Book Summary: Deep Work by Cal Newport

I recently finished listening to Cal Newport’s book, “Deep Work”.

My expectation was that it was going to be a bit of a rant by a technophobe on why Snapchat, Facebook and the like is destroying your brain and you have to adopt an Amish-like mindset immediately (maybe not as drastic as this). However, from following Cal’s blog for so long and benefitting from his experiments and blog posts over the years, I gave it a go.

This book it’s definitely not one giant rant – it’s a structured and convincing read in favor of ‘Deep Work’.

I’ve broken down this summary into a few different parts – the first part describes why Deep Work is important, the second part describes the different lengths you can do to adopt a ‘Deep Work’ mindset, the third part explains a framework I particularly enjoyed reading about (The Four Disciplines of Execution), while the last two focus on how to reduce shallowness in your life.

Deep Work photo

Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive abilities to their limit.
Shallow Work: Non-cognitively demanding, logistic style tasks often performed while distracted. These efforts are easy to replicate and don’t produce much value to the world.
What you need to master:
  1. Quickly Master hard things;
  2. Produce at an elite level in both quality and speed;
This can only be performed if you commit to deep work.
Key pillars of the book:
  1. In order to produce the absolute best stuff you’re capable of, you need to commit to deep work.
  2. To learn hard things quickly, you must focus intensely without distraction.
  3. The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimise the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration.
Newport says: “I build my days around a core of carefully chosen deep work, with the shallow activities I absolutely cannot avoid batched into smaller bursts at the peripheries of my schedule. 3-4 hours a day, 5 days a week, of uninterrupted and carefully directed concentration, it turns out, can produce a lot of valuable output”.
Core components of deliberate practice are usually identified as follows:
  1. Your attention is focused tightly on a specific skill you’re trying to improve / master;
  2. You receive feedback so you can correct your approach to keep your attention exactly where it’s most productive;
The Science:
  1. You get better at a skill as you develop more myelin around the relevant neurons, allowing the corresponding circuit to fire more effortlessly and effectively.
  2. By focusing intensely on improving a skill, the specific relevant circuits keep firing over and over again. This repetitive use of a specific circuit triggers cells called oligodendrocytes to begin wrapping layers of myelin around the neutrons in the circuit – effectively cementing the skill.
  • To learn hard things quickly, you must focus intensely without distraction.
  • When you switch from some Task A to another Task B, your attention doesn’t immediately follow.
  • People experiencing attention residue after switching tasks are likely to demonstrate poor performance on that next task.
  • To produce at your peak level, you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction.
  • The principle of least resistance: in a business setting, without clear feedback on the impact of various behaviors to the bottom line, we will tend toward behaviors that are easiest at the moment.
Key: “Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not”.
Busyness as Proxy for Productivity: In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back toward an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner.
You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it.

The different types of Deep Work:
  1. Monastic Philosophy: Maximise deep efforts by eliminating or radically minimising shallow obligations.
  2. Bimodal Philosophy: Divide up your time, dedicating some clearly defined stretches to deep pursuits and leaving the rest open to everything else.
  3. Rhythmic Philosophy: Easiest way to consistently start deep work sessions is to transform them into a simply regular habit.
  4. Journalist Philosophy: You fit deep work wherever you can into your schedule.
Regardless of where you work, be sure to also give yourself a specific time frame to keep the session a discrete challenge and not an open-ended slog.
– Can also radically change up your environment and put some money down to support your deep work task, thus increasing the perceived importance of it e.g. Crazy example of Peter Shankman who booked a 30-hour round trip to Tokyo and came straight back but wrote the entire time, thus finishing his manuscript in only 30 hours.

The Four Disciplines of Execution (4DX):
  1. Focus on the Wildly Important
  2. Act on the Lead Measures
  3. Keep a Compelling Scorecard
  4. Create a Cadence Accountability
  • You have to prioritise and say yes to the finite things that will make the biggest impact. “The Important”.
  • Two types of metrics:
    • Lag Measures – describe the thing you’re ultimately trying to improve;
    • Lead Measures – measures the new behaviours that will drive success on the lag measures.
  • Lead Measures turn your attention to improving the behaviours you directly control in the near future that will then have a positive impact on your long-term goals.
  • At the end of your workday, shut down your consideration of work issues until the next morning – no after dinner email check, no mental replays of conversations, and no scheming about tackling an upcoming challenge.
    • Downtime aids insights
    • Downtime helps recharge the energy needed to work deeply
  • Jerry Seinfeld example of X’ing off calendar every day he wrote jokes example – ROUTINE.
  • Schedule in advance when you’ll use the internet and then avoid it altogether outside these times.
  • Keep a compelling scorecard: Track hours of deep work in a prominent place (e.g. JK rowling finishing Harry Potter in a specific hotel example).
    Cadence accountability (Regular progress reports example).

