Enjoy the Phase of Life You Are Currently In

Life is lived in phases

Every single phase of your life exists to accomplish certain goals.

These goals vary from person to person but there will always be some commonalities.

For instance, teenage-hood is a strange transitional phase where you want to be somehow relevant in your social circle and be liked and accepted by others.

Your 20s is a time where you are put in challenging situations and faced with numerous opportunities; different areas of your character will grow and expand as a result of these.

Different goals are unique to different phases in your life.

Enjoy the phase you are in at the moment

Don’t wish it away.

And don’t put too much pressure on yourself if the gap between what you want and what you have is glaring.

When you think about it, there is only a finite list of wants one person may have.

Knowing that there will come a moment in time where most of them will be met is encouraging, through small incremental progress over time.

The most important thing is to enjoy the now, the present moment, and to have enjoyed the process of pursuing these wants and dreams.

In closing, here’s what my bro said:

“Whatever phase you’re in – don’t wish it to be over.

Whatever it is that you’re living now is your life. It’s what you’ll look back on in later years. Make the most of it.

Being aware that you’re writing your own history has helped me to try and ‘write it’ in a way that I’ll be happy with when I’m old. Hopefully.

For some reason people always aspire to the next thing and almost wish the present away. I think that’s a destructive perspective to have.”

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Two Things University Students Should do to Improve Their Writing

Writing is an irreplaceable skill

Cal Newport is no stranger to the written word. He’s published 4 books and has been regularly posting student advice on his popular blog since 2007.

In his book How To Win At College, Cal devotes a few pages to emphasise how important of a skill writing is for any and every university student.

Cal suggests two things when it comes to writing: (1) do extra writing outside of class to perfect your craft, and (2) write as if you’re going for a Pulitzer.

Do extra writing

Writing is most certainly a central element to your university experience. In order to master this skill, Cal suggests extra writing. That means writing up your assignments and essays and then some.

Here’s Cal:

“You can accomplish this by joining the staff of a publication on campus. It could be the daily newspaper, a writing magazine, a science journal, a political paper, or a humour rag.

It doesn’t matter what publication you choose as long as it require you to write well and write often.”

Write as if going for a Pulitzer

 “This prize is given each year to a work that ‘illuminates a significant and complex subject, demonstrating mastery of the subject, lucid writing and clear presentation (…).

These articles typically move deftly from anecdote, to question, to theory, then back again, pulling you deep into the core issues surround the issue at hand.”

Cal drives home the message to play around with your writing.

Have fun with it and enjoy the process of perfecting your craft.

Channel your enthusiasm and energy to create a work that is both aesthetically pleasing and of great content and substance.

Offer up a narrative-driven story and an all-round intellectually stimulating experience for the reader.

“Writing is still hard, and it always will be, but it’s exciting to craft an engaging passage, or use a particularly novel sentence structure, or build a paragraph around an interesting rhetorical rhythm.

It puts creativity back into your work. You look forward to having someone read it. It adds an element of flair to what otherwise would be an entirely tedious process.”

6 Tips on How to Improve Your Writing

Quantity over quality

James Clear tells the story of a teacher that divided students in his ceramic class into two groups.

The students on the left hand side of the class were told they would be graded on the amount of pots they made. They had to focus on the quantity of pots to get a good grade.

The other half of the students on the right hand side of the class would have to focus on the quality of a single pot. They had to produce only one pot but had to ensure it was perfect to get a good grade.

At the end of the class, the highest quality of pots came from the groups that produced the most volume and not from the quality group.

The lesson here is that while students in the ‘quality’ group were debating about what perfection was, the ‘quantity’ group was learning from their mistakes and developing their skills.

They ended up producing better quality pots.

You have to create the quantity for your writing to get better – to get to the next level of writing quicker, you have to write consistently.

1. Write everyday

Here’s a useful way of thinking of it.

Let’s say that there is a fixed amount of sub-par writing/blog content that you will have to produce first in order to get to the next level of writing quality.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s say this fixed amount is 20 pieces of writing.

You can either choose to produce this writing once a week (i.e. taking you 20 weeks to reach the next level of writing quality) or you can write everyday (i.e. taking you just under 3 weeks to get to the next level at writing).

Which approach do you choose? You might not have the time to write everyday.

But try to make time to save time.

2. Write like you talk

“People often tell me how much my essays sound like me talking.

The fact that this seems worthy of comment shows how rarely people manage to write in spoken language.

