Review: How To Win At College By Cal Newport

In his incredibly useful book ‘How to win at college‘, Cal Newport gives the aspiring university standout valuable nuggets of advice on how to maximise your potential as a student and make the most of your university experience.

In making this collection of advice, he interviewed top students from various universities across the U.S who were not only academically successful, but also “embodied a unique brand of multi-faceted success.”

That is, students who also took part in exciting projects, built strong friendships, were incredibly active in student societies, and in general achieved in all aspects of the university experience.

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via calnewport.com

Going in to my third year it dawned on me that I don’t have much time left. My university experience was coming to a close and so far it had been full of ups and downs, peaks and troughs.

With only one year left, how do I make the most of it?

My sister had read Cal’s other book How to Become a Straight-A Student and says that the strategies in that book defined her last year in high school.

So I set out to read How to Win at College to get my third year off to a flying start and read it in the first week of my third year.

What How To Win At College did for me

“You can step forward into growth or step backwards into safety.”

– Abraham Maslow

Reading this book allowed me to step forward into growth, one nugget of advice at a time. Each chapter gave me actionable advice that would streamline and enhance my university experience.

By reading this advice, I tapped into the collective minds of highly ambitious and successful college students that had most (if not all) of the areas of life handled and under control.

They had their grades sorted. They had their structure and routine down pat. They participated in stimulating extracurricular activities.

Just by reading this book, I tapped into that higher-frequency thinking, in a sense brainwashing myself to think and emulate the thought processes and desire to action of a successful student.

As if by osmosis, I felt I was picking up traits and elements of a successful person’s mindset.

In that sense, How To Win At College has similarities with most autobiographies. When you read an autobiography, you read inspiration.

You prime yourself for self-reflection. You examine your attitudes and strategies, and think about your goals. You appropriate the mindset of a successful person and learn of the processes and rituals that define that person’s success.

Because successful people are a set of processes, habits, and rituals. Just by modelling these processes, you can model success.

But it also resembles a ‘how to’ guide, as the title suggests. It offers actionable advice on how to behave and act like a successful college student.

After all, activity follows identity  – to become a successful student, you have to start acting like one.

Just by taking one piece of advice from the book and acting on it, it started a domino effect for me. I started implementing the nuggets of wisdom. It started a momentous chain of little successes that I continue to enjoy and cannot stop.

For instance, I immediately got more involved with my department. I made it a thing to put myself in situations where I could get to know my professors and build strong relationships with them.

I attended guest lectures where I would meet both new and familiar faces. I met often with my personal tutor.

I created a society and became the club president, enjoying all the awesome experiences that followed from assuming such a role.

Why ‘How To Win At College’ works and what it can do for you

 “If you want to be young and wise, you have to learn from the experience of others.”

Cal interviewed dozens and dozens of high achievers on the key to their success.

From all this qualitative data, he condensed it into 75 chapters. Each chapter contains a little nugget of hard-earned wisdom supported by anecdotal evidence and comments from the students.

Each chapter gives you immediate actionable advice so that you can start enhancing your university experience the moment you put the book down.

To know that it was backed up by college students from across all the top universities in the USA was encouraging. They lived it. That’s why they have all the secrets.

Think of it this way. They’ve finished the ‘university/college’ game you are currently playing. They’ve completed 100% of it, whereas you might have just started it, you’re halfway through, or nearly finished.

To get 100% in the game, you need to find out where all the hidden packages are and where to look for the secret side missions that you need to complete.

If only you knew where to look – it would save so much time and effort!

You can talk to a friend that’s also playing, but you might find that he’s struggling and can’t even get through the main storyline missions.

Or you can look elsewhere for the shortcuts.

This is the book that’s full of them.

Treat this as a checklist of things that you need to follow to maximise what your university experience has to offer. Only through doing and acting on advice can you ever start to see results.

How to Win at College will give you the tools to optimise and enhance your university experience.

The advice in this book was followed by straight-A students that lived through university and made the absolute most of it. They gained this hard-earned advice through trial and error.

After all – how else would you get such time-tested advice?

I’d give this book to anyone I cared enough about that I knew was starting or was already at university.

Closing thoughts

I haven’t lived through my entire university experience yet so naturally I don’t have the perspective that people who have gone through their collegiate career have.

