Inspiration Is Not Motivation

A few weeks ago I was asked to think about the things that inspires me. Now I can rattle off a million different things from the top of my head, but in the end many of them do not really inspire me. They just motivate me.

I feel like there is a strong difference between motivation and inspiration and many definitions get thrown around to define both of them. Personally I think of them as this:

Motivation is that temporarily feeling you have to get off your butt and work towards a goal.

Inspiration is that drive to put continuous effort towards achievements meaningful to you.

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Sure you may feel motivated when you watch that montage of the guy doing flips off a roof or seeing that Olympic athlete break another world record, but it’s never enough just to see the accomplishments to be continually driven to work towards them.

So what really inspires me?

Seeing the struggles of others working hard to achieve great things.

It’s seeing those people who keep trying even when it stops being fun . The ones that put in blood, sweat, and tears towards their dreams. The stories of those who try, fail, then get back up and try some more.

When you see the struggle it takes for others to master something it helps take off that skill-level barrier we put up between ourselves and the experts. Everyone who tries something for the first time will be bad at it. The ability to become good at something depends on how much you practice doing it.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress” ~Frederick Douglass

If you’re trying to land that back flip, learn a new skill, or lose weight. The important part is to never give up and just keep going.

So what inspires you?
How do you handle the struggle of learning something new/difficult?

Would love to hear from you in the comments!

Review: If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?

When I first picked up If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy? I was at a very stressful point in my life. I was in the midst of finishing up a contracted job that sent my life-work balance out of a loop.

I was feeling overworked, I felt unmotivated to do anything, and each day I was waking up with anxiety. I wouldn’t say I was miserable with my current situation, but I definitely wasn’t happy with it either.

I spent a good week taking a break from my routine and sitting down to read this book. Just a few short chapters in my eyes opened up to seeing a whole new perspective on life. When I finished reading I started really questioning if where I was going in life was really leading me down the road to happiness. After taking in the book’s material, and spending several months practicing its teachings, I can confidently say that I am happier than ever.

Every day has been a new day for progress, and I find myself making smarter decisions that lead me to a life of productivity and happiness. This is why I’m choosing If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy? as this month’s pick for my monthly productivity book review series. In this review I’ll be going over what this book is about, just what you’ll get from it, and who this book is best geared towards.

So What’s the Book About?

If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy is by author, Raj Raghunathan. Raj talks about how he has been studying successful people for many years while tracking their levels of self-esteem.

After years of collecting data, Raj found that as people get older and more successful, their self-esteem levels decrease. This results in a lot of people who’ve gained visible achievements(i.e. Promotions, nice houses, raises, etc;) feeling less fulfilled.

This lead Raj to trying to find the answer to the age-old question: Why are smarter and more successful people often less happy?

Who’s The Author?

Raj has a very rich background in education. After graduating from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science he went on to obtain his PhD in the Stern School of Business in New York.

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Raj later went on to teach higher learning where he currently is a Marketing professor at University of Texas, McCombs school of Business. Along with teaching business related courses Raj also teaches a course that expands on the material covered in this book. He Also offers all his course material for free, online, at Coursera.

Raj covers a broad category of fields to support his findings, some of which include: Behavior economics, neurosciences, behavior psychology, and more.

The Juicy Content

While the book has 17 has chapters total, 14 of these chapters are separated in their own unique habit-sin paired sections. Raj starts off each section with a deadly happiness sin. A happiness sin is essentially a widely believed concept that most of society believes leads to a happier life. Such sins include: Striving to be the best at something, chasing after love, and pursing activities leading to short-term happiness.

Each happiness sin is debunked by Raj using detailed scientific evidence on why the widely believed idea just doesn’t work.

One of these happiness sins, for example, is the idea of becoming superior at a skill. Whether you are dreaming to become the world’s best guitarist, a famous celebrity, or wealthy beyond belief; the biggest mistake people make is that they never have a clear idea of where the end point lies. Raj states:

“It’s not difficult-if not impossible- to come up with objective yardsticks for assessing one’s standing relative to others in almost any domain.”

