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Best Ryan Holiday Books

In this post, you’ll have my take on Ryan Holiday’s best books.

Developing oneself is perhaps one of the most important things anyone striving for their dreams can do for themselves. Creating a culture of continuous improvement, directly and indirectly, brings us closer to our goals as long as we keep the habit alive. The problem is that the degree to which a given self-improvement action affects our odds of being successful or not is rarely clear. If it was it would be safe to assume that most dreams ever dreamt would have become realities, and the reason for that being that the first step towards the death of one’s dream is the painful uncertainty that our actions are those of some delusional person, in other words ineffective, or we really are getting somewhere even though we can’t see it.

Best Ryan Holiday books

For this post, I decided to talk about a few of the ones I consider to be Ryan Holiday’s best books first because I felt they would be a good fit for the subject of resilience to life’s difficult moments and also because he is one of my favorite authors. Like Robert Greene, his books too never stop giving even as you re-read them indefinitely. It should not be a surprise if you find yourself more inspired and resilient to stress as you take in some of his writings.

#1 The obstacle is the way

We live in a universe in which if given enough time every single one of us eventually will run into obstacles. This is true regardless of how privileged your life is simply because either we like it or not the numbers are against us. Meaning that through basic probability it’s easy to conclude that the longer we live, the more time life has to put us through tests. Luck is just in too short of a supply for anything that lives for longer than a few moments.

What do you do when the moment of truth arrives? What do you do when your emotions are put to the extreme and the act of quitting on whatever it is you’re holding on to, carries with it the bittersweet taste of relief wrapped up in future regret? The answer to this question and many of the genre are the sole focus of The obstacle is the way.

The reason why this is the first book on the list is that facing adversities is just like knowing how to read and write. It’s essential to one’s life. I would consider it even more than reading and writing since the act of trying to learn how to write depends on one’s ability to overcome the obstacle of illiteracy.

The obstacle is the way is about looking at problems and obstacles in a different light. Instead of raising our hands to the sky and ask  “why me?”, the book urges us to ask another and perhaps multiple times over more powerful questions, and that is: “what is the other side of the coin in this struggle?”. Meaning that we should instead ask what is the benefit we will gain by overcoming the obstacle at hand. Because if you pay enough attention to every obstacle or trying moment, there is always a benefit that comes along with it. The most basic and pervasive being that of being able to overcome obstacles. For each moment of difficulty, if nothing of value can be gained from them, there is always the fact that they prepare us for future  more trying trials. They prepare us for the storm that is always lurking in the background, in the moments in which we childishly believe we’ve been through the worse life can offer.

The book teaches us to as the author says “open the mind to the gift”.

#2 Stillness is the key

The ability to be still regardless of what happens to one’s surroundings or life is perhaps one of the most undervalued of all skills. We all seem to recognize its power, like in the moments in which we find ourselves overwhelmed by a person who screams presence and respect without saying a word. Or when all necessary conditions for us to lose ourselves are set, and yet something in us allows us to keep our composure and act with a cool head, even as the world spins uncontrollably descending into chaos. Being still is important. Probably even more than you think.

This is the reason why stillness is the key is the second book on the list. In a way, it and the obstacle is the way complement one another. Both are in essence about dealing with chaos. The first more about how to bring stillness to mind when obstacles tempt us into quitting on our best selves, and the latter more about bringing that sense of equanimity to one’s day to day life. To be honest they both offer powerful advice, so much so that to assume that the first is better than the latter and thus that only the first is powerful would be to do to oneself a disfavour.

We live in a time of noise in which being quiet and composed is to some extent looked down upon. So to follow the crowd most who have a bit of quiet ironically decide to keep the quiet in them out of sight. And as for the ones who are mostly made of silence and thinking material, in order to cope with the pressure of looking normal opt to the also ironically “lesser” sacrifice of killing themselves, and putting a more user friendly impostor on its place.

The point is that we all value the moments of quiet that a still mind brings. Looking for more of these moments might just be what you need, as opposed to the common idea that being more outgoing equals proportionally more happiness. This book is perhaps at my top 10 list simply because it went well beyond the idea of stillness we know off. It was somehow able to point some light at the fact that stillness of mind doesn’t necessarily require stillness of body, which is likely to have been one of the deepest points of insight I’ve heard in a bit.

#3 Ego Is the enemy

The third book on the list and also one of my favorites is the book: Ego is the enemy.

The longer the back and forth goes in a discussion or argument the lower the chances that whoever is actually right will be able to turn the other side of the table around. The reason for this is that the longer an argument goes, the less it becomes about the facts, and the more it becomes about the clash of egos between the parties involved. Now it’s about being right even when we’re not.  Now it’s about keeping the wounds away from our ego. It’s about being the surviving party at the end, even when both are more like walking dead than actually alive. The book ego is the enemy brings this point and many variants of it to light.

It shows that unlike popular belief, both the wealthiest of the wealthiest and the average of the average are likely to be victims of their own ego. We carry the flawed thinking that they got to where they got to because of their innate and grandiose ego. What we forget is that we all carry the disease within us, like the genes we propagate through generations; our ego is a part of us. A part of who we are. Keeping it in check is no small matter. How well we manage it directly impacts how far we go in life, and whether we believe it or not, It has a more than a significant impact on the longevity of our relationships, romantic or not.

