Often times we feel like we’re stuck. We want to move forward but, you know, it’s just hard. Sometimes I wonder: could moving forward be easier than it seems? Perhaps we overthink matters, or maybe we just complicate the way we approach different situations. Certainly, we might benefit from carefully strategizing a plan of action to solve certain problems. But this insight is not about that. This insight is a quick and easy guide to keep moving forward when every day obstacles keep us stuck and unable to make progress. Continue Reading!
There is no doubt that understanding what being and doing is, their differences, and how they relate to each other, can have a lasting impact on the quality of your life. We live in an informational era where we are almost exclusively concerned with How-To’s, like how to fix your leaking sink or how to grill salmon. This makes sense because for the first time in history, we have so much access to information, that we can learn most anything and apply a lot of it for our benefit. The fact is that articles that are not How-To just don’t get enough traction. But what about a guideline or a How-To for a fulfilling life? There isn’t one because there’s no step by step on how to live life. Life is too broad, and being tends to be vague and hard to measure.
“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” – Archimedes
If you could change something in your life, what would it be, and how would you do it? It’s romantic to think that we can power through situations, but reality shows that’s not very effective. Often times we just want to work very hard, but that’s neither sustainable nor enjoyable. In some circumstances, will power is just exhausting and easily depleted. However, leveraging your life is not about trying hard, it’s about realizing you could do more and do better with levers. Think of levers as tools you can utilize to have a greater impact with less effort. If you set yourself to find and use these leverage points, you will amplify the quantity and quality of whatever you do. Continue Reading!
My Top 10 Books.
King Ecbert: “I want to talk to you about books, Alfred.”
Alfred: “Books, Grandfather?”
King Ecbert: “Yes. If you are going to be King one day, you need to understand that books are just as important as swords or plowshares. These are some works by great writers that I read and translated from Latin as a young man. And this, this is a work by Gregory the Great. Now, he asks questions such as, “What kind of man he is or ought to be, who is to rule?” And um… “Can the occupation of power distract the mind of the ruler?””
Alfred: [stares quietly]
King Ecbert: “Yes, well, I can see that you’re bored already.”
Alfred: “No, Grandfather.”
King Ecbert: “No? Oh, well, that’s good. A king should know how to be bored and not show it. Good boy.” Continue Reading!
How to optimize results and avoid waste.
Imagine walking into a grocery store and noticing how neatly different sections are organized. Stores are compartmentalizing gurus. Of course, stores scrutinize where to place each aisle in order to make the most profit. They focus on ease of navigation and flow. For instance, you’re more likely to buy beverages if you first walk through the produce section. Costco will offer their rotisserie chicken for a bargain, but they have it placed all the way at the back of the warehouse. They know how to maximize results, and in this insight we’ll explore how you can benefit from this strategy too. Continue Reading!
What can the tundra teach you about thriving in harsh environments?
Learning how to face the difficult situations in life better is necessary. However, difficult situations are not all about having thick skin. In the most adverse weather, the Tundra’s flora and fauna learn when to expand and when to contract. What the tundra can teach you about thriving in harsh environments is that there is always a way to face challenges in a more positive manner. And it goes beyond that. To grow as a human being requires adversity to a certain extent. To celebrate requires effort first. You must learn how to plant the seeds now that you want to harvest later. These 3 simple strategies to face difficult situations will show you how life thrives even in one of the harshest climates of the world and what you can learn from it. Continue Reading!
What do you get when you package the collective wisdom of people into a phrase? A proverb. The following proverbs are a collection of proverbs from most regions in the world. As you read them, see if any given proverb inspires you to change something, to widen your perspective, or simply to enjoy the wisdom civilizations have passed down to us! Here are the 26 proverbs to ignite wisdom in your life: Continue Reading!
How to accelerate your success.
There’s way too much focus on failure. A not so old saying claims you need to fail X amount of times before you can succeed. Success and failure doesn’t have to be so binary. Furthermore, what’s intriguing about unexploited strengths and opportunities is how you can miss them. If you’re too focused on improving your weaknesses, you forget you have unique strengths. How can you find opportunities only by focusing on your weaknesses? With big projects, when do you exactly fail? Why wait until the final failure? Opportunities are vehicles to accelerate your success if you’re able to find them. Let’s explore 3 simple ways to find opportunity. Continue Reading!
