Stop Being Mediocre Because of Picking the Wrong Battlefield

I believe many of us, either consciously or subconsciously believe that life is a quest of self improvement, a quest that only ends in death.

This is a popular notion, after all, consider the abundance and popularity of self-help books and sites.The focus on improvement is so strong that, according to this graph

The use of the word “improve” has been increasing steadily since the start of the 20th century

Yet all this focus on a general improvement mean that we often don’t know what to focus on. We want to improve, but we don’t know the answer to the simple question: Improve what?

Developing the wrong things can complicate or slow down our quests for self improvement.

Wayne Rooney, the world famous English soccer player has played a number of different positions on the pitch. Because of this he is a skilled all round player. He’s good but he might not be as nearly great as he could be if he decided to play to his strengths and stick to them.

This is obvious when compared to Cristiano Ronaldo, who has always played to his strengths by focusing on being in forward. Cristiano Ronaldo is considered to be arguably the finest player currently in professional soccer.

If Ronaldo were to have decided to move about the pitch, playing a great number of different positions, then as he never focused on developing his skills, he would have likely ended up an inferior player than he is today.

Ultimately it is easier to see your own weaknesses than strengths. This can be worse when you see someone great at something you are not. It is easy to feel compelled to try to match them in their skill. However this disregards the probability that you are better at something than them. Returning to the soccer analogy, if a whole team were to try to match each other, instead of developing their own skills. It would be a mediocre team.

It is impossible for one person to be great at everything, so developing in a focused way may be the true source of self-improvement or growth that you actually need.

This notion has been proved in the history of the smartphone too.

Consider the history of the smartphone[1] Prior to the unveiling of the Iphone in 2007, phone companies thought the future of mobile phones resided durablity, the chipsets, and appearance (for example the popular Motorola RAZR [2] which only really was revolutionary in appearance, not tech).

Apple however, realized people deep down wanted more efficiency, and something more than just a mobile . Luckily being innovative and improving efficiency have always been Apple’s strengths. In focusing on their strengths, they have revolutionized the mobile phone industry. Whereas everyone was trying to improve upon everything, Apple just made a device that encapsulated everything they already did well.

Because they played to their strengths they exceeded, outclassed and outsold their competitions, and eventually the competition ended up more or less copying Apple with their own smartphones.

Improving everything = Becoming average at everything

The best way to truly improve yourself doesn’t go with finding and getting things you don’t have, but building on the things that you have already.

This process can be painful and difficult. Whenever we find things we aren’t good at, it is perfectly natural to want to become good at it. However time is finite. Every second you spend going from bad to decent at one thing, is a second you could have spent on going from good to sensational at something else.

But what exactly should you do?

1. Clearly identify your strength

It is a good idea to sit down and work out what exactly your strengths are. Only you know this, you might be a fantastic painter, a skilled engineer, a great sportsperson, a passionate performer, or a great writer….it doesn’t matter. Once you have identified your strengths, hold them, celebrate them! But at the same time accept that it is literally impossible to be great at everything, so why try?

2. Define it clearly by doing detailed research

Once you have identified your strengths and skills, spend time to truly learn about them, learn what can be improved and how to go about improving. You can only build on something if you know and understand everything about it. For example if you are already good at communication, look into the importance of tone and body language, and as a result, you will go from a great communicator to an exceptional one.

3. Breakdown your strength into small parts and start practicing, deliberately

Once you understand yourself and your skills you can now readily identify what parts you need to build on and what parts you don’t. After this you should practice your skill with the specific aim at improving on on that particular aspect. This is called deliberate practice. If you want to learn more about deliberate practice, I recommend you read our article about it on Lifehack. Once you improve on particular parts, your overall skill level improves dramatically as you are training yourself in a very systematic, strategic way.

