Book: The courage to be disliked

I spent some time thinking about what I should write first in 2019. Instead of some predictions, I decided to write a bit about the book that influenced me greatly in 2018 – The courage to be disliked. I am reading it for the second time and believe that by writing about it here, it will stick longer in my memory and can be beneficial in 2019 for those who happen to read this post. Here we go.

Avoid the victim mentality

According to the author and Alfred Adler, the psychologist and philosopher, even though we can’t change what happened in the past, our past should not dictate our happiness and future or should not be an excuse for our unhappiness. In layman’s terms, we should not have the victim mentality regarding our past or what we were born with. For instance, even if you are born in a poor family or short, it should not be the source of your unhappiness or you shouldn’t use it to say that causes your failures in life.

Adlerian psychology is a psychology of courage. Your unhappiness cannot be blamed on your past or your environment. And it isn’t that you lack competence. You just lack courage. One might say you are lacking in the courage to be happy.

One tries to get rid of one’s feeling of inferiority and keep moving forward. One’s never satisfied with one’s present situation – even if it’s just a single step, one wants to make progress. One wants to be happier. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the state of this kind of feeling of inferiority. There are; however, people who lose the courage to take a single step forward, who cannot accept the fact that the situation can be changed by making realistic efforts. People who, before even doing anything, simply give up and say things like “I’m not good enough anyway” or “Even if I tried, I wouldn’t stand a chance”.

Anger

You did not fly into a rage and then start shouting. It is solely that you got angry so that you could shout. In other words, in order to fulfill the goal of shouting, you created the emotion of anger.

In a word, anger is a tool that can be taken out as needed. It can be put away the moment the phone rings, and pulled out again after one hangs up. The mother isn’t yelling in anger she cannot control. She is simply using the anger to overpower her daughter with a loud voice and thereby assert her opinions.

Love yourself

“I’m sure that no one would want to get involved with a guy as warped as me”. I am sure you understand this already. Why do you dislike yourself? Why do you focus only on your shortcomings, and why have you decided to not start liking yourself? It’s because you are overly afraid of being disliked by other people and getting hurt in your interpersonal relationships.

A healthy feeling of inferiority is not something that comes from comparing oneself to others; it comes from one’s comparison with one’s ideal self.

Avoid the fabricated superiority complex

One makes a show of being on good terms with a powerful person. By doing that, one lets it be known that one is special. Behaviors like misrepresenting one’s work experience or excessive allegiance to particular brands of clothing are forms of giving authority and probably also have aspects of the superiority complex. In each case, it isn’t that the “I” is actually superior or special. It is only that one is making the “I” look superior by linking it to authority. In short, it’s a fabricated feeling of superiority.

There’s the kind of person who likes to boast about his achievements. Someone who clings to his past glory and is always recounting memories of the time when his light shone brightest. Those who go so far as to boast about things out loud actually have no confidence in themselves. As Adler clearly indicates, “The one who boasts does so only out of a feeling of inferiority”…those who make themselves look bigger on borrowed power are essentially living according to other people’s value systems – they are living other people’s lives.

Separation of tasks

All you can do with regard to your own life is choose the best path that you believe in. On the other hand, what kind of judgment do other people pass on that choice? That is the task of other people, and is not a matter you can do anything about.

You are worried about other people looking at you. You are worried about being judged by other people. That’s why you are constantly craving recognition from others. Now, why are you worried about other people looking at you, anyway? Adlerian psychology has an easy answer. You haven’t done the separation of tasks yet. You assume that even things that should be other people’s tasks are your own. Remember the words of the grandmother: “You’re the only one who’s worried how you look”. What other people think when they see your face – that is the task of other people and is not something you have any control over.

Those are the main lessons I picked up from the first half of the book. They really hit home with me and changed my perspective in 2018. Of course, there are many more lessons and nuances, but the above stood out for me. Others might do for you. If you find them helpful, give the book a try. You’ll likely find more interesting insights from the book which will be helpful to your growth in 2019 and beyond.

