“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”
We go about our daily lives understanding almost nothing of the world
We give little thought to the machinery that generates the sunlight that makes life possible
To the gravity that glues us to the earth that would otherwise send us spinning off into space
Or the atoms of which we’re made, and all of whose stability we fundamentally depend.
Few of us spend much time wondering why nature is the way it is
Where the cosmos came from
And whether it was always there?
If time will one day flow backward
Or whether there are ultimate limits to what humans can know
What IS the smallest piece of matter?
Why we remember the past and not the future
And why there IS a universe.
I didn’t write any of the above – it’s in the interlude of this awesome song.
photo by dcysurfer / Dave Young
It’s time to learn another language.
The 10,000 foot view
- Use Tim Ferriss’ DiSSS method to quickly deconstruct the pillars of the language
- Use Anki flashcards and Spaced Repetition to build up my vocabulary
- Use Duolingo
The DiSSS method comes out of Tim Ferriss’ book, The Four Hour Chef, which is less about cooking and more about skill acquisition and learning. In it, he outlines this method as follows:
- Deconstruct – Chunk the skill into bite-sized pieces
- Select – Pick the 20% of the chunks that will give you 80% of the results.
- Sequencing - Put these chunks in the order that facilitates fast learning.
- Stakes - Put something on the table. Have something that you will either gain or lose that you care about so you’re motivated to follow through.
For deconstruction, I’m using his sentence method. The basic idea is that a few sentences can unlock a language’s structure, so all you need to do is find someone who is fluent and have them translate these for you. You can then chunk down to the heart of a language and understand the nuts and bolts.
These are the sentences:
- The apple is red.
- It is John’s apple.
- I give John the apple.
- We give him the apple.
- He gives it to John.
- She gives it to him.
- I must give it to him.
- I want to give it to her.
I’ve reached out to a friend about these sentences, but in the meantime I found this: http://brazigzag.com/language/timothy-ferriss-learn-language-fast/ that is more or less exactly what I’m looking for. Not only does it translate the sentences, but it also does a lot of the chunking for me. I can build off of this to understand the rules of the language. After fully understanding this, I need to increase my vocabulary so I can speak in a variety of situations.
For stakes, I’ve decided to travel to Brazil as my next traveling journey, so I more or less need to learn how to speak the language if I want to have an immersive experience there and not just be an outsider looking in.
Anki and Spaced Repetition
Most of us are familiar with burning through flashcards to memorize facts. Maybe while pulling an all-nighter fueled by caffeine (or other stimulants)? Spaced repetition is basically flashcards on steroids. The idea is that there will be some cards that you recall easily, and some that you just can’t seem to remember.
In the case of language learning, there may be words that you always know immediately, and some that you never remember. Spaced repetition is a flashcard based system that allows you to rank how well you remember a particular card, which affects the next time that it shows up in your deck. Harder to remember cards show up more often, easier to remember cards show up far less often.
The results is a more streamlined way to dump facts (in this case, words) into your brain.
Anki is a cool little program that allows you to create your own decks or download premade decks. As you roll through a deck, you can rank how easy a card was to remember, and the program will automatically adjust frequency. It’s pretty neat!
Duolingo is an absolutely awesome webapp. In a nutshell, it turns learning a language into a game, so you get addicted to learning it instead of viewing it as a chore. I don’t think I view learning Portuguese as a chore, but I used to play a ton of video games and my background in poker has confirmed that I have a massive addictive personality (though if you’re winning, is it really that bad?). Duolingo helps me take advantage of this for a good reason instead of a time-wasting reason.
It’s gotten to the point where I annoy people in line because I’ll run through a Duolingo lesson and people will hear, “Eu gosto de abacaxis e eu como limaos” (I like pineapples and I eat lemon) and give me the weirdest looks. Doesn’t matter – learning Portuguese!
That’s it! DISSS, spaced repetition, and Duolingo. The only other thing I’ll do is chat with a couple friends a few times a week that already know Portuguese so I can start to build the speaking and conversational skills up.
Photo by Jorge in Brazil
Every year, I have done some variation on goal setting for the year. My results have trended upwards over the years, but I’ve always felt I was missing out on some crucial part of the process. This year, I’m mixing it up. I’m using a different system than last year, as well as putting everything out there in public. I’m doing this for three reasons:
- Accountability – There are a few people that I have weekly/monthly calls with to make sure goals are being met. Posting my 2014 goals here makes it easier for them to track progress.
