Monthly Archives: April 2020

How to avoid procrastination

In this post, you’ll find a few tips on how to avoid procrastination.

The standards of today are much higher than they once were. One proof of that Is the amount of work one has to do today to succeed. When in the past all it took for one to be and feel successful was for one to find a good job. Today, although the same strategy can be effective, we are in a time in which more and more is required from you. Starting a business, for example, is the new path to success. So more and more people work harder than our ancestors did just to be average.

Having that said, it’s also true that there is less and less tolerance for procrastination. In sports, for example, all it takes for an athlete to come second is often no more than a few milliseconds. So you can imagine how a single day of procrastination can do to your dreams. This is ignoring the fact that procrastination has its own momentum. Each day of procrastination makes the next more likely, and before you see it the mountain of pain is now so big that the only remedy is to close your eyes and pretend it doesn’t exist.

How to avoid procrastination

The problem of procrastination has been around for a while. Before we started working in communities, and the search for meaning wasn’t a problem, survival was our only interest. Those who didn’t have their survival as a priority perished sooner or later for nature favors only the ones who are fit or at least try to be.

Now for most countries, the problem of survival has been mostly solved. Suddenly not being able to earn a living is no longer a problem and men find themselves with plenty of health, nutrition, and time. The extra time needs to be filled with something and with this abundance also comes the false sense that the time is infinite. This illusion in addition to the need for meaning can be said to be at the root of procrastination. Thus it follows that if you find yourself constantly procrastinating on a given task, chances are that maybe you shouldn’t be doing it at all.

We all know that life is more than just doing the things we want to do. Often enough it’s the case that we have to do the things we don’t want to and below are a few tips on how.

Get used to the discomforts

At the root of procrastination is the discomfort of some kind. Why else would we spend so much time avoiding the task in the first place?

The discomfort can take different faces depending on the activity. Sometimes it might come in the form of boredom, while other times in the form of anxiety. Either way, the impulse is to distract ourselves by doing something else.

One way to get over procrastination is by facing this fear of discomfort. If you expect the task ahead to be boring or difficult the tip is to immerse yourself in the boredom or difficulty. The idea is to show the mind that nothing bad will happen when you take on the task.

I realized this curious fact a while ago. I realized that when I was willing to immerse myself in the discomfort of the task this expected discomfort suddenly disappeared. Almost in the same way that a child becomes more courageous when we show her that what she thinks of as a monster actually is nothing more than a doll and that the darkroom is just as empty when we turn the lights on.

Getting used to discomfort is no easy task, but it can be done. The trick is to be mindful of it. To push your boredom to the extreme, and see what happens. Once you emotionally realize that the feeling of boredom will not kill you, boredom is no longer as much of a problem as it once was.

The same applies to difficulty. If the reason why you won’t start the task is that you expect it to be difficult, you might be surprised when you find it was actually easier than you thought. In fact, this is likely to be the case since humans are notorious for being bad estimators. We consistently overestimate/underestimate the duration and effort required to get something done. This happens so often that now it’s common advice on any project to add extra time to whatever time you think will be enough to complete the project.

Look for momentum

The next tip on how to avoid procrastination is momentum. The reason for this is that momentum and its close cousin progress are among the most powerful natural motivators known to men. One reason why we procrastinate is also that we might think that the next hour of work will move us no closer than we currently are to the big picture goal. We feel it might be a waste of time to do the work.

Constant and measurable progress is one solution. When you make progress on a regular basis, especially if every single day there is much less room for procrastination. You know for a fact that the time you put in will result in measurable progress, and this feeling of certainty of victory then serves as motivation for work.

The future is at large a mystery. All it takes is one small and inconsequential decision for it to take a completely different way. Consistent progress gives us a glimpse at a future in which we end up victorious which can be somewhat as intoxicating as having God himself telling you that you’re destined to great things.

Take advantage of the 80-20 rule

One thing I learned a while ago changed the way I think about procrastination especially when the reason is that I have too much work to do ahead. The advice came from the Ex-Navy seal David Goggins were while running he says the following words: “You have to sometimes let mediocrity think you’re giving into it. So I said you know what? Instead of going for a 20 miler let’s go out for an easy 6 our 7…the second you get to mile 2 guess what happens? Greatness pulls mediocrity in the f****ng mud.” The idea here is that often the amount of work or difficulty of the task is the reason why procrastinate. The trick is to do less than what you’re supposed to completely guild free. The effect is two-fold. The first is that you finally manage to get to work and the second that after a while it’s much easier to continue working. Chances are that once you get to work, you won’t quit as early as you expected.

Take this idea combined with the 80-20 rule. The 80-20 rule tells us that 80% of the results will likely come from 20% of the effort. So, you not only give yourself a pass for doing less, but you’re also more thoughtful about the things you chose to do. You pick the set of tasks that will have the most impact. That way if you do really less than expected, the little you did will have a greater impact.

This is kind of the idea presented in the book The one thing, where the author advises us to pick the one action that will have the greatest impact in our lives and goals and commit to that action alone for the timeframe i.e month/day/hour/etc.

Watch what you eat

Among the set of things people often talk about on the subject of personal development diet is perhaps one of the most underrated. We tend to think that the drive to do things will come only from within and our passion for the task in question. While this is true in some sense, it’s also true that our desire to do the work is also affected by outside influences and one of the most powerful is food. Just pay attention to how you feel just after a meal. Do you feel more energetic as you’re supposed to or do you feel lethargic? How much more interested are you in your passions when your only desire is to sleep? Not much right? And that’s the point of this tip. The point is to help you recognize that food does have an impact on how you feel and as a result also in your tendency to procrastinate.

The idea is to look for the kinds of food that not only make you more energetic but also allow you to work for hours on end without having to refuel.

I had my first experience of the kind a few years back when my motivation and focus to do the work would be more like a roller coaster than a straight line. Eventually, I made the connection between what I had for lunch and my productivity for the rest of the day, finally managed to gain more control over my energy levels and motivation.

Sources:

The one thing by Gary Keller

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How to know the truth

In this post, we’ll have a quick discussion on how to know the truth.

Long gone are the days in which the mere fact of one having an opinion or gut feeling alone made that opinion or gut feeling right. The search for the truth is what we’re here for. It’s true we have lots of interests, each varying with the peculiarities of the person, but the one universal and perhaps most profound is the search for the truth. We think only scientists and philosophers do that, and that is a misconception. We all search for the truth directly or indirectly on any activity whose goal is to find out what actually is.

How to know the truth

The good and bad thing about “the truth” is that there is only one. As Jim Rohn once said: “There are no new truths”. Meaning that whatever used to be true will remain regardless of time and of whether we like it or not. It’s important to know that we’re not talking about facts that do depend on time like who’s the current president, but more static and fundamental facts not subject to context. Below are a few tips on how to know the truth.

Defend your beliefs as if you were right  but expect to be proven wrong.

One kind of human activity in which the search for the truth is the most obvious is during debates. One person believes in one thing, the other in the opposite, and both attempt to bring the other to their side. The problem with this desire to bring the other person to your side is that it assumes you’re right even when there is a chance that you might be wrong. Here it’s normal for people to ignore disconfirming evidence just for the sake of being right. In a debate, the danger is not on not being civilized, but on wanting to be right as opposed to wanting to know the truth.

The other danger is in not defending your belief well enough even when you’re right. While in the first case there is the risk that you might be converting a winner to the losing side, here the problem is that of you letting yourself being converted to the losing side when you happen to know the winner; when you happen to know the truth.

So, the tip here is to defend your point as if you were sure you were right and expect that you might be wrong. If you have a skilled enough debater, this attitude of acting as if you were right should motivate them to present the best possible case for their belief. Also, the expecting to be wrong will prevent you from being a victim of the Confirmation bias since you’re actively looking for/paying attention to disconfirming evidence.

