Meditation, Hamburgers & Enlightenment – My experience as a novice meditator

I believe that the path to success is to emulate what successful people have done before you.

As I’ve already shared with you in a previous post, there are two “hacks” which most successful people do:

They meditate.

They keep a journal.

I want to share in this post a bit about my experiences related to meditation and also to deep dive a bit into the research (I like cold hard facts).

My Experience with Meditation: The Beginning

So for a very long time I’ve been aware that meditation is a “good thing to do”. I’ve kinda lost count, but I think I’ve been meditating in one form or another for quite a few years.

Initially I was interested in hypnosis / self-hypnosis and I did that for a while. That was probably almost 11 years ago.  This was actually way before I was interested in business and way before I was listening to podcasts, doing intensive self-learning.  But I was always aware that if I manage to control and harness my mind, then this would be the key to unlimited achievement.

I’m trying to piece back my memories, but I’d say that I kept up this “self-hypnosis” for about 3 years or so. My memories are vague (post-hypnotic amnesia??)  It definitely wasn’t an ingrained practice, kinda sporadic, but I did definitely see benefits from it.

I guess this practice was more rooted in intense visualization and mental rehearsal. It helped crystallise my goals at the time and I have no doubt that this contributed to me ultimately achieving my goals back then.

Then somewhere along the way I dropped this practice (probably after achieving my goals…)

My Meditation Practice Today

Fast forward a few years and I was pursuing my new entrepreneurial goals.  Entrepreneurship is a mind fuck, it stretches you to your limits.  And that’s the thing that I love about it – your success (or failure) is totally (mostly) up to you. What you achieve is limited only by your creativity and ingenuity. It is SUCH a mental game.

So like many entrepreneurs I’ve been drawn to the “inner game” of entrepreneurship.  Searching for ways to hone my mindset so that I can succeed.

I drew back on my old days of “self-hypnosis” / visualization, but I found it hard to make it a habit on my own.  At some stage, browsing through the TED archives, I came across Andy Puddicombe’s TED talk about meditation and that is how I discovered Headspace.

I think they have done a tremendous job of gamifying meditation and I owe it wholly to the Headspace app for making meditation a part of my daily practice.

The genius of Headspace is their “Take Ten” program which guides you through 10 minutes of meditation per day for 10 days.  That is SUCH an easily achievable goal – its hard for anyone, even the busiest of people, to claim that they don’t have a spare 10 minutes per day.

The Take Ten program is free and you CAN sign up for membership to Headspace to gain access to loads more meditation programs.  I’m a subscriber, but honestly after having gone through most of the content I think the Take Ten is really enough. You can just keep repeating those sessions.

Anyway, that’s how I got into meditation and how I made it a habit (I obviously highly recommend that you try Headspace’s Take Ten program).

But What’s So Good About Meditation Anyway??

The thing is though, even after meditating for quite a few years, the benefits were not immediately apparent to me.

I knew a couple of things. Firstly, I felt good afterwards. Or at least not bad. It didn’t seem to hurt.

Secondly, I felt that often I would be more “mindful” and focussed for several hours (anywhere from 1 to 6 hours) after a morning meditation session of 10 minutes.  This would help me be more effective and efficient at work.

So these are definitely good points, but I felt that there was more to meditation that just this.  In his book “Waking Up“, the philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris draws parallels between meditation and extreme altered states induced by substances such as “Magic Mushrooms”, LSD and other hallucinogens (he goes so far as to state that he would feel sorry for his daughter if she didn’t try some of these substances… interesting…)

I made it a point to question this in my journal, to try and get to the bottom of this phenomenon and to understand why meditation is good for me.

It was around that time that I became enlightened over a hamburger.

Well maybe not enlightened… But I definitely had a profound experience which I’ll share with you below.  I’ll try to translate the experience I had in words, but these phenomena are experiential. i.e. You need to experience it yourself in order to truly understand it.

Anyway, what I understand about mindfulness meditation is that the morning practice is really training for the day.  The goal is to spread this mindfulness into your day to day activities.

So one evening, I went out to eat at my local burger joint (best hamburger in the WORLD btw…)

I went alone. I ordered my favourite burger with chips on the side. Unhealthy, I know, but damned tasty.

And while eating I decided to try an experiment.  I would “meditate” over this meal. I normally eating very quickly. I wolf my food down and before you can say abracadabra the contents of my plate have disappeared.

So that night I decided to eat my food SLOWLY. To chew thoroughly.  To savour the texture of the food. To focus on the taste.  To note the temperature. To feel the food sliding down my gullet and into my stomach.