But by being cognisant of the fact that they’ve optimised their experience by following the advice in this book, it has compelled me to follow it and ‘write’ my university experience in a way that I will look back fondly on it.

This book has given me tremendous value.

I think you have to be in a unique position to fully appreciate the wisdom in this book.

Maybe you have to be in a position of desperation to reach for it.

Maybe you finally notice that an interesting phase in your life is coming to a close and you just want to make sure you’ve enjoyed it fully. And made the most of it.

How do you make sure you squeeze the most out of your university experience?

This question is especially key since tuition fees are so astronomical.

I wasn’t given an instruction manual on how to be a great student and neither were you. 

But How To Win At College is a testament to the success of all the straight-A students that gave their two-pence’s worth in creating this book.

You can make it a testament to your success as well.

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How to Model Success

Every successful person is a direct manifestation of a set of processes.

These processes are the various rituals, habits, and routines. These are unique to every person and have been designed for the sole purpose of supporting them in achieving their long-term goals.

These processes have been tweaked, tinkered with, and specifically tailored to best streamline their journey in the pursuit of success and happiness.

Successful people are a set of processes, habits, and rituals. Just by modelling these processes, you can model success.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at the processes of a marathon cyclist.

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Ultra-athlete Rich Roll

A marathon cyclist will eat healthy foods. His diet will be centred around lean meats, leafy green vegetables, and Low Glycaemic Index carbohydrates such as quinoa, buckwheat, or brown rice.

He will have to pay attention to what he eats to ensure he restores his depleted post-workout body with all the necessary macronutrients to aid muscle growth and repair. For this reason, he will try to focus on introducing natural super foods into his diet like goji berries, spirulina, chia or hemp seeds.

He will eliminate processed foods from his diet, avoid foods laced with high fructose corn syrup, flavour-enhancing chemicals like MSG. Also, he will limit sugary food intake to only fuel his exercise.  

A marathon cyclist might have a habit, a specific schedule in which he will always find the time to cycle 50-80km over the weekend. He might even cycle 10km each day, every day.

Every time he goes for a cycle, he will pack his bag with nutrition that would fuel his workout. He might have a ritual where he takes a couple of Clif bars, two bottles of water with added electrolytes, and avocado sandwiches (i.e. densely packed calories for sustained energy.)

To be sure he trains properly, he might wear a heartbeat monitor to keep his exercise within an aerobic zone.

These are only some of the processes that might govern a marathon cyclist’s success.

Any successful person has various rituals and habits that allow for incremental progress towards fulfilling their ultimate potential. They systematically go through the processes that perpetuate their achievement.

To be able to model that success, you have to deconstruct the processes that govern that success.

How do you that?

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1. Research your role models

To fully grasp and gain an elaborate understanding of these nuanced processes, you have to be willing to meticulously and methodically dissect any information you research about the person and reduce it to simple prime factors.

For instance, basketball legend Kobe Bryant has a habit of waking up early in the morning to perfect his craft by shooting some hoops.

Cristiano Ronaldo has a habit of staying on the football pitch to practice some drills and free-kicks after all of his teammates have gone home and called it a day.

For Bryant and Ronaldo, these behavioural patterns are the fundamental building blocks that have contributed to their huge success as athletes.

The success of bestselling authors is also governed by specific processes that are unique to them.

For instance, John Grisham has a very nuanced set of processes that underly his success. He says he had “little rituals that were silly and brutal but very important” for his success:

“The alarm clock would go off at five, and I’d jump in the shower. My office was five minutes away. And I had to be at my desk, at my office, with the first cup of coffee, a legal pad, and write the first word at 5:30, five days a week.”

– John Grisham, in Making Ideas Happen

This self-imposed structure helped him channel his creativity to create bestseller after bestseller.

On the other hand, author of bestselling books Moneyball and Liar’s Poker Michael Lewis has a pretty standard way of doing his work.

Michael always writes either in the very early morning or very late night, while editing his work in the middle of the day.

Michael begins his writing by getting an idea out on the page. As the words accumulate, he starts thinking about how they need to be organized.

So if you want to get better at a sport or become a better writer, you can do so by modelling the processes that govern the success of world-class athletes or bestselling authors.

You might not be able to replicate the scale of success that these role models enjoy. 

What’s important is that you model these processes to replicate a version of their success that is unique to you. Carve your own path. 

All you need to do is a little bit of research.