Make sure fundamental assumptions are correct

Another thing to pay attention to is the basic set of assumptions you and others use to think about things. It doesn’t really matter if the rules of logic were applied correctly in the construction of your thinking if the original set of assumptions is flawed.

This idea can be applied to both your own reasoning and to evaluate other people’s reasoning/points. If you see two points/theories that are at odds with one another and still you can’t tell which is wrong chances are that the answer is in the fundamentals. Where did they start from?

Write down all possible explanations for what you’re trying to understand and apply the process of elimination

The next idea is probably more familiar to you and it goes as follows. Make a list of all possible ways to explain your observation and try to remove as many explanations out of the list by using the process of elimination. You look for reasons why one explanation is not valid and hopefully, eventually, you’ll end up with only one. I remember first listening to this idea from the series Sherlock, where Sherlock Holmes says: “whenever the impossible has been removed, whatever remains however improbable must be the truth.”. This scene reveals something interesting about the truth, and that is that sometimes the truth doesn’t look like what we think.

The most known way to get to the truth is through a sudden brilliant insight that somehow connects all the dots of doubt. The problem with that approach is that it’s unpredictable. Some would say these kinds of ideas come from the unconscious which is as much a part of us as it is a being of its own.

Try to disprove your conclusions

Arriving at a conclusion is not enough for the conclusion to be right regardless of how many thinking hours you put into it. In every thinking endeavour there is always a human component, which means that there is room for error. There is always the chance that a mistake was made during one or more of the steps that got you to the conclusion. It could be that the evidence was wrong, or that you built your reasoning on someone else’s conclusions. Just like a car with many pieces often built by different manufacturers, if there is a defect in one or more of the pieces the defect will likely bubble up to the final product even though you’ve made no manufacturing mistakes yourself.

So try to prove yourself wrong. Well, try to prove even the seemingly proven and certain wrong. Many scientific advances have occurred due to one or many scientists questioning already firm beliefs and assumptions.

Learn more

Another way to learn or getting closer to the truth is by learning about more subjects. The reason for this is not that learning about more subjects will allow you to know more about more subjects, but much deeper than that. When you know about more subjects you can begin to build a map of relationships between them and how discoveries in one field might affect another. You get to know how the laws/principles in one field affect others and from that also contradictions between them. Like when one field predicts that some aspect of life should be in a certain way, and another predicts that it should be the opposite. We know there is only one truth but our reasoning brings us to two or more at the same time. The desire to reconcile the two fields will certainly bring you one step closer to the truth. Even closer than just going deeper and deeper into one or another.

How to know the truth in a debate

In the debate between Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson in Vancouver 2018, Jordan Peterson gives brings to light one advice which is perhaps the most powerful when having a debate with another person who for some reason you can’t come to a common agreement with and it goes as follows:

“Tell them what you think they think until they think that what you said reflects what they said”

The power of this idea comes from two sources. The first is the fact that in order to finally tell the person accurately what they meant, we first have to truly know what they meant. In debates or on any activity that represents the search of some truth, it’s very easy to skim over the opponent’s argument in the search for weak points. We become suddenly still more convinced we’re right without even taking the whole picture. The funny thing about computer programming is that the lines of code on the screen can be just as puzzling to the programmer reading it as it might be for you who has no idea of what that keyword “for” means. Although the programmer knows the language, a program is more of a list of step-by-step instructions on how to make this or that feature work. Due to the weaker expressive power of programming languages in comparison to spoken languages, it just takes more time to understand what the other programmer who wrote the code was trying to do in a specific block of code. When fixing a bug, the chances that the bug will be truly fixed with the right solution are dependent on how well the programmer understands the involved section of the code and this understanding requires the programmer to have the whole picture of how the code works/is supposed to work in their minds. The point is that this method allows you to take a full picture of the opponent’s point and as a result also reducing the odds that you will point to a problem when there isn’t one.

The other reason to apply this advice is that the more passionate we’re about a belief, the more we are/become that belief. The belief itself is a part of us also. So having a debate on beliefs can naturally cause some tension, since losing on the debate means that we have to abandon the belief, and thus be a bit less for a while.

Link to Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jey_CzIOfYE

Sources:

How to avoid the confirmation bias

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How To Avoid Burnout

In this post, we’ll have a quick discussion on how to avoid burnout.

So, you’ve been at it for a while now. Maybe months or years, and the motivation and drive to do the work is barely what was once. When at the beginning you were very motivated, and willing to put in overtime at work, now getting out of bed might feel like a herculean task. You start by dreading the day ahead, and soon enough you realize that the feeling will remain for the days, months, or even years to come.

The word productivity is now a vague memory, and just like exercising for most, it’s also nothing more than something we all aspire to but very few actually manage to accomplish. Maybe you once were that productivity master. The kind of person who could accomplish a lot with whatever time was available. But now. You probably see yourself as a shadow of that old self. You’ve burned out. Or maybe you didn’t and you’re looking for ways to avoid the inevitable. Either way, this post is for you.

How to avoid burnout

Burning out is a common phenomenon for people who happen to be driven to do whatever it takes to get what they want. These are usually entrepreneur or scientist types who achieve great things by going over their own limits. There are essentially two solutions for the problem of burning out:

1.Become lazy

2.Manage your limits

If there is one thing being lazy can be good for, that would be to avoid overexertion. This need to conserve energy is the exact opposite of burning out. Burning out is a declaration of emotional and physical drain coming directly from the body.

Managing our limits is about not fighting nature but working alongside it. Just like a government, nature sets the rules and they are in effect whether we like it or not. Burning out is a result of one or more of nature’s rules. Think about sleep and nutrition for example. It has been shown time and time again that no human performs at its best when sleep-deprived and/or undernourished. You can test this for yourself if you want but the result will be the same. The thing is that when we’re on our way to burnout we are aware of the fatigue and weakness but we keep pushing believing that the benefits will continue to outweigh the negatives of our actions.

Find your limits

If you’re a person with even a drop of work ethic chances are that you’ve gotten the advice to not work too hard or to not overextend yourself. The problem with this advice is twofold.

First, it usually comes from a place of jealousy. The person sees you working hard and feels bad for herself. They conclude the only way to fix their bad feelings is to convince you to stop working. If you’re old enough chance are that you’ll see this for what it is and keep going.

Second is that most of us don’t know their own limits. Add this to the now growing idea that one is only worthy of success of works non-stop for years, and you have a recipe for a full-blown burnout.

So. How do know your limits? The way to go about it is simple and yet difficult. It’s simple because all you have to do is to listen to your own body, and difficult because fatigue now doesn’t necessarily lead to a burnout tomorrow or a few months from now.

The simplest way to go about it is to push yourself at varying amounts and study the effects. You can start by working for the usual 8 hours a day for 30 days. If you find yourself to be fine, then the next step is to push it to 9 and on and on. The other way to go about it is in reverse start with a high and certain to cause a burnout amount of hours and bring it down.

For this one, you can use a strategy similar to what computer scientists call a binary search. In a binary search, the goal is to find as quickly as possible if a given number exists in a sorted list. You start by finding the middle of the list and ask whether your target value is greater or smaller than the middle value. If it happens to be greater then you can safely ignore the first half of the list since they are all smaller. If it’s smaller then you can safely ignore the second half. Then repeat the process until you either find what you’re looking for or conclude that it doesn’t exist.

You can apply a similar approach when trying to find your optimal number of work hours. Start by defining the bound, where the highest is the highest number of hours you think you can safely work for, and the lowest being the lowest number of hours you think you can safely work for while being productive enough. From that test the endpoints. Meaning test the lower bound for a set number of days, say 30, and then do the same for the upper bound. If the upper bound leads you to burnout or to think you could be given enough time then it’s time to adjust the bounds. Set the middle point as your new upper bound. Apply the same for the lower bound.

Then it’s possible that either you’ll never reach a burnout. For that case, the strategy is to use the upper bound as your new low and set another upper bound if possible and repeat the process.

