It’s all in our head

In conversations with people who’ve recovered from an episode of depression or an addiction of some sort, I’ve noticed a persistent theme. They vividly remember the day they realized they emerged into normalcy and this vivid memory generally involved them looking up at the sky for the first time in days and noticing that the sun is shining and that all is well.

I think the reason this moment is so powerful is because they realize that all was well all along; and, with that comes a visceral reaction, that it was all in their head and that they can, if they choose to, focus their minds on better things.

What an incredible realization. Philosopher Eckhart Tolle wisely says – “Don’t take your thoughts too seriously.”

It is one of those perspective changing realizations that I have learnt to remember from time to time. Just yesterday, I had a similar moment as I was thinking of a couple of issues I had been wrestling with over the past couple of days. All was well in the grand scheme of things, the sun was out, the breeze was beautiful, and nearly all of what I thought were issues were all in my head. The moment I found that perspective, I realized that I had the power to shift my perspective and focus my attention on other things.

And, so I did.

We have much more control over our mindset and happiness than we think. As a result, we are much more powerful than we realize.


Surviving Pune

I love swimming when I have the opportunity. But, every time I walk to the pool to swim and first touch the water, the resistance shows up and exaggerates the feeling of discomfort. Even though I’ve learnt that I’ll get comfortable within 10 seconds of actually swimming, I’m amazed as to how my mind does such a poor job of predicting my eventual happiness. This is especially hard if the pool isn’t deep – it works much easier if I can just jump in.

But, a tactic that works incredibly well is to remember my experience jumping into much colder water in much cooler weather when I was on a 3 month project in Pune, India. Having survived Pune (and learnt a few lessons in the process), it becomes much easier to sign up for the ride. After all, if I’ve survived worse, how bad can this be?

The lesson I’ve learnt from this is the sheer value of hard knocks, failures and bad experiences. When you put yourself out there and attempt to do/change things, you inevitably go through difficult experiences. And, these experiences, especially the really difficult ones, greatly improve your ability to persist and persevere through other experiences. They also make it easier to keep perspective when things go wrong – you survived “Pune” after all.

We aren’t born with grit and happiness written on our birth certificate. The good stuff is always hard earned.

Kings of Podcasting

This was back in 2006. At Odeo, a podcasting company, times were tough. Evan Williams and his team were working hard at making the concept work but were finding motivation hard to come by.

One evening, at dinner, his close friend and co-worker Biz Stone asked Evan a question – “If we continued down this path, we’d be the “kings of podcasting.” But, do we want to become the “kings of podcasting?”

Biz had lots of experience with “why” questions. He had just left Google a year or so back to join Evan at Odeo despite having a large sum of money in stock options that would vest in 2 years. Biz had decided he cared more about working on inspiring ideas a lot more than on becoming rich.

Evan realized that moment that they were chasing the wrong thing. They decided to wind Odeo up and look for the next thing. That next thing turned out to be Twitter.

(From ‘Things a Little Bird Told Me’ by Biz Stone)

It is indeed so easy to get lost in the pursuit of something that, after a while, we forget why we went after it in the first place.

So, as we move into the new year and begin thinking about the things we plan to do (and maybe achieve) during the year, I hope we’ll take a few moments and ask ourselves ‘why?’

I can’t guarantee the result will be Twitter. I can guarantee it’ll help. 🙂

You never know when you had a good day – The 200 words project

Today marks the 50th 200 word idea since the start of the year and the 325th weekly learning over the past 7 years. Today’s is from our interview with Albert Wenger on I thought today’s quote and story made for a great way to start reflecting on the year that’s gone by (thanks Albert!). I will be taking a two week holiday season break from these notes myself. 🙂 So, more 200 word notes to follow in the new year and here’s wishing you happy holidays!

Venture capitalist Albert Wenger shared a close friend’s wonderful saying, ‘You never know when you had a good day’. In his words –

“In my first startup, an internet healthcare startup, we brought in a very experienced management team. I thought that was a great day. Subsequently, it turned out that team, which was very experienced, made some decisions that ultimately led to the demise of the whole thing. It turned out not to be a good day. Conversely, when the deal to buy a software company fell apart, I thought I had a terrible day. I had worked intensely on something for 2 years and it fell apart. That, though, turned out to be one of the best things – I wouldn’t be here doing this with you if the deal had happened. I would be in Cleveland working with that company.

One of the things I have come to learn is that you shouldn’t get too depressed on the downside, or too excited on the upside – just keep plugging away. Eventually, good things happen.”

You never know when you had a good daySource and thanks to:

“You never know if a bad day is a bad day” – converse of the Albert saying to give us heart as we think of a bad day/phase