“But as soon as you’re sleeping, does it really matter what mattress you happen to be sleeping on?”

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I woke up at noon today.

I woke up with beads rolling around under my back, the wires of my various computing devices tangling with my arms, and my headphones resting on the edge of my pillow, still playing music.

I went straight from slouching in front of my computer to collapsing onto my bed at 5AM last night.

After sleeping through my phone’s two alarms and various notification sounds, I woke up after seven hours.

I felt great.

This was the best sleep I had in weeks.

I got up and started to do exactly what I had to do after screwing around with email and notifications for about 20 minutes. (Compare that to the usual hour or more of screwing around.)

I look better, too. No eyebags, cleaner face, tame hair.

Why?

Conventional sleep advice says you shouldn’t use a computer for an hour before you sleep, you should sleep for longer than seven hours, and you keep your room at a cool temperature.

Through all the hacks and marginal differences, here’s what they all miss…

Did you go to sleep exhausted?

Did your body & brain really need that REM time?

Did you live enough to really juice that sleep for all it’s worth?

Yesterday, I started the day browsing the internet in my bed, walking on the fine line between pure enjoyment and pure productivity.

I was about to implode from all this pent-up energy. I couldn’t just sit there and do nothing for any longer, even if the heat was begging me to stay still and melt in its presence.

So, I invited a friend over a few hours. We hung out, played video games, and geeked out over musicals and films and stuff.

After that, I had more energy than ever. Just hanging out wasn’t enough for me, so I paced around my house for hours.

It was hitting midnight, and I got an invitation to a group video call. Two social engagements in one day?! I can handle this, maybe.

We all talked for nearly five hours, and then I collapsed into bed.

I was seriously tired.

I might’ve even been exhausted. (I can’t tell anymore, I seem to have limitless amounts of energy these days.)

Even though I try to sleep on time, sleep in a good environment, and not use a screen so much in bed, none of that makes any difference unless I really deserve sleep that day.

So, I’m making deliberate efforts to be active today. Not to just sit around in front of a screen and type. I’m going to go outside, meet people, and be active today.

Maybe I’ll have an even better sleep tonight than last night.

What can you do to make sure you go to sleep tired tonight?

Radhika Morabia

P.S. Quote is from Mr. Richards by Frank Turner. Sometimes music lyrics are more appropriate than movie quotes.

“No, it’s not nirvana, but it’s on the way…”

(New to the site? Each post opens with a movie quote and then features a song which encapsulates the feelings I tried to convey in the post. Press play and if you like what you read and hear, consider signing up to the newsletter.)

Holy smokes.

I’m 18.

Wow.

It’s been a long time coming.

Back when I was in school, I would often scribble “5 more years,” or “4 more years” into the margins of my notebooks.

Why?

Only so many more years left until I’m 18.

And here we are now.

I’ll be honest — I’m currently lounging on my bed with my PJs on, failing to combat the blistering heat and my inherent blindness. Not the coolest way to spend your birthday…

When I think about 10-year-old Radhika, I know there’s a lot of things that she’d be disappointed about.

She was independent and smart, and there have been so many instances where I was dependent and dumb. She would hate to be associated with me after the way I handled some things.

Now… I don’t live to please her. 10-year-old Radhika wasn’t perfect, either. She left me with a lot of problems that I had to solve all on my own. Sure, I found myself in a lot of messes along the way, but I’m still alive.

Isn’t that odd? I’m still alive.

Some might even say I’m thriving.

13-year-old Radhika would be in shock right now. We really made it to the age where I can legally do (almost) whatever I want?

13-year-old Radhika was trying to kill herself every other week and avoided sleep so she never had to feel the despair that came with waking up in the morning.

5 years seemed like forever to her. No way she could make it to 18 with everything that was going on in her life at the time.

Yet, here I am. I’m not just surviving, I’m making a deliberate effort to live. She would be proud of me right now. She would even admire who I’ve become.

The weirdest part is that she didn’t even know pain yet…

15-year-old Radhika wouldn’t be able to fathom that the pain we both experience is just a background priority now. Sure, it’s still there, but I’ve recovered! I figured it out.

