Monthly Archives: September 2019

Best Time Management Tips

In this post, we’ll a few words on the best time management tips.

Time management is one of the biggest problems of the human being of today. In the very distant past, the day was all about finding food and rituals. In other words, there just wasn’t as much to do as there is today. The man/woman of today soon finds that the pains of adulthood are largely due to the increasingly full day to day schedule. Not being busy enough is now equated to lack of drive/ambition, while having a stuffed to-do list is a motive to brag about. So, we find the person of today in an impasse in which what he/she seeks is what makes them more and more miserable, and the feeling that not seeking what will make them miserable makes them even more miserable. In other words, cluttered schedules make us more miserable and less productive, but the mere thought of having a simple to-do list makes us feel miserable because we equate busyness with productivity.

Best time management tips

What are the best time management tips? Well…to put it simply, anything that allows you to do more in a way that you can prove you’re doing more. This is the subject of point #2 but the quick summary of it is that anyone can convince themselves of how productive they are/have been, what is hard, and should be the main focus of anyone’s work is to actually to make progress on a goal in a way that a human without any abilities of thinking subjectively can clearly see and understand.

#1 Have a clear idea on your big-picture goal and start from there

The first major tip is to have a clear idea of what your main big-picture goal is. The reason for this is that it’s only from there that you can make better decisions about how to better spend your time, and the reasoning behind it is that one can only know if it’s using it’s time correctly if there is a parameter for which to judge the way one is spending its time at the current moment. The simplest way to evaluate the way you spend your time is to ask the question: does this bring me closer/move me away from my big-picture goal?

Most people skip this first step and begin by doing things that if asked about, will not be able to give you any strong reasoning behind their choice of action. What makes this even worse is not that the person will probably be doing the wrong thing, but also that if it does so for long enough, their conclusion for why they failed will likely be based on some theory of how not gifted they are.

#2 Have a clear performance measure

The thing about time is that it’s not open to interpretation. If 2h passed since you’ve started working, there is no way we can interpret it as anything else other than what the clock shows. The human mind can be so creative however, that even when something as precise as the clock tries to tell us how not productive we’ve been we can still find a way to interpret it subjectively. Meaning that the fact that we spent the last two hours browsing the internet can be easily converted from the time wasted interpretation, to research time with the potential to give us a potential 10x return on our investment. This might or might not be true but it’s off the point. The point is that the human mind and the beliefs within it are pretty malleable, and if we want to be productive or use our time well we need objective measures to productivity that happen to be immune to the kind of semantic debates/cases the human mind is capable of building/making.

I’m talking about the kind of progress criteria that forces us to answer in a yes/no black/white kind of manner. One example for writing is the word count. While this might not be the best definition of productivity in writing, since one can just press the same character indefinitely until we reach 10000 words, the truth is that anyone who does that kind of thing is not interested in being productive in the first place. Word count is not perfect but it’s a good measure of your productivity since if you factor in the fact that you’re also interested in good writing, chances are that you can be safe in believing that 1000 words of content are more productive than 200. One great question to ask is: what’s the point of having an ok productivity measure if we can fool it? And the answer might be unsatisfactory, but it’s the truth and it goes as follows: having a decent productivity measure is just better than having no productivity measure regardless of whether we can fool it or not. I know this is a weird example, but it’s like having a map spilled with coffee in which only a part of the information in it is intact. The map is certainly not perfect, but when you factor in the possibility that you don’t really need a perfect map to find places, even the imperfect can be as good as the perfect.

#3 Ignore Nobel activities when they are irrelevant to your big-picture goal

The third tip is to avoid the temptation to do something just because it’s perceived by the world at large as a good thing to do. Among the various examples are: exercising, helping others and spending time with your friends and family. Although these are genuinely good things to be doing, and we all agree that they are, sometimes they are not the best thing to be doing in a given moment. The problem with these larger than life activities is that for most of us they tend to take high priority spaces in our schedules when they do arise, even though it’s not always the case that they should take much of our time.

This is why tip #1 is so important. When you have no clear direction of where you want to go, the winds of these kinds of activities that should, in theory, add lots to our life but whose addition is hard to quantify are more likely to move us around at their will. It’s like eating a dish known to be healthy without asking whether it’s compatible to or genes or not. It might or might not, and just because they are the healthy thing to eat for most people doesn’t mean it will be for us. Just like our genes our schedules and goals can vary widely from person to person.

#4 Focus on the one thing

The book The one thing by Garry Keller is perhaps one of the best books I’ve ever read, and as larger than life as this statement might be, one can only be tempted to imagine that the book contains a wealth of information about life and Business. Maybe even more than any other book ever published, but the truth is the complete opposite. The One thing is so powerful because its sole goal is to drive only one idea home: focus only on what matters and throw away the rest. Don’t try to multitask, or to get to the bottom of a whole list of tasks. Ask yourself what your goal is, and only when you have a clear idea of it’s time to figure out the one action that will bring you the closest to it. I’m sure we’ve all had this idea at the back of our heads at some point or another in life, but the real power is in paying attention to, and give it the credit it deserves.

