Ways to get smarter

In this post, we’ll have a quick discussion on a few ways to get smarter.

Being smart is one of the most important advantages one can have in life. The more of this half gift, half-hard work required trait, the more problems you can solve. Not only that but you can do so better. Finding the most optimal solutions for the challenges of life might be a requirement if you want to achieve your goals in life. Well, that and a bit of luck of course. Anyway, the problem with intelligence is that most think they know what it is and even claim to understand it, but the closer scientists look at it the more perplexed they get. At the time of this writing there are lots of hypotheses on what intelligence really is, but no unanimous agreement on the definition.

Luckily for us unlike many things in life, the fact that we don’t understand intelligence fully, or what it means to be smart doesn’t prevent us from improving it in ourselves

Ways to get smarter

If you are like many chances are that you believe that you’re either smart/intelligent or not. You might think it’s all genetic and if you don’t feel smart or perform well on cognitively demanding tasks that means you will never be able to do so. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Read the tips below and see how.

It all begins in the brain

Any strategy you employ to improve your cognitive abilities will invariably be about causing a physical change in your brain. The assumption is that the physical change causes noticeably positive effects one of them being the ability to think, solving problems better, and even mood.

Assume also that at different times you’re likely to have a more or less optimal brain and when you’re in a suboptimal state your job is to bring yourself to optimality instead of assuming you just don’t have the gift of a good brain.

Food and nutrition

The first tip is the most basic and yet one of the most important. You should make sure you’re in good health and well-nourished. This might sound obvious to you, but in an age in which burning yourself out for the sake of your goals and dreams is a badge of honor, it’s easy to assume that worrying about your health and nutrition is for lazy or weak people who are not determined. We call them weak-willed.

Realize that undernourishment and poor health affect the body negatively as a whole, and the brain is a part of the body. Believe that if you do negative things to your body it will sooner or later affect your brain.

You will likely feel less intelligent at the moment and will likely incorrectly assume you’re not smart/intelligent in general. You’ve just made the classic mistake of taking a local phenomenon and label it as global. Getting your health in order will make the next few tips more effective since you now have nothing pulling you down.

Study after school

The next tip is to get into the habit of studying. What I mean by studying after school is to keep on trying to learn new things even after you stop going to school. It has been shown by research that the more intellectually active you are throughout your life the lesser the chances of you getting many of the common cognitive diseases that usually come with old age. Like a muscle the brain works under the “use it or lose it policy”. The more you learn the more the brain has to adapt to an environment in which constant learning is the norm, and it gets better/smarter on the process.

There is also the fact that the more you know about things the better you can learn and think about new things. You can think better because you have more raw material to think about.

Don’t believe it? Just make the commitment to read 1 book a week for a year and see how much smarter you’ll feel after. Another benefit of studying constantly is that you’ll eventually see people who seem smart and with a wealth of knowledge for what they are. It will be more difficult for you to fall for people who pretend to know something when they really don’t. The reason for this is that when you fake knowledge you’re likely to make mistakes along the way when you explain yourself. You’re likely to make statements that happen to be inconsistent with reality. While most people find this new charlatan a genius, you’ll be on the background counting the many ways the person on the stage is wrong.

Consider taking nootropics

The next tip might be a bit controversion but still a powerful tool nonetheless. Nootropics are supplements or drugs whose purpose is to improve cognition. There are many kinds out there that affect everything from memory and speed of processing to mood and motivation. The assumption is that it’s not enough for the drug to have a positive effect on the mind. It must also make the brain somewhat better in general. This is why drugs like weed or alcohol are not considered nootropics. They might make you feel more creative and socially better, but they have reported negative effects on the brain and the body.

The problem is that for some of them there is little research, while others are just illegal in some countries. The good thing is that there is a gigantic community of nootropic users out there who can give all kinds of advice from what to take when, what to stack with what to have the desired effect. What is safe to take in the long term and the dosages. So when you know what kind of effect you want these are the steps to take:

  1. Google “nootropics for [the desired effect]”
  2. Look for info safety and side effects
  3. Look for info on time of the day
  4. Look for info on legality in your country
  5. Look for info on cycling

Like most compounds we take, the human brain tends to adapt to compensate for reducing the effects as a result. Just think of what happens when you drink caffeine for a while. Eventually, the current dosage doesn’t produce the same effects does it? The reason for this is tolerance. So in order to benefit from caffeine, it’s recommended to cycle on and off of it. Meaning that instead of drinking coffee every day, try drinking 3 days on and 1 off for example. The same idea applies to nootropics in general, although some do more than just changing your neurochemistry. They might make physical changes in the brain that last after it wears off, one example is Uridine monophosphate.

Play the right games

PLaying games need not always be a waste of time. There are some games out there designed and proven to improve cognition. One of them is called dualNback and it exists as an app for both iPhone android devices. This app has been proven to improve working memory and for this reason, it’s the first one I recommend you to try. There are lots of apps/games that claim to make you the next Einstein. Lots of them want nothing more than either your money if you have to pay for them or your advertising dollars if they’re free.

So before you start spending days or weeks playing a game that supposedly improves your cognition, take some time to look for research backing their claims. Look for reviews. There are youtube channels out there that do 30-day tests on these apps where the host takes a cognitive test before and after to see if it really had a positive impact.

Spend time around smart people

The next tip is to spend time around smart people. We tend to gravitate around people who are just as less smart than we are. Whether we do it to stroke our ego or to protect it the effect is the same: we gain a false sense of confidence in our own intelligence. It’s easier to believe we’re the smartest on the planet when our peers are unable to challenge us intellectually.

When you spend time around smart people, especially if they are smarter than you are two things happen:

  1. You feel uncomfortable because you just found out how much you don’t know.
  2. You’re forced to know what you know you don’t know by peer pressure.

The point is to not let the discomfort prevent you from spending time around smart people and learning. You have to realize that the most important thing is to learn what you have to learn once, not multiple times because you weren’t paying attention or where in denial.

Summary

At the end of the day being smarter is more a function of mindset. If you believe you’re not and you are cursed to never improving it that what will happen. The solution is to always have a growth mindset regardless of what people say.

It’s all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How to start writing

In this post, you’ll get a few tips on how to start writing.

Writing can be one of the most challenging and at the same time rewarding tasks in life. When you’re in flow words pour out and almost by magic, you manage to convey the ideas you have in your brain with the utmost accuracy to the brains of the readers. This is assuming of course that your ideas are in order and you know what you want to write about, which is by itself another impossible part of this already impossible task.

When you’re not in flow, on the other hand, the difficulty can be excruciating, so much so that even the greatest writers fear the mystical 7 headed monster that goes by the name of “writer’s block”. Most people spend most of the time in the second state, and this time producing nothing you can be proud of increases/decreases in proportion to the skill level of the writer.

At the end of the day, this struggle can be deadly to the writing process, and people who could produce something of value quit, incorrectly assuming they can’t write. 

How to start writing

Depending on your predisposition, writing can be more or less difficult, but definitely not impossible. If you want to know how to start writing interesting things below are a few tips.

Know what you’re writing about

The first and most important thing is to know exactly what you’re writing about if you can. The reason why I say “if you can” is that sometimes the subject of the writing is not clear/known. In this case, the first step is to try to figure out the subject.