15-year-old Radhika spent most of her time avoiding and denying the fact that she was in a lot of pain. She spent what little time she had left learning how to answer her own questions because nobody would take the time to even listen to those questions.

She would be relieved to see me now. I’ve solved most of the messes she gave me, and the messes that 10- and 13-year-old Radhika left her with. Maybe she could finally have some fun if she knew I fixed it all.

17-year-old Radhika’s biggest goal was to start at 18 on even ground. First, to get rid of all of my chains, and then to build a foundation that would help me jump higher than anyone had ever imagined.

I didn’t get as far as I wanted to, there. I was supposed to be living in Prague right now, with a driver’s license and a lot more money in the bank. I should’ve been on some amazing adventure as I write this, but instead, I’m sitting in my bedroom.

But, I came further than I knew was possible in a lot of areas that are difficult to quantify.

I’m more mature, resilient, self-aware, and all these other hollow words that basically mean I’ve grown as a human being.

I’ve done a lot that makes building that foundation easier than ever.

I’m still struggling to comprehend that I don’t control the whole world, but I feel more in control of myself than I ever have before.

Even though I feel in control of myself right now, I’m terrified that I can’t control who I become.

Just like 10-year-old me who would die if she knew this is who I became, I’m terrified that 30-year-old me is going to be raising 2 kids in the suburbs.

Eugh.

I learned that people change a long time ago.

Some people still look back at their old identities with embarrassment.

When I was 14, I was obsessed with underground boybands and Aeropostale.

I could look back on that time and cringe, or I could understand that after having school uniforms for the past two years, I gripped onto the first form of identity I could find.

In hindsight, it’s easy. But what about the future?

Could I really turn into someone who I vowed to never be… again?

I don’t know.

But for now, I’m content.

I have a big plan for my future. It’s to constantly aim to be true to myself and my values.

It’s quite ambitious, I know! But, I think I can do it.

Thanks for being here on my journey with me.

Here’s to still being on the journey next year,

Radhika Morabia

P.S. Movie quote in the title is from The Last Five Years (2015). I’m obsessed with the soundtrack.

“Best of all, kids, I am liquid.”

(New to the site? Each post opens with a movie quote and then features a song which encapsulates the feelings I tried to convey in the post. Press play and if you like what you read and hear, consider signing up to the newsletter.)

We walked into the ER. My eye was burning, my dad was sneezing, and I wasn’t even wearing socks.

I kept blinking and feeling the burn. Was I sure it was even still in there?

Upon a preliminary look, the nurse didn’t think it was. She told us a story about another girl who came in even though it was already out. What I was feeling right now was just the irritation that came with scratching at it for the past hour. But, the doctor would take a closer look when he came in.

How did I end up here?

Contacts.

I didn’t want contacts. I liked my glasses. To quote my sister, my latest pair of glasses made me look like a “sexy librarian.” Glasses are easy, convenient, and cute.

Contacts are the exact opposite.

I have a degenerative disease called keratoconus. The only solution is very expensive, custom-engineered hard contacts. I’ll have to replace them as often as my vision changes, which might take six months or six years. Nobody really knows.

The adjustment process is hell.

Human instinct is to not allow tiny blue discs to stick to your eye. I have to fight against my rapidly fluttering eyelashes to push them in, and then deal with my tears of confusion as I try to pop them out.

They’re smaller than my fingernail, so if I drop them onto the floor, I have to crawl around with a flashlight for an hour to find them.

Worst, I need them. I really, really need them. My normal vision is abysmal. I can only really control my own movement. With my glasses, which have the best prescription possible, I can’t read restaurant menus, let alone a book.

Today, my doctor told me, “The first year is the hardest.”

The first YEAR?!

I might still be having trouble a few months from now? Are you kidding me?!

Let me make this as clear as possible: I’m a writer who can barely read.

Great.

But, it’s worth it.

Even when my eye has more veins popping out at 10AM than should be normal.

Even when I’m screaming loud enough for someone to call the police because my contact just won’t come out.

Even when I’m sticking the toothpaste over the drain in case the contact falls while I’m washing it.

When I finally get them in, the world is amazing.