The question of what is the best time management strategy or tool can be thought of as the incorrect question to ask when you look at it through the lenses of the one thing. The reason for this is that when you know the one thing that will do most if not all of the job you don’t ask how you can better allocate your time, because you only have one thing on your plate. The only one thing that really matters for you to get to where you want to go.

When you fully incorporate the one thing to your life, you  soon find that the stress that comes with having a schedule and a truckload of tasks to be accomplished during the day goes away. Even more important is the fact that when you only have one thing to focus/work on you get to spend more of your time and energy on it. When you have a million little tasks, none of them gets the whole you, and if anyone does, it does so at the expense of some other task on the list. Like a carpenter who works under the “measure once cut twice” principle, here you think about the big picture and the one thing once, and the impact you’ll make in your life will perhaps be even more than twice as much as that of any time management or task list creation app you can find on the app store.

#5 Keep track of progress

The next way to better manage one’s time is to have a clear idea of how close/far one is from the big-picture goal. The reason for this is that when you don’t know how far you are from getting what you want you have no idea of how much more work/energy will be required to get you there. When you don’t know the amount of work required you make poor decisions on what kinds of tasks you should be working on, and from there you can’t accurately pick the true one thing.

Accessing progress is to us what the act of calibration is for a compass. It centers us by making it clear to our eyes how much left it is to be done. When you do this on a regular basis, and for long enough, you soon find out that the answer to the question: “what should I do next?” jumps out at us when we answer the question: “how far are we to get what we want? It’s just what happens with problem-solving. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is not to find the solution, but to clearly understand the problem, and once we do, the solution is often obvious.

Allocate large gaps of time to work

Another way to manage your time is to make better use of it. After you have the one thing pinned down, the next step is to allocate a good chunk of time to work on it. The reason for this is that the more challenging the task, the longer it tends to take to get into the right frame of mind to tackle it. When you allocate little time to do the one thing you prevent your mental and physical juices to get going enough to open the doors to potential breakthroughs in your work.

Still, on the same note, it’s important to address the subject of distractions because they are great destroyers or retarders of the state that goes by the name of “The zone”. The thing about the zone or the state of flow is that it is at the same time a very powerful state to be in and very fragile. Meaning that when in the state, we find ourselves capable of producing major results in our work, of the kind that would probably take 2x if not 3x as much time to achieve. On the other hand, what we have is also a state in which we barely know how to reliably get into, and that at the same time it’s easy to lose. This is why distractions can be so problematic. For those of us who have played any game of any kind, you’re probably familiar with the concept of momentum, in which a series of actions bring you incrementally closer and closer to a major/master state of exceptionally high performance. When it does come the state usually lasts for no longer than a few seconds, but the effects are powerful. The same applies to the state of flow. Distractions act as roadblocks to these increments in momentum, which when added to the frustration of not finding that moment of complete involvement and productivity characterized by the zone, make it even more difficult to even string the small increments that take you where you want/need to go/get to. It’s that same problem of trying to be perfect in a situation, and the first few instances of imperfection put us in a vicious cycle of self-doubt that leads to an even poorer performance until there is nothing we can do but to take some sort of break.

The point is that interruptions in work can be more detrimental than you think, and this is why in addition to blocking out large chunks of time to work, one should also look for ways to ensure that these large blocks are also large blocks of uninterrupted time.

Time Management and Health

When it comes to managing time correctly what we see out there is the just a list of 20  or 30 tips on how to shaving a few extra seconds from each task on your to-do list. While that kind of approach might work, there is one major thing people, in general, fail to acknowledge. That is the impact of your health in the way you use your time. In general the healthier the person the better it will be able to use whatever time is conquered either through technology, or some trick on doing something faster.

As the motivational speaker Tony Robbins said once, the worst place for a person to be at is in between great and rock bottom. What he meant was a place in which one is not happy where they’re at, but the misery is not miserable enough to make the person seek for change. The same thing applies to health. Most of the time we find ourselves in a situation in which our health is neither perfect nor terrible. When this happens we might not be working optimally but because we still feel like ourselves we don’t bother going to the doctor. One thing I learned from the book Headstrong by Dave Aspery, is that the brain is very sensitive to any signs of un-healthiness anywhere in the body, and no matter how little the problem, like a small degree of inflammation, for example, mental performance can be affected in many ways from reduced ability to recall words, to not being able to think clearly enough to make good decisions.

When this happens, it doesn’t really matter how much that last app promised to save you time, you will lose the efficiency you gained to the decreased levels of energy and mental abilities due to non-optimal but not deadly health.

Time Management and Technology

The purpose of technology is to enhance our lives, and what better place to apply it to if not to help us better manage our time? When we think about time management technology the first thing that comes to mind is often some sort of to-do list piece of software. While that’s good and all, most of the apps out there are nothing but the same old thing sprinkled with some extra feature that seems to change the whole game until you come to the conclusion that well…It’s just the same old thing. The best time management technology I’ve seen so far is based on some principle as opposed to just the mere technologization of something as old, and mundane as a paperback to-do list. You already possess one of the most effective pieces of time management techniques/technology, and that is your phone’s Alarm/Timer app.