Picking flaws at what you are already good is hard but this is how you can turn from good to great

This process is extremely difficult and can be initially very disappointing. When you develop skills in something you’re not already good at, you can see obvious progress in not much time at all. However it is much less easy to spot improvements in something you’re already good at. It is easier to spot things you’re not very good at than to spot things lacking in things you are already good at. To see flaws in something others think you are skilled at.

Therefore it seems to truly excel you need to focus. Develop one thing you’re already good at and keep working on it until you’re the best.

Reference

[1] Guardian: The history of smartphones: timeline
[2] Business Insider:Watch The Incredible 70-Year Evolution Of The Cell Phone

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How to Build Confidence From Scratch

Michael Edwards, better known as Eddie “The Eagle” is a British skier whom no one believed in him before he made it to the world champion.

Eddie was slightly overweight, extremely near sighted (he wore thick glasses) trained in second hand equipment. At times he even stayed in a disused finish mental hospital as he couldn’t afford genuine accommodation. Many people came to doubt his ability as a skier. He would have suffered from low self confidence and never had endured all this, and never made it to the Olympics; but he became internationally loved as a figurehead and emblem of the Olympic spirit.

When I think about all the great people, like Eddie, who achieved greatness through their confidence, I wonder where their confidence came from. I don’t think confidence came natural to them. It didn’t come naturally to me.

If confidence doesn’t come naturally, where is it from?

When I was a small child, before attending school. I remember my friends and I seemed almost limitless in confidence. Nobody seemed more confident than anyone else.

All this changed at school. In school, competition is entrenched. It didn’t matter what we did or studied, whether we studied English, Art, P.E, some naturally stuck out, scored better and were rewarded for it. Our conduct at school even separated us. This in turn seemed to affect self confidence.

I was never a straight-a student. My grades were good but not great. I was never one of the kids rewarded for some high grade or performance, I never had their confidence.

Confidence for me came later.

In high school, I discovered my passion for technology. I loved writing code, I still do, and each successful program I wrote, each line of effective code was rewarding to me in a way I had never felt before. Each time something didn’t work, or I came across a difficult bug to overcome, I was presented with an exciting challenge. I received no praise in school for it, no accolades, but that didn’t matter. I was doing what I loved, and every time after solving a difficult coding problem, my confidence grew.

Here I discovered something that has changed my entire outlook on confidence and ability. Self confidence is something that only comes from you. No matter how much you look, or where you look, no matter how much praise you do or don’t get, you will never find confidence unless it comes from within.

Confidence came from working though difficulties, making myself work on challenging pieces. It didn’t seem to matter if I succeeded or failed (but I’ve long known that even if you fail a hundred times, you will succeed if you are able to keep trying). I only needed to keep pushing myself and confidence grew as a result.

Confidence comes when difficult things are overcome.

When struggles are overcome, it feels good, and there’s a great deal of satisfaction. From this satisfaction comes confidence.

Perhaps you have an unhealthy lifestyle and losing weight, doing exercises and going on diet are the difficult things for you. Perhaps, you are shy. Delivering a talk in front of a large audience will then be something difficult to you. Or perhaps you are a perfectionist, then embracing mistakes will be the most difficult thing for you.

No matter what the difficult thing might be, you’d feel proud, strong, and confident in your abilities once you overcame that obstacle. That confidence you felt then is a confidence you deserve to feel at all times, you earned it then and earn it still.

Confidence grows along with more doubts and more criticisms.

There will be setbacks for sure because after all, these are some really difficult things. There will  be disappointments because it’s something really hard to do. There will be failures because difficult things require many trials and errors before succeeding. There will be criticisms because no one can be able to complete something difficult perfectly at the very beginning.

When I just started Lifehack, it took a long time to gain readers. It took me a while to get 100 visitors. This was difficult for me, I had great ambitions for this site, and for a time it seemed doomed to fail. I received criticism, some thought that the world didn’t need another advice site, others thought there was something wrong with the idea itself. It was hard for me not to listen to them and agree.

