25 Lessons An Introvert Learned From Socializing

This summer has been crazy to say the least. After being extremely introverted my whole life (often only getting out of the house 1-2 times per month excluding school and soccer), I decided it was time for me to learn to socialize and I’ve just completed the most social period of my life.

In addition to having a lot of fun, and building a social circle, I’ve also enjoyed many new experiences and learned several lessons in the process as well. Some of which I’ll share below…

1. There’s a difference between self-amusement and being everyone’s dancing monkey. The first comes from a place of being at ease with yourself while the latter is derived from insecurity and feeling the need to please others.

2. Micro social momentum is important. If you feel awkward or aren’t in the mode to socialize you can often alleviate those issues by “warming up” and involving yourself in some conversations.

3. Macro social momentum is important. Going out frequently doesn’t just improve your social skills more quickly, it also makes you feel more social, and allows you to enter “the zone” more quickly.

4. On the flip-side, going out too frequently can lead to social exhaustion. Your results may vary, but I had less fun and my relationships felt less genuine and somewhat robotic when I went through a stretch of going out eight or nine days in a row. Taking a couple days off at that point seemed to refuel the fun in socializing.

5. Despite the importance of social momentum, avoid hanging out with others simply for that purpose. It’s wrong to use people like that, and attempting to do so will produce poor results.

6. It’s important to hold eye-contact when you talk. It shows you’re confident with what you’re saying. It also makes you seem more trustworthy.

7. It’s especially important to hold eye-contact with girls. When they look in your eyes they can see your true intentions, and if you sincerely care for her she’ll just melt in your arms.

8. Don’t over rely on callback humor. If something funny happens you can mention it later on once, or twice for a good laugh, but the more times you “callback” the less funny it is. Typically 3 or so times is when it makes the shift from funny to annoying. (My theory behind this is that if people see you constantly mentioning the same funny thing over and over they assume you’re not used to having fun, thus your social value drops.)

9. Speaking of social value, focus on what you can give, not what you can get. Don’t be a leech. This is the secret to building relationships.

(Me giving value to my English class in the form of excitement on a boring day.)

10. If you want to hang out with someone ask them in person or call rather than text. The medium of communication would seem unimportant, but I’ve found the more committed you show you are, the less likely you end up with flaky plans that never end up happening.

11. How you start a conversation with someone is irrelevant. You can walk up and say hi, you can scare them, or you can start randomly dancing for them. Your opener doesn’t matter as long as it’s not over-the-top and you’re able to be interesting afterwards.

12. The energy of your interactions should be slightly higher than that of your surroundings (this allows you to maintain others’ interest). If you’re at a party feel free to be wild, but if you’re just enjoying a relaxing walk down the beach don’t be too crazy. By not calibrating the expression of your energy to the environment it can make others uncomfortable and indicate you’re socially clueless.

13. Crazy party mode isn’t the only way to have a good time either. It may feel strange if you’re like how I used to be and that was your only mood, but just letting go relaxing, and building sand castles with people you care about can be even more fulfilling, (though obviously in a different way).

14. I love girls, and I don’t mean to disrespect them, but they can be a lot like chickens. The faster you chase them, the quicker they run away from you. You’ll often get better results if you just focus on enjoying yourself and letting them come to you.

15. While most strangers won’t initiate conversations, they’ll be glad to talk to you if you start talking to them first.

16. You don’t need to try to impress others. You have an inherent value simply by being a fellow human being.

(That last statement was pretty deep, so take some time to meditate on it.)

17. You can’t make friends when you’re home-alone in the basement. Completely obvious, but also something that many people don’t seem to have internalized.

18. Everybody’s heard that you’re typically the sum of the five people you spend the most time with, but even if you’re not it’s still important to place yourself around desirable people because that’s who others will associate you with.

19. Building a social circle is a lot like internet marketing. Slow and steady wins the race. People are going to get weirded out if you immediately go from never having hung out before to calling them everyday.

20. Closing yourself off from pain also prevents you from experiencing positive emotions. If you try to check out from the roller coaster of life you’ll only experience numbness.

21. If you constantly have your guard up and refuse to allow yourself to be vulnerable in the presence of others you’ll never experience love.

22. There’s more to life than work. Without socializing you’ll miss out on the most fulfilling thing this world has to offer. Relationships.

23. Sometimes you’ll have relationships where you truly love someone, but you’ll both know that you just aren’t meant for each other. It’ll be difficult to let go, but ultimately doing so is in your best interest.

24. Regardless of what you do with your life you’re going to have haters. You might as well do what’s true to you.

25. Often the greatest people have the most haters, however, just because you have haters doesn’t mean your a great. Most likely you’re one of the nine other types of hated people.

Overall I’d call this summer a huge success. I wrote 70 or so articles for this blog, learned a TON, and had a lot of fun in the process. I’ve matured and grown up a lot this summer, so as a former house hermit I can’t recommend trying to get out a couple times a week enough.

Try it! I bet you won’t regret being a little more social. I’d also like to hear from you as well.

What lessons have your learned from socializing?

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Pictures are from the 2011 school year. I’ll attempt to upload some newer 2012-2013 pictures to my computer today, and include them in the coming weeks.

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My Current Campaigns (And The Future Of This Blog)

I’ve had a lot going on lately, and have had a number of epiphanies over the last couple weeks so I thought I’d write a post about what I’m currently working on, what I’ve learned this summer, and what you can expect from cameronchardukian.com in the near future.

Socializing

After a lifetime of being an introvert I decided to take part in The 90 Day Social Challenge. I planned to get out of the house and do at least one social thing per day. The goal of this challenge was to develop my social skills, do some crazy stuff while I’m still a teenager, and build a social circle.

The results of the challenge?

June: 14 Social Days

July: 16 Social Days

August: 14 Social Days (Thus far)

Overall: 44 Days Out Of 88.

Obviously things didn’t go according to plan, but I like the direction I’m moving in here. In previous summers I’d only leave the house once or twice per month so there was definitely a lot of progress here. I may not have achieved my goal of going out every night, but I definitely had a lot of fun, developed my social skills, and have a better social circle than ever before (though it still needs some work).

I also had some key epiphanies in regards to socializing this summer. Perhaps most importantly the idea of classifying yourself as an introvert.

While it may be true that some people are “introverted” and have a less of a need to socialize than others it’s also true that we all have a need for some amount of socialization in our lives.

Your results may vary, but I’ve found that when I socialize less than three times per week there’s a noticeable buildup of stress in my body, and I also feel a lot more in my head and socially awkward.