When you know what you want but not how to go about it

If you know what you want to write about and don’t know how to go about it, the easiest way to do it is to identify the kind of writing and look for a skeleton version of what you’re trying to emulate. If no apparent skeleton exists you’ll certainly find one by reading a few pieces of work on the genre. Eventually, something resembling a skeleton will surface even if you can’t quite put it to words what that skeleton might be. The most important thing is that you have something resembling a guideline on how to write what you want to write about.

When you don’t know the subject yet

If you’re struggling to find the topic here is one tip, and more can be found later on “Tips to get new ideas”. Do what goes by the name of free writing. The idea is to write for a set period of time whatever comes to mind without worrying about the logical structure or topic. Just write whatever comes to mind.

Once you’re done you’ll likely find one or more overarching and maybe repetitive topics and you may or may not use one of them for the more serious writing. You can repeat the process until you find a topic you’re interested in exploring.

Writing with clarity

The next important thing in the writing process is to do so with clarity. You might know what you want to write about and even be able to write as much as you want but that doesn’t mean that what you produce will be enjoyed by the readers. So, to make a piece of writing interesting to read it’s important to learn to write so that your readers can enjoy and understand what you wrote. The important thing to keep in mind is that just because you understand what you wrote doesn’t mean the readers will and if they have trouble understanding the reading they will likely abandon it. This is especially true today, where anything long and difficult is ignored for anything short and easy to read and understand.

One way to improve clarity is to remove as much content as you can while retaining the original meaning. This is similar to the idea of minimalism, where you try to remove as much clutter and unnecessary items from your life, and limit yourself to only the set of items you really need and love. The difference is that instead of things you strip the writing out of any unnecessary extra words and from what’s left you try to replace any word that might require the reader to use a dictionary.

What’s left is something most people can read and understand with ease. If your ideas carry some inherent value, now the fact that they can get them easily increases the chance that the writing becomes more widespread.

So as a general rule, writing can be more powerfully done if you have something of value to say. You can be the most well-versed person on the planet, and produce enough writing to fill entire libraries, but what will finally make your writing memorable is the extent to which the ideas in it touch people’s lives. In essence,  empty writing can be forgotten after a few youtube videos, no matter how beautiful. Ideas, on the other hand, are remembered for a lifetime.

Tips to get new ideas

To write we need ideas to work with, but how do you get them? Below are a few ideas.

  1. Read more

One of my main sources of ideas is books. I realized over time that the more you read/educate yourself, the more you can talk about. You essentially have more intellectual resources from which you can draw new conclusions and discover undiscovered truths.

By reading more you also get to judge your content better. Instead of being plagued by the tendency to think that your creation is great because you created it, you get to judge it with the many truths you have in your head as a tool.

2. Write more

The next tip is simple. Write more. Write often. Write about anything and let your mind go where it wants to go. Another thing I realized over time was that the more frequently I wrote the easier it became to write more. You never know beforehand what kinds of ideas you’ll have but there seems to be something about writing frequently that makes the brain more primed to keep writing frequently.

Eventually with reading and writing more original ideas begin to come to you randomly, and it’s from these random ideas that new pieces of writing emerge. Before you were struggling to put words together to make a sentence, and now a full piece comes to mind, and all you have to do is to write it down. In these moments writing becomes less of a creative process and more of a copy and pasting endeavor, where you copy your thoughts and paste them on paper with the aid of a pen or a keyboard.

How to overcome writer’s block

Writer’s block is one of the scariest walls a writer can go through. You want to create but nothing comes to mind. If something does at all its sentence after sentence of nothing that looks like something. It’s sentence after sentence of nothing you can be proud of.

There are lots of ways to overcome writer’s block here are a few.

  1. Take some time away

The #1 way to overcoming writer’s block is to take a break. Sometimes

taking a break is all you need to get over the block. Often the ideas you’ve been looking for over the past hour or two come to you effortlessly when you take a break. So give it a try.

2. Keep going 

The next thing that might to the trick is to keep going. I got this tip from the book “The rise of superman” by Steven Kotler. According to the author just before we get into the flow state we go through a phase of struggle. A phase of discomfort that seems to be endless. Although tapping on that flow state might require you to take a break, it might be useful to keep pushing. I’ve certainly had that kind of experience before.

3. Eat something

The third and last tip is to eat something. Sometimes writer’s block is a result of brain fog caused by low blood sugar. I found in the past that it can be easy to be depleted of energy and not being aware of it, especially if you’re the kind of person who is able to use willpower to push through things. Eating something might be just what you need to get into that creative space that allows you to do the kind of writing you want to do.

Summary

Writing like any other skill requires practice. You can read all you want about writing and writing better but the results will only come if you put the tips in practice. The more you write the easier and more enjoyable it will be to write. The easier it will be to come up with sporadic ideas that fuel the kind of writing the world remembers forever.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How to keep momentum in life

In this post, we’ll have a quick discussion on how to keep momentum in life.

We are pleasure-driven animals, som much so that if there were one addiction we could safely attribute to every one of us, that would be the addiction to pleasure. But life as sarcastic as it is, made it so that the greatest pleasures came not from the reckless indulgence of current pleasures but from restraint. We all know we gain more by delaying gratification. From having the perfect body to a healthy bank account restraint from current pleasures seems to be the one universal tactic that promises to get us what we want.

So we begin our journey. We refrain from current pleasures and start new and positive habits. For the first few weeks or even months, we feed on the energy of novelty. We’re motivated and feel as if we could go on forever until we don’t.

How to keep momentum in life

Often by the time we start losing steam we still a long way to go to achieve our goals. We know we have to keep going but the motivation we once had is no more, and quitting on our new routine is far more appealing than the goal we can only see in our minds and even then only on the horizon. We ask: “how do I keep this momentum?”. Below are a few suggestions.

Realize you’re at the low part of the wave

The thing about motivation and addiction is that it comes in waves. When in the highs we think the highs will last forever and the same happens for the lows. We think motivation is a constant when it looks more like what mathematicians would call a sine function with frequent and predictable ups and downs.

One of the reasons why it’s much harder to keep going when we’re at the low end of the curve of motivation is that we think we’ll always be at the low end of the curve. When you realize that eventually, you’ll get back to the high point it suddenly becomes easier to keep going. It becomes easier to keep the momentum going.

Look at how far you’ve come

Another way to keep momentum in life is to pay attention to how far you’ve come since you first started. Often we get too caught up on what we don’t have yet that we falsely conclude we have done nothing.

We feel almost as if we’re still in the starting line when we’re not.

This is why martial arts training can be so compelling. The levels are clearly defined and the sense of progress is concrete. The fuzzy sense of progress can do one of two things:

  1. Make us think we’ve made more progress than we actually did.
  2. Make us think we’ve made less progress than we actually did.

Looking at how far you’ve come can give you a better sense of perspective and maybe even refreshed motivation.

Watch out for the evils of progress

Progress is portrayed as this amazing thing with no negatives but the truth is a bit different. Some of us are more motivated by the struggle of big seemingly unattainable goals than they are for achieving the goals themselves. For this kind of person the closer they are to the goal the more demotivated they get and thus find it harder to keep the momentum going.

This tends to happen with the kind of people who love to take on difficult problems everybody considers to be unsolvable, and once it becomes obvious the problem can be solved they tend to not care about the details.

