4 Blogs/Podcasts That Revolutionized The World, Made People Lose Weight, and Improved Their Sex Lives

I went for a more catchy title for this post. It’s not a hundred percent accurate, but maybe it will generate some clicks. It’s actually four good blogs, e-courses, and podcasts that I’ve discovered. I hope you like them too!

Tim Ferriss: (Blog & Podcast) Ferriss has a list of questions that he relies on for each of his guests. His book, “Tribe of Mentors,” uses this list, but what makes that book so great is just how many people answered his request to pick some and reply for the book. The questions are intriguing. One example is, “How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a ‘favorite failure’ of yours?” The answers are revealing because A) can everyone answer the questions (from personal reflection), but B) the celebrities, athletes, and successful people he talks to give honest answers (we are learning from others’ mistakes). The book is a wealth of valuable advice and insight. There are dozens of people represented, and I enjoyed not only the answers, but also meeting and hearing from the lengthy list of achievers from different backgrounds.

American History Tellers (Podcast – iTunes, Spotify): Insightful history of America told with detail and embellished with stories that are sometimes from real-life, and sometimes made up, to help listeners understand what was happening at particular moments in history. Minimal advertising. Enlightening and a fun listen.

How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, 3rd Edition: (Audio Book/Class) This is a fascinating class/lecture series about what most people refer to as “classical music.” However, the professor/teacher clarifies the various periods of history so we can understand the differences in the music he plays for us. The professor has a very dry sense of humor, and I find myself laughing at his comments and descriptions often. Educational and fun.

Ryan Holiday: (Blog, Books) I’ve only recently discovered the writings of Ryan Holiday, but they have already made a big impact on me. My introduction to the Stoic philosophy was through his book “The Obstacle Is The Way,” which is a concise, easy, read that will leave you wanting more. I absolutely soaked up his lessons with gusto, and started reading other books by not only Holiday, but also the Stoic philosophers like, “Meditations” of Marcus Aurelius, “The Manual: A Philosopher’s Guide To Life,” and “The Art Of Living,” both by Epictetus. I’m trying to become better at living, at being a good person, and achieving goals I’m just learning to set for myself, and Holiday and the Stoics are a tremendous support system. I highly encourage everyone to read his books. You will not be disappointed if you enter into the relationship with an open mind.

 

 

 

 

4 Blogs/Podcasts That Revolutionized The World, Made People Lose Weight, and Improved Their Sex Lives

DuoLingo

Over the past year I have worked on learning Spanish through a website called DuoLingo. There are a slew of other sites/companies that can help you learn a second, third, fourth language for not much cost, or even free. Babbel is one of these, as is Rosetta Stone. I’m sure they all have pros and cons, but I tried DuoLingo and this is how I feel about it.

I have some basic French from college but that knowledge has degraded so much that I hesitate to even say that I ever spoke the language. I’ve never used it except once when my wife and I were in Italy and I spoke with some other tourists over dinner at a wonderful, little sidewalk cafe/restaurant. They were Belgian, but they spoke French, in Italy, to some Americans. It sounds strange in retrospect.

I made a simple comment thinking I could hang, and the lady to whom we were speaking actually said something in French. She said it fast, like a native speaker. I had no idea what she said… I felt like an idiot and I definitely couldn’t hang…

Anyway, I wanted to learn Spanish to help with my skill set at work. I figured that I would more likely use Spanish than any other language in my daily life in Oklahoma, and relearning French didn’t seem to be the best option to give me the edge at work that I’m always looking for.

I tried DuoLingo because I saw an ad for it or saw it in the app store… I honestly can’t remember how I stumbled across it, but I did and I signed up for the free version. I’ve been a member long enough that I’ve seen the lessons and the app change and evolve. It’s been a growing experience for different reasons.

The app gamifies things to keep you interested, and the free version shows you an advertisement between lessons. The lessons are broken up into sections like Family 1, Family 2, Restaurant, Travel, etc. and they’re all arranged in a tree to speed the learning process and to introduce you to a language through categories.

You challenge yourself to complete anywhere from one lesson per day (basic) to 5 lessons per day (insane). As you complete lessons you earn experience points and “level up,” and earn lingots (website) or gems (app) with which you can buy things from the store. I’m not sure why it’s gems AND lingots and not gems OR lingots, but my guess is that they are in transition from one to another.