On the flip-side, when I’m hammering away every night for a week things become less fun and my relationships feel less genuine. People begin to feel like objects that I’m using just to get things from, and I view reality through a distorted lens where girls are numbers rather than people.

I’ve found that ideally I need to be going out 3-6 times per week. This seems to be the ideal amount to maintain social momentum, while at the same time maintaining realness in my relationships and having fun.

This is definitely something to consider experimenting with, especially if you consider yourself an introvert. Going forward I plan to continue going out three nights per week (likely Fri-Sun during the school year), and I’ll also likely write a future blog post on specific social calibrations and lessons I’ve learned.

Blogging

I’ve had a blast this summer. I’ve written almost everyday and published nearly 70 posts (I think this is post 69 wink wink). With that being said I plan to take a different approach to blogging in the future.

Several of you have commented that the quality of posts have really gone up lately. Well, it hasn’t been a coincidence. I thought I was doing a good job before, but after writing The Ultimate Guide To Turning Your Life Around And Living Your Dreams I realized there was a whole ‘nother gear I could kick into.

In addition to the natural skill progression that comes from writing consistently I’ve also been putting a lot more effort into the blog posts here so I’m glad you guys have been able to benefit from it.

Higher quality posts take a lot more time to produce so if you’ve also noticed my posting frequency drop off a bit that’s why. From what I’ve seen though this decreased frequency isn’t actually bad though because I think many felt overwhelmed with trying to keep up with a blog post per day.

However, with summer vacation coming to an end blog post frequency is likely going to drop even further. In addition to school wasting eight hours of my life everyday, my actual writing time is now going to be split between writing blog posts for cameronchardukian.com, guest posting on other blogs to help new readers find us, as well as attempting to write my first ebook.

All in all, however, I think I’ll still manage to be able to post 2-3 high quality articles per week so don’t worry about me falling off the face off the Earth. 🙂

Rapping

My idea of “rapper swag.”

The recent introduction of rap into my life has been really interesting. I’ve tried to establish rapping as a hobby several times over the last couple years, but I never really enjoyed it much.

However, I tried it again a few days ago, and something inside my head just clicked. I was rapping to the beat, and I got completely lost in the music. I was completely dialed in, and similar to when you’re in a really deep meditation I was just vibing for several minutes until a funky beat came on and snapped me out of it.

I was able to get in that zone several times, but even when I wasn’t I enjoyed rapping more than ANYTHING ELSE I’ve ever done. I’ve only put maybe 50 hours of practice into rapping in my life so I still suck at this point, but even though my rhymes were whack I was having the time of my life.

Like seriously, I think this rapping business may be my passion. I’ve done it for 3-4 hours the last several days, and no matter what I do I’m unable to stop thinking about it.

It’s funny because a couple days ago I posted a thread in the community section of Tynan’s blog about The Dip and how to make the biggest possible positive splash on the world. I joked about rapping, but I think this could be it!

I was more passionate grooving out the last couple days than ever before. There’s a perfect niche opportunity for a positive, intelligent rapper among the (vast majority) of negative, idiots rappers today.

Of course, I may be jumping to conclusions as I’ve only been in love for two days, but I honestly think this could be what I’m meant for. If I dedicate myself to this completely there’s no doubt in my mind I’ll be able to get past the dip, and make it big.

I’ll still have the personal development blog here too, but then I’d be able to positively impact a lot more people, and not have to worry about social media marketing, guest posting, or trying to monetize this blog in any way. I could spend all of my time producing valuable content to help others grow.

I’ll see if this initial enthusiasm dies out, but I don’t expect it to. I think I’ve finally found my niche. Which brings me to my next point…

Juggling

Although I enjoy juggling and recently made an epic juggling motivational music video, I don’t believe becoming the best in the world is my goal anymore. Spending two hours everyday is a huge time-sink that I’d like to invest into writing, and rapping.

Juggling is kind of like writing. I enjoy it and it’s fun to look at the things I produce, but since juggling doesn’t (significantly) help others or make me come to life like rapping it’s not something I’m going to dedicate myself to.

However, I also don’t feel comfortable giving juggling up completely at this point either. This incredible rapping passion came out of nowhere so until I’m sure this fulfillment is somewhat sustainable I’m going to spend time practicing more technical tricks, rather than doing 360’s (spinning with high numbers of objects).

Under this new practice regiment I don’t think I’ll improve as quickly, but I’ll be able to at the very least maintain my skills while being able to practice freestyling as well.

This whole idea of no longer striving to be the best juggler in the world is really strange to me, but I’m beginning to come to terms with it.

Twitter, Lifting, Veganism, Video Editing, Meditating

Figured I’d lump these all into one as none of them are particularly significant.

  • I’m now active on Twitter so if you’d like a more personal connection with me, or you’d appreciate interesting insights, and motivational tweets be sure to follow me!
  • Although I hung up the cleats for soccer I’m actually in the best shape of my life. Current stats: Bench 160×5, Hang Clean 160×5, Squat 235×5, Pull-ups/Chin-ups 10-12, Plank varies, but typically 4.5-5.5 minutes. I’ve found a cyclical training approach where you temporarily deload on your lifts when you plateau is HUGELY beneficial!
  • I’m still a vegan. I don’t take any supplements, and I have no identifiable health problems. However, I’m likely going to begin taking Vitamin B12 not because I feel anything less than optimal, but purely because I imagine if I don’t begin taking B12 at some point it’s going to catch up to me.
  • During the process of creating Back 2 Life I enjoyed editing the video. I think the process is extremely lengthy, but it’s definitely an interesting medium for self-expression.
  • I meditate everyday for about 15 minutes. Sometimes I get off-track during the school year, but there’s definitely a noticeable chill factor and relaxation I begin to miss out on when I neglect this for too long.

Conclusion

If you’ve made it this far I’m impressed. 🙂 I’ve said more than enough so I’ll give you a chance to chime in now. What are you currently working on? How can we help?

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Picture is of me amusing myself during Algebra freshmen year (2011).

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The Fundamentals Of Sleep

(Note from Cam: I began writing a mega post on the fundamentals of personal development, but I ended up letting the project fall by the wayside. This project developed serious negative momentum, and because of that I think it’d be better for me to work on new projects rather than try to bring this one back to life. I did manage to complete the sleep section of this post so I thought I would at least release some type of finished product. Hope you take some value from this one.)

Disclaimer:  This isn’t intended as medical advice.  Please consult a licensed professional in regards to any problems or questions you have regarding sleep.