How life metrics can benefit you.
What metrics does society really care about? To this day, most of our work goes to achieving more or less the same old American dream. You know, the house, the car, and a big backyard. Most people generally will ask you what you do or where you live. This makes sense, because it gives an idea of where you currently are in the American dream. What doesn’t make sense however, is if you go about your own American dream differently and people disapprove. There’s a dissonance between societal metrics and alternative roads to success. So how should you go about monitoring your life? Continue Reading!
Did you know that coconuts can travel several thousand miles, float up to 110 days, land on an island, and still be able to germinate? Palm trees have withstood the test of time, going back to the Eocene period. What’s even more fascinating about palm trees? They can endure strong hurricanes! Can we learn from palm trees and tap into this strength? Definitely. We usually like figuring out complicated answers, but it only takes looking outside at Mother Nature to see how she deals with adversity. You’ll learn how to apply 4 simple strategies to build your mental strength. Continue Reading!
Quotes are inspiring because they have so much wisdom packed into a phrase. They’re like small reminders from free mentors of all walks of life for you to take. They can lift you up, guide you, and motivate you. A good quote can give you the worth of a lifetime! Here are 19 insightful quotes from people that one way or another have influenced and shaped our world:
How to take difficult action and keep at it.
Thunderstorms are highly unpredictable, fascinating, and intense. As the warm, tropical, humid air moves upward, it collides with polar cold fronts. It then quickly condenses into droplets that fall down, growing and crashing into each other to begin what could turn into a thunderstorm. The high-altitude clouds make the sky turn into such interesting colors. Sometimes a deep orange or yellow, and other times purple with a bit of a pink hue. With a bit of luck, you can see lightning from afar as the storm approaches. The nuances between doing vs taking action are subtle yet powerful, like an air mass that doesn’t collide with a cold front vs a focused thunderstorm.
How personal missions get you closer to achieve your dreams.
Imagine living several thousand years ago. There would be so many places to discover and things to learn. The maps would have blank spaces, because they were a work-in-progress. How big could the Earth be? What things would be over the horizon? The world was an undiscovered place, and the Europeans sailed out to find out. They went on missions.
16th century evangelists were going on missions. Explorers were going on missions. Conquerors, scientists, and friars set sail. All were serious about their missions. But it’s puzzling how they sailed so confidently into the unknown world. How could they know what resources they would need and how much to take? Where would they land? Did explorers have any systemic way to go about their missions? Continue Reading!
How to leverage symbolism.
Anywhere you look you’ll see many symbols: political, religious, social, and commercial symbols. However, today they’re used almost exclusively by marketing. Companies understand the economic value of having recognized brands and the relationship we have with them. When you think of a brand, you have an image, a perception of its quality, and its service (among other things). Here’s a thought: Symbols are necessary. Nations have all sorts of symbols like national anthems, holidays, and their coat of arms. Even States have symbols such as the State’s bird, rock, fruit, motto, etc. Could we be ignoring the power behind symbols? What happens to people without symbols? We’ll see why we need to tap into the upside of symbolism. Continue Reading!
Lessons from the Grand Canyon.
On a summer visit to Grand Canyon National Park, a park ranger told me: “You know, it’s about perspective. The Copper Canyon in Mexico is deeper and longer than the Grand Canyon, but it’s covered with vegetation. Here, the rock layers show perfectly, which makes it look much more massive. We also have the marketing going for us—the Grand Canyon.” Perspective, like the lack of vegetation in the Grand Canyon, can make a world of difference in how you perceive what you see. In other words, how to gain perspective is how to gain depth in your thinking, creativity, and problem solving skills. Let’s explore 3 ways to gain perspective.
Adopt a brewer’s mind.
It’s no surprise that computers are substituting a lot of human work and doing it with more precision and efficiency. And yet, we Sapiens want to become more productive and efficient. What exactly does it mean to be productive? Could my productivity be automated by a machine? For the first time in humanity, we’re facing this dilemma. While there’s much work to be done, and productivity is still of utmost importance, having a brewer’s mind offers some valuable insight and an alternative to blind optimization. Continue Reading!
How math can propel action and make you a better thinker.