But in the end, my confidence was such that I persisted, I tweaked the layout, reconsidered how the articles would be structured and written. Made the site more user friendly. The team grew with the hiring of some extremely dynamic, and talented people. Then the site grew in popularity, and as of now we have influenced millions.

I realized that by pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and getting over the difficult things would grow my confidence.

It can, of course, be tough to push yourself through challenges. I’m not denying that, they wouldn’t be challenges if it were otherwise. But there is a quote by Churchill that I think about whenever I am faced with a challenge, a quote that I feel relates to everything I’ve written about above:

“If you’re going through hell, keep going”

Confidence will grow further, the more challenges you face and overcome.

You will stay confident, only so long that you don’t avoid challenges. Some people avoid challenges. Perhaps they may have failed at something one too many times, perhaps they’ve been told that they lack something needed to succeed. Instead they rely on stability, coasting through life. This can be fine for them, but ultimately its restrictive. They will never grow in confidence, and their fear of failure will become so powerful that they will never succeed.

Featured photo credit: Eddie the Eagle via foxmovies.com

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How I Become Creative by Spending 10 Minutes a Day to Exercise My Brain Muscle

I still remember that time when I was around the age of 6, I drew a picture about me and my parents during art class. That was my first class and I could draw anything but I really wanted to draw my family and so I did. My other classmates drew something different, some drew animals, some drew ugly aliens, some drew pretty princesses. My teacher came to me and said, “Brian, you can be more creative next time.” And that moment I thought, maybe I really wasn’t a creative person, and I thought maybe creativity was inborn.

During my early childhood, I really thought I couldn’t be more creative, until I read a book called It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be by Patrick O’Neill. I figured that as long as I wanted to be more creative, I could train myself to be a creative person.

So I started to research for more tips and tricks on becoming more creative. There is a popular exercise in Improv Comedy called “Yes and”.[1] When one person comes up with a fairly simple idea, the other person responds by adding a smaller detail. So I took reference of this exercise and created an exercise that could stretch my creativity like workouts do to my muscle.

This exercise is perfect for anyone who lives a busy life with a full schedule. This is also great for anyone who works in an environment where tasks are fully instructed and novelty is not required. Even if you aren’t working in a creative field, training your creativity with this exercise will help you approach challenges and problems in bold and inventive ways.

The exercise I’m going to introduce to you will only take you ten minutes a day to train up your creativity muscle.

I call this mental exercise, The Journey of A Man And A Dog.

Here’s how it goes…

First, imagine there’s a man and a dog.

Consider the relationship between them.

Where did the dog come from? How long has the man had the dog?

What breed is the dog, an what might this breed suggest (for example a Greyhound might suggest things different than a poodle would).

Is the dog the man’s pet and the man is walking the dog in a park?

After you’ve spent some time considering this, try to think about more possibilities.

For example, maybe the man found the dog abandoned somewhere.

Why was the dog abandoned? How was the dog?

Don’t be afraid about playing with this idea, go in as many strange places you like. Maybe the man and dog are post-apocalyptic survivors exploring a wasteland? Maybe the dog is the more powerful and intelligent one in the relationship? All you need to do is keep adding to this.

Then you can even try to be more creative with fantasy elements.

For example, maybe the man is a scientist and he’s planning to take the dog to the Mars to see if it can survive there.

Adding things to their relationship encourages you to think in ways different to how you would normally think. Thus developing your mental capacity to think in these new, creative ways.

The exercise doesn’t always have to be about a man and a dog.

If, for some reasons you find this limiting, you could consider:

  • a teacher and a student
  • a police officer and a criminal
  • a rich man and a homeless man
  • a spider and an old man
  • a man with a broomstick
  • a girl with a tattoo
  • … any possible relationship between two or more people is perfect.

After a while you could even adapt this exercise to the real world.

Look outside your window to the people walking past outside and try to think of the lives they lead. Try to come up with interesting or funny stories behind each person. It’s creatively stimulating and strangely fun!