He explains that these ‘proxy’ yard sticks we create are far too ambiguously defined to be used as a measurement for success. Since we are trying to be superior without a clear sense of what that means, a lot of us never achieve that idea of superiority.

Instead, Raj Suggest that we forgo the idea of superiority and pursue what is known as Flow. For those of you unfamiliar with flow, let’s go over a brief explanation of what flow is.

The Flow State, or “Flow”, was a concept theorized by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Mihaly defines Flow as a state of mind where you’re completely fixated at a task present to you. You may have experienced something similar to this before, like working on a project and losing track of time in which several hours passes by you in a much shorter amount of time. This, in general, is the idea of flow.

Raj breaks this down by stating there are three requirements for getting into flow:

  1. Find where your talents lie
  2. Figure out how your talent can benefit others
  3. Enjoy doing them

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The book delves more into the concept of flow as well as how you can get started with it, but for now we’ll move on to Raj’s main point for flow.

In Raj’s explanation of flow he touches upon how it’s ideal to find a job that can best lead you to this flow state consistently. A lot of people who realize they are not pursuing their idea pathways may be tempted to quit their jobs to pursue their passions. However, Raj argues that this is not the ideal path to go down. He explains that people often quit their jobs to pursue these ambitions will often lead to less happier lives.

Instead, Raj suggests to go at these ambitions slowly and organically. An example of what this means is say you want to own a scuba diving equipment store. Instead of immediately leaving your job and taking out a bank loan to open a shop, it would be better to follow this passion at a more gradual pace.

This can be done by volunteering somewhere that already rents out scuba diving equipment and work there an average of 4 hours a week. Not only will this give you a better idea of how the business works and earn both skills and familiarity with running a shop, but it also does not force you take on a risky investment. If you find out that owning a scuba diving rental shop is not your passion you have the opportunity to back out with no consequences.

Without giving too much of the book away, If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy? breaks down these happiness-sins in a similar fashion. Other ideas Raj discusses are:

  • Not feeling needy and valuing relationships
  • How to handle things that are out of your control
  • Why you should pursue your passion dispassionately
  • and more

All of these ideas are backed with various studies, personal examples from the author, and evidence from professionals in their respected fields.

Who Should Read This?

I personally feel that this a book that should be explored by everyone. A lot of what Raj touches upon are widely held beliefs most of society regards as true paths to happiness. However, these ideas tend to lead us down an unfulfilled path many people fall victim to.

Since reading this book I found that it has transformed my views on life. Whenever I do feel bummed out I am able to trace it back to one of the 7 Deadly Happiness Sins and quickly transform my disappointment into a state of mind that leads to productivity and happiness.

Final Thoughts?

Raj does an excellent job compacting a lot of research down to a 300 page, easy-to-read, book. Despite how foreign many of these fields were to me, Raj succeeds in explaining these concepts down to a simplistic manner.

This book is backed with very illustrated examples and well-documented studies to support Raj’s claims. I ended up learning a lot from this book and have to say that, after putting what I learned into practice for several months, I’ve noticed my life feels a lot more fulfilling.

To learn more about Raj and book you can visit Raj at his website, happysmarts.com or get your own copy of If You’re Smart Why Aren’t You Happy.

How To Make Impossibly Large Tasks Easy

Imagine what you want to complete if you had all the time in the world. Do you want to write the next American novel? Start your own multi-million dollar business? Climb Mt. Everest?

Heck, some of us may dream of playing guitar at a venue with thousands of adoring fans, but do not even know how to play a single note.

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Whatever that dream may be, for one reason or another, you are not doing it. There could be a lot of reasons why this is the case, and some may have very valid reasons, but for the vast majority we tend to have the same excuse:

“I don’t have enough time”

But that’s just the trap a lot of us fall victim to. We are all thinking of these dreams as one large task that has to be done in a short amount of time. This only causes us to be intimidated by our long-term goals and put them off all together. Instead, I want you to start doing this:

Don’t Think About The End Result

When Computer Programmer, Matt Cutts took the challenge of doing something new every 30-days there is one thing he started doing to take on the more difficult task of writing  a novel:

Matt points that that a typical novel is about 50,000 words total. That may seem pretty big at first glance, but when Matt broke it down he found that he could write a novel if he spends every day, for 30 days, writing just 1,667 words.

