These words pounded over and over in my head this afternoon as I approached the cold water of my shower. This wasn’t just cold water, this was ice cold, the coldest the pipes can manage in 80+ degree weather. I stepped into the shower and felt the familiar rush as my body started cooling off.
I had never really used this mantra before that moment. It came to me out of the ether and really fit the moment and my mood as of late. I even knew immediately what each part meant. I’ll break it down.
Don’t Stop. This seems fairly straight forward, but think about how easy it is to stop. In any endeavor we undertake the ability to stop is always there. I could have stopped before stepping into the cold water. I could have stopped before writing this post. You can stop, but then you never get the benefit of pressing on.
Don’t Slow Down. This one can also read “Don’t Think About It”. If we’re after a goal, or feverishly working on a project, think about how easy it is to slow down and think about what we’re doing. Or worse yet, to rethink what we’re doing. I’m not talking about the quick thought processes that run through our heads while we’re in thrall, those are alright and expected. But cross examining and rethinking what we’re doing leads to a dark place of stagnation and analysis paralysis.
Don’t Succumb. There will always be the dark thoughts that enter our minds. The doubt, the comparisons, the evil and belittling voices that echo in the silent moments. This part of the mantra is a reminder to push back against those voices. Don’t let them gain a foothold, for they have a domino effect on us. The voices enter, we listen, we slow down, and finally we stop.
This is a mantra that I choose to repeat as much as possible in the coming days and weeks. This is a mantra that will get me through what I need and want to do. Take this and use it for yourself.
I’ve spent years looking into memory. How it works, ways to streamline the learning process, how to remember everything I see, read, and experience. It always comes back to the same methodology.
For those of you not familiar with the methodology of Loci, let me relate a story to you. For you BBC fans, you’ll get it immediately if you watch Sherlock.
It was some time during the fifth and sixth centuries BC when Simonides was invited to a party. There was much drinking, talking, and overall pleasurable company. After a time Simonides stepped outside to remove himself from the party. It was then that the building came crashing down on top of the party goers. All inside were killed. In the aftermath Simonides aided rescuers in removing the rubble. Many of the party goers were unrecognizable after being crushed by so much stone. In his grief, Simonides could see these friends as they were at the party. Slowly, he walked around, remembering the location of each friend, and thereby helping in the identification of those killed in the collapse.
Since then the loci method has been refined, and was used in ancient Greece as a method for remembering much information, not the least of which is the famously long oratory of the Greek and Roman philosophers.
The method starts in a place with which you are familiar. It could be your home, or your childhood home, or even an area you’ve secretly created in your mind. This will be your palace, your loci, or mind palace, if you will.
Next, whatever you choose to remember. Currently I am learning and remembering Spanish so that I may communicate more effectively with my girlfriend and her family (motivation). For each item you wish to remember you will attach it to a particular loci in your mind palace.
Any item you wish to remember needs to follow the rules of memory. Words, numbers, and anything without substance will be nearly impossible to remember. The memory must be tangible. Use your senses to make the object as memorable as possible. I want to remember to buy milk when I go shopping, so I place a cow and bucket near the entry to my mind palace. I can see the giant heifer blocking my path, feel it as I push against it, and can smell it’s barnyard scent. The cow will not move for me until I milk it.
Continue with the process, filling your memory palace with what you wish to remember. After that, all you need to do to remember is to retrace your steps through the palace to retrieve the particular memory.
I have experimented quite a bit with this method and have noticed a number of points.
Loci Method is not infallible. The longer you leave the information unattended, the fuzzier it gets. Review is key, especially with new information.
Loci Method is a highly visual and experiential technique. The more you practice, the better your visualizations and memories will become.
You can have more than one palace.
The mind is a far larger space than anyone can imagine.
That’s it for today. For the remainder of the week I will be hitting on a few clarifying points about Loci Method and the Mind Palace. Do you have any experience with this technique, or have you heard of it before? Join the conversation below.
Alright, you’ve found yourself here, on the site of a self-proclaimed polymath. Are you wondering if you fit the model? Is there is a model? Maybe there is, but it seems to me that the model is written from the outside perspective. Let me tell you about what I know.
A polymath is a person who can take deep knowledge from very different fields and blend them into something new, an idea or movement that takes the world in a different direction.
