How My Failed Software Helped Me Figure Things Out
In the introductory post I mentioned the topic of personal development and how I think it’s important to living a good life.
Zorga was the name of productivity software I had developed several years ago (the name is a twisted version of the word “organize”) that I ultimately decided not to launch. I built the software because I was obsessed with productivity (based mostly on the Getting Things Done system) as a way to improve my life and effectiveness.
The software was actually pretty good but I eventually realized (as many others do after they dive into productivity systems) that software has very little to do with productivity or effectiveness.
Sure, some software is better than others but mostly it’s their underlying knowledge and habits that make someone effective. Many people are incredibly productive just using a notebook or index cards.
This led me to believe that knowledge was the biggest roadblock to productivity and personal development, that things like “life hacks” and checklists were what made an effective person. I read hundreds of books, articles and blog posts on self-improvement, motivation and personal development.
I soon found out that most of the advice was very similar and that knowledge by itself doesn’t really “get things done”. You can read great information all day but unless you apply the knowledge and actually take action you’re probably just wasting time.
So then I focused on taking consistent action and that was an important step. One problem with productivity systems and planning is that you can over-plan and be struck by “analysis paralysis” or procrastination (too many tasks on the list is a known issue) which prevents you from ever getting started. This then leads to the issue of health and energy.
As I got older I noticed that taking consistent action was becoming more difficult due to not only the complexities of life (kids, career, stress, aging, etc.) but an overall lower level of health and energy that most people deal with as they get older. I knew energy was important because I noticed that very energetic people, even if they don’t have the best strategy or productivity systems tend to just live better, more exciting lives.
But even if you have plenty of energy, that doesn’t mean it’s being used well. There are plenty of energetic people with a serious lack of direction or focus in life, just bouncing around from one thing to another. This is where I realized having some overall vision and purpose is what truly sets a person apart.
So, we need to have some vision of what we want our life to look like backed by some kind of purpose that gets us out of bed in the morning – a good vision and purpose will give you energy!
This is much easier said than done. Sure, lots of people have some vague internal list of wants and desires but if it’s not specific and exciting to you you’ll likely be unmotivated, unfocused or both.
It took me several years to get clear on a vision and purpose. Note that this is after I already had a family and a pretty successful business. But until I got the vision and purpose straight I was mostly just going from one random goal to another and going through the motions of daily existence.
Why did it take years? Well, mostly because not a lot of people have the time or discipline to really think through what they want. Seriously, I mention this to people all the time and almost none will have the time or patience to do this.
More importantly, there’s so much built up stress, expectations and complexity in the average adult life that trying to figure out what you want seems either too hard or ridiculously self indulgent (“I have to pay the bills not sit around daydreaming”). Many simply don’t know where to start.
Which brings me to the importance of an effective relaxation routine. Meditation, deep breathing, massage, sauna and even distracting games like Tetris (it’s been known to help with PTSD) can be effective to pull you out of the daily chaos and get into a mode where you want to actually contemplate your vision and purpose.
Frankly, enough meditation or at least inner reflection may make you realize that a lot of what you thought you wanted in life was actually bullshit or determined by others. I would estimate about 80-90% of humans are doing goals mostly set or at least encouraged by others. They may be completely on auto-pilot because of what their friends or family wanted or expected.
Even worse, you may find out you are productive at living a shitty life you didn’t want! Trust me, I got very good at doing things I hate by focusing on productivity first. This is a terrible place to be.
Which brings us back to why my Zorga software was sidelined: I wanted to help people live better lives through productivity, but what really helps people is learning to relax and spend time working on their vision, purpose and other life skills. Whatever can help you get out of the daily chaos and do this important work is much more important than productivity.
After vision and purpose are known, it’s actually pretty easy to set some achievable goals (based on that vision) and take action each day because your vision and purpose are motivating to you. This is where good habits and a good productivity system can take you to the next level. The software you use doesn’t matter. Working on yourself matters immensely more.
The problem with all this, of course, is that if you came to me now wanting to know how to be more productive, I’d tell you to work on your vision, purpose and consider meditation. Most people that hear that will tell you to get lost, they just want a “life hack”. This is the concept behind Zorga.
The Zorga System
Zorga is now my catch-all term for a system to improve your life. It’s a set of principles I’ve been developing for well over a decade to guide a human to a life they want to live. It’s an evolving framework of knowledge and tools to guide people.
It’s a work-in-progress (I have literally thousands of notes) that will eventually be fleshed out on this blog and hopefully will be a complete system.
Areas of Focus
These are the current areas of focus that need to organized and synthesized into actionable steps. Note that these are mostly raw notes now and may not be properly explained or make sense at this point.
Also note that I put Mental and Physical Optimization before the Life Strategy, there’s a reason for that, but also all areas will reinforce the others.
A proper system needs guiding principles to clarify and make decisions easier. These are some preliminary ideas.
- First Principles Thinking
- Personal Responsibility
- Don’t Compare Yourself to Others, Only the Previous You
- Consciousness and Self Awareness
- Via Negativa (removing bad things first)
- Daily Reinforcement
We think we know the brain and how our mind works pretty well, but I believe we’re not even close to fully understanding how the mind works. As I write this, many famous psychological studies like the “marshmallow test” are failing to replicate (the “replication crisis”) and I personally have experienced life changing results from things that “science” says are not valid (keeping in mind the placebo effect). There’s huge work in this area to be done so I would suspend your “science mind” when approaching the mind, it’s simply too complex; let’s just focus on what gets results we want.
- Relaxation Techniques (“rebooting”, meditation/silence or distraction)
- Releasing Trauma and Negative Emotions
- Forgiving Yourself and Others
- Becoming “undisturbable”
- Having a Permanent Meditative and Energetic State
There’s so much disinformation and over-complication in the health area that someday we’ll marvel at how we managed to make things so complex. Focus on the basics here but there’s some really simple ways to do that we’ll explore.
- Sleep Optimization
- Circadian Rhythm and Sun Exposure
- Clean Diet
- Exercise (Resistance and High Intensity; Cardio for mood)
- Your Physical Environment
Life Strategy Optimization
As discussed at the beginning of this post, you can have all the energy in the world but if you don’t have a Life Strategy including vision, purpose and more then you’ll likely be aimless and unfocused.
- People Skills (you need to persuade others to help you)
- Life Skills
- Habit Development
- Strategy and Planning
- Thinking and Decision Making Skills
The final area I’m exploring is the concept of levels. Remember when I mentioned above how it’s mostly useless to tell someone looking for productivity hacks to meditate? Well, that same principle applies to many areas of life. You can’t tell someone who’s massively depressed to find their vision, they just need to know how to feel better and get out of bed.
You can’t tell someone who can’t walk a mile to do a marathon. There are many levels in life and you usually need to get to the next one before you jump to the top. There’s much to explore here but basically a human needs the appropriate information and strategies to take them to the next level.
- Mental Focus
Over the coming months I will be going deeper into these areas above on this blog, mostly to organize my own thinking. Feel free to let me know any feedback in the comments and get on my email list if you want to be notified about new posts.