The Easiest Educational Hack Nobody Uses

buckminsterfullerlearning

No clickbait here, folks. Scroll down for a handy list of examples, helpful links, and all the essential information clearly laid out for your convenience. I even bolded the really juicy bits. However, the following 1800 words are chock-full of helpful context, explanations, and scientific evidence, so please do read the full post to better understand the method behind my madness. Enjoy!

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I guarantee two things:

1. The websites you visit most frequently are unconsciously decided by your habits.

2. The websites you visit the most are not the websites you should visit the most.

Daily life is full of little things we never notice, and in this post I’m going to show you how one of those unnoticed little things can be improved to make life easier for lifelong learners. In mere minutes, you can take a huge step towards reaching the next level in your personal development.

How much do you use the Internet?

The average American spends 3 hours per day browsing the Web, and that’s a conservative estimate for us web-savvy, blog-reading intellectuals. If you’re reading this, I’d bet money that you also read content from myriad blogs, news outlets, and social media sites. It’s easy to get sucked in when the millions of online creators compete to see who can grab our attention the best. But aren’t we capable of making good decisions all on our own?

Look at it this way: the Internet is like a grocery store. It’s lined wall to wall with potato chips, candy, and 42 varieties of ranch dressing. We know we should be eating vegetables… But if our senses get blasted with cues to eat cheesy pretzels, the decision to buy cheesy pretzels becomes much easier than the decision to buy broccoli.
The problem is that the Internet, much like TV ads and grocery store aisles, is chock full of images trying to persuade you to consume. And our puny human brains are subconsciously influenced by all that persuasive garbage, even if we try to tune it out. Luckily there’s a simple solution to this problem: we can avoid seeing the cues that push us towards Internet junk food in the first place.

Whether your junk food of choice is Reddit, Facebook, or Tumblr, reading virtually anything else would add much, much more value to your life. Yes, those sites are incredibly valuable. They help us stay abreast of the news, keep in touch with our friends, and to learn about all the things we care about. But again, our puny human brains can’t cope with the amount of information we’re presented with. We get a hit of dopamine (the “do it again” chemical in the brain) when we skim over a news headline or check our messages on Facebook. There’s a phenomenon of young people becoming physically addicted to their smartphones, so clearly we should at least exercise some cautious restraint.

On that happy note, on to the fun part!

We all know what we should be doing online, but we don’t do it. We know we should focus on long-term value-adding activities, but in the moment we can’t bring ourselves to take the first step. This is a part of being human, and most people learn how to become reasonably functional adults despite our silly brains trying to sabotage us.

For years my Chrome browser opened up to the same homepage: a google search bar with links to my 8 most visited websites. Before I stumbled upon the “easiest educational hack nobody uses”, Youtube always managed to crawl up to the top of my most-visited sites. I visited Youtube with the best intentions, but inevitably I would spend too much time on the wrong types of content.You don’t say, “Hey, I think I’ll watch funny cartoons on Youtube for 4 hours”. You think, “Hmm, Youtube is a thing.”, and the rest just happens. Every site that hosts user-submitted content, no matter how much high-quality information it holds, will eventually lure you into wasting time. People compete to build the most clickable headlines and the most irresistible thumbnails. The high quality content, the content we really ought to consume, is inevitably drowned out by the junk.

You’ve probably heard about some great educational websites, but how often do you take the initiative to actually visit them? Everybody wants to learn, but if we choose to rely on our future selves actually making the choice to type in the url of educational websites, the simple barrier of choice will prevent us from eating our Internet vegetables.

In this world of infinite information, personal education has never been more important. Millions of people make grand plans to learn, but after a week or a month they stop for a few days. Then they never touch it again, less due to laziness and more due to never thinking about it. Sound familiar?

We all want to learn about something, and pretty much everybody can spare 25 minutes a day to learn. We feel like we don’t have the time, and days and weeks feel like they slip by us. Everybody has good intentions, and everybody wants to learn, and everybody has the time if they’re willing to make some small sacrifices… But people don’t do it. Somewhere between saying “I want to learn this” and saying “now I am going to spend time learning this”, we fall short. This educational hack will address that gap. We can run interference on our own failures online by interjecting the correct things into the space where we would ordinarily consume the incorrect material.

The solution is simple:

Change what happens when you launch your browser. My Chrome settings open up six different tabs when I open the Internet. The common theme? They’re all sites that I know I should use more often, but I don’t.

I’ll make it even easier… Here are step-by step directions for Chrome and Firefox:

For Chrome users:
Settings –> Second down on the settings page, under “On Startup”, select the radio button “open a specific page or set of pages”. Then click “set pages” next to that, and the menu will open up to enter however many sites you want to open.

For Firefox users:
Options –>  The first field should be “startup”, and under that will be a url field. Under the URL box will be a button reading “Use Current Pages”. Click that with the education sites of your choice open, and you’re good to go.

Here’s my current lineup of start pages. I change it up every so often to keep it fresh (highly recommended).

