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Sleep is my new side business

One of my new year resolutions for this year was to bump up my side income to 75% of my day job income. Most of my side income comes from selling online courses. I created three new courses and at least a couple of dozen promotional content to get the word out. As most of the aspiring entrepreneurs, I woke up 1 hour before I usually get up and stayed up 1 or two hours at night to spend extra time on my side hustle.

It was a great plan. It was working. Except in the opposite direction!

I felt more and more tired. I felt behind most days. Almost every week something will go wrong and I had to fix it. I found myself most of the time hating life in general. The online school once I thoroughly enjoyed, has become another painful burden.

I didn’t know what to do. At the time I was commuting to work on the train. I usually listen to a podcast when I am on the train and “Tim Ferris’s podcast” was one of my favourites. One of the episodes had a lady called “Amanda Palmer”. I never heard about her before, most people who come on who I never heard of. This is why I love Tim’s podcast. I get introduced to so many cool people. Not only that, what I think “cool” get redefined by people in the show. Anyway, she mentioned about this book called “Why we sleep” in the interview. By this time I have heard at least two other people talk about this book however, Amanda had a really interesting way of describing this book.

I went home. I didn’t buy the book but instead, I downloaded a sleep tracking app called “sleep cycle”. I wanted to find out my current sleep quality before reading the book. 200 days went by since then, I never read the book but I gathered a bunch of interesting data on my sleep. Not only that I improved my sleep quality from 63% to 98%. Oh, the side income right? I stopped tracking that. My sleep is now my side income.

Sleep profile data from sleep cycle

I got into entrepreneurship, by the sheer disappointment of being poor all the time. I am an artist. I had thousands of followers online but I was broke. I watched a few videos of Gary Vaynerchuk and decided I need to become a millionaire. Like Gary says if you don’t hustle you don’t win. I started reading books about sales, business and finance. I started to get a sense of business and making money. I even put some of the tricks to work and they seemed to work at that time. If you read anything about making money, success, business, startups or wealth, you will come across words like “struggle”, “hustle”, “grinding” a lot. If you are a real “hustler” you need to stay up. You are only allowed to sleep for more than 5 hours. If you are not then you are not a real entrepreneur. You need to do a lot of sacrifices. If you are someone who is going down this path right now, believe me, sleep is the last thing you need to sacrifice.

You will wake up like a zombie (if you do wake up, that is), you will have less focus, you will make a hell lot of mistakes, you will be a very grumpy person. Simply, you will ride the storms of failure in no time and you won’t even know why. Honestly having a shit load of money is not going to make you happy. Not even remotely happy. I never had more than 40,000 dollars to my name but I don’t need to make millions to know it won’t make me any happier. Trust me – when it happens, you will know too.

Now I sleep more than 8 hours every night. I wake up very relaxed most days. My cognitive skills have improved. My memory has increased. I haven’t got sick. Most importantly I find myself making only a handful of decisions. A handful of very good decisions. I don’t seem to panic much or worry much about most things. I have very interesting dreams and most days I remember them very vividly too.

When I first started, getting a good sleep score was very difficult. I had to make up a proper sleep routine.

1) I stop talking to people after 6.30 pm
2) Now I try to have dinner between 7 and 7.30 pm
3) I try to have a lighter dinner.
3) I don’t work after dinner.
4) After dinner, I write, paint or read while listening very low key music.
5) I turn off most lamps after dinner and light one or two candles.
6) Before going to bed I do a 5 minutes love and kindness meditation.

What I also find, exercise has a very high impact on the quality of sleep. On an average day, I go for a 20 minutes walk in the morning and a 20 minutes walk at lunchtime. I do callisthenics exercises 3 times a week and try to do a long bike ride on the weekends. I stopped eating sweets after dinner, even though I am not exactly sure if it helps or not.

Steps data from sleep cycle

I am more switched on and energetic. I am liking this new side hustle. It doesn’t pay me money, it pays me in life!

My new car is a bicycle

I owned a car once. It was a Toyota Yaris. I bought it second hand for $5000. As soon as I sat in my car, I felt like I just owned a little space for my self. I didn’t care about the look of the car or how it makes “me” look. It was like my man cave on wheels. Not only that, but I would also have my favourite radio channel tuned and set. Every time I start the car good tunes start to play. Such a treat!

See, I always shared cars. The very first car I drove in Australia was called “Yamuna”. I bought that car with the help of another friend of mine. He paid half of it and I paid the rest. I was naive and thought that was a good idea. Never do that. If you can’t afford to pay for a car by yourself don’t buy one. After “Yamuna” I shared a few other cars until I bought the Yaris. I enjoyed it until I have to sell it. I got a job in the city and driving to the city every day is not something I was keen on so I got rid of the Yaris.

