Same as the food we eat and air we breathe, lessons make our life possible — and explore more possibilities. In the Philippines, summer had already started. After the solemnity of the Holy Week, people hurried for guilt-free vacation getaways.
Facebook posts of my friends’ travel pictures invade my waking hours. Most of the days I’m at home. Except, yesterday as I came from Dampalitan Beach in Quezon Province. My shoestring budget is enough to travel there. Yep, I’m not pretending as a person with lots of money to spare.
More than a month had passed since my last blog post. In my previous blog post, I wrote I should accept the seasons of my life. First things first and sadly blogging is not my first thing. I commit myself to publish a 2,000-words blog post every Wednesday. Later on, I failed in the commitment because I don’t have enough foundation. I lacked enough mindset — courage, reasons, and self-awareness.
I’m still egotistic to talk too much about myself in written form. In the outside world, I still succumb to timidity and lack of backbone.
After almost eight years of blogging, I already published probably hundreds of blog posts in different blogs where only God knows where the heck they are in cyberspace. I came down to my personal blog Mikel.Space and published 40 blog posts. It took me almost eight years to collect enough courage to create a personal blog with my name and picture on it and announce it on my Facebook Account.
The Eight Hard-Earned Lessons
These learnings, I admit, seems random than painstakingly picking the most important. Nonetheless, these are valuable and worth pondering.
So for now, I’ll share you eight hard-earned lessons I learned and still struggling to learn after publishing 40 blog posts in this personal blog.
1. You Are a Writer When You Say You Are
Up to now, I cringe at the mere thought of calling myself a writer — I felt more of myself as a fake. Writers already wrote a book. They’re already making bountiful amounts of money from their words. College graduates with a degree in journalism. Or at least a freelancer at the side. I don’t have any of those qualities.
Architects, engineers, doctors and lawyers required qualifications, so as writers, right?
I’m an electrical engineer, considered qualified according to my schools and companies. As a writer, I got two writing gigs, and that’s all my credentials.
After I had finished Jeff Goins’ My 500 Words for 31 consecutive days, he gave me a gift. He gave me a digital version of his book “You Are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One).” I can’t believe it; this is a book he’s selling. And yet, I got it for free because I finished the challenge which is also free.
In the book, Jeff wrote about his interview of Steven Pressfield. Jeff asked, “When do you really become a writer? Is it when you get an agent? When you sign your first book contract? When you sell 100,000 copies?”
Mr.Pressfield answered, “When you say you are.” Jeff was looking for practical steps and diagrams, he insisted, “Screw what everyone else says. You are when you say you are.”
Simple, right? Practical and encouraging truth — as with any pursuits, it starts with belief.
2. Don’t Take Successes and Failures Personally
Another lesson I learned from Steven Pressfield. In his book, “The War of Art,” he mentioned about the Resistance (yes, capital “R”). The Resistance is what make us not do works that matter.
He also compared the amateurs from the professionals. The big difference is that amateurs lose from to the Resistance, while the professionals beat the Resistance.
Writing this topic hurts my ego. Because I know in myself I’m still an amateur. I can call myself a writer, but not yet a professional.
Another idea is about success and failure. According to the author, failure can increase our doubts with our abilities. Failures hurt too much. The pain makes most of the artists quit. I already quit many times. I know I still need to increase my tolerance to pain. Maybe, there’s just something I should know that I don’t. Or, should do things I already know, but I’m afraid to take actions.
“If people don’t like what you’re creating, just smile at them sweetly and tell them to go make their own f***ing art.” -Elizabeth Gilbert
It’s surprising though; he also said how success could become an obstacle instead of affirmation to go to the next level. The same dilemma also happens to Elizabeth Gilbert who got scared to write another book after her international best-seller “Eat, Pray and Love.” The good news, she wrote another book, anyway and freed from the past success. And she continues writing more.
We are worth more than our careers. We don’t define ourselves with our successes and failures. Yes, we should learn from our failures and celebrate our success. But, life goes on no matter what.