I even closed my eyes in the restaurant. Weird, I know.  But with my eyes closed the flavour was amplified ten-fold.

And also with my eyes closed, I noticed my “fear” of people staring at me. It amplified my sense of ego and made me aware of this sensation of “ego”. I opened my eyes. No one cared.

And during this “food meditation” I noted something interesting. Even though I WAS eating extremely slowly, I always had the next bite ready to go in my hand.  As soon as I would swallow the morsel in my mouth, the next piece would be inside and I would be busy masticating again.

Building on this realization I noticed an underlying stress that I hadn’t been previously aware of.  I spontaneously named it “food stress”.

An instant later I had another profound realization – a type of realization that you feel in your bones. Something visceral, its not something that can be so easily put into words.   But I became aware that this “food stress” was a product not of any real fear, but rather that it was a deeply genetically encoded reaction to food. Something primal.  A sensation from the days when we would hunt in packs, when food was scarce and only the fittest survived.  You would need to eat your food quickly, to assert your claim to your meal, otherwise you would die. This primordial instinct caused my subconscious reaction to food, which in turn caused me to wolf down my food.

Wow. Now I know you’ll probably think this is pretty weird. But this was a profound experience for me.  (Again, keyword is experience – its really something you need to feel yourself, words can’t really do this experience justice). I was stunned.  This meditation allowed me to have deep insight into my behaviour.  To notice my behaviour, to notice my underlying emotional state causing the behaviour. Even to realize the underlying evolutionary reason for this emotional state.

This was a really “deep” meditation.  When I left the burger joint, mindfulness came with me.  I was aware of each step, of the wind brushing past me.

When I arrived home, I got a call from my girlfriend.  Normally I’m not such a phone person.  I don’t love talking on the phone (some would say I don’t love talking at all 🙂 But that’s not true…)

But that evening, instead of being “short” on the phone, which was my usual reaction, I was aware of my bubbling impatience.  This awareness allowed me to choose not to react on auto-pilot, but rather to acknowledge this feeling and focus on the conversation at hand.  Because of this profound mindfulness that carried over, I was super attuned to our conversation and my girlfriend’s feelings.  We went on to have a great and deep conversation on the phone, something we hadn’t shared for a long time.  I enjoyed it and so did she.

Amazingly, the mindfulness from my hamburger meditation spilled over to the next day.  I don’t remember precise details, but I do recall that I was able to evaluate challenges without an automatic response brought about by emotions.  Instead I was able to note my emotions and respond in a more thoughtful way, making better decisions for my company.

So its kind of funny, having such a profound experience over a burger.  But it was really profound. And it was a damned good burger.

What I know about the benefits of meditation for myself to date

And I got my answers to my own questions about the benefits of meditation for myself.  I know that this is probably just the tip of the iceberg, there is probably a lot more to explore in the realms of the mind, but these are my thoughts as a relatively novice meditator:

1) I feel better after meditating.

2) I’m more focussed, which allows me to be more efficient at what I do.

3) I am more mindful, sometimes even after the meditation.  This allows me to derive more pleasure from the world, to be in the present moment. It sounds trite, but it helps me to enjoy the green of the trees, the sounds of the birds chirping and to enjoy those small moments which I usually take for granted. The alternative, being stuck in the flow of our thoughts, dragging us to imagined future or past events, is the cause of suffering.

4) This mindfulness of my inner state and emotions allows me to notice emotions and thereby break my automatic patterns in response to an emotion.  This is amazingly beneficial and can help improve relationships, both personal and at work and make for much better decision making. This last point is a huge one!

So, that’s a quick summary of my experience with meditation to date and the benefits that I’ve seen from it.

I challenge you to make meditation a habit for yourself and see what you can gain from it. Try the Take Ten program from Headspace and take it from there.  (I sound like a salesman for them, but they just did an awesome job, I don’t get any commission or anything from this just to be clear).

In Part 2 I’ll review the some of the studies on meditation and we’ll find out what science has to say about all this!

30 Day Blog Writing Challenge – Update

Mmm…

The stats so far:

I’ve published 23 posts.

Started on April 9th 2016 (now its June 9th 2016).  Exactly 2 months.

Should I be disappointed that I didn’t publish 30 posts in 30 days?

No, I don’t think so.  I do feel slightly down, but that’s just me being hard on myself.

My main focus though is to get to 30 posts, no matter how long it takes. Obviously the sooner the better.

I think a better name for this would be the “30 Post Blog Challenge”, because that is the real goal for me.

