On Urgency

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Friday Reminder:

What are your 10 year goals? How can you do them in 6 months?

Why?
Because you only live once, but if you live with urgency, then you can live multiple lives

Why would you want that?
Well, you don’t have to, but I for one think life is an amazing place, learning is a beautiful thing, and serving others is what makes life meaningful. I want more of that.

Is it possible?
It could be. Most likely it’s not going to be in 6 months, but by asking that, you get closer to it than the 10 years.

Imagine if your goal was to achieve financial freedom in 10 years
Achieving it in 6 months may seem just impossible – you’re at such a different place in life than what that 10-year-older version of yourself could look like, it almost seems unfathomable.

But..
a. it’s not impossible, it has been done before
b. don’t focus on actually achieving it within 6 months, focus on getting much closer to it
c. in 6 months time, you could be at a place with the right mental models to get you there

Drastic changes require drastic changes. Read that again.

We have this tendency (I think it’s a sin) to continuously postpone late-gratification work and prioritize short term gratification instead.

Imagine if you set out to achieve it in 6 months, but you continuously fail and end up achieving it in 5 years. What a beautiful failure?

Your failure just bought you 5 extra years to live with your goal attained.

The same applies if your goal was to attain financial freedom, starting a family, reaching a certain physique, completing a project, or whatever it may be.

The idea is not to kill yourself to do something in 6 months.

The idea is to question your timelines. To question why you postpone the desired results for 10 years in the future, and instead find ways you can do it in a shorter period of time so that you get to enjoy the fruits sooner while you’re still alive.

Your best version of yourself is not that far from you.

Your ideal life is not as far as you think it is. It’s just very difficult to dare, mentally. Train yourself to dare more often. It’s like a muscle. Call it willpower, call it courage. Seek discomfort until it feels comfortable.

Easy decisions, hard life.
Hard decisions, easy life.

10 years in 6 months is an extreme mental exercise, but I for one believe that the most meaning in life lies at the extremes.

Too Busy to Think

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I aspire to never be too busy to think.

I’ve fallen into this trap recently, multiple times unfortunately.

What does it mean to be too busy to think, you wonder?

It’s when you’re too ‘busy’ doing things and not sitting down in silence to reflect on them.

It’s when you’re in the company of people so often that you forget to be in the company of yourself, to ask your soul what it would like to do instead of going with the flow.

I believe that every one of us in this era has some form of an attention deficit condition. This era that been called the ‘information age’ or the ‘age of speed’. Everything is available at your fingertips. It’s a blessing and a curse.

Our brains have not evolved historically to process and withhold as much information as we currently do.

Life was boring, back in the day.

I’m not even talking about 10,000 years ago and beyond. I’m talking about the fact that even our parents didn’t have to (and couldn’t) evolve their brains to process as much information as we are doing today (internet).

Our grandparents certainly didn’t either.

For the normal human today, our brains process so much information than any other time in history. And if you lead a busy life? It’s multiplied by a factor.

There has been a sudden acceleration in our evolution. Our brains can’t handle it. There are byproducts and side effects of that phenomenon.

I believe every person who’s connected to the internet every day has some form of an attention deficit condition. Not that I think it should be diagnosed or treated chemically/medically. I just think it’s the new norm.

What does that mean or result in?
– we can’t stay with an idea for more than a second or at best a few seconds
– our brains context switch so fast between different topics subconsciously that you can’t catch up with them consciously
– that in return creates mental fogs and errors. Imagine if you had a mechanical machine that had to operate too fast, beyond its capability. What would happen? It overheats! (anxiety, stress, depression)
– even if that doesn’t happen, we become short term thinkers. We are creatures of habit. What that means is our habits make up who we are. In other words, our lifestyle changes our mental models that we see life through. I don’t even know the amount of things this affects, but I can’t put it better than how it was put in the dictator speech:

“We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in:
machinery that gives abundance has left us in want.
Our knowledge has made us cynical,
our cleverness hard and unkind.
We think too much and feel too little:
More than machinery we need humanity;
More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness.

Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.”

The point of this post is not that we should be more kind – but I just remembered the words here and thought they were too good, before their time.

The point I wanted to make for myself here is not to live a life where I’m too busy to think.

How can you work around this? Especially if you lead a busy life? (in my case, that’s running a growing company)

Well, the short answer is you probably can’t, but you can improve it.
You can’t change the course of our evolution.

I mean, you can change yours, if you live on an isolated farm and disconnect from the internet and the outside world. That’s the only real solution.

But I think as humans we evolve.

When we used to live in isolated farms, we didn’t have this problem. Then we started living in cities, being connected to the internet all the time. That overloaded all our sensory and mental capacities, leading to the attention deficit (our brains don’t know what to do with so much information).

I was never an advocate of medication. I know modern medicine has made beautifully crafted chemicals that would slow down your brain to give you a temporary feel for how our brains used to operate (and mother nature did as well).

Those could be necessary for some cases, but I’d like to think there’s a natural way.

Exercise and meditation are two ways I know that could help your brain slow down after a long sprint. They connect us with our 100,000 year old ancestors. They did those 2, among other things, a lot.

Spending time alone and journaling helps a ton as well.

The Wolfpack

ahmedUncategorized6 Comments

“Woof”, said my email subject on a Sunday night, sent to a handful of friends. “You are one of less than 10 people who are getting this email”.

I’ve been doing some thinking… I think that I’m quite disciplined in my nature, and I have seen some results of that. However, I still think that I’m not running -even nearly- at my optimal efficiency/productivity capacity. I want to change that, because you don’t know how much better your life can be if you live more by your values and avoid slipping here and there. Well, I want to find out.
 
The idea, simply put, was that I would send a weekly newsletter to about 10 of my close friends (my wolfpack) outlining reflections on my previous week, and goals for the upcoming one in terms of work, health, relationships, and knowledge/wisdom.

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Inbox

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Everyday, you wake up, and you open your inbox.

Be it email, slack, whatsapp, instagram, or your news app.
You are opening an inbox.

It’s insane that the word feels so normal now.
There hasn’t always been such word as ‘inbox’

inbox

Inbox is the combination of the words in and box.
Your mail in the box.

It went from:
– mail in your mailbox to
– email in your inbox to
– messages in your whatsapp/slack chats to
– posts in your instagram/twitter timeline

What checking your inbox today means is:
What happened in the world when I was idle?

The problem with that is that so much has likely happened, that your FOMO makes your brain itch to open that inbox constantly.

It’s also an insanely large amount of information for one homo sapien brain.

But, wait a minute… while it’s understandable why we’re so obsessed with what happened in the outside world, how come we’re not as interested in our inside world? And I’m not even talking about anything spiritual.

There are so many thoughts that are in the back of our heads that we never allowed to come out from the subconscious to the conscious. So many conclusions on problems that our subconscious brain has miraculously worked out in our sleep. And many more that we never processed because we never sat down to think about them without external stimuli.

Add to that the trillions of living beings (bacteria) in our bodies going about their days to stay alive (and in the process, keep your body alive, hopefully). And the 78 machines (organs), each consuming energy and producing output. How often do you check up on them?

Funny enough, the word ‘inbox’ sounds like it’s about looking within, but it’s actually the opposite. Checking your inbox is checking what’s happening outside of your existence (body, mind, and soul).

There are many benefits to that. We are social animals at the end of the day; we care about what’s happening to people around us. But if we don’t look enough within, we may lose ourselves.

If you don’t look within, you cease to exist. You may be alive, but you’re drifting with the tide. Soon enough, you lose sense of identity. You merge with the group.

Let’s coin a new term and call it the innerbox. We should all check your innerbox before our inbox 🙂

 

Pain Killers

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The world is full of pain killers.

Got a problem with the bacteria in your body? Here’s a bacteria killer (antibiotic).