The reason why this is so is that there is out there very a powerful time/procrastination management process most people are not aware of. For starters, the reason why managing procrastination is such a big deal is that if given a year to work on a project, the productivity on that project will be greatly affected by the time one spends procrastinating. The earlier you start working, be that the initial start or the start after a break, the more you can get done. This is the kind of thing that seems obvious when you think about it, but just like going to the gym, at the moment of the truth this is the kind of truth that rarely comes to mind. But it’s important.

The mechanism I’m talking about goes by the name of the Pomodoro Technique, and it goes as follows: Instead of trying to work for 5 hours in a row, break the work time in 30 min chunks of work followed by 5-10 min breaks. I know this is a direct violation of one of the tips given above, but it shouldn’t be looked at/perceived as such. The reason for this is that the purpose of this post is to be comprehensive as opposed to being preaching a technique. And this is one of the biggest problems with any person giving advice about anything in life. More than just being the master of a given technique the teacher quickly becomes a preacher. Remember that techniques are tools, and when you look at them as such you soon come to realize how nonsensical it can be to preach a tool. It’s like preaching about the power of a regular hammer as opposed to a sledgehammer, and how and why the latter is superior to the former. Each tool has its purpose, and sometimes it is the case that for whatever reason the tool you expect to do the job doesn’t.

Like for example, I’ve been in situations in which working in 30 min chunks was the only way to be productive, while in other occasions working for large chunks of 4-6 hours was optimal. It might be that you always work well with the first, or always with the latter, but it might also be the case that a mix of both is what you need. How do you know which is which? Well… the only way to know is to go ahead and test it by yourself.

The Pomodoro technique works best when for whatever reason you can’t bring yourself to work. The reason why it can so well is because of its power to fool the other side of us that is aversive to work, and who for whatever reason, at the moment has a strong grip on our energy and motivation to work.

This is why if there is some technology that you can tell will be effective is that one that addresses the biggest obstacles in working. The reason why many time management pieces of software fail to manage your time the way you expect is that the problem they are addressing is the kind of problem that poses little to no friction in work.

Cold Turkey

To say that the clock is probably the only time management technology you’ll need is true, but that doesn’t mean that everything out there is useless. There is also this class of applications designed for the sole purpose of keeping us on track.

The world we live in now, and the technology we have pre-dispose of a set of behaviors that might or might not be ideal to the life we want/aspire to live, and one of these behaviors is that tendency to browse through the web mid-work just for the sake of it. The possibility of new entertainment can be so powerful that we slavishly look for it, even at the expense of our work.

Apps like Cold Turkey block take away from us the need to control these modern-day tendencies by preventing us from accessing websites and even apps that sway us away from getting things done when we really need it but for whatever reason don’t have the will for. The reason why this made the list of productivity tools is that again, it’s not a mere improvement on some old technology, but that something addresses of some deep-rooted productivity blocker and the problem apps like cold turkey solve is well…the internet, and it’s herculean distractibility power over us.

Why goal calendars are more powerful than to-do lists

Among the set of all types of software out there, one of the most powerful has to be the Calendar. The reason for this is that it serves a dual purpose:

  1. It requires us to think about the future
  2. It can be used for the “never break the string” technique

The calendar is one of these representatives of what has been and what’s to come. When we look at a date the first instinct is to try to remember what has happened,  or what will happen on that date. When we have that kind of life reminder we might /might not do anything with the memories we get from it, but some emotion will be invoked. This is especially true if we’re going nowhere in life and the pain that comes from flipping page after page of the calendar becomes so unbearable that we have to take action.

As for the “never break the string” technique, commonly known to have been created by the famous comedian Jerry Seinfeld, it’s yet another strategy to inspire action, which will, in turn, lead us to make better use of our time. With this technique, we get to see one of the few things we can’t often see with our own eyes, and that is momentum. We begin by setting a behavior we want to turn into a habit, and each day we do it, we draw a cross on the day you did the behaviour. The never break the string comes from the fact that eventually, a string of crosses will form on the calendar across a period of days, weeks, and then months. Each time we look at the calendar then becomes a representative of our commitment to the new behavior,  and as a result also motivation for the repetition of that same behavior on the next day for two reasons: 1) the increased sense of confidence we get about our ability to stick to things, and 2) the pain of breaking the momentum  urging us to take action again tomorrow.

IFTTT and Automation

Still, on the same breath of using technology to better manage our time, there is also the subject of automation, which when done correctly can have an enormous impact on your productivity, as well as on the time you manage to have left to do other things other than work. This is why subjects such as coding and engineering can be so powerful once you learn them because they give you the power to give the repetitive to that which adores it and that would be machines. As said in the book Coders by Clive Thompson the computer will tirelessly repeat the same task over and over again for you, and when we factor in the fact that it will do so thousands if not millions of times faster than we can, it soon becomes clear how much most people who don’t even try to learn it are leaving on the table. If you are a part of the few who thinks can’t code, I’m here to tell you that today you can learn a variety of languages online through websites such as Udemy.com and even YouTube.

For the ones who just don’t have the time to learn about coding, there is an alternative, and that is platforms such as IFTTT(If this then that), that allow you to string sets of actions triggered by pre-programmed conditions without having to write a single line of code. With IFTTT you can do things such as getting the weather report for the following day, every day at the same time or to even do things as complex as  “Automatically light the way for the pizza delivery guy”. In coding, there is the flow control concept of an “if statement”, in which if a given condition is matched, a certain set of actions/instructions are carried out, and this is what IFTTT is about. You specify the conditions and IFTTT carries out the actions when the conditions are met.

