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Learning Malay Day 365: How a Young Entrepreneur Balances His Work and His Passions

September 30, 2019

Hello everyone, Alan here. 

This week, I had a chance to talk with Max Clayton Clowes, a young software developer, and entrepreneur. Despite his hectic life being split between work and his own ventures, Max still manages to be the best of many worlds: a guitarist, a calisthenics practitioner, a sweet boyfriend... just to name a few. Let’s welcome Max!

Alan

Hi Max, very nice to talk to you. I was wondering what brought you to habit tracking in the first place?

Max

I have always enjoyed trying out new things and have a lot of passion. However, when I had a startup, things got intense and all I wanted was for the company to grow as quickly as possible. I didn’t really have much time for my interests. 

It’s only when I left the start-up to work as a front-end software developer that I realized the importance of incremental progress. If I just spend 5-10 minutes a day on an interest, it still keeps me interested and happy, and that small progress adds up over time. I see that it’s better to make little progress than none.

That’s how my past year has been. I came to a habit tracker like Habitify for the sake of tracking all those little chunks of progress. Whenever I open the app and I look back, I think “Wow, I have come so far!”

Alan

I’m glad that you’ve found a way that works for you. Could you share with the members your habits at the moment?

Max

I have a lot of health-related habits like exercise, which I try to do every day, or taking vitamins. You know, the frustrating thing was that I tried to go to the gym, but I kept failing at it. Sometimes it’s grabbing a movie, sometimes it’s a night out with friends that prevents me from sparing time for gymming. So instead, I do 20 minutes of push-ups, sit-ups, and squats every single day. Do you know the One Punch Man anime? Yeah, I am following that exact workout model. 

Also, I have habits related to my bizarre array of hobbies, like practicing the guitar, learning Malay and Indonesian, solving cryptic crosswords… 

I love music and I have been playing guitar since I was 14. But I have to admit that I enjoyed playing it all the time but, until recently, I was reliant on my natural musicality and lacked technical depth.

Alan

Tell me more about it?

Max

After listing ‘Guitar practice’ in Habitify, I began to take my playing more seriously.  I work on one technique at a time, like cross-picking, or I’ll focus on perfecting one song for a few weeks, before moving on to the next one.

Alan

Wow! That’s impressive. How about your health? Any improvement?

Max

Yes absolutely! I took up this “One Punch Man workout” only 8 weeks ago, and have already lost 5 kilos, doubled my push-ups reps and noticed an overall improvement in my physique. It was more painful psychologically at first, or at least for me because I could only do half of what I used to do back when I was at university and more active. Now the training has brought me back to that level, or even better. 

Let me tell you this Alan: for months before this program I had a daily habit called “Push-ups”, but I always skipped it. Eventually, I decided I should either delete the habit or take it seriously. That moment got me psychologically ready to take exercising seriously. Even though I had a goal of reaching my old fitness level and knocking out 100 reps, I was happy to just have done, say, 15 pushups in a day.

This is something Habitify is very good at. For me, putting things in Habitify makes it easier to let it go and accept failure. I previously used a to-do list called Wunderlist before Habitify in which I put both tasks and habits. But for me, a to-do list should only be a place of “I-must-do things”, and if a habit is there, it means it MUST be done every day. That stressed me out. If I missed a single day, the to-do list would become cluttered, but I didn’t want to delete the habit and I didn’t want to leave them undone, either. So moving to a habit tracker like Habitify is a big deal. If I fail, that’s okay - just make sure I move on and try again tomorrow. 

Alan

Lots of people use Habitify to declutter their main to-do app like you actually. I just remembered you said you’re learning Malay?

Max

Yes. I have been doing it almost every day for the past year. I use Duolingo and it has helped me a lot. Like I said before, I like the idea of spending a few minutes a day, and at the end of a week or a month, I look back and am so motivated because I’ve actually done a lot. My streak in Habitify is the most concrete proof that I’ve committed to learning the language. 

It’s only been a year, but compared to when I first started, my vocab has expanded hugely. It’s getting to the level where my girlfriend (she’s from Brunei, actually) says something I reliably get what she means, and can often respond. It means a whole lot to her and her mom as well. I’m technically learning Indonesian (rather than Malay), but it’s similar enough. My completion rate in Habitify is getting better and better, Alan!

Alan

That’s so sweet of you, Max. I bet you must have some linguistic talents!

Max

Oh no, it’s the opposite. When I was younger, language for me was a nightmare. In the UK we have to learn a foreign language, and I really struggled in French lessons. It was my worst subject, and I didn’t see the point of learning a language because I thought everybody speaks English - how arrogant of me!

It all changed when I traveled. I realized how important a language is to really experience the culture, the people, and the atmosphere that I’m in. This paradigm shift means a huge deal for me. Languages have gone from something that I’ve disliked as one of my weaknesses to something I love and value now. It gives me the feeling that if I can overcome my struggles learning a language, I can unlock whatever I want with enough effort! 

Alan

Do you have any productivity tips you would like to share with Habitify members?

Max

Yeah happy to. 

The first thing on my mind is that we should always try to understand what we want and commit to it. This applies to both the tools we use and the tasks we spend our time on!

I try to get other people to use Habitify (Alan: aww). They really like it at first but they often drop it after a few weeks. So what I learned is that if you’re going to use a platform, you have to go all-in for it. The people I recommended it to didn’t have a clear idea of what they wanted out of the app, so it’s obvious that they’ll quit. 

Years ago I tried using a to-do list, a notebook, and an app all at the same time, but it became too difficult to manage all these sources of truth. Now I step back and ask myself what I am going to achieve with this specific tool. If I can answer, I keep using it. You can only form a habit by tracking it consistently.

Another example: A few months ago I started using Dribbble. I set a task to use it every day, which I did for 2 months straight. I grew from 10 views/post to over 2000/post. It was exciting, and no doubt I could grow more! But then, I stopped it - I couldn’t answer what the purpose of the exercise was, while other things were waiting for me. 

Small thing: when we start, there’s always a notion of the ideal self versus the current self. We have a million things we want to achieve, but of course, rarely can we achieve them all. So start small, only add the things you believe will benefit you in the list, and stick to them!

Alan

Nice speech, Max! Thank you so much for your time!

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