When I go for walks, I stick my hands in front of my face and make a gesture like a camera.

It’s so clear.

It’s so bright.

It’s so beautiful.

Best of all, I can read again. I can go for hours and hours, the only limitation is my own willpower.

Life is so good with the contacts on.

Except when the contacts just won’t get out.

The doctor came in. He grabbed some gloves and had me sit back. He shined a huge light over my eyes, and I pointed to where I thought I felt it. He grabbed some fancy Q-tip thing, and after a few seconds of swirling it around my eye, my dad and I simultaneously sighed in relief. It was out. Finally.

There will come a point when I easily pop them on and off and have the stamina to wear them all day. I’ll look back and think, “Even if I didn’t have to wear contacts, glasses are such a hassle compared to contacts. Why did I ever think I preferred glasses?”

I’ll be okay again. I’ll be better than okay again. I’ll be great.

Whatever you’re adjusting to right now, you’ll be okay, too.

We’ll adjust together.

From my skinny arms to your skinny heart,

Radhika Morabia

P.S. Movie quote in the title is from Boiler Room (2000). It’s intensely gripping and one of my underground favorites. Check it out.

P.P.S. Leave a comment or send me an email about whatever you’re adjusting to right now. I mean it when I say we’ll adjust together.

How to Cultivate a Fanatical Audience: An Interview with Colin Wright

Colin Wright has written over 27 best-selling books (and counting!) while traveling to a new country every four months.

In case that wasn’t enough, he also runs a publishing business, writes on his blog, publishes a few newsletters, and is insanely active on social media.

Colin has cultivated an insanely devoted fanbase which has stuck by him as he went from being a freelance designer to author to entrepreneur.

He’s achieved phenomenal success, all while having his marketing/business philosophy simply be: because I want to.

I reached out to Colin to talk to him about his growth and development. Below are 10 questions I asked him about how he started his mini-empire.

An Interview with Colin Wright

1. Let’s start with origin stories. What was your high school experience like? How different are you now from what high school Colin wanted you to be? Would he be proud of you?

Oh, I’m way different than high school Colin. Some things are still the same — I still believe in treating people well, for example — but my expectations for myself and the world, approach to work and relationships, views on work and money and everything else, have all changed pretty dramatically.

I do think high school Colin would appreciate what I’m doing now, though. I may have to explain some of the details, but I think he’d get it, and be pretty psyched.

My experience in high school was, at first, the transition of a kid who got bullied in middle school into a more comfortable version of himself. Later, it was the same kid finding a few passions (art and journalism) and focusing on those. Overall a pretty positive thing, all told.

2. You successfully transitioned from trading your time per-hour as a design consultant to being able to drop off the map for a month and have your business still run without you. How did you make your first sale?

I was pretty fortunate, actually, to have started building my audience long before I started selling products. I had been writing my blog for about a year before I put up anything for sale, and as such had been honing my writing, figuring out how to publish (I gave a few books away, after using them as training fodder for myself), and essentially producing as much free value as possible, for as many people as possible, for quite a while.

At that point, it’s much easier to make the pitch. “Hey folks, you know that stuff I’ve been writing about that you’ve been enjoying enough to keep coming back? I wrote about it more, and I think better. Want to give it a shot?” is a fairly compelling offer, especially compared to “You don’t know me, or that I know anything about anything, but I have this book so please buy it.”

But that wasn’t the plan, initially. I wanted the blog to be a hub where I could keep writing about things, for free, and build an audience, but mostly for networking purposes. I still don’t make a dime directly from the blog, but now that network helps me market my work, without having to market too hard.

3. What made you choose your pricing model? You advocate the “coffee-rule,” which is that most of your work is available for the price of a coffee. Beyond that, if someone does pirate your work, you have no qualms.

Here’s what you wrote on the copyright page of one of your first books, Real Powers:

All rights reserved of course, though if you really can’t afford the few dollars to pay for the book, go ahead and read it anyway; life’s too short for DRM. It would be rad if you’d tell other people about this work if you enjoy it, whether you paid or not. All profits from this book allow me to continue pursuing my passions, and if you did pay for it (despite the overwhelming desire to find a torrent somewhere), you’re my fave.