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Sleep is a big fundamental. You’re going to struggle living to your potential if you’re not getting decent sleep. Although there may be some workarounds such as polyphasic sleep (I believe it works, but I haven’t tried it so I can’t confirm for sure) it really is important you respect this area of your life.

Here’s some things to consider.

Consistency: Sleeping and waking up at about the same time everyday.

Length: This one’s really controversial. People do have different sleep needs, but it’s been shown that people are TERRIBLE judges of determining how much sleep they need.

Although 1% of people may only need four hours, the majority of people who claim to be “short sleepers” are actually found to be chronically sleep deprived when forced to take objective measures of awareness.

I’m no doctor so don’t take this as medical advice, but if you need an alarm to wake up there’s a good chance you’re not getting enough sleep. When possible, try allowing yourself to wake up naturally for a week or so to determine how much sleep you actually need.

Alarms may be necessary for school and work, but if you’ve tested how much sleep your body naturally needs at least you can structure your sleep schedule so you’re getting a healthy amount.

Darkness: Because of our circadian rhythms and chemicals in our body it’s in your best interest to sleep when the sun goes down and wake when it rises. You’ll feel more well rested and you’ll actually be healthier for it as well.

Light is highly damaging to sleep because it prevents the production of chemicals in our body (such as melatonin) that act as natural sleep aids. If you try to sleep somewhere bright (and things as small as your cell phone screen are enough to damage your sleep) you won’t sleep as deeply which is bad for both your rejuvenation and your longevity.

If at all possible sleep in a pitch black room (or at least as dark as possible), and cease the use of electronics at least an hour before you plan to go to sleep.

Stimulants: Caffeine, alcohol, drugs, etc. are BAD. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it makes your sleep more shallow and reduces the overall quality of it. Regardless of when you ingest it, because of caffeine’s half-life it’ll damage your sleep to some extent.

Stress: The final thing I’ll mention here is stress. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed out when you go to sleep that’s BAD. Not only because stress sucks in general, but also because it’ll negatively impact your sleep, and thus potentially make tomorrow suck as well which puts you at a risk of entering the dangerous negative spiral.

I don’t get nighttime stress very often (anymore), but I do have a few pieces of advice in dealing with it.

I Attempt to let go. Regardless of what happened, (or what you’re worried is going to happen) realize stressing over it isn’t going to help you. If it’s in the past make the decision to leave it there. It’s bad enough it hurt you as it happened, why would you allow it to harm you any longer than absolutely necessary?

If it’s in the future realize that whatever you’re worrying about may or may not happen, and even if it does you’re likely making it bigger than it actually is. Also realize that stressing about something will only decrease your ability to handle it when it actually happens so you might as well stop worrying and just let whatever’s going to happen play out.

II If letting go doesn’t work, or as an additional remedy to reduce stress try meditating. Without exception I always feel more relaxed after meditating for a few minutes. If you’ve tried meditating and it hasn’t worked for you in the past I’d recommend trying harder. If you’re really stubborn though you can do active meditations instead.

I’ve done relaxation yoga before bed in the past and I found it rarely failed to relax me. I’d also imagine the stretching is good for your body as well.

If the first two suggestions failed to appeal to you I do have one more idea. Writing as therapy. Sometimes just getting things out of your head can make you feel a lot better.

You can keep a journal, write raps, however you choose to do it, but I’m certain that if you currently lack an outlet for self expression this’ll help you.

III My final solution for eliminating night time stress is actually the simplest. Change your identity. Build a lifestyle that repels stress and become the type of person that intelligently deals with stress. How do you do that? By reading and implementing self-improvement content. I’d suggest beginning with the archive here. 🙂

(Hope you got some value from this one. If you want to read a closely related post on my ideas regarding intelligent sleep deprivation go here.)

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(Picture is from Christmas 2013.)

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Achieving Your Goals Quickly By Focusing On The Fundamentals

When I was in middle school I had a dream of being an NBA point guard when I grew up. I’d practice basketball an hour or two everyday and I went from being absolutely horrible to being an above average player within a year.

After that year I realized that although I enjoyed shooting and playing 1v1 with my friends I didn’t really like playing full court 5v5 so I gave it up to focus on soccer. I’d been playing soccer since I was in first grade, but I’d never taken it seriously so I when I joined a club team in eighth grade I was the worst player.

By the end of the season, however, I became coach’s favorite option off the bench, and by the next year I made my way into the starting lineup and was even voted captain for a game.

I hung up my cleats for soccer last month, so I could focus on the community here, and juggling, but there was something I was able to learn from basketball and soccer over the last few years. The power of the fundamentals.

While most kids my age were spending all their time on three-pointers, and fadeaways I was developing a mid-range jump shot and ball handling skills. While other kids were practicing scissors and dribbling moves, I was learning how to protect the ball, and developing an uncanny ability to always get the ball to the open man.

I understood that 80 percent of your results came from 20 percent of your effort and that was key. A lot of the other kids had been playing travel basketball and soccer way longer than I had, but I was able to pass the majority of them within a year by focusing on what I knew would produce the greatest results in the shortest amount of time.

I wasn’t even conscious of it at the time, but looking back I’ve done the same thing with personal development.

I put my energy into what produced results, rather than learning “productivity systems” and because of that I’ve been able to completely turn my life around in the last two or three years. I’ve still got things that need patching up of course, but here’s the process I’ve used to skyrocket my results over the last couple years.

Identify The Fundamentals

Regardless of what you’re working on you need to spend some time identifying what’s going to produce the most results in the least amount of time. If you’re trying to become a better soccer player you’d be best off doing dribbling, passing, and shooting drills rather than practicing cool tricks you saw your favorite player do on TV.

If you’re trying to learn a language you’ll probably be much better off learning the 1,000 most commonly used words, rather than random animal names. Also, don’t worry about creating a perfect plan out of the gates either.

If you’re trying to become a blogger pick a niche, start a blog, and get writing. Don’t worry about printing off business cards or getting the “perfect domain name.” You can optimize your plan as you go along, but as long as you’re headed in the general direction of your goal you’ll get there a lot quicker than someone who never starts.

Work Your Plan And Optimize As You Go

As I said in the blogging example above it’s better to work a good plan, than to waste the rest of your life trying to come up with the perfect one. Also worth noting is it’s a lot easier to develop an awesome plan once you’re in motion.

You could spend years trying to think of the perfect niche, and unique selling point for your blog, but ultimately someone who’s taking action and is reasonably intelligent will probably be able to build a blog with an income that can sustain them before you even get started.