Time Management at Work

When most people look for time management strategies often what they’re seeking is a better way to do more at work with the same 24 hours they have available each day. When it comes to time management at work, the most important thing is perhaps what computer scientists know as throughput. In a system, the throughout is, in essence, the amount of work the system can do in a given amount of time. The more it can do, the more efficient and powerful the system, and this is where thousands and thousands of programmers around the world spend their time each day doing when they are not busy building new systems. If you look at time management at work in the same light soon a new way of better managing time comes to light and that is the idea of doing more in less time. What would you do if I told you that there is a way to do a week’s work in a few hours of extreme productivity?

If you’re anything like me my bet is that your first instinct is that of skepticism, and chances are that you even have a growing urge to close this webpage and go about doing whatever you were doing before you started on the path that led you here. The truth is that there is, and although not a very simple technique you can apply in a few minutes, as you were probably thinking this was, this process is entirely based on real and up to date science.

What I’m talking about is the state of flow also known as “The zone”. According to the book, The rise of superman by Steven Kotler, the state of flow is the state in which we feel our best and perform our best. We find ourselves with an enhanced sense of creativity and problem solving we don’t usually find on an ordinary day to day life, so much so that the few moments in which we get it become powerfully imprinted in our memories for the rest of our lives. I’m pretty sure you have vivid memories of instances in which you were at a moment of peak performance, even if that/those moment/moments were decades ago. Being able to reliably reproduce this state is like owning a button that turns you into the super you. This is what the book is about, which I definitely recommend, and just in case you don’t have the time here is a quick summary of the whole process on how to reach the state of flow:

Summary

Managing time is hard. Even with the array of tools and techniques available to us making sure every last drop of time at our hands is put to good use is work. The kind of work we do not for 8 hours a day or for a few months but for a lifetime. There will always be a waste because we’re humans and humans are error-prone, and one of the many errors is that of not always being able to do the right thing at the right time. My approach to this fact is that of the student who feels like a student even as he/she attains higher and higher levels of mastery. I stop to observe the wasted time and proceed to keep trying to make the best possible use of what’s not.

References:

IFTTT link

Coders by Clive Thompson

The one thing by Gary Keller

Headstrong by Dave Aspery

Cold Turkey app link:

https://getdpd.com/cart/hoplink/20477?referrer=cc5dbwe47w0s4ok4k

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How To Deal With The Worst Case Scenario?

In this post, we’ll have a quick discussion on how to deal with the worst-case scenario whichever it might be.

One of the purposes of a brain is to be able to plan and predict the future. The better one is at either the greater the odds that the mystery that revolves around the word “future” gets closer and closer to the word “certain”, in a similar way that some mathematical functions have this tendency to get closer and closer to the x-axis, but never quite touching it, even as they approach infinity.

With the ability to predict the future or to at least make a rough estimate of how it might look like also comes the ability to predict what we call worst-case scenarios. Which as you know are the kind of scenario in which as the name says the worst you can imagine becomes materialized through reality. When faced with situations of the kind the usual response goes from what scientists call the development of learned helplessness, to an obsessive attempt to solving the problem. Some go for the idea that everything happens for a reason, while others are more about the idea that anything that can and has happened to us is a product of our own behaviour whose effects were and are compounded through the years and decades.

How to deal with the worst-case scenario?

How do you deal with the worst case scenario? Well, assuming your plan is not to lay down and curse the Gods for your lack of luck, the next step can be rather challenging to specify due to the enormous number of variants/shapes this thing we call “the worst case scenario” can take. Below are a few general guidelines that tend to be useful regardless of the nature/size of the problem.

#1 Predict it and make it as impossible as you can

The first thing to do is to take action beforehand. When asked what to do in an exam in which you know close to nothing about, I’m sure your default answer would be to study hard before the exam. If there is the chance that you might face such a scenario in life, then the most important thing to do is to take action to make it as unlikely to occur as you can. I’m not talking about praying or making some sort ritual to increase your luck although it’s still debatable on whether such things can really help you on your endeavours. What I’m talking about is concrete action on the things you know for a fact are likely to reduce the odds of the worst case scenario ever occurring. To many, being fired from their jobs is one example of the worst case scenario in which that would imply a potential loss of a place to live due to their inability to pay their bills.

What do you do in such a scenario? Well… the most intuitive thing to do is to improve your performance, skills and knowledge. The reasoning behind this is also simple, meaning that the greater your abilities, the more valuable you are to the world. This is one thing many people often ignore these days. We forget that as Jim Rohn once said: “Life is not about need, it’s about seed”. Meaning that you’ll get what give to the world even when the world tells you you’re special and how you deserve everything you can think of.

#2 Hope for the best but assume the worst.