Math is underrated. Because of its analytical nature, we tend to perceive math as a nuisance. As a student, you might have demanded math to be more practical. Some students feel there’s little real-world applications of the math they’ve learned. On the other hand, teachers explain that math helps you become a better problem solver. But math goes beyond problem solving. Continue Reading!
You have probably heard of the growth mindset. It’s the mindset that helps us embrace the inevitable hurdles we face. But the reality is that sometimes we don’t—it’s elusive when we’re struggling. Can we have a growth mindset especially when we most need to? How to enable the growth mindset? There is an excess of advice to be joyful, but inevitably we must also face the struggles that come with difficult learning, creative challenges, or starting something new. To develop the skills that you want, you know it will require a lot of practice. Building new skills is challenging. Furthermore, can we expect to be joyful without a struggle? Of course you shouldn’t want to do something that you dislike overall, but setbacks are part of what makes life interesting and worthwhile. Continue Reading!
We go through many years of school solving all sorts of things. Math, for example, is about becoming better at problem solving. Granted, we do depend heavily on our ability to solve problems. But could it be possible to find problems as well? Nobody wants more problems, yet everyone wants opportunities. Could they go hand in hand? How do some entrepreneurs, parents, or teachers manage to find problems and benefit from them? Perhaps work is not exclusively about solving problems but finding them too. And by no means is problem finding about inviting unnecessary conflict. It’s about the creativity of discovering unaddressed problems we’re not consciously aware we have. An unaddressed problem means there’s an unaddressed opportunity, and the potential to generate value.
The building blocks of work.
Building blocks don’t constitute much on their own. But put together they can create great structures. Building blocks are often used to explain the most basic unit something is built from. For example, the building blocks of DNA are the nitrogenous bases. The building blocks of a protein? Amino acids. The building blocks of physics? Atoms. Of course, scoping matters. Consider that the building blocks of sentences are words, but the building blocks of words are letters. You’ve probably heard about these analogies at school, but what’s more important is how they can be applied to improve your life. Have you ever thought about your hard work in terms of building blocks? Even more importantly: could you be building anything of substance with them? Let’s examine how to compound your effort.
Understanding time and how to benefit from it.
They say, “Don’t live in the past, or you’ll be depressed,” and “Don’t live in the future, or you’ll be anxious.” Some people say, “Live at peace in the present.” They say, “Live in the moment.” “The present is a gift”. What do you think about that? Discarding the past or the future (as much as the present) is delusional. First, we must understand that each time frame has costs and benefits. No one is better than the other. So having said that: how can we embrace the benefits of the past, present, and future? And how can we better manage the challenges in each time frame? Continue Reading!
Like in football, we want to tackle our challenges head on. We want to find solutions and be proud of how we resolve to meet our challenges at each stage of our lives. You care about the meaning of what you do. But we’re often too much in our heads. To tackle your challenges you must go beyond (or below) this mindset. How to get out of your own way is all about integrating the rest of the body. As much as it’s beneficial to approach your challenges analytically, it can also interfere with simple truths. It’s easy to get too caught up either trying to figure everything out or become too busy—that is, occupied but getting nowhere.
Following through on your New Year’s resolutions
Why are theme parks so magical? And what exactly do you think triggers those feelings? They can be a source of dreams, joy, and inspiration. A theme park is a specific type of amusement park that offers attractions that can be enjoyed by large groups of people. The parks’ rides, landscape, buildings, and characters are centered on a specific theme or story. Perhaps that’s what makes it magical. Like a theme park, we can leverage the power of themes to set our own mission in this coming year. Continue Reading!
Chess is a beautiful game that is considered by many an art and a sport. It’s also one of the oldest games in human history. As chess players learn and refine their chess principles through time, certain patterns begin to emerge. Chess principles often mimic life and offer valuable insights. Consider the following for a more strategic lifestyle:
In the Three Degrees of Gratitude, we explored how to engage in different levels of appreciation. The first degree of gratitude is about developing a habit of saying thank you. The second degree is a state of being in which we express gratitude with a kind gesture. The third degree is about finding gratitude where it’s hard. We especially need to be grateful in difficult times. But is there a more active way we can exercise gratitude?
