Practice is the process to mastery. But not all practice is created equal.
Deliberate practice, a term popularized by Cal Newport of Study Hacks, is the process of using uncomfortable, stretching practice to expand your abilities.
It’s easy to pick up the guitar and play the song that you’ve mastered and have been playing for years. It’s easy to cook the dishes that you’ve been cooking since you were twelve.
But in order to improve a skill, practicing must include what is foreign and unfamiliar. That’s exactly what top performers of various practices have in common, that they are always challenging themselves to do the uncomfortable in order to learn and grow.
Learning a new skill will always be uncomfortable and foreign, but improving a skill that you have already learned requires making the decision to challenge yourself beyond what you are already capable of doing.
Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, but practice makes permanent. Therefore, what you practice determines what you become comfortable with.
Creativity is not a quantifiable attribute.
The very definition of creativity is that it transcends quantity, making it a very real yet also mystical attribute.
We live in a world where metrics is becoming more and more prevalent. Everything is measurable. In fact, metrics are invading the personal space of our lives. “Quantified self” is a movement that does exactly that. According to Wikipedia,
The Quantified Self is a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person’s daily life in terms of inputs (e.g. food consumed, quality of surrounding air), states (e.g. mood, arousal, blood oxygen levels), and performance (mental and physical). Such self-monitoring and self-sensing, which combines wearable sensors (EEG, ECG, video, etc.) and wearable computing, is also known as lifelogging. Other names for using self-tracking data to improve daily functioning are “self-tracking”, “auto-analytics”, “body hacking” and “self-quantifying”.
Do metrics in our daily lives help us become better people or are we turning into robots?
In his state of the union address, Obama talked about statistics of the United States, bringing up numbers to illustrate the large scale impact while using anecdotes to bring human connection and emotion into the picture.
The amount of statistics that we have access to today is far more vast than anything we have ever seen before.
But as we’ve seen, basing things off of statistics can greatly limit creativity. Basing education off of standardized tests have caused the quality of education, specifically the ability for students to be creative, to tank.
I’ve always been an advocate for productivity, generating results, and making a significant difference, but I’ve also written extensively about creativity. I don’t believe that the two are mutually exclusive.
Being able to innovate a creative solution is only half the battle. The other half lies in the execution. The two are very different lines of thinking, but they go hand in hand in order to bring something off the ground.
Don’t let statistics get in the way of your creativity, but don’t be afraid of using statistics to improve your game.
Human behavior is oftentimes nothing more than a collection of habits.
Whether it be everyday routines or reactions in emergencies, the pattern of habit can ultimately explain most physical, emotional, and spiritual behaviors.
Waking up in the morning and brushing your teeth is a habit (maybe it isn’t for some people), so is your response when your roommate jumps on you to wake you up in the morning.
Habits can be formed or broken consciously or unconsciously. Habits form because the brain is always looking for ways to take shortcuts and save time and energy.
Gretchen Rubin explains it extremely well in this presentation at 99u.
The short answer is that everyone has different tendencies to build or break habits, and understanding yourself is an extremely powerful way to understanding where you belong.
If you’re interested in learning more, I’m giving away a copy of The Power of Habit this month!
Structure is a two edged sword.
On one hand, children are graded and organized long before they can ask the questions of why or how, putting them in a system of compliance that they most likely don’t understand. People are often raised up into structures without having a complete picture of the heart behind the structure or what the structure is for.
But on the other hand, structures can be used as a resource to help people move forward. Many of the organized movements that had the impact that they did was largely due to the organization and structure of the leaders.
The purpose of a structure is to support the goals of the people. When people, become servants of structure, people limit themselves. They aim too low and succeed.
I’m sure you’ve met people who have told you they want to be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. But if the profession is seen as the end, rather than the means, its easy to get caught in the rat race of serving structure. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be in a certain industry, but the value comes when you understand where your work is taking you.
Whenever people ask me what I want to do, I tell them that I do awesome. I tell them that I want to change the world and positively influence people’s lives. I tell them that I have a passion for connecting and communicating, and that technology is one of the mediums that I am learning to leverage.
Don’t serve structure. Allow it to serve you.
I love getting things done. I love the feeling of coming to the end of my day, and listing out all the things that I was able to accomplish in the last sixteen hours.
So when I wake up in the morning, without a clear plan for how I am going to spend my day, a little bit of me panics. Wasting time and being bored are two of the worst feelings for me.
I have a world to change, and I don’t have time to sit around passively waiting.
Reading The In-Between by Jeff Goins, Jeff talks about embracing the moments in between the exciting events, or the slow and boring times.
I’m a computer science student with big dreams. I want to create web and mobile applications, and offer my services of designing websites. This morning, I woke up with a couple projects on my mind that I wanted to finish, but I was desperately waiting on other people to finish their part. I spent about two hours writing code, and then decided that I couldn’t really make any more progress until my partner did his part.
I went downstairs, and I took a break. I sat on the couch, reflecting on my life, relationships, and education. I took some time to sit and reflect, casually played some guitar, and let myself just relax within the presence of the warm morning sun. I noticed how the sunlight was piercing through my bay window, creating rays that illuminated the dust in the air.