The ego is the enemy shows us that we too can be greedy. We too can be blinded by our ego. Actually the fact that most of us think of themselves as free of ego is a sign of how much we are blinded by it. We’ve been living in this imaginary bubble of delusion of virtue for so long that we actually believe the bubble is real. This is why this book is likely to be a difficult read. A difficult read accompanied by moments of denial wrapped up in shame. Because it forces you to face your own shortcomings. Shortcomings portrayed in your private stories as virtues, and now their true nature is brought to light.

The one good take from the book for me was the same an experienced meditator gets after years of practice. That is the awareness of  seeing themselves from a third person’s perspective, even in the moments in which we seem to be looked up deep within the sea of our own emotions. It definitely gave me a greater sense of clarity in the moments in which my actions were driven by ego and when for a second I genuinely believed they weren’t.

One thing I got to understand overtime was that time itself is perhaps one of the greatest ego softeners. In a heated argument we are blinded by a fog of defensiveness, but only after some time, when the ego lets down its walls is that there is room for more clear and objective thinking. It’s as if within each of us there is this wise self who despite its enormous powers of reason, is  also always subject to the will of the more childish ego. Who, when for whatever reason gets its guards up, the wiser self gets locked up behind the walls with it. Depriving both us a system of selves and the world, from its insights and clarity of thought.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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Simple life ideas no one talks about

In this post, we’ll have a discussion on simple life ideas no one talks about.

Life just like the human-animal is complex on its own merit. Thousands and thousands of books have been written about it, songs composed and lectures given, and still up to the day of this writing there hardly is a single and concise definition of what it is, or what it might be all about. This doesn’t mean that the whole of it is a mystery. Just like an unpredictable artist who once in a while it reveals a little of itself while keeping its mystery, life too gives us a glimpse of itself but in a way that it’s either to clear to pick up even for the clear-minded or too painful to accept even for the thickest of the thick-skinned. This post is a blend of both worlds, and hopefully, you’ll finish the reading with a clearer perspective of this thing we call LIFE.

Simple life ideas no one talks about

As the title describes it these ideas are simple and for one reason or another we don’t bring them up as much as we should. What it’s easy for us is to rehash old sweet-sounding ideas repetitively, each time feeling like we’re breaking new ground. The truth is that we’re all aware of this on some level, but you know how the human mind is. It’s wise enough to know the truth without knowing, but also creative and relentless enough to hide it from itself.

1.Not Everything matters

The first and likely to be unpopular life fact is that in life not everything matters. In fact, most things don’t even matter when putting to perspective the droplet of time a human life is. And yet most of us act as if everything is the most important thing in the world. We live in a time in which social norms/standards are literally made overnight, and before we can tell something even happened we find ourselves living by different rules. When yesterday you could say whatever you wanted without feelings of fear for your career, today even the self-entitled “I don’t care what people think of me” people have to watch over their shoulders before they open their mouths.

This is good and all, but as you know, with every good comes some bit of evil and vice-versa. The speed with which information travels makes the easily impressed/influenced lose their sense of direction. I’m talking about the kind of people who follow the crowd. I’m talking about most of us. Who 50 years ago would live conservative lives not because they themselves are conservative people but because being conservative was the norm. In the past change would happen very slowly, just like the way it does in large organizations that have been around for decades.

Now the kind of social change that would require years can come and go in a matter of months if not days. All of a sudden everybody is passionate about this cause, and in no time everybody forgets that the issue is still there. It never went anywhere. Just your mind did. Just like a helpless seducer, it found itself chasing something new because what once was exciting is now old and boring. Even as retains its importance and urgency. Not everything matters people! I know It might sound cynical but once you accept this truth and apply it to your life real change can happen. When you only allow yourself to worry and stress about a select of very few thoughts about things you can put/give more of you to those things. This leads us to the question of: “What really matters for you?” Is it money? Relationships? And an even more important question is: “why?” Is it because someone told you the things that matter for you matter? Or does it come from a deep place from within you that might not be completely understood by you yourself, but whose fundamental insights in the subject of “you” tend to be accurate?

The problem with this attitude to life begins when you first voice it out to other people. This is why trying it out first for yourself and seeing the benefits that come from it is perhaps the best. The reason for this is that people are very good at putting their values, goals, and dreams onto us. This need comes from an even deeper need to influence other people. To see them taking our advice and to be able to tell other people that we were the cause of so and so’s change in behavior. We want to be smart so some of us will go to the extent of hurting someone through bad advice just to feel good about ourselves. Anything new, especially if opposed to our beliefs is not welcomed, simply because we tend to attach our identity to our beliefs. We become what we believe in. Many believe that everything matters because if it doesn’t chances are that they don’t matter. And that my friends, just like a life without an afterlife whether true or not is an unbearable thing to imagine.

So what really matters? The answer is simply whatever matters to you and you alone, and you can only really know what this thing/set of things is/are by spending some time alone. By quieting the voices of the many people that whisper within you while giving the fake impression that the values you have come from your own self, just because the voices you hear come from your own head. Not all voices are yours even when they sound like yours or come from within that thing you call your brain.