This second idea is really tied up to the first and it’s all about exploring your future prediction powers. When we make the effort to think about the worse that could happen and the worst is really bad the instinct is to try to shut the thoughts away with the hopes that doing so will also make the worst-case scenario more unlikely. The truth is that it won’t. As crazy as doomsday preppers might look, they are the embodiment of this point. They hope for the best and that the world doesn’t end, but they take action for in the advent that it does happen the damage is as minimal as it can be. Still, on the same tone, what do you do when the worst-case scenario for you is getting fired from your job?

Well… one very popular piece of financial wisdom is to save enough money for 3-6 months worth of your expenses. Here you take the stand of the person who has accepted what life will bring and who for whatever reason has no reason to believe they can do anything about it in terms of prevention. When this happens the tendency is to fall into a depression, but when you take action to minimize the blow of the worst-case scenario you get a weird form of peace of mind, in which instead of finding yourself worried about something you can’t prevent, and obsessing about how hard the blow will be you are more likely to feel mentally prepared for what’s to come. It’s the idea of burying your money in times of war, just in case the currency is still valid after and you give yourself a good place to start building your life back up from.

Making yourself immune to the blow

There is also the idea of making yourself immune to whatever it is. I don’t mean finding a way to avoid it here, but a way to allow yourself to keep moving forward even though the unthinkable happened. I’m talking about a way to keep going as if nothing happened. Not by pretending, or positive thinking your way out of the stress of the worst case scenario when it does come. I’m talking about a genuine feeling of peace. Like for example, when worried about losing its job one goes out and creates a successful business for itself. Now even if fired, assuming that for whatever reason you’re still working at your old job, the pain is not the same anymore. If anything maybe what was once dolorous now is transformed into relief. Relief of the stress that comes from having too many responsibilities. Now you have more spare time to work on what fulfills you, assuming of course that your newly created business is fulfilling to you.

Afraid about the end of your already problematic relationship? Well…you can make yourself immune to the ironic pain of it by going out and befriending people of the opposite kind. You can make yourself immune to it by getting in shape, and becoming more social thus increasing the odds that great people will die to have a relationship with you. Knowing you can do that is the equivalent to having a weapon in the house when what you fear is being powerless in the face of an armed intruder. In a way you hope you’ll never have to use it, but the thought that you can when the time comes can be all you need to appease your mind.

The problem of hope

Sometimes however, there really is nothing you can do to minimize the blow, but even then there is still one last thing you can do, and that is called acceptance. A part of the stress that comes from being aware of the possibility of some worst case scenario is the idea that there is someone/something that can change everything. A part of the problem is hope.

When you remove any hope from the equation you can more easily get yourself together, just like a building that has already been hit by a bomb, there is no more wonder about whether it will ever be hit, and if it does how large the damage would be. What’s left to do is to craft a plan to rebuild as quickly and robustly as possible. In a breakup in which one side is not happy for the couple to go separate ways, the most intuitive and productive next step could be to as the comedian Bill Burr would say “go to the gym and get your act together “. It could be to become more social and looking for ways to find the next significant one, or as exciting as taking a new and more adventurous career path, as opposed to dreading the inevitable end of an already probably remote resemblance of a relationship.

 Hope allows us to hold on for longer. It allows us to endure when endurance is what’s required. But it also prolongs the inevitable mysery of the certain worst case scenario. We suffer in bits, just like the famous Chinese water turture, or some form of low-grade radiation exposure in which the pain is a little painful in the short term, but over time it not only grows in intensity, but it also becomes more and more deadly. For the first, the death would be in the sanity of one’s mind, while the latter a more literal death of what it means to be a being in an evolutionary sense. The worst case scenario in the third hand a mix of both. Meaning that the day to day suffering would be a representation of a droplet of mental/spiritual death on our way to the potential real death of when the worst you can think of really does happen. So, the real question here is: should you fight to make it impossible, attempt to minimize the blow or begin drafting your comeback?

That’s a hard question on its own merit and the simplest and laziest answer is…well… to look for other people who might have gone through something similar and survived to tell the story. The best ones to look for are the ones who came up victorious. The ones who were able to handle the stress and had enough of mental clarity to craft a winning plan. The more challenging the scenario the harder it will be to find anyone close to that but if enough time is given to you the search is more than necessary. It’s vital.

Guard yourself against the wrong conclusions

In life, most if not all have no idea about what they are doing. Even the ones who seem to have an idea about what the true way is, the truth is that what they have is a rough idea of it at best. When it comes to life, there is no such a thing as true experience since for one to say it has experience at something it has to at least have gone through the whole cycle from start to finish and back, and to had gained the kind of perspective that an apprentice gains of his craft when it finally becomes a master. In other words, only that who knows what it feels to go from a child to an ancient and die like one can be said to have true life experience. As for the rest of us, due to the constraints of the “you only live once”, each day is an opportunity to have a clearer idea of the world. Each day is an opportunity to learn a bit more in the same way that the longer we count the closer we get to infinity and we feel as such but we don’t, at least not really.

If we’re lucky enough the composite of knowledge and wisdom we accumulate over the years and decades is free of falsehoods. We become smarter and wiser as time passes and our lives improve as a result. That’s why concluding the wrong thing in the face of the worst-case scenario can be so damaging. When you don’t have the time to of ever know all there is to know to always make the right decision, any fake knowledge not only slows you down but it also sets you in towards the wrong direction which is a problem when you’re limited by your mortality.

