One Full Year of Daily Meditation!

I’ve finally done it: a streak of 365 days of meditation!

Let me tell you why this is a big deal to me…

It’s NOT about the achievements!!

Over the last 4 years or so, I’ve blogged about (or mentioned) meditation. I’ve been consistently meditating daily for the last 365 days. However, it wasn’t always like this.

The app I use for guided meditation, Headspace, like many others, award you with badges based on your streak of days meditating: 1 day, 3 days, 10 days, 15 days, 30 days, etc. Getting up to 30 days was relatively easy for me: come on, 10 minutes a day shouldn’t be that hard! However, the next badge after that is for 90 days.

In order to hit that next mark, at some point I started cheating: there were days where I was too busy with everything else, so I’d start the guided meditation on the app, and proceed with doing whatever else I was doing. Yeah, just so I could earn my super badge. Really?!

Fortunately, my blog tagline’s got to me: “Why do we do this again…?”. Oh, the shame.

With that realization, I got back on track, now decided that I’d never cheat like that again; if I had to miss a day because I couldn’t honestly afford 10 minutes to meditate, I’d simply start over from day 1.

Guess what? I did find time to meditate!

I remember reading or hearing somewhere: “If you don’t have time to meditate 10 minutes, you should meditate 20 minutes”. There’s a lot of truth in that. Over time I started meditating 15 minutes, and then got to 20 minutes (I have pulled back to 15 minutes a few months ago after adding a couple minutes to the evening, too, but I’ll likely go up in my morning session again soon).

But the streak was broken again… and again…

I got my for the 90-day streak. And then for 180 days. But then, one weekend in mid 2017, I camped at a racing track and thought: “yikes, how am I going to meditate here?”. And I skipped two days of meditation. I then convinced myself there’s absolutely no reason to meditate wherever I am, and ever since, I have meditated inside of my camping tent, inside of my car, at hotels, at work… I don’t care.

After that, how would I get to the next (and last) badge, for 365 days? Well, that one couldn’t be easy.

At one moment, I passed 200+ days, but then I had one bad day when the sun didn’t want to smile at me and the streak was broken. I started over.

Then, I passed 300+ days. And then again, a mix of a bad day and a timezone change for a trip to Europe have caused that streak to be broken again. Man, so close…

…and finally, 365!!

I’ve really earned this badge:

If there’s a day that’s, let’s say, complicated, I will NOT skip meditation. I may have a short session (the minimum I did was 3 minutes), but I’ll still sit down, put myself together, meditate, and then carry on.

Now I just have to keep doing what I’m doing, collecting the benefits of living a mindful life, and eventually, I’ll get to 2 thousand meditation sessions completed. 🙂

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Inspiring Others

My “Testing in Agile: From an Afterthought to an Integral Part” is becoming a hit: I’ve been receiving great feedback and compliments from attendees and many requests to deliver it as a Lunch and Learn at their companies (drop me a note if you’re in the Houston or surrounding area, and I’ll come to your company, too!). I’m so pleased with the response I’ve been getting that I really feel like working on polishing the presentation further (better title, better description, etc.).

One of the points I bring up on this presentation is my “No GWT, no code!” movement. 🙂
As it turns out, people are responding well to that! At some conferences and user groups, when I mention the movement (which initially just came out as a funny remark), I hear attendees saying out loud “YES!!!”. But now, the coolest thing happened… check this out:

I just got to the Improving Houston office and had an envelope that came in the mail for me. What is it?

Yes, “No GWT, no code.” stickers!!

An attendee to my talk at one of the conferences felt inspired, got these made, and mailed it to me. How awesome is that?!

The realization that you’re inspiring others with your work and attitude brings so much joy, while it also keeps the flame burning, providing energy to keep pushing forward. You should try it, too!

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My thoughts on “Fake until you make/become it”

A couple of years ago I bumped into this TED talk: “Your body language shapes who you are”, by Amy Cuddy. I enjoyed the whole bit in regards to one’s body language. However, at one point she puts out the thought “fake until you make it”, or “fake until you become it”. That’s all good, except that a number of people takes the concept in a direction that doesn’t appeal to me.

A couple of months ago, that same video/mantra came up at a meeting, and it seems like a lot of emphasis was put on the “fake” part.

Earlier this week, during another meeting, we were discussing “trust behaviors”, more specifically, integrity. The “fake until you make it” mantra came to my mind again. And a day later, a Facebook friend posted about it as well, also expressing concern about the subject. I figured it was about time to put my thoughts out.

