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Bootstrapping Life: Five Tips

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Bootstrapping Life: Five Tips
Kaizen

If you had just one tool for improving yourself, what would that tool be? A casual study of the world’s self-made millionaires, past and present, may not reveal it, but all of them were likely successful bootstrappers. Bootstrapping, at its simplest, refers to getting by in an entrepreneurial endeavor simply with what you have. You take what you earn and cycle it all back in. Only grow as you are able – no major loans.

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Thus, the ultimate life hack is, arguably, bootstrapping. Bootstrapping is a time-honored way to grow a business, but it can also be used for learning a language, improving your skillset, designing and creating something and much more. Bootstrapping is a way to go from essentially nothing to a more desireable result. It comes in a variety of flavors, with variations from numerous cultures. The following terms are not exactly synonymous, but they are related. Most of these terms have complex meanings; I’ve only given one for each, and generically refer to all of them collectively as bootstrapping.

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  1. Kaizen.
    Kaizen is a Japanese term for a Chinese concept. The gist of its meaning is continuous improvement by slow degrees of change. It has applications in quality improvement (at least in the US) but can be applied to many disciplines. You don’t set out to be perfect immediately. Start with what you have and slowly improve it through continuous/ daily actions. This methodology can be applied to anything. I use this principle to improve my websites and that of clients. The wikipedia definition of Kaizen gives a much fuller explanation which mentions three core principles that must be applied. I’ve only covered the gist.
  2. Top-down design.
    Top-down design/ modelling is a process typically used in software development and programming. However, it is used in other disciplines. Start with nothing but functional specifications, write up the skeleton/ outline, then flesh out each section. Using this technique, I’ve written 1,000-3,000 line programs in just a few days, when the industry standard has been 2 lines of code (including research, design, coding, testing, and revision). I use top-down design to write books, e-books, manuals, and larger articles as well.
  3. Bootstrapping.
    Bootstrapping is a classic method used by entrepreneurs for starting a business with pretty much nothing, and reinvesting all revenues and efforts back into the business to help it grow. Loans are at an absolute minimum, if any at all, and growth is controlled. (Keep in mind that most new businesses fail in the first year, some because they grow to fast for their cash flow.) Bootstrapping is also applied to numerous other disciplines. Want to know more? Read Guy Kawasaki’s article The art of bootstrapping and Seth Godin’s free ebook The bootstrapper’s bible.
  4. Tunneling.
    In an article in the Consumerist entitled How to: move to New York City, Ben Popken mentions the term tunnelling as a way to use the resources in your current job to help you on your way to a better career. This is very much in the same spirit as bootstrapping: use what you have to get what you want.
  5. Refinement.
    Refinement is probably the most general form of bootstrapping, but is more in the vein of Kaizen. It is sometimes used synonymously with top-down design, but I feel that it has some distinctions in the stage of use in a project. For example, stepwise refinement is used in mathematics and physics to use existing data to develop a formula, then refined to be more accurate bit by bit, as new information is available. The distinction for refinement is arguably that it is used in a later stage, after the fact, to improve what you know to already be incorrect, whether that’s a formula or software or something else. SEO techniques often use “tweaking” of content, which is essentially stepwise refinement. You could also say that physical tools have gone through a long history of refinement, with existing tools used to create new tools, then refine older ones.

In the generic definition, bootstrapping is a non-linear activity. Small actions combined eventually produce a greater synergy and exponential growth or successes. These techniques can thus be used to build a new career, a new product or software application, slowly build a successful business, fix something that isn’t quite right and so on. When applied to bootstrapping your life, each unit of action you apply must not only be within your ability to do, but you must feel in control of each action, and each must carry you forwards. This is a necessity if you want to be a self-starter.

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Raj Dash writes about professional blogging, learning and productivity, and ghost writes for several other sites.

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Last Updated on November 18, 2020

15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

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15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

  1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
  2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
  3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
  4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
  5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
  6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
  7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
  8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
  9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
  10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
  11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
  12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
  13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
  14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
  15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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