If you identify with the kind, there is one way to go around this self-sabotaging tendency and that is to increase the difficulty of the problem even if that’s not required. In essence, you trick your mind into thinking that the finish line is further than it actually is. That way you not only achieve your original goal but set yourself up for bigger and better conquests. Whether you actually accomplish this second goal or not is irrelevant. All you care about is the fact that you’ve accomplished your initial goal.

Focus on how much work you have left

There is also the second kind of person who gets more and more motivated the closer they get to the finish line. For them, the beginning is not as motivating and they are more likely to quit in the early stages.

If you identify with the type knowing how you operate alone can be a powerful tool. It’s much easier to push through the early moments in the journey when you know that eventually the desire to keep working will kick in and things will get easier.

One good thing is that each day is a day closer to the state of flow everybody seems to be after these days. Discipline then becomes the one thing you need to reach your goals. Only now you have a rough idea of how long you’ll have to keep that discipline for. For you, the promise land is not when you reach the goal, but someway midway on your journey, since at that point you’ll likely feel all the symptoms associated to people who love what they do with passion, namely: waking up early for work not being so much of a struggle anymore, working long hours being not only easy but addictive, and an overall improved sense of confidence and mood.

Learn to enjoy the process

The next tip is to learn to enjoy the process. I know you might have heard this before but my suggestion is slightly different. When we hear about the idea of enjoying the process we often hear it in the context of loving what you do. It’s always focused on one thing. My suggestion is to learn to enjoy the process regardless of the task. I learned this from the book Obsessed or average by Grant Cardone, where the author brings to light a new way to think about passion. Instead of waiting for the think you’re naturally passionate about, we should try to make a passion out of any action we need to achieve our goals. His example was mastering sales, which was not only not his passion but something he actively disliked.

Eventually, he realized that sales were the key to success for him so he made the commitment to be great at the very thing he hated. The take away here is that the greatest power is not just on finding your passion but to be able to be passionate about anything. When you can create passion you can as a result create and keep the momentum you need. This is how you see people who manage somehow to be and remain successful for years. They are not slaves to their likes. They have the ability to create and maintain interest in whatever they choose to be interested in.

Summary

Momentum is a bolder we have to keep on pushing up. Like with Sisyphus we don’t get a resume button if we let it roll down the hill. The good thing is that the higher we go the easier it becomes to go even higher. The journey gets easier with time.

So the most important thing is really to do as much as you can to keep the ball rolling.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How to get a better sense of direction

In this post, we’ll have a quick discussion on how to get a better sense of direction.

As humans, we are goal-driven animals. From the moment we wake up to the moment we get to bed we’re always in constant pursuit of some goal whether we are aware of it or not. This goal, whatever it may be is what gives us direction. A sense of where to go next. The problem is that although we’re always chasing some goal, sometimes the act of pursuit alone doesn’t give us the confidence that we’re actually going somewhere meaningful. We chase and chase, and just like in a treadmill, we go nowhere. We see the miles piling up on our mental meter but the growing numbers are just that. Numbers.

How to get a better sense of direction

This post will take you on a ride on how to get a better sense of direction. Most of what we will talk about is likely familiar to you, in which case it will serve as either some form of confirmation or mental refresh. You should also keep in mind what Jim Rohn said once: “there are no new truths”, since it’s easy to conclude that the read was fruitless because you already knew all that was taught. It might be the case that you already know all you need. It might be the case that you have all the tools to bring the change you need. Below are a few ideas.

Understand yourself

The first and most important thing is to know and understand yourself. Often enough we follow paths other people set for us without realizing that’s what we’re doing. We think our beliefs and desires are original and as a result, find it difficult to understand why we feel so lost.

Understanding yourself requires doing the same thing Rene Descartes did when he wanted to know what kinds of knowledge he could know without a shadow of a doubt: question every assumption. Try to trace all desires/interests you might have down to its roots, and if you can’t find any reason for why you like what you like other than “just because”, it might be a sign that you found something unique to you.

There are also cases in which we adopt what other people bring to our lives and we would be doing ourselves a disservice to remove them just because the ideas are not original to us. So the question then becomes “when should I reject that which doesn’t come from other people and when should I not”. The simplest answer is to accept only that which would make you miserable if you rejected it.

What is your big picture goal?

We all have some sort of end game goal in mind. That thing we want our life to be about, such that if we accomplish/get it life would be essentially over for us even if we managed to live another 50 years after that. I’m talking about your big picture goal.

The big picture is your north star. That which has the power to guide you in the right direction when you feel confused or lost. It’s common for most of us to lose that sense of direction by adopting/taking in more and more goals that we don’t really care about that much. Eventually, we burn out and feel confused. The big picture is a potent filter for a messy todo list. Each time you’re not sure if something matters, the answer lies on the question of whether that something has the power to bring you closer to the big picture.

I found this simple question to bee one of the most powerful I ask myself each day. Often enough we let other people’s agendas creep in, and before we notice it we find ourselves trying very hard to accomplish a goal that’s not even ours. We do it because we’re for whatever reason convinced the goal is ours because the voices within tell us so. The big picture question asks more than what is the highest goal on our list, but on some level also what that goal is for us. We don’t ask what is our parent’s or peers’ big picture goal, but ours. “What is my big picture goal?”

This question requires us to remove anything minor/irrelevant including that which is not a part of our personal agenda.

Develop a plan

Another reason why we tend to lose our sense of direction is that we don’t have a concrete plan to lead us to the big picture goal. We might have a grip on the big picture, but without a concrete plan, we can be just as lost as we would if we didn’t have a big picture goal in mind. The reason for this is that without a concrete plan we are also likely to get lost trying lots of different things without the confidence at any given action has any remote impact on our grand vision. We can get so lost in aimless action that we lose the sense of what we’re doing it for.

A concrete plan also allows you to get to your destination much more easily. Not only because you know what to do on each step, but because if the plan doesn’t work you can be more methodical about the changes that will allow you to succeed. This methodical approach to things can give you a greater sense of confidence on your ability to design a strategy to achieve your goals. When you fail you know there are many pieces on the plan that could be the ones to blame, and since you have a structured approach you can like a scientist test piece by piece until you find the culprit.

There is another thing that comes with a more structured approach to goal pursuit and that is that when you try and fail 100 times the failures don’t feel so much like failures because now you’re not trying to not fail, you’re trying to find the right combinations of steps that lead you to success. If you fail it doesn’t mean you’re a failure and will never succeed, but that the current combination of steps didn’t work. The difference is so subtle that one might think that both ways of reframing the situation are the same. They’re not.

Try to learn from those who had the same journey you do now and succeeded

Another thing you can do to get a better sense of direction is to look for information from people who accomplished what you’re trying to accomplish. In software development, there is the concept of “Not reinventing the wheel”, which means that we should do our best to use the tools that already exist instead of trying to build/figure out everything from scratch and/or by ourselves. So look for people, books, podcasts that revolve around your Journey and try to soak in as many tips as you can.

The second important point here is to learn from those who succeeded not those who failed. The reason for this is that those who have failed and quit are more likely to discourage you from continuing your journey even though many more have succeeded at it. They are more likely to be bitter and blame “the system”, whichever it may be for their failure, effectively disempowering both themselves and you in the process. This is not to say that those who have succeeded didn’t fail. They likely did and chances are that they succeeded by finding out what they had been doing wrong and fixed it. In psychology, this is called locus of control. The first being external and the last internal. If you don’t know about the topic here’s a post on internal and external locus of control.

