I will dare you not to read (after you've read this post)

At noon on 17 Feb 2010, I completed a major exercise for Week 4 of the Artist’s Way: reading deprivation. This exercise is about monitoring the incoming information that you take by reading and keeping it to bare essentials. In short, no reading except for what you must absolutely read.

What you must absolutely read depends on what you do. If you are an editor, for example, you would have to be extremely creative about getting things done without reading documents to be edited. How about e-mail? E-mail seems to be an important tool for a number of people. But, given that people like Tim Ferriss and Leo Babauta have been managing their business with almost no e-mail checking, there’s no excuse for most of us who wouldn’t get thousands of e-mail a day not to cut e-mail off for a week.

I set some filters to forward potentially important e-mails to my iPhone. I had to log in to my gmail account just once, in order to read an e-mail I had to check. But that was all. I didn’t even give a glance at other e-mails and after checking that particular one, I closed it as soon as possible. Hurray for me.

What I included in my “OK list” is the following:

  • Course materials on $100 Business Forum
  • What I have written during the week
  • Text messages, which I hardly get anyway
  • Some web sites, including YouTube and TED talks (You might be surprised to hear that these sites are included in my OK list, but I’m not that addicted to them and watching videos is not reading!)

I was particularly wary of Twitter and Facebook. Although I tend to spend some time using these sites, I’m not that addicted to them. Or maybe I am, and this is exactly like drunk people say when asked if they are drunk.

Anyway, while I didn’t miss using these sites, I did have some moments I felt like sharing things with my people through Twitter and Facebook. For sharing such moments, I think these social media are highly useful. Perhaps this is a lesson I learned… or perhaps I got reminded of through this exercise: use social media wisely. Simple, but true.

If I could share with my people only one thing per week, what would I choose? That’s a good question to ask myself in order to eliminate low-quality information and to get straight to the point.

(By the way, while I would like to recommend all the TED talks I’ve watched during the last 7 days, if I had to choose one, I’d recommend Seth Godin’s 2009 talk. I’m fascinated by the notion of tribes.)

The highlight of this reading deprivation week was when I dropped by Kinokuniya Bookshop in Shinjuku, Tokyo. It’s a bookstore with 6 floors full of books. I was near that bookstore and dared to go in. It’s somewhat suicidal, but I managed to walk around the store without even taking a book in my hand. Victory was mine.

If you asked me about what I learned from this week of reading deprivation, I would say… 1) I can live without checking e-mails and 2) singing and dancing can be very good substitutes for reading. I hardly watch movies, but I did during this week. So, rediscovering movies can be another thing I got from this experience.

Would you dare to deprive yourself of reading for a week? What would you do instead of reading?

Some remarks on $100 Business Forum

The first week of $100 Business Forum is over. Here are some remarks about this course so far.

The format of the course is as follows. Each day, either Chris Guillebeau or Pamela Slim posts a lesson. Each lesson focuses on one topic and covers key concepts or ideas related to that topic. Lessons are brief and straight to the point. If just reading texts or watching a video posted for a lesson, it would take you only 5 minutes or so to go through one lesson. At the end of each lesson, you get to work on some exercises. By completing these exercises, you’ll understand better what you read or heard in a lesson. The exercises we did so far have been quite reflective in the sense that you get to evaluate yourself and your business ideas.

Even though the information taught and covered in the first week per se is not so much, it feels as though there were a lot of things going on. Perhaps one reason is that this course is more exercise-oriented than lecture-oriented, which I think is a strength of this course. Another reason is that there are 150 participants (including myself) in the course and there is so much going on in the discussion forum.

Everyone in the course comes from different backgrounds and has some great ideas. Some people seem to be quite experienced in the way of entrepreneurship. But then, there are people like me who are just about to start up. Getting to know some of the participants, if not all of them, can be great advantages for you and your business. I’m somewhat overwhelmed by the fact that there are so many people, but I suppose I can work on my own pace and do what I can do.

It’s amazing that there are three more weeks to go. I’m curious about and looking forward to the rest of the course.

Do you listen to yourself?

In the past a few people told me that I am a good listener. But as you will read shortly, I may not be that good a listener, especially when the speaker is myself. In this post I will reflect on things I tend to do while listening to others. Then I will check whether I do those things when listening to myself.

When I’m listening to others I tend to do the following things.

1. Paying attention to what’s being said
Maintaining a good eye contact helps me focus on the speaker and what’s being said. On the contrary, if I am distracted by other things or thinking about something else, I’m most likely to miss the words spoken. I guess whether the speaker can feel comfortable talking with me partly depends on whether paying attention to him or her as well.

2. Suspending judgments
I know that I know a thing or two. Sometimes I feel I can make some useful comments. Or perhaps what the speaker is saying sounds so outrageous to me that I might feel the urge to cut in by saying something. But here’s a question: Do I have enough information to make judgments and/or does the speaker have more to say in addition to what he or she said? If the answer is No for either of these questions, then I’d rather keep listening to the speaker.

3. Trying to understand what’s being said
It is reasonable to assume that I and the speaker share some common ground that makes it possible for us to communicate with one another. But that doesn’t mean we can understand each other completely. Sometimes it’s possible that I and the speaker use certain terms differently. If I sense that possibility, I ask the speaker for clarification. This way, I can understand better what the speaker is trying to convey.

4. Waiting for the speaker to finish
Sometimes I do interrupt the speaker to ask for clarification, but I generally avoid it. Even when I need to interrupt, I guess I tend to let the speaker finish the sentence he or she is uttering at that moment before asking a question or making a comment.

5. Being helpful towards the speaker by being curious about what’s being said
In other words, I let the speaker know that I want to listen more–by asking questions or by directly telling about my intention. I tend to ask open questions that are related to the speaker and what the speaker said. This, I think, will make it easier for the speaker to talk about what he or she wants to talk about.

What do you do when you listen to others? How about those who you consider as good listeners? What do they do?

Now, here’s something I want to ask myself–when I listen to myself, do I practice those things I do with others? Actually, do I listen to myself at all?

Do I pay attention to what my inner self is saying? Do I avoid making quick judgments against myself? Do I try to understand myself better? Am I patient in listening to myself? Do I let my inner self speak more by being curious about his words?

I will work on the art of listening to myself so I can answer these questions positively. Let’s see what happens…

As I wrote the questions above, by the way, I had the following thought. “But do you really think this post is worthy? Don’t you think it’s rubbish?”

I’m not going to argue against such an inner voice. I will just write, edit and post. What I have written here is something I wanted to share with you, how trivial this piece may be. Now I’m sharing it with you and that’s all good.