In the last few days of 2017, I posted an article which drew a heart-warming response from one of my readers.
He introduced himself as Bernard Malm and he touched on the lessons he’d garnered from his favourite articles on my blog and how reading these gave him a new perspective on some of the activities he had previously viewed as mundane. He discussed some of the rituals and concepts that had fuelled him for the past few years and which he felt would bring some order into his life. My response to his email sparked a follow-up interview to discuss the points he’d shared. It was a scintillating meeting which I drew a lot of inspiration from.
Despite Bernard’s science-related background (He studied Electrical Engineering as an undergraduate, and followed it up with Masters in Internet Engineering), he had always been interested in the arts. His grandfather had an extensive library which served his avid reading interests while growing up and his father was a sculptor. However he lost touch with reading to focus on his career, and the books he would pay attention to later would be in Personal Development, Business, Sales and Marketing.
Below are highlights of my interview with Bernard, interspersed with priceless lessons based on his experiences;
On Morning Rituals and How They Have Served Him
I learned to create a time table for my morning rituals and here I’ve captured reading, writing, journaling, exercising and eating healthy. I see each practice as a step to propel me to my vision of improving my well-being as well as reading more books, writing, and doing more of what makes me happy.
Meditation is the first of these rituals as it sets my day and I love to do this the moment I wake up, usually preceded by a quick cold shower which serves to bring me wide awake. As a Christian, my idea of meditation is reading the Bible and pondering over it. I also love to journal because it enables me to reflect on what I have been doing with my time, and also share my thoughts on how my day went on paper.
Although I have not attained my main writing goals yet, it is a big luxury for me to be able to pick a pen and write something every day. It is a big step forward and I am excited about it.
The last ritual for me is to eat healthily. For someone who skips breakfast a lot, it is very important that I remind myself to eat a healthy breakfast, and do that every day, till it becomes a habit. I also assess myself on each ritual at the end of every day, by recording codes in my diary, and adding a negative (-) sign to the code if I think I didn’t do too well in that area. I do this so I know where I need to improve or focus on. I believe these rituals come together to make me a better person. Practicing these consistently helps me to establish them as habits, and I know with time I wouldn’t need a timetable as a reminder.
One important, and very helpful, thing for me is not to set very strict timelines for each ritual. That way, even when I miss one, I have the rest of the day to catch up, and my failures don’t pile up and become disincentives for going on. Having to catch up by the end of the day still puts some limits on it so that I don’t allow for so much freedom that I end up procrastinating.
On Learning New Things
Learning new things can take the form of something you’ve never done, or thought of before, but which excites you. I have become very intrigued by studying to get a Law Degree because everything in business is regulated by law; Contracts, Taxes, Human Resource, Accounting. So, I was dejected when I didn’t make it to the Law School last year. I have not given up on it, but I have decided to open up my options in learning new things so that I will never run out of options. That way I will keep learning something new all the time.
On living Fully and Play
For a long time, I accepted that as things change in life we only need to adapt to the changes while compromising on other things that make us feel alive, free and happy. For some, marriage and family mean more responsibilities, work comes with its challenges but then I believe we should take care of ourselves as well so we can be in the right frame of mind to take care of the people we love.
Learning new things also encompasses Play. When did you last do something that made you excited and laugh out loud? When did you take upon a new activity that pushed you out of your comfort zone and taught you lessons? I often recollect the times when I had no cares in the world and would lose myself in a game of draughts with my friend, and often ask why it is so difficult to make time to play these days.
I decided to go for salsa lessons and resume swimming, as a way of unwinding and I aim to follow through to the end.
How Creating Systems Can Help Me Exceed My Goals
When you have systems working efficiently, you free up time to do the most important things, which themselves should have systems of their own. Systems ensure you don’t miss out on the most important things. They make sure you get your priorities right and give them the deserved attention. Systems help you to put in little bits of routine effort, which cumulatively result in the fulfilment of your goals. Once a system is created and perfected, everything else becomes little effortless repetitive routines.
The concept of systems is by far the most powerful way to reach and exceed your goals. Developing the systems is where the main work resides. It requires you to sit down and determine what you want to achieve and the building blocks needed to achieve them, and these should be malleable enough for you to be able to modify them as you go along. You must learn to assess your systems and analyse them so you can adjust if they are not working. Systems always need constant review, and if they persistently fail, because modification is not working, you may need to break everything down and start from scratch.
In hindsight, I can see that successfully building a house in this country requires the concept of systems. You work at it in small effortless bits. You buy the land first, then you later dig the trenches, then later the foundation, and so on. Before you know it, you have a house! And many people wonder how you could build a house, considering your income level. You see, the system you subconsciously put in place, because you want to own a house, suddenly picks up all the small, seemingly insignificant, trickles of resources available to you and builds you a house. When you put systems in place the resources you think are not available – financial, time, social etc. – somehow become visible and will conspire to make your vision happen.
I enjoyed my conversation with Bernard as it confirmed my belief in a host of ideas that I wrote about before, such as the positive long-lasting effects of reading, how we save time by minimizing relationships and meetings that do not serve us and how important it is to focus on the things that really matter. We also came to the conclusion that in the end it is never about the material things but having the right people around you.
For me, it was fantastic to see someone who was not only resonating with my ideas but also implementing them in their lives. And that it came from Bernard–a successful entrepreneur who has already achieved many of his dreams added more fuel to the fire of my thoughts and ideas.
I’ll end with Bernard’s final words, “I hope this interview inspires others to also carve their own experiences. We don’t need to be perfect but we should be moving towards living more meaningfully.”