Muchas gracias.

You know, it was kind of an iterative thing. I’ve sold my books at a lot of different prices over the years, but I realized that I was getting emails from different sorts of people when I lowered the prices. Students and working moms and retirees; not just net-savvy young professionals like before. And I wanted to reach that wider audience, so I decided to test it out, to see if I could keep making a living selling my books for less.

I do make less doing it this way, to be honest, but it’s not a lot less, and it’s far more satisfying for me. I sleep much better when I’m able to align my business practices with my philosophies; as is the case with the non-DRM, piracy-accepting statement on the copyright pages of my books. I know we live in a post-Napster world, and though it’s not ideal for the way business has been done traditionally, I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to demonize folks who want to read your work, either. Instead I reach out and say, “Hey, if you don’t mind, maybe leave me a review somewhere or tell a friend.” That way they can get the book for free, and I can get some word of mouth. Win-win.

4. You create a lot of value for a lot of people through your books, blog, newsletters, and the plethora of other projects you’ve taken on. When you’re developing an idea, how do you know it’s going to be valuable? After publishing the project, how do you grade the success of the project?

Oh, I really have no idea ahead of time. I hope my work will be valuable, and I find it’s almost always valuable to someone, even if not the someone I originally intended.

In most cases, I gauge the value of my work by how many people respond to it in some way. In a lot of cases this’ll be emails I receive, or reviews on blogs or Amazon. Sometimes it’s a random ping on Twitter or Facebook. I haven’t published something yet that hasn’t resonated with some demographic, but even if I did, I would still personally get value out of the process — refining my ideas, writing about things that interest me — so truthfully the hindsight-metrics aren’t as vital as the initial concept seeming like something worth producing.

5. You’re an amazing storyteller, both with your fiction and non-fiction works. How did you develop such a compelling voice and style?

Thanks!

Two things stand out as the main catalysts for growth I’ve seen in my own writing: writing a hell of a lot, and reading a hell of a lot.

I already had a pretty solid grasp of the language from reading through my childhood, and growing up a major book geek (still am, proudly). My own voice emerged from that, distinctive from just being a correct use of English, the more I wrote. And I mean books, blogs, emails, text messages, everything. Every single communication is an opportunity to hone your craft, and I try and approach them all as such.

Do those two things enough, and you can’t help but get better over time.

6. You have a devoted fanbase that followed you from your blog to non-fiction books to experimental fiction to a publishing company. How have you been able to cultivate that community as you took completely different directions with your life and projects?

I’ve been very fortunate, first and foremost.

But partially I’ve made sure to focus on a larger brand — on telling a larger story — rather than a smaller, easier-to-convey one. Back in the day, when I first started, I was the entrepreneurial guy, and my readership reflected that. It was easy to pitch the young guy running businesses. Then I became the travel guy, when I hit the road, and that was equally easy to communicate; the hook is built right into the pigeonhole.

After that, though, it became more difficult. I very consciously decoupled myself from some very strong, quick-growing trends and topics because I didn’t want to be the ‘something’ guy. I didn’t want to, say, be stuck traveling my entire life and forced to give up my entire body of work and audience should I decide to stop one day. Same with entrepreneurship, lifestyle design, and a dozen or so other popular keywords that would have helped me pull in a more massive audience, faster.

For someone like me, it’s vital that I can keep changing and growing and experimenting, and that’s part of the spine that holds the larger brand I’ve committed myself to, together. I made sure to build something that was completely, absolutely me on every level, so that I could just do what I want to do without worrying about breaking my brand or losing everything I’d worked hard to achieve. Resultingly, I’ve lost some aspects of, say, my entrepreneurship-focused audience, because I don’t write about that all the time anymore. I lost some of the travel-focused folks for the same reason. If you don’t focus enough, you’ll lose people who want you to be one thing, and that’s cool: that’s their prerogative, just as it’s mine to not cater to everyone.

But at this point, the folks who’ve stuck around and who’re drawn to my work these days tend to embrace the bigger picture; the general concept of nonstandard lifestyles and growth and philosophical development and embracing who you are and making that work day-to-day. This is why I say I’m very fortunate: getting to be exactly who you are, and to have others celebrate that? Use that example as an excuse or catalyst to be more themselves? It’s so gratifying, in addition to being just incredibly fulfilling.