What have been the benefits so far?

I think overall this has been a tremendously useful experience.

Some of the benefits I’ve seen:

Helps me learn about topics I’m interested in

There are some posts where I found that I needed to do research.

For example:

Masterminds Groups for Entrepreneurs

Sending App Reviews to Slack: Comparison of Services

These posts really helped me to consolidate my knowledge on certain areas.

It’s also really useful for me to summarize books that I’ve been reading and distill them down to a few key action points.

For example:

With Winning In Mind by Lenny Bassham – Book Summary

I’ve found that these posts helped me learn and also I found myself looking up these posts as references for myself.

Helps me clarify my thoughts

Other posts were just me winging it and riffing on a topic that I’ve been thinking about.

Some of what I wrote is crap, some is OK, some might be good. But at any rate it helps to crystallise my thoughts, which can serve as the basis for discussions with friends and family which then further hones these ideas.

Some examples:

Investing the new way?

An Alternative Education

Makes me accountable

By writing I am making statements of accountability. For example if I’m writing about positive habits that I’m trying to instil in myself, it makes me think twice when I’m about to “break” the new habit.

Example:

9 Strategies to Cure Internet & Phone Addiction, Stop Distraction & Be More Mindful

Gives me an outlet to help the people I love

Some of what I write is intended to help myself, some intended more to help others.

If my writing can help someone else then I’m happy for that.  There are some things that I’ve learned along the way and hopefully I can share some of my experience with others to help them out.

For example:

Learning on the Go with Podcasts & Audiobooks

Tips for Hiring Freelancers Effectively on Upwork

Helps improve my writing and gives me a creative outlet

Creativity is one of my core “values” or strengths.  By writing I’m fostering this side of myself and so it just simply feels good.

Also I find that the more I write, the easier it gets (pretty obvious). I’ve been able to pound out a couple of thousand words relatively easily.

What have been the obstacles in my way?

The main obstacle has been trying to get around my perfectionism.

What I wrote in the initial post on the 30 Day Blog Writing Challenge was just to sit down for 10 minutes and press publish at the end of the sessions.

I think I had a great idea at the start, but my perfectionism started creeping in. I need to quash it.

Also I haven’t found a great time in my daily routine yet to slot it in.  Best time so far was first thing after work, but that is a bit variable.

I don’t want to do it at the end of the day, because I’m trying not to be on screens.

The beginning of the day is already quite rushed…

So I guess an alternative is to get up earlier… huh.

I think I just need to stick to the initial rules that I made for myself:

  • Just press publish!
  • Don’t read over the post after you’ve written it / published.
  • Don’t promote the post. This is JUST about writing.
  • Don’t try to “SEO” the posts or drop in keywords.
  • Don’t fill in SEO related meta data.
  • Don’t look at (or preferably even install) analytics – Seth Godin doesn’t have any analytics on his daily blog.

Summary

Anyway, that’s just a quick update for how the 30 Blog Post Challenge is going.

So far the benefits have been pretty massive for me, so I will most likely want to continue doing it.

I might need to modify the format slightly, but yeah, its pretty awesome for me.

 

Experiment

Life is an experiment.

You are the guinea pig.

Don’t stick with the status quo.

Wow that’s trite.

A great way to incrementally improve your life and your business and your relationships is to conduct experiments.

For example, THIS right here is an experiment.  I’ve been curious about getting back into some writing and publishing my thoughts online, so I decided to get off the fence and start my 30 Day Blog Writing Challenge.

The crucial part about starting an experiment is to set a defined time or other constraint to it.

That takes some of the pressure off yourself.

You know that what you’re trying is temporary.  If I set a goal to “write every day”, I’d probably soon find that I do this for a couple of days, then skip a few days, then feel shit because I skipped some days, try another day, skip like 10 more days and then just give up because it seems to hard.

But if I don’t commit to a lifelong habit of writing, but rather say that I will write for 30 days (or 30 posts), then this makes it much more achievable.

When I started by journal writing habit, a friend challenged me to try his method of journaling for 7-days. Easy!  I did it, enjoyed it, saw the benefits and I’ve been consistently journalling since then.

Experiment = Great way to “try before you buy” a new habit

Want to check out what all the fuss is about meditation? Try 10 minutes of meditation for 10 days.

Want to know what its like to be homeless? Go live on the streets of Austin, TX for 5 days.

Bottom line is, if you want to instil a new habit, start an experiment, set a time limit and evaluate the results.

