Training wheel systems

I started blogging here because I felt I was reacting very badly to failure. I wanted to build my confidence brick by brick and thought I’d do so by disciplining myself to write a learning every day.

That was easier said than done, of course. I simply lacked the discipline to do it consistently. Here’s how the process really unfolded –

Phase 1 – The struggle. In the first few months, the biggest challenge was just remembering to write a learning. Some days, all I would manage would be a quote.

Phase 2 – Training wheels. A year or so later, I came upon an idea – why not post a quote every day at the minimum and add something else if I could? So, I started posting a quote every morning on weekdays and also sent the “Good Morning Quote” to  a few friends, family and subscribers. Then, on Sundays, I began posting a “book learning” – simply a learning from a book I was reading. These structures were my blogger training wheels.

Phase 3 – Ready to bike. 3 years in, I moved the quotes out of the blog as I knew I was finally disciplined enough to write a long form post every day. Over time, I consolidated all the additional ideas (quotes, book learnings) to the 200 words project. The 200 words project is no longer a training wheel. I am well into biking solo now.

Call it training wheels, systems, process, or structure – it doesn’t really matter. The principle is, as we think of new year resolutions, we’re best served if we take the time to structure habits and systems that will help us get there.

Designing training wheel systems

I love the idea of training wheels. They ease first-time bikers/cyclists into learning biking/cycling and the riders and save their parents a lot of stress.

We see training wheel systems in our life as well – in school, regular tests and assignments are the equivalent of training wheels before exams and, at work, check-ins and 1-to-1’s are the equivalent of training wheels before the big presentations. Folks who do generally do well in tests and assignments generally end up doing well in exams and the same goes for work.

We can proactively create training wheel systems for our life too. An example training wheel system I ran for almost 2 years was to keep my phone time 5 minutes ahead of local time. I had discovered a worrying trend a couple of years back – I seemed to be a minute or two late to meetings a tad too frequently. I don’t like to be kept waiting. So, I used to wait till the very last minute before wrapping up and heading to the meeting. This, in turn, was always stressful. I’d wrap up in a hurry and rush to get to the meeting on time. To stop it, I just decided to try a small brain hack and add 5 minutes to local time. It worked like a charm. A few days ago, I realized that the Google Authenticator app (for two-factor authentication) doesn’t function unless you’re on local time. So, with great trepidation, I decided to take my training wheels off and switch back to local time. This is one of the difficulties of training wheels – you do tend to find it hard to take them off.

The results? I’ve been on time to all my meetings in the past week – so they worked well. I’m enjoying biking without them now.

Another training wheel system is one I mentioned in yesterday’s post – the idea of reading news and email as a way of making sure I wake up when my alarm goes around 530am. Waking up early is important to me and I’ve struggled with the snooze button for nearly 2 years. Cue – a training wheel. I don’t want to be reading news and email first thing in the morning for the rest of my life. But, I’d like to get to a point when I just stop using the snooze button.

Here’s to more training wheel systems!