Embrace Boredom
– Deep Work Training must involve two goals:
  • Improve your ability to concentrate intensely;
  • Overcome your desire for distraction;
Strategy: Schedule your internet time, avoid it completely all other times. IF I need to do quick responses to email, schedule internet time every 15 minutes but not sooner.
To simply wait and be bored has become a novel experience in modern life, but from the perspective of concentration training, it’s incredibly valuable.
Productive meditation: Focus your attention on a well-defined problem while (walking, jogging, driving, showering). Just like with mindful meditation, except the focus is on a problem instead of breathing.
    – Like all meditation – hard to do and requires a ton of practice.

Quit Social Media
The Any-Benefit approach to network tool selection: You’re justified in using a network tool if you can identify any possible benefit to its use, or anything that might possibly miss out on if you don’t use it. The flaw with this: it ignores all the negatives that come along with the tools!!
The Craftsman approach to network tool selection: Identify the core factors that determine success and happiness in your professional and personal life. Adopt a tool only if its positive impacts on these factors substantially outweigh its negative impacts.
  • First step: identify the main high-level goals in both your professional and personal life.
    • Keep the list limited to what’s most important and keep it high-level.
    • Result: A small number of goals for both the personal and professional areas of your life.
  • Second step: List for each 2-3 most important activities that can help you satisfy the goal. These activities should be specific enough to allow you to clearly picture doing them.
  • Third step: Consider the network tools you currently use. For each such tool, go through the key activities you identified and ask whether the use of the tool has a substantially positive impact, a substantially negative impact or little impact on your regular and successful participation in the activity.
    • Important decision: Keep using the tool only if you concluded that it has substantially positive impacts that these outweigh the negative impacts.
  • Fourth step: After 30 days of this self-imposed network isolation, ask yourself the following two questions about each of these services you temporarily quit:
    • Would the last 30 days have been notably better if I had been able to use this service?
    • Did people care that i wasn’t using this service?
  • Fifth step: If your answer is ‘no’ to both questions, quit the service permanently. If your answer was a clear ‘yes’, then return using the service.
Above can be easily applied to internet habits (e.g. Snapchat, Instagram etc).
• The Law of the Vital Few (Pareto Principle): 80% of a given effect is due to just 20% of the possible causes (e.g. unproductive customers, clothes you wear, food you eat, tasks you spend time on etc).
• Put thought into your leisure time: If you give your mind something meaningful to do throughout all your waking hours, you’ll end the day more fulfilled, and begin the next one more relaxed, than if you instead allow your mind to bathe for hours in semi-conscious and unstructured Web surfing.

Drain the shallows
  • Schedule every block of time that you can (e.g. every 30 minutes of your day).
    • Doesn’t mean you can’t change as things come up.
    • The goal of a schedule is about thoughtfulness on what you’re actually working on and if it’s the most important thing.
    • “What % of my time should be spent on shallow work”.
  • A job that doesn’t support deep work is not one that will help you succeed in the information economy.
  • Most dangerous word in one’s productivity vocabulary: “Yes”.
  • Become hard to reach – or generally, don’t be afraid to disconnect.
  • Do more thinking when you send or reply to emails (make it easy for the other side to subsequently save you time).
    • “What is the project represented by this message, and what is the most efficient process for bringing this project to a successful conclusion. How long can deep work be sustained by an individual in a given day?
How long does can someone spend on deep work?
– “For someone new to such a practice, an hour a day is a reasonable limit. For those familiar with the rigours of such activities, the limit expands to something like 4 hours, but rarely more”.
  • We spend much of our day on autopilot – not giving much thought to what we’re doing with our time.
  • To perform Deep Work, you must concentrate for extended periods of times. This is hard in the 21st-century information economy, but it’s what will separate you from 99% of the people who can’t concentrate due to the overwhelming information and ‘notification addiction’ they subscribe to.
  • Structure, routines and habits will help you maintain a state of focus and intense concentration so you can perform challenging and thoughtful tasks.