It’s hard to develop a perfect plan when you’re working from theoretical knowledge. You can research the perfect juggling practice regime for as long as you want, but if you actually practice you could produce results, AND find out the best strategy for YOU in the process.

Also, research and taking action isn’t an either or predicament. You can do both, and that’s actually the best option of all. I just stress the importance of taking action because I’ve found that a lot of people who are interested in these types of posts are more preoccupied with coming up with the perfect plan rather than actually doing stuff.

I think taking action vs researching is a great place to apply the 80/20 rule. Spend 80% of your time taking action toward your goals and the other 20% finding ways you can make your actions more effective.

Add The 20% When Necessary

Regardless of how long you’ve been working on your goals the fundamentals should be your main focus, but at some point it’s important to implement the other 20% as well.

Take blogging for example. Writing great content may be 80% of the battle, and you’ll be far ahead of most bloggers if you do, but there’s a good chance your masterpieces will never be discovered if you just wait for people to find them.

At some point you need to get the word out. Whether that’s through guest posting, Twitter, or forum marketing is irrelevant. You’ve got to let people know you exist.

If you’re a soccer player it’s crucial to be able to receive passes and shoot, but once you possess those skills the thing that’s going to separate you from everyone else is being able to scissor around other players and create opportunities for yourself.

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Back 2 Life (Motivational Juggling Music Video)

It’s finally here. My motivational music video for juggling. I haven’t kept an exact count, but I estimate I’ve spent 1,500 hours of my life methodically throwing stuff around over the last 20 months. I’ve put a lot of effort into this so I hope it inspires you. For some general background information on my life and where the video’s coming from be sure to read this post.

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How To Stop Procrastinating And Do What’s Important

“I’m going to stop putting things off, starting tomorrow!”

–Sam Levenson.

I used to be a BIG procrastinator. I never did things until they absolutely needed to be done. If I was at an average weight I wouldn’t start working out until I got fat. If I had homework I wouldn’t start doing it until my favorite TV show was over. I never did things until the last minute and as you can imagine that produced a lot of unnecessary stress.

I’m still not perfect, (I’m supposed to be a morning writer and I didn’t start writing this until 12:30), but I’ve improved my habits and learned a lot about procrastination in the last few years. We’ll discuss some of the things I’ve learned and the strategies I’ve used to improve this area of my life below.

What Causes Procrastination?

Laziness

Being lazy is probably the most frequently recited response for procrastinating. It makes sense too. “Why didn’t you empty the dishwasher?” “I didn’t feel like it.” Willpower’s a limited resource so if you’ve already used all of yours for the day than I could see how this excuse makes sense.

However, I’ve seen lots of extremely disciplined people (myself included) who’ve put things off in the morning before they’ve even had a chance to use any willpower so I don’t think the majority of procrastination is laziness.

Priorities

Ahh… I think we’re getting warmer now. Is it a coincidence most people struggle to wake up at 6 A.M. on an average day, yet they’re perfectly capable of waking up at 4 A.M. to catch a vacation flight to Hawaii? I think not.

One of the biggest reasons most people procrastinate is because they’ve got their priorities mixed up. They’re too focused on instant gratification rather than long term prosperity.

Humans have evolved to want things now rather than later (because our ancestors had short life-spans) so we naturally tend to take the path of least resistance.

“So evolution has screwed us over, and we’re all doomed to putting things off and procrastinating the rest of our lives?” No. Although at first it may seem so, it actually hasn’t, and here’s why.

The Secret To Stop Procrastinating Is…

To make whatever needs to get done the path of least resistance. YESSSSS! BRILLIANT! EPIPHANY!! Waaaaait, huhh?

People are naturally “lazy.” We conserve energy and never do more than we have to. Along with being slaves to instant gratification, that’s the reason so many people are obese. Fortunately you don’t have to be one of them.

All you have to do to stop putting things off is to make it harder to procrastinate than to actually do what you need to do. This may sound impossible, but it’s not as difficult as you think. There’s just a couple things you need to do to make this happen.

Cultivate A Burning Desire To Change

Change comes from within. If there’s not something inside of you that’s screaming for change it’s not going to happen. You NEED to want it. Desire has to come from you. It can’t come from me, your mom, your dad, or anyone else.

With that being said, I can give some advice from the strategies I’ve used to cultivate this desire within myself. Feel free to use any of these strategies, or create your own, but ultimately you’ll get out of these exercises what you put into them.

1. Sit in a quiet room and think. Question everything about the reality you find yourself in. On the backdrop of billions of years, isn’t it crazy that somehow you were lucky enough to be born in a golden age, where (if you’re reading this) survival is all, but guaranteed? What are the odds of you being born into a reality where you have access to the internet and the mental capacity to even think about the origin of reality?

And what about the afterlife? Is it real? Does a magical god in the sky exist? Is Duality even real? Is it possible that myself and other people are mere reflections of your own consciousness?

Am I just an imaginary dream character writing strange philosophical thoughts in some strange reality occurring within the depths of your mind? And if so, what’s going to happen when you die, and leave this reality?

Will you end up in an everlasting cycle of strange realities occurring within your head? Will you ever know if anything is truly real?

Really get into it. These thought may seem strange now, but I can tell you from experience they get even weirder the farther you dig down. Unfortunately, I can’t give you any answers on the true basis of reality. Like desire, that’s something only you can create.

2. I’m not sure there’s any way to truly know the nature of reality, but if you’ve done step one to the best of your ability you’ve likely found one that resonates, or makes more sense to you than the rest. If the previous step only made you unsure of yourself for the time being just pick the belief system that you believe will best serve you.

Getting clarity in this area of your life is extremely important because it’s going to dictate how you live your life. If you believe in the afterlife, you’re probably going to carry out your life in a much different fashion than if you believed we’re all doomed to just fade into nothingness one day.

Now regardless of what you believe the true nature of reality to be I’m going to ask you to once again find a quiet room and some time to think. Once you’ve done that here’s some questions you need to ask yourself.

How do I want to live my life? What’s important to me? Would I rather spend most of my life just having a good time, or trying to change the world? Do I care about leaving behind a legacy?

Do I want to have a family? What do I want to spend the rest of my life doing? What life values are most important to me (love, travel, adventures, learning, teaching, etc.)?

There’s TONS more you’ll benefit from asking yourself, but I’m sure by now you get the gist of it. There’s no right, or wrong answers, and you may not even be able to answer most of the questions you’re asking yourself, but that’s ok. Do your best, and be willing to be completely honest with yourself.

