Answer by Tim Kenny: 1. Find Books with a High Density of Information Use recommendations from mentors, bloggers, forums and Amazon book reviews. 2. Learn to Speed Read 3. Play Video and Audio at 1.5 -3x Speed w/VLC Media Player People speak at 100-150 wpm. You can comprehend 300 wpm easily (its about how fast [...]
Music has a magical ability to bring us back in time to memories we may not have thought about it years. Today I put on my old Billy Idol Greatest Hits album and it brought me back to my cross country road trip from a few years ago. I must have listened to that album dozens of times while on that trip, so every time I hear one of those songs it brings back all the memories and emotions from that time.
You can use music to help store your memories from the next trip you go on. Put together a playlist or dedicate your trip to a single artist and only listen to that music while on the trip. Months or years later you will be able to close your eyes and put on that same album and transport back to your trip.
You can also use music to bring a whole group of people back to a point in time. I saw this happen in Boston after the bombings — everyone was playing Sweet Caroline after the police captured the second guy because it is the song the Red Sox play every home game during the seventh inning stretch.
If you look back on your life you probably have songs that you listened to at different points that will bring back certain memories. If you get stressed out you can use a playlist of music that is associated with a positive emotional state to bring you out of whatever sadness, frustration or anger you are experiencing.
Here is a quote by a guy who uses this strategy:
I’ve done a similar technique for my personality using a music playlist; when I get too obsessed with work or life becomes too much; I’ve gone through and cultivated a list I’ve entitled ‘reprogramming’; a collection of songs I’ve basically tied to events in my life that relate to other things and media I’ve consumed, that lets me get a quick jolt to remember who I am, so I don’t lose it. I go through the whole list; and the next day I wake up refreshed with a new idea of who I am and what I decided my purpose was long ago
Sounds kind of silly, but it’s worked the past 4 years and has helped me keep my sanity until I can finish off with college and get into my career instead of just a job.
For a long time I thought that my problem with focusing was that I had too many things on my to-do list. But no matter how organized I made my lists, I could not help myself from getting endlessly distracted.
Then I realized — the problem wasn’t so much my preparation as my environment. I started going out and working everywhere but home, and I found that I was a lot more productive. I didn’t get sucked in by all the things on my desktop computer because I was on my laptop, and I could shut that off too if I wanted.
The reason why picking a new environment works so well is because your old environment that you are used to has certain thought, emotion and behavior patterns associated with it. This is why, for example, you sometimes find yourself in a room in your house or apartment but forget why you are there — it’s because your brain went on autopilot based on your existing habits.
If you have a problem with focusing it is likely that you have a habit of being distracted or overwhelmed in the place you usually do your work or learning. Once you get yourself into a fresh, new environment like a cafe or library, you can start clean and build good habits instead of being pulled down by your bad habits.
Focus also depends on what you are working on. If there is something you are really passionate about learning it doesn’t matter where you are — you will be totally absorbed and in the flow. The problem is when you are not in that state — your ability to get yourself to do what you need to get done starts to diminish. When you are deciding where to do your work or learning, split up your time so that you do the things you don’t want to do while you are out and do the things you are most excited about at home.
One part of the learning process that is the most energy intensive is synthesizing information. Whenever I have a big learning project where I want to synthesize the notes from 3 different books or from a stack of articles I’ve read, I set that aside as a separate project that I will do when I go out. I find a big table at the library and I don’t bring anything that can distract me. I put my phone on vibrate and put it in my back pack so that I’m not distracted every time it buzzes.
The other benefit of going out to do your work is that you can surround yourself with other people who are all hard at work. By doing this you can use the peer pressure of the environment to keep yourself focused and working hard.
Always remember that the easiest way to make a change in any area of your life is to change your environment and hang out with people that have the habits you want to adopt. If you stay in your old environment you will always be fighting the gravitational pull of all the past associations you have built up in that location.
Carlos Lagrange is an aspiring worldchanger, parvenu and educational deviant. He is a London based web designer and founder of Educredit, a crowdfunding platform that allows students to get money for their education.
In this interview we talk about how to develop creativity if you are not a designer and what lessons from the art world can be applied to your business to make it more successful.
Which skills are you most developed in? I assume it is the design?
