Cal Newport is the author of two of the most influential books I have ever read in my quest to become more productive: Deep Work and Digital Minimalism. Both books really shaped my view on using social media, leading a productive life, and eliminating non-essentials. I am also an ardent listener of his podcast – Deep Questions with Cal Newport. In episode 252: The Deep Life Stack, cal elaborates on what he calls “The Deep Life Stack,” an approach to cultivating a deep life that starts with overhauling the person before making the big decisions. I found the idea to be very compelling and a great tool to lead a more productive life.

Cal is an MIT-trained computer science professor at Georgetown University who also writes about the intersections of technology, work, and the quest to find depth in an increasingly distracted world.

Mellody Hobson is the Co-CEO, President, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, at Ariel Investment Trust, a Chicago-based investment firm that specializes in small and mid-capitalized stocks based in the United States. Mellody currently serves as Non-Executive Chair of the Board of Starbucks Corporation and an independent director of JPMorgan Chase. In her Masterclass on Strategic Decision-Making, she shared tips and strategies for becoming a strategic thinker and also delves into two real-life case studies that exemplify how she applied these tools in complex business situations.

Across the Microsoft 365 apps, the average employee spends 57% of their time communicating (in meetings, email, and chat) and 43% creating (in documents, spreadsheets, and presentations).

A recently pubished report by Microsoft: The 2023 Work Trend Index: Annual Report, revealed that workers are spending at least full working days (57% of their time communicating in meetings, email, and chat). The report noted an urgent need to make meetings more effective as people report inefficient meetings as their number one productivity disruptor.  The top 5 obstacles to work productivity, according to the Microsoft Work Trend Index Report, are: Having inefficient meetings, Lacking clear goals, Having too many meetings, Feeling uninspired, and Not easily finding the information I need.

Workers spend at least full working days (57% of their time communicating in meetings, email, and chat).

 Coach John Wooden won ten NCAA national championships, seven of them in consecutive years, and had four undefeated seasons, including an 88-game winning streak. John Wooden had a 620-147 record during his 27-year tenure as the head coach of the UCLA Bruins.

Coach wooden started coaching basketball at UCLA in 1948. For the first fourteen seasons, the team did not win a national championship. Coach worked hard yearly with his team, working hard and never giving up. In the fifteenth season, the team had a breakthrough, and they won their first national championship. They won nine more national championships in the following ten years.

In her 2021 book, Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence, author and psychiatrist Dr. Anna Lembke, delve into the neuroscience of reward with an emphasis on the neurotransmitter: Dopamine.  Dr. Lembke shared true stories of her patients and their journey of recovery from addiction. She also shared a framework that helps the reader better understand Dopamine and strategies for recovering from addiction. The framework is based on the Acronym DOPAMINE.

“Success is peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best  to become the best that you are capable of  becoming.”

 John Wooden won ten NCAA national championships, seven of them in consecutive years had four undefeated seasons, including an 88-game winning streak. John Wooden had a 620-147 record during his 27-year tenure as the head coach of the UCLA Bruins.

Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is the key to obtaining peace of mind that is the direct result of the self-satisfaction achieved when you know that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.

One of the hallmarks of highly successful people is their morning routine and regimen. Some of the early risers include Apple CEO Tim Cook, Oprah Winfrey, Indra Nooyi, and Barrack Obama, to name but a few. I have always been fascinated by success and the routine of the successful people in our world. As it is often said, “Success leaves clues”. One of the clues and patterns have found in my reading of multiple biographies and autobiographies is the dedication, routine, consistency, and regimen of the greats.

Tim S. Grover was the trainer of some of the greatest elite NBA players and Hall of Famers such as Micheal Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade. In his 2013 book, Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable, Grover describes the mindset of the greatest elite champions. He categorized competitors into three types: Cooler, Closer and Cleaner.

Grover shares various stories and characteristics of the various competitor types. The book Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable, is based on the 13 qualities exhibited by most cleaners.

“The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly the same. But the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in. So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things…. Stop being a glass. Become a lake.”

An aging Hindu master grew tired of his apprentice complaining, and so, one morning, sent him for some salt. When the apprentice returned, the master instructed the unhappy young man to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and then to drink it. “How does it taste?” the master asked. “Bitter,” spit the apprentice. The master chuckled and then asked the young man to take the same handful of salt and put it in the lake.

The two walked in silence to the nearby lake, and once the apprentice swirled his handful of salt in the water, the old man said, “Now drink from the lake.” As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the master asked, “How does it taste?” “Fresh,” remarked the apprentice. “Do you taste the salt?” asked the master. “No,” said the young man. At this, the master sat beside this serious young man who so reminded him of himself and took his hands, offering,

“The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly the same. But the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in. So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things…. Stop being a glass. Become a lake.”