Before you know it your mind will become accustomed to thinking creatively, and as such you will become a far more creative person.

Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

Reference

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Why Letting Your Age Define You Is Pointless

I remember times when I was job searching, I’d see jobs that I knew I could do, and do well, yet I had no chance of getting it simply because I didn’t have the necessary years of “experience”. You might have seen the same thing.

Equally, when you turn eighteen, you are able to vote, at sixteen you are able to drive. Legally speaking, a mere 24 hours before your birthday, you weren’t equipped or experienced enough to vote or drive. We sometimes accept age equals experience.

But I’d rather be driven by a sixteen year old who drives a long distance every day, than a forty year old who only drives occasionally. I’d trust an eighteen year old who has studied the policies of each politician on the ballot to vote more responsibly than a fifty year old who votes on a whim.

I think we all would, yet we are often still blinded by the false idea of the importance of experience over anything else.

If it’s not about the years of experiences, what are the true indicators of ability?

Imagine you’re an employer, and in front of you are two prospective employees. One is relatively young, but in their time they have overcome a number of challenges, they show drive and determination, they demonstrate good knowledge and skill, yet they haven’t worked in this industry for very long; the other is about a decade older and they’ve spent a number of years in a similar job, they have experience for sure, but very little else.

I think most of us would go with the younger employee.

Age, ultimately is a measurement of time lived, not things achieved or difficulties overcome.

Let us consider Elon Musk,[1] he is a self made billionaire, the co-founder of Paypal, the CEO of SpaceX, Tesla, and numerous other companies. Were he to have joined a tech company and wait until he had the right amount of experience, then without a doubt, he would have achieved none of this.

Though, as you’d imagine he was an computer prodigy (at twelve he designed, programmed, and sold a video game), his life wasn’t easy. His parents divorced at an early age, and at school was bullied remorselessly. Yet, after achieving two bachelor degrees in Canada, and dropping out of a Ph.D, his success was immediate and meteoric.

In short, he overcame a great deal of personal problems, but due to his drive, passion and talent, was able to achieve great success. Success ultimately achieved without years and years in the tech industry gaining experience (indeed, he studied physics and economics in university).

It’s about how many challenges you have gone through, not how many years you have lived through.

A good employer knows these things. When looking for new team members, a good employer takes drive, passion, talent, resilience far more into account than the number of years they’ve spent in a job and certainly not the amount of years they’ve been alive for, which again is really all that age really signifies.

At Lifehack, when we recruit new team members, we are not concerned about the number of years a candidate has in the field. During a job interview, we ask candidates about their concrete experiences over the past time. For example, what have they achieved and how did they do that? What obstacles have they come across and how did they get over them?

We’ve seen plenty of candidates who have 10 years or more work experience in the field, yet they can’t really tell us their journey of growth.

Deep down, you don’t grow with years, you grow with challenges.

I believe we need to reconsider growth and experience. You grow with things faced and battles won (or lost).

Think of your greatest accomplishments, I imagine after accomplishing them you felt stronger and more effective than you did after after working at a place for a year,

Because of this, I think deciding to wait for a few years, until you start working on your dreams is potentially disastrous. If you wait for a eureka moment where your brain tells you that you’ve gained enough experience, then I’m afraid you’ll be waiting forever.

We should begin to consider growth as something that comes from developing skills, improving your intelligence, and mindset, and not something that just sort of…happens after being alive for a while.

If you want concrete proof of your growth, don’t wait, but seek out challenges and take risks. Even if you fail, you still had the strength to try, and have the strength to try again, this matters more than any amount of experience.

Reference

[1] Biography: Elon Musk

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Keep A “Friend Bank” So You Can Maintain The Right Kind Of Friendship!

On Facebook I have close to three hundred friends, someone else I know has well over one thousand. What does that mean?
Does it mean, that, when I want to hang out with friends, I contact three hundred people, or them, one thousand?
Clearly not. If not that, then are most of them friends at all?