To me, the word “fake” carries a bad vibe with it. I don’t personally want to be associated with it. Here’s the definition found at a dictionary:

Fake: a thing that is not genuine; a forgery or sham: the painting was a fake. A person who appears or claims to be something that they are not.

I don’t like the idea of somebody “faking” about knowing or being able to do a certain thing just in order to get a job or a customer. Besides misleading others, that person also has to live with that notion: “I told others I am this or I can do that, but I know I’m not or I can’t”. And maybe even worst, such person is closing the doors to be helped by others.

Let me explain. Let’s say a person is NOT a software developer, but has taken interest after reading a book about it and writing some code here and there. If that person lets others know “hey, here’s my experience so far. I’m currently NOT a software developer, but I REALLY want to become one. I don’t know how to get there, so I’m looking for opportunities, to get help from anyone who could offer some guidance.”. Or maybe the person already knows what she needs to do to get there: “I’ve read book X, built a simple application to practice the concepts, reached out to a group of folks who are actively working on something similar…”, and so on. That’s very transparent and sets expectations properly. I believe that, by acting this way, one tends to attract people who value that kind of attitude and doesn’t think twice about offering a hand.

But wait: there’s another side to this approach!

There is the aspect of changing your attitude towards someone you’d like to be, but you aren’t yet. Maybe you want to be a rockstar, so you crank up some music really loud and start playing hard your air guitar! Nothing wrong with that (unless, of course, you’re auditioning for a band).

Projecting an image in the mind is a great way to tell the brain “hey, that’s what I want to be… you’re smart; figure it out for me!”.

I’m all up for conditioning the mind and body. For example, I ride fast motorcycles at race tracks. Say I’m going to be riding at a track I’ve never been to. When I am preparing for it, I pick up my iPad, load videos from riders riding the track, go to the garage, put my bike on the stand, and watch the videos while seated on the bike. As I do so, I tuck in behind the windscreen when the rider is accelerating on a straight, then I sit up right when the rider enters the brake zone, and I also slide my butt off the seat, in preparation to lean into the corner.

Is that “fake riding”? I don’t think so. I’m not trying to full anyone; I’m only conditioning my mind and body, creating some muscle memory, giving my brain time to process little bits of information in a safe environment, before I’m doing the real thing.

A very valid similar approach is great for people who want to either start or get better at public speaking: see Toast Masters.

Summing up: instead of being a “fake”, I rather make it clear where I want to get to, get help, and give help on my way there!

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My Successful 30-day Ever Better Challenge

On my 2018: Annual Review post, I’ve mentioned I was going to try a 30-day Ever Better Challenge in order to address one of the items I didn’t do so well last year: exercising more!

My challenge was to do at least 20 minutes of any sort of physical activities every day. How did I do? Nailed it!

I have not skipped any day.

The physical activity (that is, related to exercising) I enjoy the most is rollerblading. I’ve done it three times during this challenge. Each time lasted a full hour, non-stop, in which I cover about 8 miles. Two out of those three times actually happened back-to-back on consecutive days; at first, I didn’t think I’d be able to pull it off, but I actually did! That’s an option I like because it is a good workout for my legs and lower back, good balance, and I use that time to listen to podcasts, audiobooks, music, etc. All of that, surrounded by a nice scenery.

Unfortunately, I can only go rollerblading on a more frequent basis when Daylight Saving Time starts, so I have time going to the park when I’m back from work.

The majority of the days (21 days), I did roughly 20-minute sessions as soon as I got back home from work. The ritual is:

  • say hi to the family,
  • make sure everyone’s well and nothing is required from me immediatly,
  • change into workout clothes,
  • exercise!

I now go through that flow without thinking about it, so I believe the habit is being formed.

I perform activities that can be done inside of the house: pull-ups, jumping on a mini trampoline, weightlifting.

In this period, I was out of town for 4 days. During those days, I walked an average of 4 miles each day, and I considered that my physical activity for the day, as I was out and about most of the time and there wasn’t much else I could do.

Another benefit I get from this is that I get to watch some good videos (TED and the like) while I’m exercising.

Moving forward, I’ll continue following the same rituals, and will add a couple more reps to what I do when exercising at home.