What I got better at in 2018

First of all, 2018 has been an eventful year. There are a lot to be concerned about in the past 12 months, but there are also plenty to be thankful for and optimistic about. I came across an article that summarized how the world became a better place in 2018. Highly recommended.

Personally, the following are what I got better at in 2018

Javascript

I didn’t write a single Javascript line of code before August 2018. That; however, changed during the course of 4 months. My MIS Capstone project forced to work mostly with Javascript as I was responsible for data visualization piece of the project.

Python

From January to December, I had courses in which I had to use Python every single month. Hence, I am much more comfortable with the language now than I was in 2017 in different ways, from data analysis, data cleaning and writing functions in the back end.

GitHub

I am still a bit frustrated and annoyed by GitHub. As somebody with a background in business, GitHub can be annoyingly user-unfriendly at times. But the Capstone project taught me a lot more on how to use branches, set up the origin URL and push code more efficiently.

Reading books

This year, I have read arguably the most impactful and best books in my life. 16 books were read in 2018, but I didn’t finish all of them. In the past, I was determined to go cover to cover for every book, but this year, I let loose. For some books, I stopped reading whenever I thought that I got the gist of it and that the rest of the book was just anecdotes and examples. It’s a better use of my time.

Knowledge in enterprise IT

12 months of working, reading and learning in the industry gave me a better handle on what was going on. The fact that I haven’t been fired from my job at a Managed Service Provider is proof of that. But there is a lot to learn and the IT field moves dizzyingly fast that getting complacent or listless isn’t an option.

Compassion and control of my emotions

I used to be angry, hot-headed and very impatient. Over the course of 12 months, I sought feedback from folks around me and received positive comments on my improvement. I still feel the urge to do things fast and speed things up, but I have a better control over my Hulk now than I did.

Blogging

I was more committed to this blog than I had ever been. I reached my goal of having the 100th blog post published in 2018. At least I could say there is an improvement in this area in 2018 than in previous years.

B2B Marketing

My working experience was mostly in B2C space. Since August 2017, I have been working in a B2B company and as a result, have learned a great deal about B2B marketing. For the past year, I learned much more about HubSpot, Salesforce, Webinar making, content marketing strategy and so on. Hopefully in 2019, I will get more experience in webinars and podcast as well. We’ll see

Honorable mentions: playing pool and cutting my own hair

It’s much easier to list what I got better at than to list what I am still lacking. There are just too many and we don’t have the time and space for that! Coming to 2019, I really look forward to learning more things or the same things but with more depth. Let’s see in about 8760 hours what I have to share again.

100th post in 2018

I don’t remember the exact time, but somewhere in the summer, I decided to put effort into this blog and resolve to have at least 100 posts at the end of 2018. At the time, I had around 20 something posts already. Not a tall order. Not an ambitious goal. But a goal to work on, to look forward to.

Fast forward, a few days from when the sun will finally set on 2018, I achieved the goal set a few months ago. But it’s just the start of a very long road. I set my sight on publishing 200 more posts in 2019 and more in the future.

The primary metric is the number of published posts, not the number of followers or likes. The purpose of this blog is an outlet of my expression, whether it is a coding tip, a book I enjoyed, something that happened in my life or an opinion on a topic. My goal is to get out of my shell more as well as to create a rewarding long-term habit. I have enjoyed the journey of getting to 100 posts as much as the feeling coming from reaching the milestone itself. Hence, I really look forward to writing more next year and beyond.

Finally, as 2019 is just around the corner, I wish everyone a great holiday break, fully charged before taking on the new challenges in 2019. In a non-stop world we are living in, it’s more important to have a slow period of time such as this time of the year.

Most important book I read in 2018

2018 has been a good year in terms of great books. Great reads so far this year include Sapiens, Messy Middle, The Courage to be disliked, Subscribed, to name a few. I wrote quickly about some of them on this blog. However, none is more important than Why we sleep.