Got an issue that’s causing your histamines to act up? Kill them (antihistamines).

Got some generic pain in any part of your body? Destroy it (pain killers).

These are shit solutions.

Modern medicine is filled with them.

What’s the problem with my bacteria? Why are my histamines acting up? Why am I feeling these pains?
These are the questions to be asked, gone unasked. We treat the symptom, not the root cause. That’s stupid.

Even worse, our lives are filled with them (quick fixes are everywhere).

Lonely? Porn/hookups. Hungry? Junk fast food. Stressed? Binging/alcohol.

These are the byproducts of ‘the era of speed’ that has been criticized by our parents’ generation. It’s not all bad – if anything, overall, it’s pretty damn good. It gave solutions to problems that nobody had solutions for.

I’m here to argue that these solutions are not the best though.

Pain killers are everywhere. The real solutions should be root cause fixers.

Pain killers are great:

  • They’re fast (designed to be a ‘magic pill’)
  • They’re cheap (designed for mass production, single purpose)
  • They solve the problem

The problem with root cause fixers is that they’re a lot less convenient:

  • It takes a lot of time and effort to identify the root cause
  • It takes a lot of time and effort to fix the root cause
  • It’s very experimental, likely expensive, no ‘magic pill’ at all

So why go through the trouble?

Because sweeping things under the carpet is stupid in the long term.

Here’s the horrendous thing about pain killers: they come back to haunt you. If you ‘kill’ the pain temporarily, it only makes it worse long term. One day those pain killers won’t work, or you’ll lose access to them. Meanwhile, the root cause is developing. What used to be a problem that’s easy to solve is now a chronic problem that’s semi-impossible to get rid of.

If you’re optimizing for success in whatever field the pain is coming from, then you should look at the long term.

This concept/framework applies everywhere.

Lonely? Invest in relationships (friends/love/family). Hungry? Eat well (find out what your body thrives on). Stressed? Meditate & exercise (clear your mind).
Side note: amazing businesses will evolve to make root cause fixers easy.

What problems in your life are you solving with pain killers?

Set time aside. Think about it. Go through the journey. Turn those pain killers into root fixers.

It’s much easier said than done, but your 10 year older self will thank you.

Realization: Birthday Gifts are Reversed

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If it’s your birthday, you should be the one giving people a birthday gift. Not the other way around.

You’ve been taking oxygen from the atmosphere for this many years?? What did you pay in return?

I got this realization while reading this blog post. I don’t think the author has intended to convey this idea, but he did.

birthday

Such a beautiful concept, no? How can I give back to the people around me that make my life worth living? A birthday becomes a milestone that pressures us to work harder to improve ourselves and provide value to those around us.

That sounds to me like a much better approach to birthdays than the conventional ‘make me feel special just because my parents chose to conceive me 9 months prior some year back’.

I realize that birthdays act like a little sweet treat for a lot of people in the middle of the bitterness of life, but like actual sugar, it’s probably better off if you cut it and develop an acquired taste for that bitterness 🙂

 

The Simulation Framework

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Over the past few months, I’ve developed a fascination with the concept of Mental Models & Frameworks. A mental model or framework is simply a way to process information.

One mental model that I co-developed with a close friend is the Simulation Framework, which suggests to look at every scene in your life as a simulation.

Different people live in different simulations. They see life differently because they process information differently. Thinking of those different experiences as “simulations” helps you take them less seriously. Take this example:

  • Action X happens
  • Person A thinks it’s the end of the world
  • Person B laughs and moves on
  • Person C gets slightly stressed but immediately starts drawing solutions

Each of these 3 people were exposed to the exact same information. They processed the information differently, leading to them almost living entirely different realities. They each had a different simulation.

