The Kaizen Newsletter #47 (26/05/2020) - Do daily affirmations actually work?

Thoughts on daily affirmations, hockey and analytics and Shopify

So for the past 3 years, I've read a ton of books, articles and videos on how to stop procrastinating, how to build better habits, how to take better notes - think of one self-improvement topic and I've most likely heard about it and tried it out already.

Except one. Daily affirmations.

What are daily affirmations?

Daily affirmations are statements that you repeat to yourself (usually out-loud or written down on physical paper). And not any statements. These sentences are said as if they were already accomplished. Such as "I eat well, exercise regularly and get plenty of rest to enjoy good health." By repeating the same phrases over and over, eventually your subconscious mind will start to believe them - or so I'm told.

This is one thing that I've been hearing over and over and over from my Dad, and previous life-coach and every corner of self-improvement on the internet - but I've never really believed in it.

It just felt unnatural and weird to me because it almost feels like I'm lying to myself.

Why I started writing down daily affirmations

However, I recently got into morning journaling - where every morning I would take 5 min to dump everything I'm thinking about to start my day fresh.

And in this morning journal template, I'm using, there's a section dedicated to daily affirmations.

So even if I never really believed in it, I told myself that I would try it since I don't have anything to lose and potentially A LOT to gain if it does work.

So every day, I would start my day by writing down something like:

I embrace failure - Failure is just another attempt in learning. Whenever I fear failure, I should instead go towards it and face it instead of running away.


I'm becoming a great product manager - I'm constantly learning through books and articles and applying them as best as possible at work and in my side projects.

It still feels weird to me to say that "I'm a great product manager", so bear with me. But baby steps, right?

Did the daily affirmations work?

For the first three weeks, nothing special really happened. Sometimes in the morning, I would write it down pretty reluctantly, since I still didn't believe in it.

Until one morning, I really didn't want to do my set of pull-ups since I knew that I would be struggling to do my 2nd set.

And right when I was about to tell myself to just take a shower and skip my pull-ups for the day, a little voice popped up in my head and said:

Hey Alex, I thought we would embrace failure? Why are we running away from this? Are you afraid of failing?

I actually got pretty frustrated (at myself lol) for thinking that and started debating with myself and tried to find excuses on why I shouldn't do my pull-ups.

It's almost time for work, we won't have time to journal and take our shower and make tea
It's fine, I can just do it tomorrow.

And once again, the little voice just calmly said:

Wait why are we afraid of doing this? Let's just get it over with and continue with our day

The more I tried to think of excuses, the louder that voice started to sound in my head until I finally just told myself "Fuck it, let's just do these pull-ups and get it over with."

And a few seconds later, I hopped on my pull-up bar to start my first set.

Since then, that same voice appears a lot more frequently. Sometimes, I still find ways to ignore it (which is bad), but I'm almost always conscious of my actions and I almost always feel bad when I decided to not listen to the voice and succumb to my fear of failure.

Now am I saying that if I start saying "I am a millionaire, living in a beautiful villa in LA, with a brand new Tesla" (note this is definitely NOT what I actually want), would this happen?

I mean, maybe? Who knows unless you try. I really enjoy Naval's thinking on stuff like this which is a bit more spiritual.

Instead of using the word spirituality, instead it's better to just be practical. Does it make me a better investor, does it make me a better husband or wife, does this make me a better person, does this answer some deep questions on what is going on, does this help me uncover any truth that can guide me to a better outcome?

Basically, even if it sounds a bit dumb or even witch-crafty to some, but it makes you a better person, helps you take action towards your goals, then why wouldn't you at least try it? And if it doesn't work, then you can just stop.

If you already have any daily affirmations, how do you feel about them? Feel free to share them with me as well!

Leave a comment

Now, on to the newsletter.

Weekly Favourites

📊 Hockey and Analytics

  • Pretty excited about a potential hockey return in the summer. The NHL has already voted on what the playoff format would look like (24 out of 31 teams will be playing for the Stanley Cup), but there's still a long way to go until hockey is officially back. They still need to determine which cities they will play in (one in the US and one in Canada) for the 24 teams and how will they give the players enough time to get back into game form?

  • In the meantime, I've been enjoying reading Jack Han's newsletter. He was one of my favourite hockey follows on Twitter since he used to do one-minute break-down videos of hockey tactics which were really informative, but he had to stop when he joined the Maple Leafs organization a few years ago. But now he's back as a writer since he recently quit his job as an assistant coach to go back into writing. He even had time to write a hockey tactics book in two weeks (which I obviously bought).

