Self-Improvement

How to Positively Control the Compound Effect

“Do the dishes” the voice in the back of his head whined. “There’s only a few, it will take less than five minutes.” But the voice was ignored. For two long, gloriously dish-washing free days, the voice was nothing more than background noise. Then the voice began to change tone, and ignoring it seemed less plausible. “Please clean this mess up. Those walls weren’t green a few days ago, and the ten scented candles aren’t putting a dent in the stench coming from the sink. It’s going to take forever to finish, so please get started now.”

While this is an extreme scenario, we’ve all been there. The fast release of dopamine we receive when we simply decide “I’ll do this later” is highly addictive. The result of this behavior however is not. Procrastination (or as I like to call it: negligence) leaves in it’s wake nothing more than giant problems. So why is it so hard for us to observe this and change our behavior over time? The main reason we tend to not notice the cause of these type of negative outcomes in our lives is because the compound effect takes time.

Most, if not all, sound investors that have made great deals of wealth from utilizing the compound effect have done so over the past 30 to 50 years. Most, if not all, famous athletes only become famous after having spent their entire youth on their respective sport. Even most, if not all, college students only receive an A in their course after putting 4 months of hard work into a class. The compound effect takes time to realize it’s full potential, and the majority of people aren’t able to accurately track its progress. This becomes a problem for people because in the same way it takes a long time for positive outcomes to become a reality, so does it usually take a long time for negative outcomes as well. Most, if not all, gamblers become buried in tremendous debt over the course of a few years of bad gambles. Most, if not all, college drop-outs only become so after having done poorly in their studies for at least a year. You get the idea. Because of this it’s hard for us to notice the huge impact such little negative decisions have on our lives. The good news is: change is possible.

Notice I said “possible” and not “easy” or “simple”. It’s important to realize early on that changing behaviors is inherently difficult for humans to do. So what can we do? Think of each action as a small part to a larger picture. Each positive action, minute of work, dollar invested instead of wasted, is an important piece to a grand final picture that can only be realized over time through the compound effect. A top-notch student never became that way overnight. The practices they have built into their lives are a result of years and years of discipline and good habits.

What I’m going to urge you to do is to get a notebook, any notebook. It can be printer paper stapled together, scrap paper taped together, It doesn’t matter. The important part is how you utilize it. Record in lists every positive thing you can think to do. From washing the dishes, to saving money instead of buying non-useful items, to telling someone you love that you love and appreciate them. Anything and everything you can think of that would have a positive impact on your life (or the lives of others within reason) should be written down as they come. The next step is simple: while you’re writing these ideas down each day of positive things to do, do them. Do as many as you can. Utilize your time to direct your life in a positive direction as much as you can. The compound effect works a hell of a lot better if there’s something there to compound over time, so give it your best shot. After all, it’s you and the people you love that will be getting all the rewards from these actions.

I’d like to recommend a book as a closing note called The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. While not too complicated (that’s a good thing!), this book illustrates what this blog post has been about quiet well and in a way that is easy to understand. The book flows easily and is a reasonably short read as well, which makes it easy to fit into your schedule. I hope that, if you should choose to read it, you’ll get as much out of it as I did! I’d also love to hear from those who read the book as to what they thought of it. Or, as always, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below if you’d like to discuss further the content found within my blog!

 

What is the Driving Force Towards Success and Happiness?

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The more I write for this blog, the more I wonder what is it that causes us to become more productive? What drives us to excel beyond our previous selves to achieve things we couldn’t before?

Dissatisfaction is a Huge Driving Force

I truly believe dissatisfaction is a large reason why we drive onward towards bettering ourselves. I am utterly dissatisfied in my failures at college, thus I have began to devote large amounts of time each day to altering my habits and self to become a more equipped person to go back and finish college. Most athletes are dissatisfied with their own performances to a degree that pushes them beyond themselves. They know they are not good enough, thus they put in the work to become better. That’s what drives their progress. I want to clarify though, that dissatisfaction has nothing to do with being unhappy about your life. It is simply looking at aspects of your life and realizing “I can do better”. This is a challenge for yourself, not a condemnation. When looked at in this way dissatisfaction is a driving force that pushes you forward, not a chain that holds you back.

Deciding What Exactly You Want to do Is Extremely Important

Do you want to be the master of something in your life? Good! In ten years you’ll be there if you put in work each day and strive for it. The trouble is, you can’t master 10 things at once.

This is what many people struggle with. They simply want to be great at too many things. You can be adequate at some things, and more likely will be average at best for most things, and you will only master a very small number of things in your life . Stop looking at that as if it’s a bad thing; it’s far from it. You have the potential to learn the absolute insides and out of something if you start today and stick with it. You can learn to master the guitar, become an excellent athlete, become a business mogul who makes millions, and so on. It’s all there for you, you just have to decide what you want and put in the work for it.

Every Minute You Waste, Is a Minute You Could Have Spent

Imagine if every hour you ever spent doing something trivial instead was spent on something you truly care about.