That’s what it really comes down to when finishing large projects. If you really want to get that project done stop thinking about doing it all at once and instead:

Do a little bit each day

If you want to run a marathon you don’t do it by going out and running 20 miles(32km) a day. You start off a training plan months in advance and run just a few short miles each day than gradually build yourself up to that full distance.

However, it’s not enough just to do a small bit each day. If you do not set-up some rules for yourself beforehand “Doing a little bit each day” can end up giving you as much benefit as opening up Microsoft Word than watching television the rest of the day. If you truly want to make your work meaningful you will need to something more.

Make It A Habit

When web developer, Alexandar Kallaway, really wanted to commit to being a better programmer he invented a challenge known as 100 Days of Code. His rule for this challenge was simple:

“I will code for at least an hour every day for the next 100 days.”

That’s it. It’s a challenge that floats up often in the programming community and there are thousands of people who take it up. The result? People who never even picked up a programming language before are now writing fully functional applications and frameworks in just over three months.

While this has good intention, for some of us, 1 hour of doing a task for 100 consecutive days may be a bit much. Kallaway sure thought the same. Which is why he made an updated version of the challenge. He included some new rules like including a taking a break. If you miss a day, that’s fine, instead of tapping out of the challenge you simply continue it like normal trying not to miss two days in a row.

This is really smart because it’s difficult to commit to 100 days of a habit when every day of our lives is not the exact same. That is why when we want to commit to this challenge, it’s crucial to do one important thing.

Make It Work For You

Before taking up this challenge(or something similar to it), do not dive head first into it by immediately doing an hour a day. Instead, start small than build your way up to it.

This means just starting out with committing to as little as 5 minutes a day. This gives you plenty of time to write that one sentence for your novel or to learn a new word in a foreign language. Even if it’s just a little bit of progress, it’s still progress.

As you feel more comfortable start moving your commitment to 10 minutes, than 20, than 30. When you are feeling perfectly comfortable with 30 minutes a day, don’t just move straight to 1 hour a day. Instead, break it down to 2 Promodo Sessions a day.

What that entails is breaking your tasks into 2 25-minute sessions followed by a 5-minute break. Remember it’s about breaking down the larger tasks into small, more manageable ones.

There are at least 24 hours in the day, 168 hours in a week, and 672 hours in a month. You only need to spend a small portion of that time each day working towards your goal to make a meaningful impact. Remember, when you want to achieve your goals it’s not about the destination, but the journey towards it.

Note: If you’re looking for a good Promodo application I would recommend looking into Be Focused, Goodtime, or Mariana Timer. All three of these tools are free to use.

The 3-D Ant: Seeing Things Differently

How many of us have ever been faced with a problem that we feel we just can’t resolve? Sometimes it seems like no matter how hard we push ourselves and how much work we put in it seems like we’re never closer to a solution.

I have definitely felt like this many of times before, and it wasn’t until I heard this inspirational tale about ants that I started to find a much quicker solution to my problems.

So pull up a chair and have a seat. I’m going tell you the tale of the 3-D ant.

The 3-D Ant

To start off this story imagine that you are an ant traveling in a straight line. You are only capable of traveling in 1 Dimension, forward and backwards. Now let’s say a stone was placed in front of your pathway. As a 1-D ant you can no longer move forward because of the stone in the way. As a result, the 1-D ant’s world must come to a close.

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Now an ant capable of traveling in 2 Dimensions-forward, backward, left, and right- comes along. He strays away from the line despite the 1-D ants protest, “You are suppose to stay on the line!”

“Who made up that rule?” replies the 2-D ant. The 2-D ant suggests to the others to simply going around the stone.  The 2-D ants are able to move past the stone and continue on wards.

After a while, the ants come across a wall that stretches endlessly in both directions. The ants are in trouble now, they are able to move forward, backward, left, and right but they cannot pass the wall. So marks the end of the 2-D ant’s world.

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That is when a 3-D ant-capable of traveling forward, backward, left, right, up, and down- comes along. The 3-D ant looks at the wall and says “Why not just climb it?”. And so, the 3-D ant climbs over the wall and sees the new world.