The data behind Pokemon Go



  • Pokemon GO has grown really fast;
  • It’s going to continue to grow fast;
  • It’s going to continue to make more money than it knows what to do with;
  • I HOPE this means Nintendo is making a comeback (but the jury’s out);


Pokemon Go has taken over the world. It’s unheard of the number of times I’ve seen stories snapped where groups of people stand in an unassuming place, eyes locked to their phones as they scour the virtual world for new Pokemon.

I’ve been intrigued by the rise of a game that was central to my generation’s childhood and partly-owned by the company (Nintendo) that we (used to) hold so dear to our hearts. I wanted to look at some of the numbers behind the game to get a clearer picture of what’s going on.


Let’s get the most obvious one out of the day first: It’s not a secret that Pokemon Go has set an all-time record with the most number of downloads in its first week. 

According to Sensor Tower, Pokemon GO has been downloaded 30 million times (and growing) on iOS and Android combined. It’s also broken the record for the fastest mobile game to get to 10 million downloads, doing this in 7 days (the previous record was Clash Royale who reached the magical number in 9 days). To put this into context, one of the most successful games ever in terms of engagement and grossing figures, Candy Crush Saga, reached this in 12 days.


Since launch, Pokemon GO users have steadily increased the amount of time spent on the app to 75 minutes per day playing. One of the most popular apps over the past decade, Facebook, only received 35 minutes since GO’s launch.

While outright (or absolute usage) is one metric, a deeper level understanding will consider the relative change in other high-usage apps. Let’s look at Youtube and Snapchat. Looking  at usage of said apps a week before and after Pokemon GO’s release, both were down by 9% and 18% respectively.


While peak usage shows the numbers hovering at 25m people on July 14th and around 23m on July 20th, it’s still too early to tell whether this means that interest is waning.

It’s worth noting that the above graph is only for the US, meaning Pokemon Go’s popularity on the global scale is still growing. The game only became ‘officially’ available in Japan over the past week. In any case, users have been getting their hands on the game one way or another (at least if you’re on Android) – some usage stats have been published below of users installing the Android APK file.

Android usage on pokemongo.png


You might be asking why the Pokemon GO developers have been holding off on a global release (especially when we look at revenue generated so far below). Turns out, when you’ve got a game as popular as this on your hands, someone has to keep the lights (or servers) on. This requires a huge infrastructure upgrade to handle the number of requests the developers will need to handle.


The already-smash-hit game is free to download and play on iOS and Android. Like many games, in-app purchases are available to make you play longer and invest more time in the game so you can catch ’em all.

As of July 11, SensorTower estimated the game to bring in $1.6million per day on iOS devices alone. That estimate seems to be quite accurate as SuperData said Pokemon GO has made $14.04m since launch (from that date). If we estimate that out, that would mean a total of $33.24m has already been made (that’s just on iOS and assuming the game has brought in $1.6m/day).

Other financial gains have been made not only on the stock market – Nintendo’s market cap increase by over 65% at its peak since launch – but also from those looking to take advantage of the craze who aren’t direct users. For instance, restaurant owners and pubs have paid in-app money to use the Lure module and attract potential customers to their doorstep.

Final thoughts:

When I first came across the game, I thought (and still do think) that this is just a fad. A good fad that’s getting people walking and exploring their city. But a fad nonetheless. It’ll be hard for anyone to argue that it’ll reach the level what we saw in the opening week, but that’s not the point here. What I hope the rise of Pokemon GO will do is two things:

  1. Bring Nintendo back to relevance, introduce them to a whole a new (younger) audience and make them release the power of mobile gaming. Pokemon GO is going to make a truck load of cash (I’d like to see how this revenue stacks up against their other initiatives) but I hope this worldwide phenomenon will wake them up to what’s going and shift their long-term priorities going forward.
  2. An increase in the conceptualisation and execution of mixed-reality games. While the first wave (Pokemon GO) has been an unprecedented success, the second wave is likely to spawn a number of imitators that are chasing the money (think Rocket Internetisation of mobile games – remember how many FlappyBird copycats there were after it went offline?). Other games of this nature have launched in the past, and I’m sure once the hype dies down we’ll be able to understand how the ‘Pokemon’  brand and the nostalgia the game brought contributed to the game’s success. The next wave of mixed-reality / augmented reality games should take inspiration that there’s an audience out there, ready and waiting for what’s next.