There are limitless possibilities on how you can productively spend your time. Reading books, learning a new language, programming, learning about scientific discoveries or concepts, learning about psychology and how the mind works; and these are all just within the realm of education. So each minute you spend sitting and doing nothing, is one you could’ve spent growing your mind or working on something else of productive value. You have the tools to change your habits and life for the better, use them!

So what is the force that drives us towards our goals? What is the path we can take to achieve what we’ve always wanted to? Most of us are dissatisfied with where we are in life right now (it’s human nature to not be content). Instead of wallowing in this feeling though, try to know what positive changes you want to occur to further yourself along towards your goal, and put in the work necessary each day, no matter how backbreaking it may be. You will most certainly grow yourself as a person this way, and in some beautifully orchestrated cases, you may even reach your initial goals. Regardless of that though, you will have progressed much further than you ever would have otherwise. This progress will bring with it a satisfaction unlike any other, and from this satisfaction you will ultimately derive; we are all truly capable of great things.

The Amazing, Infinitely Complex, and Powerful Fire Within You

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The human mind is far too amazing of a phenomenon to waste. Think of what your own mind is capable of. It can create infinite ideas, remember more information than most any computer out there, allow you to feel a wide range of senses as well as internal emotions and feelings, and so much more. Are you content to compromise the majority of your time to simply entertaining such an amazing mind, instead of using it and growing it even further?

I find myself these days spending a lot of time simply entertaining myself with various shows or foods or so on, instead of actually putting any mental effort into my daily routine. Because of this, I’m missing something very powerful within my life. You know that amazing feeling when you’ve spent all day studying something or excitedly reading a book, and you finally are able to sleep? Those truly are the nights where mankind most resembles rocks. Those are the moments we should seek out every day.

“Most people believe the mind to be a mirror, more or less accurately reflecting the world outside them, not realizing on the contrary that the mind is itself the principal element of creation.” ― Rabindranath Tagore

Try writing down 10 ideas right now. They can be about anything you want. They can resemble simple thoughts even, but should promote a line of deeper thoughts upon examining them again. These are now your creations. Are they 100% unheard of in that no one else has ever written similar ideas before? Probably not. Are they any less your own original creations? Absolutely not. You made them. Your mind took a spark, and made a small fire out of it. That fire flowed throughout your body and ran through your arm, down to your hand, which controlled a pen to mark your wonderful flame onto paper. A part of you now exists outside yourself. To me that’s a very beautiful thing.

For some, these flames grow into fires. These thoughts and ideas consume time like a wildfire consuming a dry brush. The landscape that is their mind becomes a consequence of this burning thought. For others, these flames are forgotten to the cold abyss of an absent mind. Granted, each idea cannot be allowed to grow uncontrolled. That’s how beautiful minds wind up confusing and overexerting themselves. But the feeling of being totally consumed by a project, like a child who just got a new toy and wants nothing more than to spend days playing with it, is an amazing thing. The mind deserves this feeling. We as humans deserve this feeling. You deserve this feeling, so go find what ignites a fire within you.

The Positive Effects of Cultivating Good Habits

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Like with any bad habit, healthy habits unfortunately require time to establish and maintain in your life. However, each new healthy habit you add into your life will have you feeling just a tiny bit better overall instead of worse. So how do you start cultivating a lifestyle that incorporates healthy habits? A good place to start, as with anything that takes time to create and maintain, is at the simplest possible place. We all would love to simply wake up (on time for once) to a to-do list filled with positive tasks and habits that will jet-set you straight into a healthier and more productive life. This however would not be the reality. In reality, we would wake up (late again?!) to a huge list of daunting tasks that seem like too much for us to handle. This would cause the obvious reaction of giving up on the idea altogether to opt out for the easy and quick fix of doing nothing (more sleep!).

Good habits are worth being fanatical about – John Irving

A better way to approach this change in lifestyle then, is to begin small. Add one or two small habits per week even that enhance your life in small ways. Brushing you teeth every night and morning, washing your face before bed, shaving regularly, eating healthy a healthy breakfast, exercising (more on that later), sleeping at a decent hour, or simply drinking more water are all examples of little habits you can start with. The important thing is that you do them continuously every day. Doing one small habit every day for a week is better than doing 10 small habits just one of the days of the week. After all, it’s not necessarily the habits themselves that we are after, but the ability to add good habits to you lifestyle over time and maintain them.

So where should you start?

I started with organizing my habits into a daily planner. A good app for this is the Fabulous app, developed at Duke University. This app follows the exact method I have described. It focuses on adding a few good habits at a time and asking that you complete them every day. It starts out prompting you to get a to-do list and maintain it (being organized is a great habit to get into after all), and goes onto simple things like getting a calendar and such. The biggest point to all this again, is that you maintain the habits. Do them every day to the best of your ability!