3. The Purpose of Inspiration Is to Inspired Us to Take Action, Not to Look for More Inspiration
I did this plenty of times I lost count already. I bought an online course, then get excited, felt fired-up. At the start, my willpower is overflowing. As the time goes on and on, my motivation is decreasing up to the point I want to quit. Until I did — I quit. I make all my efforts end up in vain.
Sometimes, instead of stopping altogether, I stopped for a while and looked for motivation. I should get inspiration again, I told myself. I read books, listened to podcasts and watched inspiring movies. Every time I felt discouraged, I should fill my discouragement with inspiration. Then, I get inspired. I didn’t notice; I forgot why I need inspiration in the first place. The truth is I’m only lying to myself
Later, I realized I’m no longer an action-taker, I’m a mere observer. I observe and learn how successful think and act. In this modern age, it’s pointless to be a know-it-all guy. Duh, there’s the internet. Also, the world doesn’t need a do-it-all guy.
Have a bias for action. Yes, we should continue filling the well of our hearts and minds through any form of education. Either it might be an online course, the traditional school or a good book, we shouldn’t stop from learning.
The problem is many times we search for answers, but, when we get the right answers and don’t like it, we neglect it. Inconvenient truths duped many people in rich-quick schemes or push their luck in the lottery.
As I’m reading more books and listening to the advice of people I look up to, I realized how true that action speaks louder than words. Yes, smart people should have a strategy. But, even strategies have a follow-up of series of actions.
4. Walk Outside and Take a Breather
One time, when I was still working and living in Saudi Arabia; I felt tired and depressed. I just felt I don’t want to deal anything with the world.
In the country, I got only one rest day a week — every Friday. I remembered a day, during this time of depression and tiredness, all I want to do is to go to bed and sleep for the whole day. No need for internet browsing and online chats. So I went early to bed on a Thursday evening and slept for twelve straight hours. I don’t know why, but when I woke up, I still felt tiredness. I felt the need to take some more sleep. Then I just eat enough to fill my hunger and continue to hibernate.
When I woke up again, I felt sick — this is a sign: I should stop too much sleeping. So, I go outside to walk. It is fascinating to discover how much different this world I’m living in that point of time. I took an order of shawarma and marched to nowhere while enjoying my treat.
During prayer time for the Muslims, I just walk around the closed local convenience stores wandering and musing. If I didn’t take a breather for a while, I would waste the whole day just like that — sleep inside the box of my comfort and get more tiredness.
I came back in my room as I’m a new person. I felt I’m ready for another week.
Same with blogging, maybe I need just not to take myself so seriously. I just need some space to breathe and commune with the divine. Let myself looked dumb either intentional or unintentional. It is better than the comfort of well-protected ego.
5. Self-Discipline is Better Than Self-Confidence
When I was still in college, I was so shy that there are lots of school days that I don’t speak at all. Up to now, I still have these tendencies. I used to hate conversations as I don’t always have the idea of what should I say. As a result, I end up as a chronic people-pleaser. I hate people hating me. To avoid conflicts at all cost is my personal mantra.
I realized I’m just not interested in other people, but only with myself. I see myself as the person with the least talent in the world and worthless worm with no value and worth ignoring. But, as life taught me how to deal with people, I decided to speak up. True enough, there are times people ignored me. There are times my voice is stuttering. There are times my body is shaking in fears of social gatherings.
I still have a hard time looking people in the eyes while talking to them.
But, little by little, I try to do things afraid. As a result, the process gives me another conclusion: I don’t need to feel confident about myself. I just need to do things that matter to me. And have the discipline to follow through.
I just don’t have the confidence and the backbone to deal with people. Only because I’m always relying on my feelings of insecurities, I didn’t even start to improve myself. As I discipline to take actions in spite of fears and insecurities, I realized more, at least from my life experience, I’m giving too much value on confidence.
Brendon Burchard coined the term “competence-confidence loop.” As I discipline myself more, I get more competence. Later I get more confidence.
6. What We Consume Becomes Part of Us
When I was still in Saudi Arabia, I tried to eat brown rice. It cooks differently than the white counterpart. I watched YouTube videos to find a better way to make it tastier. Admittedly, white rice is still more pleasant to eat than the brown ones.
I tried to eat fruits (mostly apples and bananas) every day. I stopped consuming coffee and drink green tea instead.