For now, let’s just enjoy the ride as the craze only seems to be getting crazier.


Other articles to read on Pokemon Go:



How I bootstrapped running 100km

As most of you already know, I have loved running for quite some time, but only since last year have I started taking it seriously. Whilst studying abroad in Australia last year, I took part in a competition called Inward Bound, whereby I was dropped off in the middle of nowhere with three other companions and we had to navigate ourselves back to base (which were a set of coordinates they gave us upon dropping us off (blindfolded!)). It was an incredible experience;  one I will always remember whenever I reminisce about my Australian adventure. Back to the run –we ended up running just shy of 80km in 17 hours. Our target was 105km.

One year on, on the 1st-2nd March 2013, I decided to run the Bogle – a 55 mile stroll around Greater Manchester, stretching to Bolton and the outer edges of the area. I decided to raise money for a fantastic charity called Kidscan – you can find out more about the wonderful work they do near the end of this post. Whilst raising money for charity is something I’ve always been keen of championing, I had a greater inclination to beat a Personal Best. I’ll be focusing on the “How” aspect, as I feel the current posts on 100km runs that come up on Google do not do it justice, especially for a novice runner.


Starting early, especially if you’re busy – I’ve never had the luxury of being able to focus on one thing for an indefinite period of time, so one thing I had to do was making time early on to run two or three times a week. I treated this like any marathon so I started slowly, running 10-12km in October and November, before slowly building up the momentum, endurance and courage to step things up. In December, January (exam time slowed me down) and February – I was running 14-22km quite regularly. I hit 25-30km twice, around three weeks before the run. I was way more prepared whilst in Australia, probably because I was running at a slower but more well-judged pace, and consistently with a bunch of other runners, whereas in Manchester – I had to make sure my playlists were exceptionally good let’s say. However, starting early is definitely a prerequisite – building up a habit of running is great if you want to improve your health; its necessary if you want to attempt a 100km run.

I never trained to run past 40km, and I wouldn’t recommend running 50+km to train only because you risk injuring your knees and ankles severely enough to be considered a risk before a 100km.

Nursing injuries – If you’re constantly running 20-30km twice a week, blisters are more than likely to come knocking at some point. I found it helpful to invest in blister pads early on and develop a love-hate relationship with them. Whilst on longer runs, they came in handy a couple of times when a unwise decision to carry on running took its toll on my feet.Image


I don’t think I’m in a position to be able to recommend any special diet or things to eat that you already probably know of  – beef, pasta, rice and lots of salmon were pleasant and seemed to work very well. On the run itself, everyone works differently so I made sure I experimented with a number of things from nuts and fruit to cereal bars and gummy bears beforehand to see what worked best. Having scrupulously picked at every detail whilst running in Australia, I was happy to stick to what worked previously.

I wish I had more to say on this, but I never monitored anything too rigidly, so there’s probably a lot of room for improvement, so its something I’ll have to consider for my next endeavor.

During the run:

For any crazy novice runner, it is worth reiterating that this is no walk in the park.

Aiming to run over 100km is no easy feat as we can all safely assume. So what advice would I give anyone during the run?

–       Pack lightly – It is now a natural tendency of mine to pack as lightly as possible in terms of clothes as I realize that my running pattern becomes inconsistent if I’m not wearing the same clothes as to what I started running with (meaning I wore the same clothes on every practice run, and for the actual run itself). Recently, I’ve found being able to pack compactly really does help, especially when it comes to food. Taking a range of snacks was also helpful, and packing them in small bags that I opened at set times as opposed to whole bags I just bought from the supermarket (after the halfway point, I had to leave behind a bag of unopened nuts which would’ve worked better had I not spontaneously bought them on my way to the starting line) worked much better when it came to getting into the flow of things.

