It all started when...
About a year ago, I was having dinner with my good friend Jen. Jen mentioned a friend of hers who was writing handwritten letters for 100 days in a row. Aptly named #The100DayProject, the idea is to tackle a project by consistently doing a thing (making, performing, writing, trying, acting, playing, etc.) for 100 days straight. The goal isn’t on finalized products, but rather the process and showing up every day. To forget about outcomes and become immersed in the process of creating.
For 2017, I’m applying the 100 day logic to three major projects that are outside the norm of my routine.
- Speak Spanish for 10 minutes everyday
- Play guitar for 10 minutes everyday
- Read fiction for 10 minutes everyday
Starting with Spanish, I plan on documenting my journey on these project, and maybe future projects, here.
You can check out the full blog post I wrote on this here.
65 days In
At 65 days into 100 days of speaking Spanish, the process is admittedly going slower than expected. I started at 5% fluency according to Duolingo, and right now I'm at 8%. My goal was to reach 50% fluency in 100 days, which now looks extremely far fetched!
Regarding consistency, I have missed five of the last 65 days. Each day my goal is to use Duolingo (writing, speaking Spanish) for ten minutes. On days I've missed, I have made up for it by speaking for 20 minutes the next day on two occasions (depending on how much time I've had that day to allocate more time).
My goal in this journey is to build consistency. So overall, although I've missed a few days, this is by far the most consistently I've practiced a second language. I could see this 100 day challenge extending past the first 100 days to 200. Otherwise, there's no way I'll reach my goal of 50% fluency or even close. Perhaps I'll attack only two of the aforementioned three projects this year?
More to come.
119 Days In
Background - At the beginning of 2017, I set off on a journey to develop focus and consistency. I've always been a curious person, but lacking focus, I was anxious about time and worried that I'd become only "good enough" at a variety of stuff but never really great at anything. So at the beginning of the year, I decided to do something about it, and I wrote about it here.
My journey involved the following experiment. First, I took an honest look at my "consistent complaints," including the ridiculous notion that I didn't "have enough time" to achieve what I wanted to. Second, I examined my strong suits and determined that being curious, while excellent in many ways, also inhibited me in developing focus. Curiosity helped me develop a knack for moving on from interests and hobbies too quickly. Lastly, I made a plan. I'd attack three hobbies in 2017 by performing one at a time, each for 100 days in a row, rather than trying to be overly "balanced." I started with learning Spanish, using the Duolingo app to practice for ten minutes each day. After Spanish, I planned to move onto playing guitar for 100 days, followed by reading fiction for 100 days.
Update - Today is the 119th day of the year, and as promised, here's what's happened.
Starting at 5% fluency (according to Duolingo app), my Spanish has now improved to 12% fluency since the beginning of the year. This ratio is still well below my initial goal of 50% fluency in 100 days. Yikes! Regarding consistency, I missed 12 of the first 100 days.(90% isn't too bad for the first go, at least IMO.) I made up for the days I missed by either speaking for 20 minutes on the following day or by using more days. Hence you're getting this update on day 119. I stopped speaking Spanish each day last week and took a one-week break. Here we are today.
Conclusion - While my fluency goal fell drastically short of plan, something very encouraging and unexpected happened along the way. I found out that consistency was not only momentous by nature but contagious. Along with more consistently learning a second language, I inadvertently became far more consistent in many other areas of my life. Intrigued by my new consistency, I started tracking my behavior using an app called Momentum.
Some anecdotes from a more focused lifestyle - Since the beginning of the year, I have meditated every day without fail. I have also journaled every single morning without fail, something I've wanted to do for some time but hesitated. I now find journaling enjoyable and look forward to it each morning. My workout routine has become more steady, and I've exercised six days per week each week this year. Along with exercise, a healthy diet has become constant rather than deviating between off and on. "Cheat" weeks or weekends have become cheat meals, and I've successfully cut out nearly all processed carbs and wheat products, dairy, peanut butter (almond butter FTW) and excess sugar. Instead of coffee with milk and sugar, something I've done since High School, I drink it black or with butter and coconut oil ("bulletproof" coffee). Likewise, I more consistently arrive on-time for meetings and schedule "build time" work sessions rather than scrambling to answer every email or knock-off busywork from my to-do list. Most importantly, my life's newfound structure has given me more mental space to relax. Rather than worrying about everything not getting done at work while I'm out with friends, I feel "in the room" when I'm actually in the room.