Summary

Getting a better sense of direction is not just a way to succeed in life. It is also a way to quiet the inner voices that grow louder and louder as our life becomes more and more chaotic. Directionequals peace and clarity. The more certain you are of where you’re going and how you’re going about it the more you float through life. Suddenly the big picture is neither scary nor a burden, but something you find oddly simple and maybe even easy. The main take away of this post lies not on the individual tips, but their application. Which takes patience and discipline to follow over and over with time. It might sound easy to probe your own big picture goal from time to time but you soon learn to realize how quickly one might find boring to ask the same question over and over again, or how quickly one can just assume the practice is not that useful. So in addition to the procrastination of doing your homework, also comes the constant battle to convince yourself that the homework is good for you.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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Lessons from defeat

In this post, we’ll have a quick talk on why learning from defeat is important and how to make sure you learn the right lessons.

Defeat is one of these universal human experiences. It doesn’t care about your background or social influence. It just is the way it is. Even the blessing factor has little to no effect on the fact that you will sooner or later get defeated/loose at something in your life. In fact, the longer you live, not only the greater the odds that this will happen, but that it will happen again, and again. This is not meant to be negative. It’s just a fact of life.

Learning from defeat

It follows that since defeat is an unavoidable part of life, we’ll do better by learning from it, and even more important to learn the right lessons. Doing so will set us on a path of fewer and fewer defeats, and as a result more and more victories, all because some of our losses come not from new mistakes, but from old lessons we didn’t learn from.

The problem of learning the wrong lessons

Learning the wrong lessons is one of these big and yet underreported problems. We are used to moving on once we get that feeling of insight we’re all familiar with. We don’t take the time to ponder on whether our insight really was an insight or some misunderstanding of what mother life was trying to teach us.

The result of fake insights is a life of confusion, where we keep on making the same mistakes over and over again while stopping ourselves from relearning because we strongly believe we’ve learned the lesson successfully at the first try.

When to start reflecting

The feeling of defeat is by far one of the most unpleasant human experiences. The experience is sometimes so bad that we avoid doing anything that would lead us to it, like taking chances that might also lead us to success. We are often so afraid of failure that we prefer to give up the chance to win.

This is not the worst of the problems. The worst thing comes moments after the reality of defeat sinks in. We’re emotional and maybe even confused. When we might have thought we would win, and even felt the smell of the prize within our nostrils. Now we begin to question our own judgment. This is the worst time to start reflecting.

The reason why I say this is that depending on our mentality and our level of maturity it’s very easy to arrive at the wrong conclusions for why we lost, and as a result learn the wrong lessons from the painful experience.

Why is this a problem? Well if you learn the wrong lessons from the experience you will live the rest of your life in ignorance. Add that to the fact that lessons learned emotionally are much better remembered than memories made in a calm state of mind. In some ways we can say that not only you remember the lesson, but your body does too.

So the best time to reflect on your defeat is when your mind is the most likely to be clear and unbiased. That is after your nerves and emotions are calm. This would make it that much easier that the real lessons from the defeat are learned even if they are not pleasant.

At this time your rational self is more likely to be online and you’re more willing to begin taking the necessary steps to win no matter how difficult the might seem.

Intellectual versus emotional learning

There is a concept of intellectual and emotional learning. I became aware of it once I made a habit out of getting past obstacles. Intellectually most of us are exposed to the idea of what it feels like to go through obstacles and what to do when we think we can’t. Having this feeling, however, is a much more profound lesson. So although we might agree we should get past obstacles and that there are rewards associated with it, we can only truly agree when we get past our first obstacle.

This is why the next point makes sense. Because we can learn the same lesson twice, learning what others learned before we “learn” it for ourselves is possible.

Most common lessons to learn from defeat

There are several common lessons to learn from defeat. Again learning them now doesn’t mean you’ll understand these lessons completely. You’ll have to go through them. But then as I said before at the moment of defeat there is always the chance of learning the wrong lessons. So by reading through other people’s experiences with defeat, you get to know what kinds of lessons to look for, and perhaps, you now get the chance to learn these lessons at a deeper level, by living through them. Below are a few.

Defeat today doesn’t mean defeat tomorrow

This is probably one of the deepest and most difficult to learn lessons from defeat. The reason why I consider it to be one of the deepest is that believing otherwise will likely prevent you from getting what you want if you don’t get it on the first try. The crazy thing is that most things worth having are difficult to acquire. They often require multiple tries and failure is a given. So if your life strategy is to try things only once and to quit when you fail the only path to a great life is only based on luck. You can be wildly successful but the nagging feeling that what you have can easily slip through your fingers can be a form of misery even in success.

The reason why it’s difficult is that it takes a practice of failure after failure with sprinkles of success mixed in for the lesson that failure today doesn’t mean failure tomorrow to sink in.

The answer is likely within

Another common and powerful lesson from defeat is that the answers are likely within. This is why trying to reflect when you’re down is a bad idea. Again when we lose we get emotional. We’re much less likely to blame ourselves for the results. Blaming the world is much more comfortable because doing otherwise requires us to think less of ourselves at least to some degree.

The world is the best scapegoat that ever existed. We get to blame it for Our mistakes. Our laziness and insecurities. Our shortcomings and even the fact that we can’t blame ourselves for anything. All because the world doesn’t talk back.

The point is that defeats/losses are more often than not a direct/indirect result of something we did ourselves. The quicker you accept this lesson the quicker you can go through the defeat -> try again … cycle that any worthy goal requires from us.

Preparation as a way to increase your odds of success

The last and by no means the last or least important is the lesson that preparation can go a long way to increase your odds of success.

When we think preparation we usually think sports or any other kind of competition, but this applies to virtually every area of life.

Preparation allows you to oversee mistakes before you make them when it counts. In some ways, this and the last lesson go hand in hand. You can only come to the conclusion that your preparation was inadequate if you can on some level accept the blame for the fact that you are the problem.

Summary

Learning lessons from defeat is difficult. Clarity is n some ways subjective. We can have two people with completely opposite points of view experience that sense of clarity and insight with regards to their own points of view. This is why trying to learn the lessons of failure from people who went through it can be so useful.

One last strategy to avoid learning the wrong lessons from failure is to ask other people from their input. Although there have been cases in history where the masses have been wrong, more often than not if more than one person sees things in a certain way, chances are that they are right and you should listen. So the suggestion is to try to hear from other people what they make of your experience.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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The importance of self-belief

This is post is a quick discussion on the importance of self-belief.

Believing in oneself is an idea that has been around least as long as the self-help movement. For the most part, most of us need to hear that we can accomplish more than what we give ourselves credit for from someone else, be that through a book or an in-person mentorship. There are a few who naturally believe they can do great things. They have this natural and to some degree irrational belief in themselves. Add to that the fact that the world’s opinion on them is for the most part irrelevant to that confidence in themselves. Their belief is a function of them and them alone. Regardless of what group you fall into, it’s now widely agreed that the first step towards greatness is an unabashed sense that we can achieve greatness.

