Wired To Learn

nlclogoEver feel like you are far more capable than what society expects of you, even far more capable than your expectations of yourself? I know I do. Remember being a teenager, and school being less about a passion to learn and more about getting good grades. How many times did you sit in class bored and desperate to just get AWAY!!!

Every teenager in the world has felt that sometime in his teens and Albert Einstein acted on it. At just age 15, he was sitting in class and all of a sudden he decided that enough is enough and got up to walk right out the door. And HE NEVER WENT BACK.

“It is almost a miracle that modern teaching methods have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry” ~ Albert Einstein

Remember being a kid and just wanting to play around with stuff, pull things together, and knock things apart. To which the grown-ups were saying – No No No ! Or being called “GOOD” for sitting still and “NAUGHTY” when you couldn’t bear to sit still any longer. It is all well-intentioned of course but that doesn’t make it any less INSANE! Because the fact is that our capacity to inquire and learn knows no bounds and scientists have proved it by research as well. With the development of MRI scans in the last 25 areas, it has allowed scientists to observe which parts of our brain is used in different kinds of thinking. We now know infinitely more about how we learn and what makes up “HUMAN INTELLIGENCE” and its extraordinary.

So, want to know what we are really capable of?

Then read on, let’s start at the beginning.

A baby’s brain is amazing. It doesn’t take 9 months to create. It has taken 7 million years and more than 350,000 generations. All the skills, knowledge and talents cultivated by our ancestors are stored inside it. All of them are like numerous software programs which can only be activated by the baby engaging with its environment. Here is the striking thing – If not activated at the most appropriate time they simply disappear. Take language, if a child doesn’t hear language by around the age of 8 they may never learn to speak. So, you may begin to see just how vital our normal interactions are. They ignite our dormant intelligence and reinforce it too. There is something else; we have evolved to learn things by looking at things from different perspectives and making connections between different things and we do that by play. So wouldn’t it be amazing if we bore all this in mind when we are raising kids and letting them play when they are younger and older too?

In conversations with my one of my mentors, Glen Martin who is psychotherapist with decades of experience under his belt dealing with kids who have had all kinds of disorders stamped on them. I learnt that the human brain undergoes “pruning” successively at regular intervals of time while we grow up. Those areas of potential which go untapped only make it harder for us to work on later in our adult life. It’s not that we can’t do it later, it just gets more harder to do that. Yes, for some kids the medium of instruction is vital, for some the environment matters, but in general freedom to learn by doing and learning from play, failure being encouraged is what cuts across all kinds of learners and learning styles.

Charles Darwin’s teacher once remarked that “He’d never amount to much because he spent too much time looking at insects”. So let children play, because it’s never just play. Of course, it takes more time and energy to do this. But, when you are deciding where to focus resources for kids learning. You couldn’t do better than focusing during pre-puberty. That’s when we learn by copying the people around us. After the age of 12, it’s all about change. Say goodbye to sweet, pliable, innocent and easy child say Hello! to rebellious challenging teenager. Arrrgh! Many parents would go nuts when their kids begin freaking out in their teens. (Jokes apart). 😛 (Mine did as well)

Ah! Well. Let’s understand what is happening in that brain. Loads of the connections made during childhood are breaking up and re-forming. From 12 – 20 – the equivalent of a earthquake takes place in a young person’s brain. No more going along with what the grown-ups say. The adolescent brain needs to go it own way.

To this, Oh No! Say the parents. But,

Oh yes! Say evolutionary scientists.

Because if we hadn’t developed this urge to do things differently, we wouldn’t have made it this far. Up until about 60-70,000 years ago. It was okay for the children to grow up like their parents. But then came the ICE AGE. Thank goodness for the handful of our ancestors who chose to break away from their doomed parents freezing to death in their ancestral caves. They built rafts and set off across the ocean hoping to find warmer climate. Critically, this made risk-taking the essential feature of adolescence. We shouldn’t undermine it. We must learn to honor it for what it really is. The defining struggle, the moment when the next generation challenges the status quo and pioneers new ways of thinking and being that ensure our survival.