I’m not an expert on what’s the right food to eat. But, I’m so afraid of getting sick I become choosy about my food consumption. I know I made the right decision. It took a lot of effort, but it is all worth it. I seldom get sick. And the discipline builds up my character.
Same as the nutrients for our physical body, so our minds should get nourishments as well. Every day I would either read a book or listen to a podcast. As a writer, this gives me inspirations to write something. Negative experiences also gave me inspirations to write. Yes, bad things happen. Evil exists in this world. But, the greater good is always there barely noticeable.
I’ve been watching inspirational movies (intentionally), videos from online courses, TED talks, webinars, and video recordings of a learning event for more than eight years. I already read plenty of books both physical and digital for fear of loss from ignorance. As the saying goes, “if you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” So, I’m still listening to podcasts and audio teachings from people I considered my virtual mentors.
We can direct our hearts from what we put in our minds and our body. What we put in our body and minds becomes part of us.
7. The Importance of Momentum
When I’m still working in Saudi Arabia, every day, I woke up at four in the morning just to write. The evening before, I already set-up my laptop beside me on my bed, so I’ll just need to pick it up the next day, turn it on and write.
I start at 250 words a day. Even in that small amount of words to type, I hardly make it, but I did. I browse Jeff Goins’ challenge of writing 500 words for 31 consecutive days for the nth time. From 250, I jumped at 500 words a day. First thing in the morning, I write and write at least 500 words. I felt stupid doing this, everyone is still asleep, and here I am writing for the sake of writing.
I did that, even on my last day in Saudi Arabia. In the airport, I opened my laptop and wrote. I’m not allowed to use laptops while I was on the airplane (yes, poor me huh? I’m not in the executive class seat). Instead, I type on the glass screen of my smartphone. I just write at whenever and wherever and whatever possible.
After more than two months in the Philippines, I discovered Jon Morrow’s advice of 1,000 words for serious writers.
I told myself, I will write 1,000 words from that day onwards.
It all starts with 250 words a day. As the momentum continues, so my demand for myself grew.
You can even start as small as five words a day. That’s it. Then eventually, you’ll become as you dreamed. The last time you know it, you’re already writing non-stop.
It is true; everyone could start small. From that, we could build momentum for improvement and growth.
8. Writing Gave Me Self-Awareness
We can’t please everyone. As a recovering chronic people-pleaser, I know one of its roots — lack of self-awareness. Because I don’t know what I want, I tend to please everyone helping them get what they want from me. It is not bad to help, except that it’s hurting people rather than helping. Trying to be everything to everyone is the worst goal. First, I’m not God. Second, I robbed the blessings from people, because I can’t maximize my potentials as I’m going to all directions.
But, as I continue to observe myself and the world around me, I began to notice things. I became more aware of the people around me. Ironically, I get self-awareness from being aware of the thing outside of myself — my surroundings.
Because I look at things in my perspectives, I learned how I should view the world gained from self-awareness.
As I see the bad side of life, I more often use the lens of my worldview and remove the filth hiding the gold treasures.
I have a lot of doubts about myself and my faith — this helped me search deeper beyond what I see on the surface. Most treasures of high value need digging with profound depth to unearth.
In the End, We All Just Want to Be a Better Person
“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ” ~Joss Whedon
I told myself many times, “I wrote for myself. I’ll write because no one tells me to. Mediocrity is not my destiny.” Writing is my greatest companion in times of loneliness. It clears out my indecisiveness. It strengthens my character.
Seeing my thoughts flowing into a piece of paper or laptop screen is enough.
I’m glad of how writing makes me a better person. The more lessons I learned, the more I realized how little I know. After 40 blog posts in a span of almost 900 days, at least I can share eight lessons to you. After all, most of us, you and me, are all inherently good person. Most of us are rude because of heavy burdens from stress. Many of us got depressed due to tragedies and unmet expectations. Everyone longs for the love we deserved. Yeah, pure evil people exist, but for most of us, we are not ourselves when stressed out.
If you read up to here, I bet it is not just out of your curiosity, but in the depth of your core, all you just want is to be a better person.
So am I.