Making someone a real friend takes considerable time and effort. Sometimes, instead of making the effort to establish someone as a friend, we might instead choose to have a large number of shallow acquaintances instead of friends.
On social media, someone you met once in passing at some house party, can become listed as a friend, even if there is little chance or little intention of you meeting them again.

Having a big list of “friends” may make us feel good, it might make us feel extremely popular. However in the end all of this could be bad for us, as we may lose out in making real profound human connection. Especially if we no longer see the need in making the necessary effort.

In our all too busy lives, we can easily lose sight of the simple fact that good friendships are not determined by quantity, but quality.

Who are your real friends?

When you add someone as a friend on social media, their actual connection to you and your emotional connection to them isn’t considered by the website. The site may highlight people you interact with online more, but generally real connections aren’t considered and all appear the same.
People that you care about and care about you may fall from sight. As such it can be important to do the slightly unusual task of taking stock. To determine who are, and who are not, your real friends.

How does the “Friend bank” work?

Perhaps the best method to cut through this cloud of uncertainty is to take time and create a friend bank. To mentally group those who you are closest to and happiest with.
These days are lives are incredibly busy, we might have a family to feed, work commitments, or intense study schedules. In any case, the time we have to cultivate any form of relationship, let alone friendships, can be brief. It could be useful to better ascertain who to spend time with.

Also, paradoxically, though, thanks to social media, we seem to have an abundance of friends. The number of people we want to spend our free time with may actually be quite small. Considering a friendship tier system will help you mentally clarify things.

With this in mind there are three different tiers of friends to consider.

Top Tier-Best friends
These are the ones who are the most important to you. You are happiest with them and think they are happy with you. Your friendship runs deep and as such you have a great deal of treasured memories with them and know that there will be many more great memories to come. You are willing to to whatever it takes to maintain the friendship and you know they feel the same.

Right now you can probably think of many people that fulfill this category. These are the ones that are so close and important to you, that they almost seem a part of you.

Middle Tier- Good Friends
These are the ones you really like spending time with. But you know deep down you have different tastes and values which sometimes results in you feeling distant from them. Sometimes its enough for you to simply stay in contact with them through social media.

You hope your friendship with them will continue, and are willing to make some effort to maintain it, but in that is dependent on them as well. Friendship is a two way street, and its only really worth it if they give as well as you.

Bottom Tier – Distant friends
You like these people, and they like you. In the past you’ve had some good times. But you feel that you and them are slightly drifting apart, and that doesn’t bother you too much. Your conversations with them are shallow, bordering on small talk, as quite simply, you don’t have anything in common with them anymore.
You and them rarely meet up or hang out.
You think your feelings about them are mutual and feel you may drift apart entirely and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

These people are like old friends from childhood, school, college, or work. People that you really associated with due to proximity and never became all that close, or were once close but the distance has become great.

Everyone else are perhaps not your friends and are just acquaintances or perhaps even friends to be.

It is important to note that none of these tiers are set in stone. Someone now in the top tier can tumble to the bottom, and someone from the bottom tier can climb to the top. It’s quite fluid, and entirely dependent on your thoughts and feelings about them.

You might find that the next time you meet with someone in the bottom tier, you really enjoy their company and come to consider them good friends or even best friends. This would be wonderful news, and so don’t hesitate to put them higher up on the list. Equally, if you fall out with someone in the top tier, you might find you want to place them lower.

In the end this isn’t us telling you to carefully pick and choose your friends. Nor are we encouraging you to drop out of touch with some people.
But considering such a tier system may help to clarify things for you, to organize your relationships. In the age of 1000+ friends list such an exercise could prove to be important, allowing you to realize who your true friends are, allowing you to appreciate them even more. Deepening your relationship and happiness with them.

