How to become a master and leave mediocrity behind?

As a progression from some of my last posts, I’d like to share some thoughts on the daily habits that turn ordinary people into super achievers.

Let’s review a regular morning of an ordinary working class person and analyze:
1. You’re supposed to be getting up at 6 am, but you hit the snooze button a few times, so you end up getting up at 7 am, so now all the little achievements you planned for the morning remain in wonderland. We have to catch some breakfast, shower, iron, get dressed and leave. While this might get you to think that you will actually be doing great in the military, you are actually setting yourself up for failure. How long have you been putting off that morning meditation + 15 minute yoga session, or that healthy breakfast, or the packing of food for lunch? As Robin Sharma teaches us, if you keep practicing putting off the important things in life, you get good at putting off the important things in life.
2. You somehow managed to do all the necessities in 30 minutes and you’re ready to leave. So you rush to your choice of transportation, and you end up driving quite nervously or if you’re in public transport, you fidget all the time, hoping that the doors will close faster on the next stop. So in this case you are spending a tremendous amount of energy worrying. You already know what happens when you practice worrying every morning! But more importantly this drains your fuel and stamina.
3. After successfully winning the battle with the traffic or running from the bus stop, you get to your work place and you are feeling a mixture of feelings of relief and worry: “I finally got here alive” + “Will someone notice I’m late again”. And by the time you get to your desk you have wasted so much energy in hurry and worry that most of your productive self is ready to rest. This makes the rest of the day a nightmare, because nothing you do is going alright.

Of course the above is an exaggeration, but I’m sure most of us can relate to parts of it.

The good thing is that we can change all of that, and in order to make the change happen, we don’t actually have to move the moon out of it’s orbit. Like Tony Robbins taught us “We’re usually just a few millimeters away from victory”. We don’t have to create all the good habits in one morning. Start small – begin by waking up 5 minutes earlier, and add 5 minutes to that each week. Before you know it (in about 3 months), you’ll be waking up as early as you wish, because you’ve created a habit for it. Than just imagine the possibilities. One golden advice here:
Don’t try to hit a home run on your first day in the field! While you might succeed, the chances are you won’t. It’s a very important life lesson and you can try to use it in every aspect of your life. Keep in mind that the great businessman, the great teachers, the great sports champions, the great artists didn’t get to greatness in one day. It took them years of practice and dedication and focus. Be like them, earn your greatness. Then the victory tastes that much sweeter!!!

One great article describes the power of doing the important things first thing in the morning, after you are fully awake. You have around 2 hours of super productivity ready for you on a daily basis, and during those hours you don’t really have to do anything to invoke your productive self. Unfortunately a lot of people use those hours for activities that require little to no cognitive power like social media or reading news, or gossip. And here again, keep in mind that those things are nothing but bad habits, that you formed during the years and you just didn’t realize what damage you are doing to yourself.

There is a reason why we tend to favor the things that are easier. It is because we can see the results of those actions in the almost immediate future. That’s why we scroll Facebook and Instagram like crazy. We’re looking for that next little piece of happiness, which these activities bring us. Our brain releases dopamine and we feel happy. And like any other mood altering substance we can also form an addiction to dopamine. And soon we need bigger and bigger doses just to keep us going until the next “fix”. Unfortunately that is a path that leads to a dead end and I’m sure that many who have tried or experienced it can reassure you on that. This addiction of ours makes us replace the things we want for our future selves with the things we want right now. We want our future self to have an amazing looking body, but we also want a few donuts and a large latte. The positive outcome of the sweets and coffee is something that is much closer in the future than our future self having a fit and healthy body. Therefore we tend to replace them.

So, with the knowledge you already have, start forming the necessary habits in order to replace the “degenerate junkie” habits. In a recent Robin Sharma video, he also discussed our dopamine addictions, but he mentions that you can also shift that in a positive way. Get your dopamine from accomplishing productive things! That’s all! Dopamine makes you happy, so it is definitely not a bad thing. The way you choose to use it defines its meaning for you!