“Trying to plot your map directly in the shadows of someone else is a sure-fire road to ruin. Yes, model and copy them where it will benefit you, but don’t let this endeavour consume you.”

– Edward Druce

2. Find a mentor

It is an extremely valuable experience to have a mentor. You can gain so much from simply observing someone who is working in their element and fiercely passionate about what they do.

By being in the presence of your mentor, you are learning through osmosis and are gaining instant, immediate knowledge from them.

You get first-hand insight into the various processes that have allowed for the mentor to become a master in their field.

Your mentor’s traits will rub off on you and you soak up various intangible qualities such as beauty, emotion, truth, or wisdom.

Ultimately, by having a mentor you’re cutting your learning curve into the fraction of the time it would take you to learn by trial and error.

And because we as humans are so primed for learning via observation, we can learn so much by merely watching a mentor work. Check out the 6 reasons why you should have a mentor to learn more.

3. Read autobiographies

One of the best way to gain insight into the various processes and rituals of a successful person is by reading autobiographies.

When you read an autobiography, you prime yourself for self-reflection. You examine your attitudes and strategies, and think about your goals.

Importantly, you read inspiration. It gets you in that person’s headspace. You appropriate the mindset of a successful person and learn of the processes and rituals that define that person’s success.

By reading or listening to an autobiography, you brainwash yourself to think like a successful person. You tune into that resourceful brain frequency.

This is essentially what self-help books and ‘how to’ guides are all about. When you read them, they instil in you intangible qualities that slowly shift your mindset. They often offer actionable solutions so that you start acting like a successful person.

For this very reason, I highly recommend you read Cal Newport’s How to Win At College if you are a student. You can read my review of it here.

Upon reading the book, I started modelling the processes of straight-A students and it was a huge turning point in my academic career. 

4. Socialise

How else do you find out how to become successful?

Speak to people that have experienced the success that you want to achieve for yourself.

Learn about the people that can buy any car they want. Ask them what got them to regularly fly in business class.

Have the courage to reach out to these people and you will definitely learn something. I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to tell you.

They will give you insight into how to live a better life.

If you see someone wearing a cool looking suit – ask him how he managed to afford it.

If you see someone park a Porsche, ask they how they got it.

This sort of socialising is a bit like cheating at this little game we call life. This is one of the many ways to you can get ahead of your peers – by reaching out to strangers, people that more successful than yourself.

And by doing this, you are learning about the most basic and fundamental steps that you have to implement and replicate to become successful.

In a nutshell 

Research your role models

  • Discover the processes they practice that underly their success.
  • Model these processes to replicate a version of their success that is unique to you.

Find a mentor

  • Observing a mentor working is instant, immediate knowledge.
  • Your mentor’s traits will rub off on you.

Read autobiographies

  • You appropriate the mindset of a successful person.
  • You tune into a resourceful brain frequency.

Socialise

  • Have the courage to reach out to successful people.
  • They will give you insight into how to live a better life.

***

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

How To Cook Smoky Veggie Feijoada With Black Beans, Squash, Peppers and Okra

How To Cook Smoky Veggie Feijoada With Black Beans, Squash, Peppers and Okra

As part of my journey on how to live a quality life that is both balanced and purposeful, I have decided to focus on improving my cooking skills for the New Year.

As part of my 2016 New Year’s Resolution, I’ve decided to cook a special meal once a week and share my culinary adventures with you.

Having done my 2015 review, I realised that cooking a special meal was a recurring commonality throughout the past few years for me. I noticed that it was something that I simply enjoyed doing.

The fact that I got a bunch of cookbooks for Christmas from Santa Claus was a welcome nudge. One of them was “Everyday Super Food” by Jamie Oliver.

I’ve always been interested in diet and a healthy lifestyle so this is a natural progression to my interests.

With these new books, I can delve into cooking with purpose.

How To Cook Smoky Veggie Feijoada With Black Beans, Squash, Peppers and Okra

This recipe is from “Everyday Super Food” by Jamie Oliver. Cook time is 1 hour and 5 mins and serves 2 + 4 leftover Feijoada portions.