The importance of self-belief

Why does it matter whether you believe in yourself to achieve great things? Can you succeed without any sense of self-belief? This is the question we aim to answer in this post.

Your child self

The most important reason why you should believe you can do great things is that each one of us retains their childhood self even as they go through the later stages of life, namely adulthood and old age.

We have within us reservoirs of energy and motivation that for whatever reason cannot be tapped by logic alone. Meaning that we all agree that getting in shape is good/ideal at a rational level, but somehow being overweight is one of the most popular struggles of today.

It’s as if the other version of us has its own agenda, and for it to change its plans we need to provide a very good reason to do so.

It turns out that anything that causes an emotional response does the trick, and there is no more powerful emotional response than that of feeling in one’s bones that one is destined to greatness. As you’re probably aware, it doesn’t even matter whether the belief is grounded in reality. All that matters is that the belief exists in the first place.

Your peers

For the most part, we tend to use other people to ground us in reality. Their feedback whether conscious or subconscious tells us in one way or another whether our perception of reality is accurate or not. There are times, however, in which entire groups ignore their version of reality and adopt that of a single member. Usually, the member has such strong will that because of that alone he or she becomes the leader of the pack.

This is to say that no person is an island. Your firm belief in yourself radiates outward and increases the odds that your peers not only believe in your belief but also that they are more willing to subscribe to it. Even if they don’t want to be a part of it, the most important thing is that your peers think your delusional belief in yourself is not delusional at all.

Now you enter the level in which you can fabricate reality and this is one of the most important skills ever. When at first you had a half-hearted sense of confidence in your ability to do great things, now you not only believe it privately but also you get the positive and energetic feedback that what you see in yourself is real.

In essence, you make the world believe in you by believing in yourself, and in turn, they make you believe in yourself, even more, when they show how much they believe in you in the first place.

The doubters

The cold hard truth about life is that no matter how real your potential, there will always be doubters. People who want to “bring you back to reality”, even if this “reality” is detrimental to your goals and dreams.

The worst thing is that the most common form of doubter is that who claims to have your best interest at heart, and as a result, it makes it even more difficult for you to reject the advice to think less of yourself.

Again an irrational and carefully designed sense of belief is crucial. I’m not talking about convincing yourself you can fly, but convincing yourself that you can achieve your desired goal. It’s the same thing with entering a relationship with a solid sense of self-esteem, versus entering it with wounds in need of healing and wholes in need of filling.

If you enter the world with an irrationally unshakable belief in yourself, even these undesirable advisors can’t get through you. Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean you won’t feel insecure. Chances are that you will, but the difference is that you’ll be much more prepared to bounce back from the few seconds or minutes in which you almost believe you can’t do great things.

I realized this about myself. Whenever I have a deep-rooted sense of confidence in my ability to do something, the moments of doubt don’t last long. It’s as if my mind has created its own mechanism of motivation that’s triggered when I get below a certain threshold of doubt.

Self-fulfilling prophecies

There is also the problem of self-fulfilling prophecies. When we think prophecies we think divine intervention, and if you consider yourself a rational type of any kind chances are that the idea of making things come to reality through your words feels absurd. This is just surface-level thinking.

It’s possible to make things happen through words without any divine intervention and that is through our subconscious mind. I’m not talking about manifesting things through the universe either. What I mean is that our beliefs make us more or less sensitive to opportunities.

If we believe ourselves to be cursed with mediocrity, we are more likely to miss crucial opportunities that could take us from mediocrity to something better if not even full-blown success. It’s the old idea of the law of serendipity favoring those who try.

By believing in yourself you make it that much more likely that you can find opportunities that will put you in situations that as a result prove your self-belief right. We can compare it with the effect our confidence in ourselves has on our peers, by making them believe in us, which in turn makes us believe in ourselves even more. The difference here is that the positive feedback loop has “chance” as opposed to our peers on the other side of the table.

Low self-esteem or any other form of negative self-belief, has its own consequences. The less we believe in ourselves the less other people believe in us. There is always the exceptional situation in which someone sees something in us we don’t see in ourselves, and again by “chance” this person is gifted with the ability to say the right thing to spark that sleepy self-esteem we all have within us. To rely on the off chance that of happening to us is a losing strategy.

Often people will treat you the way you treat yourself, even if that means abusing you in ways they wouldn’t do to other people. Self-belief is not a luxury of those who are gifted in one way or another, but a requirement if you are to have and keep any degree of success in life, because looks in whatever form they are represented, be that physically or intellectually, tend to be subjective. If you look like you know what you’re doing, often enough you know what you’re doing, even if you’re the only one who knows you’re just as clueless as everybody else.

Summary

Self-belief is at the end of the day a game of delusion. A game you play with yourself and the world. A game in which being realistic or rational is a losing strategy. A game in which the winners sometimes get to rule over those who claim to see through their b**s**t.

The crazy thing is that before you can benefit you have to get over your own need for evidence to without being repetitive: “believe”. You have to be the first follower in your own one-person cult before you can get the fame of thousands and millions.

Self-belief is a basic need. The kind of basic need from which other needs find support because without it the whole building of “you” becomes subject to fall at the slightest touch. The thing is that a strong foundation is formed purely from nothing but thought independently of its grounds in reality. If anything reality is detrimental since regardless of how well you might think of yourself, reality will also put the breaks on how far you can go, just like an immovable speedbump on the road that has the power to slow down even the heaviest of the vehicles. Reality is an incorruptible speedbump. To such a degree that even the greatest of us have to answer to it regardless of how much influence they have or how much money they possess. Reality is inflexible.

Why being positive is the way to go

For this post, we’ll have a quick conversation on positivity.

The self-help industry has been around for a while. If you have been born for longer 5 or even earlier, chances are that you’ve been exposed to some lesson whose roots come from the self-help industry. The self-help movement is about many things, but if asked to break down this movement to a single word that word would be positivity. Positivity because it’s at the root of many of the most popular and powerful lessons taught by motivational speakers and life coaches.

From the title, you might assume that I’m a person who has just been exposed to these ideas of positivity and self-improvement, or a “veteran”. The truth however is complicated. I’m a bit of both. I realized that I’m both a veteran, in the sense that I have been aware of and adopted it to my life, and at the same time the person who learned that they can be better than yesterday two days ago. This post is about that.

Why being positive is the way to go

There are two kinds of people in the world we live in. The first is the kind that tends to be more biased towards following other people. They quickly adopt what’s currently popular, and they do it in a way that seems original. Think about clothing for example. New trends come and go each year. Each year the followers adopt the new fashion trend as if they created it, and like clockwork, they quickly abandon that particular style.

The second kind of people seeks originality and adopt new trends only if they truly make sense to them. Now you might think the second kind is the one to aspire to be, but the truth is more complicated. Every life strategy has its pros and cons, and one of the pros of being a blind follower is that you are more likely to be an early adopter of a world-changing invention, and as result, you can gain a competitive advantage over your peers who are not so quick to adopt the new.

The advantage the second kind of people gain is that lots of new things out there fail, and as a result, you make fewer mistakes. I adopt the new more slowly, with a few gulps of skepticism along the way. The same applies to positive thinking. I realized that over the years I’ve developed a love and hate relationship with the self-help movement/industry. While being a real proponent of self-improvement and growth I grew more and more skeptical about the idea of positivity as an effective strategy to success.