The next thing that most life coaches and business leaders can teach you is to start getting up early. Read their autobiographies and you will find out that most of them had/have the habit of waking up at 5 am. It is a great time from many points of view: you’re starting your day early and even before the rest of the world wakes up you have already prepared yourself for the day. An extra hour or two a day, may not seem like a lot of time, but wait until you try it. You will have a lot of extra time for yourself and for the things that truly matter to you. Use it for those things that you always wanted to do. Do that meditation session. Go for that 30-minute run. Do that 15-minute yoga. Write one more chapter in your book. Take some time to think about a solution of some problem you have in your work or personal life. The possibilities are endless! And because you will have enough time to prepare, you will be a lot calmer and more focused during the rest of the day.

The next and last advice from me is something I’ve been having on my list of “daily habits I want to develop” in the past two years. What brought me to it was a documentary style short film about Japan and the Japanese car culture. A few guys form the USA were traveling around Japan and visiting their most popular car shops. The ones that grew to worldwide popularity for their unthinkable quality and craftsmanship. What the few guys from the USA weren’t prepared for was something that had nothing to do with cars.

After a few days of traveling around they began to see one thing that is deeply engraved in the culture of this mystical and awesome country and the people who live there. They wake up every day with an unstoppable drive to become a little bit better in what they do when they go to bed later that day, than the day before. That simple, but brilliant idea is the main theme that separates the great from the mediocre, the masters from the rest! You can also discover it in the daily routines and habits of most of the great people. Warren Buffett adopted that practice from an early age, and he admits that this is what got him the “good routes” for delivering newspapers when he and his family moved to Washington. Because he was very good at delivering newspapers and had an entrepreneurial mindset, he was able to raise nearly $100,000 which was the foundation for one of the greatest stories of wealth creation, multiplication and preservation.

The best productivity advice from Facebook, Paypal, and a buddhist monk

We’ve all heard about it, we’ve all done it and in this day and time we usually do it even more than we know – MULTITASKING.

Multitasking

I used to think of it as a virtue. And it even seems logical – if you can do more than one thing at a time, than your productivity should rise twice, right. Well, it turns out that this is not the case.

A lot of research is already showing that the decrease in productivity for every single task we try to do simultaneously drops so much that we should seriously avoid it at any cost.

Thinking about this I stumbled upon an article, that shows how popular the anti-multitasking = “single-point focus culture” is among the super-achievers Mark Zuckerberg and Peter Thiel.

What I learned from it is that when Mark got a challenge to prove if Facebook can make any real money – he focused on one word – “growth”! The source for this part of the article uses this as an example of how important it is to focus on one thing at a time.

In the second part of the article we learn that Peter Thiel also incorporates that philosophy in PayPal’s company culture, meaning that he won’t discuss with you anything but your top priority assignment, and that employees could include only their “single most valuable contribution to the company” in their annual review forms.

The article then goes on to make a comparison between the multitaskers and the single-focus oriented.

I believe that multitasking is bad for you. It is so bad for you that it can even hurt you psychologically. The person that I know personally who is at cosmic level of productivity never does more than one thing at a time. He is a best-selling author, travels around the world teaching all year long, runs a few charities, a university, recently learned Chinese and is an active translator from Tibetan and Sanskrit. He never ever does more than one thing at a time – if he is talking, he is only talking, if he is working – he is only working. If you go to talk to him while he is working, he will close his laptop before he even looks at you, and will reopen it only after you have finished the conversation.

I think we should all try it. It has worked wonders for me. The problem is that we are so used to doing multiple things at a time, that it can be hard in the beginning to make the transition. Meditation helps a lot. I’ll make sure to post more on that in a later post.

Einstein’s greatest advice on learning anything.

Einstein’s secret to learning everything revealed in one of his letters to his son.

