The life of an optimist

If every problem was seen as an opportunity to find a solution and every challenge was seen as a test that you have the ability to pass with the skills you already have, we’d have a lot less suffering and a lot more positivity.

Fear-mongering is something I don’t have much time for (mainly because I forget a lot and can’t store a ton of that energy in my brain), but being an outrageous optimist is a mindset everyone can adopt.

Not only does it help you set more ambitious goals, but it allows you to be more action-orientated, which puts you ahead of 99.9% people out there.

Further reading on this topic can be found on Mr Money Mustache’s blog post about the topic.

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Monitoring Time Well Spent on iOS 12

If you’ve upgraded to iOS 12, you’ve probably played around with the new Screen Time app. It basically monitors your time on your phone, how many times you pick up your phone and breaks down that time as “productive” or otherwise.

Personally, I’ve been using the Freedom app to help me focus and stop me from logging onto various “unproductive” sites. While this has occasionally been annoying when speaking to a friend and they want to show me something on Facebook or Instagram, overall, this has helped me stay focused.

Being a data nerd, I’m looking forward to gaining a better understanding into how often I log into my phone, during what times and days, as well as how this is impacting my overall deep work contribution.

 

Reading workflows

I’ve been thinking a lot about the optimal reading workflow.

For example, when is an audiobook the best medium? How can I track and organise all the articles I read on various platforms? When should I get a physical book?

M.G. Siegler posted about his reading workflow, which made me think about my own.

Personally, everything I open on Safari/Chrome on mobile will either be read while I’m commuting, or be put in Pocket and kept for a later time. I then dedicate certain days (sometimes weeks) to getting through content on Pocket, otherwise I’ll never read it again. I also use the audio function on Pocket (at 2X speed) to get through stories or non-actionable stuff. With actionable content, I try and deal with that on Pocket Web and try and ensure it’s appropriately actioned.

When it comes to books, I haven’t fully figured out the optimal process but when it comes to audio, I like listening to autobiographies (Trevor Noah, Mike Tyson, Phil Knight) and general fiction. When it comes to physical books, those are the ones I want to study and “dog flap” the pages I want to save for later reading – the Kindle is the same.

M.G. wrote about having Instapaper alongside Pocket, so this might be another experiment to try! If anyone’s got any tips or wants to share their reading workflow, I’m open to hearing!

What would be your plan in a Doomsday scenario?

Hello. I haven’t written on here for a while. But I figured I could try and write a little more as writing is something I have a love/hate relationship with, and currently, it’s in that “I kinda like you but i dno if i can commit to luving u” phase, so I thought I’d run with it and just write.

I’ll probably write about whatever comes to mind, or an article, video or blog post that I come across and just get started, not putting in the heavy planning on what a blog post should be and what it should look like. Inspirations I have in mind when I think about this style are Seth Godin and Fred Wilson, so I owe a lot of thanks to those guys and their consistency.

An article from Bloomberg popped up on my feed recently that made me decide to start writing on this blog (mainly so I can reflect in a few months/years and understand the way I think about things now, to hopefully better inform future-me).

The article looks at what the super-rich are doing to prepare for a doomsday scenario. They’re transporting bunkers to remote parts of New Zealand and keeping a private jet at the ready in-case some serious sh*t goes down – which could happen in the next 50 to 100 years with the advancements in technology, environmental causes and of course, the most likely cause – kids not playing nice with others.

In such a scenario, I wondered what I’d do if/when the world is at risk of an apocalypse.

While the initial thoughts of being with family, making your peace with your life, speaking to friends one last time came to mind, you actually realize that life doesn’t really work like that.

I probably won’t have time to say or do everything I want.

So I’d rather treat every interaction and conversation I have from here on with a level of respect and admiration it deserves so I can have no regrets.

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”.
Summary:
  • 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

 

TLDR:

  • 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.

Downloads

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.

Usage

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.

Monetisation

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.

Training:

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

Diet:

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: http://www.justgiving.com/fahimbogle2013 .

 

Thanks in advance!