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The Jar of Awesome: Expressing Gratitude

On my “2018: Annual Review” post, I’ve mentioned my Jar of Awesome as something that went well last year. So, let me expand on that, going all the way back to the year of 2012…

What is that blur I see?

In late 2011, I spent a couple of days reflecting on my life and came to the realization that the memories of many years were a blur. The good habit I once had of expressing gratitude simply vanished. I then decided to start keeping track of my gratitude again.

I then created a note in Evernote named “Gratitude – 2012”, tagged “gratitude”. In that note, I’d add whatever things I was grateful for. Sometimes I wouldn’t realize I was grateful for something and wouldn’t write it down. Sometimes I’d say to to myself “I’ll write it when I get a chance”, and would simply forget to do it. That year, I wrote down 22 things I was greatful for.

I continued doing that every year since. In 2013, I only wrote down 2 things, and in 2014, 6 things. I had to kick it up a notch.

Comes 2015, I write down 100 things! In 2016, 201 things!! Now we’re talking…

Why’s that important?

As the years went by, I went back to those lists to fill up my mind with good things that happened. Quite often I’d read something I had forgotten about: maybe I had been grateful to something someone did for me, and that was a good reminder for me to get in touch with that person, checking how he or she was doing, and maybe express my gratitude to the person again (heck, maybe at the time I had felt grateful but never told the person about it).

This type of approach has helped me keep the momentum when life’s good. But most importantly, it has helped me remember that if the current moment or day isn’t so great, I’ve had better days, and I can probably have it again!

What changed since 2016?

My gratitude note for 2017 only has 60 items. That’s ok, though. At one point in that year I started using The Five-Minute Journal, which features a section to write three things I’m thankful for on a daily basis. At the end of the year I scanned to pages and stored in Evernote.

While all of my previous ways to track gratitude had been working out well, I wanted to give it more exposure, so for 2018 I decided to try something different and implemented the Jar of Awesome. The jar was placed on a counter close to where I normally drop my backpack off every day as I get back from work, so it was very easy to be reminded to take a moment and think about things I’m grateful for.

The placement of the jar is also an invite for my family to join in! While they’re still somewhat shy, I’m no longer the only one expressing gratitude in this way.

Within about three months, the jar was full, and we had to move on to a bigger one! Whenever we’re writing down things we’re grateful for and putting it in the jar, we say “we’re making a deposit”.

Comes December 31st, the bigger jar is completely full!

So, what’s next?

The question as the year ended was: “Now what? What do we do with those little piece of papers?”.

One aspect I liked about my previous ways of tracking gratitude was that I could easily go back in time and review it, relive moments, reach out to people. How can I have the same sort of experience with the jar? Here’s what I came up with: every morning, my wife and I pick 10 gratitude “deposits” each, and we read out loud each one, reliving the experiences for a quick moment, and charging up for a new day.

So far, we have already opened 460 deposits and it looks like there’s still 40 or so to go!! After we’re done opening all of them, we’ll burn it to send it out to the universe. 🙂

The jar is currently receiving deposits for 2019. May it be full again by the end of the year!

 

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Speaking at the AgileShift Conference in April

I’m going to be speaking at the AgileShift Conference in April!

I’ll be delivering my current favorite talk, for which I’ve been receiving great feedback from people who have seen it (ranging from software developers, QA, business analysts, product owners, etc.):

Testing in Agile: From Afterthought to an Integral Part

Testing cannot be an afterthought; it has to be an integral part of software development. Is it something that QA teams do? Or is it part of a developer’s duties? Do business analysts play any role in it? What is test automation? Unit test, Integration test, Test-Driven Development, Behavior-Driven Development… what do those mean?! This session addresses all of those questions, as we talk through the importance of tests, the collaboration among team members, the techniques, and practices around different kinds of automated testing.

I hope to see you at the conference! 🙂

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2018: Annual Review

As per my 2017 Annual Review, these were the things I mentioned I was working toward:

1. Way to exercise outside of DST
2. More consistent way to work on music
3. Beyond the Track
4. New language on Duolingo
5. Public classes

So, allow me to ponder over those things, and add on top of it…

What went well in 2017?

Jar of Awesome: I’ve adopted the idea of having a Jar of Awesome (first read it on Tim FerrissTools of Titans book), and on January 1st of 2018, I’ve put a jar in a place that’s easily visible and accessible at home. By December 31st, the jar was full of reminders of our gratitude throughout the year!