Can you succeed without being positive?

To keep things short my answer is likely not and this is my reason why. Being overly critical of yourself can definitely have a positive effect on your accomplishments in the short term. Your discontentment with the current state of affairs forces you to transcend your limitations even if the limitations feel comfortable. Over time, however, the negativity of self-criticism paired with no results can quickly wear you out.

The problem is that to succeed you often have to put in more effort than you expect. When you get to the point where you expected to succeed and you don’t, the already existent negativity quickly amplifies while urging you more and more to quit on your goals and dreams, and this is not the worst part of it. The worst part of it is the fact that with that much negativity you also slowly wear out your sense of self-worth.

Why being positive matters

Being positive matters more than what you think. It’s not just a source of motivation, because there is no such thing as “a mere form of motivation”. All motivation matters regardless of how small. Just think about the butterfly effect.

A small burst of motivation might lead you to write the first two sentences of your book or music, and who knows? Maybe even before the end of the burst you somehow manage to put yourself inflow, which in turn leads you to create a masterpiece.

Positivity is energetic and energy is required if you are to successfully defeat any obstacles that come your way. And trust me they will come.

I got to this realization when I read the book Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins.

On one of the passages the author finds that while in the middle of a marathon, the thing that got him going after feeling destroyed was what he named “The cookie jar”.

Put simply the cookie jar is a metaphor for motivation storage. Each cookie would be a memory of an instance in which he overcame obstacles. It’s a representation of how much he can do.

The impact of a negative mindset

The next thing to think about is the impact of the negative in the long run. The thing about the negative/pessimist is that he/she doesn’t see it for what it is. If anything they might even believe that their approach to life is realistic, while anyone who tries to see the good in life is just delusional.

While some positive thinking borders on the delusional the real question here is how useful is it to be realistic? I find that “being realistic” is only good to give you the feeling of being right. And what’s the point of being right?

As I said before, most of the things you set out to do will likely require more time, energy, and motivation than you think. Eventually, you’re likely to hit a wall and the decision to keep going or quit will be imposed onto you. If your goals and dreams are as important as you claim, it doesn’t really matter whether your positivity is delusional or grounded in reality, as long as the motivation and energy allow you to get what you want.

This is why my views on positivity and delusion changed.

Controlled delusion

The last thing I want to discuss is the idea of controlled delusion. Delusion of any kind is seen as a bad thing. But just like everything else in life, it has both positives and negatives. We would have to ask why people succumb to it so frequently if it resulted only in negatives.

What I propose here is not to just being carelessly delusional, but intentionally so. I got this idea too from David Goggins, who during his stay on the infamous Hell Week found himself manufacturing a victim/hero story between him and the instructors. He painted them as the villain trying to bring him down. By doing that he managed to generate enough energy to keep him on track and eventually complete the training. 

As he said on one of his many interviews, he knew the instructors were not out for him, but thinking they did, to the point of almost believing gave him the motivation to push through.

Summary

Positivity is one of these things everybody talks about as if it were something they concluded by themselves, as opposed to just repeating what they learned from someone else.

Coming to a logical conclusion about a tool/strategy effectiveness is more important than just accepting they work. The reason for this is that the moment in which life puts you to test in such a way that the tool is the only way out doubting the effectiveness of the tool might lead you to not use it when you should.

There is also the problem of learning the wrong lessons. When we fail we got through a period of reflection in which we develop a theory for why we failed. We look for things to blame, and if we don’t believe in the tool/strategy effectiveness at a logical level we might mistakenly blame it for our poor results.

This post is an attempt to provide a more logical reason for why being positive really matters.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How to win a debate

In this post, you’ll find a few tips on how to win a debate.

The truth is perhaps the most important thing that a human can think about. Ignoring scientists out there we all have an interest in the truth in some way or another. That’s why debate. To get to the bottom of things, and separating what is from what isn’t. At least that’s what healthy debaters do.

There is also the unhealthy kind that is only in to convince other people they’re right not to know who’s right. These live their lives like rocks. Changing barely to nothing over the years and decades, while like a house with a weak foundation oozing a false sense of stability.

How to win a debate

Below are a few tips on how to win a debate, but be aware that by “winning” what is meant might not what you mean when you use the word. The application of these ideas could get you to a much deeper version of the word victory.

Ask why do you want to win the debate in the first place

When we set out to win many of the little debates we have throughout the day we rarely question why we want to win so bad. Could it be that all you want is to keep old beliefs alive? Sometimes change is frightening and the familiar is all we want. The truth doesn’t care whether you like it or not. It just is today what it was yesterday and the day before.

The point is that it’s irrelevant whether we want to keep old beliefs for the sake of keeping them the truth will remain what it has always been regardless of whether you manage to convince your intellectual opponent of something wrong. It’s important to keep minds focused on finding the truth, even if that bruises our egos for a moment.

Study your position

The next thing to do is simple and not so simple. The idea is to study your own position thoroughly because your opponents will. Look for weak points and find ways to remove or minimize the weakness and resist the urge to brush them off. If your opponent is the least bit effective it means that sooner or later the weaknesses any overlooked weaknesses in our argument will be revealed.

The more you sharpen your position the more room you have to know whether it constitutes the truth or a delusion since at the end of the day, the truth is what really matters. Studying your position prevents you from the very likely embarrassment of having your position demolished by a single and minuscule detail you missed. So study your position and pick it apart. Then do it again.

Study their position

Once you’re well familiar with your own position; Its strengths and weaknesses; Then it’s time to do the same analysis on your opponent’s.

Now it’s time to simulate your interaction with them when you do get to debate.

The important here is not so much on finding the flaws on their views but on watching ourselves for the moments when we so eagerly jump into some perceived weakness in their arguments.

We seek for that constant “I’m right and you’re wrong” moment that we don’t take the time to see if, in any way, our lenses might have been clouded?

Studying their position also makes you have a greater sense of what kind of rigor you’d need to shoot for to win. If you’re honest. It gives you an idea of how you measure against them.

More sophisticated opponents call for more sophisticated approaches. That’s why delusion whether positive or negative can be very detrimental.

Delusion makes you gravely underestimate when you should overestimate, and to get through the bounds of overestimation when under was the way to go.

Explore their point more than your own

This is more of a tactic whose purpose is to find something fundamentally wrong with their argument. The idea is that the more you explore their point the greater the chances that you’ll find the weak point. Which means that you’ll have to be on the offensive. Coming with questions that put them off-balance and get them to reveal/stumble into a fundamental weakness in their views.

This can get aggressive pretty quickly that’s why it’s important to have a sense of context. Is it acceptable for you to take control of the interaction? Even if the answer is yes that doesn’t mean your approach will be accepted without a battle. In fact, if you’re too obvious about your intentions by avoiding to answer their questions on your points while asking more and more question about theirs, there is a good chance your opponents and whoever is watching will pick up on what you’re doing, even if they can’t quite put it into words.

Look for evidence

The simplest and by no means quickest way to win a debate is by pointing out either the lack/weakness of evidence for a point. The problem here is that you have to do your due research and know as much about everything you can. The reason for this is that although you can still ask for the evidence of the person’s assumptions over and over again, doing so makes you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

The ideal moment is the one in which you know there is no evidence for a given assumption and you still ask for it anyway. That way you show to the audience that not only you did more research than your opponent, but it also weakens their position. You show you know more than them.