Do the ONE thing, improve 1% every day & the law of compound returns

There are three widely recommended business books which I’ve read in the fairly recent past. I’m going to perform an amazing feat of mental agility and summarize ALL three books for you in under 500 words.

The books in question:

The One Thing by Garry Keller and Jay Papasan

The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

And here is the summary:

Focus on ONE strategic thing that will move your goal forwards, every single day.

Tada!

It’s a very simple concept, but when applied correctly can dramatically improve your results.  As I heard in an interview with Steve Blank recently, when asked how people can make a successful startup, he summed it up:

“Just show up.  Showing up gets you 80% of the way there.”

Gary Keller likes the phrase:

What is one thing, that if applied (in my business), would make everything else easier or unnecessary?

In our day to day lives we get sucked into the vortex of unimportant emails, distractions, “putting out fires”. Very little time is spent on productive, strategic work.

This question helps focus your mind on the one strategic thing.  Instead of going out and making 100 sales calls, your “one thing” might be to post a job for a top sales person.  The latter will give you a lot more leverage.

You can apply this “one thing” concept to any goal that you set, whether its in business, relationship, social or self improvement.  If you identify a strategic action to take in each of these areas and do this every single day, you are almost guaranteed to see continual improvements.

While in the short term these improvements might be undetectable, over the long run it generates an exponential compounding effect of improvement so that you can blast through and achieve your goals.

How do I apply it myself?

Every day in my journal, I have a section “The One Thing”.  I think of the one thing that will yield the greatest strategic returns over the long run.

The best thing to do is then the FIRST THING in the day when you start working is to do your “one thing.” Once you have done this you can already consider the day a huge success.

These are often very small steps.

For example, in the journal entry below (excuse the doctor’s hand writing), my one thing was:

“Post job for business book summary biz”

journal-excerpt-one-thing

It took me about 10 minutes to do, but is potentially a huge strategic move.

Action Points:

✓ In your journal, write down your “One Thing” for the coming day.

✓ Do the One Thing – preferably first thing in the day.

✓ Wash, rinse, repeat.


There you go – 450 words, 3 books. BOOM!

Learning on the Go with Podcasts & Audiobooks

If you’ve read a few of my posts, you know that I believe in constant, on-going self-education.

I don’t have many friends who are entrepreneurs back home, so in order to surround myself with great entrepreneurial minds I read books and if I’m moving and can’t read then I’m listening to podcasts or audiobooks.

In the past people would turn on the radio on the drive to work and listen to shock jocks spouting crap.  Entertaining, fun, but not very helpful.

The beauty of the world we live in is that every niche can create their own unique content stream.

In my case, my main focus is on entrepreneurship, so I create my own unique and personally tailored “radio”, with the content I mentioned above.

Whenever I drive to work – I’m learning.

Whenever I drive home – I’m learning.

If I’m commuting on a bus – I’m learning.

At any rate, it definitely can’t hurt.

This is the next best thing to sitting physically in the same space as very smart people.  By listening to successful people everyday, I’m gaining years of accumulated experience, street smarts and insight.

I love it.

Audible

I use Audible to buy and listen to audio books.  I’ve only gotten into audio books relatively recently in the past year or so.  Both podcasts and audiobooks have their advantages and disadvantages. I alternate between both.

If you’re new to audible, it works as a subscription service (or you can purchase directly).  I upgraded recently to the 2 credits per month plan ($22.95 per month).

audible_pricing_plans

You can either purchase books on audible directly for cash OR you can use credits.

On my plan, each credit is work $11.48 per credit.  So when you’re considering buying an audiobook if the book is priced less than your credit value, just buy it in cash.  If its priced more, then use credits to purchase it.

I like the fact that it is a subscription service, because it “forces” me to invest in myself.

Like I wrote about previously, don’t think twice about purchasing books.  These are the best investments you will ever make.

Some of my favourites so far:

Inside Delta Force – not a “business” book, but I’m in awe by the mindset of these top operators.  Was very entertaining and very nicely related. Its also really long, so keeps you interested for a while.

On Writing by Stephen King – this was a real gem! Highly, HIGHLY recommended! On Writing is part autobiography and part creative writing tips, with the massive bonus that the book is related by Stephen King himself.  I didn’t really know Stephen King’s story, which is really the story of an entrepreneur.  I’m also fascinated by the process of writing, so it was an eye opener looking into the inner workings of someone who clearly has been amazingly prolific and successful in the field.