- Help – I’m positive there are a few people out there who can help me out with these goals (and I bet I can help them with theirs, too!)
- Fear – throwing your yearly goals out there in so much detail is uncomfortable for me, so that means I have to do it.
- Personal Development
- Career Development
- Family / Personal / Social Well-Being
In the past, I’ve set goals right from these 6 areas. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t turn out too well. I wasn’t connecting the superficial goals with a deeper reason behind them, so I’d often fall short. Digging deeper than superficial goal setting to truly understand why you want something to happen is necessary if you want to achieve.
So instead of picking a few goals in each category for the year, I defined high-level principles that I want to strive towards for the year. Only then did I define the goals for each area and what accomplishing those goals would look like.
Without further ado:
in 2014, I want to be more:
Healthy -Great health is the foundation. Without it, I can’t pursue anything else optimally. This is priority #1 for the year.
- Complete Tough Mudder on Saturday March 29, 2013 in Los Angeles.
- 5 reps of 1.5x bodyweight squats, deadlifts, and bench press.
- Limit beer to 1-2/month. Drinks when out max 1 soda+alcohol/night.
- Eat meals prepared with foods that have as few steps from farm -> table as possible.
- Figure out what’s going on with the knot in my back and my right knee system.
Fearless - Most lack of action can be boiled down to fear of something. Working to reduce fear (or act in the face of it) will lead to a richer life for myself and others.
- Keep a fear journal for at least one month where I do something that scares me everyday and record it.
- Approaching people (esp. girls) I find interesting or attractive needs to be part of the way I live.
- Take improv, standup, or dance classes (bonus points for all 3)
Creative - Nurturing my creative talents will help expand my abilities in every aspect of my life.
- Record an original song. Bonus points for recording a 5 song EP
- Participate in NaNoWriMo in November
- Build Supreme Strategies blog and this blog by writing consistently. 1 post a week.
in 2014, I want to develop more:
Honesty - I really liked reading this post by Scott Britton, and want to add more honesty into my life in those small situations where it’s easiest to default to white lies rather than the pure truth.
- Track lying in a document for a month.
Income – Increasing income allows me to devote more money towards lower leverage activities so I can free up time to spend on what I’m best at. Also, so I can pour more money into new projects that I think will offer value.
- Increase side business income to $5,000/month by end of year
Thought leadership – building an audience scales the positive effect I can have, and helps build new relationships and new opportunities.
- Build Supreme Strategies blog and this blog to XX,000 hits/month
- Build subscribers to this blog to 500
Marketing savvy – because I enjoy cultivating this and it will help me be in a better position when I go to start a company.
- Create and run a successful e-commerce store selling either kombucha equipment or gardening supplies
IN 2014, I want to get better at:
Developing systems - For business and personal life, so I can remove myself from activities I’m not so good at and focus on things that I am awesome at.
- Develop business systems for any task that is predictably repeatable and can be delegated. Devote at least 5 hours a week (or 2-3 tasks) to this goal.
- Build robust morning and evening routines that are systematized and iterated on for best results.
Being present – One of the best ways to cultivate appreciation and gratitude.
- Meditate at least 5 minutes a day.
- Spend at least one Sunday a month 100% unplugged.
Keeping in touch with family – Simple to do, I just need to put more intention behind it and set up the systems.
- Call grandparents 1x/week.
- Weekly call with Jon 1x/week.
- See Mom at least 1x/mo or Skype if not possible
- G+ hangout with brother 2x/mo
IN 2014, I’d like to spend more time:
Traveling – Likely one of the biggest ways I have grown. Consistently rewards me with fresh perspectives, more creativity, and more presence.
- Spend at least a month outside of the U.S. this year.
Planning activites with friends – Becoming more of the initiator of events or activities rather than someone who always joins others. Not that it is bad to do that, but coming up with activities myself will help build networks and stronger relationships.
- Plan or suggest at least 1 activity a month with friends, ideally bringing different circles together.