Take advantage of the reductio ad absurdum

In philosophy the reductio ad absurdum is a kind of argument in which we push the opponent’s point extremes as a way to show them they’re wrong. When you first hear/heard about it chances are that it will be/was taught as something to avoid. The truth as I realized over time was that both the audience and the opponent are still subject to this form of argument. If your position is the correct one using the reductio ad absurdum might just be what you need.

The problem with this tip is that if your point is not the correct one and your opponent knows it for sure, your appeal to the extremes will show not just the fact that you don’t know what you’re talking about, but also that what you really want is to win; To just be right.

Keep your cool

The next tip is more difficult than it sounds and that is to always keep it cool. The reason for this is that the more composed you are, the more you look like you know what you’re talking about. If you get emotional you get back to that question of whether what you really want is the truth or to be right.

When the truth is what you want there is no need to lose your mind during the process. The anger associated to the moments in which we are debating topics very close to us is due to the fact that by accepting we’re wrong, we also give up a part of ourselves. Our beliefs are a part of us. And that’s what we do. We fight for our own preservation before anything else. So try to keep it cool always.

Summary

In summary debates are at their essence a search for the truth. Neither party can claim they’re right and the opponent is wrong. It’s by listening carefully the each other’s points of view that hopefully, a consensus of what constitutes the truth will emerge. 

This means that you should always be on the look for the truth not only in debates. The reason here is that the more research you do the more likely you are to know whether your beliefs are valid or not before any debate even commences. When you do get into a debate chances are the one who really knows the truth and even if your opponent uses all of the tactics discussed in this post, they will still not be able to win the debate.

The truth is what it is. Completely independent of our tastes and agendas. What was yesterday will be so today and tomorrow. Being aware of this fact is probably the most important take away from this post. Just because you have your way with words and people doesn’t give you the power to change the truth. You can successfully trick other distracted people into believing you’re right, but it will always feel like the castle you’re building is one of cards. Ready to fall when the first relentless individual crosses your path. This is the point in which you have to again ask yourself: “Do I want to know the truth or do I just want to be right?”

Sources:

Reductio ad absurdum

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How to change bad habits

 In this post, we’ll have a quick discussion on how to change bad habits.

The self-help industry has preached for a while now the idea of improving oneself constantly through books and seminars that it’s easy to fall for the idea that to have a better life we have to add more and more until something works. While this strategy might be effective, there is a much better way to go about it.

I got this from the book Poor Charlie’s almanac where the author recommends the removal of ignorance as a practice to have alongside the addition of knowledge. You would think that with the addition of something good we automatically remove the bad, but that’s not the case, and the best example is that of bad habits.

How to change bad habits

Changing bad habits is a life long endeavor. With each bad habit removed you gain two things. The first is more free time to fill with new and productive habits. The second is the sense of self-mastery that comes when we manage to overcome ourselves and we pave the way to being someone better. But as we all know change is difficult and that’s what this post is here for. To make the process easier.

Lower the bar

I know you’ve probably been advised to set your goals high and try with everything you have to attain it. While this might be useful in some cases, for the vast majority of habit change efforts this might be detrimental.

What makes habits so powerful is the same thing that makes them so dangerous. That would be their automaticity. When before we had to think to perform the behavior, now the behavior is performed without conscious effort. We don’t think about it.

The easiest way to go against this power of automaticity is to do it slowly and that requires you to stop thinking about breaking the habit completely and overnight, to being content with whatever progress you manage to make for the day.

So the tip here is to lower the bar as much as you can. To set the bar so low that winning at it becomes very easy. That could mean something as simple as breaking the habit for the day and making no commitment for the following days or weeks. You just want to stop the habit of the day.

If that’s too much, which could very well be if the habit is deeply engrained, then set it to half a day, or quarter, whatever it takes for you to declare success. The goal here is to build the mental muscle that allows you to resist the urge to be automatic.

Once you can confidently say you can do without the habit for the set period the next step is to increase it. If you set it to a day, try a day and a half or two days. Whatever increment that pushes while not breaking you.

From here repeat the process until you can get to the point in which you can safely say that the habit is behind you.

Increase the cost of the behavior

The thing about bad habits is that often they either have little to no negative cost. If anything we feel a burst of pleasure/relief when we engage in the behavior until we see it for what it is and get into guilt mode.

The idea here is to make the cost of the bad behavior higher than it currently is. So high that even if you do engage in it, you at least go through a quick pause and begin to feel the bitter taste of the aftermath of your future actions. 

If the price is high enough chances are that at first, you might give in, only to realize that the punishment you created for yourself is real. The next few times you fall into bad habits will be marked by a feeling of anxiety. The feeling increasing more and more as each act of bad behavior is immediately followed by painful enough punishment.

The reason why this strategy can be effective is that it takes advantage of the known principle of conditioning. To put it simply, conditioning is just about teaching the brain intentionally or unintentionally to associate some behavior with some feeling/emotion good/bad. Each time you engage in the behavior you’re trying to avoid the unpleasantness of the punishment becomes more and more associated with the behavior itself. Eventually, the behavior becomes associated with pain which makes it more likely that you won’t engage in it again, or at least it would be more difficult to.

This strategy also targets the human tendency to do more of what’s easy and pleasant to do and to avoid that which is unpleasant or difficult to do.

Change your routine

One thing I realized whenever I had some major change of routine in my life be that because I moved to a new place or went to a new school, was that good habits always became easier to start and maintain.

Bad habits don’t exist by themselves. They are surrounded and triggered by many more little good and bad habits which themselves are also triggered by other mini habits. When we change our routine there is no start for the chain reaction that leads us to be the kind of person we don’t want to be. It’s as if we have just gotten a second chance to become the person we’ve always dreamt of being.

In a way changes in routine wipe the slate clean, but the problem is that we’re often unaware of these great moments that we mindlessly introduce our bad habits again to the new environment.

One change in the environment that tends to be more resistant to this reintroduction of bad habits are people. Although we can change our new home to look just like the old one, we can’t do the same about a new group of friends. They come with their own personalities and habits. In a group, if anything is likely to change it’s you and not the group. This is to say that changing the people you hang out with will likely force you to be more like the new people in a way that you can’t influence in the same way. So if you want to be better at something it might pay to spend time around people who’ve achieved what you want to accomplish.

The peer pressure to be more like the group is not always bad. It’s usefulness becomes more evident when the pressure is not to just conform to random rules defined by the group but when these rules force you to become a better version of yourself.

Don’t strive for perfection

The last tip is probably the most counter-intuitive of all especially in the times we live in today. The standards society imposes on each one of us is probably the highest it has ever been. While we can on paper do as we please with our lives, there is this underlining expectation that we do our best. Spending one’s day watching tv or browsing the web is frowned upon. We are expected to chase our goals and dreams every day of the week while maintaining an intense level of passion and productivity. When we do admit we have bad habits and set out to eliminate them there too we are faced with somewhat unreasonable demands. suddenly if you don’t quit on a bad habit overnight that’s some demonstration of how little you care about your dreams or a flaw in character.

