Archive for category lifestyle
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. 🙂
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!
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!
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,
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.
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!
As per 2016 Annual Review, these were the things I mentioned I was working toward:
- Playing catch up professionally
- Serious hobbies
- Continuous improvement
I believe I did well in those three points!
What went well in 2017?
Solid morning/nightly ritual: Both My Morning and Nightly rituals are very solid and allow me to live a more focused life. I no longer need reminders and checklists to stay on top on what habits I want to build in those two very important moments of the day.
Meditation: As I blogged over a year and a half ago, meditation is finally paying off. It is the single most important thing I do every morning. I’m currently in my longest meditation streak ever, and it shows no signs it’ll be broken!
Journaling: I’ve finished my first Five Minute Journal (which covers 6 months of my life) and started a new one immediately after. This has been a great tool for me to continue practicing gratitude every day, as well as taking two moments in the day (morning/evening) to slow the hell down and reflect upon my day.
Blogging: as in 2016, I wanted to make this blog more active in 2017 (in terms of number of posts I create), and I achieved that; I’ve published 59 posts (against 23 in the previous year)! Many of these posts have helped clients and co-workers, and have also helped myself putting together presentations and training courses.
Learning other languages: in 2015 I used Duolingo quite a bit to learn more Spanish. After a hiatus, I picked it back up in 2016, and redid the entire Spanish course. When I was done with that, I then picked up Italian, which I’m very close to finishing. I’m also on my longest Duolingo streak ever: 144 days! That means, at a very minimum, I learn a little bit of something new every single day. And another cool bit of information: I’m learning these languages in Duolingo as an English speaker (in case you don’t know, English is NOT my primary language)!
SportBike Track Riding: this is a serious hobby I hinted as one of the things I was working toward. I rode at the track an average of at least once a month, improved a LOT as a rider, and am doing everything in a very methodical way, while having TONS of fun doing it. I document a lot of this on my dedicated YouTube and Instagram channels.
ImprovingU: One of the awesome things we have at Improving is called ImprovingU, which consists of internal presentations and training courses that employees can attend to in order to improve in a number of areas. Besides attending to many of these trainings, I’ve personally delivered three talks in what we call Tech Fridays, and also taught two other lengthy training courses.
Involvement at Improving: Improving also has a cool program for employees who want to get more involved (doing presentations, participating in user groups, volunteering, etc.). People who get involved get points based on the type of activity. I’ve stayed consistently among the top Improvers in this program. While I don’t engage in these activities solely for the points, it’s a good metric for me to see that I’m always trying to both get better and help others do the same.
Put out some new music: Making music is another hobby I take seriously. While I haven’t put out as much music as I’d like, I did get to publish two songs.
The first one was a cover as a tribute to my top favorite singer/lyricist of all time, who passed away in December:
The second one is a new original song, once again written for my beloved wife:
What didn’t go so well?
Periods without excercising: most of my excersizing last year came from going rollerblading at the park. However, that only worked while we’re on Daylight Saving Time (DST), since it gives me a good window between getting back home from work and getting too dark. Once DST ends, though, that’s no longer an option, and not engaging into another type of activity during that period has made me go too long without some good excersizing, causing me to put on some weight and also feel somewhat crappy.
What am I working toward?
In no particular order, these are the things I want to improve on in 2018:
Way to exercise outside of DST: I’m looking for alternatives so I can excercise when it’s too dark outside for me to go rollerblading. Right now, I’m trying a mix of trampoline, jumprope, weightlifting, pull-ups, push-ups. I’m evaluating how that works for me and making adjustments as I go, until I find a good flow.
More consistent way to work on music: I definitely want to put more music out this year. In order for that to happen, I will set aside at least one or two hours every week
Beyond the Track: I’m enjoying so much my track riding hobby that I’m starting a new Special Interest group, as I feel a strong need to share everything I’ve learned so far, and also learn more from more experienced riders. The first meeting is happening on January 17 (two weeks prior to this year’s track day season starts), and I plan on holding these meetings every month.
New language on Duolingo: when I’m done with all the Italian lessons, continue my long streak, possibly by still practicing Italian for a few more weeks, than reviewing Spanish, and finally starting on another language (maybe French or German).
Public classes: as I mentioned in the “what went well” section, I’ve created some internal courses to be taught at Improving. I’m seriously considering also teaching it to others who might be interested.
Myself through the eyes of others
My previous annual reviews have solely been done my me. It’s me revewing my goals, plans, results. I want to start adding this section now, given the following quote that showed up one of the days on my Five Minute Journal:
“Sometimes you can’t see yourself clearly until you see yourself through the eyes of others.” – Ellen DeGeneres
So I decided to reach out to someone impacted by my goals, plans, actions, inactions, to see how I did in 2017. Here’s a summary of I heard regarding things I did well:
- “You’ve become a better rider” (my wife enjoys 2-up riding as my passenger, so getting better at it is a big thing)
- “You’ve made a new song for me!” (already mentioned it previously)
- “You got better professionaly.” (those close to me see and appreciate how I develop as a professional)
- “You took us to visit some places we really enjoyed.”
- “You been so patient with so many things and you have shown a great ability to forgive.”
- “You’ve kept our shared life stable, while still moving forward, even through the toughest times.”
I was very happy to hear those things. Even happier when I saw what I wrote on one of the first pages of my first Five Minute Journal before 2017 started:
In case you can’t understand my handwriting (I can’t blame you!): “To stay calm and level-headed through mood shifting turmoils. Staying on a stable routine due to that.”.
“I feel strong-willed towards the things I really want and believe. I’m dedicated to my family. I feel I can make a difference in the life of others.”
Honestly, I didn’t remember writing those words, but I definitely meant it and lived by it, and the results showed up, both stated by myself and a loved one. This has been a good validation that if I know what I want and what I am (or want to be), if I set goals, make plans, take actions, review it constantly, stick to small actions that don’t look much on a day-to-day basis but that add up tremendously, good results tend to happen.
“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”
That’s one of the quotes that inspire me. I read it again today and thought it was worth writing about it. As I started to write, I though, “hey, this feels familiar… I think I’ve already written something similar to that before!”. Yes, I did: Stop Thinking About It and Just Do It!
While I didn’t have Bruce Lee’s quote in mind when I wrote that other blog post, the main idea is the same. A year and a half has passed since that post. As I ponder over it, as well as today’s quote, I realize I’ve been following a “think less, do more” approach.
For example: one of my goals back then was to post more often to this blog. In the last 18 months I’ve posted about 54 times, which averages 3 posts/month. That’s a heck of a lot better than in previous years when I had periods of two years without any post.
Another thing I wanted to do was to start taking my sportbike to the race track, which I have been doing quite often. In order stay focused and motivated, I also started a YouTube channel to document and share my progress: 3-Lap Rider
There are other things that have come out as a resut of this mindset. I think it’s great to look back and see the results of changes I’ve tried, taking the time to see if the change has worked out or not, whether it needs adjustments, whether it stimulates other changes to be tried out, etc.