Riding Trip in Europe: This is a bucket list type of endeavor. Back in late 2017, I’ve seen a post about this tour. I knew that was something my wife and I would love to do, so I had set it as a goal for 2018, which we have accomplished!

Learning Other Languages: I continued using Duolingo to learn and practice other languages. I’ve finished Italian, continued practicing it for a couple of months, and then a started and finished German. Both languages came in handy for my trip to Europe mentioned above. Last year I mentioned I was running my longest streak ever on Duolingo, at 144 days. I went all the way up to 300+ days, but ended up breaking the chain after completing one day a few minutes after the counter resets. That’s ok: I started over and am now back to a streak of 175 days! For almost a year I had my daily goal set to 50 XP, but I had to lower it to 20 a few months ago. I figured it’s better to lower it than break the chain, and will likely go up to 50 soon.

Meditation: my last year’s post shows a streak of 236 of meditation. I got over 300+ days. But then, there was one bad day that threw me off, and the chain was broken. It’s ok; I started all over the next day! I’m now running a 140-day streak. I’ve just passed 1000 sessions overall, which makes me happy. Some days are easier than others, but it’s important to keep the practice every single day.

Beyond the Track: last year I’ve mentioned that this was going to be something I’d be working towards. And I really did! I’ve held one meetup every month, the entire year. I was also the main speaker for most of the meetings, and edited/published videos of all meetings so that people who couldn’t attend were at least able to watch it online (and a good number of people did!).

SportBike Track Riding: I enjoyed so much riding my bike at track days in 2017, I planned to do the same in 2018. Well, I did more than twice as many track days! I’ve been improving my riding consistently, and having a lot of fun.

New Original Songs: I wanted to work on music more consistently, since I have a big backlog of ideas for songs. I’ve managed to finish and publish two new songs, and have a third one almost ready to be released earlier this year. The interesting thing about the two songs I published is that I didn’t spend a lot of time working on them. On the first one, released in late March, I’ve put together some parts I had for a song, showed the inspiration for lyrics to my singer buddy Roberto Gallaeci, and we knocked it down in just a few sessions. For the second song, released in early November, I already had the music, lyrics and vocals all written, so I only had to sit down and record everything, which I did in about 2-3 weeks. So, while I’d like to have recorded more songs, I’m happy with how productively I was able to put out two songs that I’m really proud of (and can’t wait to put out the new one, which is almost done!).

Trainings Delivered for Improving: Twice this year I’ve had to lead trainings with less than 10 days notice; something that popped-up and someone was needed. Without going into details, I just have to say I’m very happy with the evals I got from both trainings.

Involvement at Improving: I’ve continued growing my involvement with Improving’s “extra-work” related activities (such as doing presentations at conferences and user groups). I’m specifically pleased with the feedback I got from attendees to several of my presentations. That’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing, and knowing that people enjoy my talks is always a great motivator.

What didn’t go so well?

Exercising: Last year, I mentioned I needed a way to exercise outside of DST. I’ve failed at that. While I did do some exercising during that period, I’m not proud of the low frequency. For this year, I’ve taken the Evernote’s Ever Better Challenge and created the commitment with myself to do any sort of physical activity for at least 20 minutes, every day, for 30 days. Exercising is very boring for me, but I have one core motivation to do it: I need to be fit in order to take my Sport Bike riding to the next level!

Public classes: I enjoyed teaching some internal classes at Improving early last year, and I considered offering them as public classes. However, I decided to shelve that idea as I pursued other goals throughout the year (the goals that were achieved and mentioned in the “what went well” section.

What am I working toward?

Continue Growing Beyond the Track: I’m digging this work I’m doing and I’ve been getting great feedback from people saying how much this initiative has helped them. I’ll continue having the monthly meetups, but I plan to grow it outside of the in-class meetings. I have tons of ideas, I’m acting on them, and I have even created a Patreon page for Beyond the Track, so I can build a bigger community around it and get help to keep pushing it forward.

SportBike Track Riding: I’ll continue doing it! I’m putting together specific goals I want to achieve this year, the kind of progress I want to make, what tracks I want to ride, and will go have fun!

New Opportunities at Improving: As I look into growing within the company, I’m analyzing some opportunities and settings some goals to pursue this year. I’ll quite possibly blog about it as things materialize.

Conclusion

This was a quick summary. There are other things that went well, much like there are other things that didn’t go well. Oh, and there are also other things I’m working toward! But I think this is a good way to start off this year.

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