7. Now that you’ve been to so many different countries and established yourself in so many different fields, how do you define yourself without feeling like you’re closing off a part of yourself?

Haha, well, that’s the tricky part of being yourself: there’s nothing you can say within a reasonable amount of time that encompasses everything you are.

So in general I take the audience I’m speaking to into consideration and decide which aspect of what I’m up to they might find the most interesting; what will probably be most relevant and interesting for them. In every case, my first introduction is just a tip of a much larger iceberg, but I try and make it easy for folks to follow that thread, if they want to, and learn everything else in their own time. If I tried to offer more than that, I think I’d 1) bore everyone to death, and 2) miss out on communicating some small, important thing while trying to communicate too many other things that are not important to that particular person.

8. You’re not one to give universal advice. But, I have to ask, if you were about to leave LA to travel the world in 2015’s market rather than 2009’s, is there anything you would do differently?

I probably would have started writing and blogging and reaching out sooner than I did. Facebook arrived while I was in college, so the whole social media thing was still only a handful of years in when I decided to hit the road. I did what I could with it back then, but it’s a much bigger (and more useful) deal now, and so are the relationships you can build through those networks.

Beyond that, though, I would have made all the same mistakes I made back then, because they were important ones. Anything you can do to leave yourself malleable to change and bouncy, so that you easily recover when you stumble and fall, will be very, very helpful at some point in your journey.

9. There’s been a huge increase in gear targeted towards perpetual travelers like yourself (eg. the Minaal backpack). Have you bought into any of that or are you sticking to average consumer gear?

A lot of it isn’t really for me — doesn’t cater to my particular travel style (or aesthetic style), but there are a lot of good ideas out there, and for someone, I’m sure such things are perfect. I tend to buy off-the-shelf whenever possible, so that I can easily replace things if they get damaged or lost, and without paying too much of a premium.

10. You’re a big tech lover, what recent developments are you currently excited about?

Oh, so much.

Simulated physics, artificial intelligence (of many flavors), 3D printing (also of many varieties), wearable tech, genetic engineering and modification, gene therapies, cybernetics, biomes…the list goes on and on.

If you love Colin’s philosophy and the way he approaches the world, check out his recent book titled Considerations.

To know more about Colin, get updates on his life, and buy some of his books, check out his webiste at colin.io.

How to Develop Habits

We all want to be better people, yes?

We want to go to read more books, work out more, and learn to play an instrument.

The easiest way to become a better person is to install a habit. So, if you want to read more books, make it a habit to read for an hour every day. If you want to work out more often, make it a habit to go to the gym every single day. If you want to learn to play an instrument, make it a habit to practice daily.

How do we go about developing a habit?

Common advice is as follows–start small, with something like flossing. Then, commit to it, every single day! Finally, after 30 days (or 21, or 42, there’s huge debate over the number of days you need to develop a habit), your habit will be formed! What’s next?

I’ve tried this before, time and time again. When I’m in a rut and I start to get that urge to change my life, I go back to habit creation and the next year, I find myself in the exact same rut.

But, recently, I’ve come across a foolproof strategy for habit creation. It’s not sexy, it’s not smooth, but it works.

5 Steps to Creating Lifelong Habits

It’s actually very simple to create habits. Once you start to realize that sheer willpower will get you no results, you can move onto what actually works, with the help of the psychology.

This isn’t just a system to develop one habit, it’s a system to continually develop new habits while maintaining your old habits, so you don’t have to worry about losing some.

1. Define the habit.

Do you know the reason why most New Year’s resolutions fail?

It’s because they’re not defined well enough. “I want to go to the gym more.” Well, what exactly does that mean? If you never went to the gym before, and now you went once every two months, you’ve technically gone more, right?

When you have unclear habits like this, it’s so easy to rationalize and justify and tell yourself that you’ve reached your goal when you really, truly haven’t.

So, frame your desired habit a yes or no question that you can’t squeeze your way around.