Moral

The point of this story is that when you see things from a new perspective you open the opportunity to find new solutions. If you are ever stuck on a problem, or faced with a seemingly impossible feat, try to look at how you can resolve that problem differently. You may be surprised by how easy that problem can become.

Note: This story is adapted from the series, Space Brothers. You can check out this series for free on Crunchyroll.

Review: Level Up Your Life By Steve Kamb

I first picked up Level Up Your Life from my Barnes and Noble section one autumn day. About two weeks later I was taking a trip to the Canadian Rockies hiking down the canyons of Alberta.

It’ll be easy to say that this book is the sole inspiration my adventurous attitude and start traveling more, but truth be told, it was not. Instead this book offered me a new perspective on life by thinking of everything more like a video game. If I wanted to take on the Quests of a Lifetime I need to first get out of my comfort zone and explore the land around me.

No longer was I associating my Impossible List as challenging items that build upon one another. Instead I think of them as Epic Quests that take me on an adventure through life’s many obstacles. It has made life’s adventure much more enjoyable and has helped change how I focus on goals.

That is why I am choosing Level Up Your Life to be the first of my monthly productivity book review series. In it I’ll be going over what this book is about, just what you’ll get from it, and who this book is best geared towards.

So What’s the Book About?

Level Up Your Life is written by fitness instructor, Steve Kamb. Steve takes ideas from nerd culture and combines them with productivity-building habits to create a more gamified perspective on life. Steve goes on to explore how you can transform your life to make you the hero of your own story. In this book you’ll find various life-building skills and ways to treat life’s various challenges like game-related Quests.

Who’s The Author?

Steve started out as another person living The American Dream, by earning his keep at a soul-crushing job day-in and day-out. Tired of living the life of sales, Steve quite his job and took up a career setting up for musical festivals for half the pay. During his time working his exciting new Job, Steve started to focus on blogging.

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Steve has set a name for himself in the online community. In addition to being the author of Level Up Your Life Steve is also the founder of Nerd Fitness, a self-improvement blog filled with various Health and Fitness guides.

Steve’s website started the community known as The Rebellion, which currently has over 100,000 Rebels inspired to take the challenge to change their lives for the better.

The Juicy Content

Before we dive too deep into this book let’s take a quick look at what Gamification is:

“Gamification is the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals.”  ~Gamification Wiki

There are quite a few popular business models that build themselves on gamification(e.g Habitica and Zombies Run!) and Level Up Your Life is certainly one of them.

Steve tends to use a lot of nerd culture references to illustrate just how easy it is to think of life as just one big video game. We are not just loners trying to battle out the difficulties life throws at us. Instead we are all characters striving to improve our Strength and Education skills that will help us on our Quests through life.

An awesome part about Level Up Your Life is that it doesn’t throw you into the water. Steve teaches you how to get into gamification from ground zero. As you familiarize yourself with these concepts you can move yourself up towards bettering your abilities and starting on quests. As the book puts it:

You don’t go from Level 1 to Level 50 right? You go from Level 1 to Level 2, to Level 3, and so on. There’s a very clear progression from Zero to Hero, from newbie to badass.

This is why the book goes into thorough detail on beginner level exercises for those new to fitness. As well as an in-depth guide to help you build your Epic Quest Of Awesome.

Level Up Your Life is formatted a bit differently than what you’d normally expect from a book. Steve himself is a blogger, and that becomes prevalent in his book’s formatting. Through use of spacing, formatting, and color coding, you will find that this book is going to be quite a quick read.

Who Should Read This?

This book is riddled with Sci-Fi, gaming, and other geek references that may be lost if you’re totally unfamiliar the culture. Due to this, it’s catered more towards the people who are striving to better themselves and enjoy geek culture.

If you love the idea of Gamification I would highly recommend this book. Steve presents his ideas in a way that screams passion. It’s really hard not to pick up this book and get a few laughs from it then putting it down feeling motivated to start questing.

Final Thoughts?