If I asked you what your values were, what would you say? If you knew them, would you know what to do with them? Say your value is love, or honesty: how does that help you? Values are indispensable in determining how you live, and how you can live differently. They become more valuable as you clarify what they are and resolve to exercise them. Values are our unspoken standards of the life that we want. We can learn to ignite our values if we invest time and effort to recognize and connect with them.
How you can take more action without getting burned.
The summer season is radiant! After much anticipation, the temperature begins to rise steadily. Slowly, we get more light and more heat. In some regions of North America it gets very dry. In others, dark clouds turn into massive storms. Sometimes it’s both. But the sun doesn’t stop. Every day the sun rises relentlessly, and it showers rays of life that appear to expand everything they touch. Everything grows vigorously. Leaves and needles are in a growth spurt. Nature can’t seem to get enough of summer! Summer makes us feel alive. We feel alive because of what happens during this season: we get stretched. There are many lessons from the summer season to be learned! Continue Reading!
Spring season is breathtaking: Clouds gather in clusters of gray. The rain drops begin to drum on the soil. But suddenly the sun bursts. And just as fast, it’s gone. Dark clouds intensify in the distant background as the sunlight filters through like a thin film bringing vivid images. The wind gusts unexpectedly, bending trees and scattering seeds. And again, the sun bursts through the clouds. It’s hard to understand what spring is all about. Let’s explore what lessons from the spring season you can learn. Continue Reading!
Struggling has a bad reputation. It makes us feel uncomfortable, and we just want to avoid it. But it doesn’t have to be this way. When we struggle, what we focus on makes a difference: are we focusing on the painful feelings? Or are we focusing on conscious growth? Often times, it’s the moments of struggle when we stand up courageously to solve difficult problems. We have all heard the saying to “step outside your comfort zone.” This reasoning implies that we move away from comfort to struggle. I find this phrase misleading, and I’ll let you know why. But moving into the learning zone is a sound proposition. Continue Reading!
Can you imagine what your life would feel like with more self-discipline? What would you do? When you take action on something that matters to you regardless of your immediate impulses—you practice self-discipline. It’s choosing to move forward to act on what you most care about despite hardship, and it feels really good. In fact, we could all use more of it. Every time that we practice self-discipline, we choose to reclaim our life. We pursue our dreams, act on them, and stay motivated when we don’t feel like it. We engage in self-discipline by exercising our willpower and focused attention to choose action over distraction. Continue Reading!
In 10 Empowering Principles to Live by, we explored that a set of beliefs is what we use to make sense of our world. We feel or think about something, and then our brain compares it to our cognitive map to understand the situation or generate meaning out of it. With time, we adjust those inner rules so that we can navigate our lives more effectively and with more clarity. But what does this have to do with seeking an imperfect life? What does that really mean? Why would we want to seek an imperfect life and how do we live it? Continue Reading!
An Approach to Compassion
It’s winter, and for a few months now the branches have lain bare. Some mammals are hibernating, and other species have migrated south for warmer weather. However, humans stick around, turn on the heater, cover up, and wait impatiently for spring. It seems as though winter is something to be endured—but it’s not. Winter has something special to reminds us: life is not just fast-paced doing. Life is also about periods of stillness, compassion, and responsibility. As we’ll see, there are many lessons from the winter season. There is wisdom and power behind it. Continue Reading!
Deep down we all have a set of beliefs that we rely on to navigate our lives. These principles dictate how we process incoming stimuli, what it means, and how to feel about it. They determine our decisions, our attitudes, roles, strategies, and methods we live by. Here’s the thing: is your belief system helping to bring out the best in you? Continue Reading!
Have you ever wondered what effort is really about? Do you think about having to try hard, spend a lot of energy, and feel frustrated as a result? Well, effort is not just about trying really hard. Effort is about how we apply energy to get what we really want. The three degrees of effort is an approach to understand how to apply more strategic effort to act on difficult learning and challenging setbacks. Continue Reading!
Do you ever think about your thinking? Or better yet, do you ever think about how you think? If we were to portray the thinking process, what would it look like? One thing is true: how we think matters because it affects how we feel and consequently, what we do. In the last insight I explored the topic of goal setting and the importance of making them exciting. Also, I talked about keeping them short and simple in a way that they convey with clarity what you desire to experience. Continue Reading!