Dating – Drastically under emphasized last year. Spending more time meeting women will round out this area of my life, and potentially meet a really awesome girl
- Make talking to girls I find attractive part of my personality
- Plan fun, awesome dates with girls I find interesting
Volunteering – I’ve gotten away from this lately and it always makes me feel good and is in general a great thing to spend time doing.
- Volunteer 6x this year.
- Start a podcast
- Create an LLC that allows me to optimize my tax strategy
- Gain 1-2 more mentors who have expertise in fitness, marketing, business, writing, or music
- Host a dinner party once every 2 months
- Create an event that people love. Potential: Fancy running parties.
Places / Events I’d like to go to:
- Brazil – Rio de Janeiro
- South Korea
What do you want to do in 2014?
This is such a misunderstood concept. First of all, I think there are words in any language that are ‘under-defined’. What that means is that there are words that mean too many things to too many people.
I think luck is one of those words.
It’s a word I wish didn’t exist. It’s not helpful – not to anyone. There is no benefit to thinking about anything in life from the frame of “lucky vs. unlucky.”
You see this a lot when someone does well in their life – health, business, money, dating, etc.
You hear about Charles? Sold his business for 3 million…lucky bastard.
Man, this girl my friend is dating is a total stunner. Absolutely gorgeous. He’s such a lucky guy, I have no clue how he got a girl like that.
Absolutely worthless statements that do not help us learn how to think and approach the world in a way that helps us succeed.
“Luck” is nothing but an event that happened that we all think was exceptionally good. Most humans like money, so when we see someone win the lottery, we call him lucky.
I think there are a few types of situations that people call lucky:
- Even-ish probability events that someone happens to win a lot of (winning 10 coinflips in a row)
- Extremely improbable events that someone happens to win once (winning the lottery)
- Extremely improbably bad events that someone happens to escape (being struck by lightning and living)
- Ambiguous probability events that someone happens to achieve (selling a business)
The first is just simple probability. Over the long term, winning a 50/50 coinflip 10 times in a row happens 0.098% of the time. It’ll just happen sometimes – the person isn’t lucky because they happened to do it once. No matter what they call, if they flip coins long enough they will get a streak of 10 in along the way.
The second is what most people would consider to be “pure luck”. If you’re playing $1 lotto tickets in California, the odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 175,223,510. That means that you can expect to recoup pretty much $0 of that $1 (assuming there are no other prizes). Basically, you’re lighting the money on fire.
But then you win. Well, someone HAS to win at some point and it just happened to be you. Are you lucky, or are you fortunate that the almost impossibly low probability of winning happened to fall on you? I’d argue you’re fortunate, not lucky.
The third is the reverse of the second, so not much needs to be said here.
The fourth is a tricky one. This is typically the one that gets the most heated debate going on. You’ll hear stories about successful entrepreneurs that sold their businesses, or actors that made it big and how “lucky” they were. How many people “just like them” failed and couldn’t make it happen, despite working just as hard.
Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Certainly, there are things out of your control.
You could be hit by a car.
But then, were you watching out or were you looking at your phone?
You could have your identity stolen and have all of your assets taken from you.
But then, did you have proper security measures in place?
Joking aside, there are definitely things that you simply cannot fully prepare for or avoid.
But…let’s look at the successful entrepreneur. Is he REALLY the same as all of the people who tried and failed?
- Maybe it’s his 19th business, all of the others being mediocre or complete failures
- Maybe he has improved incrementally at every business related skillset with each business
- Maybe he has geographical, social, physical, or other advantages that other people did not
- Maybe he spent more time in smarter ways working on higher leverage activities
- Maybe he learned MORE from each failure than other people
- Maybe he sought out mentors for every area that he was weak and traded a skill that they were weak in
- Maybe he sacrificed things that other people were not willing to sacrifice to achieve his dream
There are so many small actions that change the course of lives, and extremely successful people have a laser focus on the things that they truly want. Then they filter the world through the lens of accomplishing those goals.
I’VE FOUND THAT LUCK IS QUITE PREDICTABLE. IF YOU WANT MORE LUCK, TAKE MORE CHANCES. BE MORE ACTIVE. SHOW UP MORE OFTEN. – BRIAN TRACY
I used to skateboard a lot. When I drove around I no longer saw buildings, cars, sidewalks, curbs. I saw areas to practice flatground, various gaps to hit, creative lines to skate. The world was actually different to my brain.