It’s no secret that I’m a lover of Gamification, so this book was a very enjoyable experience every page-turn. Even after reading this book I ended up transforming my Impossible List into my own Quest of Awesome. It’s hard to pick a part this book as it excels in its purpose. Level Up Your Life offers a breath of fresh air on self-improvement and offers detailed instructions on how to join what 100,000 other rebels have done.

If there’s anything I had to nitpick about this book it is the oddly placed formatting of the Meet The Rebel sections in each chapter. Very few of these sections fit nicely in the chapter and do not pop at you in the middle of a sentence. However, this is just a minor complaint.

After reading Level Up Your Life, it’s easy to see why so many people joined The Rebellion. I too felt inspired by Steve Kamb’s book and use his teachings towards my own life. So I guess you can also consider me part of The Rebellion.

For more information on Steve Kamb and Level Up Your Life you can check out his website at Nerd Fitness or buy the book here.

Epic Quest of Awesome

It’s Day 5 now since I started questing at Nerd Fitness Academy, and I have to say, the experience has been very fun so far. As I battle Bosses and Gain XP I am working each day to try to implement Steve Kamb’s Level Up Your Life ideals into my own.

This of course, means making my own Epic Quest of Awesome(Which, in short is a gamified bucket list). I have overlooked my Impossible List carefully and followed suit to separated each item into it’s own Quest Category.

Each Quest is worth 20 XP. After every 100XP is hit(or 5 Quests total) I gain a level. In addition to regular quests there are also Master Quests, extremely difficult quests that automatically level you up once you hit them.

The one tweak I’m making to my EQA draws from my Runescape-playing days, and color code the quests. Each Quests will be colored as such:

  • Quest Completed
  • Quest Started
  • Quest Not Started

Russ’ Epic Quest of Awesome

Below you will find a list of what I want to accomplish over the years. My Epic Quest is a progress and is subjected to change over time.

Completed Quests

Level 2

Level 1

North America Quests

  • Rock Climb Devil’s Tower
  • 50 points in 50 States(2/50)
  • Snow Board in Jasper, Canada
  • See an Aurora Borealis
  • Hike the Ice Age Trail(More Info.)
  • Strawberry Hill(More Info.)
  • Corn Palace(Morn Info.)
  • Travel to Canada

Central/South America Quests

  • Backflip on top of Macchu Picchu

Europe Quests

  • Paraglide in Chamonix Europe
  • Step foot in Sweden
  • Hot Air Balloon Ride in Sweden
  • Marcle Aches Cave(More Info.)

Africa Quests

  • Surf in Killer Point Mocorro

Far East Quests

  • Go to a Japaense Hot Spring
  • Bunny Island, Japan
  • Fuji Mountain Race(More Info.)

South Pacific Quests

  • A Simple Walk Into Mordor(More Info.)
  • Scuba Dive Australia’s Coral Reef
  • Bungee Jump off Victoria Fall Ridge

Ninja/Strength Quests

  • 10 Years Martial Arts(1/10)
  • 10 Years Weaponry(0/10)
  • Complete All Fitocracy Quests(More Info.)
  • Run Alpha Warrior(Texas & California)(More Info.)
  • 5 No-Kip Muscle Ups
  • 15 Second Human Flag
  • Sign White Block at Fight or Flight Academy
  • Post a 5-Minute Parkour Montage
  • Pick a Master lock

Flips & Twists Quests

  • Front Flip
  • Back Flip
  • Aerial
  • Side Flip
  • Corkscrew
  • 540 Kick

Personal Level-Up Quests

  • Skinny Dipping
  • Cliff Swinging
  • Make Food(Cheese, Wine, Yogurt)
  • Get a Wax
  • 1,000 Photo Challenge[Progress]
  • 1,000 Geocaches
  • Spontaneous Vacation

Rock Star Quests

  • [PIANO] Piano Man By Billy Joel
  • [PIANO] Roses and Butterflies By Making April
  • [PIANO]  Guitar vs Piano By Goukisan
  • [GUITAR] Guitar vs Piano By Goukisan
  • [HARMONICA] The Times They Are Changing by Bob Dylan
  • [HARMONICA] Piano Man By Billy Joel