Just imagine if we actually gave adolescence the freedom to enjoy that struggle. Rather than forcing them to sit passively in class.  How about we begin trusting that their earlier clone like learning now will enable them to spread their wings and work things out for themselves. If this sounds terrifying, it needn’t be. Because if we allow their natural curiosity to flourish in childhood. They will be bursting with a longing to learn and climb unscaled mountains of the mind. That’s not scary, it’s fucking exhilarating! ( I can speak for myself here with a 100% gut conviction) \m/

This is the way we have evolved to be. It’s what makes us fulfilled well-adjusted human beings. Let’s stop trying to live in a way that so goes against how we are hard-wired to live. Let’s allow ourselves and our next generation to reclaim the gift of our ancestors. Adolescence isn’t a problem; it is but an opportunity that we are setting fire to everyday in most schools around the world. Personally, I don’t know if me being right-brained had anything to do with me breaking all the rules, getting in all sorts of trouble during my adolescence but it sure did build in me the heart to experiment things my way. Yes, there were a lot of beliefs that I had to bust and a lot of backtalk’s with parents, family that happened but it helped me find my own way and still am exploring it. Yes, sometimes it feels so unsure/ There have been days where I had to depend on some unknown force in the universe to get me through and things did work out but my contention is this.

I can summarize my process of learning as follows:

  • Observe
  • Copy / Imitate
  • Research
  • Practice
  • Vomit
  • Deconstruct
  • Craft
  • Voila! ( My own piece of genius) 😀

isn’t it about the adventure? Learning to learn, learning from failure, learning from everything around. This is a much better, fun filled path I’d choose any day than doing things the conventional way.

The Illusion called “Death”

Life….Death. What do we do when you lose a loved one? And I feel so many of us, we have lost someone, someone who has passed. For me, when I look at death. It’s really just a change of state. It’s nothing more nothing less. Essentially, for me there is only life, we are immortal. When I tell a lot of people, they go nuts. They retort, quite often –

What do you mean we are immortal?!

You are going to die as well!

To that I say yes, I’m going to die in a physical sense. Then again energy can’t be destroyed; it just gets transferred into something else. So many of us, even as a society we aren’t ready to talk about death. We don’t mention death on a dinner table. Even when I go to a funeral, it gets awkward – a lot of times before I had the feeling of not knowing what to say. I have had friends and relatives who have passed away during my journey that made me enquire this area deeply with me and my mentors. Sometimes I have even used the word “passed” which everybody does and I realized it’s often used with such a euphemism that a lot of us haven’t really come to terms with it. For me, death and life are so interconnected with each other. In essence, there is no separation really! Yet, there are so many of us that look at it with “eyes of duality”. If there is life, then there is supposed to be death.

DeathFor me, life and death are one and the same because essentially how do you even know you are alive? And this is something I have asked myself, and people say – Duh! You know because your heart is beating. But, essentially the answer comes only when we put it in our mind and start thinking and also deeply feel about it and discover it for ourselves. It’s everything that we put in our mind which tells us who we are. It’s the image that we have of ourselves, whether it’s our bank account or our name. All of these things are all coming to an end everyday! Yet, there is something that is eternal. That’s what I’m connected to. For me, I just realized that a lot of people are afraid of physical death as they are afraid to leave behind everything that they have worked for in this world (reality). The name, the cars, the status, the bank balance, the relationships and essentially what is going to be left is this impersonal energy.

Society is funny, because one way we are afraid of death. So many of us, we don’t talk about it. We celebrate life! Someone is born, say a child is born. Beautiful! Everyone is smiling, light just magically shines in all around us and we are all in a state of grace so to speak. On the flip-side, when someone dies we don’t even know what to do!

Essentially I realized that a lot of us, we aren’t even mature enough yet to talk about this transition which is taking place which is so fundamental. In essence, it’s the other part of birth. And a lot of times I look at it like – We are afraid of death as a society but at the same time we are involved in wars. We are the only species on the planet celebrating people dying on the silver screen, and at the same time, it’s one of these things because when we look at the elderly as well. A lot of people are fearful of death. But at the same time, many people live life like the show must go on and it must go on! And at the same time we don’t really realize…for me I had to realize that death is humanity’s shadow. And I myself had to merge with this shadow to realize that I’m timeless, I’m immortal. Essentially, I have been here not from the beginning because this whole concept of having a beginning and an end is again an idea; as in my mind there is no beginning and an end. The whole concept of time is really a human man-made invention and for a lot of us time is fear.

We celebrate birthdays in our society and there is nothing wrong with it as well. Essentially all of this leads us to count our own demise.

Hence, TIME = FEAR which = SCARCITY which helps us and keeps us in a perpetual state of survival.

Many of us are living our lives and at the same time we aren’t able to see that we are living in a transient universe and for me this has been something that I had to look in the mirror and tell myself. Wow! Isn’t this amazing! Even in the cosmetic industry, there are products that are out there to make you look young which again isn’t wrong in itself. What I feel though is that there is something that is so fearful in people and they aren’t going through this movement through life. For me, as co-creators on this planet, it doesn’t matter if I live 100 years or 500 years on this planet. It is again just a drop in the ocean when compared to the amount of time and space and eternity. It makes me realize the fragility and sacredness of life and also the fact that we are limitless beings.

