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12 Lessons From Roald Dahl That Will Inspire You

12 Lessons From Roald Dahl That Will Inspire You

Roald Dahl was one of the greatest children’s authors of all time. He was also an incredibly productive and creative person, who wrote dozens of books during his lifetime. Creative people can learn a lot from what Dahl had to say about growing up and becoming more productive and imaginative.

1. Have fun

“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men” – Roald Dahl

nonsense

    Working hard is one thing, but it’s important to take a break and have fun. Intelligent, creative and productive people know that making time for an indulgence, a side-passion or even a little nonsense refuels our batteries and makes it easier to get back to work. Plus, if you’re not having fun then what’s the point?

    2. Draw on past experiences

    “A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom” – Roald Dahl

    A Person

      During World War II Dahl became a decorated fighter pilot and intelligence officer for the Royal Air Force. Although he could have clearly pursued and succeeded at other careers after the war, he had a passion for telling stories. His success as a writer shows that our past interests and careers can inform our work.

      3. It’s natural to worry where your ideas come from

      “A writer of fiction lives in fear. Each new day demands new ideas and he can never be sure whether he is going to come up with them or not” – Roald Dahl

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      a writer

        Dahl wrote dozens of short stories, books and screenplays during his life including the BFG, Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Even he worried about coming up with new ideas.

        If you’re involved in creative work, accept these fears as part of the process and then move past them. Just keep turning up and putting the work in.

        4. Routine is important

        “I began to realize how simple life could be if one had a regular routine to follow with fixed salary, and very little original thinking to do” – Roald Dahl

        I began

          Dahl’s observation about having “very little original thinking to do” refers to less creative careers. If you are creative people and stuck in a boring job, you can still thrive. Just save your original thinking for the blank page or for a creative side-project.

          5. Writing takes discipline

          “The writer has to force himself to work. He has to make his own hours and if he doesn’t go to his desk at all there is nobody there to scold him” – Roald Dahl

          The writer

            If you want to succeed as a writer, you will have to become comfortable working in your own company and keeping your own hours. Unlike other professions, nobody is going to demand that you turn up every day and put the work in.

            Although this brings a certain level of freedom, it also means that you have to become even more disciplined and responsible about your craft.

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            6. Keeping a journal is a useful practice

            “Though my father was Norwegian, he always wrote his diaries in perfect English” – Roald Dahl

            Though my father

              Dahl wrote two autobiographies: Boy: Tales of Childhood and Going Solo. Both books have echoes of a journal about them. If you want to become a writer, keeping a journal is a useful practice that can inform your work. You can use your journal to develop ideas for future writing projects, to document the progress of your work and to mark your accomplishments and setbacks.

              7. Creative work is hard work

              “Two hours of writing fiction leaves this writer completely drained. For those two hours he has been in a different place with totally different people” – Roald Dahl

              Completely drained

                Creative work is exciting. It can take you to another place and provide a refuge from the day-to-day world. It’s also difficult and demanding work that can leave you emotionally and physically drained at the end of the process. Tread carefully.

                8. Draw on sensual experience

                “Pear Drops were exciting because they had a dangerous taste. All of us were warned against eating them, and the result was that we ate them more than ever” – Roald Dahl

                Pear

                  If you want to become a writer, it’s important to observe and write about day-to-day experiences that others take for granted. You should record how things look, taste, touch, smell and sound, and then use these sense impressions to paint a colorful picture for your reader. This will bring your work to life.

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                  9. Write with your ideal audience in mind

                  “Had I not had children of my own, I would have never written books for children, nor would I have been capable of doing so.” – Roald Dahl

                  Had I not had children

                    Dahl is on record as saying that he wrote many of his books for his children and later for his grandchildren. He considered the people closest to him when he wrote and he created a world for them on the page. If you’re a writer, you should consider who your ideal reader is, what they want, what they like and what they dislike.

                    10. Have a place to work

                    “I go down to my little hut, where it’s tight and dark and warm, and within minutes I can go back to being six or seven or eight again” – Roald Dahl

                    I go

                      Dahl wrote in a hut at the back of his house for much of his life. Just as office workers go the same place every day, writers and creative professionals should also have a room to work in, where nothing else happens except their work. This makes it easier to create and reduces the chances of procrastination

                      11. Take advantage of the shrinking world

                      “Nowadays you can go anywhere in the world in a few hours, and nothing is fabulous any more.” – Roald Dahl

                      Nowdays

                        Dahl recognized that the world had become vastly smaller during his lifetime, and he lived much of his life in a time pre-internet and pre-mobile phones.

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                        Although this sense of fabulous may be lost, if you get into the habit of sharing your work, the idea of other people reading it doesn’t have to feel exotic. Today, you can create something, publish and share it with the world (on sites like Lifehack).

                        12. Be modest

                        “An autobiography is a book a person writes about his own life and it is usually full of all sorts of boring ideas” – Roald Dahl

                        an auto

                          Lots of famous writers enjoy getting into fights with other writers or talking about how important or grand their work is. Dahl wasn’t afraid to put his profession in perspective and, even though his two autobiographies are anything but boring, he could hardly be accused of being self-aggrandizing or self-promotional.

                          He shows that writers and creative professionals should be more concerned with seeking out truth than they should be about explaining the importance of their work.

                          What are your favorite Roald Dahl books? Has he taught you anything about productivity, creativity or writing? Please let me know in the comments section below.

                          Featured photo credit: Cory Doctorow via creativecommons.org

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                          Last Updated on March 21, 2019

                          11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

                          11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

                          Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

                          You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

                          But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

                          To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

                          It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

                          “What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

                          The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

                          In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

                          Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

                          1. Start Small

                          The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

                          Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

                          Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

                          Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

                          Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

                          Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

                          It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

                          Do less today to do more in a year.

                          2. Stay Small

                          There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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                          But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

                          If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

                          When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

                          I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

                          Why?

                          Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

                          The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

                          Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

                          3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

                          No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

                          There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

                          What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

                          Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

                          This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

                          This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

                          4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

                          When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

                          There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

                          Peter Drucker said,

                          “What you track is what you do.”

                          So track it to do it — it really helps.

                          But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

                          5. Measure Once, Do Twice

                          Peter Drucker also said,

                          “What you measure is what you improve.”

                          So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

                          For reading, it’s 20 pages.
                          For writing, it’s 500 words.
                          For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
                          For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

                          Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

                          6. All Days Make a Difference

                          Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

                          Will two? They won’t.

                          Will three? They won’t.

                          Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

                          What happened? Which one made you fit?

                          The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

                          No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

                          7. They Are Never Fully Automated

                          Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

                          But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

                          What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

                          It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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                          The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

                          It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

                          It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

                          8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

                          Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

                          Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

                          When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

                          The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

                          Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

                          9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

                          The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

                          Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

                          You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

                          But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

                          So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

                          If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

                          This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

                          The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

                          Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

                          10. Punish Yourself

                          Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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                          I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

                          It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

                          You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

                          No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

                          The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

                          But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

                          11. Reward Yourself

                          When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

                          Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

                          The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

                          After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

                          If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

                          Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

                          If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

                          In the End, It Matters

                          What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

                          When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

                          And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

                          “Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

                          Keep going.

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                          More Resources to Help You Build Habits

                          Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

                          Reference

                          [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
                          [2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
                          [3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
                          [4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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