In the face of the worst case scenario the worst thing to do is to conclude the wrong thing. The reason for this is that the effects of the worst are propagated through your own life as opposed to ending where they are supposed to end. Which is when your worst nightmare comes to life.

Wrong conclusions set you up for more conclusions. In a breakup the wounded can easily feel as if he/she will never have a happy and fulfilling relationship again which sets him/her up for either no more relationships because no one is attracted to bitterness, or to more bad breakups because of their bitterness. Now the bitter thinks all men/women are the problem and that Mr/Miss right is just an illusion created by Hollywood.

 The worst thing about being wrong is not the pain that comes from looking naïve, but the sometimes false belief that we’re not wrong in the first place. The mind has this strange ability to make even the incorrect and fake sound and feel true. This is in part why the fake it till you make it solution for the confidence problem is even possible. For the mind it doesn’t matter whether we really are confident and we really are the greatest person in the universe. For the mind it’s enough to repeat the same positive sentences to ourselves every single day in the mirror for these ideas no matter how false to become true.

Look the other way and see the gift

The truth about life is that it will not give you happiness or success just because you want/ask for it. Happiness and success require work and effort, and the sad thing is that even with these, there is always the possibility for misery. If you live long enough and expose yourself enough to the world you will have some misery. You will have some moments of doubt. You will run into at least one of your many worst-case scenarios, and there will be nothing you can do to prevent/minimize the damage. For many when this moment does come they come out of it mentally stained. They come out of it more pessimistic, more negative and at least a bit less confident.

There is another way to look at these moments however, and that is the way often described by the Ex-Navy seal David Goggins. He tells us to go to war with ourselves. To see the hardships of life as an opportunity to callus our minds. To use the fact that you went through the worst-case scenario and lived to tell the story as a mental cookie, of the kind that you’ll take a bite from in the future when another worst-case scenario comes your way and the spiders of doubt begin crawling your mind.

When there is nothing you can do about a bad situation there is one thing you can do, and that is to commit to live to tell the story, and to transform it into a source of future motivation because of it in the same way that war veterans sometimes use hard moment memories in service as a proof of how strong and resilient they can be. When you’re capable of doing this the last question you ask is: If I was able to go through that who is to say I’m not capable of facing whatever life throws at me? And this is probably one of the most ironic gifts of life.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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What I learned in university

In this post, we’ll have a discussion on the most important thing I learned in university.

School is one of these things that just like a politician, depending on the time most people are either for or against. It’s not so much about the tangible effects of it in one’s ability to become successful in life, but more about what kinds of things going to school the common mind thinks will allow you to do/have. In the past going to school was the dream for both the ones who could/couldn’t afford it. Being accepted, let alone being able to pay for it was a representation of the clear line between the now we don’t like so much, and the tomorrow we’re used to dreaming about even when we’re awake. In the past going to university was the closest thing to a sure win in life, in the sense that after the grueling years of assignments and quizzes, one was almost guaranteed to have a well-paying job, for which one would work for the rest of its life until retirement.

Today, the faith in such a path to life has lost more and more credibility, partly because the young adult of today, inspired by its favorite artist now wants retirement before retirement, and figures that school followed by a corporate job is more like taking a turtle to the rabbit race of life.

There is definitely some seed of truth to the idea above, but the problem begins when we not only conclude that our way of seeing life is partially incorrect but that everything that goes along with it is fully incorrect, even what’s not wrong. Today, going to school is one of these discussions that there are people who believe 100% to be the wrong thing to do. The reasoning behind it is that it prepares no one for life, the job after it is not guaranteed, and even if you do manage to get a job that there is still the possibility that you will get laid off. So, in essence, the ones who don’t believe in going to school make the point that going to school is the same as paying lots of money for nothing. Because you learn nothing. This post is about how that’s not true.

What I learned In university

For starters, just like with any kind of learning opportunity you only really learn anything of value if you want/have to learn. If you go in assuming that what the teacher will teach will have no value to your life you’ll be entering a losing battle between the wise you and the you that urges you to not do what you’re supposed to do. Even if you still understand how valuable it could be to watch a lecture, your other you will be managing the attention, energy and motivation resources.

This is a point to the fact that the fact that one person takes something meaningful away from going to school and some other person doesn’t is mostly due to the first disposition and intent with regards to the learning process of the first, than it is to do with school’s uselessness in teaching the student anything of value. It’s true that most of the things we learn in school we can hardly find a use for, but to say that none of it can be useful enough to have an impact on one’s life is just inaccurate.

The biggest lesson/practice I learned from going to university

So, what lesson is that? To put it simply is the ability to think critically about the outer world, and the inner universe of my own thoughts and beliefs. We live in a time in which people are encouraged to have an opinion and stand by it regardless of whether some powerful entity doesn’t like it. So most of us go through life taking their own beliefs as gospel not because they are justified in believing in what they believe in, but because they are the believers of these beliefs and not someone else. It’s that old bias to thinking anything we own in any way is automatically better/the best.