First tab: Udemy. This is my personal favorite learning website. There are many free courses, and they have frequent sales to get the premium courses at affordable prices. Here are my 3 favorite courses, for mental masteryspeed reading, and increasing confidence.
Second tab: KhanAcademy. KhanAcademy is 142% more fun than public school.This site is completely free, and it covers most high school subjects. This is particularly great for math. His interview with Elon Musk is a good start. The site also has achievements, level ups and neato dinosaur avatars.
Third tab: Memrise. This site is awesome for memorizing foreign symbols and vocabulary. I’m learning all three forms of Japanese written characters, as well as three sets of vocabulary words. It’s great because it has an integrated system of mnemonics where people can upvote the most helpful memory tricks, and there is a wide selection of languages and courses to choose from.
Fourth tab: Coursera. This is another site similar to Udemy, with another nice selection of free courses. I prefer Udemy, but this is an excellent supplemental or alternative site. I set my browser to open straight to the course I’m working on, Learning How to Learn. I highly reccomend this course if you’re serious about long term learning. For an in-depth scientific look at learning, read Make It Stick.
Fifth tab: JapanesePod101. This is an educational language podcast site. They have some free content, but you have to subscribe to get full access to the higher level material. You can see their full list of languages here (not an affiliate link).

Le Conclusion

The beauty of this little trick is that if you don’t want to spend time on whatever websites you’ve chosen, you don’t have to. Just close the tabs and open whatever you want. You will put in more time on the valuable websites you’ve chosen for yourself, but it won’t feel like a burden. Your chosen educational resources will pop open, and you’ll think, “Sure, I have a little time for that.” Taking one little decision out of the equation makes all the difference in the world.

There’s this mental barrier that pops up when we try to force ourselves to do things. We say, “man, I really ought to work on that book I’ve been writing for 2 years… I’ll do it in a couple hours, right after I read a couple more blog posts.” Our brains love to sift through piles of interesting tidbits, greedily absorbing one headline after another, but sitting down to work through difficult material feels icky to our stupid lizard-hindbrain. A sense of dread shadows our brain, this weird, sticky, hardwired mental displeasure that comes from the idea of having to do something new, or hard, something you might fail at. It’s easier to brush that feeling off , to keep doing the same old crap, than to confront your situation head-on.

It’s hard to force ourselves to do things, and eventually we begin to resent whatever we’re forced to do, no matter how good it might be for us. I do believe in the power of our minds to make the right choices, but we must recognize that our success and failure can depend on tiny aspects of our lives that we rarely even think about. I’ve discussed one little change that has given me massive returns on my time… I’d like to encourage you to look for other little changes, things you never ordinarily think about, that could gently nudge you in the right direction. It’s imperative for each of us to look for, and to apply, these little tweaks that subtly nudge us towards doing the right thing.
It’s amazing how much impact tiny changes can make.

Everybody loves lists!
Here are the best free education sites! Leave me a comment if you know a good one I missed.

Automatically open your browser to these wonderful websites, or choose something specifically tailored to your needs.

a. Learn languages with Duolingo and Innovative Language
b. Watch Ted TalksKhanAcademyUdemy, Coursera, and EdX for entertaining video lectures on virtually any subject.
c. Play SuperBetter to make improving your mental state as fun as possible.
d. Anki and Memrise for immersive memorization practice.
e. The world’s most prestigious schools offer online lectures for free, including Oxford, Carnegie Mellon, Berkeley, Yale, Harvard, and Stanford.

For my skimmers, sinners, and extra-studious pupils, here’s the big fat point one last time:

Identify what you should be doing on the Internet, and set your browser to open those sites automatically.

Happy learning.

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If you enjoyed this post, please share it on all the social media sites that I hypocritically advised you to abstain from. I love hearing your feedback, so please leave me a comment below. Let me know if I missed any other online resources for personal development, and I’ll add them to the list.
-Wolf N. Shepherd

monaliselfie

Intelligence is a HABIT. Stupidity is a CHOICE.

“The only thing I truly know is that I know nothing”
-Socrates 

Edited, enhanced and revised as of 11/6/2015

Please do read this whole post, but because reading is hard (and because you’re a busy person with important business to get back to) I’ve bolded and numbered some action-items below for you to get smarter ASAP. There are lovely quotes in big letters throughout, and I’ve even included a lovely TL;DR at the end. Now, then… Onward to brilliance!


How do you tell which kids in a classroom are the smart ones and which are the, *ahem*, less smart ones?

It’s easy; the smart ones sit in the front asking questions, and the stupid one sits in the back picking his nose and drawing pictures of dicks. The kids in the middle are basically the average of those two extremes.
We all like to think we’re wonderfully unique, complex intellectual individuals… In fact, we’re all pretty similar. Everybody is made of the same stuff, and although genetics do play a role, we all have the same human potential for intelligence (or lack thereof).

In the rest of this article, I’ll explain a few techniques and philosophies that will, whether you’re the booger picker, the brainiac, or the average student, help to accelerate your intellectual progress.

But first, let me share perhaps the most important aspect of gaining intelligence:
YOU MUST HAVE A REASON!
If you don’t have a good reason to learn, you won’t stick with it in the long term. Learn something that relates directly to your passion. If the thought of becoming a master in your field isn’t profoundly exciting, you’ve chosen the wrong subject. Enthusiasm is essential.

Moving forward,

KEY POINT #1: 
Reading a book is like receiving a 1-on-1 lesson from an accomplished expert in your chosen field.

Picking up a book daily is the best thing you can do for your intellect. Any nonfiction will do.
Read a paperback, a book on Kindle, or listen to an audiobook… Whichever way you prefer to take smart words and put them in your brain.

It doesn’t have to be a big deal… 15 minutes of reading before bed, 30 minutes of audio on your commute, etc… It really is that simple. This is how you slowly become smarter over the years.

You probably already know that you should be reading, but maybe, for whatever reason, you just don’t. Here is one trick to start reading more:

Surround yourself with books. If you see books all over your room, your desk, scattered around every surface… You’ll read more. At the very least, you’ll think about reading more. You will naturally do more of what you subconsciously think about. Surround yourself with good books, and set little reminders on your phone, computer, or wherever you can slap a post-it note.