Pace yourself

The next thing to do to prevent burnout at work is to pace yourself. Once you’ve found your limit the next thing to do is to design day to day work schedule that takes into account your newfound limitations.

Remember that the number of hours worked is not the only thing that can lead you to this so common state of exhaustion. Things like having too many things on your plate can definitely play a big role in your energy levels over time.

It’s known in psychology today that the brain pays a price for task switching. We perform better when we can focus on one thing and one thing only for several hours, especially without interruption.

So pacing yourself can mean not working too many hours, or not getting into too many projects/tasks.

The big problem with this advice, especially to people who strive for success and achievement, is that pacing oneself might feel like a declaration of laziness, weakness, or that we don’t want to achieve as much as we tell people we do. The only way around this is to make peace with the fact that sooner or later the energy you have to give now will not be available and your progress will crawl to a halt. This is what you really don’t want. Not working overtime to relieve yourself from the guilt, but progress. Pure and consistent progress. The keyword here is consistency.

Expand your limits

The good thing about the human body is that it has the property Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls “antifragile”. An antifragile system is not merely robust since robust systems are good at maintaining performance for as long as possible in the presence of stressors. An anti-fragile system is one that improves with stress. The stress causes it to overcompensate in the same way that calluses tend to appear when we overuse our hands. This is what the Ex-Navy Seal David Goggins means when he talks about callusing one’s mind. According to him, through pain and stress, we become better versions of ourselves. Versions that are better prepared to handle the stresses and challenges of life.

The idea here is to gradually improve our ability to handle greater and greater challenges. If your burnout metric is hours worked, and the maximum number of hours you can consistently work for is 11, then try to improve to 11.5. The secret is to pick a conservative improvement and to interleave the practice days with regular days. Then slowly increase the number of days in a row you’ll have for the improvement until the improvement is the norm.

Instead of resorting to complaining and burning out, you can inch your way into extended high performance. Like muscles, you can do more for longer.

Summary

Burnout is a real problem. It can have an effect on our finances and even more important, postpone the date of the realization of our dreams. Watching for it is one of the most important and yet underrated things. At its essence, the solution proposed in this post is to replace the old mentality of working way past our limits without any monitoring with the slow and steady wins the race kind of mentality. I’m talking about aiming for consistency, even consistency is not praised.

Sources:

Binary Search: https://medium.com/karuna-sehgal/a-simplified-interpretation-of-binary-search-246433693e0b

AntiFragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Can’t hurt me  by David Goggins

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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Tips on how to improve memory

In this post, you’ll find a few tips on how to improve memory.

We are learning beings. It’s not enough to study a lot if we can’t retrieve what we studied later. The more we can remember the more we have to work with when we are called to make a decision. This is what they call: Experience.

The thing about memory is that it can be positively and/or negatively affected by a variety of factors. This awareness is the first step towards the debunking of the old myth that one’s ability to remember is already existent or non-existent. You might have a poor memory now, but that doesn’t mean you can make it better. Chances are that today alone, you’ve been through at least one cycle of a good and bad memory. Things like eating the right/wrong thing can make your memory better, and with this in mind take some time to read the remaining of the post to get more memory improvement tips.

Tips on how to improve memory

Memory has been and still is a subject of study today. More tips should be expected as our understanding of the human brain increases. Being that said this post will take a slightly different approach. Instead of just telling you what to do, we’ll start from the basics.

What is memory anyway?

According to the oxford dictionary, memory is: “Memory is the faculty of the brain by which data or information is encoded, stored, and retrieved when needed.”

It’s about both storage and retrieval. The biggest issues in remembering come often from the storage phase. For one reason or another, the memories are not stored in either short term or long term memory, that when we try to retrieve them we can see nothing but a  blank page. Below are a few ideas on how to get around these very common and inconvenient problems.

Strive for understanding  when you can

There are usually two kinds of information out there. The first is the kind of information that comes from some information seed. Here through reasoning one can come from the seed and deduce many of its child conclusions/insights. The other kind of information is one in which there is barely any logic associated with it.

In math, there is the concept of axioms, which is, in essence, a set of facts we assume to be true with no proof and that serve as the basis to other derived facts. The second kind of information can be thought of as an axiom of some sort. You either can’t reason about it or the process is too difficult it becomes infeasible to spend the time and effort trying. So the only way around it is to attempt to memorize the information through brute force. Through repetition with no regard for understanding.

The memory tip here is to first identify what kind of information you have at hand and proceed as follows. IF there is some obvious underlining logic behind the information you’re trying to memorize, then strive for understanding. Meaning that you should do your best to have a true understanding of what you’re learning. The reason for this, as you might be aware of is that when you understand you can bring back to life even dead memories. You know what’s needed for the learned information to be whole. You know what’s missing and what’s shouldn’t be. You know the nature of what you learned and even if details are lost/forgot, you can come up with a representation of the original so good that the new could be seen as a synonym of the original.

It’s now evident that we should strive for understanding as much as we can since when we do, the memorization is unnecessary at best, and much easier at worse.

But what if I pure memorization is all I can do? Well, that’s what the rest of this post is about. Your goal is to get the memories to long term storage, where the memories are much less fragile and subject to forgetting. The thing to be aware of here is that once memories are committed to long term storage it’s still possible to forget. This is what goes by the name of “the tip of the tongue phenomenon”, where we know we know the information we just can’t retrieve it. We have missed the link to the memory in our brain. The solution here is to keep rehearsing the material in increasing periods of time until they become as close as possible to permanent. This is called spaced repetition.

Try the memory  palace

The next tip is one of the very popular techniques that go under the name of mnemonics. This can be thought of as a general case memory strategy. The kind of strategy that can solve most if not all kinds of memorization tasks. This is an example of a sledgehammer for the world of memory enthusiasts.

The memory palace is a technique that aids in memory by helping us store the material in a new and better format. This format that the method of loci exploits is images. The human brain is much better at remembering images and scenes than it is to remember words, especially if there is no real understanding of the material.

Because the human brain is better at remembering images, the process of moving the memory from short term to long term storage is surprisingly shorter than usual. I can remember more than one instance in which all I had to do was to rehearse the material 1-2 times and the memories stuck with me for days/weeks after.

Here is a video that describes the method:

Try dual N-Back

Another way to improve one’s memory is through brain games. This kind of games has been around for a while now, with some promising the moon, and just as many people not believing in it. There is, however, a game that has been proven through research to improve working memory and that is Dual n-back.

The game forces the player to remember rapidly changing bits of information. Overtime this supposedly makes one’s memory better, which is a very important thing to be aware of. Now we can not only agree that memory can be improved, but that it can be done so without having to resort to tricks or drugs along. We do it by changing the brain at a physical level.

Here is the link to the game.

Cardio

The next tip is exercise and more specifically aerobic exercise. The reason for this is more than one fold. First, with better health there are fewer things holding the body back from giving its all. The second is that after exercising the brain chemistry set in place is one that encourages learning, and the third is that aerobic exercise is known to increase the birth of new neurons called Neurogenesis, and the survival of the existing ones.

I was made aware of this through the book Spark where the effects of exercise and cardio, in particular, are explained much more deeply than just the mere “it’s healthy” we all get when someone advises us to exercise.

Still not convinced? No problem. Just run an experiment on yourself. Try to exercise before/ after learning something and keep an eye on potential improvements. Sometimes the improvement or decline in our ability to form new memories slips by us. We don’t realize that the reason we managed to memorize the stranger’s phone number with ease might have been due to the fact that we went for a run earlier in the morning or just happened to eat the right meal.

Tea and Nootropics

The last tip is to try to improve memory by drinking tea and/or taking nootropics. For those who don’t know nootropics are essentially supplements that aid in cognition. Be that through an improvement in concentration or memory, they make the mind work better, and some might go as far as saying that if the supplement doesn’t improve the brain while making the mind temporarily sharper it should not be considered to be a nootropic.

Mother nature has blessed us with a variety of herbs and plants that have a range of effects on our bodies. For most ailments, there is a good chance someone somewhere knows of a herb that will either fix the issue or make it easier.

