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#7: Developing resilience
Building the mental strength to persevere in the long run
Many asked me, “Irfan, you have come a long way in your life and career. It takes a lot of resilience to get through your journey, through its ups and downs. How do you develop that resilience?”
Ten years ago, I didn’t know what I wanted. I was only a high school student from a third-tier Indonesian city. Heck, I was dirt poor. Without a government scholarship, I could not pay my college tuition. Getting to where I am now required a lot of hard work and constant reminders never to give up.
I won't claim that what I share will be a hundred percent replicable, but I'm sharing it anyway in case it's helpful to you. This will be a good journal entry for future me too. I won't claim that what I share will be a hundred percent replicable, but I'm sharing it anyway in case it's helpful to you. This will be a good journal entry for future me too.
1. I didn’t come this far only to come this far.
Whenever I'm unmotivated, I look back at the hardships that I went through. I felt shitty many times in my life. And since I am still alive and kicking, I have proven I could overcome my past challenges. So it’s very likely to overcome my current ones.
Whenever I face a challenge, I look into myself and see how far I have come. Quitting now is too early. It’s like taking everything I have gone through so far for granted. Of course, it wouldn’t be easy going forward, but I must push through.
2. The obstacle is the way
I love this Stoic saying from Marcus Aurelius that I keep on repeating. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.
In my life, many obstacles have become opportunities for something more important. My laptop broke? Good, I can spend the rest of the day reading a book instead. A critical service incident happened? Interesting, I will learn something insightful from the postmortem. A new hire isn’t getting up to speed fast? Okay, time to practice some coaching and improve our onboarding process.
There will be countless obstacles in everyone’s life. Through those obstacles, we can reach our destination. Be it breaking through them or getting around them. All while accumulating something more important: learning, experience, and wisdom.
3. Stress + Rest = Peak Performance
When I was at school and in college, I sprinted a lot. Sometimes I wouldn’t sleep to prepare for an exam or work on a project. When I was younger, I had a lot of energy, and there was no negative feedback from my body yet. As I get older, it is easier for me to get sick, and I can’t maintain clear thinking without enough sleep and rest.
Fast forward to now, I designed a cycle that enables me to work hard while not getting burnt out. The execution is not perfect yet, but this is the standard I’m setting for myself.
Eight hours of sleep after a full day of work.
In building a startup, sometimes I must work more than 12 hours daily. And 90% of those, especially when working remotely, will be looking at my computer’s or phone’s screen. Eight hours of sleep enables me to recover fully and wake up feeling fresh.
One day entirely off from work every week.
In my case, I take a day off on Saturday while I do some work on Sunday. But my mental state is not optimal when I still work both Saturday and Sunday. I will be tired more easily, and my thinking will get less sharp.
A few days off every three to four months.
This is typically to avoid burnout and losing motivation in the long run. During this time, I usually catch up on my book-reading goals. I can finish 2-3 books in this time, and it's worth it. When I came back, I came back refreshed and ready to tackle whatever was coming next.
I picked up this cycle from the book Peak Performance a few years ago. The whole book can be summarized as Stress + Rest = Peak Performance. Peak performance is only sustained when you have a period of stress, stretching your normal limit, and then resting to ensure your body and mind recover.
If you have other advice on becoming more resilient, don't be shy to put them down in the comment section.
Being selected as LinkedIn Top Voice
A bit of a personal update. Two weeks ago, LinkedIn reached out and told me that they would love me to be part of their Top Voice program. I was humbled. Because I don't post that often on LinkedIn. I only post when there is something significant happening in my company or when I share a new edition of this newsletter.
The perks of being a LinkedIn Top Voice are getting a blue Top Voice badge and a free LinkedIn premium subscription. This motivated me to share more often on LinkedIn so that others can consume my learning and keep me at the top of my future customer's minds. In the past few months, I don't use LinkedIn for recruiting but to connect with other professionals and look for customers for my company’s product.
I was also featured in an article from LinkedIn, along with another newsletter writer with a fantastic life journey, Amanda Cua, who is building one of the most popular newsletters in Southeast Asia at 19 years old! We shared about how to get started in today's workplace and several tips on accelerating your early career.
Shane wrote an excellent short essay on the value of writing in the age of content abundance. In short, writing teaches us about what we know, what we don't know, and how to think.
The main essay in this newsletter is inspired by the piece written by Jason Shen from Every. Jason introduced a more structured approach to cultivating resilience by Responding, Restoring, Rebuilding, and Reflecting.
Enjoy the rest of the week, folks!
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