  • As someone who always wanted to know more about hockey and especially on how to break down hockey using analytics, this is one of my favourite reads of all time because thanks to him, I finally understood how analytics were used to evaluate players.

    There are really two different ways that you can analyze a player statistically: either at the macro-level or on the micro-level.

    Macro-level analytics is more about how a player impacts the ice (either offensively or defensively) through shot rates/quality (ex: how many shots are able to be made while he is on the ice (for offence) or how few shots are made when he is on the ice (for defence).

    As the article mentions “These models boil hockey down to its essentials - the object of defence is to prevent your goalie from facing quality chances against, the object of offence is to generate quality chances and score on them.”

    Micro-level analytics is used to quantify on-ice events. If it seems like this season, PK Subban is allowing a lot more zone entries than before, then you could actually quantify it and could compare that number to how often other defensemen allow zone entries.

    “Microstats have value for the same reason the eye test has value - it tells the story of how results came to be, and helps us understand how players and teams play”

    JFresh summarizes both perfectly “The macrostats tell you that Jack Johnson is bad defensively, and the microstats tell you how Jack Johnson is bad defensively. But because microstats function as EyeTest+, they have many of the same downfalls, and when they’re leaned upon too heavily they tend to miss the forest for the trees.”

🛍 Shopify

  • The Shopify team is having a crazy (good) month, as they announced multiple new products such as Shop and Balance and also announced that they were now a digital by default company (meaning remote-first).

  • What's funny about Shopify is that I always say that it's one of those companies that I would definitely love to work for because they seem to have a great culture, great people and great leaders. However, if someone asks me what exactly do they do and why is their product so good, I actually wouldn't be able to answer. Would love to deep-dive further into what makes Shopify - the product - that special.

  • Till then, I really enjoyed this article by Ben Thompson on Shopify being a platform and how that makes them different than Amazon. The biggest difference between both companies is that Amazon owns the entire end-user experience.

    As an end-user, you don’t really care which company is selling you the product you end up buying. When you browse for a product, you go on the Amazon website, when you buy something you say “I bought something on Amazon”, and when you receive your package, it’s bundled in a big or small brown box with a smile across it.

    But what makes Shopify different is that you don’t actually go on to buy something. You go directly to the website of the company you are buying from and in most instances, you don’t even realize that it’s backed by Shopify.

    That’s why Amazon acts as an aggregator - it wants to capture the majority of the value in the ecosystem (everything goes through it) by also taking all the risk (if the merchants don’t sell, it is primarily Amazon’s fault).

    Whereas Shopify is a platform. It offers you the backend to create your website - which is a minority of the value in the ecosystem - and instead leverages its huge ecosystem to do all the rest. Shopify provides you with all of the infrastructure necessary to succeed, but if you fail - it’s your fault.

This is how Shopify can both in the long run be the biggest competitor to Amazon even as it is a company that Amazon can’t compete with: Amazon is pursuing customers and bringing suppliers and merchants onto its platform on its own terms; Shopify is giving merchants an opportunity to differentiate themselves while bearing no risk if they fail.

  • I also really enjoyed reading this article by Julian on his thoughts on eCommerce. In this article, he specifically talks about how Shopify merchants are dependant on Instagram if they want to interact with their customers which costs them a lot of money for product discovery.

As a result, many of Shopify’s merchants aren’t really direct-to-consumer brands, they are more like direct-to-consumer-but-with-Instagram-in-the-middle-eating-all-of-their-margin brands.

  • Shopify recently released a new app called Shop to try and create their own product discovery channel. This way, merchants won’t be as dependant on Instagram as before.

    However, what the app currently does is that it connects you with brands that you’ve bought from in the past. It’s still only in its first iteration, so I have no doubt that they will start recommending products that you might be interested in that come from other Shopify merchants as well.

🐦 Tweets

  • If there's someone I wouldn't bet against, even if it's something crazy like creating a colony on Mars, it's definitely Elon Musk.

  • Really awesome video on how engineers build bridge.

  • 🤯 Never knew that when they first shot the famous "Luke, I am your father" line, they told Vader to actually say "You don't know the truth, Obi-Wan killed your father." Only Irvin Kershner, George Lucas and Mark Hamil knew the real line and had to keep it a secret for another year and a half!

  • I think this is applicable to much more than just "vertical social networks". If there is a dedicated sub-reddit, then there definitely is a problem to be solved in there. You just need to find out what.

🙏 Shoutouts

  • Shoutout to my friend Jo! Chan and I will be moving in with him in about two weeks! A bit short notice, but also really cool opportunity to save some money and just change things around a bit.

👋 End Note

If you want to know what I'm up to now, you can check it on my website here.

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