The Kaizen Newsletter #55 (21/07/2020) - The benefits of morning pages

Thoughts on pursuing your dreams and creating permanent assets

Welcome to the 55th edition of the Kaizen Newsletter ⛩, a weekly newsletter where I share my thoughts, new ideas I learn and make weird connections between self-improvement, productivity, product, tech, sports, anime.

Also: If you remember last week, our goal was to hit 100 subscribers and for this edition, I will be sending out my newsletter to 104 subscribers ⚡️. So I just wanted to THANK YOU all because, without you, we definitely wouldn’t have passed the 100 subscribers and it means a lot to me that other people out there enjoy reading this newsletter every week. But let’s not stop there! So if you know someone else that would enjoy reading this newsletter, please share it with them so we can hit the milestone! (hi referred friend, please subscribe here 👇)

For the past week, I've committed to writing 750 words every morning. This practice, which I've first heard from my friend Brandon Zhang, is called morning pages.

Julia Cameron, who popularized morning pages, describes it as "three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning."

The reason why morning pages are so useful to me is that I treat it as a pre-workout for my brain (thanks to Kyle for the analogy). Before starting my workday, I enjoy writing up my morning pages so that I can get my brain working. I try to time my writing when I start drinking my coffee such that when I'm done my morning pages, I'm also done with my coffee just in time for the caffeine to hit my brain so that I can dedicate my peak working hours to my biggest task of the day. It obviously doesn't always happen like this, but when it does, it's magical.

In a previous edition of my newsletter, I mentioned how I also did a morning journal every day and had a section dedicated to "what I'm thinking of". Morning pages are pretty much a similar concept, but just way longer. I write 750 words, which is around the equivalent of three pages per day. Although just writing down a few bullet points of what you're thinking about is a good start, because you need to write many more words, oftentimes, I usually enter a "flow state" which almost feels like I'm meditating. Similarly to meditation, you observe every thought that is passing through your head, but instead of letting it go, you capture it by typing it out.

Often times, I realize that I use my morning pages as a form of introspection. I usually ask myself questions such as "what problems are you currently facing" or "what's bothering you right now" and I try to write them all down and go through potential solutions at the same time. It's a bit weird, but oftentimes I'm almost having a conversation with myself. I often start my morning pages with "alright, so what am I thinking about now?" which opens up my thoughts and I can start writing. Here's a good example of how you can see how it seems like I’m having a conversation with myself.

I also use my morning pages as a sandbox for ideas. As Packy, a fellow writer, mentioned in his latest webinar, writing is one of the best ways for testing out your ideas and I believe that morning pages are a great way to test out your own ideas before committing to writing them out in public. I often have a hard time publishing my ideas, so I use my morning pages as a safe way to write about what I'm thinking knowing that I won't have any judgment (except myself).

One roadblock that might emerge when writing your morning pages is that sometimes you just don't know what to write about anymore. Thankfully, we had a discussion in my writing community, Writer's Bloc, so I have some suggestions to help you with (note that most of these ideas are not mine, but from other smart people in my group).

  • Write unfiltered - don't worry about grammar and sentences that don't make sense

  • Literally type out sentences such as "I actually have no idea what to write about..." or "What am I thinking about now?" to prompt you.

  • Timebox yourself and keep writing until the timer runs out.

  • Think about what's upcoming in your day/week and write about that.

  • For the daredevils, you can also try this app where if you stop writing, all of your progress will be lost.

I would say that more than 50% of what I write in my morning pages never sees the light ever again, but there are often little nuggets that can be served either as a Tweet or as a potential future essay, so it's definitely been worth it for me. This might be a bit meta, but the idea of writing about morning pages actually came from one of my morning pages.

Now, on to the newsletter.

🤔 Thoughts

☁️ Thoughts on Pursuing your Dreams

Yesterday, J. Cole, one of my favourite rappers penned an article on the Player's Tribune . The reason I was so excited by his article is that unlike most celebrities, he likes keeping his personal life to himself and barely shares it with the rest of the world.

I loved this article because it reminded me of how human he was. To me, he's a rap legend, but even rap legends struggle sometimes. In his article, he shares how he had to decide between two of his dreams: either making the NBA or becoming a rap legend (which he achieved). Here's one of my favourite passages from the article.

The mountain I saw before me that day stretched much higher than being a D1 walk-on. In my heart I knew that if I did make that team, it would reignite my lifelong dream to one day reach the League. I saw myself putting in countless hours to get better, and to hopefully get a small amount of playing time by my senior year. Next, I saw myself graduating and becoming the underdog journeyman, fighting for roster spots in overseas leagues, all with the goal of one day making it to the ultimate mountaintop, the National Basketball Association.

As I envisioned this future for myself, there was a truth that I couldn’t escape. I came to school in New York on a different mission. There was a different mountain that I promised myself I would climb. A mountain just as steep and just as easy to fall from. A mountain that took even more delusion to believe that it could be climbed in the first place. I came to New York to be a rap legend.

In the end, we all know what he chose, but I love how he knew he had to make a decision and that moment and stuck with it all the way. Even if he still (at 35 of age) has his other dream in the back of his mind, he's still 100% dedicated to his craft until he decides to call it quits. Only then, will he try and achieve his other dream of playing in the NBA.

This is so inspiring to me because it reminded me that if you're ready to give it your all and dedicate yourself to ONE THING you truly enjoy doing, then you'll definitely make it.

Instead, here I am still undecided if I want to be a product manager, or a designer, or a coder, or a copywriter, or maybe something else? 😅

💻 Thoughts on Creating Permanent Assets

Create Permanent Assets.

This is what KP said during our newsletter mastermind on Sunday, and I've been thinking about that sentence since.

It's weird, because deep down I know it. You know it. We all know that we should be focusing on creating something that people will remember us for.

But for some reason, I always imagined that creating permanent assets had to be something BIG. Like building a community, launching a product or creating a company.

But KP reminded me that it doesn't have to be. Something as small as a blog post can be something that's permanent. I've been so focused on building my newsletter and my Twitter following that I completely neglected my website. Although the audience I'm building through my newsletter, is definitely a permanent asset, my writing is not. How I think of something permanent is "will someone check back a past edition of my newsletter/tweet in a few months?" And the answer is most often no. But a blog is different. When you post something on your website, you'll have visitors 2-5 years from now that can find it and get value out of it.

This is why I want to also want to make sure that I give my website some love (since it's been collecting dust for the past year or so.) I believe it's time for me to get the Swiffer duster out and clean it up a bit.

It's also very timely though as Nat Eliason, one of my favourite bloggers just released a post titled "How to Start a Blog that Changes Your Life", which gives me even more reason to focus on it for the last half of this year.

🐦 Tweets

I talked about naming in a previous issue and thought this was an interesting add-on.

This is the reason why I believe in writing so much. Not because I want to become a writer, but because it'll give me much better career opportunities in the future.

Great insight from Hiten Shah on how to ask for feedback.

Her dad's opinions are just 👌 😂

🙏 Shoutout

Shoutout to my friend Danny. I had the best conversation with him in while and his energy is super contagious. I was smiling for the whole hour of our talk! Definitely suggest following him on Twitter.

👋 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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