Source: The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo.

Chaque matin, je médite avec l’application de méditation de pleine conscience – Calm. Depuis le 27 décembre 2021, je médite tous les matins au moins 25 à 30 minutes avec des guides de méditation: Daily Jay – Jay Shetty, Daily CalmTamara Levitt, Daily Trip – Jeff Warren. J’ai commencé à utiliser l’application calme en 2020 et je suis sur ma séquence actuelle de cohérence depuis décembre 2021.

“I am a Bestselling Writer. I write Bestselling Books. Every day in every way, I am researching and writing my award-winning Bestselling Books and short stories. Every one of my books reaches and remains for two or more months at the top of the bestseller lists. So Be It! See To It!”

The above is a journal entry (note to self) of American science fiction author Octavia Butler. She often wrote these motivational notes to help her stay committed to her goals and have something to reach for. Octavia went on to become the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. She also is the first woman of colour to win both the Hugo and Nebula awards. Her published works include Kindred Wild SeedParable of the Sower, and Parable of the Talents,

Be careful what you ask for; you might get it.

I shall be a bestselling writer. After Imago, each of my books will be on the bestseller lists of LAT, NYT, PW, WP, etc. My novels will go onto the above lists whether publishers push them hard or not, whether I’m paid a high advance or not, whether I ever win another award or not.

This is my life. I write bestselling novels. My novels go onto the bestseller lists on or shortly after publication. My novels each travel up to the top of the bestseller lists and they reach the top and they stay on top for months . Each of my novels does this.

So be it! I will find the way to do this. See to it! So be it! See to it!

My books will be read by millions of people!

I will buy a beautiful home in an excellent neighborhood

I will send poor black youngsters to Clarion or other writer’s workshops

I will help poor black youngsters broaden their horizons

I will help poor black youngsters go to college

I will get the best of health care for my mother and myself

I will hire a car whenever I want or need to.

I will travel whenever and wherever in the world that I choose

My books will be read by millions of people!

So be it! See to it!

 “I am a Bestselling Writer. I write Bestselling Books . . . Every day in every way I am researching and writing my award winning Best selling Books and short stories . . . Everyone of my books reaches and remains for two or more months at the top of the bestseller lists . . . . So Be It! See To It.”

I remember wanting to participate in my first ever marathon in 2013; I was told repeatedly that I can’t do it, “what has gone into you,” some said, you are wasting your time, you cannot finish it etc. What most of them did not know was my reason for wanting to participate in the marathon. I had just lost my dear cousin (Wasiu Idris) in gruesome circumstances in a foreign land. I was in so much pain, grief, dejection, loneliness, sadness, and a very dark place. The marathon was a coping mechanism for me to deal with his death. I eventually finished the marathon in 6hrs+, and the joy of conquering the trail, meditating and mulling about life’s rollercoaster was therapeutic and transformative for me.

On your path to achieving any goal, you are going to come across sometimes – well-meaning individuals and mischievous individuals that are going to discourage you through sarcastic statements such as “You’d better go find something better to do with your life” and “You can not do that,” your race, gender, religion disqualify you from doing that. If you allow it, people will project their insecurities, self-doubt, weakness and fears toward you. As Indian Anti-colonial nationalist and political ethicist, Mahatma Gandhi once said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” The key is to believe and bet on yourself against all odds.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. – Mahatma Gandhi

In his book, Put Your Dream to the Test: 10 Questions to Help You See It and Seize It, American author John C. Maxwell advises readers to be wary of who to listen to. He writes

Which critics count and which don’t? Heed the advice of the critic when . . .

  • You are unconditionally loved by the one who criticizes you.
  • The criticism is not tainted by his or her personal agenda.
  • The person is not naturally critical of everything.
  • The person will continue giving support after giving advice.
  • He or she has knowledge and success in the area of the criticism.

The journey to your self-actualization is going to be fraught with trials and tribulations, naysayers and doubters but you have to be wary of who you listen to. The world is full of so-called experts and gurus that do not practice what they preach or even know what they are talking about. The business expert without a business, the web developer without a website. That someone is perceived to be an expert or certified in a particular profession does not necessarily mean they know what they are talking about or have your best interest at heart.