If you’ve lived in this planet for long enough you might have stumbled into the conclusion that regardless of whether you believe in something with your soul, the truth will remain the truth. This is why going to university, to be more specific taking several math courses was so beneficial to my mind in retrospect. When you think about how challenging the subject is, or how many assignments the professor gives, the easy conclusion to come up with is that it’s all useless. You don’t believe in that because everything you’re being forced to learn is useless, but because thinking it gives us a guilt-free ticket to quitting on it. Through these courses, I learned/acquire the difficult practice of only allowing myself to believe in anything if I can prove it. Bringing back memories, the kind of assignments I would get on a weekly basis was of some form of mathematical proof. The professor would assign the class a set of mathematical statements known to be true, and our job was to come up with valid proof for each.

To be honest, at first, I not only hated the assignments but was also convinced they would never be of value to my personal life/career. Over time however it became more and more clear that after dozens upon dozens of exercises of the kind my new adopted way of looking and thinking about life was dramatically changed. Now, I have a different view of the word “certain/certainty”. Now my view is that it’s just plain hard to be certain of anything even when it comes to the things we feel very certain about. The prevalent question is always: if you’re so certain about x where is the proof?

Learning

When you think like this two things will happen: 1) You’re likely to be a bit more insecure about your own bold statements and 2) It will be much harder to be swayed by people who are nothing more than ideas salespeople who have nothing of content to give to the world, and all they can do is to convince people of their ideas no matter how wrong they might be. Their ideas might be wrong/impractical, but they are for whatever reason believable.

This strategy of always asking for concrete proof from someone else’s statement is probably the best way to protect yourself from believing in ideas not worthy of belief. Now ideas are forced to go through an incubation period in which their veracity is put to test, and where often few of the submitted are accepted. Ideas/beliefs worthy of space in your memory are hard to find. There are many false positives disguised as content gold. This new practice forces the mind to take some time before accepting a statement, and over time the concentration of truly good ideas/beliefs is increased in such a way that their combined effect starts to have true impact in your life.

Evaluating criticism

They say that trough criticism we grow. The inability to take negative feedback can and should be thought of as a disability, of the kind that can be cured when one puts its mind to it, and outright dangerous when neglected. The problem with criticism is that often it’s hard to distinguish the difference between true constructive criticism and a malicious attack to one’s work disguised as constructive criticism.

Knowing which is which is difficult, but there is a  way to have a rough idea, and that is to ask the source of the criticism why they think what they think. When the criticism is just to make you feel bad about yourself/insecure with no drop of constructivism, chances are that the answer to this question is not any concrete way you can improve yourself but something like “it’s a gut feeling” kind of answer. True constructive criticism tends to come with a clear suggestion for improvement. The eye of the critic caught something in you that could be improved in some concrete way that perhaps through experience became familiar to them.

Plain old attacks, on the other hand, are weak castles that when looked up close have nothing of value to give. The source of the attack might say it’s all an attempt at honesty, and that any feelings of anger from your part are an example of your ability to take criticism, but at the bottom of their weak point is not necessarily fact, and truly useful advice, but nothing more than some need to make you feel inferior.

There is also the rare cases in which the critic wants you to feel bad about yourself, but the criticism is based on something real. For these cases the best solution is that described in the book The obstacle is the way by Ryan Holiday: see the gold through the negative. In other words, look through the obviously malicious, and be grateful for the opportunity to improve yourself. Remember that if you are all about improving yourself, one of the worst things that can happen is for you to not know where you have to work more one. And when that information should be cherished, even when it comes from the enemy.  

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How to deal with the hardships of life

In this post, you’ll find a few ideas on how to deal with the hardships of life.

Life is a roller-coaster. We’re so used to hearing this kind of comparison that we rarely stop to think about how true this sentence can is. There are many comparisons people make with the day to day and life, like for example when we transpose the happenings of one department of life itself to the whole. Like scientists, we generalize what we learn, and we do it through the extrapolation of what we see on the local to what we see in the global we call LIFE. I’m sure you understand what I mean by “Life is a roller-coaster”, and an even truer truth is that chances are that you just accept it. You hope for the somewhat comfortable ups and pray that the lows which will eventually come are not so low. Chances are that you hope that the lows look more like a flat line, in which the major problem that afflicts you is that of boredom or staleness. But what about the real lows? Like the ones in which you wonder if there will ever be an up? Or when you wonder if there is only going down getting worse and worse, and just like a black hole you disappear into nothingness…

This post is for these moments in which inspiration doesn’t come, and the hopes for a better something vanish. It’s not a motivational post, but more of a “doomsday survival mini-tutorial” for the moments in which you seek for more from within, and within is just dryness, just like a desert abandoned by rain for decades.

How to deal with the hardships of life?

How do you go through hard moments or seasons? Well…the truth is nothing in particular. Life can be great sometimes to the point that we hope we’re immortal, while some other times so cruel that we’re grateful we’re not. There are different degrees of hardship, each coming with its own set of coping strategies that only the experienced, just like in a field of science can give the best advice, but below are a few general tips nonetheless.

#1 Look for people who went through the same as you

The first and most intuitive thing to do is to look for the people who went through what you’re going through and succeeded. It has to be people who succeeded because they are living proof that what you’re going through is not impossible to overcome. If you listen to anybody chances are that you’ll find the ones who failed, and those are the worst advisers not because they failed, but because of the rationalizations, they came up with after they failed. They are likely to have shifted the blame from themselves to some other entity for which you have no power to influence like the government or God.