Essentially, for me everything equates. Death equals everything how? Everyone is equal through death. Then again, death is just a change of state. I’m not afraid of death because I’m not afraid of life anymore.

Since the last couple of months, my journey has been of surrendering and dropping the sword. To see that there isn’t any battle to be fought. Death is just a big business and to see it etched in humanity’s mind that this is it! This is the end which makes me laugh at this indoctrination we have been infused with. It’s a virus that can be zapped just be recognizing it with our cognition. For a lot of us, we begin to worry that we can’t live past a hundred and twenty years which again is another set of B.S. code we have picked up in our programming from schools where we were crammed with facts. I’m wondering if this is also programmed into our DNA!  Because more and more I realize that with a cure, there is no profit and that’s why do really the host of pharmaceutical companies that keep pushing the limits on increasing longevity and wellness, do they really want people to live past a 120 years? This question cracks me up every single time! Then again, it is a frightening thought with all these people now who are realizing their greatness who now are beginning to see that we are transformers, we are timeless, we can live as long as we want. Even within this human body, a lot of us have just accepted this indoctrination that this is how we are going to age. It’s almost like we have been put under a spell of some sort.

Some cultures celebrate death. Certain African and South-American cultures embrace death. Why stop there! In West Indian funerals, I have read that people dance around and celebrate that person’s life. A lot of this really is based on our belief systems. It’s amazing just to see how such cultures view death. It’s not about being in fear of the unknown. This fear of the unknown in me surfaced when I was talking to Kiran (another mentor of mine) a month back and from then I have made the resolve to get to the bottom of this and this blog post is my experience of all my reflections since then.

Death is the unknown. It’s the grim reaper. Death is the shadow. It’s what lies behind closed doors which no one wants to see.  When I realized there is nothing to be afraid of and there is no battle, I realized that all of this is beyond human comprehension in terms of words anyways. It’s indescribable. Only silence can maybe get even close! But words, just forget about it!

There is a saying as well –

WORDS WERE CREATED TO HIDE THE TRUTH I love this sentence! Gives me goosebumps all the time.

All the words that we use to talk about death through words is only going to contaminate it. We just need to be silent. This is it!

As I see it, the universe uses everything in nature. It doesn’t waste anything in it. It will also do with our bodies what it needs to do. Whether it’s to create grass, trees or what have you. But, for me I have always seen that the universe is this impersonal energy. Nature is a transformer and we aren’t separate from that. In my mind, I know that I will be used for something else. For me, it’s empowering to know that and there is nothing wrong in talking about death. A lot of people don’t like to talk about death still there is death all around. As if by not talking about it it’s going to disappear.

A lot of people are dying all around us every single day. I believe most of us don’t have a holistic approach to death to realize that it is the incomprehensible. No one really knows why people die. Of course some people do certain things which lead to their death. I’m talking about the random things that happen, for me this shows me the infinite possibilities as it’s really incomprehensible. Sometimes, only in silence do I get most of my answers towards the mysteries of life as it speaks volumes. For me the body never lies, why don’t we become alchemists? There is no death in nature. There is always creation everywhere. For me, a part of being an alchemist is to always stay in a state of creation or co-creation. There is only transformation and immortality! Essentially there is only life in existence. I just see it like that! This is nature’s secret for me.

Just look at a garden, where is death? The flowers are continuously blossoming; there is only a change in state. Yes, a lot of people have lost loved ones! But, energy is never lost. Everyone is constantly undergoing continuous transformation like how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Some people have other ideas about death. Some people become very masochistic and say we are all going to die so let’s create as much havoc and pain as possible. All of these people have neglected their heart space. All of these people have shut down their hearts due to which they have become desensitized. When you can’t feel anything how can you be aware of what’s happening and this is what has happened to most of us.

So, while we are here, for me it’s about living in the moment. When we are in the moment, we aren’t aware of fear. When we aren’t in the past nor the future we are immortal we don’t have the illusion of death. Sometimes, I wonder if we created the internet to only find ourselves or maybe it is the way of the universe to make us realize who we are. A mentor of mine, Glen Martin who happens to be a psycho-therapist with decades of experience under his belt with whom I have most of my conscious conversations indirectly pointed this out to me. After our chat when I woke up the next day I had this stroke of insight, instead of allowing the pointer to point. We make the grave mistake of trying to understand the pointer and getting ourselves even more confused than before.

Why can’t we just develop the willingness to put aside all our education to know this place-less place and stay in touch with it? Maybe then we can see that the universe let’s us flirt with anything that we desire 🙂

The Live Full Die Empty Hack

Live Full Die Empty

Just few days back, my cousin passed away in one of the most unfortunate ways possible. Ever since that incident, I have come to look upon “DEATH” in a different way. This post is more of a way of living than a HACK per SE. I already began this way of living a few months back. Since, then things have never been the same. Deadlines at work don’t seem so serious, I often get things done without breaking a sweat about it. I have even noticed I complete work faster than I used to before.

