Review: The 4-Hour Workweek By Tim Ferris

When you search for “Self-help books”, the 4-Hour Workweek is usually one of the first results that pops up. With a message like, “Become rich while only spending 4 hours a week working“, it’s unsurprising why so many people find this book so eye catching.

It definitely caught my interest, in with recommendations from productivity bloggers such as Thomas Frank and Steven Kamb, I was convinced enough to pick this up and give it a read.

I found that this book had some very significant insight that got me thinking more critically about lifestyle design– the idea of pursuing the life we want instead of just graduating and getting a job. Although it’s evident that the author, Tim Ferris, doesn’t literally spend just 4-Hours a week working , Ferris still provides some meaningful ideas on how to reduce the workflow in favor of achieving more efficient results.

The unique approach from this book seems pretty unusual, but still very effective. Because of this, I decided to make The 4-Hour Workweek 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?

The 4-Hour Workweek is a self-help book written by entrepreneur and public speaker, Tim Ferris. The book’s content is a collection of ideas developed after Ferris took a sabbatical to Europe and created the goal to dramatically reduce his workload and create more free time.

Ferris talks about methods that have been the most effective for him to achieve his goal and goes into detail about how and why his methods have worked. In addition to discussion “fat-trimming” workload methods, The 4-hour Workweek has tips on becoming an entrepreneur.

Who’s The Author?

Tim Ferris is a rather controversial figure in the productivity community. Ferris has established himself a business man who likes to cut corners to achieve results.

He illustrates this early on in the book through a story about how he became a National Chinese Kick Boxing champion. Ferris utilized loopholes in the tournament’s rules to gain the advantage in competitions. This allowed him to rely on tactics such as repeatedly shoving opponents out of a ring to disqualify them and do weight cutting, a practice where a fighter will dramatically dehydrate themselves prior to a weigh in then re-hydrate themselves before the fight in order to compete several weight classes below their actual weight.

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During his employment as a salesman, Ferris founded the supplement company known as BrainQUICKEN. He later sold the company to a private equity firm then used his experiences to write The 4-Hour Workweek.

In addition being the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, Ferris has also wrote several other books such as: The 4-Hour Chef, The 4-hour Body, and Tool of Titans. Ferris has also pursued a number of other projects such as producing a podcast known as The Tim Ferris Show, and creating a 13-episode television series titled The Tim Ferris Experiment.

The Juicy Content

Right at the start of the book Tim Ferris gives the reader a clear idea of who is book is for and what it sets out to do. Ferris assumes that if you picked up this book than there’s a strong likelihood you’re seeking to reinvent yourself and avoid working the rest of your life at a 9-5 desk job. He understands that not everything mentioned in the book can and should be followed to a tee as everyone’s lives are not the same.

Because of this, Tim Ferris tells us what the book is not about. First, the book is not going to focus on the problem and assume that, as a reader, you are either suffering from time dread or are working a non fulfilling job. Second, this book is not about saving money through cutting back on commodities you enjoy now in favor of being rich 50 years from now. As Ferris states:

“I won’t ask you to choose between enjoyment today or money later. I believe you can have both now. the goal is fun and profit”.

Lastly, Ferris states this book is not set out to help you find your dream job. In actuality, the majority of people are never going to be working careers they feel endlessly fulfilled in. So instead, the focus of this book is to establish ways to free up time and automate income.

The rest of the book is divided up into sections which goes through the step-by-step process known as DEAL.

D is for Definition – This section is used to help readers find clarity on what the most important goals in their life are. Ferris accomplish this through a series of exercises such as spending 5-minutes defining your dreams. Once that is completed, Ferris then walks you through another exercise by imaging the worst-case scenario if you dropped everything right now to follow those dreams.

The goal of these exercises are to establish how important your dreams are and give clarity on the risks involved. Once these are made clear, Ferris provides tangible steps on how to work your way to achieving these goals while minimizing the risks involved.

E is for Elimination – The second section is where the heart of The 4-Hour Workweek lies. Ferris states that the most effective way to reach your goals would be to cut out the mundane tasks in your life. He offers up quite a number of solutions that can be used to accomplish this by doing things like: Eliminate multitasking, decrease e-mail consumption, create strict deadlines, and more.