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers – Derek Sivers is very well known in entrepreneurial circles, having the street cred of building and selling his company CD Baby for over $20 million.  Derek is the entrepreneur’s philosophers.  His views go very much against the grain.  Listening to Derek’s audiobook (also narrated by him) is like a guided meditation. Its short and to the point. This book is something I feel I could listen to over and over again.

Podcasts

I LOVE podcasts.  Probably more so than audiobooks. I love listening to really smart and successful people share their stories and their insights.

If you’re using an iPhone, then you can listen using the Podcasts app (although its pretty shit and buggy).  Stitcher is a good alternative and pretty much the only way to listen on Android.

Here are some podcasts that I really recommend listening to (search for these and subscribe on whichever podcast app you use):

Freedom Fast Lane – Ryan Daniel Moran is doing really well, recently clocking in over $1,000,000 in sales in one MONTH.  What I like about Ryan’s podcast which differs from other podcasts is that he has his goals set high (owning the Cleveland Indians  🙂 ) and his mindset and podcast is geared to growing a MASSIVE business – not just reaching a “million” (that’s sooooo 80’s) or reaching 10k per month.

The Tim Ferriss Show – WOW is all I can say.  Tim Ferriss helped thousands, maybe millions of people break out of the Matrix with his book.  Now his podcast absolutely blows EVERYTHING else out the water with the PHENOMENAL guests he has on.  I find myself learning SO much from his podcast, it really is THE shit.  My favourite interviewees include Josh Waitzkin, chess prodigy turned martial arts prodigy. Derek Siver (mentioned above).  Jamie Foxx (yep, the movie star). Joko Willink (navy seal). Robert Rodriguez (filmmaker, I think this episode helped solidify for me the need for journaling). The list goes on.

The James Altucher Show – James Altucher has a different take on life and interviews also some awesome guests who won’t be found on other podcasts.  His interview with Marc Cuban was gold.

Foundr Magazine Podcast – Just started listening to this recently and I have to say hats off to Nathan Chan! Nathan and I started our paths at around the same time, publishing digital magazines to the iPad newsstand.  He’s been super persistent and has managed to build a great business.  He has some great guests on the show, and again, guests that you don’t often hear from on other podcasts.  His interview with Steve Blank was awesome and I also really loved the session with Matthew Michalewicz, a truly smart dude.  Nathan has a really nice and relaxed interview style and I often find that the questions I have in my mind he goes ahead and asks.  Well done!

Other notables:

The Smart Passive Income Podcast

Starting from Nothing Podcast

Mixergy Podcast

That should get you started! Now go out and LEARN!

BTW – If there are some awesome podcasts that I haven’t mentioned here, please leave in comments. I’m always looking for MORE!

 

How to Set Goals – Outcome & Process Goals

Theres lots of literature on goal setting.  I want to give my two cents on the topic.

Firstly, what I’ve come to realize is that there are two distinct types of goals: Outcome and Process goals.

Outcome goals are those that are not fully in control, but represent a desired end result.  For example:  Earning $10,000 per month (seems to be a popular goal).

Process goals are under your control.  By implementing and achieving your process goals, you will be moving closer to your outcome goal.

I think that when goal setting it is important to work with these two goals hand in hand.

I’ll give you an example of my own personal goals in the business sphere:

Outcome Goal:

I am earning $1,000,000 per month as of the 1st of July 2017.

Process Goal:

We are releasing 4 games per week as of the 1st of July 2016.

There are a couple of other points you should not about goal setting.

Firstly, there’s a stream of thought that says to write the goals out in the present-tense, stating it as if you have already achieved the goal (shout out to Muoyo Okome of Daily Spark Media for that).  I like the idea of that and think it definitely can’t hurt.

Write down your goal every day as part of your journaling habit. That will always keep your goal top of mind and hone your focus and creativity towards achieving the goals that you’ve set.   It also gives you the opportunity to constantly refine your goal so that the goal is properly aligned with your intrinsic desires.

It’s also important to set a date on the goal, because that allows you to plan around this constraint and puts some time pressure to achieve it.

You should work back from the outcome goal and create a realistic plan for your process goal.

In our case, from looking at our initial metrics and taking very conservative estimates, to reach the target revenue we will need to have about 200 apps.

To reach 200 apps in one year’s time, we need to be releasing 4 apps per week. Simple maths.

If you don’t have some initial metrics, take your best guess or base your estimate on market stats.  You can always refine the goal later.

It’s important that you set a goal that stretches you, but is within the realms of achievability.

Lastly, a word of caution about the date.  It’s absolutely FINE if you don’t hit your goal by the target date, you can always push the date back.  But don’t compromise on your goal (as long as it is still important for you).