The more critically you force yourself to think, the more you’re going to get out of this exercise. Trying to answer some of these questions may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but the clarity you’ll develop as a result will be well worth it.

3. Now that you’ve sorted out your beliefs on the nature of reality, and prioritized what’s most important to you I have but one exercise remaining.

I want you to imagine yourself on your deathbed. You feel weak. You slowly feel yourself letting go, and you know you have only a few minutes before it’s your time. What regrets do you have? And more importantly, what can you do TODAY to prevent yourself from having those regrets.

If done properly this exercise has the capacity to motivate you like nothing else, and it’s consistently helped me identify what’s most important for me as well.

Leverage Evolutionary Pressure To Take Action

Now that you’ve cultivated a burning desire to change, and you know what you want it’s time to actually make it happen. We can HOO HOO RAH and get pumped all day, but ultimately if you don’t know what you want or you’re not taking action you’re wasting both your time and your potential.

Of course, just attempting to take action usually doesn’t work. We often get sidetracked, or hit roadblocks and give up.

The key here is that before you attempt to take action you need to craft an environment for yourself, that’s conductive to your success.

Different goals have different ways you can use evolutionary pressure to push yourself to greatness. If you’re trying to lose weight set a $1,000 bounty for your family if anyone catches you eating candy.

If you’re out trying to meet girls give your friend $500 under the agreement that he’ll give $50 back for each girl you talk to. If you’re rich or money is meaningless to you have your friend punch you as hard as they can every time you go more than two minutes without talking to a girl.

If you’re late to work everyday because you hit the snooze button make the commitment to go to bed an hour earlier and use four alarm clocks. Yes. Four. Two alarm clocks is for jokers.

Some of these may seem so extreme to the point where it seems like I’m just kidding. I’m not. They’re hardcore because that’s what produces results. You’re not going to risk $1,000 for a candy bar. You can’t have an out. Success has to be the only option.

If you’re not willing to put yourself into a harsh environment that forces you to do stuff you won’t do it. People are naturally lazy. I don’t care how gifted, or talented you are, you’re not an exception.

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6 Things I’ve Learned From 6 Months Of Blogging

Wow. cameronchardukian.com has been up for more than six months now. There have been lots of sweat, blood, and tears that have gone into the community here, but I’ve loved every second of it and I’ve learned a lot.

I’d like to thank Huan, Warren, and Kevin for their constant encouragement and always challenging me to think critically. You all have made major changes to the way I look at the world over the past several months and for that I’m very grateful.

I’d also like to take a moment to thank everyone else who reads my blog. I appreciate your support and you taking time out of your day to read my ideas. I love the community here and you guys mean a lot to me.

Now before we get too mushy gushy here I’ll move on to the actual content of the post. The six lessons I’ve learned thus far from blogging…

Discipline

Although I wouldn’t have believed it six months ago, being a consistent blogger is HARD. You’ve got to set aside time everyday for blogging, you need to ignore distractions and focus when you’re writing, and you often need to pull your hair out or put your ego aside to come up with ideas worth publishing.

There’s stretches where you get into a groove and are able to write solid posts day after day for several weeks, but there’s also times where writing seems nearly impossible. Heck, I’ve just gone through that phase.

I’ve let my ego get in the way of my success this week and because of that this is the first post I’ve written in 4-5 days. It’s a constant battle to ignore the voices that say what you’re writing isn’t good enough, or to force yourself to write when you’re lacking inspiration, but ultimately by doing so you develop an incredible amount of self-discipline and strength.

Self introspection

During your first months of blogging it’s common to feel like you’re talking to yourself. You write post, after post, after post, and yet at the end of the week you find yourself with no comments and just 30 views between your four posts.

Most people quit blogging once they realize it’s not a get rick quick scheme, but what keeps the rest of us writing for a seemingly non existent audience? The intrinsic value of self expression.

It’s great to have others benefit from your work, but writing is a reward in itself because it allows you to clarify the way you think. When I wrote my story about running through the finish line it may have given you a motivational analogy to keep you hustling, but it also helped me to internalize the lesson and more effectively implement it into my day to day life.

In addition it also allows me to identify patterns in the way I think as well as holes in my logic. Like Linus, I’ve found that writing is perhaps the most effective way to find an answer to almost any problem.

Conquering The Ego

One of the greatest things about being a blogger is you’re constantly putting yourself out there. You may have to sacrifice your privacy and leave your comfort zone, but it’s well worth it.

When I first started my blog I was nervous about people I knew in real life finding out about it. What if they think I’m a nerd? What if they think I’m not cool?

Now I’ve gotten to the point where 0 shits are given on their opinion of my blog. I’m giving this my all, and it’s not like they’re doing anything better.

I actively tell people I’m a blogger these days. If someone’s reasonably compatible with me they’ll either think blogging is really cool, or they’ll forget about it. If someone thinks blogging is stupid, and holds that against me they’re likely low level thinkers I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with anyway.

Effectively, I can actually use my blog as a filter to avoid wasting time on people who aren’t a good fit for me.

I couldn’t confirm this as they never comment, but I’m sure there’s a handful of people I know in real life who are subscribed to my blog. I’m still not perfect, but I’ve gotten to the point where I can talk about things like previous depression, and tough times here without worrying whether that’ll change their perceptions of me.

Blogging has taught me that is that privacy is merely unnecessary protection for one’s ego. One can significantly increase their rate of growth by disregarding privacy and allowing their ego to be vulnerable.

Instant Gratification Vs Long Term Prosperity

One of the most important things blogging has helped me internalize is by putting long term prosperity over short term gratification you can live a much more fulfilling lifestyle.

Sometimes writing can be painful, but even when the words seem to effortlessly flow writing still isn’t “fun.” If I only had an hour to live I wouldn’t spend it writing.

However, putting your thought on paper is extremely rewarding in the long term. Once you take the time to write something your work essentially becomes a documentation of your thoughts at the time which has the potential to continue delivering value to others for hundreds, or even thousands of years after you’re written it. Pretty cool huh?

Writing has been a huge help in freeing me from my servitude to instant gratification in other areas of my life as well. It’s like I constantly have someone holding me accountable. The community here motivates me to always give it my all because I know that when someone sees me pour my heart into something they’re going to feel inspired to do the same.

You Can’t Do It By Yourself

Perhaps the most recent lesson I’ve learned is that it’s almost impossible to accomplish any massive goal without outside help. I can write the most epic posts in the world, but without building relationships with other bloggers they’re probably not going to end up reaching many people.

