Archive for the ‘Life Hacks’ Category
I was going to write a post right now on why I lift weights and how great it is to be good at something, but then I re-read a story by Henry Rollins called “The Iron” and I remembered how beautiful the story was and decided to share that instead. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
“The Iron” by Henry Rollins
I believe that the definition of definition is reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself.
When I was young I had no sense of myself. All I was, was a product of all the fear and humiliation I suffered. Fear of my parents. The humiliation of teachers calling me “garbage can” and telling me I’d be mowing lawns for a living. And the very real terror of my fellow students. I was threatened and beaten up for the color of my skin and my size. I was skinny and clumsy, and when others would tease me I didn’t run home crying, wondering why.
I knew all too well. I was there to be antagonized. In sports I was laughed at. A spaz. I was pretty good at boxing but only because the rage that filled my every waking moment made me wild and unpredictable. I fought with some strange fury. The other boys thought I was crazy.
I hated myself all the time.
As stupid at it seems now, I wanted to talk like them, dress like them, carry myself with the ease of knowing that I wasn’t going to get pounded in the hallway between classes. Years passed and I learned to keep it all inside. I only talked to a few boys in my grade. Other losers. Some of them are to this day the greatest people I have ever known. Hang out with a guy who has had his head flushed down a toilet a few times, treat him with respect, and you’ll find a faithful friend forever. But even with friends, school sucked. Teachers gave me hard time. I didn’t think much of them either.
Then came Mr. Pepperman, my advisor. He was a powerfully built Vietnam veteran, and he was scary. No one ever talked out of turn in his class. Once one kid did and Mr. P. lifted him off the ground and pinned him to the blackboard. Mr. P. could see that I was in bad shape, and one Friday in October he asked me if I had ever worked out with weights. I told him no.
He told me that I was going to take some of the money that I had saved and buy a hundred-pound set of weights at Sears. As I left his office, I started to think of things I would say to him on Monday when he asked about the weights that I was not going to buy. Still, it made me feel special. My father never really got that close to caring. On Saturday I bought the weights, but I couldn’t even drag them to my mom’s car. An attendant laughed at me as he put them on a dolly.
Monday came and I was called into Mr. P.’s office after school. He said that he was going to show me how to work out. He was going to put me on a program and start hitting me in the solar plexus in the hallway when I wasn’t looking. When I could take the punch we would know that we were getting somewhere. At no time was I to look at myself in the mirror or tell anyone at school what I was doing. In the gym he showed me ten basic exercises. I paid more attention than I ever did in any of my classes. I didn’t want to blow it. I went home that night and started right in.
Weeks passed, and every once in a while Mr. P. would give me a shot and drop me in the hallway, sending my books flying. The other students didn’t know what to think. More weeks passed, and I was steadily adding new weights to the bar. I could sense the power inside my body growing. I could feel it.
Right before Christmas break I was walking to class, and from out of nowhere Mr. Pepperman appeared and gave me a shot in the chest. I laughed and kept going. He said I could look at myself now. I got home and ran to the bathroom and pulled off my shirt. I saw a body, not just the shell that housed my stomach and my heart. My biceps bulged. My chest had definition. I felt strong. It was the first time I can remember having a sense of myself. I had done something and no one could ever take it away. You couldn’t say s–t to me.
It took me years to fully appreciate the value of the lessons I have learned from the Iron. I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was wrong. When the Iron doesn’t want to come off the mat, it’s the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn’t teach you anything. That’s the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. That which you work against will always work against you.
It wasn’t until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can’t be as bad as that workout.
I used to fight the pain, but recently this became clear to me: pain is not my enemy; it is my call to greatness. But when dealing with the Iron, one must be careful to interpret the pain correctly. Most injuries involving the Iron come from ego. I once spent a few weeks lifting weight that my body wasn’t ready for and spent a few months not picking up anything heavier than a fork. Try to lift what you’re not prepared to and the Iron will teach you a little lesson in restraint and self-control.