For example, one of the habits I’m trying to acquire right now is defined like so, “Did I sleep by midnight?”

It’s simple and there’s no way to cheat myself out of it. Either I was in bed at 12:00 AM or not.

2. Track the habit.

You need some kind of visual representation of when you lost or when you won.

I use a table in a spreadsheet on my computer. I like this because it’s shockingly easy after the initial set-up, and I can use the data in a variety of ways. For example, I’ve created a chart which lists my progress alongside the table so that I can more easily document my progress over time.

If you know you’re not going to use your computer every day, get some graph paper and create a table, or get a monthly fridge calendar that you can write on, and take pictures at the end of the month. There are also smartphone apps that do this.

Do it however you want, just make sure it’s:

  • easy to fill out every single day.
  • archivable.
  • can only let you answer yes/no, no justification or notes allowed.

Don’t overthink this. Choose one method and stick to it.

3. Use the psychology of colors.

This is possibly the most revolutionary part of this method.

Green means good/go/positive.

Red means bad/stop/negative.

It’s ingrained in your brain. Just look at your favorite video games, or the signs on the street. You associate colors with meaning, and we can capitalize on that.

When you are able to answer yes for the day, you’re able to get a green light telling you that you did a good job. But, when you do a bad job and didn’t complete your habit, you get a dreaded red light. Your streak is ruined, it’s ugly, and you very quickly start to do almost anything to avoid getting the red light.

If you’re using a spreadsheet like I am, all you have to do is change the background color of your cell to red or green. If you’re using a whiteboard or paper, be sure to buy red/green pens.

Do not underestimate the power of this part. If you skip this, don’t email me saying this didn’t work for you.

4. Aim for a 70% success rate.

You probably have 30 habits that you want right now, right? And with the conventional way of one habit a month, it’ll take 3 years to achieve what you want.

Here’s a way to make massive progress in a much shorter amount of time:

  1. Start with the 3 most important and impactful habits.
  2. If you get higher than 70% completion that week, add a new habit.
  3. If you get lower than 70% completion that week, get rid of your least important habit, up until you’re left with just one or two.
  4. If you have just one left, you’re not allowed to just drop that and give up. Try your hardest to reach a 70% success rate, there is no quitting here.

If you succeed week after week, you can reach having 30 habits within half a year. That’s much faster than the 3 years it would take you assuming the conventional method worked.

Note, it won’t be all good. You’ll progress a week, fall back a week, maybe even two weeks, and you’ll just be constantly clawing your way forward while facing massive resistance. Again, this isn’t sexy, but it works.

5. Be accountable.

I email the results of my tracking to a friend each and every week.

It isn’t pretty, and it probably puts me in a very negative light considering how terrible I am at sticking to my habits. But I know that at least one person is going to look at how many red lights I have, and it makes me want to be better.

If you don’t have a website or somewhere to share your habit tracking, email me. I’ll be the one person who sees your habit results each week, or I’ll set you up with someone.

Limitations to Habit Tracking

This method works pretty well. Even though I am getting a huge amount of red lights, the margins that I’m missing by are much more beneficial before, where I just said to myself, “Well, I want to sleep earlier…”

Instead of, “Okay, I’ll sleep soon,” only to look out of the window hours later and notice that the sun is rising, I’m scrambling into bed at 12:10AM because I just had to finish whatever I was doing.

But, this method isn’t perfect. It only works with daily habits, so if you want to do something once a week, it’ll be much harder to instill. There’s also no way for you to take a break or justify your actions. Either you do it or you don’t.

In a way, this method’s inability to accommodate to different needs makes it even more effective for the type of person and habit it’s made for. You do your habit every day or you don’t. There’s no wiggle room here.

Conclusion

This method has worked extraordinarily well for me within my few weeks of following it, and if you’re the type of person who tried developing habits many times before, only to fail again and again, this could fix it for you.

It’ll be very, very hard when you start, but the gains are tremendous, and they come almost immediately. I highly recommend at least trying it out, because we all have at least some habits we wish we could follow.

This idea was built entirely upon various principles set forth by Sebastian Marshall, namely the colors as motivation within tracking and having a 70% success rate.