Every word that enters your brain affects you. What you see on TV, hear on the radio, read on billboards… All of that soaks into your brain and influences you without you realizing it. That’s scary, but the good news is that books work the same way. Reading high quality nonfiction quietly absorbs the brilliance of great minds into your own. Blog posts are OK, too… But again, the emphasis must be on quality. If we’re going to be brainwashed either way, we might as well be brainwashed by high quality content of our own choosing. Avoid advertisements, alarmist media, and all social/sensationalist media!

Figure out who you admire. Find someone you respect who has your dream job. Read everything they’ve written, and you’ll suddenly be a little bit more like that person. Self-transformation by osmosis!

Although we used grades in school as a metric for intelligence, as adults we don’t have an easy measure to judge each other’s intelligence. IQ is fine, but most people never take a real IQ test. Facebook IQ quizzes do not count. Even if we had a concrete measure of intelligence, people would never acknowledge their own stupidity. Stupid people have chosen to lead an unenlightened life, and they will bitterly defend that decision until the day they die.

49% the population must possess below average intelligence, so why won’t a single person acknowledge their sub-par brainpower? Have you ever met a parent who honestly, truly believes that their kid is stupid? Me either.

Stupid people are not only ignorant of their own stupidity, but they actually believe they’re far above average.

This unawareness of ignorance has been named and studied:
People smarter than me discovered the Dunning-Kruger effect. Basically, unskilled people can’t tell they’re unskilled because it requires that same skill to recognize the lack of it.

dilbertdunningkruger

Stupid people, as well as bad drivers, bad writers, and bad singers are all blissfully unaware of their lack of skill, and can even be painfully overconfident of their abilities.

Back to the kid in the classroom: why is the smart kid in front asking questions, while the stupid kid cares more about dicks and boogers than quadratic equations?

It comes down to habits:
Smart people read books, stupid people watch TV. Smart people are curious and ask questions, stupid people aren’t and don’t. Habits would take up more space than I have here, but you can check out The Power of Habit for an in-depth look at habit-building.

Enthusiasm for learning is a trainable habit. Passion is the key to long-term growth.
If you aren’t genuinely interested in learning anything, you will need to discover something that genuinely fascinates you.

When a smart person hears a word they don’t know, they look it up.

When a stupid person hears a string of words they don’t know, their eyes glaze over.

Smart people always want to know more. Stupid people don’t care one way or the other.

Here’s the biggest difference between smart people and stupid people:
Smart people know facts, stupid people “know” bullshit.
Smart people understand that what they know might not be accurate, and they are capable of objectively judging the merit of an idea they don’t agree with.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it.”
-Aristotle

KEY POINT #2:

What, exactly, is the difference between smart and stupid?
It comes down to three things:
Knowledge, skills, and wisdom.

Knowledge means knowing facts about things. For example, knowing what trains are made of and how fast various types of trains can move.
Skills are the various tasks that we’ve grown to excel at over the years. For example, running fast, engineering technology, and piloting a train are all skills that we must learn and practice over time.
Wisdom is essentially life experience. It’s commonly called “common sense”, and it is the reason why older people tend to be a little smarter than young people. More years on Earth generally means you’ve seen more shit in your life.

Knowledge is knowing what a train is made of, while wisdom is knowing to get the fuck out of the way when you hear it coming.

Based on the above definitions, we can assume two things:

First, people do naturally gain wisdom, and therefore intelligence, over time.
Second, people also gain knowledge over time, some of which is bound to be false.

Older people are naturally wiser (i.e. more experienced). But if you went to public school, you know that someone being older does not necessarily mean they’re smarter.

Here’s the real difference between smart people and stupid people:

IF YOU’RE SKIMMING, READ THIS!! This is the most essential tidbit to remember from this article:

The difference between being smart and being stupid… is the desire for TRUTH.

QUESTION WHAT YOU KNOW! Don’t believe anything you hear without questioning it. Don’t believe any “scientific” studies without first asking yourself, “does this make sense?”. Half of those studies that people love to cite are completely invalid, and statistics are often intentionally removed from context (and just plain made up) to influence your beliefs.
Don’t believe your friends who tell you about an interesting “fact’ they found on Buzzfeed. Don’t believe anything I say in this article just because I say it’s true. Do your own research.

This is the CHOICE that stupid people make. They choose not to care enough about the truth to verify it themselves. Intelligence is habitually seeking to discover the truth lying under the surface of the superficial. 

Smart people understand that they very well might be wrong. Stupid people believe they’re brilliant, and they will vigorously defend their incorrect beliefs. Take it from Socrates: the only thing you can truly know is that you know nothing.

We learn naturally over time, but it takes concentrated effort to learn in the correct direction. Intelligence is made of knowledge, wisdom, and skills, but what does that mean for regular people like you and me?

It means that we have to learn intentionally. 

Are you learning at work?
Robert Kiyosaki, the brilliant financial mind behind Rich Dad Poor Dad said, “When you’re young, work to learn, not to earn.”  If there’s nothing more to learn at your current job, it’s time to move on to greener pastures. A huge part of learning comes from being in a rich learning environment.

After high school and/or college, people stop trying to learn. We get jobs that aren’t exactly intellectually demanding, so intelligence doesn’t increase.Try to find stimulating work, and surround yourself with people who care about educating themselves.

We humans are in a constant state of change and development, but without conscious direction we’re bound to learn the wrong things.