I have never met a truly strong person who didn’t have self-respect. I think a lot of inwardly and outwardly directed contempt passes itself off as self-respect: the idea of raising yourself by stepping on someone’s shoulders instead of doing it yourself. When I see guys working out for cosmetic reasons, I see vanity exposing them in the worst way, as cartoon characters, billboards for imbalance and insecurity. Strength reveals itself through character. It is the difference between bouncers who get off strong-arming people and Mr.Pepperman.
Muscle mass does not always equal strength. Strength is kindness and sensitivity. Strength is understanding that your power is both physical and emotional. That it comes from the body and the mind. And the heart.
Yukio Mishima said that he could not entertain the idea of romance if he was not strong. Romance is such a strong and overwhelming passion, a weakened body cannot sustain it for long. I have some of my most romantic thoughts when I am with the Iron. Once I was in love with a woman. I thought about her the most when the pain from a workout was racing through my body.
Everything in me wanted her. So much so that sex was only a fraction of my total desire. It was the single most intense love I have ever felt, but she lived far away and I didn’t see her very often. Working out was a healthy way of dealing with the loneliness. To this day, when I work out I usually listen to ballads.
I prefer to work out alone.
It enables me to concentrate on the lessons that the Iron has for me. Learning about what you’re made of is always time well spent, and I have found no better teacher. The Iron had taught me how to live. Life is capable of driving you out of your mind. The way it all comes down these days, it’s some kind of miracle if you’re not insane. People have become separated from their bodies. They are no longer whole.
I see them move from their offices to their cars and on to their suburban homes. They stress out constantly, they lose sleep, they eat badly. And they behave badly. Their egos run wild; they become motivated by that which will eventually give them a massive stroke. They need the Iron Mind.
Through the years, I have combined meditation, action, and the Iron into a single strength. I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. Time spent away from the Iron makes my mind degenerate. I wallow in a thick depression. My body shuts down my mind.
The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it’s impossible to turn back.
The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.
This article originally appeared in Details Magazine
As a busy salesperson, one of the most important traits to have is to be organized. Organization is often what separates a good salesperson from an excellent salesperson.
If you’re not someone who’s naturally very detailed and organized, there’s one very important thing you can do to change that. The trick is to write everything down! Anytime you have an idea, a task that needs to get solved at a later time, or anything else that needs to be remembered: write it down!
Two very awesome tools to manage this:
When you’re in Gmail, simply click the red, dropdown arrow next to the “Gmail” logo on the upper, left-hand corner when you login. When you click “Tasks” the Google Tasks window pops up. You can use this add your to-do list. Personally, I recommend that you write down everything you need to do. The cool thing is you can access this from any computer where you can login to Gmail.
Bonus: There’s a cool third-party app for Android that syncs with your Gmail account’s Google Tasks. Anytime I’m away from my computer and think of something to do, I can add it to my phone. Here’s where you can get the app: http://goo.gl/z4Wvw.
Bonus #2: Want to expand the size of that little Tasks window on your laptop? Bookmark this link to access Google Tasks in canvas mode (full screen): https://mail.google.com/tasks/canvas (you need to login to Gmail to view this).
For more detailed to-do lists and project management, I prefer to use Asana. Asana is a startup founded by ex-Facebookers and you can use it for team collaboration, but I just use it manage my work to-do list. Best of all, it’s free for individual use or for a small team up to 30 people!
Every single thing I have to do I write down in Asana. No more stuff written on sticky notes or on yellow legal pads on my desk… it’s all added to Asana.
Asana is pretty sweet because you can group items by “Projects” and under each Project you can have multiple items on your to-do list. From there, you can also have detailed notes on each entry with additional context. It’s pretty sweet!
If you need to have a note to follow-up with someone three weeks out, you can not only have a task that has “Follow-up with customer John Q. Public” but you can also have detailed info on the background of the customer and what the next steps should be. This way when you look at the note three weeks out you know exactly what needs to happen.
Personally, I use Google Tasks for my personal stuff and Asana for anything work related.
Example: At isocket, I would frequently send bug reports to our Ad Ops & Support team to catalog the issues I came across. After sending a bug report, I would make a note in Asana under a Project I had just for bug reports so I could make sure nothing I submitted fell through the cracks. A few times I caught things that hadn’t been even worked on, simply because I had logged them in Asana.