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How to Win More by Giving up for the Right Reason

One of the core practices in Buddhism is non attachment. Buddhists believe that forming emotional attachments to things, will inevitably lead to suffering. Whilst this notion has been taken to extremes, with people not forming attachments to anything, abandoning all possessions and forsaking friendship. I believe that non attachment can be beneficial in certain ways, especially when it is applied to our ideas and goals.

It is perfectly natural to cling to our ideas. To want to work day and night to see them through. This is commendable. However, it could be said, that in some contexts, the idea of never giving up on something, no matter the costs, is well…inefficient.[1]

Instead of seeing it as giving up, see it as retreating.

What is Steve Jobs famous for?

I’d bet almost all of you answered “The founder and late CEO of Apple”. I’d again bet that none of you said, the founder of NeXt.[2] This was a company similar to apple that Jobs Founded during the few years he left Apple.

The reason for this is that the company was ultimately a failure, and was later brought up by Apple once Steve Jobs returned to the company. Though Jobs spent time, energy (and $7 million) on the company, he gave it up as it was not a success. He didn’t spend years after, losing his money and the rest of his credibility on NeXt as it sank, and Apple rose in strength and influence.

Walt Disney once founded Laugh-O-Gram, an animation studio he hoped would be the launching ground for his ideas.[3] Laugh-O-Gram soon went bankrupt and crashed, undeterred, he founded another studio. Walt Disney Studios. You’ve probably seen some of their work.

What these stories teach us, is that, ultimately not all ideas are created equally. NeXt wasn’t the next Apple, and Jobs came to know this. For whatever reason Laugh-O-Gram, didn’t have that magic X factor that Walt Disney Studios came to have, and again, Walt Disney came to know this.

Of course, it’s good to be passionate about our ideas, but that passion can leave us blind to real faults. If we take a step back at our ideas and look at them objectively, we may see things that should be changed or perhaps the idea could be abandoned entirely in favor of a better one to come along.

Ultimately, if instead of seeing our ideas as things to fight for whatever the cost, but investments of time, effort, and money. We may come to see our ideas and projects differently.

In military history, there are countless stories of armies retreating from battles in order to win more important, larger battles. There are also stories (think Napoleon’s catastrophic invasion of Russia) of armies heading into battles or campaigns which ended in disaster (Napoleon never recovered from the loss). Its the same thing.

It’s difficult to let go because we fear that we waste the effort we’ve spent.

We like to think that our value of things such as projects or goals comes from our wish to see them through, or perhaps a prediction of their later worth. However our ultimate attachment actually comes from a complex web of emotional attachments created not by our views of its worth, but the time and effort already put into it.

In many ways, one of the most powerful aspects of our attachment to things is based on fear of our loss of that thing, as much as our liking or enjoyment of it. This false attachment based on loss is the sunk cost fallacy.[4]

How many times have you heard of a gambler putting everything they have into a bet, for that gamble to work out and they win big and are forever successful…Maybe that has only happened a few times. There are countless stories of gamblers putting everything into a bet, ending in them losing everything. Or if they win with the first bet, they lose it all in the second. Once again, the gambler’s commitment to win whatever the cost, is the sunk cost fallacy in point of fact.

It’s the same thing. If you put a significant amount of money into something, only for it to end in failure, that money is gone forever. That loss is greater still when you see time and effort spend on something as currency too.

Who else is supportive?

When you consider the sunk cost fallacy, its easy to see why you might be biased, why your thinking is too subjectively bent towards an idea. In this way, getting the thoughts of others can be a better idea. There is no point asking friends, because as friends they are almost honor bound to tell you its a good idea and act supportive. But ask yourself how many people are clearly and visibly supportive and enthusiastic about your project or goal.

If there are many people, then, well you may be onto a winner. But if there are few, or even nobody, then ask yourself why that is, you might think its because they don’t care. But this isn’t the case. The biggest reason they may not be super supportive as they don’t want to see you fail and are trying to hint that what you are working on, may not be worth your time.