Since writing my post on why each of these 32 blogs will change your life (and emailing the bloggers included in that list) the traffic here has nearly doubled despite that being my only post in the last 3-4 days. One of them even submitted it to getprismatic and it ended up reaching the front page.

Think of it this way. If your content is the base of the pyramid, your relationships are the bricks stacked on top of the pyramid that’s going to make it visible and admirable to large amounts of people.

How To Build Relationships

Big credit goes to Huan here. He helped show me the framework upon which all relationships are built. The law of reciprocity and mutual sharing of value.

Most people are reactive, not proactive. You can’t expect someone to help you out if you haven’t done them a favor first. If you ask for favors without providing others value upfront the only thing you’re going to get accomplished is being labeled a leech.

When you sincerely help others accomplish their goals you’ll find them supporting you on the way to your goals as well. It’s mutually beneficial and you’ll develop amazing relationships as well. It’s a win/win situation, and there’s no reason not to help others and build a support system for yourself.

Overall the last six months have been amazing and I’m glad to have been able to share them with you. I appreciate all your contributions, and investments here, and I’ll do my best to continue reciprocating that value in return 😉

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How To Learn Anything

I remember when I first became interested in personal development. Like many people I tried to read every book that came out in an effort to “learn it all.” I never took action on the things I “learned” because I figured that if I just kept reading I’d become a genius and things would just fall into place.

But they never did. Something I didn’t understand, was that there’s a difference between “learning” a lesson and internalizing it.

Think back to when you took Driver’s Ed in high school. You likely spent a couple weeks in a classroom “learning” the rules of the road and how to drive, but what happened the first time you actually got behind the wheel?

If you’re like most people you were probably a horrible driver. Why? Because all you learned in the classroom was theory. Unfortunately for your teenage self, theoretical knowledge doesn’t produce results. Experience does.

You can “know” all the theory in the world, but without experience that knowledge is worthless. Reading books is great, but you’ll never internalize, and understand things on a deep level until you gain reference experiences by actually going out and doing them.

Does This Mean Studying Theory Is A Waste Of Time?

Not necessarily. If you’re actually applying the things you read they can be quite beneficial. Think of theoretical knowledge as your framework of reality. It gives you an idea of what’s possible, and the actions you need to take to make those things possible.

If you’re trying to become a professional basketball player then studying the shooting form, and exercise routines of the greats can give you an idea of what you need to be doing to get to that level.

Watching them may give you ideas of how you can spend your practice time more efficiently or the exact skills you need to work on, but ultimately the thing that’s going to decide how far you’re going to go is the time and effort you’re putting in at the gym everyday.

Analysis Paralysis

Now the problem with a lot of people is that they spend all their time researching and analyzing the best course of action, but they never actually take action.

I first had the idea of starting a blog in April 2011. From that moment I knew blogging was going to be a big part of my life one day. I spent every hour of my free time researching personal development and blogging everyday for almost two years before I finally launched cameronchardukian.com in February 2013.

And you know what? I still started out as a sucky blogger. I was clueless when it came to promoting my blog despite studying marketing techniques for almost two years. Even if I would’ve known how to market myself it wouldn’t have mattered because most of my posts were crappy 200 word articles of things I had simply rehashed from other bloggers.

But because I was willing to consistently write sucky posts and get feedback from other bloggers I learned more in my first month of blogging than I did in the previous two years of research.

I’m still not a blogging juggernaut by any means, but after showing up almost everyday for six months I’m finally beginning to write great posts here and there, and in another six months I’d predict that the majority of my posts are going to be great. I can’t even imagine the quality of stuff I’d be posting if I started two years ago.

The thing is, I’d still be an absolutely rubbish blogger if I’d never started my blog and continued to spend all my time researching. This is a nice story of course, but it brings up an important question. How do you actually escape analysis paralysis and begin taking action?

Typically people get caught in analysis paralysis because they’re one of the following types of people.

The perfectionist

It’s good to have high standards for yourself. Your life typically is the sum of the things you tolerate. However, when you’re getting started with a new skill you need to be willing to detach your ego from your work.

Regardless of what you’re trying to learn, you’re probably going to suck in the beginning. This isn’t something to be proud of, but if you’re excessively critical of yourself you’re going to hurt your ego and as a natural result you’ll find yourself doing whatever it takes to avoid having to perform that skill.

I think the best advice I can give you here is to temporarily lower your standards. If you just started playing basketball last week it’s fine to want to be the best player in the world, but you also have to recognize that other people have been playing basketball a lot longer.

You’re probably going to get smashed the first time you play 1 on 1. You might not even score. However, as long as you’re willing to work hard and accept that you’re going to suck for some period of time you’ll quickly find yourself improving, and if you maintain your hunger you very well may become the best in the world one day.

The Fraidy Cat

If you’re not the perfectionist you’re likely the fraidy cat. You know what you want, but you let fear paralyze you.

Perhaps it’s fear of failure, or maybe you’re afraid of what your friends are going to think of you. Maybe you’re even afraid of being successful. It doesn’t matter. The reason you’re scared of whatever you fear is because it’s human nature to be afraid of change.

In the past changes in our environment often threatened our survival. We had a much better chance of surviving in a static environment than a dynamic one so if you found yourself in a consistent environment your brain would try to keep you there.

The problem now, however, is our brains haven’t had time to adapt to the modern world. We’re still built to survive rather than thrive, so we tend to get comfortable and resist change whenever we’re in an environment our survival isn’t being threatened in.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year or two trying to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. The biggest thing I’ve learned? It’s a skill, not something you’re born with.

Everyone’s scared to leave their comfort zone. That’s why it’s called a comfort zone. Unfortunately, sometimes you’ve got to leave it to live your dreams. Fortunately, the more you leave your comfort zone, the more it’ll expand.

It’s a lot like lifting weights. Things that may be difficult for you now, can one day be easy if you’re willing to train consistently. That’s a big if though.

Your comfort zone is also a lot like lifting weights because you get weaker if you go too long without pushing your limits.

The two keys here are starting small, and consistency. If you’re not used to leaving your comfort zone I recommend you start with things that only make you slightly uncomfortable.

If you’re socially awkward don’t worry about asking a girl on a date. Just make the commitment to say hi to a girl. The next day give one a compliment. The day after try holding a conversation with one.

It may take you a couple weeks or even months to ask out a girl on a date, but that’s not the important thing. What’s important is you’re building an upward spiral where you’re constantly challenging yourself to do better. Even if you’re not progressing quickly you’ll still be making consistent improvements which is a lot better than most people.