I have always wondered, when do people truly live? In what moments do they truly express themselves? Is it by living a life connecting themselves to a higher purpose and a richer context? Is it when they set ambitious goals and have a burning desire to get something done that bugs them? Is it just living a life that’s full of love and inspiration? I found that there are many ways to live. Heck, one can even renounce everything they have and just live a spiritual life. I’m not here to argue semantics of which path is the best and to take sides. I’m making a case to put forth this notion of living every day as it is your last without having to prove anything to anybody and us getting everything that’s inside of us out there in the “WORLD”.

What we need most in this world, is not more SKILLS, not more SMARTS, not more STRATEGY, but US SHOWING UP!

In our LIVES, AT WORK, every place wherever we are. What we are should define what we do and not the other way round.

We have got it all wrong by believing that we can’t be that or come up with self defeating beliefs that creativity is this esoteric, elusive that only a select few among us are able to demonstrate. I believe everybody in this world has their own music that’s unique to them which their HEART craves to sing. We choose to follow other people’s songs while being oblivious to what’s inside of us.

Now, how might we go around chasing / developing / searching / nurturing this spark in us? I believe the answer to it will come from us building rituals in our lives. We all at some point in our lives have had these streaks of creative insights, yet we wonder how often can we tap into this seemingly limitless reserve that seems to elude most of us.

I believe 200% that by building rituals in our daily lives everyday, we can unearth this by building rituals around these areas (I call them the seeds of creativity)

  • SPACE
  • ENERGY
  • TIME
  • STIMULI
  • RELATIONSHIPS
  • FOCUS

Building practices in each of this space provide us an under-guiding infrastructure for our creative process and positions us for those moments when we have to be brilliant at a moment’s notice.

So the dirty secret is this:

IF WE NEED TO BE BRILLIANT AT A MOMENT’S NOTICE, WE NEED TO BEGIN UPSTREAM FAR UPSTREAM FROM THE MOMENT WE NEED A BRILLIANT IDEA. ~ Todd Henry

Often, I ask my MENTORS what are the times that they get KICKASS ideas and go into states of “FLOW” and what is their process and invariably if I have to nail down one word before which they get that next ground breaking idea it’s

                                      SPACE. 

Space to be themselves, space to get their creative modes on.

Space to give their complete attention to the present by silencing that voice in our heads that feeds us distractions like this:

Oh! What has my BOSS planned to shove down my throat next?

How much am I going to make this year?

To ignore this serpent’s voice as Mooji so beautifully points out is what we ought to be doing!

It’s this perpetual sense that something out there is more important than something that’s in front of us. The first seed – ENERGY. I think there is no such thing as time management. It’s only how best we manage our energy. And we are abysmal at it. At work, in schools, we have meetings after meetings, period after period after periods of dis-engaged learning that saps our being. We need to be good about pruning and in creating space in our lives for ideas to emerge. When we first learn how to manage our energy everything else falls into place.

Think about it for a moment – we are energy beings first. We are not our body, neither our mind nor our heart. A lot of the physical manifestations of health in our body are due to energy blocks in our bodies.

The second seed – TIME. At the end of the day, where we put over time determines our success or failure.  We choose to adopt an efficiency mindset versus an effectiveness mindset. I try to have the practice of unnecessary creating and you are reading it. For me, taking notes, researching and blogging about interesting stuff that pay me in no way monetarily (Yet!) gives me great satisfaction.

The question I ask myself is – When was the last time I made something that somebody wasn’t paying me to make?

Just play along with me –

Isn’t it an incredible way to spend your time inefficiently? 😀

Yes, I have got deadlines, my BOSS is waiting to breathe down my neck again starting tomorrow (Monday). I can just imagine the hindi song – “Khoon Choose Le” as it will resonate a lot with a lot of people who have heard that song.  But, I believe this practice gives me more space to be more creative at a moment’s notice.

Let’s get deeper –

You can ask me

Why do this?

Why build practices?

Just so that we can respond to emails faster…

I can’t stop myself but ask – Why don’t many of us we ask questions like – Why are we on this earth?

Why should anybody care if I disappeared off the face of this earth tomorrow?

What will my legacy be? What is my purpose and how might I align with the purpose of life that is spontaneously emerging in silence through me in my flow states?

Yes, If I disappeared today. My family might cry a little bit.

But…

What space do we occupy on this earth?