I’ll show you – Becoming Michelle Obama

The former first lady of the United State, Michelle Obama, narrates a story about her ordeal with a school counsellor that thought she was not Princeton material. In her memoir, Becoming, she writes:

“Early in my senior year at Whitney Young, I went for an obligatory first appointment with the school college counselor to whom I’d been assigned.”

“I can’t tell you much about the counselor, because I deliberately and almost instantly blotted this experience out. I don’t remember her age or race or how she happened to look at me that day when I turned up in her office doorway, full of pride at the fact that I was on track to graduate in the top 10 percent of my class at Whitney Young, that I’d been elected treasurer of the senior class, made the National Honor Society, and managed to vanquish pretty much every doubt I’d arrived with as a nervous ninth grader. I don’t remember whether she inspected my transcript before or after I announced my interest in joining my brother at Princeton the following fall.”

“It’s possible, in fact, that during our short meeting the college counselor said things to me that might have been positive and helpful, but I recall none of it. Because rightly or wrongly, I got stuck on one single sentence the woman uttered.”

“I’m not sure,” she said, giving me a perfunctory, patronizing smile, “that you’re Princeton material.”

“Her judgment was as swift as it was dismissive, probably based on a quick-glance calculus involving my grades and test scores. It was some version, I imagine, of what this woman did all day long and with practiced efficiency, telling seniors where they did and didn’t belong. I’m sure she figured she was only being realistic. I doubt that she gave our conversation another thought.”

Failure is a feeling long before it’s an actual result.

“But as I’ve said, failure is a feeling long before it’s an actual result. And for me, it felt like that’s exactly what she was planting—a suggestion of failure long before I’d even tried to succeed. She was telling me to lower my sights, which was the absolute reverse of every last thing my parents had ever told me.
Had I decided to believe her, her pronouncement would have toppled my confidence all over again, reviving the old thrum of not enough, not enough.”

“But three years of keeping up with the ambitious kids at Whitney Young had taught me that I was something more. I wasn’t going to let one person’s opinion dislodge everything I thought I knew about myself. Instead, I switched my method without changing my goal. I would apply to Princeton and a scattershot selection of other schools, but without any more input from the college counselor. Instead, I sought help from someone who actually knew me. Mr. Smith, my assistant principal and neighbor, had seen my strengths as a student and furthermore trusted me with his own kids. He agreed to write me a recommendation letter.”

I wasn’t going to let one person’s opinion dislodge everything I thought I knew about myself. Instead, I switched my method without changing my goal.

“That day I left the college counselor’s office at Whitney Young, I was fuming, my ego bruised more than anything. My only thought, in the moment, was I’ll show you.”

“And ultimately, I suppose that I did show that college counselor, because six or seven months later, a letter arrived in our mailbox on Euclid Avenue, offering me admission to Princeton.”

“I never did stop in on the college counselor to tell her she’d been wrong—that I was Princeton material after all. It would have done nothing for either of us. And in the end, I hadn’t needed to show her anything. I was only showing myself.”

People are going to say what they want to say, discourage you, and project their fears and insecurities toward you; your job is to let them have their say but focus on your goal. People have the right to their opinion but not the facts. The fact is that you can achieve anything that you set your mind to achieving. It is going to be tough, but you can get the last laugh by succeeding widely. As it is often said, “Success is the best revenge.”

All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

Contrary to what you see in the news and on social media, everyone is trying to figure it out. From your favourite celebrities, politicians, writers, athletes, mentors, parents and everyone in between. We live in a world where, we are all supposed to perform for the world in almost all our engagements, such as interacting with our work colleagues, partners, well-curated social media posts etc. We are all supposed to know what we are doing, we ought to have it figured out at some point, but the reality is that we are trying to figure out a particular aspect of our life. For Example, the former president of the United States, Barrack Obama, was battling cigarette addiction at some point.

Gamification is the strategic attempt to enhance systems, services, organizations, and activities by creating similar experiences to those experienced when playing games in order to motivate and engage users. Gamification is a great way to motivate/trick yourself into achieving your goals. I have started noticing a pattern in my quest to execute my set goals. I have realized that goals that are attached to a form of play, fun, anchor or regimen are easier to achieve.

By gamifying my goals through the use of an app such as Strava (Leaderboard) for running, swimming and cycling, and Calm App (Streak) for meditation; I have stayed consistent with the goals that I want to achieve. The sense of completion with these apps is very fulfilling as the small acts of completing each activity are so gratifying. I meditate every morning for 26 to 30 minutes by listening to guided meditations from Tamara Levitt, Jhay Shetty and Jeff Warren. The streak and the minutes completed section of the app is one of my favourite things to look forward to daily.