Education Quests

  • Get a Helicopter Pilot License
  • Get a Motorcycle  License
  • Publish a Mobile App
  • Write a Novel
  • Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree
  • Obtain a Master’s Degree

Les Stroud/Survivalist Quests

  • Score 300 With Recurve Bow[More Info.]
  • Make Deer Jerky
  • Finish a Survival Adventure Race[More Info.]
  • Wilderness First Responder Certification
  • Waterfront Lifeguard Certification
  • Build and Shoot Arrows from Scratch
  • Take a NOLS semester Course[More Info.]
  • 7-Day Survival with BOB
  • 21-Day Survival, only Knife

Running & Races Quests

  • First Marathon
  • Barefoot Marathon
  • Minneapolis Ground Rounds(51 Miles)(More Info.)
  • 50-Ultra Marathon
  • 100-Ultra Marathon
  • Spartan Sprint
  • Spartan Super
  • Spartan Beast
  • Spartan Trifecta(Sprint + Super + Beast In 1 Year)
  • Triathlon Sprint(750m S/20K B/ 5K R)
  • Triathlon Olympic (1500m S/40K B/ 10K R)
  • Triathlon Half-Iron(1.2 mi S/90K B/21K  R)
  • Triathlon Iron(2.4 mi S/180K B/42K R)

Events/Conferences Quests

  • Eeyore’s Birthday
  • Room 13 San Antonia[More Info.]
  • Sundance Film Festival
  • Cirque De Loteil
  • Google Local Guides Summit
  • Red Bull Art of Motion

Financial Quests

  • Have $10,000+ in Saving before 2019
  • Adopt a Minnesota Highway
  • Earn 1,000 Subscribers on Challenge List

Master Quests

  • Get A Career Allowing Me to Live Anywhere
  • Completed a Barkley Marathon[More Info]
  • Obtain a PhD

Challenge List Mini-Quests

 

 

 

 

2017: Year of Productivity

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It’s another year which means it’s once again time to reflect on last year’s accomplishments and start looking towards what we want to do in the new year.

For many of us, this means making resolutions that we plan complete, but for one reason or another, never do.

I, for one, hate the idea of resolutions. I feel that most of the time when people make resolutions they make them very general and uninspiring. In the end, a lot of people never keep up to their resolutions and drop them all together by early February.

This is what led me to create The Challenge List, in which I set out a number of challenges for myself and try to complete them before the end of the year. These challenges are made to push me out of my comfort zone and improve both the mind and body.

Throughout the year I’ll be sharing what I learned form taking on these challenges. During my journey I’ll also be experimenting with different productivity methods and utilizing ideas from Tim Ferris, Charles Durhigg, and other productivity experts. As I try out these productivity ideas I’ll be posting what worked and what didn’t,and what can be learned from applying these concepts.

2017 Challenges

Progress: 2/20
Last Updated: February 28th, 2017

  1. Swim 2 Consecutive Miles in Open Water
  2. Finish a Tough Mudder
  3. Take a BOB Survival Course
  4. Shoot 150 Points in Archery
  5. Develop A University Capstone App
  6. Obtain my Bachelor’s Degree
  7. Get into Advanced Krav Maga Classes
  8. Get into Intermediate Swords Classes
  9. Get into Advance Parkour & Free Running Classes
  10. Climb Harney Peak, South Dakota[Tallest Point in Sate]
  11. Earn a Front-End Web Dev Certificate at Free Code Camp
  12. Be a Nerd Fitness Rebel for 365 Days
  13. Finish A Triathlon Sprint[ACCOMPLISHED June 3rd, 2017]
  14. Post 50 Blogs in the Challenge List
  15. Make a 5-min Parkour video
  16. Read A Productivity Book A Month
  17. Become a Level 4 Blacksmith on Habitica
  18. Make Cheese
  19. Snowboard Down Green Circle Slope[ACCOMPLISHED February 19th, 2017]
  20. Get a Development Related job [ACCOMPLISHED February 28th, 2017]

You can follow me on my journey by clicking on the Follow Button on the right side of the screen. If you also have any Challenges or Goals for 2017 let me hear them in the comments below!