2. Not everybody matters

Still on the same vein is the idea that only a select few can realistically matter to most of us. We live in a time in which being social has been overblown. Just like groups that have been oppressed, instead of a correction, as the comedian Bill Burr often says, there was an overcorrection, in which the oppressed become oppressors and the only reason why they don’t get the title is because now they have control over perhaps what one would call the most powerful weapon that ever existed, and that is dialog. When you control the labels you can make nothing out of something, and just as easily something turn into nothing. The point is that even that which we consider good can turn bad when overdone, and one of these things is the idea, or to be more accurate the silent idea that one’s happiness is directly proportional to the number of friends one has. So we silently try to become that person who is able to develop deep relationships with every soul that crosses our path, even if we’ll never see them again. So the ones with fewer and deeper relationships can easily feel as if what they have is not enough, ignoring on the process the fact that they might have something priceless at hand. and just like the child that hasn’t felt yet the burdens of adulthood, that same person unknowingly prays for silver when they already have gold, simply because the world told them that silver is to the gold they have what the gold they have is to the silver they now want.

Not everybody matters and one should not seek to be best friends with everybody. Be overjoyed when you find that one person, or that one group who/in which you and them feel the closeness the hand feels when it slips inside a custom made glove. When there is no room for interpretation, or even the need to pretend anything for anyone. It just is. I like to compare the power of a great relationship with the effect that a career path that suits a person has on the way they spend their time. For both time is always at a deficit. Moments and hours are indistinguishable from one another, and for each, the mind’s solely purpose is to slow time down, which fails miserably until it has to settle for less of that it is the attitude of just enjoying the moment while it lasts. Can that be even defined as settling for less?

The point is that relationships are perhaps one of the best areas to apply the old wisdom of “it’s not about quantity. It’s about quality.”

3. There is such a thing as wisdom from within

The third point is that in life it pays to understand oneself. We tend to put emphasis on the kind of person who goes their own way and never follows the pack. Some of us are completely against this approach to life, and their appreciation of well-established rules and procedures to do things is often looked down upon.

One thing I learned about human beings is that they are vastly more complicated than they look. The moment we try to place them in neat little boxes of definitions the more prone to mistakes we are. Just think about introversion and extraversion for example. Can you place yourself/anyone in one or the other completely? Chances are that no. So no wonder problems quickly arise when that moment comes in which the wisdom of the masses fail us and we feel emptier than ever before. The truth is that life is a game in which most have no clue about the rules and very few if any have only a vague idea. But most of us, however, can’t help but follow others like us who, for whatever reason managed to convince us that they know the way in a journey they themselves are taking for the first time.

The point is that life is complicated and blindly following the pack or blindly ignoring it can be a source of great pain and unhappiness. You need to get to really know yourself to be able to even get a shot at happiness and that takes time.  From within the truth about yourself comes to life, not because the inner you is mystical or anything, but because we’re all the main character in the story of our lives, and it’s impossible to get a main character perspective in a plot in which you’re nothing more than an extra. The point is that through introspection you often get to know more about yourself than you would from someone else’s point of view simply because only you can really know what it feels like to be you. Only you can really know what “I” means.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How To Stop Failing At Life

In this post, we’ll have a quick discussion on how to take your life around.

Most of what tends to become one’s life is really the product of momentum. Meaning that at the end of the life of a winner/loser, the winner/loser might find it hard to put the pieces that led them to where they ended up at. One explanation as to why people get to where they end up in life is the word momentum. The drug addict doesn’t begin as a drug addict. He/she starts going the drug path step by step in a way that each step feels so small and inconsequential that it barely registers in conscious awareness as a potential source of future happiness and joy/misery. We are creatures of habit. The more we do something the more likely we are to do it again in the future, and the more likely that is that the behavior will become a habit. Hardwired in one’s brain almost in the same way that some applications come pre-installed on our mobile devices. We can’t remove them or the system will fall in part because they are more than just mere parts. They are a part of what the system is.

What I mean is that after habits become habits, habits become who you are and maybe even how you identify yourself. This is why turning one’s life around sounds good in theory, but just like exercising it can be downright dreadful in practice. The change is in part hard because it requires along with it the death of your current self even if not completely.

How to stop failing in life?

Below are a few tips/ideas worth thinking about when that moment comes in which you realize that you’re worse than just not progressing in life, but in fact in a negative momentum towards destruction.

1.Looking for ways to stop/reduce the momentum and cleaning up your room

This first point is a product of two ideas I learned from two people a while ago. The first comes from the investor and social media Guru Tail Lopez, who is one of his many talks advised the listener that if he/she wanted to make more money to look for a way to learn how to make  an extra $100/month, and after that $500, and on and on until you have become satisfied with your income. The same idea can be applied in reverse. Instead of trying to stop the negative momentum all at once a simpler and probably more productive solution even would be to try to reduce the negative momentum. To become a bit less of a failure as you might feel day by day until your negative momentum becomes neutral.

One of the biggest problems in goal achievement is that of trying to climb a mountain all at once, and to then incorrectly assume that the first few hardships on the way up are indicative that the mountain is infinitely tall even as it looks reachable.