Life happens to us all at some point, some of us are born poor, and dealt with childhood trauma, domestic violence, childhood sexual abuse, and addiction among other challenges. Your history is not your destiny. Where you are right now is who you are. We often mistake our life situation with our destiny but one of the greatest tools we have is our ability to change our course of direction at any point in time by deciding to. As American psychologist, William James once observed; The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes. – William James

Your job and environment are not who you are. One of the most transformative questions, we all have to answer at some point is: “Who are you? Why I am here? The moment you answer these questions and really know what your purpose here is, you are going to go places.

  • Ursula Burns was raised by her immigrant mum in poverty but against all odds was named the CEO of Xerox, making her the first African American woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
  • Indra Nooyi grew up in India with humble beginnings but rose to become the CEO of Pepsico which is the second-largest food and beverage company in the world.
  • Viola Davis grew up in abject poverty, domestic violence, childhood trauma and brokenness but she overcame it all to become one of the most recognized faces on TV with an Oscar, Primetime Emmy Award and two Tony Awards becoming the only African-American to achieve the Triple Crown of acting.

How did these 3 inspiring women who grew up in challenging environments rise to the top of their professions against all odds and challenges stacked against them? They decided to take their destiny in their hands, they studied hard, built relationships, created their luck, prepared for their opportunities and executed relentlessly. Here are some great insights from the biographies of these 3 great women on how they did it:

In her autobiography, Where You Are Is Not Who You Are: A Memoir, the first African American woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Ursula Burn chronicles her story of growing up in poverty and the lessons learned on her path to greatness. She writes:

As a Black woman, I had to prove myself worthy of whatever position I was in because my coworkers would cut me no slack. I hadn’t slept my way up the chain. I wasn’t the recipient of preferential treatment. I wanted to make sure that the audience knew that I’d earned my position. To do that, I made sure they understood that I knew at least as much as anyone in the room. It was a defense mechanism against the assumption that I didn’t belong.

“My mother refused to have her children be defined by it. “Where you are is not who you are,” she told us time and again. I didn’t know what she was talking about.

Poverty has a pace, and the sidewalks were crowded with people rushing around in a frantic fashion, people racing great distances to save $1 here or there or hurrying to stand in line for a handout.

Indra Nooyi grew up in India and was named PepsiCo CEO in 2006 making her the first woman of colour and immigrant to run a Fortune 50 company.  In her autobiography, My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future, she writes about her journey from rural India to leading a multinational company.

Mine is not an immigrant story of hardship—of fighting my way to America to escape poverty, persecution, or war. I don’t know what it feels like to be a refugee, homeless because my own country is in crisis. I spoke English. I had landed in the US with $500. I was at Yale. And I had the safety net of my family in India, a place that I was familiar with and loved and that would take me back.

“I had no money to spare. My scholarships and loans totaled about $15,000 a year, roughly evenly split, and I spent almost all on tuition, room, and board. I took a job working the front desk and the manual switchboard at Helen Hadley Hall three to four days a week, earning $3.85 an hour for midnight to 5 a.m. That was fifty cents an hour more than the daytime slot and $1.20 more than the minimum wage, which was $2.65 in those days. When the phone rang at reception, I’d buzz a resident’s room and put the call through to the hallway phone. All night, students ran down the hall in their nightwear and slippers to get their calls. I monitored the front door, sorted the mail, and did my homework.”

In Finding Me: A Memoir, American actress Viola Davis describes her roller-coaster journey from growing up in abject poverty to Hollywood fame. She writes:

“We were “po.” That’s a level lower than poor. I’ve heard some of my friends say, “We were poor, too, but I just didn’t know it until I got older.” We were poor and we knew it. There was absolutely no disputing it. It was reflected in the apartments we lived in, where we shopped for clothes and furniture—the St. Vincent de Paul—the food stamps that were never enough to fully feed us, and the welfare checks. We were “po.” We almost never had a phone. Often, we had no hot water or gas. We had to use a hot plate, which increased the electric bill. The plumbing was shoddy, so the toilets never flushed.

You know, when you’re poor, you live in an alternate reality. It’s not that we have problems different from everyone else, but we don’t have the resources to mask them. We’ve been stripped clean of social protocol. There’s an understanding that everyone is trying to survive and who is going to get in the way of that?

As the stories of these great women shows, your history is not who you are and with persistence and commitment, all things are possible. Inspite of their humble background, Ursula Burns became the CEO of XEROX, Indra Nooyi became the first African American woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company and Violas Davis became an Hollywood superstar despite the poverty, abuse and trauma of her childhood.

All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

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