The Elimination section follows suit with the 80/20 rule. Ferris argues that it’s not really how much time you work, rather how that time is spent doing it. To get the most out of this section, Ferris offers a number of tools and exercises that can utilized to apply these concepts into your workflow.

A is for Automation – I personally found the Automation section to be most difficult section to make applicable. This section of the book is focused on creating automated income. This means spending time creating a product that will put money in your pocket when you’re not working.

However, it’s not enough to create a sell-able product, but how to sell it. Ferris offers up a number of different methods that essentially boils down to finding a middle man and exclusive distribution. The middle man will be the individual who burdens the majority of the tedious work so you can sell your product with little effort. Exclusive distribution involves finding a distributor and limiting your product to being sold exclusively through them.

There are a lot of concepts touched upon in this book on how to become fully automated, but it may not feign interests to those not wanting to follow the entrepreneur lifestyle.

L is for Liberation – The fourth and final section ties in the first three sections together to lead to the core subject of the book. The first important step to achieving a reduced workload is to make your job work by your own terms. The most efficient way to do this would be by making your job remote.

Not only does this set where and when you work, but it also establishes a means to produce results with far less time you are required to do at a desk-job. Ferris does make the point that not all of us are fortunate enough to work a job that allows us to work remotely so easily. To help, he provides a number of examples and processes that can be used to transition a desk job to a remote job. This includes doing things like producing higher results in your work doing vacation and sick time, and gradually requesting more time off to work at home.

Who Should Read This?

This book is not really something everyone can pick up and benefit from. As Tim Ferris has said, he assumes those reading this book are ones who do not like the idea of working at an unfulfilling desk job. Because of this, The 4-Hour Workweek appeals more towards very specific individuals

The example that really illustrates who this is for is in his worst-case scenario exercise. If you did lose your job right now and the worst-case scenario is just that you’ll be unemployed for a while and need to rely on your savings for a bit, then this book will be a good fit for you.

However, if this is not the case for you, then a lot of its material will most likely not be beneficial for you.

Final Thoughts?

When I picked up this book I was really skeptical about it. I admit, though, Tim Ferris does have a lot of good ideas to help make work a lot more efficient, effective, and satisfying.

If it’s one complaint I have, it’s that this book is very heavily targeted towards a certain group of people. Depending on how much you do match up with the group of people this book is for will have an impact on how what percentage of the book would actually be useful to you. Although, whatever percentage that may be , it’ll still likely have enough interesting information to make your work more liberating and productive.

While I found some of the sections were not applicable towards me,  I did end up taking a lot of very important ideas from the ones that were in order to increase my work flow. One of which is decreasing my e-mail consumption, which I found did take up a lot more time and attention than I realized.

Even though this is not a book I can recommend for everyone, it is a book I would recommend to anyone interested in Tim Ferris’ unique approach to work. I would suggest to anyone who does plan on reading this book to remember to pick and choose from the material. Not all the material will appeal to everyone, and a some of the material presented should ideally be taken with a grain of salt.

To learn more about Tim and his book you can check out his website, fourhourworkweek.com or get your own copy of The 4-Hour Workweek.

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Make Stress Work For You

The first martial arts class swords class I’ve ever went to I ended up being the slowest one in the class.

I thought this was just because I was new, but after a few classes went by I found that my speed was still an issue. Then one day, while we practiced defenses, my instructor came up to me, grabbed my shoulder and told me:

“You gotta relax. You will be a lot smoother if you weren’t so tense. “

To my surprise, I was tensing up my body every time I grabbed my sword. Once I became aware of this I took a deep breath and relaxed. Immediately after relaxing I found that my strikes and blocks occurred much faster and with a lot more ease.

When I realized I was unknowingly feeling tense I started to wonder where else this was happening in my life. I ended up finding that I was tense when doing a lot of other activities, including the very basic day-to-day tasks in my life.

The problem was, I was so use to feeling tense I just considered it normal. Once I started to recognize these feelings of stress I was able to combat it and increase my work flow. This ended up leading me to researching and learning a lot about how about I can use stress to make myself get work done more efficiently.

Recognizing Stress

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There are two kinds of stress(Actually three, but the third is less common than the other two): Acute Stress and Chronic Stress.