Otherwise everyone’s writing would sound like them talking. If you simply manage to write in spoken language, you’ll be ahead of 95% of writers.

And it’s so easy to do: just don’t let a sentence through unless it’s the way you’d say it to a friend.”

– Paul Graham

Read Paul Graham’s fantastic article about writing how you talk.

3. Focus on simple writing 

The day you become a better writer is the day you write simple sentences.

This is what author of Dilbert and How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big Scott Adams attests to. In his eye-opening article, Scott says that 80% of the rules to good writing lie in the following: 

  1. Your first sentence needs to grab the reader
  2. Simple writing is persuasive. Keep it simple.
  3. Write short sentences.
  4. Get rid of extra words.
  5. Avoid putting multiple thoughts in one sentence.

4. Start a blog

It will be a step in the right direction to starting a new writing habit. There are many benefits to having a blog – check out the 10 reasons why I think you should blog.

5. Rewrite

Jeff Goins swears by the rule ‘all good writing is rewriting’.

Whatever you write, take a break and leave it for a while. Allow yourself to fully dissociate from the hopes and dreams that you’ve been dangling upon your piece of writing.

Later, look at it critically and put yourself in the shoes of the reader.

Imagine a reader who stumbled upon your blog (and quite frankly didn’t care about you much) – would he read your writing?

Give your reader a chance to care about you. Rewrite your writing.  

6. Read

Aside from actively perfecting your writing, read books on how to do it.

At his first ever seminar hosted in London, Mike Cernovich from ‘Danger and Play’ suggested during his Q&A that you read the following books to improve your writing:

  • “On writing” by Stephen King.
  • “On writing well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction” by William Zinsser.
  • “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” by Lynne Truss.

P.S. Thanks for reading! If you liked this, feel free to sign up to my free weekly newsletter for more life-optimising stuff.

Why You Want Things NOW

Everybody wants.

And there will always be a moment in time where our wants will outweigh our current standing in fulfilling them.

Sure, sometimes we just have to start from scratch.

But sometimes the discrepancy between what you want and what you have is so glaring, it’s just discouraging and people give up.

Why are we so impulsive?

Our predecessors benefited from being impulsive as it aided in them in their survival. Impulsivity would save their lives by making snap decisions in life-threatening situations. Impulsivity would compel them to pass on their genes.

Because of their nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle, our predecessors ate high calorie and calorically dense foods whenever they got the chance to avoid the unpredictable periods of food shortage.

That’s why we have the strongest cravings for nutrients that were essential but incredibly rare in the environment (sugar, fat, salt).

This sort of impulsivity was essential for survival and that’s why our need for instant gratification is deeply etched in our emotional brain (limbic system).

When impulsivity isn’t helpful

Nowadays, our impulsivity works against us. Many people mentally masturbate over new projects and goals but not many act on them.

In our default state of impulsivity, we immediately want to have a successful business. We want a Ferrari. We want a new house.

People feel a lot of stress and negativity because of the discrepancy between their wants and the current state of affairs.

People put too much pressure on themselves to yield results NOW and their bodies are chronically flooded with stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

Impulsivity is just a bundle of stress hormones telling you to act

What’s important is to realise that all this stress is supposed to propel you to act. You need to funnel that ingrained impulsivity to drive you to act.

And the moment you do act is the moment where you experience a bit of psychological ease because something has finally been done, things have started to move, you have taken the first few steps.

Your body flooding itself with stress hormones actually paid off because it got you to finally act and hopefully you would have enjoyed the process of your action.

Start building something today.

How To Find Out What You Want From Life

You have an inner voice.

But you might not hear what it’s saying. There’s a cacophony of advice from people telling you what to do with your life, distracting you from the truth within you.

How do you tune in to that truth?

Be alone with yourself.

“Today, it is essential that we find solitude so that we can learn what it has to teach us, so that we can find the quiet to listen to our inner voice, and so that we may find the space to focus and create.”

– Leo Babauta, in ‘Manage Your Day-To-Day’

To figure out what you want, you have to disconnect. For a moment.

For a moment, shy away from whatever people are telling you; turn off the TV and unplug from the noise that social media is making.

When you disconnect from all the static, you realise that it’s just you and your inner voice.

Clarity. Self-reflection. You piece things together.

Here’s Leo:

“This calming of the mind helps us to figure out what really matters and to hear own creative voice, which can be drowned out by the cacophony of our daily tasks and online interactions.”

The people you surround yourself with will distract you from your inner voice.