Ingredients:

  • ½ a butternut squash (600g)
  • olive oil
  • 1 heaped tsp each of ground coriander, smoked paprika
  • mixed-colour peppers
  • red onions
  • cloves of garlic
  • fresh bay leaves
  • 2 x 400g tins of black beans
  • 100g okra
  • 150g brown rice
  • ripe mixed-colour tomatoes
  • ½–1 fresh red chilli
  • bunch of fresh coriander (30g)
  • lime
  • 2 tbsp natural yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Halve and deseed the squash, then carefully chop into 3cm chunks.

Never before in my life have I made a butternut squash. Here’s a useful video on how to prepare it:

In a large roasting tray, toss and massage it with 1 teaspoon of oil, the ground coriander and a pinch of sea salt and black pepper.

Deseed the peppers and cut into 3cm chunks, then, in a separate tray, toss and massage them with 1 teaspoon of oil and the smoked paprika. Place both trays in the oven for 35 minutes, or until softened.

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Raw peppers with smoked paprika and raw squash with grounded coriander

Meanwhile, peel and finely chop ¼ of an onion and put aside, then roughly chop the rest and place in a large casserole pan on a low heat with 1 tablespoon of oil.

Here’s a great video by Gordon Ramsey on how to finely chop an onion:

Crush in the garlic, add the bay leaves and a good splash of water and cook for 20 minutes, or until soft, stirring regularly.

Be weary of how much water you choose to ‘splash’.

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Tip in the beans, juice and all, then half-fill each empty tin with water, swirl and pour into the pan.

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At this stage I was thinking – is this how it’s supposed look like? I think my version of a ‘splash’ was more generous, so I cooked the stew without the lid on to allow for some of the water to evaporate.

Simmer until the time is up on the squash and peppers, then stir both into the pan.

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Cooked squash and peppers

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Trim, finely slice and add the okra, and simmer for a further 20 minutes, or until the feijoada is dark and delicious, loosening with an extra splash of water, if needed.

Meanwhile, cook the rice according to the packet instructions, then drain.

I’ve never prepared okra, let alone eaten it before. Here’s a good tutorial on what to pay attention to when preparing okra:

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To make a quick salsa, deseed the tomatoes, then finely chop with as much chilli as you like and most of the coriander leaves.

Scrape into a bowl with the reserved finely chopped onion and toss with the lime juice, then season to perfection.

I used a teaspoon to deseed the tomatoes. I like how you can learn little important details about everyday things just by watching a couple of videos.

Here’s a video on how to properly prepare coriander:

Serve the remaining feijoada with the rice and salsa, a spoonful of yoghurt and a sprinkling of the remaining coriander leaves.

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  • Calories: 532kcal
  • Fat: 7.9g
  • Saturated Fat: 1.9g
  • Protein: 19.9g
  • Carbs: 93.6g
  • Sugar: 17.6g
  • Fibre: 20.1g

Closing thoughts about the recipe

This was interesting.

The pepper and squash gave the stew a sweet, exotic taste to the recipe. 

The butternut squash chunks I had sliced were perhaps a bit thicker than the 3cm that the recipe had suggested. For this reason, the squash sweetened the stew a bit more.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, although I’m not a fan of squashes in general.

The salsa was a very welcome part of the dish and it was really refreshing when combined with the natural yoghurt.

On a side note, one of my culinary guinea pigs said that my version of the feijoada lacked acidic ingredients (e.g. peppers, chilli, smoked paprika).

Cooking is about heat control. Flavour is about striking a balance between the acidic and the alkaline.

– My Bro

The recipe is quite alkaline-heavy (i.e. squash, black beans, okra) so it’s easy to offset the flavour balance of the dish. I did just that.

The result? After a while, you craved for a bit of a kick and you even got a bit nauseous eating it. It lacked that all important acidic part.

That’s why the refreshing, acidic salsa was a godsend, which only slightly balanced things out.

This took quite a ridiculously long time for me to make (roughly 1 hour 45 minutes).

The stew cooked a lot longer than suggested by Jamie because I had put too much water into the pan. As a result, the smoky flavour wasn’t as distinctive as I thought it would be. For future reference, I would only add the splash if necessary.

In a nutshell:

  • More squash = more sweetness.
  • Balance the alkaline with the acidic flavours.
  • Don’t dilute the flavour with too much water.
  • Save the splash of water if unnecessary. 

***

Any other ideas on what I could have done better in this recipe? Any interesting twists to the recipe worth mentioning?

Let me know in the comments below 🙂

This recipe was from “Everyday Super Food” by Jamie Oliver.