From this idea, another comes to mind. That of Jordan Peterson’s, who is known to promote the importance of doing simple things to make your life less miserable such as cleaning up your room. When you finally get to neutral the same principle applies if you want to get to the green. To each day do one simple thing that moves you in the right direction. Like Jordan Peterson, himself taught in many of his talks that thing could be as simple as cleaning up your room, which although small, it’s also not so small. The power of it is in adding a small fraction of positive momentum to your life which is very important if you want to get extraordinary results. This is one of these ideas most of us have probably thought about at least once in life, but that happened to be immediately followed by the negative voices falsely reminding us that if progress is so small that you can’t see it, it’s not progress. This is why many of us never bring ourselves to begin the journey of reading books and growing our minds because often a given book contains nothing but a small gold nugget of wisdom. We forget about the power of compounding. As the book, The one thing teaches us: “small changes can quickly add up to big results”.

2. Pay attention to the way you spend your time

Many people talk about habits and how powerful they can be in changing one’s life. At the same time, even more, people struggle with the fact that creating new habits is hard. One thing I noticed through observation is that a part of creating new habits is being able to replace what you want to stop with what you want to start doing in your schedule. If you want to be fitter, maybe the solution is in scheduling some form of exercising around the same time that you tend to overeat. The idea is to essentially time starve your bad habits away from your life.

3. Stop obsessing about how much of a failure you are

One thing about failing and winning is that as the old Christian proverb teaches us, the more you have of one, the more of it you’re likely to get, and the least of the other you get the lesser of the other you’re likely to get. The same lesson is taught in physics, where the idea of momentum itself is that what is in motion will remain so until some force that goes against it appears to stop it. The same can be applied with negative momentum in life. The issue here is that the more you fail the more you think about it, and the more you think about it and feel the effects of the anxiety and depression caused by the thoughts, the greater the odds that the negative momentum will remain. Chances are even that the momentum is more likely to increase in speed. So, the point is to as counter-intuitive as it might be to stop thinking enough so the thoughts don’t get in your way, but not too much so that you’re content with whatever life throws at you whatever it might be, which just like the first is not a good thing. A similar example occurs in relationships, in which one is forced to keep the sustained balance between being present so that the partner doesn’t feel neglected, but not so much so that the attention becomes claustrophobic and what would once upon a time look and feel like the actions of a carrying person become defined as controlling behavior.

The idea here unlike what many self-help books will urge you to do is not to stop thinking negative thoughts altogether. Which as you might know it’s next to impossible, because most of the time we spend, we spend daydreaming, and some of that time will be filled with negative thoughts, no matter how positive of a person you are, or how amazing your life might be. So, it follows that even attempting such a feat can be detrimental to one’s attempt to recover from a failing streak simply for the fact that

  1. You’re almost guaranteed to fail and
  2. The pain of failure might add to the negative momentum if not making it even worse because now you’re not just a failure at achieving external things, now you don’t even have power over your own mind. Which is an unreasonable demand to make to oneself. Just think of monks who spend decades of their lives attempting to find enlightenment and some even to attain the state of having no thoughts at all. They might manage the state for a while, but no one who happens to be awake can sustain the state indefinitely.

4. Do something positive regardless of how small

Still on the same breath of momentum is the idea that small changes can quickly, as Jim Rohn also said: “add up to big changes”.  One reason for this is that there is simply no motivator more powerful than results regardless of how little. Knowing that you can reliably lose 0.5lbs every two weeks might not seem like much, but unlike no results at all, here we can clearly see a time in the future such that if we keep doing what we’re doing we’ll eventually get to where we want to go. Here there is no room for doubt.

What we have is a certainty, and certainty is perhaps the most powerful motivator of all.

With the certainty of success, one needs no more external motivator since with the sure win one can allow itself to dream wide and wild without the fears that come attached with the possibility of being proven wrong by the world.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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Best Robert Greene Books

In this post, you’ll find a list of the best Robert Greene books.

In life and business, one of the most profound things one can do for itself is to look for the handful of people whose advice they can be confident will produce results. Some people accept the first person that meets the eye, and more often than not the person they chose to listen to is not the right person to be giving advice on anything in the first place. But since humans the way they are can’t help themselves, they opt to give advice even when they are under-qualified. There are some people, however, whose ideas are so meaningful that you’d be doing yourself a disfavor if you didn’t follow and learned as much as you could from them. Even if only through the books they wrote. For me, one of these people is Robert Greene, and below are a few of the ones I consider his best books, and why.

Best Robert Greene Books

#1 Laws of Human Nature

The first book by Robert Greene I consider to be perhaps the most important to read is so for a reason. The way one improves one’s life can have an impact on how much that improvement changes one’s life. It’s now known in science that sometimes all it takes for a person to change its life completely is by starting to exercise. Habitifying exercising caused a cascade of cause-and-effect that in turn caused a complete life makeover. That’s when the ex-drug addict turned successful businessman comes to the stage and tells us the story of how he/she changed their life overnight, and how they can teach you the same, if only you pay a small fee that ends with 99.