Have we really thought about this? – I always like to operate from a space where passion, life and spirituality come together!

The 3rd seed – STIMULI. It’s all about what we put in our head every single day. We spend all day watching soaps, YouTube not that there is anything wrong with that (But, it kind of is :-P). We snack on this diet all day long instead of finding experiences that nourish us to see the world in different ways. So what if, we have a life long study plan – to identify the things we are curious about and ask those questions to find ways to fill our lives with resources that help us pursue these deeper curiosities. Guess what, that’s where our mind want’s to go anyway! 🙂 What if we can become purposeful about our mental development. Isn’t this what the creative process comprises of?

The other seed of creativity – Relationships. The MYTH we have in our society is that of the LONE INNOVATOR. I think that there is no such thing and that’s just absurd even plain B.S. I think Innovation is more of a collective grasp for the next. As Steven Johnson says, we pursue the adjacent by getting more parts onto the table. I think we all can develop the art of asking powerful questions to a group of people like –

What are you working on?

What can we do to help you?

What inspires you?

These last three questions I have picked up from observing Akshay. So far, among all my mentors I haven’t seen anybody embody this as he does.

So, the last seed being FOCUS is really us developing the habit of asking the question on a monthly/daily/hourly basis – What am I really trying to do here? Until we get to the bottom of it on a consistent basis. I’m afraid none of us will go far in anything…..

Have we cared enough to build practices in our life that lets us explore such deeper aptitudes?

The reason is we live in a marketplace where everyone is chasing everybody else. We are always chasing the next. Everybody is trying to become the NEXT.

I ask – What is NEXT? Heck, when Steve Jobs passed away everybody had the debate on these lines:

Who is going to be the next Steve Jobs?

Maybe Elon Musk is coming close to him 🙂

A man who revolutionized multiple industries in a few decades. A genius who can never be replaced?

To this I wanted to say, I want to be the FIRST! Who cares about the NEXT?

I think this is a profoundly dis-interesting question and to do this I have to begin building a set of practices that gives me the capacity to explore my deeper aptitudes which is what I’m doing at one baby step at a time.

We each need to develop the capacity to find our unique gifts that we have to offer in this world.

I’ll leave you with a thought –

A few months ago, when I was traveling in Thailand, I sprung up a conversation with a fellow traveler who did so many amazing things in life for a living and he could see I was so amazed by his ability to do that and he popped a question to me

– What according to you is the most valuable land in the world?

Now, at that time I was thinking, Penthouse in Mumbai, Oil fields in the Middle East etc. To which he replied to me – it’s a GRAVEYARD. Because in there are buried all of the unwritten novels, unreconciled relationships, unlaunched businesses where people said –

I’LL GET TO THAT TOMORROW.

I’LL DO THAT TOMORROW.

AND….

ONE FINE DAY THEIR TOMORROW’S RAN OUT.

By this I don’t mean you pack up and keep doing everything in a hurry like there is no tomorrow. What I am inviting is you to completely devote yourself to a day according to what it is, the people you are around with, the impulse that is emerging through you through-out that day, honor it, live it while bleeding your purpose.

That day I didn’t give it much thought to it until recently, a dear friend and mentor of mine Kiran asked me a similar question, albeit in a different way. This incident just came to my head now while writing this post. I remember that day after talking to Kiran and after reading the book – Freedom From The Known by J. Krishnamurti, I had written in my TD (my transformation diary) this phrase –

LIVE FULL DIE EMPTY EVERY SINGLE DAY!

I think I will get this tattooed someday as well. \m/

At the end of the day today, I want to know that I have done everything in my power to empty myself of whatever’s in my head today, not tomorrow’s work but today’s work so I can lay my head down satisfied that I have done today’s work.

Because these practices have given me some amount of space to think about Why I’m here and to think Why I am doing what I am doing on a daily basis. My invitation, no scratch thatchallenge to you is to find your creative mandate that you have in the context of the society we live in, in the workplace to bring ourselves fully to what we do. Why can’t we treat our lives with purpose and structure so that someday when our tomorrow’s run out, we can say – we lived /died embodying our purpose and offering all our unique gifts that we only are destined to offer.

Hack on Speed Reading

Today, I just got back after giving a video interview to a friend of mine, Rishi who stays in Mumbai at his place and another friend of mine to whom I told about a speed reading online tool that I use regularly. I was talking about my journey and how I am currently practicing Behavior Design Consulting as a freelance consulting gig. I call it my night job. 🙂

I told him about how I used behavior design, psychology, cross platform learning to learn to speed read, getting fit, forming my own diet plan, accelerated learning etc he asked me a question on speed reading to which I didn’t have the time to explain properly. Well, now I decided to write it as a blog post.