Here are a few things I learned:

Sleep isn’t like money in the bank. If you over-spend this month, saving up a little more next month will make up the difference. If you lose one quality sleep one night, that ship has already sailed. There is no getting it back. Hence, the notion of staying up late on the weekdays just to make it up on the weekends is false

Without sufficient sleep, amyloid plaques (poisonous to neurons, killing the surrounding brain cells and associated with Alzheimer’s disease) build up in the brain, especially in deep-sleep-generating regions, attacking and degrading them. The loss of deep NREM sleep caused by this assault therefore lessens the ability to remove amyloid from the brain at night, resulting in greater amyloid deposition. More amyloid, less deep sleep, less deep sleep, more amyloid, and so on and so forth

At fault were the two characters, leptin and ghrelin. Inadequate sleep decreased concentrations of the satiety-signaling hormone leptin and increased levels of the hunger-instigating hormone ghrelin. It was a classic case of physiological double jeopardy: participants were being punished twice for the same offense of short sleeping: once by having the “I’m full” signal removed from their system and once by gaining the “I’m still hungry” feeling being amplified. As a result, participants just didn’t feel satisfied by food when they were short sleeping.

When given just five and a half hours of sleep opportunity, more than 70% of the pounds lost came from lean body mass – muscle, not fat. Switch to the group offered eight and a half hours’ time in bed each night and a far more desirable outcome was observed, with well over 50% of weight loss coming from fat while preserving muscle

With a genuine lack of malice, I proceed to inform them that men who report sleeping too little or having poor-quality sleep have a 29% lower sperm count than those obtaining a full and restful night of sleep, and the sperm themselves have more deformities.

Routinely sleeping less than 6 hours a nigh results in a 20% drop in follicular-releasing hormone in women – a critical female reproductive element that peaks just prior to ovulation and is necessary for conception.

One such foreign entity that natural killer cells will target are malignant (cancerous) tumor cells. Natural killer cells will effectively punch a hole in the outer space of these cancerous cells and inject a protein that can destroy the malignancy.

Examining a healthy young men, Irwin demonstrated that a single night of four hours of sleep – such as going to bed at 3AM and waking up at 7AM – swept away 70% of the natural killer cells circulating in the immune system, relative to a full 8-hour night of sleep.

A large European study of almost 25,000 individuals demonstrated that sleeping 6 hours or less was associated with a 40% increased risk of developing cancer.

A chemical called melatonin helps regulate the timing of when sleep occurs. It governs when the race (sleep) begins, but does not participate in it. Our distractions by modern technology and LED lights suppress and delay the rise of melatonin, meaning that our body is told that sleep should start late. Throw in the enforced awakening by virtue of the industrial culture (alarm clock) and we have a recipe for inadequate sleep.

Memories remain perilously vulnerable to any disruption of sleep (including that from alcohol) even up to three nights of learning, despite two full nights of natural sleep prior.

Selectively warming the feet and hands by just a small amount (0.5 Celsius degrees) caused a local swell of blood to these regions, thereby charming heat out of the body’s core, where it had been trapped. The result of all this ingenuity: sleep took hold of the participants in a significantly shorter time, allowing them to fall asleep 20% faster than was usual, even though these were already young, healthy and fast-sleeping individuals

Most controversial and alarming are those highlighted by Dr Daniel Kripke, a physician at the University of California, San Diego. Kripke discovered that individuals using prescription sleep medications are significantly more likely to die and to develop cancer than those who do not

Saying that alcohol is a sedative often confuses people, as alcohol in moderate doses helps individuals liven up and become more social. How can a sedative enliven you? The answer comes down to the fact that your increased sociability is caused by sedation of one part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, early in the timeline of alcohol’s creeping effects. As we have discussed, this frontal lobe region of the human brain helps control our impulses and restrains our behavior. Alcohol immobilizes that part of our brain first. As a result, we “loosen up”, becoming less controlled and more extroverted.

Your desire and ability to remain conscious are decreasing and you can let go of consciousness more easily. I am very deliberately avoiding the term “sleep”, however, because sedation is not sleep. Alcohol sedates you out of wakefulness, but it does not induce natural sleep.