Regardless of your goal, find one small thing you can do to move yourself a little closer to it. It may make you a little uncomfortable, but do it anyway. Focus on starting your upward spiral today. All of us feel fear at times, but the thing about the greats is that they don’t let it paralyze them.

The Lost Little Boy

If you’re the lost little boy you’re lucky as this is actually the easiest type of analysis paralysis to escape. The reason you’re procrastinating is simple. It’s because you’re goal isn’t something you actually care about. It’s doesn’t align with your values.

Typically this is because your goal isn’t actually your goal. It’s something your friends, family, or society is pressuring you into. Your parents can want you to become a doctor as much as they want, but if you don’t care to become one it’s not going to end well.

If you take the path without a heart you’re unlikely to make it through medical school, but even if you do and manage to become a doctor you’ll still feel bad because you’ll know you could’ve followed your dreams and become something much greater.

If you find yourself in this position the best thing you can do is find out what you really want. Take some time for yourself and think about what you want to do with your life. Think about the legacy you want to leave behind and how you want to change the world. Also think about how you can do this in a way that’ll align with your values.

After you’ve spent some time thinking, create new goals for yourself, as well as a plan to achieve them. If you’ve done the previous steps correctly you should feel little resistance when taking action towards your goals.

If at this point you’re still getting a lot of resistance you either set the wrong goals, or you’re one of the other types of analysis paralysis people as well.

Taking Action

Once you’ve worked to eliminate your limiting beliefs taking action becomes much less difficult. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, but if you’re willing to put in the effort taking action will no longer be the insurmountable task it once was.

Now regardless of what you’re trying to learn I recommend starting very small. If you’re trying to learn Spanish flip through flashcards for 5 minutes per day. If you’re trying to become a blogger write 100 words per day.

You probably won’t be making much progress towards your goals at this pace, but that’s not what our initial focus is on anyway. All we’re worried about is building the initial habit.

You can try to jump straight in and study for two hours or write 1,000 words per day, but regardless of work ethic it’s very unlikely you’ll experience any level of success. You’ll almost certainly reach those targets more quickly by gradually increasing the difficulty of your habits rather than just going for it.

If you’re trying to learn Spanish study 5 minutes per day the first week, 10 per day the second week, and so forth until you hit your desired daily total. If you try to work your way around this gradual increase you’re nearly guaranteed to find yourself back at the beginning.

Plodding Vs Bursting

Once you’ve use the gradual progression strategy to adopt your desired habit you have to consider whether plodding or bursting would be a better method of learning and internalizing it.

Plodding is a strategy used where something is typically implemented into your daily routine and you attempt to learn a little about it everyday. Bursting on the other hand is immersing yourself in something sometimes to the exclusion of everything else in an attempt to learn it as quickly as possible.

Most people naturally have a natural preference between plodding or bursting, but some activities also lend themselves to a specific strategy.

Bursting is often more effective to learn complex things such as a foreign language or social dynamics, because it allows a part of your brain called the reticular activating system (RAS) to focus on tiny details it wouldn’t otherwise notice.

Fortunately, once you develop your social skills or learn a foreign language to a level you’re satisfied with you can put it in maintenance mode and stop being so immersed in it to the exclusion of other things in your life.

Of course, not all activities lend themselves well to bursting. Take dieting for example. You can eat as healthy as you want 3 weeks per month, but if the final week of every month you’re eating junk food and drinking a six pack every night you’re not going to be nearly as healthy as you could be.

Other Key Things To Keep In Mind

Besides gradually building your habits and deciding whether plodding or bursting is a more appropriate there’s also several other key factors to keep in mind when learning something.

You Need To Love It. I’ve already mentioned this in the previous steps, but it’s worth repeating. If you can’t enjoy the process it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to commit to it.

You Need To Have A Bigger Purpose. Although it’s definitely possible to do things just for yourself I’ve found using other people to be perhaps an even more powerful motivator.

When I’m struggling at the end of a workout the last few reps aren’t about making my abs look a little more chiseled. They’re about doing the best I can possibly do and inspiring others to do the same.

When I’m tired and don’t feel like writing a blog post I write anyway because along with clarifying my thoughts, and building my self-discipline it has the potential to change someone’s life, and that’s huge. Regardless of what you’re trying to learn or do, using other people as motivational leverage will often be the difference between failure and success.

You Need To Use Your Pain As Leverage. Things aren’t always going to go your way. Sometimes girls will reject you or other bloggers will say you’re a sucky writer. Don’t get bitter though, get better.

Each time you fail or go through a hardship use that as motivation to work even harder. I’m not a big fan of Lebron, but I love the man’s work ethic.

I remember a few years back his team got knocked out of the playoffs, but he didn’t use that as an excuse to feel sorry for himself. He was back in the gym the next day working on the cracks in his game.

You are going to fail, and when you first start learning something you’re probably going to suck at it, but never let that get you down. The willingness to fail repeatedly is what’s going to get you to success.

Evaluating Your Actions

Taking mindless, consistent action toward some goals will work great. There’s lots of things you can learn simply by doing them everyday. If you sing the Spanish alphabet 10 times everyday you’ll learn it eventually regardless of your specific memorization strategy.

However, other things can’t be learned as mindlessly. If you’re trying to develop your social skills you can go out as much as you want, but if you bang your head against the wall and keep doing the same things you always do you’ll inevitably continue to produce the same results.

In the case of more complex things such as social dynamics, public speaking, or broad concepts like appreciation and forgiveness you need to have a game-plan for improvement.

You can give as many speeches as you want, but if you’re not willing to admit your strengths and weaknesses, or take constructive criticism from others you’re not going to go very far.

Different lessons require different lesson plans, but there’s several principles you need to keep in mind to use constructive criticism productively.

You Need To Be Brutally Honest With Yourself. You can’t learn something if you’re not willing to admit you don’t know it in the first place. Detach your ego from the things you’re trying to learn.

If you’re trying to learn how to talk to girls don’t let a rejection damage your self-esteem. Typically she’s rejecting your social skills, not you. You can be a completely amazing guy, but if you don’t know how to express yourself and properly project your personality you’ll get rejected because the girls will never know what they’re missing.

Don’t write off all girls as being idiotic sluts who don’t know what they want. You’ll never develop your social skills or improve your results if that’s your attitude towards them. You need to be willing to admit that you’re the problem, not outside circumstances.