I’ve always had a natural affinity to all things regarding the visual arts. I’ve been learning about photography since I was 8 and I first opened a graphic design software when I was about 11. Since then, I’ve developed strongly in graphic design, particularly applied to web and user interface.
What is your general process for teaching yourself something?
Step 1: First find out why.
It all starts with garnering the interest to learn something new, which is something that in large doesn’t depend on me at all. Don’t get me wrong, I often times can’t wait to open new software I have no idea how to use or search for tutorials all over the net until I finally get something I can understand. But to learn something new, I must first know why I’m learning it. Either because I read an article that inspired me to learn HTML or saw a report about how big a thing code illiteracy would mean in the future.
Either because I was left amazed by a 12 year old pianist playing Yann Tiersen on Youtube or because I met a friend who loved eating and always cooked with a smile on her face. The things out there in the world that make me think that’s cool, or that’s beautiful or that’s useful or that’s amazing are the things that allow me to take the first step into becoming an autodidact.
If I can’t feel why I’m learning it, I’m just not going to learn it. And if you try to teach it to me against my will, I’ll probably end up hating you or the system that’s making you do it. I could go on about this all day, but schools and the passive learning they enforce on students is one of the big reasons I think they fail to educate anything at all. There’s a reason why people end up hating math you know?
Step 2: Get a teacher.
My number one biggest fight in my life has been the continuous struggle I’ve had with people who think learning only happens as a result of being taught. This would only be true if they were not referring to being taught by a person inside an institution for a pre-defined period of time in a pre-defined manner. In my universe, ‘teachers’ as in something that teaches you something else are everywhere in the world. Forget about humans in front of a bored-out classroom. Teachers come in all sizes, shapes and colors.
Wikipedia, a good book, Youtube, a nice walk, Kahn Academy, an interesting conversation, yourself and beyond. Once I accepted the idea that I could learn from anything in the world, finding the best fit for me was simply a matter of finding the one I enjoy the most. Nowadays, the diversity is infinite. If I’m going to learn something technical (e.g. like final cut), I want hands-on and a straight dive into the deep end to randomly push buttons and see what they do. If I’m going to learn about something more critical, I want to be surrounded with people who can discuss and throw in different perspectives. Sometimes a classroom is a great idea and sometimes it’s a terrible one.
Everyone has their own way of learning. One size fits all models just don’t work, and its another reason why I think our education system is bust.
Step 3: keep on it.
If I know why and I have something I can genuinely enjoy extracting from, learning from here on is just a process of time and escalation.
What are the biggest wastes of time when learning design?
Finding a good teacher is sometimes a hard and time-consuming task. If I get a bad one whether it be a person or an online tutorial, chances are I’ll end up frustrated and lose my why along with all my interest to learn that specific thing. This is especially true if what I’m trying to learn something that doesn’t resonate with my stronger passions. It’s happened to me countless times when trying to learn code for example. We’ve seen an enormous amount of growth in the diversity of learning resources in the last decade that I think will only continue to grow exponentially. Organization tools that allow me to browse and discover all of them is what I think we’ll be needing the most in the near future. This is something I’d like to work on.
Can Creativity be learned? How have you learned/developed it?
I think creativity is something that is more remembered as opposed to created. I’ve got nothing to support this, but I genuinely believe everyone in the world is born a creative genius. The hard part is remaining one as you become older. It’s only as we grow up in a society overly-fixated on social inclusion and acceptance that creativity ends up being just a mere deja vu coming out at unsuspecting times we call inspiring.
Creativity survives just as it comes back in settings that bring us back to when we were kids. Where the mind is open to all sorts of new and crazy ideas and where we don’t hold on to the absolute truths that only serve to limit out creative capacity. Stay young, try not to grow up and remain open to absolutely everything.
How should entrepreneurs who have no experience in graphic design approach learning the basics quickly and easily? If they had one hour to spend, what would you tell them to do?
It’s only a handful of us who are writers in a world full of people who can write, and while we can all memorize dictionaries and learn the grammatical rules of language, to become a writer you must be able to do more than write.
This same principle applies to graphic design. You can be a master of photoshop and at the same time be design illiterate or aesthetically unconscious. You can have brilliant ideas and a fantastic taste, yet without the tools to execute them, you just have ideas.