Letting go of what doesn’t serve you returns to you your best feature, your unique selling point.

When you put all your effort into something, there is always a risk of losing your most important feature. You risk losing that one thing that is the secret behind all your successes. If you quit something and that thing is truly returned to you and is ready to work for you again.

But what is it?

Well, the secret behind all your successes is yourself. If you put everything in an ultimately bad idea then you aren’t working with your best, but are working with the sunk cost fallacy. By quitting and working on something else, you gain all your passion and ability back.

It is difficult to consider quitting. I know that this is hard to hear. Again, only you should take the leap in giving up on something. If you are truly passionate about something, and others support you and think it a good idea. If you are happiest thinking about it and enjoy working on it, then fight for it with all its worth. If no part of you accepts this article and thinks I’m right in any way, then please, don’t pay attention to me.

I don’t know you, I don’t know your goals or ambitions. If I knew what you were working on its possible I’d think it a great idea.

But if somewhere this article connects, and deep down quitting seems like a good idea. Then maybe it is. Sometimes, giving up on one thing can lead to success in another.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] 99U: The Merits of Giving Up on Your Ideas
[2] Web Archive: Apple Computer, Inc. Finalizes Acquisition of NeXT Software Inc.
[3] Wanderlust Worker: 12 Famous People Who Failed Before Succeeding
[4] You Are Not Smart: The Sunk Cost Fallacy))

For example: have you ever played a video game for a while, rebooted it up one day only to discover that the save file has been corrupted. Our frustration here doesn’t come from our the way it’ll take much longer to see how the game’s story progresses, or even the fact that we have to re-play it again, instead our frustration comes from the time we have spent on the game to amount to nothing.

The pain and frustration we feel when we lose out, is the same reason why Buddhists avoid forming attachments at all, as they feel this suffering is inevitable. But this isn’t necessarily the case.

When the sunk cost fallacy is applied to our goals and projects, its easy to see how we can become attached to things that deep down we know might not work. Again, we don’t stick with them because we know their worth, we stick with them as we can’t bear to see the loss of it, or specifically we can’t bear to see the time spent on it amount to nothing.
In this way, abandoning the idea early on in favor of a better one can be the better option.

In the end, only you will know if or when to give up on something, but here is a short list of things to think about when in consideration.

How excited are you about it?

It could be a good idea to deeply examine how exactly you feel about your idea, project, or even current job that you may give up on. Does thinking about it stress you out? When you talk about it does you mood deflate and you try to change the subject, speaking enthusiastically about other things?

If its causing you stress and unhappiness, then perhaps its a good idea to truly consider how much it is worth to you. No idea is worth you health and happiness.

Plus, if you decide to stick with it, this unhappiness is only going to grow and expand, as deep down you know the thing you are spending your time on isn’t right for you
Listen to yourself and you’ll know the answer.

“What if?”

By now you’re probably thinking or saying those immortal words.

“What if this idea proves to be a great success”

“What if I am losing out massively?”

We can never be sure of the answer to these questions, that’s why they are so powerful. But one thing we can be sure about, is that it is impossible to know the future.

“What if my book idea is the next bestseller?”

“What if its the next Harry Potter?”

Consider how truly realistic this is. There are many successful and published writers who only earn a decent living from their books. Every failed book ever written was written by someone who fought hard for it and didn’t give up on it. What if they spent that time on a better book? What if that better book was successful? They never found this out as they spent all their time and effort on a bad idea.

Can quitting leave you financially better off?

This is best explained with a gambling metaphor.((Oprah: Know When to Fold ‘Em

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Not All Books Are Meant to Be Read. Here’s How to Pick the Right Ones

As a culture, we have become reverential of books and the written word. This is a great thing. A great book can challenge us, change the way we think, or tell us fantastic stories that stick with us. This is why I write, why I chose to study literature at university.

I believe prose is the greatest story telling form we have, and poetry the greatest method of self expression.