Tea, just like the rest of the tips on this post has helped me personally too many times to count. In addition to an improvement in focus, I often notice that I also get a mood and memory boost. My favorite teas are green and black, and for both, there is a wealth of research pointing to their brain-boosting benefits.

Summary

As we discussed here there is more than one way to improve one’s memory. Deciding to understand as opposed to just memorizing is however the biggest takeaway. Try to understand the material as much as you can. Try to find the logic/reasoning behind it, and each bit of understanding could shorten hours of memorization down to minutes.

Sources:

Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer

Spark by John Ratey

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How To Learn Faster

In this post, we’ll have a quick discussion on how to learn faster.

The ability to learn things and applying them appropriately is perhaps one of the most powerful and not valued enough skills. Succeeding in life is in part a matter of luck, but the rest is in essence about knowing the things we are supposed to know when we need them.

Everything boils down to knowledge. Thus it follows that the more we know about more things, the greater the odds that when it counts we’ll have the right information to make the necessary decisions that will lead us to get what we want. It was when I became aware of this simple fact of life that I became obsessed with learning as much and as frequently as I could, and with the ability to do so quickly, or at least quicker.

How to learn faster

Before pondering the question of How to learn faster I start by asking first whether it makes sense for me to learn what I’m trying to learn in the first place. Skipping this step is the same as getting to a car, heading to a random address and ask how to get there faster. There might be a useful if not effective answer to the question, but the bigger picture question of direction will remain unanswered. I realized  that this first question is the most important from the TV show Sherlock, where he says:

“The mind is like an attic” to  John Watson as a reminder that we should be more selective on the things we decide to learn in the first place. He meant that his ignorance of something he didn’t care about wasn’t a problem. In fact, it was more than just ignorance, it was selective/intentional ignorance, where he chose not to learn about something.

Also according to the book Why we sleep by Matthew Walker, the sedimentation of new information into long term memory might take more than just one night of sleep. Meaning that contrary to popular belief, the information you learn today might still be processed over the next few days by the brain without your awareness of it. The question is: why go through the effort of processing information you don’t care about?

Now, assuming you really have to learn the new piece of information below are a few tips.

Two main learning strategies

There are many ways we can go about solving this problem, and the preferred way here is by separating the things we can do to improve our learning abilities into two boxes: Improving mental sharpness and improving learning through indirect means.

Improving mental sharpness

The first group of strategies is devoted to improving mental sharpness. The reason why this set matter is simple. The better your mental fitness the better your learning ability. Most people have the incorrect idea that their current state of mental clarity, speed and memory is all they have access to. It’s the same as being overweight and assuming that your current stamina is all you have access to.

The brain is very sensitive to the way we treat it, and the things we expose it to. Think about vitamins for example. All it takes is a deficit in one or a few of the crucial ones for anyone to begin experiencing cognitive decline. I can testify on this sensitivity myself. Eating the right thing, or taking the right vitamins does have a measurable and often significant impact on your cognition, and the most important thing is for you to be aware of it. You can make your mind sharper, and below are a few ways how.

Make sure you’re not deficient on any vitamins/minerals

The first and easiest way to improve one’s sharpness and as a result also improve one’s ability to learn fast is to make sure all the vitamins/minerals are in their right amounts. This tip expands also to health in general. An unhealthy body doesn’t spell a healthy mind. It only makes sense that if the body is sick or deficient in nutrients the logical/learning brain will pay a price.

It’s now known in science that in moments of deprivation/sickness the areas of the brain related to logical reasoning go offline. It’s as if they are not important enough for mother nature to create conditions to keep them online in every condition.

If you’re not healthy, going back to health should have a noticeable effect on your cognition.

Exercise

The next tip is to exercise before/after your learning. The first reason why exercising would be beneficial is that it’s a tool to be used when applying the first tip. It will improve your health and as a result, relieve the body from the burden of healing.

The next reason is that exercising, especially aerobic exercising is a very good tool to sharpen the mind. I’ve noticed many times after a run, that my mind is much more ready to learn anything and to solve any problem. Don’t get me wrong, what is difficult will remain difficult, but the struggle will be much easier.

The reason why I say before/after is that according to recent science, exercising before learning primes the brain for learning, and exercising after learning makes it much more likely that the newly formed memories will be successfully moved from short term to long term storage, which will make the memories much more resilient to forgetfulness.

Consider nootropics

Nootropics or “Smart drugs” have been around for a while. From tech companies to university dorms, there has been plenty of evidence showing how effective they can be in improving one’s cognitive abilities, be that for learning or problem-solving.

One thing to take into consideration is that this post is no medical advice. It’s always ideal to consult a doctor before taking any medication/supplement. Being that said, nootropics might be an avenue you’d be interested in exploring if you’re really serious about learning faster by sharpening the mind.

There is a variety of them out there, so many that several posts could be written. So for this point, the tip is to make a google search, learn and experiment with what you find. There is a sea of information out there ready to be revealed to you. A high-level explanation is that they improve the sharpness of the mind by changing the chemical makeup of the brain. Some smart drugs increase the concentrations of some brain chemicals, some decrease it, while some others might change the brain in some way that will make the effects of some neurochemical more potent. These changes could have side-effects, and this is why it’s important to do your due research, as well as talking to a doctor before taking the supplement.

Improving learning indirectly

The second way to learn things faster is by improving your learning indirectly. Below is how.

Try speed reading

Speed reading is a technique/set of techniques designed to improve one’s reading speed. It’s now known that the reading speed we have at the moment can be improved by a few extra hundred words a minute. Just like the previous example, there is a vast array of resources out there.

When doing this also try to learn a way to memorize more quickly. One way to go about this is through the use of mnemonics. These are techniques that allow us to memorize more information more quickly, and most times also to retrieve it quicker from memory. One example is the technique called: The memory palace; Where each bit of information is converted into an image and this image is stored in a mental palace. This technique takes advantage of the fact that humans are much better at remembering images than they are at remembering words.

Learn about more things

At the beginning of the post, I brought light to the fact that we should be more thoughtful about the things we choose to learn about. This doesn’t mean to learn as little as possible, but to put more thought behind it. Some information will never be useful to you, and thus should not be learned unless of course you just happen to be interested in it.

The good thing about knowing about a lot of things is that it makes it easier to learn new things. I mentioned just a while ago that the human mind is better at remembering images than it is to remember words. It’s also true that the human mind is better at memorizing things that relate to other already memorized things than it is at memorizing things that have no connection to anything learned before.

So, the more you learn about different subjects, the more things your new subject of choice has to relate to, thus making it easier and faster to learn the new subject.

Also on the same tone, the more you learn about a given subject, the easier it becomes to learn even more about that same subject.

Sleep

The last tip is to sleep. Just like with exercising, sleep both before and after the learning session. Sleeping before will do two things:

  1. Rest the mind and the body
  2. Move any previous memories from short term to long term storage.

This will allow the mind to learn faster. Sleeping/napping after learning will also have a positive impact on learning by moving the new memories from short term to long term storage, and resolving any confusion you might have had with the material.

Sources:

Why we sleep by Matthew Walker

Spark by John Ratey

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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Quotes for Self Improvement

In this post, we’ll have a quick discussion on quotes for self- improvement, including the sources and the fundamental lessons to be learned from each.

The self-improvement industry has been around for a while. A good number if not most of the most successful people can attribute their success directly or indirectly to the desire/interest in self-improvement. I too can testify on the effects of a growth mindset can have over one’s life. But at the same time, there is this unspoken disdain over people who openly talk about their desire for and interest in self-improvement. Talk about reading books to your peers who don’t read, and chances are that what you’ll mostly get is weird looks. Some might even say that books or any self-improvement action for that matter will not yield results. At least not the way we think. If there is something just as useful and also just as downplayed that would be self-improvement quotes.