Bonus: Here’s a cool screenshot of Asana from Crunchbase that will help you visualize the product: http://www.crunchbase.com/assets/images/original/0016/8989/168989v2.png.
Are you a Maverick or a Superstar?
As Mark Suster once said, there’s a difference between Maverick salespeople and Superstar salespeople:
The Maverick is an incredibly good salesperson and can probably sell ice to Eskimos, they just usually aren’t the most process orientated people. They are great at sales, just not managing sales people… which is a completely different skill set. He uses the good analogy that a great chef isn’t always well suited to run a restaurant.
The Superstar is the rare individual who can both sell water to a whale but is also incredibly detailed and process orientated. This person is probably suited for a VP of Sales position (at least eventually)… they can both sell and manage others.
The main difference between both of these is organization and attention to detail.
If you want to be a superstar salesperson (or a superstar in any role), the thing that will set you apart is your level of organization and attention to detail. A good tip is to use tools such as Asana and Google Tasks to write everything down to remember everything and to help you get a lot of things done.
Like this post? Feel free to add me on LinkedIn and tell me you found me via this post. :-)
My new favorite feature on my smartphone is Airplane Mode. I got my first smartphone in April 2012 when I upgraded from an old school “dumb” phone, probably the lowest model on the totem pole to a Droid smartphone. It took me until this summer (2012) to realize one of the greatest features of an internet-connected phone is Airplane Mode.
My lovely wife and I were about to head to Sicily for our honeymoon and Verizon didn’t have coverage in Europe. I called and talked to a Verizon rep about what to do with my phone overseas and she told me to use Airplane Mode to still use my phone as a camera on my trip without the internet or phone service trying to connect. Woah!
Also, I soon discovered my battery life increased about five-fold, if not more, since all of the apps on my phone weren’t connecting to the internet and dragging down my batter life.
I soon also discovered a smartphone will charge much faster in Airplane Mode because it isn’t constantly connected to the internet. Airplane mode is also wonderful when I want to leave my phone on, but not be constantly interrupted by emails and text messages. It helps me get work done because I am not checking it every few seconds to see if I have a new notification.
- Your phone will charge faster
- Your battery will last longer
- You can still use your camera overseas when you don’t have service
- It’s a nice way to keep distractions to a minimum
I make sure to start every day as a producer, not a consumer.
When you get up, you may start with a good routine like showering and eating, but as soon as you find yourself with some free time you probably get that urge to check Reddit, open that game you were playing, see what you’re missing on Facebook, etc.
Put all of this off until “later”. Start your first free moments of the day with thoughts of what you really want to do; those long-term things you’re working on, or even the basic stuff you need to do today, like cooking, getting ready for exercise, etc.
This keeps you from falling into the needy consumer mindset. That mindset where you find yourself endlessly surfing Reddit, Facebook, etc. trying to fill a void in yourself, trying to find out what you’re missing, but never feeling satisfied.
When you’ve started your day with doing awesome (not necessarily difficult) things for yourself, these distractions start to feel like a waste of time. You check Facebook just to make sure you’re not missing anything important directed at you, but scrolling down and reading random stuff in your feed feels like stepping out into the Disneyland parking lot to listen to what’s playing on the car radio – a complete waste of time compared to what you’re really doing today.
It sounds subtle, but these are the only days where I find myself getting anything done. I either start my day like this and feel normal and productive, or I look up and realize it’s early evening, I haven’t accomplished anything and I can’t bring myself to focus no matter how hard I want to.
Very interesting question posted on Quora. I can waste countless hours on this site. Some of the answers are very, very good. I think it’s hard to find such quality on the internet.
The original post is here: http://www.quora.com/What-life-lessons-are-unintuitive-or-go-against-common-sense-or-wisdom
(Note: I’m not sure if I’m in any sort of copyright violation by doing this repost, but the information is very valuable.)
The top response is by user Yishan Wong.
Here’s one that goes against a lot of conventional wisdom:
Money CAN buy happiness.
It’s often said that money can’t buy happiness, but this is not true. It’s merely true that:
- Chasing more and more money is not a route to happiness. You shouldn’t try specifically to acquire more money in the hopes that it will make you happy but rather, once you have money, think carefully about how you can use it to increase your happiness.