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
-Mark Twain

It’s the Dunning-Kruger effect in action. Stupid people are so certain of their view of the world that anything outside their narrow thinking becomes a personal attack on their entire worldview. Stupid people are set in their ways, so any attempt to teach them something is often met with anger. There’s no saving those people, so don’t bother trying. Just smile, just nod. “yes yes, of course, Chester, of course I believe you saw Bigfoot”. Save yourself the mental anguish of fighting a fool’s battle. You can’t argue with those people.

But YOU! You can be saved. Here you are, READING! You’ve read over a thousand words already, so clearly you’re pretty smart! Honestly, the average person is so dimwitted that merely reading past the headline picture ranks you above average. Now, then, my brilliant reader, I ask you to make a mental commitment to becoming smarter. Decide that you will think more carefully, think more intentionally, and think about how you’re thinking. Write down your thoughts and ideas. Decide that you want to be better than you are. Our intellects will never be “good enough”. There is always room for improvement.

Rather than, “You’re stupid, go get smarter”, I’ll say “Everybody is stupid, and people who don’t try to get smarter don’t get smarter“. So if you want to be smarter, which you should, all you have to do is try. 

So you’ve decided to become smarter. Now what? Here are 3 core principles to clarify your learning direction and harden your focus:

#1: Make a list of what you’d like to learn more about. Right now I’m most interested in Japanese, social dynamics, and the nerdy sciences of cosmology, quantum mechanics, and exponential computing. I study a wide range of other fields also, and everything I study intrigues me on a deep, personal level. Write down interesting stuff that pops into your head that you’d like to explore more deeply. There are thousands of books out there covering every conceivable field of study, so it’ll be easy to find at least a few nonfiction books to pique your interest.
#1B: Teach someone! Teaching is actually a great way to learn. Find someone enthusiastic who’s just starting out, and teach them what you know. Educating an enthusiastic pupil will motivate you to improve, lest they surpass you! You’ll be more motivated to learn, so you can teach more effectively, and you’ll wind up learning much more than you would alone. Two minds are better than one, and teaching can be a shockingly educational experience.

#2: Read something! The best way to get smarter is to read books. Read books every single day. Practice reading faster, too.
#2B: Reading books is too hard. Listen to them instead! If you don’t naturally enjoy reading, try listening to an audiobook. Listen to Audible in your car… Use this free trial link to show your support for my blog – Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks. Check out this post for more free educational resources and study hacks.

#3: Begin with the end in mind.
What skills would you like to have in a year’s time? What knowledge would benefit your social life and career the most? There are millions of options for meaningful learning, but it’s best to focus on one or two skills/subjects at a time. The key is to pick something useful that you’re genuinely enthusiastic about. Here are some skills that anyone can learn that will benefit your daily life.

  1. Voice training. Your voice is a huge part of how people perceive you, and studies have shown that deep-voiced men and women are seen as stronger, more competent, and more trustworthy than their high-pitched peers. Vocal control is learnable, and with regular practice any voice can be refined to be wonderfully easy on the ear. One quick trick is to say “me” at the lowest pitch you can, and hold that note. See how low you can get it without your voice cracking. Before long you’ll notice your voice becoming richer and more resonant.
  2. A Foreign Language. Wherever you live, there are definitely some people nearby that speak a different language. Learning a new language will open opportunities to meet new people, experience new cultures, will improve your overall mental strength and will even increase comprehension of your native tongue. Becoming bilingual is one of the true marks of an intelligent person.
  3. Play an instrument. Take those guitar lessons you always said you wanted to. Learn piano, or accordion, or whatever instrument makes you feel something when you hear it. Jazz drums are my jam, what’s yours? Listen to a wide variety of music until you discover something that gives you tinglies in your gut.
    Playing music strengthens your brain muscles, and listening to music has positive effects on a wide range of brain functions (see graphic).

brain-and-music

Be curious. Ask questions. Practice skills daily.

Learning is all about connecting the known to the unknown. The more interconnections your brain makes, the smarter you become. Our brains NEVER stop learning, and they are capable of incredible, exponential improvements. Our minds can always begin learning anew, even after many years of intellectual neglect. Because we’re always learning, it’s easy to slide into a period of negative learning… But by having a good reason for learning, and by approaching it one little step at a time, learning will gradually become easier, more enjoyable, and ultimately massively fulfilling.

\Imagine your amazing future self, and figure out what that person will need to know to succeed. Maybe it’s a language, or an instrument, or maybe it’s social skills… Whatever it is, read about it. Immerse yourself in it. Become the person you see in your future, one day at a time.

But above all, the most important factor in learning is to have a good reason for it. Without a concrete reason, a reason that your future self will absolutely need to know the material you’re studying… without that, you will fail. Every single time.

I’ll leave you with one more thought…

The best feeling in the world is the fulfillment from moving in the right direction. It’s always a challenge, and at times it feels like an impossible task, but the feeling of satisfaction that comes after a day spent the right way… That feeling makes it all worth it.

TL;DR

Question everything.
Have a good reason for learning.
Read authors you admire.
Be enthusiastic!
Be curious.
Make time for what matters.
Set clear priorities and achievable learning goals
Watch less TV and ignore mainstream media
Question EVERYTHING!

PassionBobKennedy

Passion is Lubricant for Discipline

What’s it all for?

Why do what you’re doing? What’s your greater goal?

You’ll never achieve greatness unless you care deeply about your mission.