Once you get the hang of being able to consistently add good habits to your life and maintain them as you desire, its up to you where you go from there. If you’re a student you could try adding things like: getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night (we can dream, can’t we?), exercising to become fit, studying more, cultivating better study habits, and so on. It’s up to you at this point. The main focus should be deciding what you want to add to your life as a habit, and to begin doing it every day. Using an app to record and remind you of your habits, even if you’ve mastered your life, is always a good practice. Having a routine is a great way to lean towards a more successful and fulfilling life. Also, getting into the routine of adding positive habits to your life will allow you to build a daily routine that improves your productivity and lifestlye incredibly.

The Hidden Success Behind Every Failure

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It’s been almost half a year now since I first was told I would no longer be able to continue my studies at Berkeley due to poor grades. The news surprisingly didn’t effect me much at the time. I had made poor grades for the past two years; I had almost known since I got in that I was going to fail. Now, don’t get me wrong, I had wanted to go to Berkeley since I was 14, and I loved being there in many ways. I didn’t fail on purpose by any means. So why did I fail enough classes to ultimately be dismissed from the college? Here are the two main reasons I feel had a large part in why I was unable to succeed in my time at Berkeley:

Depression:
Well first off I’d like to thank genetics. Depression has run in my family for many generations, so I have a predisposition to develop it. After going in to the doctors for this very reason, I confirmed then, and have confirmed now, that I was most likely experiencing major depression during my two years at Berkeley. Having said that, it’s also important to know that simply knowing you have depression does not by any means make you well again magically. The process (as it was for me) is often a long process of trial and error with medications and various forms of therapy and counseling sessions to find what works. While this in itself is very time consuming and arduous, imagine attempting to do well in one of the hardest college programs around at the same time. That was my life.

Disorganization:
The second reason has close ties to the first, but I feel it deserves a bit of its own limelight. I was disorganized with every facet of my self. I was often late to appointments or classes, I had no real calendar that I kept so I would often forget important dates, I never knew what to focus on, I could rarely focus due to how disorganized my surrounding were, and my mental state was completely disorderly (yay depression!). So obviously there was one solution right? Get my shit together! Well, it’s not always that simple. The feelings of depression would put me in moods every now and then where I would give up on everything and recede into myself for up to a week. This is where much of my disorganization came from, as during these times I wouldn’t bother to organize any part of my life. So during the times where I realized what was wrong and why I was doing poorly I would attempt to organize, but it would never be enough. This leads me to the first of three things I learned by failing during my time at Berkeley.

Organization is a Constant Effort

What I mean by this is, organization requires you to make it a part of your everyday life to be effective. You can’t have one week where you organize everything, and the next you are in complete disarray, and expect to have a productive lifestyle. In my experience, it just doesn’t work that way. You spend more time organizing things you managed to mess up during the time you weren’t bothering, than you spend actually reaping the benefits or leading a well organized life. It’s like taking one step forward and two steps back towards a goal; you’ll simply never reach it. Which brings me to the second thing I learned.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

While this seems obvious, most people begin a journey with a set goal, only to lose sight of this once some time passes. Don’t get me wrong, altering your goals to better fit what you truly want in life is fine. People change! What I’m referring to here isn’t a simple change in a goal, I’m referring to losing sight of your goal entirely. This is what happened to me. I began questioning why I was working towards the end goal of graduating. Was it really what I wanted? The truth is, it was. I just had so many other things going on in my mind that weren’t beneficial to my health or well-being to be able to focus on myself in a positive way. My advice for myself looking back would have been: it doesn’t matter if you truly want to graduate or not right now! A large part of your life you’ve wanted to, and only recently have you begun doubting yourself about it! Just do it, put in the work, finish what you started, and if after it’s finished you decide you want to focus on something else, go for it. You’ll at least have the positive benefits from finishing your goal if you ever decide to go back to that area of focus. Which brings me to the third thing I learned.

Self Doubt Should Not Run Your Life

Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.” – William Shakespeare

This one seems obvious, but at the time I was consumed with the thought that I couldn’t accomplish what I wanted to accomplish. Operating off of self doubt doesn’t allow for progress, because you’re always doubting that you can move forward. I can’t emphasize enough how absolutely damaging this is to being able to achieve goals, and to a healthy lifestyle in general. Instead, fill your life with an “I can do it!” mentality. Even if you really can’t, and you end up failing, you learn more from the experience. You’ll be able to grow either way, whereas with a mentality of self doubt you would simply say “I knew it” when failure occurs, and sink deeper into thought that you can’t accomplish what you want to.

While I can’t say without a doubt that implementing these things I’ve learned would have guaranteed my getting a degree from Berkeley, I can say that I would have had much more success than I did. From now on I hope to foster these positive changes in my life so I can begin moving forward towards what I want to do in life. I plan on returning to Berkeley to finish my degree and hope that this new mindset, along with other positive changes, will help me to complete my studies there. I hope if you’re experiencing similar setbacks in life that this post helps you to begin to overcome them in some way. Let me know if you have any other advice, or how this advice helped you if it has, below in the comments section! 🙂