–       Pace – During 100km, the mind goes off on its own accord and its important to be able to keep things interesting. Having grown up in London all my life, I’ve never actually seen Manchester in all its glory. A 100km run was the perfect excuse to explore a historic and fascinating city. Something I had to keep one eye on whilst doing this was my pace. A couple other runners seemed to have the mindset that they were going to run the entire thing; I knew that physically that wasn’t possible on my accord, so I had to keep to a steady pace with a mixture of fast walking, jogging and running. I think it is about being honest with yourself regarding your capabilities and your end goal. I couldn’t run the whole thing in under 10 hours, but I most definitely could manage to do it in 14 hours.

–       Enjoy it – A fairly generic way of ending any post, but really, if it weren’t for the small things – a random guy running with me for 3 miles in order to keep me company, awesome volunteers along the way cheering on the runners+walkers, watching the sunrise across Manchester – I wouldn’t have truly savored the journey. I can imagine that this wouldn’t be a regular thing for most of you, so if you are about to embark on such a journey, thinking about why you’re doing this as well as the elation you’ll feel and applause you’ll receive at the finish line, makes it all the more worthwhile.

If you must know, I finished in 17 hours and 53 minutes. The plan was to finish in 12 hours, but injury struck after 39.5 miles and I had to walk the rest of the way after I pulled a muscle and twisted my right ankle. I ended up running 63 miles (got lost and took a longer route home in order to get over the 100km mark once I realized how close I was to it) which is about 102 km in total.

Additionally, I’d like to plug my JustGiving page here (I only need to raise £60, which really isn’t that much) and I’d be grateful if you were to donate as much or as little as you can towards Kidscan.

More information about the charity:

KidsCan Children’s Cancer Research Centre was established in late 2002 to specifically support research into new and improved treatments for children with cancer. Our scientists are looking for treatments which are less damaging to the bodies of children and young adults. They aim to reduce both short and long term side effects whilst retaining the effectiveness of many current treatments.

Our aims are simple:

  • To cure more children with cancer.
  • To improve the treatment of children with cancer.
  • To develop new treatments for childhood cancer.
  • To be a source of information about childhood cancer.


Here’s a link to the page: .


Thanks in advance! 

Key Learnings from NYC

Life has a funny way of going about its business. One of my goals in 2013 was to be out in the U.S. at some point, interacting with a local startup community (I didn’t specifically have a preference where in the U.S). Since last Tuesday (19th Feb), I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of one of the most highly coveted student-run organisations in the world- The Kairos Society.

Fellows from the U.K, U.S, India, Scandinavia, Canada, France, Germany, Holland and many more countries – gathered in New York for the annual summit. Kairos is an organization which aims to gather the top student innovators and entrepreneurs (somehow I’ve fallen into this bracket?!) from around the world to be able to facilitate a valued network of peers to collaborate and design solutions to the pressing problems the world currently faces.

I’m particularly keen to direct this article to some of the insights that I’ve learnt during my trip,  so I’ll focus on key learnings, and briefly speak about any other personal memories.

I’ll start by saying stop worshipping a particular city, and look more closely at WHY you look to that city. The mindset and work-ethic of NY’s inhabitants puts the U.K to shame. They rise early, they don’t take lunch breaks and they work till late. Now, I’ve been a keen proponent of work-life integration for sometime, but the U.K needs to appreciate the trade-off between “work” and “life”.

Onto the city:  I find the NY people and its culture are what shapes the city more than anything, along withthe vast skyscrapers glittered across the city. I find that in all major metropolis’, you will always have certain landmarks such as the World Financial Center in Shanghai and the Empire State Buildingin NY, but they all share similar characteristics. I wouldn’t go as far as saying, “once you’ve been to one you’ve been to them all”, but it is important to bear in mind that travelling to a particular location shouldn’t be an end goal. Key learning: Stop looking at everyone else, look at your surroundings and think about how you can be the best in the world at what you do.

Onto Kairos: The themes for the 5th Annual summit were 3-D printing and Mobile Health. I’ve read around Mobile Health, but it didn’t ignite as much interest as 3-D printing did for me. In addition, with mentors from Autodesk (a company which I admire) and Shapeways, I decided to follow this theme a lot more closely. The prototypes developed by some of these companies were amazing and I believe, the UK will start to notice 3-D printing late this year whereas in the U.S it seems to be the craze right now. I’d encourage more students from the UK to look at the potential of 3-D printing and track what’s happening inthe U.S in 2013. I envision a global social enterprise coming out of this industry in the near future if anyone can utilise 3-D printing with a wide variety of raw materials in different shapes and sizes.