What is Speed Reading?

That might seem obvious – of course speed reading is reading very quickly! But most people don’t know that there’s a simple way to go from being a slow reader to a lightning fast speed-reader: just force yourself to start reading faster.

Fact: You read slower than you actually can

Using behavior design, I managed to amp up my reading speed to 800 wpm. The average human can read comfortably at 125-250 wpm. I am still persisting to push it higher to get to 1200 wpm.

Kind of funny that way we treat learning a new skill isn’t it? First of all, many of us don’t want to learn a new skill at all & when we do we create all these barriers in our head.

Oh! What if it doesn’t work?

What if I look stupid?

I am 22 years old, I should know how to cook (-_-!)  And, yet once we commit to learning a new skill. What do we tend to do?

We tend to read a little bit, learn it on our own, maybe buy a 350 Rs. book and go through it all over by ourselves. I used to be this way too for sometime. I want to share a hack that I started practicing a year ago which maddeningly accelerated the way I learn new skills.

Any new skill that I pick, at first I do the basic research by myself. So, if I have to learn how to speed-read right? I start with a simple “Google Search” to get all the different models that are available out there and see what works best for me. Then, I’d find one expert in the field and ask how he learnt it and what did he use that I can replicate. Remember an expert can be any person whom you know through friends of friends or even through Facebook. People often get confused when we hear the term expert.

Most of my friends I speak too, they often remark: Man! I just don’t know any cool people like the ones that you do.

To this, I often tell them why don’t you just ask the person who is a bit better than you in the skill you wish to learn. Often, what I do is catch hold of the person who is a bit better at the skill I’d like to learn then get to this level and find the next expert who knows a little bit more.

So, when I did the basic research I found a lot of models that I tried then I heard about a tool called spreeder. Check it out. But, before you start using it. Read on ahead.

Speed Reading Let me explain the above diagram with a simple example. When you look at a fish. Unconsciously, what happens is before the image of the fish is formed in the head to recognize it as a fish. Our larynx in the throat processes that sound (FISH) even if you don’t speak it out loud and then the information is transformed into meaning in the brain.

So, lets take this below paragraph.

THE CAT CHASED AFTER THE MOUSE. THEY RAN AROUND TOWN ALL DAY LONG, AND NEVER STOPPED CHASING AFTER ONE ANOTHER.

Now, if you are able to read this whole sentence in a second while forming the mental picture. You are able to read at a speed of 1200 wpm. That means you can finish “The Catcher & The Rye” in 10 minutes. A normal person would be reading the above paragraph and form the image in 9-10 seconds.

By using the spreeder tool above. One can ask what about assimilation? At first, through the use of tool, one must remember that the focus of the task is not to understand what you have stuck in the tool. As you initially see at what pace you are comfortable with then set the speed at a speed that causes a slight strain for you to keep up.

As the brain is challenged to follow the words being flashed on the screen, you slowly begin to gain the ability to assimilate the information as well over time. Try it using my 1 month habit hack.

Once you have got over the step of following the paragraph and also forming the image rather than trying to keep up with the words. In time, you will notice that your reading for pleasure will be much more enjoyable because you are reading at an accelerated rate and as the tool challenges you consistently, you won’t notice any dazing off or slipping off.  😀

If you don’t like to use the spreeder tool. Then pick any paragraph in a book that you are reading or a book that you read already. Preferably which explains something visual and that’s easy to follow. Then while you are reading that paragraph just say to yourself these phrases – A-E-I-O-U or 1-2-3-4 (repeatedly) while reading it. Again, the goal here isn’t to comprehend but to read the words while training yourself to bypass the larynx.

Tips for Offline Speed Reading Practice

  • When reading chunks of words, note that the eye can actually span about four or five words on an average page. However, most readers don’t use their peripheral vision to see words at the ends of each line. To overcome this, “soften” your gaze when you read – by relaxing your face and expanding your gaze, you’ll begin to see blocks of words instead of seeing each word as distinct unit. As you get good at this, your eyes will skip faster and faster across the page. When you get close to the end of the line, let your peripheral vision take over to see the last set of words. This way you can quickly scan across and down to the next line.
  • When using your hand or finger to guide your eyes, start slowly, but at a challenging pace. Even if you don’t think you’re keeping up with your hand, keep going for a page or two and then test your comprehension. With practice, you’ll be able to move your hand and read faster that way.
  • The simpler the book/passage/letter is, the quicker it will be to comprehend. Start with simple ones, then move on to harder ones.
  • Take frequent breaks. Your comprehension and focus will be better if you take a five-minute break every hour or half-hour. Taking breaks is also important to keep your eyes healthy and avoid eye strain.
  • You may not want to read some things quickly, even if you can. Fiction for example, is usually relatively easy to read quickly, but you can miss out on a lot of the nuance and beauty of the fiction writer’s craft, even if you understand everything that’s going on in a story. The same is doubly true for poetry. If you’re reading for enjoyment, it may be best to savor the words.
  • An index card, bookmark, or other page-width item might help increase speed more than a finger. By obscuring surrounding text, a card prevents your eyes from wandering.
  • A great trick while using an index card is to put caret symbols (^) every inch along your index card. This helps to read groups of words rather than individual words. As you improve use a new card with the carets further apart so you read more words in each burst.
  • Start by reading a book or article that you have already read. It will be easier to skip words and keep up a smooth flow if you’re familiar with the material.