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

6 Reasons Why You Should Find a Mentor

Having a mentor is an extremely valuable role that someone older and more experienced can play in your life.

Robert Greene, author of Mastery, describes the mentor-mentee relationship as follows:

“They like giving all of their knowledge to someone younger, like another daughter or son for them. They like seeing the ability to mold a young person and imparting upon them all of their knowledge.

You on the other hand admire and respect them. There’s almost a love between you two. And when you have that emotional connection, you will learn a lot faster.”

A mentor will give you all the value in the world as long as you are reciprocating value as a token of your appreciation.

Here are the 6 reasons why you should have a mentor.

mentor-coach

1.We humans learn the best by watching and observing others in the flesh.

It’s the superior form of learning and we are so primed for it.

It is an extremely valuable experience to have a mentor. You can gain so much from simply observing someone who is working in their element and fiercely passionate about what they do.

By being in the presence of your mentor, you are learning through osmosis and are gaining instant, immediate knowledge from them. This is called vicarious learning.

Your mentor’s traits rub off on you and you soak up intangible qualities such as beauty, emotion, truth, or wisdom.

Ultimately, by having a mentor you’re cutting your learning curve into the fraction of the time it would take you to learn by trial and error.

Robert Greene, emphasises how primed we as humans are for the type of learning we can benefit from apprenticing to a mentor.

Here’s Robert:

“The human brain evolved over millions of years in a certain way, a certain pattern. And over the course of these millions of years, we humans learn[ed] the best by watching and observing a person in the flesh.

Not on the Internet, not on a computer, not on your phone but by actually being there with a person; picking up their body language, their way of thinking… Not everything is done with words. We’re such a word-oriented culture.

But actually observing people, just seeing their style, their way of thinking; things you can absorb when you’re next to them. That’s the superior form of learning. We humans are so primed for it.”

2. Avoid making mistakes

Robert Greene suggests that apprenticing to a mentor gives you a short cut to mastery.

Not only are you taught in a condensed form, but also your learning experience is streamlined in a way that you avoid making mistakes.

You can learn a lot through mistakes. But the mistakes don’t have to yours.

There is a saying “if you wish to be young and wise you have to learn from the experiences of others.”

Your mentor surely made a lot of mistakes in his journey to becoming a master in his field. He will impart his knowledge upon you as well as the lessons he has heeded from his mistakes.

3. Learn about your lagging qualities & unfair advantages

Over time, your mentor will learn what your lagging qualities (i.e. weaknesses) are and what unfair advantages (i.e. strengths) you might have.

He will give you feedback on how to compensate for your lagging qualities and what you should focus on mastering to do so.

He will push you beyond your limits so that you capitalise on your unfair advantages.

By being a mentee, you learn how to best accentuate your strengths and how to downplay and compensate for your weaknesses.

Think of it this way. You are a rock and are naturally rough around the edges.

Your mentor is an expert sculptor. Under his tutelage, he will sculpt you into a diamond.

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via markkitaoka

4. Receive guidance & direction

“In many ways, apprenticeship is an extension of the parenting process. 

For some, a mother or father figure initiated the transition from immaturity to maturity, but eventually someone else must complete the process.” – Jeff Goins, Art of Work

In our 20s, we are directionless.

Sometimes we focus on banal things and expend precious mental resources and energy on efforts that don’t yield much (if any) result.

Sure, learning through trial and error might be an effective way of learning. But it might not be of the same quality as if it were with a mentor by your side.

With a mentor, your efforts will be more focused and, most importantly, guided. We need someone to channel our enthusiasm and funnel our energy into laser focus.

A mentor will help you harness all these qualities that you bring to the table; guide you to focus on developing relevant skills and producing quality work.

Mentors speed up the process of learning. They make you more efficient in your efforts than if you were to try and learn by yourself.

5. Benefit from life advice

People often give unsolicited advice left and right hoping that someone will give some reflective thought to it and won’t just fall on deaf ears. Your parents know this all too well.

There is some advice to which you might not even give a second thought. You don’t register it because you simply don’t have the perspective (i.e. wisdom) to digest it properly.

You are so far removed, so detached from the reality of such advice that it sticks with you like a droplet of water does to a duck’s skin.

Here’s what my bro says about advice:

“Giving advice is often a pointless exercise. You can keep telling people the answers but they won’t listen.