Closing thoughts - All of my teammates at Jakt have heard my Nipsey Hussle story. (For those of you who aren't as cool as me, Nipsey Hussle is a successful independent west-coast rapper.) I met Nipsey a few years back, and my impression of his creative process before meeting him was as follows: Wakes up, smokes weed, does a whole host of extracurricular activities that don't involve work (rapper sh*t), raps and writes lyrics whenever he feels like it, then more weed smoking and extracurriculars. Here's what I actually found: A structured routine, including exercise and 2 scheduled hours per day spent in the booth, rapping without any judgment as to whether said raps were good or bad. Several other rappers and musicians I've met over the past few years have a similar work ethic and similar schedules. Success in any creative field, including startups, doesn't come by accident. Practice makes perfect. Structure is often viewed as the antithesis of creativity, but in practice, I haven't found this to be the case at all. Structure allows space for creativity to take place, and consistency allows for results to improve over time.
In the words of the original 100day Project - "The goal isn’t on finalized products, but rather the process and showing up every day. To forget about outcomes and become immersed in the process of creating." To show up every day, I had to give myself space to be creative.
Starting this past Thursday, I'm started my Spanish 100 Day project over at 1. Guitar and fiction will have to wait for now.
265 Days In
Today, I turn 33 years old. Coincidentally, there are precisely 100 days left in 2018. A perfect day to provide an update on the 100Day project I started at the beginning of the year.
Background. At the beginning of 2017, I set off to tackle three hobbies - learning Spanish, playing guitar, and reading fiction - by doing these hobbies in 100-day sprints. I planned to perform each activity for 10 minutes per day, every day, for 100 days. This, I thought, would result in a more focused approach to learning hobbies, tackling side projects, and in life in general. For more on why I set out to do this, you can read the original article here along with my first two updates above.
The update. At 265 days into the year, I have now performed two 100 day sprints learning Spanish. At the end of sprint 1, I was 12% fluent according to Duolingo. As of today, I am now 36% fluent. Regarding focus and consistency, here are some key things I've learned so far.
1. Consistency is contagious. In-line with my last update, I've noticed harmonious momentum in areas of my life reaching far past learning Spanish, and I believe this energy resulted from pattern recognition. If you can do one thing consistently every day and it yields positive returns (such as being bi-lingual), doing other things repetitively begins to feel more natural. My diet, workout regimen, and morning routine (journaling, meditation) have all become constant. Moreover, tackling new hobbies and pursuing new creative endeavors have begun to appear less intimidating.
2. I've gotten great at my bad habits, too. Just as consistency brings positive results, it can of course also produce adverse outcomes. The human brain is great at developing patterns, and from my experience, it doesn't seem to care much whether those patterns are serving us or not. I've become so excellent at habits that aren't helping me, that over time, I've tricked myself into thinking they are helping. Slick right? Noticing ways that aren't serving me has helped me just as much much (if not more) than consistency around the ones that are.
3. Consistency is boring! I have to admit, giving up on this little journey of mine thing has crossed my mind more than enough times. It's like, really? Ten minutes? Again today? Why? Well, for two reasons. First, I really want to be bilingual. Second, I really want to be bilingual. I've noticed that reminding myself of my "true north," where I ultimately want to get, has been oh so essential to keeping me on track. Instead of quitting, I've found ways to remind myself that consistent practice, even when it's boring, is worth it. Traveling around Portugal (quite similar to Spain) and having the ability to converse with the locals was a great reminder.
4. 100 days isn't enough time. For most things, I'd say based on my experience, 100 days isn't enough time to get really great at anything. It is, however, a fantastic launch pad.
Conclusion. While my original goal of 50% fluency in 100 days proved too optimistic, I would not consider my experiment a failure. Rather, a learning lesson. Starting today, I'm started my third 100-day sprint in learning Spanish and hope to finish the year strong and surpass my initial target.