Why not? Why can’t I be awesome for 2 hours every day, then watch porn, get high, and gorge myself on Unlimited Pastabowli™ at Olive Garden for only $7.99?
That’s simple, Jack. Would your ideal self eat at fucking Olive Garden, or would the perfect version of you learn to cook tastier, healthier meals at home? Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of the “unlimited” genre of food, but becoming better is more important to me than as many buttery carbohydrates as I can cram into my mouth-hole.

Passion is lubricant for discipline. That’s the title of this post, so allow me to elucidate.

Willpower is the finite resource we use to make ourselves produce long-term wins against short-term displeasure (e.g. diet & exercise, learning an instrument/language)

Discipline is the habitual application of willpower towards achieving a greater long-term goal.

Passion is loving your long-term goal more than anything else.

I want to be a writer. Here I am, writing. It’s slow, and for six months I’ve been slowly, slowly, slowly gaining traction. I’ve doubted myself, and my productivity has gone up and down more than Cedar Point’s Cyclone… If only riding out a slump was as much fun. I love writing, though. Frequently I don’t feel like it, but I write every single day because I have a broad, long-term view of time. It’s a grind, but my passion for my craft applies oil to the grind for as little mental friction as possible. My work ethic, my willpower, and my discipline are lubricated before every battle with frustration like a big, beautiful, manly man getting ready to wrestle.

I get too excited about the future. I get so excited it turns to angry frustration; I move so slow sometimes it’s infuriating! I curse myself for wasting so much time. I’m only 22… If only I’d learned what I know now 5 years ago! Alas, time travel is impossible for us puny imperfect organisms. Someday our bioengineered progeny will leap through time, but today we must live with our choices. It’s OK, though. Whether you’re fifteen or fifty, there’s still plenty of time!

We can’t succumb to our furious, frustrated angst for faster improvement, but we also can’t let ourselves fall into dull complacency. Let’s meet somewhere in the middle, then. Let’s feel that furious passion for forward momentum, but let’s focus it, control it. Let’s use passion to fuel our daily appreciation of the smaller satisfactions in life.

What do I mean by lubricant?
Lube makes things smooth. Lube removes friction.
A passionate mindset broadens our view of time to give us a reason to be better.
Therefore, focusing on passion removes friction from the daily self-discipline grind.

My love for writing and my desire to improve give me the inspiration I need to do it every day. You never see pro athletes who don’t like their sport. Sure, some of them grow to hate it, but every single pro athlete has a genuine love for their game. They’d never spend 10 hours a day every day of their life to master a game they didn’t enjoy.
If you hated broccoli, you wouldn’t waste your time crafting a perfect broccoli recipe. You’d spend that time cooking carrots instead.

It all comes down to how you feel. What’s most important to you? What excites you?
I don’t care much about money. I’d love to drive a Mercedes, but I’d rather cut off one of my fingers than take on massive debt to buy a fucking hunk of metal overcompensation.

I care deeply about my my health, my environment and my education. Money buys better food, nicer neighborhoods, and it buys books, lessons, and access to information. I don’t give a fuck about buying a new car to impress my dipshit neighbors. I want money because I want freedom. I want the freedom to be the best version of myself, and that requires makin’ moolah.

So you want to be a famous rock star. Are you in a band? Have you written lyrics? How many hours do you practice every day? Famous rock-stars are so passionate about the music that they live and die for it. Many of my friends play guitar, and they all dream of being rich & famous. They practice now and then, but they don’t feel like it every day. They’re scared of losing their comfortable lifestyle. Practicing for 9 hours a day, living life like a fucking spartan, seems silly to people used to living every day without a greater purpose.

Nobody dreams of being a fucking desk-jockey. As a kid, did you ever see a wage-slave on TV sharpening a pencil, shuffling a stack of memos and think, “Man oh man, boy oh boy, golly gee I’d sure love to be like him!” No, you didn’t. In my generation, we wanted to be Tony Hawk. We wanted to be Indiana Jones. We invented Karate moves in the back yard; we were Bruce Lee, Jet Li, and Jackie Chan rolled into one. Then we went to school.

At school, they tell us:

“Ha ha, Ho ho, you can’t be like them! You must count the beans! You must be like us, for this is how a Grown-Up™ behaves! Get a real job, find yourself a wife, and then, maybe, if you’re lucky, when you turn 65 you can retire and do all that silly bullshit you always dreamed about.”

Fuck school. Learn because you care. Find the thing that intrigues you, the thing that lights a fire in your gut, and devote your life to feeding that curious fire.
The education system in America is designed to produce obedient workers. Even the greatest teachers in our public schools are so bogged down by regulations that all strides toward real education are made struggling against the current. The system we use was invented in Prussia to mass-produce obedient workers. Before that, education was real. It wasn’t anything like our sadistic shitshow of a school system.

School might have killed that childish desire to live out your dream, but it’s still in you. Somewhere in your gut you want to be cool. You want to be fucking Indiana Jones, so go out and buy a whip and a hat and start digging for treasure! It doesn’t have to be a big deal, just get out there and do something. If you want to act, join an improv group. If you want to be a musician, start a band. If you want to be a writer, write (and finish) something. You can worry about everything else after you get started.

But what if you don’t know what you want to do? You went to school, you got your diploma, and now you sit in an office counting beans and sharpening pencils and dreaming about being anywhere but there.

Even if you don’t have a dream to fuel your passion, start by working to energize yourself. Start caring about yourself.
Are you fat? Buy smaller dinner plates.
Are you ugly? Get a new haircut and some cool threads.
Are you awkward? Read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People.

