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What can you accomplish with wasted time?

Posted by on Mar 31, 2009 in Personal Development | 0 comments

On average, a a person in the US spends just under 5 hours a day watching TV and depending on the age at about the same amount (if not more) on the Internet. The thing is that sitting in front of a TV or a computer isn’t really that rewarding. A good movie or show can provide a lot of entertainment, but you are only getting the value from a spectator’s point of view. There is a lot more to be gained by doing something for yourself. So what could you accomplish if you cut down your time surfing the channels and web pages.

If you managed to break steal back just two hours a day and put it toward your new activity you could learn:

  • Piano in 32 weeks
  • Guitar in 10 weeks
  • Juggling in 1 day
  • Marital Art in 42 weeks
  • Fluent Spanish in one year ( I actually believe this can be done much quicker)
  • Learn to sing in 64 weeks
  • Harmonica in 3.5 weeks

So what are you waiting for? Give up a few hours of TV/Internet and go learn something that will really give you enjoyment.

Above times where taken from “Software for the Brain” and the Foreign Service Institute and then divided by 14 hours per week (2 hours per day).
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Irrational Fears

Posted by on Mar 24, 2009 in Personal Development | 0 comments

Japanese gecko

Last night I went running to my wife’s startled scream in the shower. Well, at least I started to until I realized by her laughing complaint a few moments later, that she had spotted a yamori (the Japanese word for gecko, pictured above). Living with them has become a normal part of our life since we moved to the island of Miyakojima last October. Though they can tend to startle you a bit when they run across the wall if you aren’t expecting it, I actually enjoy having them around the house because they eat the bugs. My wife however, is scared of them. She knows that they are harmless and likes the idea they eat the bugs, but never the less remains afraid.

Her fear is irrational and the fear itself is worse than the poor little gecko could ever be. She grew up believing that reptiles were creepy and so they have always remained that way. She believes that the the geckos are slimy and wants nothing to do with them. Her fear keeps her from seeing they are actually quite amazing creatures and are not slimy at all.

Too often our fears keep us from learning and discovering new experiences. Our fear is designed to keep us safe (fear of heights, fear of drowning, etc.), but we should never let it control our lives. When you are afraid of something take the time to discover the reasons. The more you understand them the better you can confront them.

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Breaking Away from Social Expectations

Posted by on Mar 17, 2009 in Personal Development | 2 comments

Study hard and get good grades so you can get into college. In college study hard, get good grades, and gain experiences to get a good job. Work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week so you can purchase a home, a car, and save for retirement. Get married have a few kids, get them started on the same process and then retire at 65 to pursue your hobbies. I think this pretty much sums up the “American dream” (and it’s not really much different here in Japan). This “dream” gets put into our heads at a very young age. Before we can really decide what we really want. Maybe it’s time we think about it again.

For a long time I followed this dream. It’s what everyone told me I was supposed to do. A few years after college, I found my self in exactly that position. I had moved to Tokyo, was working towards my career and was even in the process of purchasing a house. The deeper I got into “the dream” the less happy I felt. Eventually I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t the path I wanted to follow. I was there because it what everyone else did.

My grandfather was able to purchase a house (actually a few) on a normal blue collar salary. Times have changed. Even with house prices falling it will still take many more years, even on higher salaries to pay off a today’s loans. Not only that, but I have realised that I don’t actually need to own a house at this stage in my life. While a lot of peope gain security from living in one spot, I feel just as secure knowing that I can move (and work) anywhere.

As many of you know, I quit my job, packed up my life in Tokyo, and moved to a tropical island south of Okinawa. The move was more to me than just quitting my job. It was a symbol of me breaking away from the social expectations. I no longer work 8 hours, work in an office, or wake up early in the morning. At this point I make less money than I did, but my life is actually much more enjoyable. I spend the majority of my time doing things I want to do.

So how do you break free?

Social pressure work the same way on people that a bully keeps others in line, fear. It’s fear that keeps us in line and working towards goals that most of us didn’t even choose for ourselves. The fear an come in many different forms. It is the the fear of being left behind, of raising your children in a bad neighborhood, being poor, being homeless, disappointing our families or friends, and many other reasons. For me, my biggest fear was being poor. As a child I grew up very poor. Living in a travel trailer and having to move from place to place.The more we fear these things then the more they will have control over us.

Remove the Fears

The first step is to get over these fears. Usually the quickest way to do this is to put yourself directly in the situation you fear. Are you afraid of losing of being poor. Spend a week using no money, watching no TV, no computer, and not even electricity. If your afraid of failing, try something extremely difficult you’ve never done before. In either case you will find out it isn’t nearly as bad as you thought.There is a great deal of freedom once you realize fearing the unknown is actualy worse than the actual situation itself.

Break the rules

The second step is to break the rules. Now I don’t mean to go out and break the law. That would be bad. However, there are a number of social expectations that we follow because we are afraid to be singled out and embarrassed. We are taught “rules” as children that are reinforced because we are afraid to seem out of line. Start questioning why you do things (or dont do things) a certain way. Is it because it makes sense or is it because everyone else does it that way. In the book 4 Hour Work Week, Timothy Ferris goes through this with actual exercises to take. For instance, laying down in the middle of a store or saying no for a set period of time when someone asks you to do something. of course, don’t do things that cause incovenenience to other people. Shocking them by doing something unexpectedly or unordinary however, is perfectly acceptable.