Reflection

I have mixed feelings from reading this book. On one hand, I am glad to be enlightened by all the scientific findings on sleep. On the other, I am a bit horrified by what I have done to my body. Nonetheless, I am determined to prioritize sleep more in 2019 and beyond or at least to limit the hard done to my body.

Above are just a few of many great insights that the book offers. I am not doing the book justice, but I hope you spend some time reading this book and gifting it to friends or beloved ones. (I have no connection whatsoever with the author or the publisher. Just a big fan who wants as many to learn about the science of sleep as possible)

Lesson and inspiration from Lebron’s emergence as a potent 3-point shooter

As a basketball fan and somebody who strives to be better over time, I felt nothing, but deep admiration for Lebron and great inspiration from him after this story from Wall Streel Journal. Per WSJ:

There used to be a way to make James slightly worse at basketball: make him shoot. He wasn’t a bad shooter. He just wasn’t a great shooter. It was smart defense to dare him into a shot if only because that seemed like a better idea than letting him try anything else with the ball in his hands.


I am old enough to remember the time when it gave teams a better odd to just dare Lebron to shoot. He could have done much more damage with his ability to drive or his excellent court vision and passing. There were games in which he shot the lights out. Case in point, 54 out of 78 games in which he scored 40 points or more took place before 2015. 9 out of 12 games in which he scored 50 points or more happened before 2015 (Source: Wikipedia). He is indeed one of the greatest players in history, but was not known for being a great shooter.

Well, not any more. I have watched Lebron take and make more threes and, scarily, deeper threes in the last two or three years. Per WSJ:

One of the most remarkable things about Lebron is his ability to look after his body. Entering the league in 2003 and playing many more games by going deep in the post-season (he has been to the Final every year since 2010), he still has the speed and explosiveness. The vision, the passing and the post-up are still there. Now, he added the pull-up threes to his arsenal. The thing with pull-up threes and long threes in his case is that they open up the defense. Defenders have to go up farther than they wish to defend Lebron. If you know he can make a deep three at 40% rate, it will be foolish to leave him alone. Hence, more space near the basket will be available for Lebron’s teammates and himself.

We can all learn from Lebron. Great as he is, he still strives to grow by adapting his game to the changes in the league. Steph Curry forever changed the NBA with his game. To compete and get better, Lebron managed to add more skills to his repertoire.

In this day and age, access to knowledge and information is more available than ever. There is no shortage of resources that we can use to learn. On the other hand, the job market is more competitive than ever. It is no longer sustainable for any individual to stagnate and be forever satisfied with his or her own skillset. If you stagnate and don’t evolve with the changes in the market, you risk being obsolete. Take some dying industries such as mining or coal. The thing with such industries is that no incentives can save them forever when better alternatives become increasingly cheaper (renewables). Workers in those industries need to be taught new skills to be more competitive in this job market. That’s the long term solution for everyone, not the incentives by the government or tariffs.

Technology opens up a lot of possibilities, but also makes it harder for anyone of us to stand still. A lot of tools nowadays facilitate design and programming for people without technical background with “drag and drop” features. Robinhood allows individuals to invest without fees to brokers. Workers in warehouses are increasingly replaced by more and more automation. Businesses are in the game to make money. If technology can unlock more efficiency with automation and strengthen their bottom line, that’s what they will embrace. As job seekers, we have to adapt and evolve to become an asset that is hard to replace.

Holiday shoppings, investments and personal finance

I felt pleased with myself that I didn’t buy anything from the Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday madness. Not that I didn’t have any reasons to. My phone is 5 years old with multiple cracks on the screen protection. My Mac is 6 years old with some cracks on itself as well. And who knows what kind of needs could have hit me the seconds I browsed those websites? We all want another pair of shoes. 

Some of the people I talked to didn’t buy either. I think that we live in the time of surplus supply. Manufacturers keep producing in quantity and variety. To shorten the sales cycle, they cut the time to market and also the price to get a bit deeper into our wallet. Hence, it seems that discounts are all year around. Personally, I wasn’t impressed by any discounts during the very last holidays. The discounts seemed like any that I had seen before. Plus, I resisted the temptation to buy things that I didn’t actually need. It was not easy! 