Sit there in your chair. Read this, and think, hmm, that’s interesting, I like what he’s saying.
Then forget. You’ll forget this, and you’ll go back to your routine.
Do you ever forget what you were doing only a moment before?

It’s OK to be slow-going. It may take you 10 years to figure out what you wanted to be doing for the past 10 years, but don’t let that stop you.
If your life lacks passion, expose yourself to new things until you feel a spark. A spark is all it takes to light the fire in your gut. That fire inside you, that furious passion, is the most important factor in achieving fulfillment. Becoming the greatest version of yourself requires hard work every single day. The only way to diligently work every day, even when you don’t feel like it, is to be passionate about your purpose. No matter what, you must be certain that you’re making a difference. Every day, take one step towards building something bigger than yourself.

Every day I think about my beautiful future. My destiny is REAL in my mind.

If my house burned down, if my friends and family abandoned me, if I lost everyone and everything, I would smile with the knowledge that my new pain would be forging me into a greater man faster than I could ever do comfortably.

I refuse to accept the pathetic path of comfort that society lays down in front of me. My passion for my art, my desire to thrive in this cutthroat world, and my thirst to be a man worthy of respect all drive me forward towards my ideal self. Do you want an easy comfortable life, or would you rather bust your ass every day for ten years to create something more meaningful?

How much is your dream worth?

BruceLeeDiscipline

Use speed-reading to get smarter, faster

speed_reading

You want to be smarter. You want to know more than you do now… Most of us do. We want to learn more, and we want to be smarter than our loved ones to rub it in their stupid faces. More importantly, we want to be intelligent enough overall to thrive in daily life.

I’m not talking about “google curiosity” here. Looking up every pointless factoid you come across isn’t learning. You don’t need to know what kind of cereal Tom Hanks eats. Probably something high-brow… Steel-cut oats maybe. I bet he’s an oatmeal guy.

I’ll write more in the future about the current cultural obsession with instant gratification and its influence on the Internet, but for now let’s focus: increasing our intelligence as quickly as possible is key to moving towards our goals.

It’s true that we’re born with a certain predisposition for intellect (or stupidity), but everyone has an incredibly high potential for learning. The brain, like any other muscle, will become stronger with a little training. If you ever feel stupid when you interact with intellectuals, you might just need to flex your mind a little more to help you along.

Recently I started using Spreeder. It’s a free service that allows the user to copy any body of text into a speed-reading web application. The customization options are excellent, and it’s fairly easy on the eyes. Basically it’s a box that flashes individual strings of words to help you focus on reading chunks of words at a time. There’s loads already written about how to speed-read, but if you want a quick introduction to it, follow the directions on the site’s homepage. The jist is that to read faster we cut out our mental verbalization of the words to allow our mind to skip a step in the comprehension process, thereby greatly increasing efficiency.

Efficiency is important. Reading can be a long and arduous process, especially when reading dense nonfiction.  By the way, if you’re speedreading a modest 400 words per minute, this article will take you 90 seconds to read. The record for speed is over four thousand words per minute. The human capacity for knowledge is fucking insane! The fact that someone can consistently absorb and retain that much information at such a high speed over a long period of time blows my fucking mind.

All it takes is a little practice. You won’t be a speed-demon right away, and it’ll take some time for your skills to transfer from a training app to standard type. Eventually, you’ll read so much faster that you’ll wonder how you could stand reading at such a slow pace. Your eyes will skip fluidly between chunks of words, and you’ll see & hear people slowly struggling to scan across a page and wonder why they don’t make the simple effort to read faster.

What do you want to learn about? Music, psychology, space travel? Maybe you want to read about sports to keep up with your friends’ conversations. Maybe you want to learn about foreign culture to seem more worldly. Any and every subject of study is worthwhile.

Once you stop learning, you start dying. You don’t have to be a nutjob like me and sit for 12 hours autistically crouched over a book. Just read something, and make a conscious effort to:

1. Scan 3 word chunks at a time
2. Silence your inner voice
3. Track your place with a pen or a finger or your mouse cursor

That’s about it, folks. Formal education is only the beginning of your life’s education. Socrates, the wisest philosopher of all time, knew better than anyone that there is always more to learn.

More words:
http://fourhourworkweek.com/2009/07/30/speed-reading-and-accelerated-learning/
http://lifehacker.com/the-truth-about-speed-reading-1542508398

I murdered my anxiety with mind-bullets

anxiety

Over the past couple months I became increasingly anxious. I didn’t notice it at first, because for two weeks I was sick with strep throat. Those wonderful days, I paid much more attention to my body and mind than I do normally. After finally seeing a doctor for antibiotics, I began taking stock of myself. I could finally swallow without having to gargle salt, but I noticed that I still wasn’t recovering mentally. It’s scary to think that a simple sickness could cause lasting damage to the mind, but the reality is that what affects the body will always affect the mind. Exercise is possibly the best cure for depression, and allowing the body to wither is a surefire method of weakening the mind as well as the body.

Anxiety is weird. I know how to talk to people. I can read people pretty well, and these days I’m much better at interpreting subtext and body language than I was as a teenager. Despite the skills I’ve gained over the past couple years, I suddenly feel a knot in my gut whenever I must interact with people. I find myself spitting out whatever comes to mind. This afternoon I asked the same question twice in a row; this shit doesn’t happen to me! I’ve always been comfortable with silence, but now I find myself filled with a strange panic every time I try to communicate.