The argument I’m making here is that it’s folly to call something luck when there are likely SO many things that we’re NOT doing to achieve what we want in every single day of our lives. Even if there are things we can never change, we can take tiny course corrections every single day to give ourselves a better shot at being one of “the fortunate ones”.
It’s only recently come to the forefront of my mind that it’s possible to give ourselves an amazing shot at living to over ninety.
Of course, we can’t control everything. There are a million and one ways we can die tomorrow, but they’re not really worth worrying about. If we go to a renegade icicle or mysterious sinkhole…that’s just how we’re going to go. Can’t do much about it.
However, the areas we can control should be controlled with as much rigor as possible. I’m talking about our nutrition, our musculoskeletal system, our brain function, our emotional health, our relationships, and our creative output.
There are a plethora of ways we can make tiny shifts in the right direction in any of these areas right now.
Let’s look at our body. Making an effort to perform posture correcting exercises, or even going as far as to eliminate the behaviors and habits that create bad posture can clear up many potential health risks.
In nutrition, the addition of a green juice on a daily basis can make sure we’re getting at least some kind of fresh plant matter into our diet on a daily basis. We don’t have to make a large shift – things can evolve from micro actions into something much bigger.
Combine all of these micro actions in all aspects of longevity over time. Eventually our level of performance in all areas is staggering, and we’re eating beautifully, exercising and caring for our body well, making sure our brain functions properly, and so on. It’s hard to argue that the person doing all of those things doesn’t stand a chance to add years - or even decades – to their life.
When we’re stuck in a certain pattern or “level” of competency in anything in our lives, we’re simultaneously stuck with the belief system that got us there. If we’re in average shape, chances are we hold beliefs that have led to action (or a lack of action) that got us to our current state.
Sometimes, to break through to that next level, we have to adopt beliefs that are probably not the best for our long term well-being, but help get us out of our current rut.
In fitness, we may have to adopt the belief that we must track everything down to the tenth of the calorie in diet and exercise in order to get to a higher level of fitness. Some people are OK doing this their whole lives – but most are not. Unless fitness is your life’s mission, it’s probably not the best use of time to do this (unless something comes out that makes this tracking effortless).
However, for some period of time, it’s best to adopt that “extreme” belief and set of actions in order to force ourselves out of our current state.
Kind of like slamming the gas in order to make it through a red light.
On the surface it seems like a pretty bad idea. But what if you’re rushing to see someone in the hospital? What if you’re driving yourself to the hospital? There are a lot of situations where running the red is the better choice for your life.
If we can get ourselves to consider “not living up to our potential” to be an outcome as bad as “not getting to the hospital in time”, then it makes sense to look for ways to run a red light in order to get ourselves to another level. Not cheating, nothing immoral, but doing things that seem weird or wrong, or even potentially unhealthy in the long term.
Photo by jared
What If You Were Firing On All Cylinders?
By all cylinders, I mean you’re absolutely nailing The Essentials:
- Feeding your body amazing, nutritious food
- Pushing yourself to new limits physically
- Pursuing a creative passion at maximum effort
- Absolutely crushing your job / going full bore building your business
- Meeting interesting, awesome people AND strengthening existing relationships with your friends and family
I mean, sit and think about it for a second. What would a day in your life look like where you actually did all of that? If you’re like almost anyone, chances are you don’t live that type of day – but some people do.
Sure, they might not hit every single cylinder hard in a given day, but over the course of a week, a month, a year…they’ve got them all pumping.
If You Were Firing On All Cylinders…
How would you feel when you wake up in the morning? Maybe you’d feel absolutely no need to hit snooze on the alarm. Maybe you wouldn’t even need to USE an alarm.
How would you feel when you go to sleep? Maybe you’d be asleep before your head hit the pillow. Maybe you’d stay up for an hour thinking about what you’re going to tackle tomorrow.
How would you feel as you move through the day? Maybe you would have miniature peak experiences multiple times a day. Maybe you’d appreciate and enjoy the ups and downs of each day instead of waiting for the day to be over so you can go home and watch some TV.
What If You Were Firing On All Cylinders?