Let’s say you hear your friends talking things up, how it would be cool to work in advertising. Their enthusiasm is contagious and you might become temporarily enamored by this idea.

This ‘excitatory residue’ might stay with you and you might even consider this as a route you’d might like to take.

Wow, advertising! Maybe I’ll do that!

And then your parents give you advice on what to do next. They tell you to do something completely different to what you’ve heard from your friends.

But because they’re your parents you have a natural, near automatic inclination to listen to them and you try to convince yourself that what they told you is what you truly want for yourself.

For instance, my Dad always wanted me to become an engineer.

Wow, engineering! Maybe I’ll do that.

As you go through your life, you’re constantly influenced by what the media says, by the movies you watched, by the people you surround yourself, and by what your parents try to advise you.

People put different stuff in our minds on what the idea of success is.

It’s not your idea – it’s your dad’s idea, your brother’s idea, a bit of your friend’s idea, a bit of BBC’s idea and so on.

These are things in your head that you didn’t put there, as Mike Cernovich from ‘Danger and Play’ says.

We become an amalgamation of all these different people, all these different ideas.

We become this botched blend of what others want for us and what others think would be good for us.

Our minds become contaminated by all this noise and it is fundamentally distracting us from the truth. It’s distracting us from us. You from Your inner voice.

The education system will distract you from your inner voice.

Robert Greene, author of the book Mastery, argues that the current education system that’s been in place for the past 150 years is contaminating the ‘inner voice’ of children.

It’s a top-down system that throws a bunch of rules and structure that distract you from a particular subject that you’re inner voice is naturally drawing you to; it’s a distraction because “it makes you lose touch with who you are, what makes you different, what makes you unique, and what you love in life.”

Here’s Robert:

“All of us, when we were young, had basic inclinations. There was a subject that we loved, we felt connected to it. It’s not something obvious where you’re 4 years old and you say ‘I want to be a lawyer’. I doesn’t happen like that.

It’s usually like ‘I love physical activity’; ‘I like making things with my hands’; ‘I like thinking about other people in social environments.”

(…)

“People get turned off learning through the education system. They finish college and they say ‘goddamn I am out of that system, I don’t want to open another book for the rest of my life.’

What you really what to do, and you get to 22 and you finish school, you should actually be more curious than ever. You want to learn.

You want to learn practical skills; you want to learn what other people are doing. You have to have an incredible amount of curiosity to succeed or to become a master.

And it kills that curiosity because it makes you study things you’re not interested in, it makes you waste time on things that have no connection to who you are personally.”

Watch the video below from 4:18 to listen to Robert go into more detail about this:

 

How to know what you want from life

Spend time alone to figure it out.

Take time to reflect upon yourself. Spend time alone to figure out what your true idea of success is. What you feel would be best for you.

You have to go through that introspection and self-reflection to gain this valuable self-knowledge. Be truthful and objective during this vital solitude.

You need to spend time alone with yourself to know what you want. Otherwise you won’t know. Simple.

Here’s what Keith Ferrazzi writes in his book Never Eat Alone:

“Have you ever sat down and thought seriously about what you truly love? What you’re good at? What you want to accomplish in life? What are the obstacles that are stopping you?

Most people don’t. They accept what they ‘should’ be doing, rather than take the time to figure out what they want to be doing.

We all have our own loves, insecurities, strengths, weaknesses, and unique capabilities. And we have to take those into account in figuring out where our talents and desires intersect.

That intersection is what I call your “blue flame”—where passion and ability come together. When that blue flame is ignited within a person, it is a powerful force in getting you where you want to go.

If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living.”

Look for the commonalities in your days.

You already have the answer to your problem. It’s deeply embedded in the unconscious part of your mind.

Elements of your deepest desires bleed into your everyday routine. They manifest themselves in your everyday of your life.

Maybe you enjoy writing? Or you have a penchant for communicating with others? Perhaps you are drawn to the thrill of public speaking?

You will naturally put yourself in the position to take advantage of these skills and use them on a daily basis. You will do it because you love doing it.

Look for the commonalities in your days. These are the clues your subconscious is giving you.

Visualise your perfect day

At his first ever seminar hosted in London, Mike Cernovich from ‘Danger and Play’ suggested that you take some time to visualise your perfect day.

Plan it out in as much – or as little – detail as you like. Doing this exercise will help you figure a few things out about what you want from life.