Since I had access to my wife’s car I didn’t felt the need for a car after Yaris. After she left, I start to realise, a life without a car can be pretty challenging. Especially after getting used to having one. I lived without a car for at least 5 years when I first came to Australia. Those days, I lived very close to a shopping centre and a railway station so I guess I never needed a car. Even when I needed one, I never wanted one. I was new to Australia and spending money is not on your activity list when you are a fresh immigrant.

13 years have gone past. Many things have changed. Among many other things, I decided to spend money on a bicycle. I still can’t afford a car. Well, I think I can, but I choose not to for a few reasons.

1) I can’t justify the expense.
2) It’s easy to share a car when I need one. I’ve used “Car next door” a couple of times and it’s a great service.
3) I don’t like driving very much.
4) I am a terrible driver.

So I bought a bicycle.

I actually bought this bike two years ago. Originally I got it so I can get to the gym. It’s 15 minutes bike ride to the gym and a perfect warm-up before lifting weight. So I thought it was a good idea to get this bike. I bought it second hand for about $150 from a handsome foreign guy. He said I could go for a test ride but he wanted to keep my wallet as some security. I had 4 debit cards on my wallet and various identity documents. Well, I thought that was more than enough security deposit for a used bike. Anyway, I was happy to see him on the same spot when I returned from my test ride. The bike was okay and it was a good price so I made the deal.

Since then, I used my bike a few times a week to go to the gym. Funny how things change. The gym is closed and now instead of lifting weight, I lift myself. Yes, literally I lift myself. It’s called Calisthenics. A type of work out where you use your own body weight to do exercise. My warm-up session is now a 15 minutes run.

All of these changes have put my bicycle to a brand new use. It is my “new” car. Unlike the Yaris, this is not a man cave on wheels. This has now become a vital part of my transport. I use it to do my weekly shopping, weekly washing and the weekly leisure trip. I also decided to upgrade it with a $20 dollar pannier rack and a $5 dollar second-hand bag to fit my weekly shopping and laundry.

I love my new car. I am tempted to do a burn out at the traffic lights and wink at the hot girl next to me. I might save that heroic act for another time when the lockdown fully lifts.

Gym bike
Gym bike with “car” upgrade

I lost my Instagram account

Finally, this is what I was waiting for. Years of hard work and original content has been approved by the Zuckerberg family. I am part of royal.

Eagerly I put my email and phone number to get the honorary badge. Not even a second go pass I get a few followed up emails from Instagram.

What?

I tried logging in and I got this.

“Username is invalid”

It took me another few seconds to digest what has just happened. My Instagram got hacked. Is that what just happened? I couldn’t believe it. Can I be this stupid? I work fulltime as a digital marketing executive and talk to clients about Facebook and Instagram ads all-day. I can’t even recognise a simple phishing email? You got to be kidding me.

It turns out I can be stupid when I don’t pay attention. After a few hours, I reflected on this incident.

1) I was in between dealing with a few stressful work emails.

2) I was also stressed about finding a new place to rent. My lease is running out in a about three and a half weeks so I was constantly checking my emails to see updates from property managers.

3) My wife moved out and took most of the furniture and kitchen equipment with her. I was stressed about how to replace the essentials without spending too much money.

4) At this point, I don’t have access to a car any more. I was trying to figure out how to do all the running around involved with moving and buying stuff. Yes, it’s her car so she took that as well.

So I guess my mind was on too many places and when I saw the ‘blue batch’ reference I thought this is the silver lining.

However, what was also surprising is my attitude towards losing the Instagram audience. It took me years to build up to 50 thousand followers. It’s not huge but it’s not tiny either. I was more, angry at myself for losing my edge. I wasn’t even bothered about the audience I’ve apparently gathered.

Two days have gone pass when I am writing this. Today I decided to send a support enquiry to Facebook see if there’s anything they can do. At this stage, I don’t think it’s going to make much difference whether I get my account back or not.

However, I am determined to make a difference in how I approach stressful situations. This period of my life is one of the most mentally challenging situations, in recent years. As a big advocate of Zen and stoicism, I should do better.

As stoics say;

“Let go.” Worry about events in the external world is unnecessary. “What will be, will be” (not fatalism but determinism). “Don’t carry the boat, let the boat carry you.”

Social Detox

It’s being almost 2 years that I have distanced from social media. I thought today I might talk about how I feel about it.

In a nutshell, life without social media feels surprisingly liberating.

My day used to start with checking my Facebook messages, followed by Instagram, YouTube comments and finally email. Each morning I had about 50 enquiries. I used to sip my cup of tea and rush through these so I can get on with my day. As soon as I finish with them I feel relieved. Then immediately I feel empty. 

If someone said something negative about my work or if I found out something is broken I get mortified. Instead of focusing on fixing the problem or learn from negative criticism, my head starts to get filled with thoughts like…

1) Why it’s happening to me.

2) I should have done it differently.

