As 2013 draws to a close we wanted to collect together all the articles from last year that were both our personal favorites and the favorites of our readers. We think that every year the most important thing you can do is be a little bit better that year than you were the previous, so hopefully these will give you a head start on 2014. Chronological order is boring, so they aren’t sorted in any particular order.
Speaking a language is a skill. Like any other skill, if you really want to get good at it then it’s going to require practice. For languages that means lots of time talking, meeting new people, socializing, getting out there and making mistakes. If you’re an extrovert that all sounds great.
But if you’re an introvert – that’s terrifying.
Introverts and extroverts just don’t function the same as each other. As a result, trying to force an introvert to study like an extrovert or vice versa is never going to work as well as finding a learning style that’s tailored to how that person learns best.
Thankfully if you’re on the introverted side of things, all is not lost.
If you’re just starting out on the journey to change your health for the better – whether by shedding excess fat, gaining muscle or both – or have already begun but not found any success, the sheer volume of information out there on what to do can be staggering and contradictory. This is particularly frustrating when you don’t have any good way to sort out the good advice from the bad. We decided to help take some of that confusion away by condensing our tested and proven methods into one easy to digest guide.
This is a guide to our philosophy for attaining epic health and fitness. Everyone should be healthy and fit, and everyone can do it.
There’s something about sleep and sleep optimization that seems to captivate people in the productivity and lifestyle design communities. I suspect it’s mostly because people who are deep into lifestyle design also tend to be fairly ambitious and, as a result, the thought of spending less time asleep and having more time to accomplish things is tantalizing.
Our very first experiment in fact was with trying to switch to a polyphasic sleep schedule. I called it a success at the time, but I recognize now it was a failure.
I’ve not abandoned my interest in optimizing sleep though, and since then over time I accumulated a collection of methods for optimizing sleep that are backed not only by my own personal experiences, but more importantly by actual research.
Are you stressed out?
I know, I know – stupid question. Everyone’s stressed out. It’s just a condition of modern life. We all have pressure from work, family, finances, health concerns and a million other things. There aren’t really many good options for escaping it.
The problem is being stressed out all the time can literally kill you or at least set in motion changes that can bring about a much earlier demise than would have otherwise been in your future. Health problems ranging from heart disease to diabetes to acne can be caused or exacerbated by being too stressed out, and if you’re trying to lose weight the cortisol it floods your system with will make things exponentially more difficult for you. Being stressed is serious business.
So what can we do about it?
It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t read or at least heard of the popular novel, Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. At the time Verne was one of the most popular authors alive, and the book inspired people to travel and adventure and much debate arose questioning whether or not it was in fact possible to travel around the world in 80 days.
The story of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s competition is an obscure but fascinating tale within which are lessons I think are as amazing as they are important. Which is why I’m sharing with you a brief summary of their story and some of the amazing lessons I’ve learned from it.
For a lot of people, work sucks.
It’s built right into our cultural perceptions and usage of the word. When there’s something you don’t want to do, or something that’ll be difficult and unpleasant what do we tend to say – that’ll be a lot of work. Clearly ‘work’ as a concept tends to have some pretty negative connotations.
That doesn’t have to be the case though and, personally, I think the world would be a better place if we could correct this issue. Work can be fun, enjoyable and positive. You can love your work again, or at least change your work to make it something you love by using a single principle as your guiding compass.
Pull ups are easily one of, if not the, most psychologically intimidating exercises for people who are just starting out.
There is hope though. I have gone from being completely unable to do a single pull up to currently doing multiple sets of them with additional weight hanging off of me and you can do the exact same thing. All you have to do is follow these easy progressions and you’ll be rocking out pull ups in no time.
I’ve heard it since I was little – Chinese is THE hardest language in the world! Back then before I knew anything about the language I would stare at the beautiful characters and wonder, exactly what makes it so hard to learn Chinese? It wasn’t until I got much older and decided to tackle learning the language that I have come to think that not only is Chinese not the hardest language to learn, but that I think the reason why people say it is is because of a fear of something different.
This is not to say that learning a language is easy – all languages require that you give time, dedication, a lot of hard work and effort in learning and practice and even to go out of your comfort zone regularly. However, I disagree that Chinese is any harder than any other language.
Timid people don’t make history.
Timid people back down when they’re faced with a challenge. Successful people are the bold ones, the ones who go all in and understand that the only two ways to truly be defeated are to quit or to die.
Xiang Yu knew this was true as early as 208 B.C. When his small army crossed the Yellow River to reinforce Julu (an area that’s now the city of Xingtai in Heibei province) he found his 50,000 men faced by a Qin army of 400,000 soldiers. Knowing that his men would have to fight their hardest to defeat an army that outnumbered them so badly he ordered them to save three days worth of food, destroy their kettles and cooking utensils and sink the boats they’d used to cross the river.
Out of just about every excuse in the world, the one I most despise is also the one I seem to hear most frequently – I don’t have time.
I don’t have time to learn a new language, I don’t have time to workout and get fit, I don’t have time to start a business, I don’t have time to do this or that or anything else.
Not only am I going to explain why it’s an inane excuse, I’m going to show you ways you can ‘find the time’ to do everything you could possibly want to do and more.
Henry David Thoreau, one of my favorite authors, once said “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after.”
I think this is an excellent reflection of the consumerism driven cycle most people get trapped in and then spend their entire lives fulfilling. Consumerism dominates modern life, at least here in the U.S. but I would wager throughout the developed world as well.
It’s a pervasive thing that really saturates our culture. That wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, except it almost always leads to an artificial and transient state of happiness that leaves people unfulfilled. In other words it tends to make life suck.
So how do we break out of the consumerist cycle?
In almost all situations the best way to reach the most beneficial option in a tough decision is solid, rational thought. There’s something to be said certainly for going with your gut at times, particularly in situations where an immediate decision is required to get you out of danger. For bigger less immediate decisions though taking a long objective look at things gives you the best vantage point from which to make the best decision.
The problem is, in a lot of ways our brains suck at rational, objective thought.
Thankfully we can fight their influence once we know what to look out for. Here are thirteen of the more common ones and some easy ways to counteract them.
It’s a fact of life – most people are busy.
You’ve got a full time job or school to worry about, possibly a family to take care of, and countless other responsibilities. Not everyone wants to spend their downtime studying either, you need a little time to relax and have fun too.
When you add all of that up, there isn’t always a lot of time left for learning a new language. If you’re living in a country that primarily speaks the language you’re learning it’s not as much of an obstacle, but not everyone has that luxury. Thankfully there are some tips and tactics you can use to get the most out of both the limited time you can dedicate to practice and all the downtime you’ve got throughout the day.
Now kick off 2014 to a great start and get on course to end next year even better than this one.
Photo Credit: RedJinn