Acute Stress is that short term stress you have when reacting  to an immediate threat or an event that heightens a strong emotional response.  While Chronic stress is the long term stress that occurs when responding to emotional pressure(s) for a long period of time.

While acute stress can help stimulate that exhilarating feeling you get from riding a roller coaster or skiing down a slope, chronic stress is the far less fun one that can cause severe physical and mental strain. Along with anxiety, irritability, and depression, chronic stress has also been known to weaken the immune system and cause permanent brain damage.

Despite the dangers of chronic stress, a lot of people tend to not recognize they are suffering from it. There are very notable symptoms to help identify the feelings of chronic stress, but the one I found to be most effective is body scanning.

Body scanning is not only a very effective way to identify if you’re feeling stressed, but also a great way to help relax the areas of the body that are tense. The process can even take as little as 10-15 minutes to do.

To start off, find a comfortable position and take a few deep breathes. Once you’re feeling comfortable and cleared your mind, it’s time to start the body scanning process. Start by focusing on your feet, noting the sensations felt in this position. Identify if there is any tenseness present. If so, take a few deep breaths and relax them. Then, slowly work your way up, doing this same process one body part at a time, until you have fulled relaxed all parts of your body.

Once you finished relaxing your body, take a few deep breaths and open your eyes. Take a couple more deep breaths and slowly come out of your seated position before resuming normal activities.

Control Your Stress

Body scanning isn’t the only way to combat chronic stress. Studies have found that the most effective ways to overcome chronic stress is through regular exercise and meditation.

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What these two solutions have in common is that they practice mindfulness. One of the biggest causes for chronic stress is worrying too much about problems out of your control. Instead of constantly thinking about the tasks in the future it’s important to be mindful about the tasks currently in front of you. By letting your mind wander away from the present activity you are allowing yourself to be distracted.

This causes, what Cal Newport describes in his book, Deep Work, as attention residue:

“People experiencing attention resident after switching tasks are likely to demonstrate poor performance on that task, and the more intense the reside the worse the performance.”

One of the best way to practice mindfulness is to take up hobbies that require you to be in this state of mind. This can include getting involved activities such as martial arts, yoga, or creative arts. Just doing some sort of activity that brings you in that meditative state and focus on the the task at hand. By being more mindful with our tasks we reduce that feeling of anxiety for any future tasks.

Finally, another extremely effective way to combat stress is by organizing and planning. Scheduling when you allow yourself to work, take breaks, and practice mindfulness helps organize your thoughts and give you a much less cluttered mind. This not only gives you a better feeling of control in your life, but it also provides a way to effectively track your tasks and stick your your To-Dos.

Make Stress Work For You

Stress can definitely be a helpful way to keep you on task, but it can also be a hindrance for getting the most work done. What really helps make stress beneficial is to not perceive stress as negative. In fact, by perceiving stress as a challenge for getting things done you can gain very positive health benefits from it.

When dealing with stress it’s important not to let it get out of control. By keeping your tasks organized and balancing your work and leisure you can keep stress in check. Doing so will help prevent you from worrying about stressing overwhelm you and instead use it as a strategy to be more productive.

 

5 Inspirational Anime Series About Hard Work

This blog entry is going to be a little different than my usual entries.

Last blog entry I discussed the differences between being inspired and being motivated.

In it, I mentioned that I’m inspired by those who struggle and work hard to achieve something great. There are a lot of inspirational events I’ve seen that illustrate this.

Whether it’s my fellow gym member who went to every single back-flips class for 3 years to master the move or the truck driver who spent any free time he had learning how to program in hopes of getting a better job. All of these stories show a high level of passion and continuous hardship to achieve their goals.

These inspirational stories do not extend strictly to non-fictional people either. Sometimes it’s just as good to be inspired by a fictional story as well, and it’s no secret that I enjoy anime.

So I compiled my top 5 anime series that inspire me to push myself harder towards my goals. Whenever I’m looking for ways to keep on pushing I can find myself looking back at any of these series to keep going.