- Using money to buy the wrong things (often: things which are popular, things which other people desire, things which require much manual upkeep or worry – see #3) does not result in happiness.
- People often use money to buy things which they then spend time worrying about, rather than purchasing things which allow them to worry less.
Rather, one should view money merely as a medium by which you exchange your own effort for products and services which you truly want and which make you happier. As you get on in life, you will eventually begin to make more money (while you are young, learn to enjoy the parts of life which do not require money – e.g. building relationships). Focus on spending this money in ways that improve your happiness and reduce your stress levels, and be cautious about using it to buy things that other people say you “should” buy.
Here are some ways which may be specific to me, but could also apply broadly. You shouldn’t try to apply all of them; it’s just that when you come into some money, try doing one or two of them as they appeal to you:
- Buy a nice bed. Buy a very nice mattress and high-thread-count sheets. You will need to test out a variety of mattresses to find the one that fits you best but if you find the right one, it will greatly enhance the quality of your sleep, and subsequently, your waking life. You spend 33% of your life here as well and a mattress and sheets are often used for many years, so it is financially sensible to optimize in this area.
- Improve your commute by living closer to work. Studies on happiness indicate that people are least happy when commuting. The best way to optimize this is to commute as little as possible. This may mean spending more money to rent or buy a place closer to your place of business (assuming you don’t already work from home), where rents are often higher. In my life, I have consistently paid higher rents in order to live close to where I work and it has always been worth every penny – not only in time saved (which is straight-up savings), but in eliminating commuting fatigue, dodging traffic frustration, reducing the impact of scheduling glitches, etc. If you live close enough to walk a few blocks to work, this is usually ideal.
- Improve your commute by buying a nice car. If you must commute, spend the money on buying the right car for you. This might not be a fancy sports car or a luxury sedan, but it should be a car that is pleasantly suited to your personal style, whether that means an exciting drive, a pleasant interior, a premium sound system, a convertible, or something else. There are a great variety of cars designed for different demographics and personalities, so explore outside your habitual brand (you might have started life, as many do, with an econobox sedan) and see if there’s something that fits you more personally. Again: avoid popular sentiment.
- Fix your computing experience. If you are on Quora, you probably spend a lot of time on the computer. If it’s slow or you have a frustrating problem that you’ve “learned to live with,” get this problem fixed. People often underestimate the importance of their holistic user experience on a computer. Personally, I recommend getting a Mac, but this is not for everyone. Either way, if there is a way you can spend money to eliminate glitches in your everyday computing experience, do it. Maybe you need to get a new laptop but have convinced yourself that it would be a frivolous expenditure – after all, the old one works “well enough.” No, it doesn’t. You use it for hours a day and it should be a perfect machine for you. Get it fixed or get a new one – you can always give away or sell the old one at a steep discount to someone else who will be overjoyed to have it. It will get rid of little stressors and allow you to concentrate your mind more fully on the experience of consuming and exchanging information, rather than the mechanics of it.
- Create a “life randomly screwed me over” self-insurance fund. Every so often, random things that happen which aren’t anyone’s fault will strike you, causing perhaps a couple weeks worth of worry and headache. For example, your car may develop a problem that takes several hundred dollars to fix. No one broke it; it just happened due to normal wear and tear, and because your insurance has a deductible, you will have to pay out of pocket and now your cash flow for the month is severely screwed up. Create an insurance fund for yourself, and put some money in it every month. What this fund is used for is circumstances where you have to contend with a problem and if you just had some money it would go away. Sometimes random problems can be made to go away if you just throw money at them, and this fund will allow you to do that.