I strongly recommend you check this idea out by listening to Mike’s podcast episode about this:

How My Bike Got Stolen – Thoughts & Psychology Of Theft

Last week my bike got stolen.

I realised how we all live in a nice little bubble. In this bubble, not much thought is given to how immune we are from the forces of evil. I’m as immune as you are in your bubble.

I take the usual routes to get to where I’m going on a daily basis.

After a late night in the city when it’s dark and quiet on the streets, my brother and I will wait for the traffic lights to change colour.

Oftentimes I’ll get back home when it’s dark. Not a soul in sight.

But there are shady characters out there.

We all have our own little comfortable bubbles.

Having my bike stolen was a shock to the system. There’s evil lurking outside the bubble and you don’t really think about it until it directly affects you.

Look at how fragile fabric of our society is; the social fabric being what holds us together.

We function under unspoken rules. We hold belief systems about how to behave in society.

These belief systems and rules are a reflection of shared expectations of what is desirable behaviour and what is undesirable behaviour.

We follow these rules for two reasons.

We hate uncertainty. We hate it so much that we prefer to get a bad answer rather than be held in suspense.

“[Uncertainty] registers almost like physical pain in the brain. There is a tension, a gap where the brain is not easy again until it is resolved. (…)

Some are more comfortable with this uncertainty. So entrepreneurs are naturally more comfortable.

When you hit a maximum threshold of comfort – fight or flight happens and cognitive function and emotional functioning shuts down.”

– Olivia Fox Cabane, Author of ‘The Charisma Myth’

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you sent out an important email and were awaiting a response for longer than usual?

Do you remember the feeling where you sent a text to a guy/girl and it took him/her longer than expected to respond?

Do you remember the feeling you experienced while waiting for your exam results?

All of these scenarios can near suck the life out of you. The gap between Action and Response can be unbearable and emotionally taxing. You stress out, start to question yourself, and worry about the outcome.

As humans, we simply cannot tolerate ambiguity and need to have a firm answer. In psychological terms – we strive for cognitive closure.

If someone in our immediate social circle behaves unpredictably, it makes us very uneasy. It’s because unpredictability can entail a lot of undesirable implications.

The unpredictable person might get the group in trouble with other groups, might be dishonest, passive-aggressive, emotionally manipulative, backstabbing, or hostile and violent towards fellow group members.

We will use implicit techniques to get these rogue members to conform to the social norms within the group. Otherwise, the deviant person is excluded from the social circle.

We want to be in harmony with others and seek social approval from them.

But to be at harmony with others we need to first conform to the unspoken rules that govern the social standards that dictate how to behave appropriately.

These social norms are maintained by a system of sanctions, which may be implicit but are very real.

If you don’t conform to the established order then you’re ostracised, laughed at, and shamed – all in an effort to try to get you to conform to the unspoken rules that the society you live in is governed by.

Norms are often only apparent when they have been violated. If an unspoken rule is broken – you will know.

Someone shoots a scathing glance. Someone avoids you. Someone tells you. Or through sheer experience – you will know you’ve violated an unspoken rule.

After all – why is it that we feel embarrassment?

It’s an evolutionary response that’s firmly etched within the deepest corridors of our brains. It’s a powerful emotion that acts as immediate feedback in telling us that we have wronged.

It’s supposed to keep us from acting out the behaviour that makes us feel embarrassed.

Blushing serves the purpose of sub-communicating to others that you’ve deviated in some way and that you are aware that you have wronged and you feel ashamed for doing so.

You wouldn’t want to find yourself in a situation where others see you blushing for being called out publicly on a lie, would you?

In prehistoric times, the alternative (i.e. deviation from norms) used to be punishment – social withdrawal, exclusion from food, oftentimes a question a life or death. In a society we want uniformity.

What happened to my bike

It was a late evening. The gates to the underground car park opened and a car glided through. The CCTV of the car park footage shows that two underage teenage boys were waiting for the gates to open. This how they sneak in.

There are a few bike lockers in the car park. These lockers look like cages that can fit up to roughly 30 bikes. Each bike locker could be accessed by pushing in a 5-digit pin code. But you need to know the code to get in.

They knew it.

Apparently all bike lockers – including the bike lockers on ground level above the car park – had the same code.

From there it was easy. My grey-red Giant road bike was easy prey. I had picked up a knee injury and couldn’t take my bike back home (more on that and about the valuable lessons I heeded from the experience in a future post).

I left it with my brother who kindly enough offered to put his own bike at risk and use the single lock he had owned to chain both our bikes to safety.