The point is that it’s important to be thoughtful about the things you chose to do first, because of the effect they can have 3 or 4 steps down the road. The most important thing one needs to do first on its way to a fulfilling life is to gain an understanding of the inner workings of its own mind, as well as that of those other minds that due to constraints imposed by the laws of physics is prevented from learning about.

Robert Greene

So, this is why this is the first book on the list. In-Laws of Human Nature, Robert Greene describes the inner workings of minds of different kinds of people, with different backgrounds and not yet healed wounds from childhood. Due to the broad nature of the book, chances are that at some point you’ll find yourself as the target of the current discussion, whereby you I mean anyone who has the same psychological makeup as you do. Just like with any other form of criticism, the tendency when we first hear about it is to be defensive, but for the sake of the wealth of information you’ll get if you suspend judgment, the best thing to do before starting the read is to be aware of your own tendencies, and manage them.

Laws OF Human Nature

The great thing about this book is that you also get to learn about other people while you learn more about yourself.

#2 The art of seduction

The second book on the list is The art of seduction. Although most people are likely to think of this book as a pickup book of sorts, only after a few re-reads is when you can be made aware of the fact that it is definitely more than that. On the surface, you learn about the many ways you can engage in the art of courtship, but going deeper you soon come to the conclusion that the book really is about human psychology. Many of the ideas you learn in the context of seduction can just as easily be translated to most other life contexts. One example that keeps coming to the back of my mind is that of the Coquette, whose tendencies/behavior clearly go beyond the seductive. Few people willingly change their personalities to fit the context. Most of us are what we are, who we are, and the way we are when trying to seduce someone, or when at the workplace.

The Art Of Seduction

The consuming flirt is what it is in all occasions. It’s true that some of the tendencies are toned down, but at the core, we never really change. So, the point is that for each of the characters he brings to light, and the description of their psychology on the context of seduction, to assume that more often than not that’s who and how they are in all facets of life. So, when you read up on the coquette’s behavior and psychology in seduction, you also learn about it in life in general. Taking this into consideration, we can thus conclude that The art of seduction is deep down a more surface-level representation of The laws of human nature, even though the latter was published after the former.

#3 Mastery

The third book is Mastery. In Mastery you get a glimpse at what it takes to master a craft. More than just a book on how to master something, Mastery is also about how to master yourself and your own mind through the kind of practice apprentices went through in the old days. What I mean and what the book talks about is the kind of apprenticeship in which the student learns directly from the master in the real world. Here the student is not trying to get the highest grade possible to pass the class but to instead learn and internalize the craft as much as possible so they can be the best at the craft as much as they can be.

Today, with the internet in the reach of our fingertips, it’s easy to incorrectly conclude/feel like we can master anything with a few hours, if not minutes of reading. We think that the mere act of reading the summary of a subject, written by some other person who barely understands the subject is enough for us to consider the subject mastered. I think this is why there are now more and more people who feel the urge to surface level talk about medicine with doctors who went to medical school and have years of experience, in a way that makes it look like they know what they’re talking about. The point is that unless there is some new technology that allows us to insert knowledge and skills directly into the neural networks in our brains, true mastery is not a 5 min subject.

Mastery-Robert Greene

This is in a way what the book is about. By showing us the steps it takes to master a craft, from finding a mentor, to handling the breakup moment well, the author also tells us without saying that mastery takes time and effort. So much so, that just like a spouse, it should be taken as a life-time kind of endeavor, as opposed to the kind of thing you do for a while and abandon without any minute’s notice.

When you learn to master a craft you also learn to master yourself, since the discipline required to achieve the first allows you to also achieve the latter. Mastery is a process that gives you the right to be and feel confident, and this is so because it gives to your confidence a solid backing in such a way that if for whatever reason someone brings the motive behind your sense of confidence to question, you making it less of an opinion issue, and more of a fact. You will be confident for a reason, not just because you lied to yourself in the mirror for a decade, until you believed in your own lies. You will be and feel confident because you’re undeniably competent, and anyone who dares to question your abilities will have to take back their words when they see you perform.

Mastery also gives your life structure. God knows that the times we live in of fast-paced change and new trends, by the time you begin to make progress in the field, chances are that it’s not trendy anymore. When you focus on a craft for life, it might feel somewhat constricting but the constriction that comes from choosing a single path more than pays from the downsides of the lack of direction that comes from not choosing a path at all, or frantically switching from aim to aim. It’s the same reason why I personally think listening to everybody’s opinions about your life and taking them as gospel can do more harm than good as opposed to deciding for yourself what you want to make of your life. The reason for this is that for every direction you can point to there is always someone who defends the complete opposite, and for each of the opposites, there is an endless number of people who are exceptional at convincing people of things. Which means that it’s not only completely possible but likely that if you spend a day with a person defending one point, and the following day with a person defending the opposite each time you’ll feel as if you are in the presence of someone who knows the truth even though can only be one and much less about two conflicting ideas at the same time. The point is that picking a craft to master and committing to it as you would to a partner in a romantic relationship can definitely bring more benefits than harm.