A polymath is never satisfied with the answer given to her by another person. She will keep digging, researching, experimenting, and learning until the answer is formed before her eyes.
A polymath can trigger intense, deeply focused bouts of concentration. These bouts can last hours and defy the modern theories of information retention. The information flows into him and he can easily absorb and learn.
A polymath is capable of saying no to any subject or information that does not aid him in his search. If a subsection of a field is inconsequential to his inquiry, then it remains unabsorbed.
In my experience this is the way a polymath works. That said, there is always a difference between what is known and what is believed. What are my beliefs as to how a polymath is formed?
I believe the structure and memory function of a polymath is fundamentally different from other people. Their ability to cross pollinate disparate disciplines takes them beyond the capacity of the dilettante or generalist.
I believe access to vast reservoirs of knowledge is a fundamental difference between a polymath and the layperson. I also believe this difference is a chasm whose growth is driven by the digital age.
I believe many polymaths don’t know they have a definition. They continue in their work, displaying incredible insight in their fields due to their extensive cross functional knowledge. Many of them baffled by answers that seem so obvious to them and appear ludicrous to others.
Finally, while I believe polymaths are a rare breed. I also believe the habits and abilities are fully trainable to any who have the heart to go after it.
That’s it for today, no pointers on how to get up early, or any guidelines on how to do something. Just a couple of answers as to why I’m here.
Entrepreneurs get up early, they take hold of the day early on and get more done before 9 AM than your average desk jockey. We’re told to be like them, to emulate the successful, and for God’s sake get out of bed early!
So that’s what we do. We set our clocks for 5 AM, and steel ourselves for the inevitable blaring alarm. It’s on our minds as we drift off into a fitful sleep. “I have to be up at 5.” You’ve even planned for an early rise and you’re confident that you can get everything done early. So what’s the problem? Perhaps nothing for the first couple of days, then suddenly it gets harder and harder to pull yourself out of bed at that time.
To combat the issue you’ll read a number of blog articles about the steps you need to follow.
Do it gradually
Rely on coffee
Bug a friend to make sure you get up
Maintain your early schedule even on weekends AND NEVER SLEEP IN AGAIN!
The list goes on and on and every blogger seems to have his own take on how to do it (wink:wink ;))
So here you go, my take on how to get up early, and my promise is that it will be the easiest method you’ve ever followed.
REDEFINE WHAT EARLY MEANS TO YOU
That’s it! Let’s go through this a little.
If you drag yourself out of bed and fumble for the coffee at an early hour, all the while feeling the weight of your eyelids, then you’re not really an early riser.
If you wake up refreshed at 8 AM, 3 hours after sleeping through your alarm, only to run around and feel behind schedule all day, then you’re not really an early riser.
If you’re awake until 1 AM and fully plan on getting up at 5 AM, then you’re not really an early riser.
You’re an entrepreneur, your work depends on being as productive as possible. That’s why you need to follow your own schedule and not those of popular or successful others. Don’t be a sheepreneur!
How do you define your meaning of early?
Take an honest look at your sleeping habits.
Take the quiz to determine your chronotype and discover your best sleep cycle and more.
Set your bedtime and your wake up to give you at least 6 to 7 hours of sleep.
After these steps it’s all about productivity. Schedule your day to begin no earlier than 2 hours after your wake up time to allow ample time to eat and prep.
Let’s face it though, we all have slip ups. If you still manage to sleep through your alarm despite redefining your early, take a look here for tips on how to get your day back on track.
So what does early mean to you? Do you follow the 5 AM rule, or are you a bear like me? Seriously though, take the chronotype quiz to know why I’m a bear.
This is a strange fork in the road where we find ourselves now. Years are in the past where you have learned much, and possibly forgotten an equal share. Now ahead of us lays an uncertain path that few have tread. No one sets out purposely to find this path, rather they find themselves here after much searching.
So where do we begin? Apart from the life stories of previous polymaths and Renaissance Men(and Women), there are no guides on how to become one. After much searching myself I have settled on three key steps that help prepare you body and mind for the life of the polymath.
Work on your habits
Control your schedule
Upgrade your diet
How do you become a polymath with these three steps? Well, overnight, you won’t. These three key steps though form the basics and the foundation for your polymathic journey.