#5 Silver Spoon

Silver spoon is the light hearted tale about the young high school student, Yugo, who found himself in the unusual Oozero School of Agriculture. After failing the entrance exams to his chosen school, Yugo decides to go to what he expects to be a much easier school. However, with waking up at 5:00 A.M. and spending 14 hours a day on school, required extracurricular activities, and other work, Yugo finds that this school is anything but easy.

One of the most admirable concepts of this anime is how it touches base on a number of life’s problems many of us have felt before. Our character, Yugo, is thrown into unfamiliar territory. In the first episode, we find that his classmates all hail from an agricultural background with each student already set on where they want to be once they graduate. Yugo, on the other hand, doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life.

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For most of the series, Yugo is simply focused at being the best at what he can do and works his way to the top of the class. Although, this does not come without difficulty. While Yugo is able to master the core subjects, he struggles with very fundamental concepts about agriculture, something his classmates are able to do with ease.

One of the most evident examples that show the differences between him and his classmates level of expertise is in episode one. After getting back his exam results, Yugo prided himself for acing a test in admiration of his classmates. This pride is soon crushed when he listens to his classmates discuss animal cloning. His classmates, whom most of which failed the exam, carry on an entire conversation about college-level molecular biology that completely goes over his head.

It’s nice how quickly Yugo’s illusion is broken when he finds out that being the highest ranked student in the class does not automatically make him the smartest person. Yugo is constantly pushed out of his comfort zone in this series and, as a result, ends up growing up to be a more mature, compassionate person. He finds challenges in life where he realizes that simply putting in effort and having a dream is not always enough. In the end, it’s about coming to grips with reality in order to produce results that leads to success.

This show does well to drive its message home while keeping it comedic. Through the use of visual gags and likeable characters we’re able to get a good laugh from the series then emphasize with the down-to-earth problems the characters face. I applaud the variety of personalities each hard-working classmate has. The large diversity in characters helps us understand each person’s struggles and sympathize with them when they hit a wall in life they cannot overcome. It also drives home a valuable lesson that when a struggle becomes too difficult, sometimes it’s best to go down a different path in order to move forward.

#4 Hunter x Hunter (2011)

In the world of Hunter x Hunter, humans live in a land where mythical beasts and magical artifacts are commonality. Understandably, the most dangerous areas of the world remain restricted to humanity unless they have earned the respected title of Hunter.

Our series follows protagonist, Gon Freecess, who, upon learning his thought to be dead father is an accomplished hunter, sets off to take the hunter exam. Although the exam proves to be a huge undertaking where thousands of applicants set off to take the exam but only a handful of them pass each year.

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When I first watched this series I quickly drew similarities between it and Dragon Ball. However, this Hunter x Hunter quickly establishes itself as its own thing by separating itself from similar Shonen anime tropes. Our characters, while likeable, have flaws that are not easy to over come, and has caused tragedy to those around them. Never before have I ever watched an anime series without feeling tense that there is a very real possibility these characters will not survive.

The idea of being killed so easily ends up influencing how our characters fight.  Instead of solely relying on strength, our characters find they need to rely on reflexes and wit in order to win. This is a really admirable direction Hunter x Hunter takes. Our characters, although established as strong, are often pitted against enemies that vastly outclass them in terms of strength and skill. The fighter who gets the upper hand in battle is the one who thinks better on their feet. Rather than spouting an inspiration speech of getting a power up, our characters assess the situation and take risks(sometimes fatal) to outwit their opponents, just enough to either flee or land a critical blow.

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While a lot of the cast are shown to be both strong and clever, these traits are not the reason Hunter x Hunter is on this list. What makes this anime truly inspiration is how gradual each character grows. Hunter x Hunter rarely introduces a strong character whose abilities stem through natural talent. These characters are shown to have endured the worst they can put their minds and bodies through to get where they are. For them, to grow their abilities a tiny bit they are shown to endure harsh training that takes a prolonged period of time.

Truly, Hunter x Hunter illustrates that in order to really progress you can’t rely on training montages, inspirational words, or pulling a new technique out of the pocket. Rather if you want to win the battle you will need to put your mind and body through hell repeatedly for a long time.

It’s no surprise this series has been critically acclaimed as one of the greatest anime series out there. Although this series was put on hiatus since 2014, the 149 episodes released so far has been smart, wild, and overall, inspiring.