Until a thought popped into my head about getting things ready for my move back to school next week. Quickly, I scurried back upstairs in order to start putting things together, cleaning and organizing the things I had to move. Then I thought about my blog, and the next posts that I would write, and quickly opened my evernote to jot down my ideas. I began hustling through blogs, going through websites and reading all the new content on my favorite blogs. I checked Medium, Quora, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Twitter for any new updates.
Then my mom called me for lunch. I told myself to take a deep breath, and that I would go downstairs and enjoy lunch. That I would take it slow, and not be preoccupied with the things that I wanted to get done.
I had a nice conversation over lunch with my mom, which was quickly drowned out by thinking about the code I was writing for my web application.
“Daniel, calm down and rest, Listen to what Jeff is saying about embracing the moment.”
I spent the afternoon talking to a friend, reading a part of the Bible together and just taking it easy. Then I took a nap.
Going as fast as you can and being as productive as possible seems like such a essential and powerful mindset, especially for a college student in 2013. But through Jeff’s book and other mentors and friends in my life, I’ve been learning what it means to slow down and appreciate the moments that appear mundane and boring.
Through the events in my day bringing me back and forth between restlessness and restfulness, I realized the value of slowing down and being present in the moment. I had already been learning about rest for the last couple months or so, but I constantly found it and still find it difficult to rest sometimes.
One thing about rest that I am always reminded of is the creation story in the book of Genesis. Adam, being created on the sixth day, had the sabbath as the first day of his life. The very first day that Adam spent in the world was a day of rest. Nothing else mattered. He wasn’t forced to go to work tending the garden right away, because God was teaching him how to appreciate the in between times.
In designer’s terms, negative space refers to the space around and between the subject of an image or design element. It’s often the white or blank space that subtly adds meaning and significance to the positive space, or the subjects in focus. If the subject of your life are the big events, the negative space is the time and space in between such events. And the way that the negative space is presented drastically effects the appearance and quality of the subject.
Everything will try to fight for your time, whether it be friends, family, work, or hobbies, choosing to intentionally say no to certain activities will help you to create negative space in your life that will help you to be in the present, and focus on the things that you really care about.
It all sounds fine and dandy, but I’ve found three main questions to answer when thinking about slowing down.
- What really matters to me? and why does it matter?
- What am I doing right now that is distracting me from what really matters?
- What is the most significant or relevant thing that I should be focusing on right now?
The answers to these three questions will help you begin to process how to slow down by figuring out what really matters to you and what is worth your time.
There is value in the things that you fill your time with, but sometimes there is greater value in what you choose to not fill your time with.
I’ve always hated the distinction between introverts and extroverts because I never could identify with either side. The accepted school of thought is that a person is either one or the other, without any middle ground.
According to Myers Briggs, perhaps the most widely popular and accepted personality test, extroverts are action oriented, seek breadth of knowledge and influence, prefer frequent interaction, and get energy from spending time with people while introverts are thought oriented, seek depth of knowledge and influence, prefer more substantial interaction, and get their energy from spending time alone.
However, contrary to the binary choices provided by Myers Briggs, I’ve realized that extroversion/introversion is a spectrum, like a person’s height.
All of my life, I’ve had people (family, close friends, teachers, counselors) tell me different things. Some would say I was an introvert, and others would say that I was an extrovert. To different people I seemed to be different things.
After browsing the web and looking at a few more resources and doing some reflection, I came across a term called the ambivert, and finally felt understood by a personality test. I am very much an ambivert. There seems to be very little written about ambiverts, (Evernote isn’t even recognizing it as a word) so here are my thoughts.
Ambiverts sit on the spectrum of social interaction right in between the introverts and extroverts. Ambiverts love spending time with people, but get tired after spending too much time around people. Ambiverts are also very capable of doing things alone, but spending an entire day alone can suck them into a depressed, unproductive mood.
Ambiverts love interacting with people, but in a very purposeful way. Ambiverts can have extremely animated and interactive conversations, or mellow and meditative ones. Ambiverts will defend both their personal time as well as their social time.
Ambiverts process information best when they process internally and externally. Ambiverts need time and space to process things on their own, but they also need people who they can trust to process things with externally. In order for ambiverts to fully process information, they usually need both.
Ambiverts seek breadth of knowledge and influence, but dive deep when they are truly passionate. Ambiverts can be thought or action oriented, depending on the situation, but they are also oftentimes both.
The challenge for ambiverts is finding one thing to stick with. Because ambiverts do well socially and individually, it’s easy for an ambivert to become the jack of all trades, having knowledge in many different areas but not necessarily an expert an any of them.
Ambiverts tend to do well adapting to any situation that they are placed in, whether it be a loud social scene or a secluded environment.
However, no matter if you identify as an extrovert, introvert, or ambivert, don’t let a personality test define how you think about yourself. Figuring out how you work best for yourself is much more helpful than any test.
What do you think? Where would you put yourself on the spectrum?