#4 48 Laws of power

I’m sure this is probably the one book most if not all of Robert Greene readers would consider being the #1 on the list. The reason why it’s not on this list is that the way I see it, this book would be another step towards the mastery of your own life. The first 3 are about understanding one’s own and other people’s psychology, then to be able to master oneself, and this one is about gaining power through influence. One thing I noticed on Robert Greene’s reading s is that there is some knowledge of human psychology you learn about regardless of the focus subject of the book. One very salient idea I got from this book, in particular, was that of not stepping on the toes of the ones who have the power to advance or bring your life into a halt. I’m talking about superiors of any kind, who due to the fact that they feel threatened by you, instead of giving you a promotion, they do all they can to stop your progress. Without stealing anything from the book, according to the author the way to go about dealing with such kind of situations is to “not outshine the master”, and if you do, try to make the master shine even brighter. Instead of looking to claim every drop of credit from your efforts, to make a conscious decision/effort to give them the credit while making them feel superior and smarter on the process.

48 Laws Of Power

The great thing about these first 4 books is that the knowledge of human psychology you get by reading them all is incremental as you start and finish each one of them. Some of the things he talks about are things you’ve been aware of, and might even know in your gut, but that was never able to put into words. They are in essence a description of the cold truth about the inner workings of the human mind. The darkness behind passive-aggressiveness, as well as the pettiness triggered by the so well-known feelings of jealousy for those who for whatever reason are blessed enough to have the things we aspire for ourselves. Be that the dream job, partner or family, and the desire to not only have what they have but to take it away from them while making them miserable in the process. The book teaches also how to not make yourself a target of such types, and if even after your efforts you still find yourself at the aim of their aggressive tendencies, also how to quickly deal with the problem.

Like many Robert Greene’s books, this one also explains each point with a reference from mother history who teaches silently but whose teachings are deep and insightful nonetheless. This is one of the many things the book teaches without teaching. That if you want to learn more about power struggles, the winners and losers, and why they won or lost, one way to go about it is by reading through the history books and trying to gain the insights that the words written in them don’t tell explicitly but imply. Another way to go about it is by learning from those who possess the lessons you need in their memories. I’m talking about people who have had the privilege of living through multiple decades. The ones who know what it feels like to be a kid, also a teenager, a young adult, an adult and now have a wealth of experience they are willing to give to anyone who is patient enough to listen to the golden nuggets of wisdom they have to offer. These tend to be even more profound and powerful because they tend not to be tainted by the biases and intents of the writer. A storyteller can perfectly through the use of its own imagination re-tell the tales of World War 2. Only the frontline soldier who’s now an ancient and somehow survived to tell the tale can give you actual wisdom about the difficulties a mind can go through when not just your life is in chaos but the whole world. What it feels like having to find the hope of a better future when tomorrow is unlikely to come.

The beautiful thing about the book is that it takes the reader not only through the cases in which the rule described in the chapter was successfully applied but also through the cases in which it wasn’t and the repercussions that followed from it.

Final thoughts

Over the years. After over 200 books read few have been so powerfully insightful enough to be a part of my all-time favorites. Not that this should mean anything to you or anyone, but I say it as an attempt to give credit where credit is due. Robert Greene, in particular, is also one of the few authors whose books I read over and over again and the main reason for that is that each page is more than just content for the sake of content.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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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

How To Be Consistent at work

In this post, you’ll find a few ideas on how to be more consistent at work.

We live in a time of constant change. So much so that it’s not uncommon for as little as a few weeks away from the internet and or the news to bring surprises to the mind and awareness of the disconnected. New technologies come to life in less and less time, and as for what goes by the name of “culture”, that changes even quicker, with the aid of new trends that happen to be birth almost overnight, with many of them going to the grave almost as quickly. What lacks today in life is consistency. This doesn’t make today’s time any better and worse than the past. As with everything in life, this lack comes with its own set of good and bad. Since whether we admit it or not we are affected by the environment around us, this fast pace of change and constant innovation spoils the mind instigating a now almost manic crave for novelty.

Like one’s own body, one’s own life is also a complex system in which changes in one small and seemingly inconsequential department can trigger a chain of cause and effects that end up affecting the system as a whole in ways no one ever predicted.

Taking that into consideration, it’s not much of a stretch to think that consistency at work is one of life’s departments affected by our constant crave for novelty and change.

How To Be Consistent At Work?

Begin by timing it

One of the first things I try to do after a break from any kind of work and I want to get back to that state of optimal performance we can only find after a while is time. The question to ask here is how long do you work for before you go for a break? 30 min? 1h?

If you struggle either with consistency in performance or just pure hard work at work chances are that the time you work for before a break is short. I noticed over time that it’s when I work for 3-5 hours without a break that my performance and consistency at work improve. When you condition the mind to work for longer stretches of time you also condition it to deal with the frustrations that come with the task, and just in case you’re not fond of it, time also passes quicker.

If you work in chunks of 30 minutes in an 8-hour shift, time passes slower because you’re often reminded of the passage of time. In the other side of the coin also rests the word “Immersion”, in which the longer you work for, the deeper you get into it regardless of how much you don’t enjoy the task. I noticed that whenever I had to execute a task I didn’t like the way to do it better while making pass time quicker was to well…try to do it the best I could while also trying to complete the task.

You can only do that by working for longer than a little while, and I attribute this effect to immersion. The more immersed you are at work you experience two things:

  1. What the author of the book The rise of superman calls “time dilation” in which time passes faster for you, and
  2. You get your problem solving mental juices flowing more and more as time passes.