Find how to set and achieve your goals.
Have you tried to open a coconut with your bare hands? When I was ten years old this is exactly what I wanted to do. It was humid and it was hot at the beach, so I started early. I went searching for a coconut that looked like it had just fallen. I found one, brought it back, and started to work on it! My cousin and I each had one, and we began tearing every little fiber we could get to. After about six hours, I had managed to tear off about half of the coconut’s husk. I was exhausted and my fingertips were numb, but we were determined! We continued the next day. Once we removed most of the husk, we got to the hard shell. Continue Reading!
The first degree of gratitude:
This is when you say: “thanks,” “thank you,” or “I appreciate it,” and you really mean it. It can be a habit. And honestly, we can’t say thank you enough. It’s so easy and yet so powerful. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!
Start, Stick, and Stay at Anything!
I was destroyed in a chess game. It was Halloween 1998 when I saw some friends playing chess over a bench by the courtyard. They asked me if I wanted to play and I said yes! I thought that I was going to beat them through my natural intelligence. Then I lost. The following summer, I was determined to learn how to play. I don’t know why, but I was motivated to keep playing (and losing) for about 200 games. That translated to about 60 hours of practice before I could finally win a game! I’ve played thousands of games since. Today I wonder: what happened that made me start, stick, and stay at it? Let’s look at how playing more can make you more successful. Continue Reading!
It’s fall season! The leaves are changing colors. Daylight is getting shorter, and nights are getting colder. The leaves linger on the branches as they change, and soon they will let go. They will eventually fall and dance their way to the ground. Streets will be blanketed with tones of warmth. Autumn is magical! It’s winter squash time in all its splendor. Pumpkin patches abound and pumpkin carving is happening. And while the leaves keep falling throughout this season—the spectacle of autumn invites us to look inward. Lessons from the autumn season abounds! Continue Reading!
An Elk Encounter.
Do you remember how you felt the last time you saw a big animal in the wild? Did you experience that liberating feeling of being out in the wild? At Rocky Mountain National Park, I came very close to a massive bull elk while hiking. Not too far from the trail, the bull was roaming free about the woodland. Sensing me, the elk slowly raised his neck and held his head high revealing his huge antlers with strands of peeling velvet. We paused. Then the bull continued roaming and eventually moved on—brushing away freely into the forest. I couldn’t help but think, can the elk hold the secret to finding and reconnecting with your true self? Continue Reading!
In my last U-pick adventure, I came across some Triple Crown blackberries. I instantly noticed the abundance of huge red and black fruit hanging from the bushes. If you were holding one between your thumb and index finger, you would notice the little round obsidian seeds, that look much like grapes in a grapevine. When ripe, they are deeply sweet and juicy with a tart kick—which is typical of a blackberry. However, Triple Crowns have an even bolder, more intense flavor packed into their fruit. Continue Reading!
A Lesson from the Athabasca Glacier.
Glaciers are breathtaking. These giants shape the environment through rock abrasion. The Athabasca Glacier carves itself among the Canadian Rockies in an area known as the Columbia Icefield and measures up to 300 meters (980 feet) thick! When I stood there, it was hard for me to grasp that I was standing over such a thick layer of ice. It made me wonder how glaciers came to be and what we could learn from them. How exactly does a glacier become such a magnificent, ice-blue wonder? Continue Reading!
Youe are grounded with your roots anchored deep in what matters to us. Perhaps you’ve even identified your ingredients of strength and passion. Now what? Being dynamic is your next step. You’ll learn how to be a more dynamic person, so that you can navigate confidently to pursue your dreams. What would you do if there was nothing you couldn’t handle? This is at the core of being dynamic—feeling capable to move powerfully and attuning to your capacity to adapt, no matter the challenge. Continue Reading!
You, yourself, and chocolate cake.
Discovering who you are is fun. Becoming your best self, necessary. With the baking elements of a dark chocolate cake, we’ll find out just that. When baking, you’ll learn two things are essential: you need the ingredients that provide the structure (eggs, flour) and those that provide the moisture (fat, sugar). However, the ingredients alone won’t turn into a cake just by themselves—we need to stick them in an oven and bake them. The structure of the cake is what holds it together, but the moisture is what makes you want to eat it! How to be your best self is about structure, moisture, and a baking process. Continue Reading!