With the gems/lingots, the store allows you to purchase things like “Streak Freezes” or “Streak Repairs” or other silly things to make you feel better about missing a day, or having to watch all the ads that pay for the free version.

Ultimately you want to level up to the max of 25 in the language. Beyond 25 I guess you should be competent enough to go talk to other speakers of the language and get away from the computer for a while. I’m on level 12 in Spanish now and I have an 18 day streak going.

What I couldn’t figure out early in the learning process is whether to learn the entire tree at level one then go back and go through the whole tree again to get to level 2, or should I learn each category or section to the maximum level of 5 before moving to the next category. It’s either learning a lot of words quickly, or a few words at a time to a deeper level. I’m still not clear what the best strategy should be.

The website is faster than the app thanks to keyboard shortcuts. Way faster. The free version of the app slows you down a lot with ads, as I previously mentioned, and they also recently introduced this thing about 5 mistakes and you’re out for five hours…

It kind of irritated me when they did that because some days are better than others, and some days I make more mistakes than others. After making 5 mistakes a couple of times and having to “sit out” for 5 hours before being allowed to continue my lessons for the day, I knew I had a decision to make.

I could keep going with all these ads and bottlenecks, I could pay for the service, I could try another free service, or I could pay for a different service. I didn’t spend much time looking at the other services because DuoLingo was the cheapest of the few I looked at ($10/month).

After I paid for the service everything changed for the better. I don’t have to wait five hours before restarting my training if I make 5 mistakes. I don’t have the advertisements slowing me down. Everything runs smoothly and I feel like I’m finally making more progress.

In the free version I was happy to reach the insane goal of 5 lessons per day. But I got sick of the ads and slow-downs. After paying the monthly charge to eliminate the ads, and also working from a laptop rather than my smartphone, I’m easily achieving the 16 lessons per day average that I need to reach level 25 by the end of March, 2019. I’m on a schedule here.

I’ve gone from being happy at my 5 lessons a day to a high of 27 lessons in one day. It makes me feel like I’m immersed in the language rather than dabbling in it too. If you want to learn a language, try DuoLingo, and just pay for it. It’s worth it in time saved eliminating the ads and such. Also try the sister website/service called Tiny Cards which is to help reinforce the language training by showing flash cards on subjects.

I’m enjoying it. I catch myself thinking in Spanish about what I’m doing throughout the day, and I think that’s part of the goal in learning a new language.

 

DuoLingo

Quotes To Consider

Objective judgement, now, at this very moment.
Unselfish action, now, at this very moment.
Willing acceptance—now, at this very moment—of all external events.
That’s all you need.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 9:6


You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along!'”

Eleanor Roosevelt


You could spend your whole life waiting on the mountain to move, but it’s waiting on you. (From “Make It Move“)

Johnny Lang


The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky


In a world where comfort is king, arduous physical activity provides a rare opportunity to practice suffering. (From How Exercise Shapes You Far Beyond The Gym)

Brad Stulberg


A straightforward, honest person should be like someone who stinks: when you’re in the same room with him, you know it.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 11:15


To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.

Steve Prefontaine

(This quote has become something of a personal mantra.)

Quotes To Consider

Embracing Discomfort

“The problem is that when you run from discomfort all the time, you are restricted to a small zone of comfort, and so you miss out on most of life.”

Discomfort can be good for you. It can teach you what your limits are. It can also improve your ability to withstand discomfort in the future. It can expand what you know.

What does being uncomfortable mean though? How would you define a situation in which you feel discomfort?

It’s not a black and white situation to be honest. It can’t be answered simply or easily. A safe answer would be “any time you’re outside of your comfort zone.” But that too is hazy, vague and needs to be defined further. Could we include “pain” in the definition of “discomfort?”

Pain is sensory. We feel pain. It hurts. Does discomfort have to be painful? Yes, at least a little bit. Experiencing pain is definitely outside the comfort zone. The next questions would be, What causes pain, and why is it of benefit?

A broken bone is painful. Childbirth is painful. A headache is painful. Stepping on a thumbtack or lego is painful. Exercise is also painful, or can be, but has tremendous benefits to one’s well-being. How is this possible? Without exercise, we lose muscle as we age, and this is deterioration, which can be very painful (I’ve experienced pain from muscle atrophy). However, we can exercise to rebuild muscle. At first it may also be painful, but once we change our habits we start rebuilding muscle and it helps us in a number of ways.