#3 Hajime No Ippo

Hajime no Ippo is one of the few sports anime series I’ve watched and enjoyed. The protagonist, sharing the same name as the show, is a young high school student named Ippo. Ippo lives with his widowed mother and spend all of his free time helping support their family’s fishing business. Because he never has time to hangout with his classmates, Ippo finds himself often alone and bullied.

However, one day while he was walking home from school, a group of bullies come up to him and start beating him up. A passing jogger, later known as acclaimed boxer Takamura, sees Ippo being picked on and scares away the bullies using quick feints. Ippo is taken to Takamura’s boxing gym where he meets the gym owner, Genji. Genji teaches him how to do a basic punch and finds that Ippo has a natural talent for boxing after he sends the punching bag flying.

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Ippo then starts his boxing career and trains to become one of the most talented and hard-hitting boxers over the course of several years. Throughout his journey we see Ippo push himself hard and slowly rank himself up with each victory. He also interacts with other boxers he meets along the way. Each of these boxers have their own varied skill set and talents that make their training style unique. From the gifted boxer who never loses a match, to the fighter who relies solely on technique, to the fighters who train hard but just can’t make it to the top.

This diversity helps illustrate a number of different characteristics when it comes to skill-building. The first being how everyone who wants to follow their dreams will not often start at the same place and the same level. There are some characters who are good at boxing because they were able to train when they were young. Then you have those characters who do start boxing at the same time, or later, but end up excelling at it faster because of their natural talents.

Despite where they start, the journey for them to improve is never an easy route. The series is not short(with over 3 seasons and 126 episodes) and the series is not one to compress story arcs. Often we see several episodes dedicated to a character trying to either learn or improve on a move before a big fight. This leads to them going through several months of intense physical training just so they can get slightly better doing certain punches.

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I felt that unique approach speaks volumes about something we’re all too familiar with. A lot of these characters pick up the basic boxing moves within a year then move on to doing fights. However, there comes a point in time when a fighter will hit a stride and find themselves pushing themselves hard but not improving as fast as when they started out. This is a training plateau many of us can relate to when trying to master a skill.

I’m sure we all hit that point when we first learn a skill and feel like we are picking up things pretty quickly at first. Eventually, that pace starts to slow down then it takes a lot longer before noticing any improvement. Hajime no Ippo follows suit to this. Often our characters find themselves having to spend countless hours/days/months/years just so they are slightly better.

The diversity of characters helps demonstrate the typical routes a lot of people end up going about tackling gradual improvement. There are those who continue to train at the same level and find themselves never getting any further in their abilities and there are those who push hemselves by doing a harder regime and gradually work their way up over time. Sure it may be long and difficult, but with patience and strive, progression will happen.

Hajime no Ippo does an excellent job to illustrate an important part of skill development. It’s not about dealing with the big picture, rather, it’s about tackling one small task at a time. By breaking down that much larger goal to small, incremental ones, achieving that level of mastery becomes more obtainable. This is why Haijime no Ippo places itself on my list of inspiring anime series.

#2 One Punch Man

Whenever anyone thinks of an inspirational anime series One Punch Man will very likely come to most people’s mind. In a world where super heroes and super villains exist, the hero, Saitama ranks right up there as the strongest hero out there. While he largely goes unnoticed in the world Saitama has proven himself to be an unbelievably strong character able to defeat his opponents with just one punch.

Our protagonist, Saitama, is somewhat of an unusual character. Mainly because he’s unlike your typical anime hero. He did not gain his power through some mystic artifact, technological upgrade, or born from some extraterrestrial being. No, our hero just stuck to a good old exercise regime every day for 3 years. What is his routine?

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With just a little strength routine, 3 meals a day, and going without A/C or heat, Saitama has achieved God-like strength. However, such a simple strength regime seems a bit silly to achieve such power.

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However, Saitama tells him that there was really nothing more to it. He dedicated himself to this regime and got to where he is today through it. A very simple idea that may strike a chord for many viewers. There is no secret formula for success, it’s just a combination of sticking to good habits and slowly growing over time. There are many people out there who thinks that there are little hacks to lose weight or become a millionaire, but those same ideals is what causes us to lose focus on the very simple concepts we know will get us there. We often ignore the routine that leads to success in favor of an easier solution.

