Transcript of A Year of Transformation (#28)

Listen to this episode · 16 min

Please enjoy this transcript. What I've learned and what's changed over the past year, and new habits that seem to be here to stick with me for years to come. Transcripts may contain typos. You can find the episode notes here.

0:40Nono Martínez Alonso: We're more connected than ever before—at least, we're more virtually connected. But we're more disconnected than any other civilization before us. We've created shallow ways of communication (say, email or instant messages) which generate a false sense of connection. It's harder to connect in deep ways with our closest friends—a brief walk, talking on the phone, or a video conference may suffice. But, surprisingly, we spend a huge amount of time learning about random details from the trendiest influencers that we don't even know from our closest friends and probably should.

1:16 Well, that's my rant.

1:18 I've never managed to do a proper things-I-did-in-2019 post. Believe me, I've tried. This year I wanted it to be different. I started typing these words on the early morning of Thursday, September 5, 2019 (that was at 6:45 am to be precise) with intention to publish this as a long-form post, or maybe as a podcast episode as is happening right now at the end of 2019 or on early 2020. I started writing four months in advance of its publication, a piece that is all about the transformation I went through in 2019. What I've learn, things I started doing differently, and habits I've created that seem to be h ere to stick with me for years to come.

2:03 This has been my first year fully living in Spain after 2010.

2:08 In 2019, I've published 12 podcast episodes, 10 of which were long-form interviews with incredible guests. That amounts to more than 30 hours of recording and meeting with people and more than 100 hours of editing.

2:24 In July, I finally started my sketches newsletter. I've been publishing one sketch and one story every Thursday via email, many of which end up being Getting Simple posts as well.

2:35 This year, I've produced and starred in a short film for the first time, directed by Daniel Natoli of Peripheria Films ( as an experiment to convey a concept of Getting Simple that you can find, at least the trailer so far, at It's been a fascinating experience. And we'll hopefully get to do an episode with Dani in the next months.

3:00 Talking about books, I've read Atomic Habits by James Clear, Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, Grit by Angela Duckworth, When by Daniel Pink, 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam, and The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. And I'm currently in the midst of reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman and The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. I also started Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang to try reading a bit of fiction.

3:32 Some books on my to-read list include Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, Solitude by Michael Harris, How to Speak Machine by John Maeda, Awareness by Anthony de Mello, and Originals by Adam Grant.

3:47 What's an atomic habit? After reading Atomic Habits by James Clear, I actually tried to implement a series of test habits in my daily life. I wanted to reinforce meditation, sketching and writing, and I surely did establish my set of core habits, and I've created a series on the podcast titled Habits to share each of my habits (and the habits of others) more in depth. The first episode of the series that I published was my daily writing process, tools, and techniques, which is episode 26 of the podcast.

4:21 An atomic habit is a tiny thing you want to ensure you do every day. The importance is on showing up first, then on improving how you do that activity. Here's how James Clear puts it.

4:34 People often think it's weird to get hyped about reading one page or meditating for one minute or making one sales call. But the point is not to do one thing. The point is to master the habit of showing up. The truth is, a habit must be established before it can be improved. If you can't learn the basic skill of showing up, then you have little hope of mastering the finer details. Instead of trying to engineer a perfect habit from the start, do the easy thing on a more consistent basis. You have to standardize before you can optimize.

5:07 What I call my core habits entail writing at least two hundred words, meditating at least ten minutes, and at least sketching one thing. Everyday. Without exceptions. There are days in which I don't feel like writing, days in which I innovate on when or how I do a breathing or concentration meditation exercise, and days in which my sketches aren't the best. But the important part is creating a consistent and persistent habit first then focus on improving my skills. I started this habits around the end of April 2019. If I don't break the chain, I'll be up to 250 days at the turn of the year.

5:52 On maintaining habits.

5:54 If you're curious, I use a Google Sheets template that contains a habit tracker. For you to visualize this, imagine a list of habits you want to do every day, in the calendar with every single day of the year on it, you mark with a cross on each activity you've done on a given day, then that Excel sheet calculates how many days you've done in the current streak, how many days in a row you did without breaking the chain, and what's been your longest streak so far—that's the maximum amount of consecutive days you've done without stopping one. This is all built around the concept of not breaking the chain. When you've been doing something everyday for hundreds of days missing one day seem silly. This method enforces you to continue doing what you're doing.

6:41 One note I want to add is that it's important to choose well. I only have three core habits I want to do every day, but I have other habits that are optional and I want to do but don't mind if I don't do them on a daily basis. Those might be things like reading at least 10 minutes and running at least one kilometer.

7:00 My habits.

7:02 As I mentioned earlier, I've started a Habits episode series in which I'll share habits in depth. Today, I want to briefly describe how incorporating all of these habits has transformed the way I do things, but you can expect a longer episode on each of these topics in the near future.

7:18 Sketching.

7:19 As a good friend said, the word that can best describe my transformation as an artist or craftsman or sketcher in 2019 is prolific. I had been dabbling with live-sketching for 10 years but had never sat down and decided to be more persistent. After sketching at least one thing every single day for the past a month, which means that at least I've done 250 drawings, but it's been a lot more really. I've had a quantitative change and a qualitative change as well. I get more ideas for what to write and what to publish on my sketches newsletter, and I get to produce more, more bad stuff and more good stuff, and the high frequency is making me increase the ratio of good-to-bad sketches I do.