The ones who succeeded are likely to not only be sure you can too and encourage you but also to give you tips on how to go about it. The fact that they overcame the obstacle could have made them stronger mentally, more positive, and as a result also more motivational.

The first and most intuitive thing to do is to look for the people who went through what you’re going through and succeeded. It has to be people who succeeded because they are living proof that what you’re going through is not impossible to overcome.

#2 Try to predict it in advance

They say the best way to defend yourself is by prediction and preparation. When you predict you can prepare, and as a result, make sure your predictions are wrong. There is this myth of positive thinking your way through life, and were even daring to think that something bad might happen is the source of worry. Because some people believe that the universe will give you positively if you just think positively enough and vice-versa for the negative. If you can see the worst-case scenario you gain two advantages:

  1. If it’s early enough you can take the necessary measures to avoid it completely
  2. If it’s not you can at least prepare yourself mentally, or even take the necessary measures to minimize the blow.

It’s when you just limit yourself to positive thinking that you open yourself to the blows of life, which will come sooner or later. Just think about it. The concept of losing someone you dearly love or even yourself to death makes it look like the ultimate joke from the universe. In the sense that regardless of how positive your life is, there will be at least some pain reserved custom made for you.

So try to predict what might go wrong, because according to Murphey’s law: it will. Unless of course, you take the necessary steps to make it impossible. That’s why the idea of having at least 6 months worth of your monthly expenses in a savings account can be a very powerful idea. It’s not just about the saving of money for rent or groceries, but also about giving yourself the time to recover emotionally and mentally if and when that day comes in which your so beloved or not so bellowed boss has/decides to let you go.

This idea was inspired by the field of computer science, in which the computer scientist is urged to think about the worst-case scenario for a particular computer program, to see how the way he/she built it would perform under these conditions, and to compare it with other ways of building the same piece of software and their reactions to the extreme.

So you prepare for the scenarios you think might be deadly for your goals/dreams/spirit, and try your best to be 100 percent sure they won’t happen. Again I’m not talking about convincing yourself through just belief. I’m talking about taking the necessary steps/actions to make it impossible.

When you predict you can prepare, and as a result, make sure your predictions are wrong.

#3 Become aware of the likely inner negativity

The third tip is really for when you’re actually going through something. Just like a drunk, making decisions when in the lows of life is as Jordan Peterson would say: ”not recommended”. First, because chances are that you have no mental clarity due to the stress clouding your mind, and second because when desperate we are more likely to make decisions for which we will eventually regret when looking in retrospect through the lenses of clearer glasses provided by the stability that will eventually come.

The lows of life are characterized by negativity and the sense that the pain will be eternal. If you’re in it, it might and it has helped me to think in advance about the negative thoughts I would likely have. Because the feelings of depression in these moments come in waves, each ironically enough making us feel like the time of the other wave has ended for good. This is one of the points driven home by the book Can’t hurt me by the ex-navy seal David Goggins. He urges us to predict the one-second impulses to succumb to the hardships of life and quit. He calls them the one-second decisions, in which negative questions such as: “why are you here?” and ”you’re not good enough” come with the single purpose to make us succumb to defeat, whatever succumbing means for you at the particular moment.

This is another variant of the point of predicting the worse in advance. But now you predict the kind of messages you’re likely to tell yourself even if you’re already doing it, and making the effort to replace them with hope and positivity. I know this might sound contradictory to tip #2 but it’s not.

Being blindly positive/optimistic just like a tool it has its place. People tend to miss use them, only using them for the purposes of making themselves feel good, and if there is any place this would be useful is when being positive can be the rope that takes you out of misery.

I learned this from Jordan Peterson, who mentioned the fact that when a person is depressed, the person should take whatever rope life throws at them because we can’t be sure they can afford to miss that opportunity. He was talking about anti-depressants and how he surely recommended it to depressed patients, but this view can definitely be extrapolated to the subject discussed in this post.

#4 Strategize your way out of the problem

The last tip is to strategize. We live in a time of self-imposed helplessness in which instead of looking for ways to improve their lives no matter how unfair life has been people tend to look for someone/something to blame. We can definitely do that, but chances are that the blamed will not take any action to help you just because you blame them. Whether that’s God, the government or even a regular person, if you pay enough attention to history and to your own life, chances are that very few if any were the cases in which complaints and blaming solved anything. At the end of the day, you care about you more than anyone else and thus only you will have enough interest and passion in taking yourself out of the problem you’re currently in.

The reason why I bring up this point is twofold:

  1. When you take action there is at least the chance that your action will have the desired effect
  2. When you have a plan, the lows don’t feel so low anymore because a big part of the misery of the  hardships of life is in helplessness

The second point also I learned from Jordan Peterson when he said In a Youtube video that the depressed should look for some form of structure in their lives even if that structure is nothing but waking up every day at the same time and going to a job they hate. Here the structure is provided by the knowing of and execution of the plan in question. With the plan also comes the hope that it might work, which can be a powerful thing even if down the road we realize that the plan won’t work.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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References:

Can’t hurt me by David Goggins