Stress can be emotionally painful. Can stress also be of benefit? Long-term stress has been shown to be detrimental to our health and well-being, but in small amounts stress can help us focus, perform at a higher level than normal, and overcome obstacles that we might normally avoid.

I’ve challenged myself to embrace discomfort more to see if it can help me grow. My areas of focus are exercise, diet, reducing alcohol intake, and trying to embrace and use the stress from my job to improve the quantity and quality of work I produce.

What brings you discomfort, and how can you embrace it to improve yourself or your situation? Comments please.

A few articles for further reading:

 

 

 

Embracing Discomfort

Make It

I was recently moved from reporting to one manager to another. Actually, the new manager was a director. The day I received confirmation that I was now reporting to him, he resigned… Talk about feeling completely adrift. I had reported to four different bosses in the last year or so, and the director would have been the fifth. And I was again without guidance from up the ladder.

I was also suddenly very aware that I could become an easy target for a layoff if I didn’t take charge of my own destiny. I could no longer look comfortably to anyone else for direction.

My plan was simple, the program that I drove was now in my hands so I began the task of making wholesale changes to it. I wanted to make it my own rather than just run it. I’m deep into the planning stages now and things are looking bright after the previous haze and gloom.

It will be the end of 2018 before the program can launch as it is dependent on other efforts at the company, but I feel like I’m finally making progress. I’m creating process flows, preparing metrics to share with leadership, creating graphics and training material, and generally taking matters into my own hands.

I’ll post updates about my progress as I get closer to the launch date of the new program, but what have I learned?

Don’t wait for guidance! Seek it out. Be aggressively creative, and make sure you keep important people in the loop. If you’re trying to help the business and its customers, no one will tell you to stop. They may correct your course, but chances are they won’t stop you. And if they do, perhaps that’s not the company or manager you want to work for.

Make It

Habits Of Success

Over the last year I’ve read dozens of articles on productivity, developing positive habits, how others drive themselves to success, etc. Many of the articles have similar advice for the reader, so I created the list below to show the habits that were most often recommended. The list itself has many one-off items like “be curious” and “take enormous risks,” but the ones in the list below are common to multiple articles. These are the ones that many people seem to consider the best habits to cultivate.

HABIT
# OF TIMES RECOMMENDED
Read (educational content)
6
Exercise (hard physical activity, health)
5
Listen to Podcasts (learning/uplifting content)
3
Meditate (includes Focus, Mindfulness, etc.)
3
Wake up early and get started (Early productivity)
3
Make lists (GTD, 4DX, Use Evernote, OneNote, etc.)
2
Take no days off completely (Read, check email etc. while on vacation)
2
Minimize distractions (aka don’t multi-task, don’t over-analyze)
2

I found that through my own personal experiences the habits that have helped me the most are reading, exercising, continuing education, and making lists (and scheduling my week ahead of time). Eating well and getting plenty of rest also help. As does reducing alcohol intake…

As for scheduling my time, I have recently moved to the Full Focus Planner by Michael Hyatt. It’s a bit pricey, but it’s been very effective for me. It has been the most successful replacement to the checklist style to-do list that I used in the past. Also, I found that my analog planner worked better for me than my digital planners. I just use it more consistently.

How about you? Do you practice any of the habits on the list? Which ones work best for you? How do they help during your day/week to increase your productivity?

Habits Of Success

Quotes to Consider

Below is a small collection of quotes I’ve gathered from books I’ve read recently. Granted, what I’ve been reading lately seems depressing based on the quotes below, I strongly encourage everyone to read each of the books from which these quotes were taken as they will educate and enlighten to the realities and possible realities of our current world.

Marcus Aurelius

“It’s quite possible to be a good man without anyone realizing it. Remember that.”

From “Meditations” 7:67

Viktor Frankl

“When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.”

From “Man’s Search For Meaning,” p. 77

Todd Rose

“Contemporary pundits, politicians, and activists continually suggest that our educational system is broken, when in reality the opposite is true. Over the past century, we have perfected our educational system so that it runs like a well-oiled Taylorist machine, squeezing out every possible drop of efficiency in the service of the goal its architecture was originally designed to fulfill: efficiently ranking students in order to assign them to their proper place in society.”

From “The End Of Average

Steven Pressfield and Shawn Coyne

“The professional masters how, and leaves what and why to the gods.”

From “The War of Art

Quotes to Consider