On a happier note, here’s how I’ve dealt with my anxiety:

Relax

I mentally take a step back, sucking in as much air as my lungs will hold and letting it out slow. I tell myself,  “it’s OK to be silent. Shut your mouth, watch, and listen. Everyone else here is too worried about their own shit to care about how retarded you are.”

I actively remind myself to see things from others’ perspectives. I try to imagine how everything I know about that person’s life might be influencing him, and I connect that to the cues I’m seeing to get as full a picture of that person’s mind as possible. I try to find out about people as much as possible, because it will help me understand them.  Everybody loves to talk either about themselves or about something their favorite thing, like cars or music.

Maybe you don’t feel anxious in social environments. Maybe you’re a social butterfly. Regardless, nearly everyone experiences a wide range of emotional ups and downs, and everybody can benefit from increasing emotional intelligence. I found this excellent chart a couple weeks ago that helps illustrate the subtle differences in our everyday emotions.

emotional intelligence wheel

Can you recognize each of the feelings on this chart? Just knowing how to describe how you’re feeling, to yourself and others, can be a big help in beginning to feel better.

Some people take pharmaceutical drugs to relieve anxiety, but this is merely treating the symptoms of your problem. Anxiety medication alters the chemistry of your brain, which does help with symptoms, but taking the easy way out by altering natural brain chemistry deprives you of the solution to the underlying causes of your mental funk.

A better option than drugs is meditation. For those that aren’t familiar, meditation is essentially a formalized methodology of “taking deep breaths”. It’s much more complex than that, and you can read countless articles about it all over the Web. The short version: focus only on your breathing. When your mind strays, refocus your thoughts. Take long, measured breaths, and remain focused as long as possible without becoming distracted. It’s difficult, but it’s one of the most effective methods I’ve come across to help deal with anxiety as well as many other common issues.

Lastly, be aware of your thoughts. Try to think better. Try to think about what other people are thinking. Think about why you’re thinking what you’re thinking. Think about what might be making you think the way you do. Think about how you’d like to be thinking, and what might help you think that way. I think about thinking a lot, which is probably because I’m an emotionally retarded autistic guy. Or maybe I’m just smarter than you. Just kidding, you’re obviously smart because you’re reading my blog. I like you. Other people like you. Try to like yourself more than everybody else combined.

Distractions are Killing you

internet-distractions

I’m distracted trying to write this. You’re distracted by this needlessly large image above my type. You’ll probably just look at the image, fart out a couple laughs, and move on without actually reading anything. Because hey, reading is hard. I get it.

Personally, I love to read because it’s fun, informative, and rewarding mentally and emotionally. It’s an escape; as a young man I read books and became more emotionally invested in the characters than in real people. There’s nothing better than the feeling when you finish a really great book.

Here’s the rub: the internet ain’t a book.

When you read a book, you’ll put in a pair of headphones. Maybe you’ll sequester yourself in a quiet, relaxing place like a coffee-shop or your living room. You’ll get the lighting just right, and you’ll sit in a wonderfully comfy chair. Ever tried to talk to somebody who’s reading? They’ll look at you like you’re a fly they want to squash.

When you read the internet, you’re constantly assaulted by unwanted information. HEY! HERE’S 10 FACTS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT BOOBS! You fuckers would click that in a second! It’s true; if people could get away with filling their websites with nothing but boobs and top-10 lists they would. The “intelligent, discerning Internet viewer” doesn’t matter because it’s much easier to attract 10 mentally deficient zombies than 1 intellectual. Sorry, smart-fags, but stupid is where the money is. 

What’s it all mean?

If you want to get anything done, you have to avoid distractions. Distractions pull your focus away from good things like learning, reading, thinking and creating. Do you care? If not, you’re probably not reading this anyway. You’ve read almost 300 words so far; well done! Drifting through the Internet for hours at a time is great fun. Keep on refreshing that Tumblr page. Make yourself a spreadsheet analyzing the likelihood of frequent Tumblr posters to be chickens pecking at the keyboard. Make an afternoon of it, do some research. It’s for science, after all. I know some pretty smart chickens. Run a comparison of chicken faces versus Tumblr profile pictures. I bet they’re pretty similar. Illuminati? Probably. Conspiracy everywhere.

Wake the fuck up, people! Facebook is not real life. You do not have 862 friends; you barely hang out with your cat. If you don’t see or talk to someone at least once per week, you’re not friends. You know, talking, like with words from your mouth. How often do you call people on the phone? If you’re under the age of 30, probably not often. Why? Because phone calls make me anxious. I can’t talk to a real person! I get nervous just trying to talk to Kevin at AT&T customer support, and he’s contractually obligated to be nice to me.

Try this: turn off your smartphone.

Did you do it? Of course you didn’t. If you turned off your phone, how would you know if somebody needed to reach you for like, totally important stuff?

How often have you gotten a text that said,

“Hey. U home? I got stabbed can u drive me 2 hospital?”
^This will never happen. That’s what 911 is for. You are not that important.

Way, way, WAYYYY back in 1989, nobody had cell phones. Business dudes had them, and they were huge and you looked like an asshole lugging the thing around. People called each other from their houses. They left messages, and they didn’t get angry when their behind-the-times parents left them a voicemail that they now have to spend 2 whole minutes deleting.

Are you one of those wonderful individuals that checks their phone during a real conversation? Do you feel the urge to check your leash for new updates? Do you check Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media more than… 10 times a day? If so, you’re an addict. There’s a chemical called dopamine that’s released in your brain every time you get a hit of that sweet social media juice. It feels pretty great, and it causes the same reaction in your brain as hard street drugs.