Let me know how it worked for you or if you used another hack that improved your learning to progress faster. I’m always on the lookout for boosters – the term I came up with for any activity that can further accelerate any skill that I have learnt until now or see how can I combine a new booster with another skill.

How Memory Works

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Last month, when I was in Bangalore. I was chatting up with Nishant – a good friend of mine who happens to be an undergrad at Stanford. He was the one who introduced me to Behavior Design in the first place 2 years back since then It’s become an obsession of mine. Only after he told me that whatever I used to do in my daily life was Behavior Design in essence, was when I began to explore the topic it was like I stumbled upon something so amazing. I never really liked to memorize stuff and never did in school as well. I used to make-up all sorts of perverted connections to topics and still manage to get A’s and B’s throughout school and college. Even for the subjects I hated! 😛

So when Nishant introduced me to this area, I suddenly had all sorts of terms to understand the science of it.  Since, then Behavior Change has been an area I’m passionately curious about to see to what extent can I use it in all areas of my life. You can see, I often get sidetracked when I begin to talk about how my tryst with Behavior Design started.

Dr. William C. Dement, who is widely regarded as the father of sleep medicine and the leading authority on sleep and sleep disorders. Nishant began to explain in one of our “What have you been up to” talks that we have whenever he is back in India during his summer / winter breaks. You can read more about him and his research here.

I bring about sleep into the discussion here because generally people believe in staying up hours or even days before the exams. Even I have done it before and it is not at all rewarding. I have had better success when I changed this strategy drastically during my final year in college. I scored better marks without burning out. The whole practice of Behavior Design is to sustain tiny habits for a long time and forming a system that doesn’t let you fail. Humans have a funny idea about willing it through the home stretch as some of my friends who term the last week rush during exams. Willpower fails 90% of the time. It’s much more efficient and easy to develop a better habit to learn by forming connections. Even on the days during before exams, I sometimes slept for close to 8 hrs a day.

Anything that can be learned falls broadly into two categories: things you need to understand intellectually, and skills you need to be able to perform. Most things you want to learn involve a mix of the two. Programming is both theory and practice. Math involves an understanding of the ideas, but requires rigorous dedication to the method. There is business theory and business savvy. The list goes on.

Memory happens in 3 steps –

1> Encoding:– Once we come in contact with information to be remembered our brains develop a “code,” which becomes a record of the experience. Our memory can be affected at this stage if the information is not coded in a way that makes it easy to recall when needed. For example, we may recognize someone in the office where we work, but outside of that environment we may have difficulty in recognizing him or her. This is because the face was coded in association with work and outside of that coding strategy the memory is not recognizable. We lose the context of the memory that is guided by our semantic memory system.

2> Storage:– This is the ability to hold and effectively store a memory. Rehearsal is one of the most important factors involved in retaining the information that we’ve been exposed to. Problems in this stage of memory often occur due to a lack of rehearsal.

3> Retrieval:– This refers to the ability to recall the memory needed. Once the information is successfully stored, it must be retrievable in order to be useful. For information to be retrieved, it first must be stored effectively. Once effectively stored, cues and reminders can help us then retrieve the information.

Remembering that you need to pick up milk before coming home can easily be forgotten as you go through your daily routine. As you drive home and see a convenience store your memory is jogged and you remember the errand. Often it seems as if we have forgotten something even though it was successfully stored. We simply need help in retrieving the memory; we have to remember to recall.

The importance of paying attention to detail cannot be overemphasized. If we become bogged down with too much information and preoccupied with the stress of our daily routine it becomes increasingly more difficult to remember the things we need for later. That’s why relaxation is such an important component to develop effective memory. It is much more difficult to remember things if we add an emotional component of anxiety or depression. Also, it’s important to use any tricks or tools that seem to help you. This is exactly the reason why learning never works if one tries to cram stuff into their heads 24 hours before an exam.