3) Who’s that idiot to talk shit about my work.

4) I can’t be this unfortunate.

At least a half-day would go like this. Then the rest of the day I would try and get some work done. In between that work I would constantly check news feeds. I would eventually come across someone, who is living the life I want to live. 

Then ‘The great episode of zero self-worthiness’ starts again. It took me a while to notice. Instead of doing work that matters, I was paying attention to other people who don’t matter. 

With great difficulty, I deleted most of the social media apps and stop checking them during the day. This is how I did it.

Turn off notifications

Sounds like a no brainer but this is the starting point. Most people don’t know they can turn off notifications. I was one of them. Now I don’t get any notifications for any app. 

Make it silent

My phone never makes a sound. Yes, I don’t even have a ringtone. It’s always on silent mode. Do I miss calls? Yes, all the time. Did I ever miss an urgent call? Not once, in the last 5 years. It gave me long periods of undivided attention. If you ever need to do get important things done you need attention. 

Deleting apps won’t help

I have deleted the Facebook app many times. I couldn’t even last a week. I reinstalled them and went back on to see the “latest” (Which is not much different from last week anyway). What you need do is, replace your social media habits with new healthier habits. Now I read books. Kindle is one of my most-used apps. Last two years I read 33 books. Each book taught me a new skill. Reading non-fictional books is less fun to do but it always more rewarding. Trust me.

Adopt your ignored hobbies

I think one of the reason social media has power on us because we don’t have anything in our lives that fulfil us. No, I don’t mean your partner, kids, career, house or your car. I mean that “thing” you stopped doing because it won’t help you make money. Yep, that thing. It won’t make money, your dad might be right there but it will soothe your soul, protect you from all evil and let you sleep peacefully at night. It might even make you busy. So busy that you forget to check Facebook. 

I started making music, writing, reading and cooking. I am still a very bad musician, a boring writer and a hopeless cook. However, each moment I spend doing these I feel a little excited, uplifted and worthy.

It’s good enough for me.

Welcome

With the shutdown of Gappiya’s YouTube channel, I feel like there are a lot of questions gone unanswered for people who genuinely liked what Gappiya represented. This post is an attempt to answer some of those questions. Mainly my questions.

I am sure most of you are going through an enormous phycological transformation as a result of this COVID 19 pandemic. Like you, I had more than enough time to reflect on my life, what I believe in and my priorities.

After weeks of deep thinking, I decided to kill Gappiya YouTube channel GappiyaThinking YouTube channel and Gappiya School.

why?

1) I got bored

The content I once thoroughly enjoyed making, no longer a joy to me.

When I first started making Gappiya content, I was living in a small country town in NSW. This is the first time I was living away from City. I didn’t know anyone. The town was mainly filled with white people. They would stare at me when I go to the shop. Not surprisingly Gappiya’s first content expressed my viewpoint on the contrast between Australian and Sri Lankan culture.

Then people started to slowly discover Gappiya as a new online personality. Soon, it became an everyday discussion for Sri Lankan youth. I witnessed it when I went for my first holiday after living in Australia for 10 years. Most people recognised me. It was amazing.

The focus of the content shifted from cultural conflict to exploration of Sri Lankan culture. Most of the content well-received expect for ideas around religion and nationalism. I was particularly interested in this negative criticism. It started to give me an insight into where I was raised, where I am living right now and my transformation because of immigrating to Australia.

The audience size started to get even bigger and a lot of commercial opportunities start to emerge as a result of this. However, nothing significant didn’t happen until the establishment of Gappiya School. Birth of this online education platform turned in to my new obsession and slowly I started to forget the genuine storyteller within me. Every content piece was carefully crafted to get audience attention and get them on to a ‘sales’ funnel.

The joy vanished. My inner artist child was weeping and I was too busy figuring out how to make money.

2) Too many hands

Before this pandemic, I was creating content for 3 YouTube channels and offering 4 different courses on Gappiya School. I thought I was creating multiple streams of income. In reality, I was creating multiple ways to exhaust my self.

A book called essentialism by Greg Mckeown helped me understand what I was doing it for my self. I strongly recommend it.

3) Paradox of success

When my work starting to get recognised by people, it felt good. I thought I finally made it. I didn’t want to lose it so I started making more content that would appeal to more and more people. I was getting addicted but I didn’t know it. After a while, I had a formula that works – at least that’s what I thought. In reality, I had a perfect formula to trap myself within a self that I thought that’s me. In other words, I discovered a perfect way to murder my true self.

The same success put me on the map, took me out of the map and drowned me.

I wanted out, so I killed the Gappiya channel and a few other things that are associated with it. It also gave birth to this blog. I try to write most days after dinner.

I use Grammarly and a Spotify playlist called ‘sleep’ when I write.

I find it soothing. Most importantly it’s the only conversation I can have with myself without an argument.