Imagine the money you saved from not spending on things you didn’t need during the holiday. Instead, you invested the money in the stock market. For the past month, a lot of tech stocks plummeted. Apple lost almost $200 billion in market valuation, for instance. Some turned around and recovered pretty fast such as VMWare. As a result, the investment could have netted you a reasonably good amount of money. If you invest in the stocks and hold them for a long time, the compound interest can lead to an even bigger return, provided that, of course, the stocks perform well. 

I stated before that personal finance should be mandatory at schools. The earlier kids can learn about it, the better. Look at this tweet below and you’ll know what I am talking about. Even if you are suspicious of the figures, do your own research on poverty in the US or student loans. 

Book: Bird by Bird Some Instructions on Writing and Life

If you love writing, but get stuck at not knowing how to write better, this book is for you. It’s a light-toned therapy session that consists of practical lessons on how to write better. I found it reassuring to learn about the struggles that even great writers faced. It was equally reassuring to know that writing is tough, but if you keep at it, eventually you’ll get something out of it.

The book can get dull as it drags on, if you are not that interested in the author’s personal anecdotes. The main take-aways for me include:

  • Just sit your ass down and force yourself to write. It’ll come
  • First drafts are always horrible, for everyone. Just let it all out at first
  • Little by little, just write. Or in the author’s father’s words: “bird by bird”!

Below are few great quotes from the book:

E.L. Doctorow once said that “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. “You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard

“Do it every day for a while”, my father kept saying. “Do it as you would do scales on the piano. Do it by prearrangement with yourself. Do it as a debt of honor. And make a commitment to finishing things”

Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do – the actual act of writing – turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said. ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird’.”

One writer I know tells me that he sits down every morning and says to himself nicely, “It’s not like you don’t have a choice, because you do—you can either type or kill yourself.”

This blog is my “tea ceremony”. I don’t know what I would get out of it. I just enjoy it.

Bonus: Below are the four blogs that inspire me to write as often as I can

 

Book: The Messy Middle

The Messy Middle is a new book written by the founder of Behance, a networking platform for designers. He is now the Chief Product Officer at Adobe. The book reflects his bootstrapping years at Behance and great lessons on businesses, career and entrepreneurship. Even if you are not an entrepreneur (I am not), this book has some insights on how tough it is to be one and fantastic lessons on how to advance your career. The book may get a bit mundane as it progresses, but the good thing is that many small chapters aren’t related to one another and you can skip forward or move backward at will. No need to read it in order. Below are a few of my favorite passages:

On self-awareness

Self-awareness starts with the realization that when you’re at a peak or in a valley, you’re not your greatest self. Self-awareness means dispelling your sense of superiority and the myths that people believe about you.

Ultimately, self-awareness is about preserving sound judgement and keeping relatable and realistic. However big your project or ambition, your journey is nothing more than a sequence of decisions: You’re probably many decisions away from success, but always one decision away from failure. Clarity matters. The more aware you are of yourself and your surroundings, the more data you have to inform your decisions, and the more competitive you will be

On authenticity

Nobody remembers or is inspired by anything that fits in

I do the work I do because I have to. I can’t help it. I was born this way – I can’t be false to any man. I know what the current trends and moods are, but I can’t concern myself with them. I also can’t force myself (as many do) to make work that fits within the going commercial style. Trends change and I believe that is why my work is still relevant today, because I am the only one making work like mine.

The idea of being born “weird” means you have a gift – like being born a star athlete. It would a sin to deny my gift. My “weird” is powerful. It stands out. I know that it attracts some individuals and clients, and repels others. I have to be cool with that. I am not for everyone – just the sexy people. Like you.

And as American artist Sol LeWitt once advised, “Learn to say ‘fuck you’ to the world once in a while”. Do your thing.

On doing the hard work

There’s a reason so few people do hard work beyond their job description: It’s hard work. You run the risk of extending energy or falling behind in other pars of your life, but these are the costs of playing at the frontier and having the opportunity to lead something new. You’re either a cog in the system or a designer of new and better systems. Of course, if you aspire to transform your industry and leave a valuable mark in your world, you’ll challenge every system you find yourself confined by. When you see something wrong, take the initiative to fix it.