Severed cable to the bike lock
Severed cable to the bike lock

They stole my bike and destroyed my brother’s bike. Others were also affected.

But the kids that did this weren’t smart enough to wear masks and cover their faces. CCTV caught all of it on tape – watching it was an interesting experience, though the popcorn didn’t taste as good as it usually does.

The rear wheel was ripped off completely, destroying the gears in the process
This is my bro’s bike. The rear wheel was ripped off completely, destroying the gears in the process.

Closing thoughts

The police are involved and I will write an email to management of the underground car park (enter murky law territory here). If any of you have any law tips on how to navigate liability damages and so forth – I’d be grateful.

In closing, here’s what my bro said:

“We function under unspoken rules. But if someone doesn’t follow them – look how chaos ensues.

Let it go. It’s outside of your locus of control. This is a test of character in some sense. You feel a bit powerless. Heed the lessons and move on.”

Are You Playing The Long Game?

Everybody wants to be an overnight success.

But the thing with ‘overnight’ successes is that they never happen overnight.

And when it might look like somebody succeeded ‘out of the blue’ that’s not because they were playing the short game. They were playing the long game.

“Keep putting in the work, the hours, the long term value [because] this is a long, long game.”

– Gary Vaynerchuk.

The Short Game Will Burn You Out

Not many want to put in the effort for extended periods of time. And because they aren’t seeing immediate results, they get discouraged and stop pursuing their ventures.

They get discouraged or they burn out over the long run because they were pushing themselves too hard in the short term.

By trying to achieve too much in a short space of time, you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s counterproductive. It’s essentially self-sabotage.

You’re bound to fail because that approach will drive you into the ground. You’ll have expectations that are way too high. Expectations that will put way too much pressure on you. Expectations that will ultimately stress and burn you out.

And the worst thing about all of this is that you won’t look fondly upon that experience and it will act as negative reinforcement to your future ventures.

This is where most people give up and never show up again.

Play The Long Game

It takes a lot of systematic effort and consistency over time.

Habits, structure, and routine are great for maintaining sustained effort and sustained growth. They are great for incremental progress and gradual improvement over time.

For you to be successful at something, you have to stick to the process. You have to enjoy the process to such an extent that you will be willing to commit to it for the long game.

How To Play The Long Game – Insert Coin Here 

James Altucher calls it the 1% rule. Try and get 1% better at something every single day.

In the long run this will amount to massive change.

Aim for incremental progress each day in whatever it is that you do.

Over and over and over again I realize how key consistency is. That a little and often will get you far.

But I wasn’t always fond of consistency and incremental improvement. That is, until I started seeing results from self-imposed challenges.

I experienced this with my cycling.

Case in point: In April, I cycled 5km a week.

Each week I incrementally increased the distance I cycled.

I stuck to the process of adding a few kilometres each week to my overall distance.

By July, I was cycling 100km a week (I’ll tell you why I stopped cycling in a future post).

Also, I used the 1% rule and the consistency associated with it to gain weight.

I had always been a relatively slim guy. My weight always hovered between 61-63kg.

It was one of my New Year’s Resolutions to hit the 69kg mark. Never in my life before had I weighed more than 65kg.

So I wanted to challenge myself. I didn’t want to put on too much fat so I spread my weight gain over a few months.

I focused on gaining 250g a week using FitnessPal religiously. In January 2015 I weighed 61kg.

By May, I weighed 67kg.

Closing thoughts

You can apply the 1% rule to absolutely anything in life. Enjoy the little wins that accumulate over time and amount to a broader picture of success some weeks or months down the line.

By playing the long game, there will always be doubts along the way because you won’t always see immediate success or return on your time investment.

But you have to trust the process.

You have to have faith in that you are slowly, gradually, incrementally improving even if it doesn’t feel like it.

By doing something consistently you will always yield great results over time.

In the meantime, before you get a sense of success from your consistency, focus on the fact that you’re capable of doing something consistently as a reward. Enjoy the little wins along the way.

That is a success in itself.

Be in it for the long game.

Here’s Gary Vaynerchuk:

“And you’re going to look for the short-game.

You’re going to look for that miracle algorithm, you’re going to look for that one move that’s going to change your outcome.

You’re going to continue to search and play the short game while I keep putting in the work, the hours, the long-term value and putting in the work while everybody else is hoping and dreaming.

I’m going to be executing. You play the short game. I’ll keep playing the long game.”