Graphic design is an art and it takes time to master. Never the less, here’s how you might design without becoming a graphic designer:
A) With one hour to spare, I would first ask you to prioritize your needs. If as an entrepreneur you have a budget to hire a graphic designer, I would tell you to learn not how to design but rather how to read design. This will help you distinct good design from bad design and will help you greatly when hiring creatives. Study and learn what the elements and principles of design are. Browse for great examples of their use in communities such as behance.net or dribble. The books specified below will help.
B) If you don’t have the budget to hire a graphic designer and must take on the task yourself, you can skim throughout the different tools you can use to execute design. An hour will only get you an introduction, but if you find yourself a good resource (I would suggest video tutorials), you’ll cover the basics that’ll then allow you to explore by the tools by yourself. Find designs you like and try to copy them, this will allow you to skip the creative process and learn quicker how to execute. Once you’re feeling able to be original, the hard part comes in, start designing new things.
C) Despair. Buy a template.
What are your favorite phone apps, computer apps, and physical tools (pen, binder, moleskine, ect) for learning?
Photoshop is my main tool, but for simpler things you can try out Pixelmator. The rest of Adobe’s creative suite is useful too, particularly Illustrator when working with vector based graphics or print.
On mobile or tablet, Adobe Ideas, Fontbook and Autodesk’s sketchbook are useful for on-the-go brainstorming. Outside the digital realm pen and paper are all the physical tools I use. I also love Apple’s magic trackpad.
I don’t know any apps for learning, but I suggest going straight into the apps you’ll actually use as a designer and find tutorials, online courses, or mentors that’ll help you understand them. Most of them have fairly intuitive user interfaces, so you can just dive in and start pressing buttons if you’re feeling brave.
What are your most important daily learning rituals and success habits?
I don’t feel like I have any daily rituals consciously intended for learning or success. If anything, being open and flexible is something I try to practice everyday. Combine that with surrounding yourself with new things and you’ll be a sponge to whatever the universe has to offer.
What are your top 3 books, blogs, and forums for people who want to jump into graphic design?
Community & fora:
How do you stay organized and save/remember all the things you learn in blog posts, books, ect?
There’s a reason we sometimes forget things. And my theory after countless failed high-school tests is that we just don’t care about them. If you really want to remember something, find a way you can care about it. But then again if you don’t care about it, why are you trying to save it in the first place?
I think learning should be a natural and organic experience that brings us closer to the things that fascinate and astound us. And while I understand the pressures of a world that sometimes demands of us to be multi-skilled jack of all trades, only those who undistractedly pursue their strongest passions actually get to do the greatest things.
Point is, if it’s hard for me to digest, I like to stop and think before I eat it. Otherwise, learning is unorganized, sporadic, enjoyable and easy.
What (uncommon in biz circles) strategies for learning and executing do people in the art world use that entrepreneurs could adopt?
The corporate world has a culture renowned for being full of formalities that sometimes get in the way of individuality and freedom. In this, it contrasts strongly with the creative world where boundaries are often of little use. As both a struggling entrepreneur and graphic designer myself, I’ve found that the most important thing business can learn from art is that business is just another medium FOR art. As such, I think entrepreneurs should often strive to be artists.
A) Profit shouldn’t be your priority.
Try to create something beautiful, original, useful, inventive, incredible or amazing. You might starve at first, all artists do. But just remember Debussy’s Claire de Lune or Van Gogh’s Starry Night was never about the money. Truly great companies begin with great visions, not great business plans.
B) Lose the suit and tie, literally and figuratively.
If you wanna dress like Spiderman one day, do it- it’ll be awesome. Artists strive for individuality as the source of their originality, so if you want to have what your competition lacks, be different. Literally and figuratively.
C) Above anything, be open.
Art benefits from creative freedom. As an entrepreneur, don’t think you’re creatively free because nobody is telling you what to do. A lot creative imprisonment comes from within our closed-off minds too. Try to be open to anything, it’s the gateway of both knowledge and creativity.
I have been going to the gym and working out for the past couple years but I have not seen much gains in my muscle mass, though I have in strength. I realized that the problem was I wasn’t getting enough calories or protein. The general guideline seems to be 1 – 1.5 g per lb of body weight. I am 165 lb so I am shooting for 200g protein as an easy round number.