No matter how rock solid you are in terms of your routines and habits, there are days (or weeks) where things just aren’t going they way they normally do, and you seem powerless to stop it. It’s as if you’re watching yourself from a detached perspective make the wrong choices, do the wrong things, and neglect what you know you should be doing to drive yourself forward.
When this happens to me, it feels like I can’t actually make the right decisions, even though I know exactly what they are and how to do them. However, I’ve come up with a way to drag myself out of the mud that I think a lot of people may resonate with. When I say “come up with”, I really mean “culled information from various people I respect and tested it out in my life.”
Here they are:
1. When was the last time you exerted so much physical energy that you felt like you were going to die – in a good way?
Chances are if you’re feeling a bit off, exercise has stopped being a priority. Try doing some Tabata protocol sprints and seeing how you feel for the rest of the day.
2. Has there been a change in your social life that’s thrown you off of your game?
If you haven’t been getting enough face time with good friends, or friends have recently moved away, it can throw you off your routines and drain your energy. Try hitting up a few Meetup events, or talking to random people as you go about your day.
3. When was the last time you spent some time on a creative passion?
I’ve noticed that when I fall into these funks, I stop playing music and I stop working on side projects. Give yourself an hour to spend on a creative activity you enjoy.
4. What kind of food are you eating?
Say what you want about the people touting Paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free diets. I’ve noticed in my own life that eating this way drastically helps my mental state…not just emotionally but performance-wise as well. It’s incredible how accurate it is when people tell you that they feel like a “mental fog” has been lifted. Try adjusting your diet. Marks Daily Apple is a great resource for this.
5. Have you taken 5 minutes to an hour to just sit and reflect?
I’ve noticed people have mixed feelings about mindfulness meditation, but I count myself squarely in the “it’s awesome” camp. Watching your thoughts come and go without labeling them is a great exercise in unveiling the reasons behind your funk, and sometimes it points the way out very clearly. Try watching your thoughts for 5-20 minutes. If you don’t know where to start, this is a great resource
In summary: exercise, social, creativity, diet, mindfulness. The point here is not to shift all of these to max power levels immediately, but to find the one that you’re weakest in and just amp up the activity in that area. Then see how you feel. If better, keep it going and maybe strive to increase your activity in another area. These 5 things have been very helpful for me in bouncing back from slumps much quicker than I used to before.
Picture taken by my brother Bryan.
Health and wealth. A lot of problems can be distilled into these two gigantic verticals. In the marketing world, there are thousands and thousands of different businesses that are positioned around these particular macro niches.
Most of us stress about one of these two…or if you’re like the average person…both! One thing I’ve found to be very helpful is an exercise I call returning to reality.
It’s a cold hard smack in the face if you’re not where you want to be in these two areas, but as Peter Drucker says:
“What gets measured, gets managed.”
And it’s true. If you somehow had the exact minute breakdown of how you spent your days, classified into groups and you reviewed it nightly, I can almost guarantee you would start trending towards spending your days better.
Returning To Reality Exercise
- Weigh yourself and write it down
- Take front, back, and two side pictures in excruciating high resolution
- Write down what type of food you eat on a daily basis (OK to generalize)
- Write down the type and duration of exercise you do on a daily basis
- Find out your exact net worth (Mint, Excel, whatever works)
- Find out how much money you made in 2012
- Find out how much money you’ve made the last three months
- Find out your 3 biggest discretionary expenses
After you’re done, take a look at the information in front of you. This is the reality of your health and wealth. You can’t argue with the cold hard facts staring you back in the face.
Now you have a a foundation you can build off of. A lot of the time, you’ll find absolutely massive glaring problems that you can fix…now that you can SEE them.
This exercise takes what’s floating around in your head and puts it right in front of you. $4 bottles of kombucha 5x a week start to take on the value of $80/month. 500 calories of sweets 5x a week start to mean 10,000 calories of pure sugar/bad fats per month, or a little under three pounds worth.
This exercise hurts and it’s a good thing that it hurts, because it brings to light things that are invisible to the way our minds typically work. We don’t naturally think in months, years, or decades, but when you extrapolate really small decisions like spending a little more every day, eating a small bad food, or the massive amount of miles you’d rack up in a decade if you ran a few a day, you can really start to change your life.