That’s why I’ve learned to only give advice to those that come to you for it. The ones that ask you for it are the ones you should happily give it to.”

When it comes to advice, having a mentor is a special thing. Not only will he impart valuable wisdom onto you but will also put in the effort to drive the message home so that it sticks and you make the most of the advice.

Even though you might lack the perspective to fully grasp and appreciate the advice (i.e. because you are young, that phase of life is yet to come, and so on) have faith in the validity of it.

This advice will teach you valuable lessons that not only pertain to your work, but to many different aspects of your life.

Be smart enough to take it on board, internalise it, and make the most of it. Treat it as a secret that will enhance your development. You’ll be that much richer for doing so.

6. Gain immediate feedback

A mentor-mentee relationship is one based on loyalty but the central element to it is honesty. The honesty you get from your mentor is one of most precious forms of feedback because it’s comes from a good place.

It’s good willed, genuine, constructive, and is ultimately supposed to shape your character, build upon your skills, and develop you as a person.

A true mentor always has your best interest at heart. For this sole reason, a lot of the feedback will be critique.

You’re learning through negative reinforcement to weed out useless behaviours, habits, and elements of your mindset.

At the same time though, a mentor should – to quote Dale Carnegie – “be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise” to promote desirable behaviours.

The immediacy of this feedback is what makes the criticism sting. But pain equals growth.

You will get a profound sense of satisfaction from all that input when you realise that you are slowly becoming the well-rounded person you and your mentor have been trying to mold you into from day one.

***

For more information, check out Robert Greene’s talk.

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

My 2015 Annual Review

This is my very first Annual Review for What My Bro Said.

In this report, I will share both my successes and failures of the past year. I will also share my plans for the future to build upon what already works and dedicate special focus to areas that need further improvement.

I will answer 3 questions:

  • What went well this year?
  • What didn’t go so well this year?
  • What am I working toward?

1. What went well this year?

Internship (Christmas and Summer)

Going into 2015, I was nearing the end of my 3-week Christmas internship. It was an extremely rewarding learning experience, which allowed me to grow in many aspects of my life.

When I was offered to come back for a Summer internship, it was a no-brainer for me and I returned months later to assume a position of greater responsibility.

Lifetime peak fitness

With the start of the New Year, I started consistently going to the gym 3x a week and reached new heights with my fitness.

Surely enough, I skipped a session here and there, but for the most part I had developed a healthy gym-going habit.

I also took up cycling in March to start training for my September 2015 London-Paris cycle. My preparation started off in April with a modest 5km a week.

Each week I incrementally increased the distance I cycled. By July, I was cycling 100km a week and weighed a lifetime personal record of 67kg. 

I enjoyed a spell of peak fitness and was in the best shape of my life.

Newfound productivity

For the past 2,5 years, I’ve been researching about how to live a better life and maximise my own potential.

In 2015, I feel I have markedly improved in structuring my life, establishing habits and being consistent in my efforts.

I feel I’ve matured mentally and improved in striking a balance in life by tending to many different areas and aspects of my life.

Mindset

I put a lot of effort into improving my mindset and attitude towards life. Through chains of little success over time, I feel I am getting that much closer to leading a quality life that is both balanced and purposeful.

In great measure, I attribute my gradual success to surrounding myself with the extraordinary people that I’m lucky to have in my life.

Writing

I wrote my very first article for What My Bro Said on the 26th of October, 2015. Ever since then, I have published a new article every Monday. I am pleased I managed to publish a new post on a few Thursdays, as well.

Here’s What My Bro Said in numbers:

  • What My Bro Said has been active for 2 months.
  • I have posted 15 articles in that time.
  • 257 unique visitors this year.
  • My articles have been read over 400 times.
  • 60 readers have joined my free weekly newsletter (Thank You!)

These are just numbers (albeit modest ones) but what they represent is far more important. That is, readers feel that there is some value to be discovered in these messages. This is both fantastic and encouraging.

I am thrilled to continue bringing you even more value going into 2016 on
What My Bro Said.

2. What didn’t go so well this year?

Injury

I nearly tore my ACL in my left knee because I had pushed my limits physically with my fitness regime (cycling, gym, swimming, yoga).