One day, I was super engaged and focused in a particular task I was working on. I was happy and zen, and after hours of focus, I hold my phone and check Twitter out of force of habit. The first tweet that popped was for a gentleman who was fuming of anger at a political figure. The tweet held so many emotions, I felt each one of them. It had caps, exclamation marks, and cuss words; all the good stuff! I got consumed in that tweet for a long minute, then I got myself out of it thinking “woah…. what a simulation!”. This poor guy is living in a tormented state of mind. I wouldn’t wanna be him. I’m sure what he was saying had some truth (whether objective or subjective), but sheesh… What. A. Simulation.

I felt that because I was in a completely different simulation, and the contrast between his and mine was extremely high.

Have you ever been relaxed reading a book only to get an unexpected call from someone who wasn’t having a good day? That’s a contrast between your simulation and his/hers.

The Simulation Framework is the mother of all mental models and frameworks, because different mental models produce different simulations.

We ended up building so many pieces on top of the Simulation Framework. One of which was on relationships. Your strongest relationships are with those you have the most “simulation overlap” with. The people who share similar mental models and frameworks as you are those you’d relate to the most.

Nobody’s born with the perfect set of mental models. Those you have to develop and learn.

It’s been super exciting learning new mental models and applying them. One of the best writers on the topic is George Mack. I highly recommend you subscribe to his newsletter.

Dopamine Addiction

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I admit: I’m addicted to dopamine. I guess most of us are to an extent. There’s something about keeping our minds busy that’s attractive. It’s horrifying to have our minds wander freely when we’re alone. It’s even more attractive when we’re watching other people’s lives. It’s always good to think you’re better than someone else, eh? And when someone’s doing better than you, you crawl into depression. But you still can’t stop.

I’ve been off Instagram for the past 3 months now. The longest I’ve ever been away since I started using it… How insane is that? I have never stopped using Instagram since I started using it 8 or so years ago. But that applies to most people I know…

The trigger was a talk with Chamath Palihapitiya one of Facebook’s early employees. I’ve heard plenty of talks on how the dopamine addiction isn’t good for you and yada yada… But this guy did it slightly differently.

Chamath basically said that if you use social media, you’re programming your brain for always seeking instant gratification and short term pleasures. And if you do that on one front, then it applies on the rest of your life as well, whether you like it or not. So you cannot be a long term thinker if your brain is wired for short term instant rewards. You won’t have the patience for long term rewards if you’re so addicted to their more attractive cousin.

That hit home. I aspire to be a long term thinker. I believe that there’s a lot of benefit not only to oneself but also to society around them when they think long term and discipline themselves to overcome the weakness of seeking short term pleasures.

May we always have the willpower to free ourselves from the dopamine addiction.

Happiness is not the End

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Everyone seems to be on their pursuit of happiness. While different people attribute different goals and desires to happiness, I think the state is very comparable for everyone.

We look at attaining happiness as if it was a process:

  • I’m at point A
  • I want to be at point B
  • To get there, I need to work
  • When I get to point B, I will be happy

This simple yet flawed equation makes it seem as if the “work” is a means to an end, as if work is merely meant to get you to happiness.

But work is actually where we derive happiness from!

Winning a race isn’t something that’s accomplished by someone who’s crazy about winning. It’s accomplished by him who is crazy about racing. Happiness is the process, not the reward.

If you’re in love with the image of being a world-class pianist, you’ll never be one. If you’re in love with the practice of playing when nobody’s watching, that’s when you’re likely to become one.

Happiness is not the end. Happiness is the means to an end.
Happiness is not the goal. Happiness is the process.

Work Principles

ahmedUncategorized3 Comments

I jotted down some of the work principles I live by. I’ve learned some of these through experience, and many of them through books and mentors. This will act as a reference for me, those who work with me, and others. It’s still a work in progress.

  • Don’t take your job for granted.
    • Do your best to earn your place every day. This goes to everyone, from janitor to CEO.
  • Work hard in silence. Period.
    • Don’t even anticipate success to make the noise. Don’t crave the noise or recognition.
    • Gain gratification and satisfaction intrinsically, not extrinsically.
    • Press and fame are vain.
    • Be in love with the process, not the results.

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