Thien “The Nguyen” here. As mentioned in the welcome post, this blog was used as an expedited writing course for me in the past month, July 2019. Well, writing, among some other things. I have stayed true the promise to myself of publishing at least a post everyday. Though, the “at least” part proves to be quite ambitious. I only published more than one post per day during some of the first few days of the month.
So what did I learn?
Road to Mastery
In the past month, I was a blogging professional. What do I mean by “professional” is a person who consistently produces result in a particular field no matter what, rain or shine, tired or not, feeling like it or not. As Seth Godin mentioned in a podcast with Tim Ferriss, it is expected of a writer to write, of a musician to play music, of a composer to compose music. People often hide behind the excuse of writer’s block and that they have nothing of quality to produce. But more often than not, something doesn’t have to be of highest possible quality, but only of better than average quality to be published. And you wouldn’t need a math degree like I do to know that adding something above average to a set, the new average will be increased.
I’m not saying let’s aim for something barely above average. I’m saying that when the ultimate goal is mastery, we need to plow through a lot of average’s along the way. It’s part of the learning process. Learn to be comfortable with the fact that extraordinary is not always guaranteed. And gradually, the very fact of forcing ourselves to do more, to produce more will help us get more necessary practices and produce better results time after time. In writing, specifically, writing out my thoughts would help me understand the mumble-jumbo in my head better and make more sense of what I have to write in the future. In music, I explored what I haven’t done before, like telling a story with music, experimenting with rhythmic changes, writing lots of tunes using the same chord progressions, writing different authentic cadences… As you can see those posts, I drew new ideas musical rules for myself from these experiments.
How to Be Effective
To be effective is to do the things yielding the most return for the resources we put in.
I realize about half way through that between my day job, writing philosophical articles, playing music, and composing music, I effectively work on a main job and several part-time ones. So I remember what Tim Ferriss has hammered people again and again: focusing on more than one thing at once is the sure fire recipe for a bunch of half-ass done job (the core idea from 80/20 and The Effective Executive). Might as well apply them.
So I sat down and give some thoughts to what I want to do, specifically. I want to compose music to tell stories with them. Learning music theory and write music will help me get there. Looking at sheet music will help me understand how the famous piece was composed so I could learn from the best. Playing music could be fun, but doesn’t yield as much result for the investment of time from my part. So I might as well focus more of my resources on composing music instead. How about blogging and music? What if I combine them? What if I start publishing the music related thoughts on this blog as well, and share what I learn in the process of composing and studying music. That’s hitting two birds with one stones.
Realizing this, from the middle of July, I put more effort in music theory, publish my compositions, and incorporated what I learn from my music study to the blog as well.
How to Be Efficient
To be efficient is to execute things faster through muscle memory or finding shortcuts. Be effective first, then be efficient.
Just get started, and everything else will fall in its place. I created an efficient working system and schedule for myself by forcing myself into a habit of working initially, then the work keeps coming out. Now, every time I get more than 30 minutes, I would grab the laptop and write something down, every time I have about 20 minutes, I would pull out my phone and read in order to get inspiration for new ideas. I also created a document in the work station at work to scribble down whatever thoughts I have even in the middle of work, because I know I might forget about it later. A lot of posts on this blog started with some thoughts scribbled down during work when I’m listening to a podcast or happen to have an aha moment.
I enjoyed seeing how I was able to carve out time from seemingly the thin air to write blog posts, and make musics. In the months before, I usually find myself on the bed by the time I drag myself home from work, barely able to do much. But as soon as I set myself a goal and plan ahead what I’m going to do with my time, I’m much more efficient and attentive and intentional with my use of time. How I listen to podcast and read books more attentively, looking for ways that I can branch off from and think critically about things on my own.
Happiness Is A Process
My baseline happiness for this month have been increasing, though ever slightly, increasing nonetheless. I keep track of my mood in the Dalio app and the average mood of this month is a bit higher than the average mood of last month. Although, my average mood has been increasing ever so slightly from month to month, so blogging is part of the reasons, not the only reason.
Maybe this is due to me increasingly thinking more and figuring out more where my passion lies, detaching from the materialism world, trying to do more of what I want to do instead of what I think is necessary, and embracing the uncertain future. I have been taking more music classes, improv acting classes, go to open mics, practice public speaking. Writing blogs and composing musics more this month are just cherries on top of the cake.
Maybe from the overwhelming amount of work I set for myself, I learned to be kinder to myself when I cannot produce with the quality or quantity that I set out for myself to do. Sometimes I try to aim above and beyond. But I also realize that I’m only another flawed human. My blog is nowhere near the quality of the blogs I look up to, but one: it incentivizes me to write more and compose more, and two: I have been producing more articles and musics than I have ever done in any same period of time, heck, even for years!
I don’t want to take the increase in my baseline happiness from month to month for granted. Happiness is something that takes constant work on, so any month with such a positive result is a month worth celebrating. Those droplets of happiness are hard earned.
So… What’s the future of this blog?
Hey, that’s a writing deceptive cadence I just pulled there. Please excuse my music theory nerdiness! Here comes the authentic cadence… or is it?
During the past month, my thoughts on some topics were interrupted because I had to get the articles done in only a day to move on to the next one. I’m considering trying another month of one post per 2-3 days to see if that really makes a difference in the quality of my content.
But then, some time to do triage work and reevaluate my priorities is called for, so I’ll give it more thoughts. In the mean time, The Nguyen Blog will continue staying on the internet.
Here’s to Beauty, and Knowledge!