In another great read from Bulgarian blogger Maria Popova we find beautiful advice from one of the great minds from the last century – Albert Einstein. In one of his letters to his 11-year-old son Hans Albert which was written just a while after he published his two-page paper which would send him forever floating into scientific history – his theory of general relativity – he humbly and quietly reveals to his son probably the greatest gift, the secret to learning everything:

That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes. I am sometimes so wrapped up in my work that I forget about the noon meal…

So fellow learners, in order to allow yourself to learn anything and everything you should do it with such enjoyment that will make you forget about everything else. Just like reading a good book or listening to a song you love, when you have to push yourself to stop!
Einstein's secret to learn everything

The Way I Work: David Karp of Tumblr | Inc.com

I always like to learn from someone who has made their mark and has built something that a lot of people are using in their daily lives. Great interview with David Karp, founder of tumblr on his work habits and daily routines.

David Karp, Founder&CEO of Tumblr, Inc.
David Karp, Founder&CEO of Tumblr, Inc.

http://www.inc.com/magazine/201106/the-way-i-work-david-karp-of-tumblr.html

A great collection of FREE computer programming tutorials and books

If you’re looking to learn how to code in a new language or maybe you’re just curious about programming and technologies, this is the place to go.

Learn how to code with Bento.io

And for those of us who still need to read books, my source for EVERYTHING 🙂

The biggest collection of free books on programming I know of.

We are usually just a few millimeters away from victory

So, Tony is basically my superman for empowerment and blistering motivation. Every time I’m stuck somewhere I can find a way out by just watching one of his videos or remembering some of his advice. Here’s one that would help if you’re struggling with motivation issues or just want some great advice from Superman himself:

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The video above is unfortunately no longer available. I will post a short resume of the part which is mentioned in this post soon!

To sum it all up:

Making small changes in your approach towards your issues can have an enormous effect on the end result of the process.

We usually fall into a hole when we think we have to make big changes in order to get the big results. Fortunately, that’s not always the case.

Another great thing from this video, that I’ve used a lot are his incantations as he calls them. For example the one for money, which he beautifully demonstrates in the video above:

God’s wealth is circulating in my life. His wealth flows to me in avalanches of abundance. All my needs, desires and goals are met instantaneously because I am one with God, and God is everything.

Try it yourself! It’s so powerful it changes everything!

Jobs’ Productivity Lessons

Hey,

So we’ve all heard that Steve Jobs was a brilliant mind and an iconic example for generations. What I like is that he lived in the age of technology and there is plenty of information out there on his life and work ethics. So here goes another great read on lifehacker.com.

Jobs with the iPhone

Regardless of how your feel about Apple, Steve Jobs was an incredibly prolific CEO who was more than just the face of the company. Before his death in 2011, he managed to change the face of Apple and provide a unique workplace lauded for its productivity. Let’s take a look at just a few of the ways he did it.

Jobs was certainly a complicated person and for every genius idea he had plenty of bad ones. His management style was confrontational, he was rude, and his Authoritarian outlook on Apple’s openness is well known. In short, he was a jerk who was tough to work with. Still, he managed to change the face of a company and push for innovation in the marketplace. He helped shape Pixar in the ’90s and brought the failing Apple corporation back to life when he returned in 1997.

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When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he walked into a company struggling to sell its wide variety of products. One of Jobs’ first moves as the new CEO was to reduce the number of products sold by Apple. Jobs condensed Apple’s offerings and made it easy to pick a Mac. From there, it branched out to introduce the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, but has always kept their main product line limited to just a few different choices. Jobs didn’t just do this with Apple. He’d pass along the advice to just about anyone who asked. He told Nike to cut the crappy stuff as well:

“Do you have any advice?” Parker asked Jobs. “Well, just one thing,” said Jobs. “Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.” Parker said Jobs paused and Parker filled the quiet with a chuckle. But Jobs didn’t laugh. He was serious. “He was absolutely right,” said Parker. “We had to edit.”