Step 1: Work on Your Habits
I’ve been looking into self-help and improvement books for the last 15 years, and perhaps the best books I’ve come across concern habit formation. Books like “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, and “Atomic Habits” by James Clear have been a great help and inspiration to me. Between these two books they lay out a comprehensive path towards creating new habits, strengthening existing habits, and deprogramming unhelpful ones.
So, why habits? Well, habits are the background programs that free up your brain to perform higher thinking. If you had to think about flipping a switch to turn on a light every time you walked in a room it would be a problem. Get more mental energy for the work you want to do by automating your behavior through habits.
How do habits work? Both authors outline the habit cycle much better than I can, so I’ll only be giving an overview here. First you are presented with a cue. The cue triggers a craving which elicits a response. The response results in a reward. James Clear uses the example of walking into a dark room. The cue is the dark room, the craving is to have light, the response is to flip the light switch, and the reward is having light.
To set a new habit you need to hit every one of the four areas of the habit cycle. James Clear has set out four laws to create good habits (and bad ones if you’re not careful) and four inverse laws to break unhelpful ones. For a full run down on habits I high suggest “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg and “Atomic Habits” by James Clear.
Step 2: Control Your Schedule
Schedules seem to control every aspect of our lives. Building and maintaining good scheduling habits and exercising control are essential to your abilities as a polymath.
The first step in controlling your schedule is avoiding the headache and stress of “schedule and forget”. We all have the best of intentions when we plan out our days or weeks, and before you know it we’re ignoring the phone when the scheduling app dings to let you know that another block of time is about to begin. So, how do you avoid Schedule & Forget?
Schedule only important events
Turn on alerts only when needed
The only items on your schedule should be the important ones. Do I need a scheduled block for breakfast, lunch, second lunch and dinner? Or a reminder to take my supplements before hand? No, many items on your schedule can be controlled through the disciplined use of good habits.
Your schedule can be a great asset, or a dumping ground for every action you want to take. Overloading your schedule looks messy, buries meetings and tasks, and lacks efficiency.
When you’ve cleaned up your schedule it’s time to decide on alerts. My basic rule is that meetings and sudden task changes after a long period of time require alerts. Neat, simple, and easy to set up.
The next step in controlling your schedule is to find a system that works with your natural tendencies. Do you like google calendar with the integrated Keep Notes and Task List? Perhaps you fall more under the GTD model and like to use your collection bucket to “Do it”, “Delegate it”, or “Defer it”. Maybe you’re more old school and like your analog Franklin Covey planner and dividing your tasks into the four quadrants. The list goes on and on. Don’t like any of them, then make your own to suit your style. Personally I use a combination of google, Toggl, and a computer notepad to get myself through the day.
Full disclosure, I have done all of those plans above and more!
Finally, when exerting control over your schedule I suggest keeping a notepad handy. Throughout the day you will be bombarded with requests, questions, and even stray thoughts that threaten to take you away from the tasks and projects you’re working on. Write down the request or thought on the pad with the knowledge you’ll get back to it later. This small practice can keep you from getting sucked down the rabbit hole of distraction that destroys your schedule. Suggestion: Keep a tiny Moleskine or Field Notes notebook with you at all times. They’re cheap, handsome comfortable in your pocket, and can easily be found at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.
Step 3: Upgrade Your Diet
What does diet have to do with being a polymath? Everything! It’s no mystery that food has a great effect on us. We can literally eat anything if we go by the definition of chewing as swallowing. The problem is, the nutrition your brain receives (or doesn’t) from eating. Upgrading your diet, moving away from the junk foods, high sugar, high fat Standard American Diet will have a great impact on the way you think. The greatest asset a polymath has is his mind, and his greatest tool his body. How do you ensure a quick mind and a strong body?
Assess your diet
Make a plan to get healthy
Supplement for brain health
Assessing your diet has taken many forms over the years, the most popular of which is the food log. There’s a problem with that approach though; the universe and therefore your actions, change based on observation. If you know you’re tracking your food, then your choices will be more thought out. So, we’re tossing that method. Instead, go to the pantry and take and inventory of what’s there. It can be written down, or mental, or hell, you can even take pictures. The current state of your pantry will give you a good idea as to the health of your diet. Here’s a snapshot of mine.