Yet, are reverence of books is such that many of us see it as a faultless medium, that a bad book will always be superior to a great film or great video game…just because…
Well like with everything, there are a lot of bad books out there, books certainly not worth your valuable time. Especially as books, being a long form medium, can take many hours to read, far more than, a film or documentary.

It has been estimated that on average people read about 4 books a year [1], with the more voracious readers, going through about 12. [2] Both of these numbers are surprisingly small. We may only read a few hundred books in our life times. Perhaps the reason for this is that people are just too busy to spend time on books. Our lives are consumed by work and responsibilities, that it can sometimes be difficult to put the necessary time in to truly enjoy a book.

Life is too short to spend reading bad books

Spending hours of your life on books you don’t enjoy is ultimately doing yourself a disservice and wasting valuable time that you could be spending in other pursuits, or simply reading a better book.

Now, there are countless articles online suggesting good books to read, this isn’t going to be one of those. Nor is this article isn’t going to be a list of bad books, I am way too unqualified and not nearly sufficiently well read to give that advice. Books rely on personal taste, which is inherently subjective. There will be books others love that you will hate, and there will be books you hate that others will love. Both views are right and both views are wrong, such is the way with taste.

What we need then is a list of potential categories, a checklist that people should consider to help work out what book you are likely to enjoy or find interesting, and what books might only waste your time.

How to tell if a book is for you

Generally we tend to buy the best sellers, after all, if millions of people are reading and buying the same book, then they can’t be wrong surely?
Well, often when a book is a best seller it means that its marketing budget has meant it has attracted a larger readership, it is not necessarily a sign of quality, as it only shows a book as been brought, not enjoyed.

Although there are countless books in the world, covering an infinite amount of subjects. So, before you decide on buying a book, you should consider why you want to read it, and what kind of book you want to read.

For example:

Are you looking for a book that might challenge the way you think? Encourage a mental paradigm shift? Then perhaps a book on philosophy is something you’d enjoy.

Are you looking to be entertained? Then perhaps check out a thriller, or even a piece of great literature.

Do you want to know more about the life of a successful or interesting section. Then look into biographies and autobiographies.

Are you looking to expand you knowledge? Then an interesting piece of non fiction such as history is something you’d be interested in.

Once you have narrowed down and have better ascertained what kind of book you are looking for, then here is a five step guide for finding the perfect book for you.

Five things to check to find the perfect book

Pre existing interest

Let’s imagine you just walked into a bookshop, you know you are going to buy something, but you don’t know what yet.
Firstly, consider what you like already, perhaps there is some great show on and you want to read the books its based on, or read more about the subject.

For the purposes of this, lets say you really like the series Game of Thrones, but you’ve already read the books and really enjoyed them. So you go to the fiction section. If you hadn’t you’d simply buy the books they are based on.

Author

You find the author George RR Martin, the writer of the original Game of Thrones novels, and go through his works. It makes sense that if you enjoyed one book by an author, there is a good chance you’d enjoy another.

But on this bookshelf, you’ve read all the books by him.

Subject

You stop to think what you like about Game of Thrones. For you, its the medieval setting, and political intrigue. Not so much fantasy, so you head towards the historical fiction setting.

Not knowing what books are worth reading, you decide to call a friend.

Recommendation

Your friend recommends a few titles, but you remember one time they recommended a movie once which you hated, so probably your tastes are too different. Instead you go online and search for books like Game of Thrones.

You come across a novel about the English Wars of the Roses, the conflict which loosely inspired the story of Game of Thrones. It seems interesting, but you need more.

Reviews

You search online for the book and notice that all the reviews for it are really positive. Some of the things said about the book seem interesting to you. So you decide to buy it and once you start reading, you know it’s a book you will enjoy.

There are so many bad books with good premises, so its always a good idea to check out reviews. Of course, some reviews you will disagree with, but if the majority of the reviews of the book are positive then its a good indication that the book is worth reading.

Reference

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