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Of course, focusing on what matters is easier said than done. Jobs had a system for making sure people could do their best work by ensuring that everyone was working on what they should be and nothing else. During meetings Jobs would assign tasks and a person responsible for them. The hope was that with proper delegation, everyone would work on what they’re supposed to and not have to worry about anything else. Wired sums it up:

There’s no excuse for employees to have any confusion after a meeting. An effective Apple meeting will include an “action list,” and next to each action item is a “DRI” — a directly responsible individual who must ensure the task is accomplished.

For the rest of us, the lesson here is about delegation. In order to do your best work, you need to stop multitasking and concentrate on one task at a time. The more things you can delegate, the more time you have to work on what matters.

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Focusing on your tasks doesn’t mean you have to close the rest of the world out though. It’s surprisingly easy to put your head down and specialize on one thing throughout your life and career, but Jobs reminds us in his commencement speech at Stanford that it’s good to look around sometimes to broaden your skillset:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating. None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

The idea that creativity is about connecting dots isn’t anything new here, Jobs outlined it more in an interview in Wired:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.

Which is to say, the more diverse your experiences, the better. We’ve talked about this plenty of times before, but it’s always worth repeating. The more time and money you spend on diversifying what you do, the better off you’ll be.

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In that same commencement speech, Jobs also outlined his biggest motivation in life: death. That sounds a bit morbid, but it’s what kept him interested in the world:

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Jobs point here isn’t to just quit your job and not do the laundry—we all have days filled with doing things we don’t want to do—but when those days outnumber the good ones, it’s time to reassess. If things aren’t looking so good, it’s probably time to switch careers.

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I’m in my early 20s. I do not want to waste my time, but I can’t decide what to do in life and what I really want. What should I do?

Answer by W Ryan Lee:

This is probably the question I get most from underclassmen in college; even graduating seniors often have little to no idea what they really want to do.

I’d like to add one piece of advice. Don’t do a whole variety of things that might be “beneficial” to you in the future, and don’t seek to develop some set of skills someone in the world thinks will be useful in the next decade or so. I’m not supposing that this person is wrong, or that the variety of things will not be beneficial to you; it’s just that neither of these things will be both: a) enjoyable and b) help you figure out what you really want to do.

Most of us have some idea of what we want to do; it’s just that there’s a plethora of options, and we can’t decide a priori which one of these options is the “best” for us in the sense that it was what we were “meant” to do, what we will be proficient at and enjoy. So here comes the advice:

Pick the option that interests you most at this immediate moment in time. Then, literally do everything to make yourself as good at that particular activity as humanely possible.

Most likely, you will figure out in a couple of weeks (if not days, hours, or minutes) that it isn’t all that you thought it would be. If this is too short (i.e. < 1 hour) give it up immediately. If not, you’re probably falling into intellectual laziness – stick with it for a little while longer, see how far you can take it, and if it still doesn’t seem to stick, then drop it immediately and pick up something else that is fascinating to you.

In this journey, you will have found that not only did you end up getting a more refined, clearer idea of what you really want to do with your life, but in the process of throwing yourself at something, for a good length of time, you have developed both a considerable set of skills as well as the determination and tenacity to pursue whatever you want to do or learn in life.

If I can leave you with one last image: think of life as a bunch of trains, connected at various stations. Take a train to some destination you find appealing, and stick with it, learning as much as you can about the train and the destination. But when you see a train heading to a more appealing destination, don’t be afraid to hop off and switch.

In the process, you’ll find that you’ve refined your idea of the most appealing destination as well as become much better at figuring out trains and routes.

And at the end of the day, no matter where you end up, you’ve at least had a lot of fun riding trains to crazy places. 🙂

I’m in my early 20s. I do not want to waste my time, but I can’t decide what to do in life and what I really want. What should I do?