Quotes for self-improvement

If you do a quick Google search on quotes for self-improvement quotes chances are that the results will be nothing more than a list of quotes from famous/successful people. This post will be a little different. In the sense that you’ll not only get the quote and the source, but we will also have a quick discussion about it. We’ll talk about the deep lesson to be learned, which might or might not be obvious. Hopefully, this post can be useful.

“Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up; discharge your duties faithfully and well.”|Charlie Munger

This first quote is probably one of my favorite and the one that had the most impact on my life personally. For most the interpretation is likely to be that we should always learn something new each day. From that most when asked whether they always learning, the answer is likely to be yes. Here what is learned is often trivial, which makes the application of this advice not as effective/powerful as it could be. I realized that what is meant by being “a little wiser” is that one should strive to be truly wiser. Wiser/smarter in a non-delusional way.

Charlie Munger is known to be a reader and that very clearly reflected both on the book Poor Charlie’s Almanac, and his carrier. The way I applied this advice in my own life was through reading books and taking online classes on whatever subject I happen to be studying. Platforms such as Udemy.com are a great place to apply this tip, and being sure that you’re tangibly “smarter/wiser”. All you have to do is to watch one video/tutorial a day.

“After you’ve controlled your emotions and you can see objectively and stand steadily, the next step becomes possible”Ryan Holiday

If there is one quote to which the whole book The obstacle is the way boils down to this is it. Ryan Holiday is one of my favorite authors. The reason for this is the same I use to judge whether an author is good or not. That would be whether I keep on going back to their works, and if I keep on getting value from them each time around. This is a quote extracted from the book The obstacle is the way, and it’s a representation of what successful people do when they face the numerous challenges proposed by life itself.

It’s not just the vanilla advice to push through or pick yourself up from failure, but something more if only you look deep enough. The extra piece of advice within the advice is to pay attention to your emotions. More specifically the idea that pushing past obstacles depends heavily on our ability to control our emotions. It means that we should pay attention to the clouding effects that emotions can have and take a hold of them. It says:

“Yes you have to push through the obstacle, but you need to take control over your emotions first.”

This is gold advice, to say the least. In the self-help industry, motivational tapes are all around. They are great at telling us about how we should be, and how hard we should push through to succeed in life, but not much practical advice on  how to do so. And as strange as it might be, just knowing we should pay attention to our emotions and making the effort to makes us more likely that we will.

“If you mean it when you say you’re at the end of your rope and you’d rather quit, you actually have an opportunity to change and grow, and improve yourself”Ryan Holiday

Another powerful quote I got from the same book is this one. Just like the previous quote, there is much more to it than meets the eye. The standard advice is that we should push through and that we should never quit on our endeavors. This quote takes it a step further. It opens our eyes up to the fact that the moment we think we’ve reached our limits, is the exact moment we are at the brink of transcending ourselves. Otherwise we wouldn’t feel like we’ve reached our limit in the first place.

It means that we have an internal “growth tracker”. A tracker that only goes off when we reach a given threshold be that of patience or effort. The alarm is the desire to quit, and being aware of the previous advice, all it takes is a bit of presence of mind to realize at  that moment, the fact that we’re about to become a better version of ourselves. I often find this realization to be the motivation I need to push through. Again, the advice is both theoretical and practical.

“When you feel fear you recoil and put up a wall to protect yourself. Is there really a wall there? No, but you act as if there were.” – Tim Grover

We live in a time in which everybody is encouraged to embrace their emotive side. This is specially tailored to men who, for a very long time had to downplay their emotions to fit the social norms. Just like many things that weren’t right but that are made so, this too has been taken too far. As the comedian, Bill Burr once said on the matter: “There was an overcorrection”. Instead of taking into account context and amount to decide whether being emotional is acceptable or not, all kinds of emotions have become acceptable. Controlling one’s emotions today is perceived as “rigid” . Being rigid is not fun, and everybody wants to be fun, even at the expense of their goals.

I got this quote from the book Relentlessand just the prior two, this too is among one of my favorite. The idea here is to pay attention to when you become emotional, more specifically when you feel fear. The thing about emotions is that although obvious to the world, sometimes they are not as obvious to us. We act angrily without realizing we’re angry.

The quote gives us a description of how we behave when we’re fearful. Just like a disease, we can more easily identify it by looking for/at the symptoms. The symptoms of a fearful attitude can be very useful when you feel emotional but you’re not sure of how the current state is affecting you.

This is extra useful when you take into account the idea of cognitive dissonance, which is in essence the tendency of the human mind to try to align thoughts, feelings and behavior, and to make us feel uncomfortable when at least one of the 3 is out of sync. Thus by changing behavior we can change the way we feel and the thoughts we think. The description above tells us exactly what to change.

“If you’re not real and raw with who the f**k you are, nothing is going to change”David Goggins

This last quote was obtained from one of many of The Ex-Navy seal’s Youtube videos. David Goggins has been an inspiration for lots of people including myself, and this is perhaps the core of the growth philosophy he often publicizes. The point is that we’re very good at telling ourselves stories in order to make ourselves feel better about our current condition. This skill is very useful when there is nothing we can do about it, but very detrimental when there is something we can do.

David Goggins advises us to be honest with ourselves. Just like with drug addiction, the first and most important step is to admit there is a problem in the first place. From there we allow the brain to go into problem-solving mode and only then we can start creating positive momentum in our lives.

This is by far one of the most difficult things anyone can do. The reason for this is that most of the time we don’t realize we’re telling ourselves stories to make ourselves feel better. So the take away here is to pay attention to that tendency. To constantly ask yourself the question: “am I being honest with myself?”

Sources:

Poor Charlie’s Almanac by Charlie Munger

The obstacle is the way by Ryan Holiday

Relentless by Tim Grover

David Goggins Motivation

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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Things to become an expert in

In this post, we’ll have a quick discussion on things to become an expert in.

Becoming an expert at something is one of the most popular advices of today. This idea has been around for long enough that the goal/dream of many teens is to go to college/university to pursue higher education. Most of them have only a vague idea of what they want to do, and a good enough number just goes for the sake of going. When they do ask what they should major in two kinds of advice usually come:

1) Whatever makes you the most money.

2) Whatever you love.

The question of what to major in is the same question of what to learn. What to become an expert in? They are all essentially the same question.

This post will take you to a tour of a new way of choosing what to learn.

Things to become an expert in

The suggestions in this post are just suggestions based on the level of a positive impact they could have if you were to become an expert. Below are the suggestions and the reasons why they were selected.

Learning

The first might come at a surprise to you since we tend to try to jump into the complex forgetting we can always start with the simple. The simple here is learning. By becoming a master at learning you give yourself a boost in your subsequent chosen areas of learning. You’ll be able to do it faster and more effectively.

Most of us leave a lot on the table when it comes to taking advantage of learning opportunities in school. The reason why I know this is that most of us claim to dislike school, and still can recall at least one class they deeply understood. Whether due to the nature of the class, the teacher or the teaching style matching your learning style that one instance is enough to disprove your school dislike theory.

The point is that a part of what motivates us to continue learning a topic is the progress we can make when we know how to learn it. For these rare instances in which the average student enjoys the class, they come out of it having learned better and retaining a good amount of it even after years and decades.

This is possible when you learn how to learn. I’m talking about memory and problem-solving techniques.

Skill acquisition

Still along the same lines of learning school material is the area of skill acquisition. Learning how to acquire skills can also serve as a basis for the learning of other subjects. This may lead you to subject such as skill decay, and the 10,000-hour rule which will improve your chances of successfully mastering the skill.

Technology

Every time is a time of change, and the ones who have benefited the most in history were the ones who managed to ride the waves of change brought by new technologies. In times of change, there are two kinds of people: the ones who adapt and grow, and the ones who chose to lean back and complain about the change.  Although the latter might earn you a few likes and words of encouragement, that’s the most you’ll ever get. Change when caused by technology is a force of nature, whose strength comes from the fact that what it has to offer is so seductive most of us can resist.