Friday’s Kairos dinner allows me to fully appreciate the  breadth of talent and extraordinary energy around me- I had mentors who’ve gone on to create multi-million pound businesses to my right, and students from Berkeley who are in the middle of creating drones using military technology provided by NASA. I was incredibly humbled by the occasion. Key learning: Being part of an incredible network of talented entrepreneurs can never be seen as a bad thing. Grasp more of these opportunities with both hands. 


 In the UK, it seems the media (including students) are very quick to lament the “lazy student”, but they wouldn’t have thought about using those two words in tandem if they were on that same floor as I was on Saturday- The New York Stock Exchange floor that is.  Key learning: Don’t ever take a stereotype at face-value, it’s most probably false. Obviously I couldn’t write a blog post on the Summit without mentioning Madeon, Lady Gaga’s DJ, opening up the party on Saturday night and making history as the first DJ ever to perform at NYSE.

Overall, the Kairos Summit, the Fellows and New York have all given me so much to ponder, and so many opportunities to consider. I will never forget my first trip to NY, nor my first Kairos Summit. I look to develop these relationships further in over 2013 and help Fellows reach their goals whilst working on mine. So, if you were at the Summit or if you’re a Kairos Fellow and you are reading this, let me know how I can help!

Key learnings: 

–       New York is an amazing city. But there’s so much more to the skyscrapers and NY Yankees. Explore, explore and explore.

–       The U.K need to take more opportunities, optimally collaborate, and develop long-standing partnerships with the U.S, as they seem to already be doing. And we need to build more businesses at a ground level (starting with scientific innovation at universities).

–       There are a larger number of businesses in more advanced areas such as healthcare, education, manufacturing, biotech, clean tech and energy. We need to encourage students to look at commercialization of their ideas and research in order to have 1st, 2nd and 3rd years thinking about applying their research in a more practical manner.

–       The food in NY is awesome. But it’s not really authentic.

Have you ever been to NY? What did you think of the city? And the food? Are there any places I should’ve gone to? 

Quotes part 2 by TuckerMax

These came from TuckerMax’s blog, I thought it would be worth reblogging for both your – and my own- sake. 


“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.”
-Carl Jung

“Those who write clearly have readers. Those who write obscurely have commentators.”
-Albert Camus

“If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.”
-W. Somerset Maugham

“It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you’re in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you’re dealing with someone who can’t.”
-Josh Olson

“Imagine a large corporate machine mobilized to get you to buy something you don’t need at a tremendously inflated cost, complete with advertising, marketing, and branding that says you’re not hip if you don’t have one, but when you get one you discover it’s of poor quality and obsolete in ten months. That’s a BA.”
-The Last Psychiatrist

“There is a big difference between danger and fear.”
-Paulo Coelho

“You cannot discourage a writer. If someone can talk you out of being a writer, you’re not a writer. If I can talk you out of being a writer, I’ve done you a favor, because now you’ll be free to pursue your real talent, whatever that may be. And, for the record, everybody has one. The lucky ones figure out what that is. The unlucky ones keep on writing shitty screenplays and asking me to read them.”
-Josh Olson

“He who feeds a Chaos will raise a Demon.”
-The Last Psychiatrist

“Middle-aged people–like me–often look back on our teenage selves with some mixture of amusement and chagrin. What we never seem to realize is that our future selves will look back and think the very same thing about us. At every age we think we’re having the last laugh, and at every age we’re wrong.”
-Dan Gilbert

“History repeats because the passions of man never change, but it is like lightening – it never strikes in the same manner and place twice.”
-Martin Armstrong

“Irrationality lies not in failing to conform to some preconceived notion of how we should behave, but in persisting with a course of action that does not work.”
-John Kay

“Critics stopped being relevant when they stopped writing to inform and contextualize, and when they started writing to signal who they are, to display their identity by their stance on what they are writing about. Criticism should never be about the critic, but thats what it has become, and that’s why no one cares about them anymore.”
-Tucker Max

“When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.”
-Martin Buber

“When we gawk at the illusion of stability dissolving, it’s a reaction to the wrong half of the equation. If things need to change, it means that what we do becomes incredibly more important. Do. Action suddenly becomes more valuable. It means that there is opportunity, if one can perceive everyone else’s blind spot and find some white space for themselves. If everyone is getting together and complaining, it means that there’s a lot of unoccupied space somewhere. Basically, it means that your contribution matters. And if you can muster up the strength to push against your fear, you might be able to do something that changes the game, just like Eva did. It isn’t about being Anti. It’s about being pro-something-good and making and acting and moving towards Pre-something-incredible.”
-Frank Chimera

How to get business ideas at University

If you wait for opportunities to occur, you will be one of the crowd – Edward De Bono 

I hear from a lot of students at university that they want to start a company in the near future, either once they’ve graduated or in a couple of years, once they have experience in one particular area, such as graphene engineering (what even is that?).