The worst thing about it is that more often than not the person demanding we change overnight is not a friend or a neighbor but ourselves. Change is hard and we should expect that our will power might someday give in and for a moment we go back to our old selves.

When we expect quick and pain-free change we are more likely to quit when that moment comes in which we fall back on our promise to our higher selves. The solution is to be tolerant of our failures and mistakes. If you went back to your old behavior after 3 successful days it’s important to understand that not all is lost. you can always pick up right back from where you stopped.

I learned this from the YouTuber Matt d’avella and his “two-day rule”.

Whenever he tried to create a new habit we followed the rule that he would give himself the freedom to miss a day of the new habit but no more than that in a row. When you apply this idea you get to relax a bit more from the pressure of having to maintain your willpower every single day until the habit is completely removed. As we all know willpower is an animal with a life of its own subject to whims like the weather. Losing it is not a matter of “if” but “when” and taking that into account makes it more likely that your goals/habits will last long enough for you to reap the benefits.

Sources:

Poor Charlie’s Almanack by Charlie Munger

The power of habit by Charles Duhigg

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How To Be More Productive

In this post, we’ll have a quick discussion on how to be more productive.

Success is a door with many keys and one of them is productivity. We live in a time in which working hard is considered to be one of the most desirable traits to look for in an employee or potential business partner. The problem is that most take this advice literally and miss the forest for the trees. So we find people working to a sweat believing this is the way to go if they want to achieve their dreams. What matters, however, is not so much the sweat equity, but how much you can get done. How productive you are at the end of the day. Getting there is what this post is about.

How to be more productive

Distinguish the essential  from the trivial

The first and most important thing to have a productive day, week, month, or year is to be able to distinguish the essential from the trivial. The reason for this is that if you rely only on a todo list, chances are that most of what you set out to do at the beginning of the journey will likely have less impact to the big picture than it would if you put some thought behind your work for the day.

I realized this fact more than once across different areas of my life. Whenever I gave myself the time to think through all the possible tasks and their respective impact on the big picture goal, often enough I realized that the day could have been cut much shorter if I just focused on one or two key tasks. The idea here is not to fill your schedule with activities but to deliberately pick the ones that matter. The reason why this is so important is that as optimistic as we might be with regards to our willpower and motivation to complete all the tasks in the todo list, rarely are the instances in which we manage to go through all of them. This is assuming you’re a part of the majority. Add to this the fact that from the few tasks we manage to tackle chances are that the ones that matter the least are the one that gets the checkmark at the end of the day. The tasks that really matter to our goals tend to be funny like that. Their potential impact is usually several times greater than the average task, but at the same time, we also find it several times more difficult to go through them. So they don’t get done until they have to get done.

This idea is proposed by the book The one thing by Gary Keller, who takes it a step further. Instead of just looking for the fundamental tasks and generating a todo list of those, the book gives us the idea that maybe we should find the key tasks from the list of key tasks, and on and on, until we have nothing but one thing. Hence the name “The one thing”.

Get your health in order

The next tip on how to be more productive is to make sure you’re as healthy as you can be. It’s surprising how small and seemingly inconsequential health issues can affect your productivity. A small infection here or there might not make you have to stay in bed for the rest of the day but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect your productivity. Health issues tend to drain extra energy from the body for healing purposes, and that energy could be applied in tackling your to-do list.

By “Get your health in order” I don’t only mean not being unhealthy. The ideal is in fact to be more than just healthy. I’m talking about firing on all cylinders, and this can’t be achieved if your target is only to not be sick. This requires a constant search for ways to improve your mental and physical sharpness, and before you start thinking that all self-improvement products of the kind are not real, let me tell you: they are not.

There is a growing industry a good number of people are not aware of whose purpose is to take the human mind and body to the next level. Although these tools might not make you a genius or a super athlete, there is considerable evidence that they can make you a much better version of what you are right now. At the end of this post, I’ll leave a list of resources you can start from.

Remove things from your plate

The next tip might be to some probably the most difficult tip to apply, and I’m one of them. The desire to accomplish great things does more than push us to work harder. It also makes it more difficult to pass on opportunities with potential for success. If you give in to this fear, eventually you’ll find yourself with lots to do and very little time to do anything else. With more to do also comes more stress, and eventually what once seemed to be a good idea, now looks and feels like a burden.

Overcommitments eventually lead us to one of two roads: burnout or the awkward moment in which we have to tell someone else or ourselves that our word is not as valuable as we and they thought it was. At the end of the day, the latter is often the best solution since the longer you keep your plate full in hopes that it will magically get into a state of balance the more unpleasant it will be the inevitable conversation that leads you to fewer commitments.

So this tip is actually more about what to do before you take on a new project. While we can technically go back on our promises often without much penalty, it’s much easier to not get into them in the first place. When you learn to say no people gain a new level of respect for you since saying so transpires at least two things. The first is that you value your time and that you hold your word in high regard. Going back on our commitments, on the other hand, is always detrimental even when it doesn’t seem like it. If we do it to other people they trust us less at the very least and resent us in the worst case. If we do it to ourselves we begin to trust ourselves less and less, until the moment comes in which we can’t feel confident enough to start and complete even the most trivial of the goals.

When you commit to a few things you have more energy allocated for each, which makes that much more likely that they will be successful. The result starts a domino effect of goal setting to accomplishment, to even bigger goal setting making us more and more confident in ourselves and our abilities to succeed in life. It’s not that we’re gifted, which we might be, but it’s that we have adopted a discipline of adding projects to our bucket with intention.

Overcommit strategically

I would be lying If I told you that overcommitting is always bad. Often in life when we develop our views with regards to a given subject we tend to look only at the instances in which our views hold true and ignore the few or many in which it does not. This is known in psychology as the confirmation bias. So there is value in overcommitting and this is how.

When you overcommit one thing happens first and that is the fear that we won’t be able to make justice to our word. The next thing that happens depends greatly on the kind of person we are. Either we succumb to the anxiety and fall into stress or we take it as a challenge and force ourselves physically and creatively to reach new limits. The latter is perhaps the reason why we often see breakthroughs in business and science. Although there is no explicit commitment to the cause the overcommitment is implicit since we are trying to accomplish something that hasn’t been done before in the first place.

One great example of this is what happened to the Appollo 13 mission. More than halfway to the moon the team runs into an accident that greatly threatens the life of the entire team on board. NASA is known for having lots of protocols for virtually everything on the trip but at this moment several of these have to be thrown away and several more built from scratch while the team is trying to survive the drastic environment of space.

They and the team back on earth were put in a literal do or die situation. I remember watching the movie recently and the moment that stands out for me, in particular, was when the team back on earth had to, under time and mental pressure, devise a device that could reduce the already high levels of CO2 in the spaceship with only the tools the astronauts had available and create a protocol they could follow to build the tool themselves on their end. They succeeded and the sad thing is that chances are that a good number of people will probably forget that moment. That was a true moment of brilliance.

Most people when given regular goals and regular pressure will likely produce below average to average output. It’s when we are forced to do more than we’ve ever done that we do more than we ever did, even if we don’t quite hit the mark; and this is what being productive is about.

Resources:

Head Strong by Dave Asprey

Found my fitness podcast by Rhonda Patrick

Nootropics Expert channel

Sources:

Confirmation bias

Apollo 13 mission documentary

It is all about knowledge and experience ?

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