The thing about problems is that the more challenging they are the more uninterrupted thinking time is required to solve them, and with the 5s focus of the person of today, solving bigger and more important problems can be increasingly difficult.

So, begin by working for longer.

Set up a routine

The kind of equipment we have between our ears optimizes for repetitive tasks. Meaning that that which is has been done before is more easily done now, more easily even in comparison to that which has never been done at all.

This is why one of the most important things you can do to improve your consistency at work in terms of performance is to set a standard for yourself and to go about enforcing it with everything you’ve got. In day one we all benefit from a burst of motivation and energy due to the novelty of the behavior. On days two and three, as the novelty factor wears off it’s important to keep enforcing your standard since if you do it for long enough the standard becomes less of an aspiration but a part of who you are as a person. It’s the equivalent brushing your teeth or eating breakfast. Most of us have been doing those for so long that we don’t put a thought to the fact that these are behaviors we did not possess when we were born. They were imposed on us by our parents/caretakers, and now they are as natural as breathing.

So, the point here is to make good and hard work a routine. The kind of thing you do without thinking like brushing your teeth in the morning, or breathing even.

According to research habits are formed in about 66 days, which when you think about it is not nearly as much as anyone would have thought. As mentioned above, life is a complex system in which change, no matter how small, no matter the place the change occurs at, can have massive effects throughout the system. 66 days of good work can trigger new and better habits that when compounded over time can be life-changing.

This is what happens for example when people begin exercising regularly. The boost in mood in energy gives rise to creativity and motivation to do better work, come up with new ideas of your own, strengthen the relationships you already have while allowing you to make new ones.

Every new discipline affects the rest.

Jim Rohn

Build your consistency/reliability muscle

Another way to become more consistent at work is by being consistent at something else. When people decide to make a change in their lives they often begin with exercising. Most do it because they hear it from someone else about how exercising is what successful people do, but exercising as mentioned above can have powerful effects well beyond health. The reason for this is that you don’t have to do it for too long for it to become enjoyable and then addictive. This enjoyment is what is more likely to make you become more consistent at it, and thus give your life more discipline and structure. As Jordan Peterson once said, the depressed should try to add some structure to their lives even if that structure and order comes from a job they hate.

The consistency/reliability muscle like any other muscle can be built by doing anything that makes you uncomfortable. What I mean here is not to go skydiving or to fast of 30 days, but to do anything that causes you discomfort in the sense that it forces you to be consistent at something to accomplish/avoid something else.

Learning to be consistent at simple and mundane things can just like compound interest look too insignificant to matter in a moment by moment basis until it’s effects are too powerful to be ignored. This is also the equivalent to bodybuilding in which due to poor conditioning the unfit is forced to lift too light to be proud of weights for a while, while incrementally increasing the resistance to levels they never thought they ever would, but such that the change was too minimal in each increment to be perceived by the distracted mind.

Develop an ideal and chase it

One very underrated idea is that of dreaming out an ideal you’d like to become and making it a priority. I learned this lesson from one of many of Jordan Peterson’s talks and it surprised me how little people talk about this, and how even fewer people make it a priority. This idea of becoming something greater than your present self can when taken seriously turn the reckless into literal disciple machines. Of the kind that overnight simultaneously adhere and stick to a rigid health plan, while waking up early, exercising regularly and starting a business. Here being consistent at work just like brushing your teeth in the morning becomes a given, all due to your new/renewed interest and maybe even obsession in your higher self.

The role of the ideal here is to inspire you to make incremental improvements over time. Which means that meager ideals manufactured for the simple sake of making you feel good about yourself with little to no effort are out of the picture. We began by wondering how we could be more consistent at work in terms of performance and diligence, and perhaps the most powerful of the strategies to go about doing that is by aspiring and striving to become a better version of ourselves.

Summary

At the end of the day, consistency is hard. Just like any other kind of change, this is one of these things you do one step at a time…one day at a time. Each moment being a battle between your lower and higher selves. Each time you hope the higher self comes up victorious, because the more this happens the greater the odds that you’ll get the life you want in the long run.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How To Be More Skilled

In this post, you’ll find a few tips on how to be more skilled.

The world we live in is one in which in order to thrive we need to be able to as Elon Musk once said: “get things done”. There are many ways we can go about it that range from delegating the task to as many people as we can, to do it all ourselves. Although the first can make life easier for us, it’s not always the case that it is a viable solution. Sometimes for whatever reason we can’t have other people do our work for us, and this is when doing things ourselves, and even more important doing them at the best of our abilities comes into play.

Even this thought to be Noble/inspiring way of thinking can be a source of trouble, since today, most people internalize the idea that it’s enough to do work to the best of our abilities and being content even if our best is not enough. When you take that route, the likely slew of failure after failure that will come your way might, depending on your mentality can get you to come to conclusions that range from the idea that you’re not gifted, and thus you should quit, to the world is out to get you, and thus you should quit. Whatever the conclusion is, the truth is that more than counterproductive this way of thinking is just not true. The real problem is not that of giftedness or about the goodness/evil of the world but that of a lack of skill.