In my experience, it’s easier to start a business in a particular  field once you’ve already set up and worked in a business beforehand. There are opportunities all around us, especially at university, and it has become increasingly important to not necessarily engage in enterprising activities; but to at least identify opportunities (although the former is a huge leverage point, and it’s one thing to identify, and another to act upon your perspective).

This is something I’ve spoken to many people at Manchester Entrepreneurs about; many individuals wish to start something, but have no idea what to start. Therefore, this post isn’t directed to individuals who are THINKING about whether starting a business at university is a good option- I hope most of my readers already understand that it is, and are just short of a little inspiration.

I’ve done a bit of research around this, and most of the stuff I’ve found have been outdated, traditional (and quite frankly, boring) ways to earn money at university. I like to think people in the UK have a bit more ambition than just mowing someone’s lawn for a fiver or finding unnecessary clothes and selling them at a car boot sale (considering these to be actual businesses are questionable at best, but nonetheless you can make a living out of them. Someone is, somewhere in the world).

How to find ideas:

1. What’s your problem?: University students have problems all the time. For most of them, university is the first time they’ve had to leave home and live somewhere permanently. Things which we take for granted such as regular cooked meals, heating, travel and much more. Your friends are constantly having problems, and you can identify them by finding those keywords they may mention…”I wish X was run better”, “I honestly think I could do a much better job than they are at managing Y”, “I don’t understand why they don’t supply/serve Z”. Finding clear and simple solutions to everyday problems has much more scope to expand if you know of people who share the same problem. That usually means a vast majority of individuals in the same segment at least, may have the same problem. Most students I know complain about the amount of time they waste, or their sheer inability to track their spending.

It still holds true that man is most uniquely human when he turns obstacles into

opportunities. – Eric Hoffer 

2. Latching onto trends: A friend of mine recently set up a website where you buy Christmas Trees. Now, this might not be one of my pressing needs in March/April, but during November and December you can be sure many students, especially 2nd and 3rd years with houses, are probably looking to invest in affordable Christmas trees to go along with Christmas festivities. While he made a small profit out of it, he learnt a lot from the experience (I can testify to this, he was complaining to me how his supplier massively increased the wholesale price without informing him in advance and he had to react quickly to this setback) whilst being able to say he built a credible website, used social media tools to boost awareness, and even engaged in content creation in order to improve his own SEO. So Valentine’s day is coming up….

3. Look around you: Glasses Direct Founder James Murray Wells started his business, which sells glasses online at rock-bottom prices, by actively keeping his eyes peeled for opportunities. He reiterated that being able to flick the switch in your mind which involves harnessing the mentality of keeping your mind open to problems that need to be solved. Seriously, I can’t cook- if someone can either teach me/provide me with meals, I’d consider paying depending on the end-value creation and whether it is sustainable for me to do so. In all seriousness, I believe many students suffer from the same anxieties (aka “laziness”), and it’s worth delving into a bit more.

4. Leverage what’s out there: In The Straight Story, the 1999 filmabout a 73-year-old man who drives a lawn mower 300 miles across Iowa, I’m pretty sure he could’ve found a young snapper who would’ve done that for him for less than $10. In the 21st century, however, we’re thankful to have apps such as PocketMUni and Sooqini, which can help students indefinitely earn extra income. If you want to write a press release, teach a class, cook meals- you can pretty much do anything on these platforms and get paid for it. Now, this blogpost isn’t entitled “How to get more money at university”, but I merely point out these services as they demonstrate demand- if it’s something people want, you have a market to sell your product or services to.

“Opportunities are multiplied as they are seized” – Sun Tzu 

I’ve listed a number of my own ideas which I feel there is potential to expand and to think about and at least conduct some very basic market research.

