: “You should just try, you will get used to it!”.

You can, of course, get used to almost everything, but this does not mean that you will feel good about it, nor that it is actually the best way. And if it doesn’t seem to work for you… why would you torture yourself?

I would like to conclude my slightly emotional narrative by stressing that the matter of conscious choice is relevant not only in respect of global issues, but also in connection with certain small habits and actions. There are no one-size-fits-all approaches. There are no magic transformations of owls into larks either. It all starts with knowing yourself, your needs and also your limitations. Most importantly, if it works for Tony Robbins (or anyone else, pick your favourite!), it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for you. Thus, if you are more comfortable in the shadow of the night, start writing “Night pages” — they will be just as good and much more natural for you.

Don’t “call me maybe”… or why I am not that fond of phone calls

I heard that this is one of the traits of my generation, but I will refrain from generalizing and speak about myself. I don’t like calls. I don’t like calling myself and I hate when people call me. For a long time I thought I am just scared of calling, in other words that I have some issues with my self-esteem or whatever. Yet that’s not true. Let me explain.

Imagine a setting: I have eventually after a struggle of more than half an hour got our baby to close her eyes and snooze. Precious time! Now I have a moment for myself, a moment to relax, or a moment to finally get down to writing an article or working on something else. My time! And then there is a call… A call that will wake up the baby and that will totally screw up my plans. A call that could have been a message, an email or better — not be there at all. 

I truly don’t get the point of all those cold calls from companies trying to push you their super-amazing offer. Look, if I need something, I will find the information and arrange it myself. You cannot sell it to me by a cold call. For the record, I really feel for people whose job involves cold calling, as I can imagine how many people just hang up on them or even say something rude. I also hang up, yet usually saying: “Thanks, not interested. Have a nice day! Bye!”. Ultimately that’s also hanging up, but at least not so rude. I hope.

When I think about calls in general I perceive them as an intrusion into my personal space. They cut through my silence, they arrogantly demand my attention and they by definition mess up with my plans.

Besides, a lot of calls require providing certain information, which through a call can easily be distorted. It is so easy to misspell the name, to mix up the address or whatever else, so why even bother? An email would cater to that much more efficiently. 

For the calls I need to make myself I apply the same sensitivity. Thus, I would always check if there is an option to contact a person through an email, or through some sort of a contact form on the website. To give them an option to reply to me at their convenience. Besides, most of the time it’s everyone’s convenience. Like, see an example which immediately comes to mind: doctor’s appointments! Why would you try to schedule an appointment through a phone call?! It is so much easier to have an immediate access to doctor’s agenda, where you see when are the open slots and you can just pick. As simple as that! Actually that holds for any scheduling. 

To cut the long story short, if you are not my close friend or if we haven’t agreed on the call in advance, just send me a message, ok? 🙂 

And by the way, what is your attitude to calling?