- Overtip everywhere you go. Usually, the only way to be treated like royalty at restaurants and service establishments is to be a celebrity (or royalty). The other way is to be the person known for tipping well. Especially at places you frequent often, make a point of tipping extremely well – at least in the 20 – 25% range or more (especially for small-dollar amounts, where you can tip high percentages without spending a large absolute amount). The idea is to stand out as the person who tips significantly better than all the other customers. The employees there will get to know you astoundingly quickly, they will memorize your preferences, they will learn your name (even if it is a weird ethnic one), they will ask after your health, and they will make a point of asking if there is anything extra that you’d like (and sometimes comp you stuff) and generally go to great, polite lengths to make sure you are happy. You will feel like a celebrity and when you bring your friends, it will impress them that the proprietor knows you and treats you so well. Real celebrities don’t really come around that often (unless you’re living in L.A.), so you will end up being the special customer they lavish all their attention on – the local high-roller. Especially if you aren’t actually rich, you are just choosing to be a great tipper, it will make you seem like areally great person. All of this extraordinary service can be had by simply voluntarily marking up your own bill by 10% over the usual cost. Did you get a raise? If so, don’t go eating at a nicer restaurant, stay at the same restaurant you’ve enjoyed all along, and just pay more for better service.
- Entertainment centers. This one is highly dependent on individual tastes. Do you like movies? Video games? Listening to music? All of these experiences can be improved by judiciously upgrading your entertainment center, and the cost of doing so drops every year. In our case, we found that purchasing a high-definition home projector system was cheaper than getting a larger television (i.e. larger than 37″) – and this was 5 years ago; the price curves have improved even more since then. One of the biggest mistakes that people do is buying large televisions, when HD projector systems now cost significantly less (sometimes by an order of magnitude) – let me reiterate: buying big televisions is the popular mistake that lots of people make; getting a projector system is not. In our case, this has made every single movie, video game, and television experience akin to being in a movie theater, except that it it’s now all on demand and we don’t have to ever deal with other movie theater patrons and can pause things to go to the bathroom without missing crucial action. We never go to movie theaters (thus avoiding lines and schedules), video games are a wholly immersive experience, and best of all, it makes for a great social experience when friends are over because anyone can see the screen for any position in the room. It’s not something you can fully understand until you have one, and it doesn’t get old.
- Travel to see friends and family. If you’re part of the new modern mobile generation, your family is probably spread out, and if you’re post-college, your friends are probably now scattered around the nation/world. Studies show that the keys to happiness are a healthy network of friends and family, so if you’ve been putting off that trip to see them (like you usually wait until the holidays), cash in some vacation days and go take an extra trip now instead. They’ll be happy to see you.
- Learn to cook a couple favorite meals, and use premium ingredients. The “learn to cook” part doesn’t actually spend more money; it’s often much cheaper than going out to eat. However, the idea here is to pick a single dish that you really like, and learn to cook just that dish, and cook it over and over and over again. Once you start to get good at it, start spending money to buy the absolute top-end premium ingredients. Practiced over years, this will result you being able to provide yourself with your own favorite meal, tuned exactly to your tastes, and produced at an exceptionally high level with the finest ingredients you are able to procure. In my case, this turned out to be steak. A friend and I began cooking this something like 7 years ago, successively learning better and better methods of grilling it. At first it was just a cheap way to eat steak often, until our grilling ability advanced to the point where the quality of meat became the limiting factor, so we began purchasing very high-end cuts and now we are able to consistently produce steak that rivals or exceeds that of the most expensive steak restaurants I’ve ever been to (back then, we’d go to nice steak restaurants but within the last couple years we’ve just stopped, because I can’t stand to eat steak that’s worse than what I can make myself while paying a premium for it). I still wouldn’t say that I’m someone who “can cook,” but I can make this one meal that I love and when I do, I can comfortably know that’s worthwhile to splurge on the best raw ingredients because I now have the skill to put them to their best use (I have now extended this ability to 3 or 4 other favored dishes).
- Psychotherapy. According to this research (http://www.sciencedaily.com/rele…), psychological therapy is “32 times more effective at increasing happiness than having more money.” This implies that if you are suffering fromanything at all, even possibly the most trivial of mental ailments (e.g. the lines at the Apple Store are too long), it is probably worth it to spend your money paying for a psychotherapist. I’ve done this, and it is totally true.
“I am not a detail person. I associate details with perfectionism and I think perfectionism is a disease that undermines everyone who has it.” -Penelope Trunk
At the end of life, people do not wish they had been more obsessive about perfectionism. They wish they had tried more things, taken more opportunities.
Awesome article on the timesuck that meetings can become: