Trump and the Overload of Information

president-donald-trump

“There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the days that followed the win of President elected Trump, I was under complete saturation of news covering his win. I was willingly seeking to know everything about his plans for the future, the impact on the economy and whom he would choose on his team. The New York Times and CNN became my best friends.

That information was added to my usual blog and podcast subscriptions that were giving their 2 cents on the matter, my social media feeds that was completely submerged by the matter and, of course, most of my conversations with friends and coworkers. I notice the problematic as I was speaking to my girlfriend about Trump during lunch. I was giving her all the reasons why the wall was a crazy idea, why leaving NAFTA would be disastrous for the economy and on and on.

We are drowning under information. But the good news is that we can still choose what we let in or not. You can choose to turn the TV on or off, you can choose to visit the news website and you can choose to have presence on social media. You can create your own filter, impose yourself a strict media diet if you want. We’re not forced to consume information; we are just letting the door whole open.

The Backlash of Yes

“When you say yes to something you don’t want to do, here is the result: you hate what you are doing, you resent the person who asked you, and you hurt yourself” – James Altucher

Do you remember the goofy movie with Jim Carrey where he was saying “yes” to everything for a whole year? That movie is so far from reality. You would say “yes” to everything for a year and you would be crippled by hundreds of shitty obligations that would make you want to puke every goddamn day that you wake up.

A while back, when I was younger, I was still going to University part-time to get some knowledge on the side. I had a bit of free time and I wanted to get involved in my student association. I happily volunteered to help. The president of the association asked me if I wanted to be on the committee for the organization of the end of the year party, it would take three hours a week max. I thought at that moment that it was a cool involvement. So I said, “Yes”. It didn’t count the 10-12 emails I had to read and answer every day. You can guess that each email was asking people to do tasks. Since I didn’t want to look bad, I said, “Yes”. What started as a 3-hour gig a week for fun, ended up as 10-15 hours. It was like having a second job. It wasn’t something I wanted to do anymore, it was an obligation.

A quick example of how much we say “yes” is our email inbox. A snapshot right now of your inbox would probably show a good deal of publicity or subscription you don’t care about. I’m in the same boat. I saw a newsletter from Quora today in my inbox, I don’t even remember when I registered to that website (and I sincerely don’t know what it is). I’ve probably used it once 3 or 4 years ago and I’m still receiving newsletters from the website. This is crazy.

Saying “no” more often should be a daily practice. Look at your calendar or agenda for one moment and you’ll probably see a bunch of appointments that are purely obligations. If we want more time for the important, to the stuff that we really want to do, we must say not somewhere else.

That’s the problem with modern life. We have so many choices, so many possibilities, that we end up losing sight of what truly matter.

Follow the Recipe

There is a reason why we have cook books. Someone with better knowledge laid out what needed to be done to make a succesful recipe. The problem is when we think we can alter the recipe without compromising the end results. Think about it, someone already made all the mistakes for you, the blueprint to success is already in your hands. This can be apply to anything: business, powerlifting/bodybuilding, diet, sports, trading or anything you can think about.

Quote

You Should Cheat

red-bull

”Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” – Salvator Dali

Before you start insulting me, let’s make something clear, I’m not talking about relationships. Let me explain myself. We all do things that doesn’t fit in our ideal life. The best examples are eating fast food, drinking alcohol, taking load of caffeine, watching TV, browsing the internet, playing video games or being lazy. The list could be longer, but you see the point. Tuesday, I’ve received my copy Fallout 4 by Amazon. For those, who don’t what I’m talking about, Fallout is post-apocalyptic video games. The game is huge and can easily suck you in for hours. I took my copy and put it aside. I wanted to make a simple experiment. I told myself that would only play saturday (for the whole day) if all the important stuff I wanted do would be done (gym, writing, reading and projects). Without committing myself, I would have easily spend all my free time playing and I’m not joking. To my surprise, I was way more productive that way. What I can see about that…

  • My gaming experience was even better because I’ve delayed the reward. I was awaiting that moment all week.
  • I wasn’t ashamed to play for my whole Saturday, because everything I wanted to be done, was finished.
  • I did way more during my week by avoiding anything related to TV. I felt more satisfied about myself, therefore I was more happy and less stressed.

Cheating can also help you build habits. I love to drink Red Bull. I know it’s bad for the health. I remember in my college years, drinking 2 cans a day. Nowadays, I avoid it as much as possible. The best way that I used to stop was to let myself cheat once or twice a month. I’ve avoided the pain of removing what I like from my life, but at the same I’ve reduce so much the quantity I drink that it doesn’t have significant impact on my life.

Trying to be perfect is impossible. It’s a recipe for frustration. Let yourself deliberately cheat, not too much, but just enough.

Along the Way

James_Bond_Scotland_F

”If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained.” – Neil Gaiman

Last monday, I finally had the chance see Spectre. I was astonished at how the critics were brutal with that movie. It’s a step down from Skyfall and Casino Royale, I admit it. But, it’s not worse than Quantum of Solace. When I look at the big picture, I remember the Pierce Brosnan’s years. Die Another Day is still a nightmare I want to forget. Spectre is a league above that movie. People forget fast, the James Bond’s franchise was down the sinkhole 10 years ago.

My goal here isn’t to talk about movies. I thought that the Bond’s example was perfect to make my point. Progression will never be linear. In whatever you’ll do, you will hit obstacles, plateaus and you will have set backs. The idea that your progression must be a straight line going upward on and on is simply not real life. A multitude of factors will always influence your performance. You can hit 70 push-ups as a record, but it doesn’t mean you’ll be at 80 next month. It’s possible that you’ll go back down at 63, before going back up again. The idea is that you keep doing it, keep trying.

You cannot have your best day everyday. It’s the same for the Bond movies. The next will probably be better. In the end, we must look at the big picture. Can we see a global improvement? That’s the real question that must be answer. The only way to make that question relevant is to at least attempt something.

How to (Really) Read a Book

36278d9a979b4678a177c1594f9353da

A good book deserves an active reading. The activity of reading does not stop with the work of understanding what a book says. It must be completed by the work of criticism, the work of judging. The undemanding reader fails to satisfy this requirement, probably even more than he fails to analyze and interpret. He not only makes no effort to understand; he also dismisses a book simply by putting it aside and forgetting it. Worse than faintly praising it, he damns it by giving it no critical consideration whatever.Mortimer J. Adler

This is the logical follow-up How to Read 50 Books in a Year. Reading a book doesn’t finish with the last page. Far from it. Work needs to be done afterward. That is in my opinion the most important part of reading a book. That will be the make or break in what you’ll get out of the book. Really reading a book means to be an active reader. If you go from point A to Z without any work, chances are that you will forget 99% of the book in a year. Here are some thoughts about my reading process.

*I’m active during my reading. That mean I highlight things of interest. It can be interesting quotes, stuff to apply in my daily life, interesting resources (books, movies, authors, music, etc.) or just interesting facts. In other words, highlight everything you find interesting. I don’t hesitate to write ideas or comments inside my books. They are my personal working tools. They aren’t meant to stay blank. You will read at a slower pace. That’s fine, it’s not a race. No need to rush.

*Once the reading is done, I write a summary of the book in Evernote. You can use whatever tools you want for that. I used to have a desktop folder with summary written in Word documents. To each is own way. You could write them on paper sheet if you want. In the summary, I’ll write about: the author, the subject/themes, what I thought about the book (make a critic of it), what I learned and whatever ideas that comes to my mind.

*After that, I will transcribe all book notes (things that we’re highlighted) after the summary. I’ll usually keep the most important stuff. I think notes should be well-organized for a later consultation. Dividing by chapters is probably the easiest way. Writing all your notes will boost the retention of what you just read. It can be a long process, but you’ll get use to it with time.

*As you can see, Fiction don’t follow the same pattern. I won’t use the summary/notes organization. I will start by saying what I thought about the book. Then, I will make a longer summary with quotes here and there if the book is like Game of Thrones or Dune. What I mean is that the book main point is to tell a story. The other option is to write you summary around the themes of the books. Here I’m thinking about Fight Club. Sometimes, you’ll have book that fall in between.

*The way you do your summary is personal. The important point is to do it. The way of doing will differ from person to another. Some people will keeps pages and pages of notes. Others will prefer the one page rule. It’s up to you. You can write on computer or by hand. You can use tables, images, whatever you want. The idea is to make it useful. For example, for my summary of The Borgias, I’ve included a map of Italy in 1492.

*I would suggest to keep a task list (if you read a non-fiction) when you are transcribing your notes. It’s a good way to make things you learn actionable. By doing that, you’ll commit to apply what you learn it the real world.

*I keep a system to check at least 1 or 2 old summaries/notes every week. That point is very important. You need to go back to your notes once in a while. It’s interesting to add new thoughts to your book notes after a year. You’ll see things differently each time you’ll return to it. I suggest adding new comments each time to make it a perpetual work.

I would rather read 20 books in a year with an active reading mindset than 100 in a passive reading way. I believe reading is an activity to make us grow. Making the most out of it make sense. See it as your personal school. You need to do your homeworks if you want a good grade. It’s the same for books. You need to do the work if you want to get the most values out of them.

How to Read 50 Books in a Year

tumblr_nio0d5Akx71u00ab8o1_500

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” George R.R. Martin

I never thought that one day I could have a “realist” goal of reading 50 books in a year. This is happening now. I’ve been asked by a few people how I read that much (I don’t think 50 is a lot, when some people a reading a hundred in a year). I don’t use fast reading techniques. You won’t find any hacks or shortcuts below. I’m actually a slow reader. I think anyone can do it with the proper mindset. Here are a bunch of ideas that could help you boost your reading in the next year.

*The first thing you should do is to make reading a priority. You probably watch TV for a few hours every week, play video games or browse internet (Facebook, Reddit, etc.). Instead of doing these activities, make reading your default option. I’m not saying don’t watch TV at all, but you can surely be creative and make more time for reading.

*One thing I do that help a lot is taking reading appointments. Whenever I have free time during the week, I’ll plug a 2-3 hours of reading in Google Calendar. Doing that will make you commit to do it. An other option would be to make a habit out of it, like reading 40 pages everyday. I don’t use that option because my days are never equal. But, I can see how it’s a great way to read much more.

*I suggest that you either always carry a book with you or one on Kindle (iPhone/Android). Dead times are underestimated. You easily lose few hours every week doing nothing. Read when waiting in line at the grocery stores, between gym sets, when waiting for meetings, in the metro or at any other dead times.

*I personally read 2 books at the same time. Usually 1 fiction and 1 non-fiction. Why am I doing that? Sometimes you won’t feel like reading a certain book. When you are tired, it will be way easier to read a fiction for example. You increase your chance of wanting to read something.

*It’s important to read stuff you like. If you don’t like what you’re reading, chances are that you will stop right at the middle. If you don’t like it, throw it away. As simple as that.

*I would say that one of the most important thing is to have a goal. Not aiming for an objective will make you fail. I know that I have to read 50 books before the end of the year and the goal is clearly inside my head. I track my progress and list each book I’m reading. I use a countdown to see where I’m at. It’s useful because you’ll know when you’ll have to read more. It’s just like project management, the closer you get to the deadline, the more time/effort you’ll put into your work.

*I think focus is mandatory. You need to make your reading a fun and relax activity. I usually make myself a coffee during the day or an herbal tea in the evening. Put your cell away. The last thing you want to do is check it every 2 minutes. And every time you stop, you’ll need to get your concentration back. I don’t use music when I’m reading, but some people like classical music.

Don’t know where to start? I did a bunch of book reviews if you need some inspiration: Moneyball, You Are Now Less Dumb, Steal Like an Artist, The Dip, 7 Years in Tibet, The Old Man and the Sea and Appalachian Trials.