My ideas: 

1. Library books

As a student of social sciences, I’m supposed to be checking out a large number of books per week, but its increasingly difficult to find these books in one of the largest university libraries in the UK. People misplace books, put them on the wrong shelf, or throw them out the window (OK, I made that last one up, JRUL is really an orderly place). One idea I thought of would be a service which collates all my library readings/books/e-books/journals all into one document, or all in one shelf or area for which I’d pay a £5 service and have a range of books varying in depth and topic.

2. Confessions/Spotted and Matchmaking

After being part of the Hottie In The Library craze during June 2011/Jan 2012, there have been numerous University “Confessions” and “Spotted” sites enter the fray, and as I mentioned to my friend who created the HITL site, there must be something in matchmaking, or building a strong community ( or even a social network) around this concept. I currently see all of these pages and sites pop up, but I just see a large number of users accruing, and the owners seem content with this for now. I’m eager to see how they attempt to monetize their coveted platforms.

3. Time-management

This is one of the biggest problems for students (myself included), and I feel there is a real innovation here. Whether that be condensing lecture notes more efficiently, helping students learn efficiently or just organising my time by tracking and monitoring how often I perform badhabits or encouraging me to adopt good ones. There’s much I can delve into, but I feel I can write another blog post on this.

What untapped ideas do you feel are left behind or where do you think there are the most problems at university that students can simply solve? If you’re a current student, or a graduate I’d love to hear your answers in the comments! 


There’s no need to make a New Years Resolution

“Learn to focus on the task at hand, take it one step at a time, life is too expensive a gadget to be operated on trial and error”- Unknown

With 2012 coming to an end, many people are quick to compose their New Year’s Resolutions and even quicker to justify why they’re going to stick to it this year, unlike the last few years where the  new annual gym membership was more or less obsolete.

Before you read on, just note that this isn’t one of those “Yeah, screw New Year’s Resolutions, they don’t work anyway, just live all day like you would your last”. No, I really don’t care for being controversial. I merely just want to divert your attention to a different way of thinking about the new year. Having jumped onto four new learning courses without finishing the one course I’m not even halfway through and starting new projects without abdicating responsibility or minimising my involvement in what I’m currently engrossed in because I’ve relented to opportunism,  I feel I would’ve achieved a lot more in 2012 if I were persistent in finishing rather than being so eager to start.

With New Year’s Resolutions, many people just don’t adequately prepare well enough to achieve their goal. It’s all very well having an end goal in mind, but it’s too easy to break your resolutions, become dispirited in the process and feel despondent enough to drop the goal altogether. From a recent university study, over 78% of participants who set New Year’s Resolutions fail to achieve these goals. While these studies may discuss new goals set in the new year, most people have goals they’re already actively pursuing. For example, I’ve started to wake up earlier and run every other day since the 15th of December. Before that, I set a goal to organize my time more efficiently by writing detailed schedules about where my time is currently being spent and comparing it to my Time tracker which highlights where my time should be spent- I started doing this halfway through November. Frankly, I really don’t have the capacity to try and focus on another audacious goal, which would result in a new habit, once this has been broken down into smaller goals (E.g. If I want to learn a new language as my goal, the habit would be that each day I spend 10 minutes on Duolingo doing two lessons a day, and then reviewing these fortnightly).

It’s been documented that the hardest thing to do is to start. This may be true for many people, but sometimes, momentum itself is a bitch. Further down the line in your journey to completing that goal, there’ll be hurdles- in the form of higher priority work, a lack of knowledge and other forms of temptation (such as an awesome e-learning course which you just HAVE TO register for this very minute)- but I feel that in order to have a higher impact and to be more fulfilled with completing goals, requires you to break those goals down into rituals and habits. This allows you to consciously build small habits into your daily life, and to further expand these once they have been fully engrained into your life. 

“The best way out is always through.” ― Robert Frost

Waking up at 6am doesn’t just happen overnight after waking up post-10am for the past few months(I blame university life). It starts and continues by consciously working towards waking up just 15-20 minutes earlier each day. If you’re determined to complete a goal, then you have to build on it and think of ways to make something into a habit in order to instigate such behavioural change in the long-term. 

Forget new habits, and focus on building what you are already working towards. Don’t get distracted by the customary new year goal-setting resolutions. You already have your goal, so work on those results that you are so eager to achieve.