Don’t get me wrong – all of these things are great. But in moderation. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

I was enjoying peak performance (both mentally and physically) and had such momentum that I pushed it all a little too far. And paid the price for it.

I left my internship near the end of July and stayed at home for most the Summer, healing my leg.

My parents were in another country, my bro was working, and my other two siblings were away for the Summer.

I vividly remember how I burnt my entire thigh trying to transport a cup of camomile tea.

Naturally, food became less of a priority because I couldn’t make it myself. I ate mostly snacks all day until Big Bro came back home from work.

But I read all day.

I delved into finance. I was up to date on all the news, read books on capital markets, and finished a KhanAcademy course in Finance.

I practiced my math skills with the help of this cool book my Bro gave me and multiple SHL tests I had bought.

I lived, breathed, and slept finance.

Until I realised that I didn’t love it as much as I thought I did.

And that it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life.

If I weren’t forced to reserve the time to properly delve into the topic, maybe I would’ve ended up in finance. And sometime down the line I would’ve made the same realisation.

In that sense, my injury helped me realise what I didn’t want. At least some good came of that difficult episode in my life.

Staying in touch with family and friends from afar

Ever since I moved back to London in 2013 for my studies, I’ve found it quite challenging to keep in touch with the people I treasure most.

It’s easy to slowly lose yourself in the bustling day-to-day of everyday life. Days or even weeks go by and you realise that you haven’t spoken to your friends in a while.

Though I’ve made active attempts to reconnect and catch up with some, I have to be honest with myself and say I’ve been inconsistent in my efforts. And I know I’ve made some of my friends wait on me.

Keeping in touch with my friends from afar is surprisingly difficult for me. I do go back home every now and then to visit, but not as often as I’d like.  

I failed all of my 2014 New Year’s Resolutions

I didn’t cycle to Paris. I failed to read 15 books. I failed to gain enough lean muscle mass to reach my target weight of 69kg.

I realised that challenging yourself with ‘goals’ is a dangerous thing to do. You put yourself under a lot of pressure and ultimately set yourself up for failure.

I failed because I didn’t have systems to support me in achieving these long-term goals. Creating systems that will allow you to enjoy incremental progress over time is absolutely crucial to long-term success.

The only resolution that I had nearly made good on was my weight gain resolution. And that’s because I (unknowingly) built a system around my efforts. That is, I focused on gaining 250g a week and used FitnessPal religiously to do so. 

I was able to do something I largely failed at throughout my life with the help of a simple system that added just enough focus into my efforts and just enough structure into my life.

If I had a system for cycling, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten injured. If I had a system to read for 10mins everyday (or even every other day) before going to sleep, I would have most definitely surpassed my goal of reading 12 books.

That being said, although I failed to read 15 books, I did manage to read 8 books in 2015. That’s no small feat, at least for me. Regardless, I know I can do better and know how to do so in 2016. The answer: a system.

3. What am I working toward?

Academic excellence

In my final year of University, I will get a strong first in my degree.

My first ebook

In the New Year, I plan to write my very first ebook. I can’t wait to share it with you.

Growing our community here on What My Bro Said

We are a community of like-minded individuals that seek to lead a better quality life that will challenge us to maximise our own potential.

My hope is that in 2016 our special community will continue to grow. 

Playing the drums

In late December, I reviewed everything I had done in 2015. I looked through my iPhone notes, photos, and emails for clues that would jog my memory. I searched for recurring themes in my life.

I realised that playing the drums has been a recurring theme not only through 2015, but in all the years ever since 2011. I used to play in a band between 2011-2012. Ever since that last concert, I’ve dabbled with the instrument here and there, but nothing concrete.

It’s important for me to incorporate this theme into my life with greater purpose. I want drumming to become a hobby of mine again, one that I can immerse myself in on a regular basis. Just like I used to a few years ago.

Cooking

As part of my journey to living a better life, I intend to cook a special meal once a week to improve my cooking skills. I will regularly share my culinary adventures with you on a bi-weekly basis.

Fitness

I want to re-build myself physically after being sidelined with a knee injury for nearly 6months. I have finally been cleared by my physio to get back into the gym.

I plan to build a system around my gym-going and yoga habits. Hopefully, this period spent in immersion in fitness will culminate in a special event. It would be great to give that Paris cycle another shot but a long road to recovery awaits.

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Special thanks to James Clear for suggesting the idea of an Annual Review.