The following numbers work for just about anything with a significant amount of protein in it.
1 scoop of whey protein powder (pictured is what I use)
1 cup of black (and most other) beans
1 oz of almost any meat
1 oz of almost any cheese
1 cup of milk
1 oz equals 5 quarters (coins). 28 grams are in an oz, like 28 days in a month.
How to Remember:
Use the idea of week, fortnight (2 weeks) and month to remember each of these. 1oz of meat/cheese or a cup of milk is a week, 1 cup of beans is 2 weeks, 1 scoop of powder is 1 month.
Next time you cook you can use a scale or make your own with quarters and a ruler and figure out how big to cut your pieces to get 1 oz or 0.5 oz pieces. From then on you will be able to easily eyeball your protein content whenever you cook without doing any measuring.
When you have to remember numbers or information like this, chunk it into 3 groups like above if possible (also notice how each number is half of the last). Even though fish is avg 6g and chicken 8g, it doesn’t matter in the big picture. It is easier to remember if they are all 7. Don’t memorize more information than you need for day to day use. Make it so that eventually you will not need anything to measure besides your own two eyes. This is how I treat learning how to cook. Learn how to eyeball so that you can focus less on measurements and more on the process. Ruthlessly simplify.
When something is inexact, make it fit your pattern with a small adjustment. A n exact scoop of my protein powder is 24 grams, so instead of ruining the 7/15/30 pattern I just remember to use a heaping scoop and use a little more so it’s about 30g.
Stakes are a mistake because they are a band aid solution. The best learners are not learning because they have to, they are learning because they want to. The same is true with the most fit people. They don’t go to the gym because they have to, they go because they want to.
Pain is a great short term motivator. But only pleasure will motivate you long term.
The real problem most people face is that they don’t have the right motivation to learn what they want to learn. They have watched themselves try and fail to stay motivated in the past, so they look for a band aid solution like betting and competition with their friends or an accountability partner to get them to take action.
Successful people do not get to where they are with these sort of band aid solutions. They have a deeper source of motivation. The real solution to problems of motivation is to dig deep and really learn about what drives you and what you want to do with your life, and then align your learning with THAT.
It is unwise to use external influences to motivate you if you can help it. Every time you put the motivation outside in other people or the environment, you are taking away from your own internal source of power.
My favorite way of motivating myself is to find a role model who I want to emulate. Someone who just by watching them gets me excited to learn how to do what they do. Then I use that excitement to motivate me to learn that skill.
An effective way to use stakes is to use them as a short term boost. Often the biggest challenge in creating a new habit is to get started. Once you get momentum it’s easy to keep going. Using pain as a short term motivator to get started can work. You will also find that sometimes it takes a while before you feel the positive effect of doing a new habit. As you do the activity more, you will gain more skill which will make it more enjoyable. If you feel like you have creative control over what you are doing and if it helps you connect with other people you will enjoy it even more.
If you constantly use avoidance of pain to run your life, you will not enjoy the journey. Ultimately you will spend 90+% of your life learning, breaking through challenges, ect; NOT celebrating and relaxing on the beach. You should think carefully about how you want to spend that time.
Do you want to live it excited and passionate about what you are learning, or reacting and avoiding pain?
A lot of people practice their public speaking skills by trying to get better and better at reading of a script, a PowerPoint or a set of notes. The problem with this strategy is that you are getting better and better at presenting from a script, but not at coming up with what you will say spontaneously.
The best public speakers use few if any notes and store it in their head and then just let the details flow out when they are needed. The way to develop this level for yourself is to practice giving your speech entirely from memory, watching it on video, and then making corrections.
As you rely more on your unconscious mind (the part that makes you balance while walking, eat while watching TV or be able to drive while talking on the phone) to guide what you say in the moment it frees up your conscious mind to focus more on your audience. If you are working from a rigid scrip or plan, you cannot react to how the audience is responding to what you say because you have to stick to your plan.
When you give yourself more leeway you can focus instead on what seems to be engaging your audience and what they are confused by. Instead of focusing on your plan you can focus most of the time externally on the body language of your audience to get feedback on what you are saying in real time.
The more you rely on your unconscious mind to pick up new skills, the faster it will do so. The most important thing is to give it feedback as soon as possible so that it knows what changes to make next time. If you always practice with training wheels, you will always need them. Get rid of them as soon as you can.
I recently stumbled upon this guy’s blog at newbooksinbrief.com. He does meaty 10 page summaries of new non fiction books. He does a new summary every 2 weeks as well as a podcast on the subject of the book. You can sign up to his email list to get an email any time he posts new content.
The Kindle is great because you can store a ton of books on it and take notes and clippings from a book as you read it. The clippings get saved to a .txt file on the kindle that you can transfer over to your computer over USB. Your clippings from books you bought on Amazon are automatically uploaded to Amazon, but the books you didn’t buy from Amazon are not.
This is my workflow:
1. Read book and make highlights (enter book when started into “To Read” Google Docs Spreadsheet, transfer to “To Synthesize” when finished)
2. Copy My Clippings.txt file to Kindle folder in Dropbox
3. Open MyClippings.txt on the Kindle and delete all the old clippings so it is a blank file
4. Upload the copied My Clippings.txt file to http://www.clippingsconverter.com. This website is the best option for organizing your clippings. It is free. If you have a ton of clippings (over 3-4 MB) just separate your clippings into 2 txt files and upload them separately. The website can recognize duplicates so you don’t have to worry about being perfect.
5. Export individual books to PDF once I have finished reading them
6. Print PDF and 3 hole punch
7. Put Clippings in the appropriate 3 ring binder on my bookshelf and note its location in the spreadsheet.
I recently ran into a problem with the clipping function where a book I bought from Amazon had a clippings limit placed on it as DRM.
Use this to remove it:
then convert to .mobi and put it on your Kindle with Calibre.
You can read more about this issue here:
The biggest mistake people make when writing by hand is using their hand as the main source of energy. You end up cramping up your hand after a few pages and it hurts. The way to get around this is to use your arm and shoulder muscles to move the pen, and use your hand and wrist as little as possible.
It is kind of like learning how to swing a golf club. A beginner tries to hold the club as tightly as he can and swing it like a baseball bat. To get better you have to internalize this paradox of loosening your grip and using the power of your core to twist and let the club do all the work. You end up barely using your arms or hands at all. All the power comes from how you twist your body.
With writing, all your power should come from your shoulder and arm. These muscles are a lot bigger and stronger and will not get tired easily. We learn bad writing habits and keep them because we can get away with them now that most of our work is on computers. But if you are going to be taking long form hand written notes (which I do in my moleskine) you should start focusing on using more arm and less hand.
Note: This may not be easy at first. It is kind of like the first time you switch from using a machine to doing a real bench press. You can’t lift as much weight because now you have to use all these secondary muscles to keep the bar balanced above you. To get good at lifting you have to develop balance and fine motor control. It’s the same with writing; you will have to develop over time finer control of your arm muscles than you may be used to. If you practice this for a week it will feel normal, so set that as your short term goal.
It’s kinda weird thinking about why you like what you like. Why are you interested in somethings, but not others? Why do you like the music you like? The foods you eat? And most importantly, how do you make it so that you enjoy doing the things that are good for you that you don’t currently like do do? How do you learn to love the things you hate?
There are 3 keys.
1. Get more exposure in small doses – This works whether you are trying to enjoy running or opera or olives. Studies show that people learn to like other people more just based on seeing them more often, even if they never talk. It’s the same reason why everyone tends to like the food they grew up with. If you want to learn to like a food, don’t force yourself to eat lots of it the first few times. Just get a taste and pass on the rest. A good rule of thumb is it will take 10 exposures before you start to like something.
2. Associate things you like to things you don’t like – When I didn’t like the taste of coffee, I started out by eating coffee ice cream and mixing it with other toppings and flavors to a get a less intense version of it. Then I started drinking coffee drinks with lots of cream and sugar and other flavors. I used the strategy of mixing a small amount of what I don’t like with a larger amount of what I do like and that made a big difference. If you find a subject boring, find a teacher who you really like who teaches it. Find applications of that subject to things you are interested in. Find the connections and then strengthen them.
3. Find a role model who likes what you don’t like – Find out what their perspective is. Ask them why they like what you don’t like and tell them your reasons. Sometimes a change in perspective changes everything. If you have friends or know people who like something you don’t like spend more time around them and let peer pressure do it’s thing. You naturally becomes the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.