8:02 The effort and the perseverance pay off as I get more comfortable with the live-sketching medium. I practice sketching objects, spaces, people, buildings, and other things, and my hand and brain are better at capturing objects and their locations and proportions. I can now do hatches and shading and coloring with ease. Capturing faces and shapes and proportions comes more naturally to me than before. Paradoxically, making something feel natural took a lot of effort and practice. Hard work. And I love the challenge as the results give me satisfaction, and because I feel the stories I tell and the way I share them with others also makes me better connect with them—with you.

8:44 Writing.

8:46 In terms of writing, I've come to realize that it's super fast to write 200 words. What's hard is for those words to communicate something meaningful and work as part of a story worth listening. Still. the same way my hand gets accustomed to hatching and coloring and capturing shapes, my brain gets connected to words, typing and thinking this way, and articulating what I'm thinking starts getting slightly easier every day.

9:13 I've become a bit better at taking action for my drafts. Before I would start a draft, get in love with its idea, and then never come back to it. Many drafts end up not being published ever. Now we tend to finish those drafts more often. I've embedded the review and writing and review and writing process in my daily routine with what I'm calling my writing queue—the list of things that I'm writing or want to write, so next time I sit to write I can simply pick from that list and continue where I left off.

9:44 Meditating.

9:46 I'm no meditation expert. And even though I've been practicing for years, there are days in which I feel I know nothing. I tend to use a breathing technique I found in the book Beyond Mindfulness in Plan English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana which entails focusing on how the air passes through your nostrils as you breath and counting from one to five, specifically counting each number as you breath in and then as you breath out. To give you and example, I would breath in counting one, then breath out counting one, then breath in counting two, then breath out counting two, and so on.

10:33 I've also tried other breathing techniques. I like the Oak iOS app by Kevin Rose which was recommended to me by Adam Menges. As Kevin Rose commented online, he wanted an app for the self-experimenter. And it has both guided and unguided meditation with customizable durations, background sounds recorded in nature, and starting, interval, and ending bell sounds.

10:56 I often meditate with no music at all, even though some times meditation sounds or music might help you relax faster. I like to be aware of the thoughts that are worrying me at the same time that I try to empty my mind completely.

11:08 And I often find myself using this same breathing meditation technique while doing other activities like running or walking on the streets.

11:15 The habit series.

11:17 As I mentioned before, I recently started the Habits episode series with the first episode already released focused on my daily writing process, tools, and techniques, and you can expect other in-depth episodes, including my detailed routines for daily sketching and meditation, and probably one describing my ideal morning routine.

11:36 Being gritty.

11:37 From Angel Duckworth's book—Grit—I've reinforced the feeling that gritty people get more out of whatever it is they do in life. Effort and perseverance win the long-term game.

11:50 I liked learning how, if you're gritty at work or doing your hobbies, that's likely to translate to other aspects of your life, like your relationships or other things that might require you to stick through the hard parts, not quitting when things get complicated.

12:04 On digital minimalism.

12:06 One of my favorite reads this year has been Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. I managed to detach myself completely from social media for three months in a row to identify what parts of these services provide me with value and what parts were just making me waste my time. The constant checking and interacting can drain your energies to do other things and steal your leisure time, time you used to spend with your loved ones and doing things you inherently like—where are our hobbies nowadays?

12:41 I've been better at ignoring social media and email in past years, but the three-month sabbatical I took off social media this year—without Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn—gave me the power to reclaim my leisure time and my moments of solitude. And in some way that was paired with me starting back in these core habits because I had more time to myself and to do analog things as I like to call them.

13:06 Here's a quote from Digital Minimalism that I'm pondering:

13:10 [O]ur moment in workplace history looks rather different. The era that will mystify our grandkids is ours—a period when, caught up in the promise of asynchronicity, we frantically checked our in-boxes every few minutes, exhausted by the deluge of complex and ambiguous messages, while applauding ourselves for eliminating the need to speak face to face.

13:33 On rethinking your time strategy

13:36 Along the same lines, of reclaiming time to do what matters to you, 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam is a great actionable method for you to identify what you're doing in those weeks that you think—I don't have time to do all the things I'd like to do—to find the time, mainly by allocating time for them and avoiding things that are not important to you but you're spending time on. The subtitle of her book is You Have More Time Than You Think and 168 hours are the hours we all have every week. (24 multiplied by 7.)

14:12 And here's my call to action. In case you're interested, I've added links in the show notes to a few places you can go to check out what I've mentioned in this episode.

14:21 My favorite books, including those have read in 2019 are at

14:29 The books I'm planning to read next are at

14:36 My sketches and stories can be found at And you can join my weekly newsletter to get my sketches and story in your email every Tuesday.

14:47 You're already listening to this podcast. But you can find our previous episodes including the one about my writing habits at or by searching "Getting Simple" on Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

15:02 Lastly, I'd love for you to send me a note. And let me know what you liked the most about my publications in 2019 or, maybe, simply some suggestions of things that you think I'm doing right, things I'm not doing right and should change, or any other comments. For that, you can go to

15:24 And this is it. I hope you enjoyed this episode in which I shared the transformation I've gone through in 2019. I hope you have an amazing 2020. This year, I'll bring you more interviews and more episodes with insights from amazing guests, and also insights from myself experiments.

15:45 If you're enjoying the show, would you please consider subscribing to Apple podcasts and writing a short review. It takes less than 60 seconds and it makes it easier for other listeners to find about the show.

15:56 Thanks for listening. We'll see you next time.

February 6, 2020


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