When you find yourself frustrated or critical, channel that energy into persistent creation. If it’s not your job, pursue it anyway. Do research, run tests, or draft white papers and presentations to prove your position, even if it’s on your own time. It’ll give you a sense of satisfaction that no amount of preordained tasks will.

A shared trait among entrepreneurs and innovators within big companies is defying prescribed roles. The future is drafted by people doing work they don’t have to do. You need to be one of those people and hire them, too. There is too much wonder and talking and too little doing. So don’t talk: do

On how difficult it is to stay positive when dealing with hardships of entrepreneurship. I am not an entrepreneur, but it’s something I feel relatable, as I believe many do.

When I think back to those lost years, I recall a constant somber loneliness, a suffering from the feeling that nobody else could relate. The struggle was further compounded by the optimism I had to exude to my team and potential customers and partners. My hope had to be minded deep beneath the surface of fear and reality. The juxtaposition of the intensity of a start-up and feeling invisible and despondent was soul crushing. Staying positive was exhausting, and there were times when I felt depressed.

Without a steady stream of rewards, you will feel empty. You must supplement this void with manufactured optimism. You will have to endure anonymity and a persistent state of frustration. You’ll have to generate a unique and intrinsic sense of belief in yourself as you manage the blows to your plan and ego.

 

Ecstasy after toiling

My background is mostly in marketing. It can get very subjective. What looks beautiful to you may not to others. Some copy that may sound appealing to you may not to others.

Coding is different. Either your code works the way you want it to or it has bugs or malfunctions. Unfortunately, coding is hard for me. Without a technical background, anything related to programming such as installing software, setting environment, missing a comma or colon and getting the code to work is hard for me. But at the same time, whenever I get some code to work as intended, I am overwhelmed by a burst of joy. A heavy dose of pride and fulfillment. Ecstasy after toiling.

In 2017, a few friends and I participated in an M&A case competition in Nebraska. We had to work long hours every day for 2 weeks for each round (there were two rounds). On top of our daily life and schoolwork. Only after we advanced in the 1st round were we allowed to go the other round. I remember in the first round, we put a lot of effort in our case and presentation. Every comma, dot, word or even the order of annotations were looked over. We finished our proposal at 2:30am, 6 hours away from the deadline after a marathon weekend. After we pressed the “send” button, the feelings were indescribably awesome. Full of pride and fulfillment. Whether we would win didn’t matter at the time at all. Ecstasy after toiling.

In the second round, we dropped the ball. We didn’t have the same level of effort and intensity. The day we submitted the 2nd proposal, nobody felt good. We actually fought between us because I didn’t feel the others put in enough effort.

We are often told to be patient. Things worth having take time. Or something along that line they usually say. The potential ecstasy at the end of the tunnel may give each of us the motivation to try harder and again the next day. But for sure the road is hard.

Indifference

I was told by one professor at school that I was conscientious. I used to think that it was a good thing. A compliment. I am not sure I do now.

Naval Ravikant was right when he said that indifference was freedom. Indifference meant that you did whatever you wanted without caring too much what others thought. To what was outside of your control.

I tend to care. Too much and unnecessarily. I care about how others perceive my actions, my statement, my emails, my work, my look and so on. I give too much attention to whether others will think the next thing coming from me is stupid. To whether I am acting as an idiot even though they likely don’t care that much. To my aesthetically challenged look.

I know what to do now to improve myself and my life. A lot of work ahead to train myself to be indifferent or more indifferent. It’s one of the reasons why I have this blog. Besides practicing writing and giving back what I have learned, this medium is one way I think I can train to be more indifferent. I used to have lots of edits and entries I wrote but deleted out of fear that I would sound stupid. I probably still sound stupid. But I don’t do edits much any more. I just write it down and hit the “publish” button. It feels more liberating. And I have gained more confidence.

Naval is right. “Indifference is freedom”.