So when your dad or mom says I have trouble remembering where I left the house-keys or I can’t remember so many phone numbers. It’s not that they can’t do it. The process that they usually follow (The Step 1) is often not effective. So after placing the car/house-keys next to the TV. It often helps to tell yourself before doing another task or to someone else next to you that “I have placed the keys next to the TV” but then again very few people have an awareness to do little things like that in a relaxed state before getting with another task. 

A Simple Framework To Learning Anything (30 Day Hack)

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I have always wondered what happens to our brain while we sleep and is it at all required for us to have a specified amount of time to sleep/day. Turns out sleep is related to making better decisions and also helps us to figure out solutions to challenges that we haven’t figured out during the day.

When I gave it a thought over a night’s sleep often, I too realized while learning about a major skill over a period of time. I have had the habit of breaking it up into micro steps and usually spreading it out into a 1 month routine. At the end of the each week, I’d compare my progress with the takeaway’s I had decided upon at the start of the week for that skill.

Plus I’d follow Jerry “Don’t Break The Chain” system for anything that I’m learning.

This is based upon a motivation technique used by Jerry Seinfeld.

The Short Version:

  1. Pick a goal.
  2. Mark off the days (preferably with a red “X”) on which you work toward that goal.
  3. Use your chain of marked off days as a motivator

The whole idea for me is to continue this chain till I reached every week’s takeaway. Any skill that I want to learn rapidly. I usually list out a 30 day routine with specific micro steps and weekly revisions.

To pump it up a notch also place a practice called “Little Bets”. I usually pick a friend of mine to hold myself accountable every-week and Sunday’s also happen to be those days I treat myself to a drink or a full blown ravishing meal and I leave the cash for it with my friend. Unless, I hit my weekly takeaways for the skill. I don’t get the big win at the end of the week. If I don’t make it, my friend gets to take that Little Bet as his own.

This way I try to find a balance to have a good mix of extrinsic & intrinsic motivation by having weekly Little Bets.

Now since I have laid down the Behavior Design hack of rapid-skill learning. (Note:– This can be applied to any task that you pick) – I guess you could term it as a productivity hack as well. I usually stick to 5-6 hours of sleep everyday.

Not convinced? May be it’s a good idea for you to sleep over it.

 

[First Post] A Healthy Mix of Self-Delusion & Realism

Hmm…my first blog post and I don’t even have any clue where I should start from. I have been pondering for the last 2 years about keeping my research online whether that’s related to Behavior Design or Gamification or Cross-Platform Learning or Hacking Skills. After having accumulated a lot of personal journals (things that I have tested repeatedly) and having written so much, I just didn’t know where to start from.

Finally, I asked myself. Was I too afraid of being judged or ridiculed by random people who could read and comment on the all the things that I have tried so far?

Maybe…but even so I began to dig deeper only to realize it was my inner voice in my head that made these fictions and even showed them as terrifying screenplays in the form of horror movies of how terribly my blog posts would be received. Finally today, I decided it’s time to slay the elephant in the room. Since, I have so much to share…I’m going to use multiple tags+categories to pen thoughts on each area that I have worked on with the main source being that of the random thoughts & observations that I happen to make / notice / stumble upon every passing day on different topics. I have always been fascinated by different models and theories and anything that piques my curiosity I dig deeper to explore that area.

Today, I was thinking on these lines….

Sometimes I often find tricking my mind helps to get things I have to get done when I don’t feel like it. Say, when I got to write my journal to piece together things for the book I’m writing.

In the mornings I usually have thoughts like these –

Bah!!! I can’t think of anything to write

waaa! Today isn’t the day for me to write, exercise, finish the book that I have been postponing for a long time. It can be practicing the skill that you are working on for a long time.

If you find yourself to be upset about something…force your face into a smile, you will be happier. Sounds creepy…but it works. Your physiology controls your emotions. Change your state and get to the emotion you need to do what you need to do. 😛

For writing, My Hack? –> Just start typing, it doesn’t matter what. Just the trigger to notice I need to write and the action to start typing about things that are happening around you and you doing what you are doing / things you notice…

That glorious dump you just took a while back, about the creepy prank that you think you could try on one of your friends, I’d write…here I am drinking my lemon green tea or even that crow gawking at me from the window.

Eventually I built up enough momentum that my sentences become semi-coherent. I could just delete the first twenty minutes of babble.

One big caveat: I think one can do much better with a healthy mix of self-delusion and realism. I try to find this blend in myself (mornings are for undeserved optimism, and nights for realism)

And it helps if I make the desired behavior and target as small as possible…each day just write 1000 words not more not less, and during those days you have epiphanies…just let it flow.

And now I get back to work on my next 1000 words for the book. I’m acting as if it will be a huge, massive, crash-the-Amazon-server hit.