But let’s assume for a second that somehow we manage to get most people to not use the new technology. Then what? A surface-level interpretation of this scenario may lead us to think that the number of people will remain static over time. The truth is much more different and here is the reasoning. Even if we manage most people to abstain from using the new technology because of human nature and our competitive tendencies, many of us would eventually realize that the few who do use it have an advantage over the ones who don’t. From the majority, there will always be the ones who don’t want to be left behind, and these will be the first to break on their promises. Eventually, something funny begins to happen.

Everybody has a tolerance when it comes to being left behind. A part of what we use to consider on whether to follow the crowd and staying on our own is essentially the number of people in the crowd. It’s just much less painful to be left behind by a crowd of a handful than a crowd of a thousand or a million. From this, it follows that the greater the number of people who adopted new technology, the harder it becomes to not follow the crowd. So if benefitting from new technologies is not a good enough reason for you to keep an eye for new technologies, the reasons stated above should serve as extra motivation.

The point is that increasing your expertise in an array of technologies has the potential to both make your financial life better and protected.

History

The next area everyone should be an expert in is history. The more you know the lesser the chance of fundamental mistakes so big that they turn off your life. The better you can operate at your work and compete with your competitors. When it comes to making fewer mistakes mother history is probably the best teacher. You get to learn about the actions good and bad from the highest of the leaders of the time and the lowest of the peasants. The good thing about it is that it’s free.

If there is something humans have been consistently bad at that would be to truly learn from their mistakes. This is the reason why history is one of the most important fields to be an expert. Mistakes of the past have been made again and again, and just like the seasons that come, go, but never go away permanently.

History is to life what a chess book with past games is to chess.

Philosophy

The next area everybody should strive to become an expert in is philosophy. The reason for this is that although it might not come up with as many scientific breakthroughs as chemistry or physics, philosophy teaches us how to think. The better you become at constructing your arguments the more you find yourself criticizing your own points and just as frequently updating if not taking them back completely. Eventually, your definition of “the truth” is no longer that which makes you feel like it’s true, but that which structurally true. What does that mean? It means that the argument used to convince us of the veracity of some facts is sound. It contains no contradictions, nor false assumptions. It contains no fallacies. You can find at the end of this post a post about fallacies.

Knowing the truth about anything is more difficult than you might think. It’s not enough to believe something is true for it to be so. It’s not enough for the argument to seem sound for the “fact” to be truly a fact.

Philosophy alone might not lead you to the truth but it has the power to help you have an idea of what the truth looks like so you know when you see it. The same can be said about false claims especially when they are accompanied by arguments that are supposed to convince us of the veracity of the claims. More often than not inconsistencies expose themselves if only you have enough patience to look for them.

Biology

The last and by no means the least important thing to become an expert in is biology, more specifically the biology of the human body although biology as a whole is still very important.

The reason why having an understanding of the inner workings of some organ or system of organs in the human body is important is that from these insights you get to improve your life without having to pay someone to give health advice. Another thing becomes immediately obvious the more you learn about how the human body works, and that is that you become able to tell when a given medicine advised by a doctor or not is valid or not.

An understanding of the human body allows you to make informed explorations on medicine as well as your diet, allowing you to reap the benefits of not yet discovered medications or sources of nutrition years before they go mainstream. This is often what happens with traditional foods and medicine. It takes some time for them to become popular. And still, even more, time for it to become popular enough to spark the attention and curiosity of scientists. When they do decide to begin research on the new compound it takes even more time for it to become approved and more time still for the public to begin adopting it. That’s when you see the food sold in the supermarket.

Summary

Becoming an expert is an arduous task. Chances are that anyone of the suggestions above is by itself large and complex enough to fill a lifetime. So attempting to master all of them might be a bit unrealistic. This is not an excuse to not dabble on them. So the idea here is to choose one or two areas to attempt mastery, and for the rest try to learn the major teachings from the best teachers you can find.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

Leave a comment bellow

Sources:

Fallacies: https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/fallacies/

How to increase willpower

In this post find a few tips on how to increase willpower.

In life, most of our time is spent doing things we wish we didn’t have to.  The idea of pushing through has been in our collective consciousness that kids come to know at younger and younger ages that persistence is always better than quitting on most things we choose to do. Songs, books and movies bring the same lesson but even with all that sea of advice, very few people if anybody tells us how to do it. How do you increase your willpower? This is the question we don’t get as much advice on. This is the question we don’t get enough answers for. This is what this post is aiming to answer.

How to increase willpower

First, what is willpower anyway? According to Dictionarydictionary.cambridge.org  willpower is: “the ability to control your own thoughts and the way in which you behave”. Increasing willpower is one of these true “silver bullets” of life. No matter the problem chances are that a dose of it will make things better.

But before we dig into the question of “How to increase will power”, there is also the question of when. The best thing one can do is to put itself under the necessary conditions to not need to use willpower in the first place. I’m talking about the creation of habits and getting involved in projects/work you’re genuinely interested in. The less willpower you need to do the work the more likely you are to complete it since you don’t have yourself also making it difficult to get the work done. So if you find yourself having to invoke large amounts of willpower to do something, maybe it’s time to ask whether you should be doing it in the first place.

Still, one thing remains true regardless of whether the activities you’re involved in are the right ones. The fact that the more control one gains of itself the greater it will be the control he/she will have in their life in general. The process that gets us from weak-willed to willpower titan is one of tricks and struggle. Below is a description.

Leverage hardships

The quickest way to increase one’s willpower is to put itself in uncomfortable situations. I’m not talking about mild discomfort. I’m talking about the degree of discomfort that requires you to go beyond yourself to remove/cop with the discomfort.

One good example of this is any kind of hard labor. For these kinds of jobs, both the mind and the body are put to test most extremely during your first days when everything is new and your body is not yet conditioned to the daily demands. I got this from one of the many of the Ex-Navy Seal David Goggin’s Youtube videos. Even after his widespread influence found on one of these hard jobs the mental and physical training, he considered important.

I can tell from experience too. Having done it a few times, I could notice an increase in willpower not only with regard to the job but in general. Depending on how active you are your first day might range from impossible to endure in the first few hours, to earning a guilt-free chance to skip the gym for the day.

Hardships of any kind have this inherent strain on our willpower. On our resolve to get to the same level of endurance and excellence as everybody else. They are weights for the muscles of relentlessness.

At the end of a moment of hardship, we don’t get to preserve the same level of willpower as before. We either quit and return with less, or persevere and come to a renewed being with double or triple the willpower.

Exercising

Another also common example of the first tip is exercising. During exercising both the mind and the body are put to extreme moments, but unlike hard jobs, there is much less of the mental component due to the fact that there is no pressure to perform. One very effective remediation for this problem is to either hire a personal trainer known for his/her toughness or making a public commitment on some difficult to reach fitness goal. Given that you give your best at the gym, this can be a powerful tool on your willpower toolbox.

From the struggle comes the will and so the same can be said the health benefits exercising brings, that increase our power of ourselves just by removing the burden of sickness from the picture.

The amount of willpower is often linked to your confidence. The mere fact that you don’t believe in your ability to endure is reason enough to make you weak-willed simply by making the mental quit before the physical is even warmed up. With increased fitness often comes an increase in looks, which often still precede an increase in one’s self-esteem…

The key is to give it your best and strive for a gradual and consistent improvement in performance.

Fasting

Still on the subject of hardships is fasting. Through fasting, one gets to tap into the scarceness of resources switch. Here the body is deprived but the mind is not. The body’s deprivation is often a perfect mirror to the mind’s stimulation caused by the body’s reaction.

Fasting takes the person through a ride of highs and lows, and then highs again…It teaches the mind to fight against itself. The new to push back on the primitive. Your logical and thinking side you versus your animal and instinctive self.

This one’s impact too can be seen at the end of the journey. A renewed being if you endure, and a weaker willed self if you decide to quit.

