I will start by pointing towards a very popular and profound mathematical result:
0.99^365 = 0.02551796445
1.01^365 = 37.7834343329
37.7834343329 / 0.02551796445 = 1480.66019948
I saw this thing when I was probably in my sophomore year. My friend had written this over his mirror. It seemed really startling to me at that time. But nevertheless, I forgot about it and graduated. After I moved out of the college and started working, I had immense amount of freedom at my disposal. It was basically a cue for me to try out a lot of things that fascinated me. I was quick to join a random dance class, a gym and frequented a lot of exciting popular areas of the city. I was finally using my time in a way I wanted and was gaining immense exposure to a lot of things.( Yes! A lot of things)
It was all rosy in the beginning. You know that feeling? Waiting for the weekend to cheat the routine life you lead to pay your bills and once it is there, escaping far away from it.
But like ecstasy, it wore off eventually (You get the reference 😛). Therefore despite of doing a lot, I felt as if I wasn’t doing anything at all. The feeling was very similar to walking on a treadmill, you get exhausted but you go nowhere. It was the same fleeting sensation.
I was not able to figure out what exactly was spoiling the luster of my perfect life. I used to feel tired and sleepy even after clocking 7-8 hours of good sleep. In retrospect, I think sleep was my most abused escape mechanism. Paying bills, grocery, work, social life, career direction, all of them seemed really overwhelming.
It is not difficult to observe, that I really took a big bite from the cake and was clearly choking. There wasn’t a single thing in my life that I could adhere too. I badly needed a spine to hold things in an erect posture. So I decided to act and to act small.
We lead a certain kind of lifestyle and we think about the results that we are getting directly but how often do we think about the by products of that lifestyle? For example, keeping your WhatsApp and Instagram handy is a good way to catch up with picture perfect world but if you are not mindful about its usage, you will eventually find yourself with an attention span of a goldfish. This was just a small relatable example to understand the trap of instant gratification (That next video on your Instagram feed) that leads to desperation. Therefore I needed to learn some patience.
Next up in the list was my tendency to climb up the mountain in one night. I loved to ride the motivation wave. Do you remember, how pumped up you felt after you watched that Ted talk which promised to change your life. Did it change for you? Because as far as I was concerned, doing great work in sporadic bursts was my forte. I have heard about the virtues of incremental progress but it all required a vision and a lot of grind. I needed that.
A lot of times, you can’t just wake up one day and become a completely different person. Our brains are not simply designed to function that way. You need to create newer neural connections by traversing them over and over. Gradually making them stronger and natural. It will take time and a lot of boring work. Trust me, there is nothing more liberating than knowing that even the most elite athletes absolutely hate to train some days. It is not fun that keeps them going but commitment and perseverance. I had to find a way to fortify a neural pathway that could help me persevere on the tasks I commit to.
I did a lot of changes, some of them are beyond the scope of this post (I so wanted to used this phrase😻) but let’s talk about one particular habit that I successfully (a bit painfully) created over a course of these 8 months. I wanted to read but never really got in the flow of it. I remember signing up for the Goodreads’ reading challenge at the beginning of the year. It was just one of my impulsive and overly enthusiastic decision. Now it was around September, when I finally decided to finish at least this task off. For the first time, in a very long time, I had a small purpose.
I quickly did some math to realize that I needed to read at least 2 books per week to complete 30 books in 4 months.
It was quite clear to me that if I want to complete the reading challenge I had to work regularly in manageable chunks for an extended period of time. It required vision, patience and the grind. Essentially a rewarding way to rewire my brain to cultivate the much needed virtues.
It took me just a few days, to realize how difficult it was to ready 2 books per week. It was not a hobby anymore. It required serious commitment. That meant, less time hanging out and watching exciting digital content. There was no other way. It was my chance, I had to take it.
So, just a simple guiding calculation of 2 books per week helped me out in prioritizing my time. I had to say NO to anything that was not aligned with the goal. I know, this sounds a bit extreme but this is exactly what I wanted at that time and it was working for me. So my plate got smaller and I could clearly see things that were absolutely necessary to fit in. I could throw away the rest.
It was not pleasurable always. At times, it was painfully tiring but the guiding principle of discipline over motivation kept me going towards it. So times were busy but they were productive. I was consuming a lot of good content at that time. In fact, my urge to blog regularly could be traced back to that period of voracious reading. Like I said, you create by products out of your processes.
I have had several new years in my life. This one was a bit special as I was able to finally finish my 30 books in the year 2018 (Actually 30 books in 16 weeks!). This got me thinking about the mathematical result that I read on my friends mirror. Sometimes it is just the culmination of tiny things that yield the most impact. It was not a rocket science but a simple neural pathway to persist at a task no matter what, which worked for me.
We just entered into May and yesterday I finished my 50th read in 8 months (September 2018 - April 2019).
To be honest, it is not about the numbers or the reading challenge now. It is just about doing a little thing that you need to do and doing it consistently. It was never about reading a book but often about starting a simple paragraph, reading the first few words.
Interestingly, once you solidify a neural pathway you can use it in a portable manner, applying it to several fronts in your life. It is just like a skill, you use it, it gets better. It could be anything, different strategies work for different people. You don’t have to do it today. But promise me, one of these days, you are going to find something for yourself and once you do that, let it kill you.