After assessing your diet it’s time to get healthy. But what does that mean? Well, you want to get your BMI down to a healthy range, your triglycerides should be low, you should be at your optimal weight… blah, blah, blah. Leave all this garbage on the diet websites. Healthy is a personal feeling. If you want to lose weight, then that’s your health goal. You want to be more active, then that’s your goal. The point is to find your plan. It is my personal belief, driven by years of experiments, successes, failures, and strange occurrences, that no one diet works. It will work for a group of believers, and fail for another group. There are so many diets out there with conflicting data it’s small wonder the industry is barely regulated. Your job is to do your research, find a plan that makes you giddy, and go after it with all your heart, mind, and faith. For me, the Four Hour Body slow carb diet and supplementation has always worked wonders.
Finally, supplement for brain health. This step is not for the faint of heart, but promises vast returns when done correctly. The area of nootropics has been personal fascination of mine for the last 6 years, and I’ve built up an impressive library of learning and samples. Nootropics are a class of drugs and natural supplements that work on brain chemistry. Perhaps you’ve heard of NZT-48, the fictional Limitless pill popularized by the movie and tv series of the same name. The idea here is the same, though less pronounced than Hollywood portrays. There are many different supplements that can be combined into stacks that synergistically work to improve memory, recall, and focus. My morning stack for focus, energy, creativity, and motivation consists of Bacopa Monnieri, Vinpocetine, Alpha GPC, Acetyl L-Carnitine, and Aniracetam. For more information I suggest braintropic.com
Putting it All Together
These are only the first steps one can take on the path to becoming a polymath, and together we’ll be exploring many more. After nearly 1500 words I’ll leave you with these three quick thoughts.
Your habits will make you or break you. Determine those that serve you, those that can be ditched, and those that you need to build.
Your schedule is your daily map on how to expand your knowledge and utilize what you already know. Protect and control it.
Your brain and body are the captain and vessel to carry you to your goals. Know how to feed and care for both and your progress will accelerate.
What steps would you work on? Have you already been through these steps in your exploration? Or maybe you’ve found more steps you would like to share. I would love to hear your thoughts below.
It’s 5:30 in the morning and my Google Home is blaring an alarm at me. I crack open an eye and the room is still dark. “Hey Google, stop.” I manage to call out. My eyes close and another hour slips by. Now I’m behind schedule.
The early morning has gold in its mouth – Benjamin Franklin
Waking early is perhaps the most direct aspect of control you can wield in building your polymathic mindset. Mind you, what is early to me is downright crazy to another. Bottom line, we all know the benefits of waking early, whether we chose to follow the advice or not. So what do you do if this is your goal, and you fall short? Let’s take a look at my schedule for today.
I know, normally I try not to uber-schedule my day, but I’m in experimentation mode right now. So, what is the effect of that extra hour of sleep? Well, everything I wanted to get done from 5:30 to 6:30 get’s pushed back. Admittedly there’s not much between 5:30 and 6:30, but I really like my leisurely coffee, breakfast, shower, and other success habits that make the rest of my day. Instead, I’m rewarded with rushing, a quick dowse of hot water for my shower, and a choked down breakfast. Why? Well, I have to meet my 6:50 AM obligation of grocery shopping. Don’t scoff, I know you all do the same thing. Rush through the items you’ve missed in order to catch up to the schedule. The result? Pandemonium, anxiety, and next… Full blown freak out. So how do you stop it? Three steps:
Halt the Freak Out
Find Your Inner Stoic
Get Ahead of Your Next Task
These steps are in a specific order. You cannot get a head of your next task or even find your inner stoic if you’re in full freak out mode.
Step 1: Halt the Freak Out (Objective: Recenter in the Now)
Alright… You overslept… You’ve managed a quick shower, burned your breakfast, attempted to make your bed, ate the burned breakfast, and now it’s 20 after 7, a full 30 minutes after you planned to start shopping. This is going to set back the entirety of your day, everything will need to be pushed back. The anxiety is building as you rush, and forget. You pull out of the driveway, pull back in, run inside to grab your wallet. It goes on and on (this actually happened to me this morning with an additional trip back home to grab my mask). How do you stop? Break the future rush and recenter in the now.