Being dedicated to good habits is not the only thing that makes Saitama a truly admirable character. Saitama has one thing that separates him from many of the heroes and villains out there. His power is largely unknown among many. Mostly this because of how modest of a character Saitama is. He doesn’t care if he gets credit for his work, in fact, he often goes out of his way to not credit himself. Saitama is a very Taosit-like character. He recognizes himself as strong and doesn’t feel he needs to prove this to anyone. Instead, he will go without the flow of the world and intervene whenever a situation get too dire.

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Saitama truly illustrates the idea that it’s the result of your hard work that matters more than the person who does it. When I thought of Saitama’s personal beliefs and resistance for appraisal, it gave me an epiphany.

Take a look at the things around you. We live in a world of technological advancement but the majority of us aren’t really sure who invented it. This is because a thousand years from now, we aren’t going to care who invented our every day conveniences rather more about the influence it has on us. Personally, I feel making a difference in someone’s life matter more than being known for it.

This series has made it’s mark as one of the most popular anime out there, and for good reason. With a perfect blend of comedy and action we are taken on one entertaining ride throughout.

#1 Bakuman

Hard work, conceit, and luck.

These are the three attributes needed to be successful in the manga industry. That’s at least what our protagonist, Moritaka Mashiro, believes.

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The story of Bakuman follows an aspiring young artist who has long forgone his dream of being a Manga artist after the death of his uncle, a professional Manga artist who worked himself to death. It wasn’t until top-class student, Akita Takagi, approached Mashiro asking him to partner up and become managa creators together.

Mashiro, reluctant at first, joins Takagi after being tricked into confessing his love to long time crush, Miho Azuki. Azuki agrees to marry Mashiro on the condition that both Takagi and Mashiro create a manga successful enough to become an anime and Azuki lands the role to voice the leading female charactermarryWhat follows is several years of Mashiro and Takagi working through various successes and failures in attempt to get their manga popular enough to be picked up by an animation company. What ends up separating this anime from the rest of the list is the down-to-earth nature of the show. This anime is adapted from the popular manga with the same name, written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. If you are deep in your manga creator knowledge those names might be familiar to you for iconic show, Death Note.

Throughout Bakuman, Ohba and Obata do well to draw in their experiences to the series. It’s very easy to emphasize with these characters as they go through a roller coaster of successes and failures in attempt to reach their goal. Throughout the series we find our two protagonists go through many sleepless nights working, constant anxiety to make their work successful, and even working so hard one of the characters ends up in the hospital.

With each failure these characters take it as an opportunity to grow. Despite them being, what many would consider, talented at what they do, they find that they need to try and fail a lot if they want reach their goal. Alongside them is a wide variety of characters. Including Eiji Nizuma who is known as a “Manga genius” able to produce work that becomes huge hits in far less time than our protagonists can. As well as other characters introduced in the series who also dream to become future manga artists.

 

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A lot of these characters have different kinds of personalities and talents to them, but nonetheless are supportive to one another to follow their dreams. These characters also have their share of successes and failures we’re familiar with. Some of these failures drive these artists to reach out to others to improve themselves. While others end up giving up on their dream. Those who do succeed are the ones who have spent half of their lives trying and failing to get there.

It’s sense of realism adds a feeling of empathy for many of these characters. Like many of the characters, we have all failed when trying to reach a goal. We may have found ourselves discouraged to keep trying after we see people who seem to succeed in our dreams with seemingly no effort. But what makes this anime truly inspiring is, despite our failures and successes, what really matters it to still work hard and improve.

This will involve going through a lot of different events in our life. We need to find people out there who will support us and we need to support them. We need to get out of our comfort zone and prepare for failure. We also need to build up a portfolio that shows what we’re capable of and that we can improve.

Bakuman does a really great job demonstrating all these attributes and has taught me quite a few things about working towards my goals. For these reasons Bakuman earns its spot as the #1 most inspirational anime series out there.

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.

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)
  • Visit A Sunken Ship
  • Take A Sniper’s Course
  • 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
  • Become SCUBA Certified
  • Learn to Sail A Boat
  • 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