But hey, if you never plan on doing anything, maybe social media is perfect for you. Maybe you’ll never need to know facts. Maybe you’ll never need skills. You can probably just live on welfare, crank out a few kids and get that sweet, sweet Big Papa Government welfare check. You don’t need to worry about things like self-improvement because your “self” exists only online.

Here’s a list for you fuckers scanning to the bottom for the juicy bit:

1. Turn off your cell phone for a day. If you feel like you’ve had your right arm removed, you probably have a serious problem.

2. Close your social media tabs. Try looking at nice pictures on Instagram instead. Happy sunsets and puppies are much better for your psyche than your pseudo-friends vague emotional bullshit.

3. Maybe go outside? Call somebody you like? Talk to someone about something real that’s happening in your life. Experience the joy of reading an actual book!

Also, phones might cause cancer. The science isn’t done on that yet. That’s kind of a scary thought. Just think about cancer every time you want to check Facebook.

Fight Yourself

Fight-Club-Punching-Self

No. Not literally.

To do anything worth doing, you gotta give yourself a swift kick in the ass. Your body and mind will be resisting change the whole way, and it’s your job to put yourself back on the right track each and every time. It’s unavoidable. This is just how people work. No matter how long you’ve been persistent for, you’ll eventually have one bad day.

I read an excellent post on Wait But Why yesterday that really got me thinking. For a long time, I’ve struggled a lot with procrastination. I’ve had some similar ideas from my own experience, but I’ve never seen it explained and illustrated so perfectly.

In short, when we try to do the work that really matters, we often get distracted by instant gratification. We make great, consistent progress once we’re deep into the flow of our work, but moving ourselves from that murky period of self-loathing filled procrastination requires more and more willpower as time goes on.

I won’t get too deep into the content from the article, but I’ve been thinking about this topic for quite awhile. I’ve been working since August of last year to create positive daily habits, and I’ve made more holistic progress since then than any other time of my life. First starting out, though, it was an uphill battle. When I became seriously interested in self-improvement during my second year of college, I had lost around fifty pounds the previous year. Obviously I felt pretty good about it, but I wasn’t sure what the next step was. I had a vague idea of what my priorities and values were at that point, but I was still very naive in my approach to life. I had this vague attitude of not taking life too seriously that was great for creating a positive mindset, but was actually detrimental to building forward momentum in my life.

I ended up spending a lot of time playing video games and watching TV. Pretty much every day I would wake up and do the same old shit. I was making great efforts to get healthier, but my routine for the other aspects of my life were sorely lacking. Basically the only useful skill I learned in my first year of college was how not to be fat; I didn’t have any useful real life skills. I lacked discipline. I figured that one day I’d write a book, but I rationalized a bunch of stupid reasons why I wasn’t writing anything.

Eventually, nearly a year ago, I started writing a journal. I can’t tell you how huge of a step this was for me. Beginning to write down my thoughts sparked a series of changes that I never expected. It’s difficult to stick with a journal at first, but now it’s a permanent part of my nightly routine. If you aren’t already writing one, do it. Do it now. You’ll find yourself coherently expressing for the first time thoughts you’ve been having for a while; not only that, new ideas and feelings and opinions will come to the surface that you never even knew were there. Personally, the biggest benefit I’ve had from writing a journal has been a log of my progress. There were days when all I did was sitting around watching Netflix. Writing out my experiences forced me to examine my life. When you write down, “Today I didn’t do much of anything.” enough times, you start to feel like a piece of shit, which is great motivation. I ended up thinking a lot about the difference between what I was doing and what I wanted to be doing, and eventually I starting making more changes in my life because my journal helped me sort out all the emotional bullshit that was holding me back.

Fighting yourself isn’t easy. Honestly, the only way to do it effectively is to cut yourself off from all distractions. If your phone is distracting you from your work, leave it on silent face-down out of your sight. Refocus your attention entirely on what really matters in your life. Maybe read an actual book instead of scrolling through forums, blogs, and social media.

People tend not to change. Changing is hard, and staying the same is easy. That’s why no matter how far you progress, you still have to fight yourself to keep moving. Luckily, improving ourselves doesn’t have to always be a struggle. Why? Because momentum.

If you spend a week jerking off and watching cartoons all day, on that eighth day you’re really going to want to jerk off and watch cartoons. Your body has been programmed to jump right into that negative routine. Most of us have experienced this with whatever our lazy sin of choice is (Netflix for many of us). Now, you don’t have to give up all your favorite shows, games, and whatever other mindless entertainment gets your rocks off. Just quit all the meaningless bullshit. Quit “just watching something”. If you want to watch every episode of a great show because it’s great, that’s fucking awesome. Do it at night after you’ve gotten some work done, but enjoy that god damn show with vigor! Consuming well-made media is a great way to spend your spare hours, but just watching something to watch something is how fools spend 20 years before finally asking themselves where their life went. Think about what you’re doing. Think about why you’re doing it. 

When you look at yourself and realize that many of your idle instantly gratifying actions provide no benefit to your life or your goals, you’ll have two choices: either keep feeding yourself empty entertainment and self-loathing, or buckle down and get some work done. I only have to spend a few hours productively before I start to feel really good about it. There’s no better feeling than finally relaxing after spending the day the right way. Make the choice when you wake up to instantly jump into that positive routine of self-development. Take a break after 4 hours spent practicing skills, learning information, and exercising your body. Spend the time to truly commit to improving yourself just a little bit. Report back to me with how fucking awesome you feel.