Lessons from the Douglas-fir tree.
Trees are captivating. They spark wonder with their willpower to reach to the stars and withstand high winds. When established, they are able to survive forest fires and they can live for centuries! And all of this is possible in a single spot where the resilient seed once landed. You probably already know the Douglas-fir. It is the preferred Christmas tree because of its elegant conical shape. They’re also a Pacific NW favorite. They dress up mountains beautifully with their vivid evergreen needles that contrast with the snow at the timber line. Most importantly, what can you learn from the Douglas fir? Can it help you learn how to be grounded in the moment? How does a little seed become a tree that can rise to towering heights of over 300 feet? Continue Reading!
Think about something you would really like to change. Now, imagine yourself actively engaging in the process to change that—feeling strong, focused, and determined. What happens between that gap: the moment when we want to change and the moment when we begin? We all have something we want to change, but we often hesitate to start because it’s exhausting, especially if it involves a high degree of uncertainty. Let’s look at why change happens, and what is it that propels decisive action. Continue Reading!
The upside of labels.
Labeling is one of the first things we do as babies. Our brain associates certain objects with words. We label the iconic red-round-sweet fruit as an apple. And after that it will be hard to think of it as anything other than an apple. Once we have enough associations stored in our memory, we begin to develop language. We start with one word. Then we move to a two-word sentence and so on. At some point in our lives, we begin to develop our sense of self. As young adults we seek to develop our identity by labeling what we like and don’t like, if we are a morning person or a night owl. This becomes more complex in our teenage years when we seek to both fit in and explore. As we grow up we try to understand ourselves better, seek outside approval and constantly label ourselves to construct our personalities. Much of this happens by reacting to different situations. How to use labels to empower yourself is not only important, but necessary. Continue Reading!
What to do when you’re stuck.
A simple way to see what moves you is to revise your biggest accomplishments. Why were they so great? I’m sure that whatever you did, it was great because it mattered. Work that matters and moves you has two secret ingredients: you enjoy doing it, and it contributes to the world. Sometimes though, it’s hard to visualize your contribution. This is especially true in the corporate world—behind the cubicle with a bunch of papers often filled with meaningless metrics. Your computer desktop flooded with unused files. To uncover how to be more productive find out what moves you. Continue Reading!
3 Steps you can take to become a more authentic person.
Did you know Galileo Galilei opposed the Geocentric view that Earth was at the center of the universe? He believed that Earth revolved around the Sun. In his time though, most educated people (including astronomers) didn’t think so. The Roman Inquisition revised his work, and accused him to be a heretic! His work arouse controversy. Fortunately for humanity, he followed through with his ideas defending his views. He was eventually tried by the Inquisition, found guilty of heresy, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Would you say he was being authentic to his profession? How often do you find yourself doing things you don’t want to do? Let’s see how you can be more authentic. Continue Reading!
How your life can benefit from coffee
Imagine yourself as a musical conductor. Picture yourself signaling at the symphony of coffee notes as you pour the ground coffee into the French press—awaiting the steaming water. Soon the kettle starts to whistle. Down the water goes, orchestrating fine earthy notes that dance around your living room at the beat of the baton. And only then does the coffee meet with the hazelnut cream—tempos of cocoa finish as you drink the warmth of this art. Life is like coffee! Continue Reading!
Reframe your challenges with empowering language.
Let’s go back to High School, particularly to that Physics class. You might remember two important concepts we learned: potential energy (stored energy) and kinetic energy (energy in motion). A glass of water on a kitchen counter top has potential energy because it took energy to move it up. If it were to fall, that energy would (re)turn into kinetic energy and make it shatter. Language is no different, words display these properties. Words store potential energy at their core and they trigger emotions as kinetic energy. You can choose either disabling language or empowering language. Continue Reading!
Have you ever paid attention to a flying duck? I get to observe ducks a lot since they fly around my suburb quite frequently. What caught my attention though, is how sloppy they look when they fly. With their short body-to-wingspan ratio ducks try really hard when they fly! And if you have seen a duck land, you know it’s not easy for them either. But they still do fly—they’re successful and playful. Do you think we could learn anything of significance from a flying duck? Could ducks have something to teach us about being unusual?