Take 3 deep breaths. Breath in, hold for ten seconds, breath out, hold for ten seconds, and repeat.
Look at your hands. Your hands are your most direct connection to the world. Touch a wall, or some other object to ground yourself.
Say out loud what it is you are doing, right now. If you are touching a wall say: “I am standing in the hallway, touching this wall.”
These steps sound silly, but it is the fastest way to stop a freak out centered on future (or even past) thoughts. Recenter yourself in the now.
Step 2: Find your Inner Stoic (Objective: Control Your Response)
Now that you’ve managed to find your center and your ground, it is time to put it into perspective. Accept that you overslept, and that the time is gone. You cannot control the past, but you can control your reaction to it.
Affirm to yourself: “I control my response to the world around me.”
Review your schedule for the current task and reschedule or cancel if necessary.
Look to the next item on your schedule.
Step 3: Get Ahead of your Next Task (Objective: Get Back on Track)
You’ve stopped freaking out and found your peace of mind. The next step is to get yourself back on track. Adjust your schedule to get ahead of the next task in line. By getting back on track the rest of your day will fall in line and you’ll find yourself just as productive as you would have been had you rolled out of bed on time.
What are your thoughts on oversleeping? How do you recover, or do you not recover at all?
A polymath (Greek: πολυμαθής, polymathēs, “having learned much”; Latin: homo universalis, “universal man”) is an individual whose knowledge spans a significant number of subjects, known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems. (Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polymath)
You may know that with the rise of the internet we now have at our fingertips access to thousands of years worth of information and human history. The amount of knowledge available to each of us on a daily basis is more than our ancestors could hope to consume in a lifetime of study. What should we do with all of this knowledge? Should we spend our days mindlessly feeding ourselves to the entertainment industry? NO! With such information available to us we can rediscover, with purpose, the ideal of Homo universalis. We can become the polymath.
If you’re still with me at this point it means that I’ve struck a nerve, something deep inside you knows that this is the way forward. From here I will discuss the difference between the specialist, the generalist, and the polymath. Find yourself in these descriptions and decide if you want to continue on this path. It is not easy, but the rewards are beyond imagining. Continue reading “The Modern Polymath”→
It seems that I’ve taken a lot for granted in my life. My relationships, my family, my jobs, and even my children. This could be the source of countless problems I’ve encountered in my 20+ years of living “on my own” as an adult, and there is nothing that can be done about the past.
Maybe gratitude is an easy thing to provide, or perhaps an easy thing to feel. It costs nothing more than a couple minutes of your day to go through all you are grateful for.
The greatest trick is truly feeling grateful for all you have. I fear there are many cynics out there who will give lip service to gratitude, only to scoff at it on a deeper level. We all know these people. I for one am grateful for them. I am by experiencing what I am not. For when I am not, only then can I be who I am.
I started this post with the intention of providing a list of all I am grateful for. Now I don’t think I will. I will only say this. I am grateful for all the people in my life who lift me up through their own actions of love and understanding, who know the true meaning and purpose of love and friendship.
That’s it. The worst excuse I’ve managed for the last 20 years since I left schooling behind. The worst part, it remains a primary excuse for me. There’s a lot that I want to do and a lot to learn, and the excuse is just as strong as ever.
In this post I’m going to turn the excuse around and empower it to a more fulfilling end. First, however, there needs to be a bit of background. One of my primary methods of learning is through reading and online classes. If there is something that I want to know then I’ll find a couple books on the subject or go through an online course or two. There’s a significant flaw to this approach though. My reading speed, until recently, was horrendously low. I was lucky to eek out a little more than 100 words a minute and my regression (eyes shooting back up the page to reread) was out of control. For every 10 lines read I’d go back to reread 5 of them. Continue reading “Fuck This, I Don’t Have Time – The Worst True Excuse I’ve Managed”→
We are all forced to live in the present moment. Though for most it seems an irregularity and to some a conscious choice. It doesn’t matter what happened 17 years ago, 17 months ago, or even 17 seconds ago. We all live in the present moment. Does that mean that the past doesn’t matter? Of course not. The past happened, even though at the time it was the present moment. I try not to regret any of the countless moments from my past. Consciously I know it’ll do me no good. So for now I continue to live in the present moment and cherish the memories of past moments and thank all those who took part in them.