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6 Free Alternatives to Common Everday Programs

Posted by on Mar 11, 2009 in Other | 0 comments

With the exception of my early grammar school days playing “number muncher” on an old Macintosh,  I have been a windows user. It is what I grew up using and since most of the programs were made for Windows. It’s really all there was. Eventually my love relationship with Microsoft and Windows slowly started to fall apart. In college I lost several hours of work due to crashing and though the programs never seemed to work the way they were supposed to, the prices always seemed to climb. Then came the serial numbers. Each time I had to reformat to make windows work again I had to call and confirm my serial number.

Three years ago, I decided I had had it with Microsoft and Windows and started searching for other options. I found a whole new world. Some of the products weren’t only able to compare, but were actually better. I started by replacing Microsoft word with Open Office. It did everything word could do, but didn’t crash. Then I took the leap and Installed Ubuntu Linux as my OS. At first I had the choice to dual boot (I could choose to run either Ubuntu or Windows), but soon realized I didn’t need Windows at all.

Now I can’t say there were no problems. Three years ago there were a lot of things that just didn’t work with Linux. And three years ago I would not have recommended for the average user to switch. However, three years is a long time when it comes to computing. Linux has not only caught up to Windows, but in many areas surpassed it. And best of all it’s completely free. Here is a list of great alternatives to Windows and the programs that come with them. Not a complete list, but ones I have personally used and can recommend.

OS (Windows Alternative)

Ubuntu

Ubuntu Linux-You can download it for free or order a free disk. before installing it you can run it off a disk to make sure it’s compatible. It runs faster and more stable than windows and is very easy to use. You can even run it off a USB. You can get a free copy here.

Office Suite (Microsoft Office Alternative)

Open Office is a complete office suite containing a word program, spreadsheet program, and presentation program, a drawing program, and a database program. The interface is very similar to MS Office and is easy to transition into. You can download it here.

Internet Browser (Internet Explorer)

Firefox and Flock. If you’ve been off the internet for a while, then you probably haven’t heard that the number of Firefox users has been consistently increasing. It is a fast and secure browser with a lot of options. Flock is built on the same engine as Firefox, but with features designed for web 2.0. You can download Firefox here and Flock here.

Instant Chat

Pidgin is a a program that not allows you to connect to a singe chat program, but to all of them at one time. It allows you to see all your contacts within one program. You can download pidgin here.

Video Player

VLC is a media player that can play just about anything. Now I will admit that the user interface is nothing amazing, but it just plain works. You can download it here.

E-mail Client

Thunderbird is a mail client similar to outlook. It has the ability to view and store both private mail and web mail, as well as a number of ways to sort and store it. The interface is simple and there are also a number of add-ons to increase the functionality. I personally prefer to use webmail. However, for those who like a dedicated program, this is a good one.

Keep the list coming. Feel free to list your favorites in the comments.


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Mastery Through Efficient Dedication

Posted by on Mar 9, 2009 in Personal Development | 0 comments

1040693_juggle_balls

“You can’t do everything. But you can do one thing, and then another, and then another.” This was a quote from the book Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long Term Fullfillment and it’s a great point. Though in an age where with so many distractions and so many options it is something that is extremely difficult to do. Yet, the largest benefits usually come once you get really good at something. Musicians can play a tune once they master their instrument, a basketball player is able to consistently put the ball in the hoop, and an artist can control his hands precisely to make beautiful works of art. So how do does someone become great at something they do?

I hear a lot of people use the words gifted or talented when they discuss someone who is really good at something. It is true that some people have a certain disposition that allows them to excel quicker at something than others, but anyone can obtain these talents with enough dedication and practice.

Dedication

Focusing single heatedly on whatever it is you want to learn. To do so you will have to give up doing other things. However, I have found the benefit of doing something really well far out weighs the benefits of doing many things averagely. Dedicate a time to your activity and don’t let anything bother you. And definitely don’t multi-task. Multi-tasking has become popular in the last decade, but it is not efficient or effective. Once you dedicate your time, focus clearly only on that one thing.

I also recommend you choose the things you do very carefully. Since you will be spending a lot of time on something, it’s important to make sure that it is important to you. If it’s not, then you will be more likely to give it up and try something else. I have started a lot of activities on the spur only to give them up part way through. Its not that I didn’t enjoy some of them, but that time would probably have been better spent getting better at something I really cared about.

Practice

We have all heard the phrase “practice makes perfect”. My father must have told me this a thousand times as a kid. There is no doubt that the more time you spend doing an activity the better you will get at it. But putting in time practicing is only part of it. If you want to get good, and get good fast, then you need to practice in the most effective manner.

The easiest way to find this information will be in from the people who are the best in the field. Whether that be from a book or audio program or personal lessons. The time you spend finding good training materials, a good instructor, or the best methods will save you a lot of wasted time.

Stop Juggling Activities

I did this for a long time. There were so many thing I wanted to try that I ended up being able to do  bunch of things poorly. Having limited my focus to only a few, I now realize how much better it is to be good at a few.

When I was in college I choose to study Japanese. I was fascinated with the culture and really wanted to be able to speak the language. In the same language department I met a student who was taking Japanese, Chinese, and Russian all at the same time. I was very impressed. She was a very good student and defitely put in more time studying her three languages than I did with just my one. But at the end of that semester I was able to have simple conversations in Japanese where as she could only say a few words in each language. Even though she had put in more time than I had it was dispersed over three different languages and she received almost none of the benefits that studying just the one had yielded for me.

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