Like exercising some fasting has shown to improve one’s health and longevity, which again, increases our willpower by removing the things that would be an unnecessary burden on your willpower supplies.

Diet

Like the last two, a diet too can have a positive impact on the willpower by increasing one’s health in the long run. As for the short term, it’s also known that some foods are more taxing to the body. So it follows that if and when you consume something that puts a heavy burden on the body to process, much less energy is left for willpower and other bodily processes.

This one too is something I experienced more frequently than normal. Eating the wrong thing would often result In me being only in shape to sleep for the rest of the day. Eating the right thing also made an enormous impact. Eating the right thing could make an average day turn into a supercharged, delaying gratification one in which productivity was the only word in the dictionary.

If your ability to endure and give your best to things is random, meaning high today and low tomorrow, your diet might be the culprit. For this one it helps if you know of at least one meal you know for sure is exactly what you need for you to give your best. Then to systematically test every liked meal in one day, and the guaranteed to be healthy one(s) in another. This way you can have increased confidence in the healthiness of the foods you love.

One amazing resource on health and performance is the book series by Dave Aspery.

Try Supplements

Supplements are perhaps the cheapest and often easiest way to increase one’s willpower. Although most work on improving ones’ health and as a result also willpower, some work directly on the areas of the brain that focus on willpower itself and motivation. Supplements like L-tyrosine for example which are known to make one’s ability to think well under extreme conditions such as cold are just one example of how to make yourself more resilient to the adversities of life.

Supplements are and have been proven to benefit humans in a variety of ways. The problem with them is as Tim Ferris once said: “There is no biological free lunch”, meaning that chances are that something is lost when we improve an area of our lives through supplements/medication. Some supplements might work by increasing the concentration or production of some neurotransmitter. This increased availability of the neurotransmitter in the brain might come at the expense of some other also important neurotransmitter. The result might be an increased sense of motivation coming at the expense of sleep or increased anxiety. The point is to make sure you talk to a doctor and do your due research before resorting to supplements as a way to improve your health and willpower.

Another downside of taking supplements to improve willpower is that they prevent us from developing the willpower mental muscles we so desperately need. So we find ourselves dependent on one or a variety of supplements to increase our willpower and productivity. When we can’t have access to it we not only go back to the baseline but do much worse. Think about the known effects of daily caffeine used followed by cold turkey quitting.

There is also a tolerance problem. For some supplements or medications, chronic use results in the development of tolerance to the supplement or medication, which in turn requires more of the same drug to achieve the same mental effect. Eventually, you probably achieve the maximum allowed dosage for the supplement which will put you in the position of either going beyond that and risking an overdose or accept the fact that you won’t be able to get the same effect you once had.

Of course, not every supplement has the stated drawbacks. It’s possible to find one that has no withdrawal and very little to no tolerance. The point here is to make you aware of these problems so you can look for them during your research on the perfect supplement.

Book Suggestions

There are a few books from which I keep on learning, and that served as the basis of some of the tips described in this post. Examples are: Can’t hurt me by David Goggins, The obstacle is the way by Ryan Holiday, Relentless by Tim Grover and Stillness is the key by Ryan Holiday.

My favorite and the one I recommend you to read first are Can’t hurt me by David Goggins and The obstacle Is the way by Ryan Holiday.

Summary

At the end of the day, willpower is very important. So important that often it’s the case that the benefits of having it outweigh the cons of the method used. This is not to say that one should try to gain willpower at the expense of one’s life and relationships, but that just because we couldn’t find a way to boost it, doesn’t mean we should stop trying.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

Leave a comment below

Sources:

  1. Can’t Hurt me: https://g.co/kgs/Lncg9n
  2. The obstacle is the way: https://g.co/kgs/s6ZCUF

What is cognitive reframing?

In this post, we’ll have a discussion on the subject of cognitive reframing.

The way we look at the world affects the way we act on it. Today there are countless schools of thought on any subject you can think of. Each with its own rules that might go from the subject itself to being applied to the student’s personal lives and the way they make bigger deal decisions. Even with the strictest and most comprehensive philosophies of life and thought we still carry with us our own native and basic interpretation of the things we experience. Some of us might be more inclined to see only the good, others the bad, while some others might do as little as nothing. It’s in the moments of great stress that we return to our most primitive forms of thinking, and if we’re not careful enough the lessons learned from these primitive conclusions might be the wrong ones. Here is where cognitive reframing enters the picture.

What is cognitive reframing?

Cognitive reframing is to put simply a psychological technique whose goal is to minimize one’s distress caused by negative thoughts and interpretations by changing these thoughts and interpretations. Here the act of reframing is a replacement for the word change. The reframing can also be thought of in the same way they think about the word in the area of photography. When we take a picture and we want to use it as an ornament around the house or office we “frame it”, and when that frame gets old or something better is found, we “reframe it”.

The difference is that the reason why we reframe cognitively is that the current thoughts and feelings with regards to a situation or event for one reason or another do not bring the best in the person.

How to apply it on myself?

The first and most important thing if you want to apply the idea of reframing to your life is to have a clear understanding of how you understand the event you’re trying to reframe. This is in essence what’s explained on the post How to improve metacognition. In summary, just like with metacognition, you first need to understand how your mind perceives the event so that you can take the necessary steps to change it. You first have to ask yourself about your opinion on the matter in the same way that you’d ask someone else about theirs. Without that there is no way to easily change your views or feelings on a matter. It’s the same as wanting to change the frame of a picture you’re not even sure what the frame is.

Reframe using questions

One way to use reframing is to know what you want to change the thoughts and feelings to and either will yourself to look at the situation that way. Another way is through the use of questions. If you know your way of looking at things is not helpful and/or might even be incorrect this technique can be just what you need.

When you have a  frame set on a situation or event, the method of questions would lead you to first ask why you have that frame in the first place. The mind is so powerful that it can once in a while, be rational about irrational matters. Knowing this, the next predicted thing is that a rational/logical reason for the frame will be fabricated and this is where the weakness of the frame lies. Meaning you can more easily dismantle the frame through logic and logic alone. By proving the logic for the existence of the frame is not sound you can sometimes make the emotional leap and drop the frame. When this happens the next will likely be more useful.

Taking advantage of cognitive dissonance for a successful reframe

Another way to reframe successfully is by taking advantage of what goes by the name of cognitive dissonance. In a few words, cognitive dissonance is the tendency of the brain to want to have our thoughts, feelings, and behavior aligned. Like a united country, all cities fight for the same cause and believe in the same beliefs.

When we believe in one thing, and behave in a contradictory way, on the other hand, we experience a very common form of discomfort that forces us to either change the thoughts or the behavior.

So it follows that one potentially useful strategy to change the way you look at things is by behaving as if you looked at them in the desired way. This is the idea taught in the book: The as if principle by Richard Wiseman.

Reframing  stressful events

Stress is one of these things no human being can ever claim to never have experienced. The way we handle it can make the difference between performing well when needed, and a complete freeze. Here too the technique of reframing can be useful. Instead of looking at the stressful event let’s say: an exam, one can learn to look at it as a challenge to be conquered.

Think about the frame around every stressful event. It’s nothing more than a repetition of the same old story that whatever we are about to face is likely deadly/harmful to us. We might not have this belief set explicitly in our minds in the form of thoughts, but we still behave as if this is the case nonetheless.

I found over the years that sometimes, all it takes is to mentally take myself to accept that whatever I’m anxious about is not going to kill me and then, the subconscious framing of the situation is changed.

Reframing losses

Just as we can reframe stressful events, the same can be useful and applied to losses. Losing is perhaps one of the few things that make even the most distinct pair of people close. Meaning the experience of it is universal in the sense that we all dislike it. Losing can be either a learning experience or just a painful one, and it’s when we subscribe to the latter that we make ourselves more prone to mental illnesses such as depression.