How to be more skilled

The question of how to become more skilled is very broad, and just like many broad questions, the answer can sometimes be difficult to find. Often solutions that apply to everything have little to no effect on the detailed. Luckily for us, it’s possible to think about skill acquisition in a broad way, but still get amazing benefits on the local/specific, and below are a few tips we can think about in a high level while remaining useful in a case by case basis.

Get used to the pains of practice

The first point can easily be confused with the so common advice of practice as a way to getting good at something, but their difference is subtle. It’s definitely true that practice is at the core of any “getting good” enterprise. There is just no way around it. Maybe a few years from now there will be such a powerful technology that allows us to insert skills and knowledge directly into our brains without much effort from us, but at the time of this writing, such technology is not yet available. The only way to be a better chess player or computer programmer is to practice chess and computer programming respectively. This is a given.

The point we’re trying to address here is one level above, after you convince yourself that there is no way around practice and you’re willing to put the effort. The next step is to get used to doing the work to get good at something.

One of the biggest reasons why people fail to master the subjects they are interested in is that for most of them practice is either tedious, painful or both. As we’re all aware, the brain is wired to avoid the unpleasant, while seeking pleasure. This is what makes mastery seem to be the one of the greatest jokes of the universe, because the pain required to endure in order to acquire it can be so much that it makes most feel like the suffering is not worth it, while the pleasure that comes when you finally master the subject can be so much that after you do, the only conclusion you can come to is that the journey was worth it. I remember many times in life like when exercising, where the moment to moment discomfort almost made me quit, but after, the fact that I endured the pain and discomfort became a reward on its own.

The point is that you have to get used to practice. Meaning you have to get used to as the ex-navy seal David Goggins once said: “overcome the one-second impulses to quit”. One of the best ways to train this muscle is through exercising, since it represents a reliable and controllable way to expose yourself to the same level of discomfort that comes with practice, assuming of course that what you’re trying to get good at is not some sort of physical art.

Make practice a habit

The next tip is one that people barely talk about when they talk about any form of skill acquisition. The brain’s wiring and tendencies can both be the best thing or the worst thing for skill acquisition. What we’re talking about here is the brain’s tendency to want to keep doing the same things it has done in the past, and the tendency of this first tendency to become stronger the longer the behavior is repeated for.

Some people label themselves as creatures of habit, which is funny because this is, in essence, the same as one saying that he/she is the kind of person who eats food. Everybody is a creature of habit, even those who can’t stick to exercising or reading books on a regular basis. Their habits are about everything else other than what their ideal selves would like them to be doing. You can’t stick to exercising because you’re used to not exercising. You can’t study regularly because you’re used to doing other things in the same timeframe, like watching TV shows or hanging out with friends. This is why there is more than just some truth on the fact that you are the average of the people you spend most of your time around. They nudge you to some behaviors and not others, and eventually, these behaviors become habits for which the opposite will likely be difficult to adhere to. Like, tell habitual negative to think positive and vice-versa.

The point here is that practice will likely become more enjoyable and even the kind of thing you feel the need to do the more you do it…the closer it becomes to becoming a habit. If you’re wondering how long it takes, research shows that it’s not even that long, it’s just 66 days.

The best place to be at in your skill acquisition efforts is that in which the behavior that makes you more skilled becomes an inherent part of your day-to-day life and who you are as a person. In other words, what you want is to practice regularly for long enough for it to become a habit. After that, you’ll notice that minimal effort will be required to improve your skills, even when the act of improving your skills itself is challenging.

Find shortcuts through skilled mentors

The third point/tip is to look for skilled mentors and ask them for tips tailored specifically to the skill you’re trying to master. The big emphasis here is on the word “skilled”, not just mentors. The reason for this is that it’s easy to fall for the idea that anyone who sounds knowledgeable can become a mentor, and that’s just not true. What you’re looking for is someone who you can somehow prove it has become skilled at what you want to be skilled at. These people have walked the walk you’ll walk, and on the way they more than certainly learned about shortcuts, and the wealth of experience they’ve accumulated through time they definitely have things they wish they knew when they were you, and most of them are dying to tell someone who’s willing to listen to them talk about it.

The mentor is perhaps one of the greatest skill acquisition strategies you can have on your arsenal because more than just speeding up your learning curve by pointing you to the right direction to take, they will also make it more likely that you will actually master/become skilled at the subject. Because when people talk about skill acquisition, they also forget to mention the frustration we all go through when we’re trying to get good at something and the road is both foggy and infested with obstacles that seem insurmountable.

The mentor is a representation of the fact that there is a finish line, and that the obstacles you’re facing at the moment are not insurmountable. Unless of course, you believe that you’re born the way you will be forever.

Summary

Getting good at something takes above all time and patience. There definitely are shortcuts you can take depending on the skill, but the best mindset to have is to assume that there are none. The reason for this is that if you expect the way to be shorter, and it isn’t that will by itself be another source of frustration, in addition to the frustration naturally imposed by the obstacles that come included in the mastery package you chose to pick at the beginning of the journey.

So, expect it to be difficult and harder, and in the few moments in which the short trips in the journey are shorter and/or easier than you expected you’ll enjoy them more.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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