By intentionally reframing a loss experience from just a painful to a learning one we can minimize the pain and misery as much as possible. The problem with the second view of the event is that we are more inclined to see the loss as a measure of how worth; what we’re capable of. The first forces us to look at the same thing in a new light, with a fresh pair of lenses.

Cognitive reframing and depression

The subject of depression has been around for a while and still, we can’t seem to find a unifying explanation for its sources. One potential explanation is that the source of one’s problem comes from an event/series of events from which a negative frame was applied. Taking that to mind, it follows that a potential solution for down moments might be reframing, and one of the best places to start is by reading motivational books or listening to motivational speeches.

Reframing  applied to other people

When it comes to other people, the way they look at us has an impact on how they interact with us. Sometimes the frame through which they interpret us is positive and sometimes is negative. The steps to changing this frame are simple.

  1. Identify it

2. Make indirect changes

Unlike when we’re trying to reframe our own thoughts, making a direct change or trying to convince another person to look at you in a different light will likely prove useless. What can be useful as taught in the book The art of seduction by Robert Greene, is to do so indirectly.

Summary

In summary cognitive reframing can be an arduous endeavor.  Often the difficulty lies not on the reframing itself but on knowing exactly what we’re trying to reframe. This is usually a problem caused by our difficulty in understanding our own thoughts and emotions. The solution here is either to take more introspective journeys or talk to a psychologist.

There are times, however, in which the problem lies on the reframing process. Often the reason for this is that the belief is not just logical but also emotional. One solution for this problem is to apply the cognitive dissonance strategy, which is, in essence, to behave as if the reframing was successful. If a loss makes you feel like a loser, and you can’t see things any other way, you could try to reframe the situation by pretending it was nothing more than a learning chance. How do students behave in class?

They take notes, the ask questions, and record somewhere the lessons learned. Because for every loss there is always a lesson, this would be a relatively simple exercise because there would be no need to manufacture the lessons learned.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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Sources:

How to improve metacognition: https://twoscoopsofbusiness.com/how-to-improve-metacognition

Framing effect in psychology: https://twoscoopsofbusiness.com/framing-effect-in-psychology

Cognitive dissonance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

The as if principle: https://g.co/kgs/QxL1uH

The art of seduction: https://g.co/kgs/bMZ3Gp

Locus of control internal and external

In this post, we’ll have a discussion on locus of control internal and external.

The evolution of the human species is perhaps the biggest representation of the David and Goliath story. When before the strongest of our species would still live in fear of other bigger and stronger predators, today, any one of us can have the same confidence and sense of security that strong man/woman could never dream of, and the reason for this is control.

The control I’m talking about is control over our lives and the environment. With increased intellectual capacity also came the ability to create the means to also control other species regardless of how dangerous they might be. The reason why we can afford to forget about death is the sense of control we have over mother nature itself.

But our interest in control goes beyond that. After we managed to gain control over mother nature, at least to a degree high enough to manage our anxiety, the next thing we looked to gain control over became fate itself. The struggle between our fate and our will has been around for a while and depending on the person there one might have an internal or external locus of control.

Locus of control internal and external

When it comes to control one can be either dominated by an internal or external locus of control. The important thing to be aware of is that whatever locus of control you have, that doesn’t mean that you’re not at least partially influenced by the other. In fact, chances are that your life is affected by a combination of both, sometimes consistently like when you apply each locus of control to different things, or in contradiction when you apply them at the same time to different things of the same kind.

What is the locus of control about?

When we talk about the locus of control, what we mean is nothing more than the source of control in our lives. To put it simply, an internal locus of control means that we are in control of our lives and destiny, while an external locus of control is one which leads you to conclude that there is some force or entity out there who happens to be responsible for your life’s results.

Internal locus of control

As described above a person with an internal locus of control thinks that their life is dependent on them and them alone. They take ownership for every outcome, whether good or bad. This is the kind of person who believes they are the masters of their destiny, and who is often known for never making excuses for anything. When late to work due to traffic, they don’t blame the traffic. They blame themselves for not getting on the road early enough. When they learn their lessons, they make for people who keep evolving, and who are able to keep going regardless of what life throws at them.

The downsides of an internal locus of control

As the saying goes, even good things in excess are bad. An internal locus of control can give you greater control and maneuverability over your own life. When you’re the source of all your problems, the only thing you have to change is yourself. As we discussed, this is good when you learn your lessons. The problem arises when you keep making the same mistakes over and over again, or when the source of your problems is external.

For the first, this internal locus of control can quickly turn into a depression, since the repeated mistakes combined with the sense that you’re responsible to them can turn into self-hatred. The second is even more dangerous since even when you do your absolute best, the problem will remain there. You’re in essence answering the wrong question/solving the wrong problem.

External locus of control

On the other side of the coin is the external locus of control. People with this view of life tend to be more helpless as they go through life. They are more likely to believe in the idea that all that matters are the gifts you’re given at birth, and as a result, downplay the importance of hard work in skill acquisition any kind of achievement. When you believe that your abilities depend on something other than yourself, and you are faced with the very common first failures of any skill-based activity, the instinct might be to give up, since if you were gifted at the particular activity you’d have picked up quickly.

You know you have an external locus of control when you have any form of superstition, or belief that something or some entity out there has the power to change your life. This includes religion, where the entity would be a deity or any belief that again, some entity has the power to set and/or change your life.

As I said before there Is hardly a person out there who has only one locus of control. The reason for this is that depending on what happens to your life, some things are dependent on you and you alone, and others come from external sources regardless of how hard you try to influence them.  A well-balanced person is able to switch perspectives/approaches depending on the context and does so with accuracy. This means having a clear understanding of what kind of situation you might be in, and to go against your tendencies if needed. Meaning to be able to take responsibility when you should and to give up when something/someone else other than yourself is the one to blame for an event.

Contradictions between internal and external locus of control

One thing to pay attention to is the application of an internal locus vs an external locus perspective in contradiction. One example of that is when we take responsibility for some things in our lives and to conveniently delegate the same responsibility to something/someone else when taking responsibility is somewhat painful. The keyword is consistency.

Which one is better?

If you read the post up to this point chances are that you already know the answer. The answer to this question is neither. The reason for this is that adopting solely the inner locus of control or the external locus of control will eventually get to the wrong conclusions. Blaming yourself and act as if you can do something when you’re not the source or the solution for the problem. Also in reverse blaming something else and resort to complaining about the fairness of the world when you are the source and solution for the problem.

The locus of control idea/framework is better implemented in context. As taught in the book: The obstacle is the way by Ryan Holiday, we should hope for clarity in the problem of knowing how to distinguish the things that are within our control from the things that aren’t.

The world we live in is one in which we are encouraged to believe we have absolute control over our destiny. This is in some way a response to the previous sense of impotence. The previous feeling that God or the government decided our lives on a day to day basis. Either way we live in extremes and one thing about extremes is that they are rarely accurate. Living in one extreme or another is easy. All we have to do is to subscribe to it. What is difficult is to know when to apply one of two contradicting/opposite principles.

How to apply the internal locus of control vs the external locus of control?

Knowing when to apply which is a difficult problem, and chances are that you’ll get it wrong once in a while, but below is a tip that might help you get it right more often than not.

Knowledge as the basis of wisdom

If there is one thing that can greatly improve one’s ability to apply the internal and external locus of control appropriately is knowledge.

The real problem here is in our knowledge of what’s and what’s not possible in reality. Not knowing there is a solution for a problem, or that something you did got you in trouble can make you more prone to delegate responsibility. When you know why the problem is a problem there is less room for superstition. This can only happen when you learn what you’re supposed to learn.

Summary

In summary, both versions of the locus of control are about our choosing or not to delegate responsibility for what happens to us. Both have their own place and in order to distinguish when to apply which view/perspective is highly dependent on whether you accept that context is important, and how much you know about the problem. Ideally, you’re able to make the right decision all the time. The problem and the sad truth is that despite all efforts, one is still prone to making mistakes. We can only hope we can quickly see the mistakes for what they are and learn the lessons they teach.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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