Take Constructive Criticism. The willingness to fail repeatedly doesn’t mean banging your head against the wall. If that’s all you do you’re just going to hurt yourself. Equally important as the willingness to work disgustingly hard is the ability to take constructive criticism.

You can’t learn things if you’re unaware you don’t know them. Brutal honesty with yourself can help identify some cracks in your game, but ultimately you need some outside form of feedback. We all have blind spots, and you need someone, preferably a coach or mentor to help you identify what’s in yours.

Apply The Criticism You’ve Been Given. They say that advice is typically worth what you paid for it, and this is for two reasons. Obviously because you can typically access more knowledgable people when you have money to exchange for their wisdom, but also because of the significance you’ll place on their advice.

Most people are unlikely to take free advice because they don’t have much invested in the application of that advice. However, if you paid $999 to attend a seminar that gave similar advice you’re much more likely to apply simply it because you have an emotional investment in it and don’t want that advice to go to waste.

I’m not saying you need to pay thousands of dollars for information you get could get for free online, but what I am saying is that you need to find something that motivates you to take action on the advice you’ve been given.

This motivation might come from other people, using your pain as leverage, or just love of improvement, but you need to find something that allows you to cultivate it.

Taking Breaks

Although sickening work ethic is great, it’s simply not possible to operate at 100% efficiency 100% of the time. Regardless of what you’re trying to learn taking the occasional break will likely benefit you. Besides preventing burnout, taking breaks also allows your subconscious to process the things you’ve been learning.

Do you remember cramming for tests in high school and forgetting everything a week later? Part of the reason this happens is because you were probably never interested in what you were studying, but another reason this may have occurred is because your brain never had time to process the information.

When you learn something it goes into your short term memory. If your brain considers it to be information worth remembering it’ll sort it into your long-term memory, but this doesn’t typically happen immediately.

For the most part it happens while you’re sleeping, but if you cram in too much information at once, or neglect to sleep an appropriate amount there’s a good chance whatever you’re trying to learn will be lost before it’s properly stored.

Taking breaks will also benefit you because it’ll allow the incubation effect to take place. If you find yourself spinning your wheels trying to learn a new juggling trick, or develop a certain social skill then taking a break will help you because it’ll allow your subconscious to distance itself from the problem, get another perspective on it, and work on a solution while you’re focused on other activities.

When To Take Breaks

Of course, there’s a very fine line between taking breaks to prevent burnout and taking time off purely out of laziness. Where this line should be drawn depends heavily on what it is you’re trying to learn.

Some activities require more recovery time than others. You’re likely to become socially exhausted if you go out 7 nights a week for several months. You’d likely be much better off going out 5-6 nights per week. However, other things such as meditation, and being grateful are best practiced everyday.

It really depends on the activity and your specific situation. However, regardless of what you’re working on you probably already know deep down how much you should be doing it. You just need to be brutally honest with yourself 😉

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Why Being Social Allows You To Be More Creative

A couple weeks ago my friend Huan and I were talking about content creation and how to generate ideas for creative endeavors. We talked about several common methods such as journalizing, drawing inspiration from other creative works, and pouring your ideas onto paper until inspiration strikes.

While those are effective strategies in themselves, they’re also common. I’d like to use this post to instead discuss the simple creativity strategy people aren’t talking about. Going out and socializing every single day.

Writers, artists, musicians, etc. are notorious for being introverts. Whether that’s because they’re naturally introverts and they use art to express themselves, or because the time consuming nature of their art forces them to introversion is irrelevant.

The truth is you can’t spend the rest of your life in isolation if you want to be producing work to the best of your ability. Here’s why.

Isolation Causes Stress

We’re human beings and we become stressed when we spend too much time alone. Even if you’re doing things you find fulfilling such as reading, writing, etc. you still need some level of human contact in your life. Without it you’re going to be driven to literal insanity.

You don’t have to go to parties every night, but because we have a natural need to be loved and understood you do have to spend time with people you care about regularly.

You can try to get around this all you want in an effort to be “more productive,” but if you fail to fulfill these needs your stress levels are going to go through the roof and you’ll find yourself trying to escape from reality as a coping method to manage your emotions.

We’ve all heard of the depressed artist so this might seem reasonable to you. Sacrifice is necessary for success right? Yes, and no. Hard work and dedication are required to produce great work, but sacrificing your health in the form of stress isn’t.

The best artist is actually the relaxed one as stress inhibits creativity, and causes electromagnetic “brown outs” in the brain.

The Death Of The Daily Routine

In addition to helping your brain function properly there’s also another even more important reason socializing increases your potential to create. It gets you out of your daily routine.

Aside from going out my days are EXTREMELY routine, and habitual. I wake up, write, lift, read, juggle, etc. This is good because it allows me to optimize an effective daily routine, and consistently do the things that are important to me, but there’s also a problem with it.

If I go several days without going out I take in the exact same input every single day. I still enjoy the things I do, but my life becomes really predictable and mundane.

Every time I go out, however, it’s an exciting, novel adventure. My brain is able to use these unique experiences to make new connections, thus sparking creativity and motivation to share new insights.

Every time I’ve gotten stuck with writer’s block it’s because I’d been spending too much time by myself, and every time I’ve socialized with writer’s block it’s disappeared by the next day.

Even if you consider yourself an introvert I recommend going out both to spark creativity, and just to enjoy life. After all, you only get one so you might as well make the most of it.

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How To Solve Any Problem Using The Incubation Effect

It happens to the best of us. You spend hours trying to solve a problem and eventually you get so frustrated you give up and call it a day. Only, you don’t. You go for a short walk and then BAM. It hits you.

You run back to your office and you can’t believe how simple the solution was. Within five minutes you’ve solved the problem. What just happened? The incubation effect.

When you start working on a problem your brain subconsciously creates mental models of it. These models are inaccurate to begin with, but as you spend more time finding what does and doesn’t work you gradually begin to build a more accurate model of reality.

You may realize some of these changes immediately, but often you’ll need time away from the problem to process them. This is where the incubation effect comes into play.

When you step away from a problem by taking a shower or going for a walk your brain doesn’t shut off. You may no longer be actively trying to solve it, but your subconscious is continuing to refine your model of reality and find alternate solutions.

Of course, all this is bound to bring up another question. What’s the point of working hard if my subconscious is just going to solve all my problems anyway? To which I would say there’s two answers. Input, and intent.

Input

Your subconscious can’t make a rabbit jump out of an empty hat. It can’t refine your model of reality if you don’t have one to begin with. Seriously, try it. I challenge you to subconsciously learn the Japanese alphabet without ever exposing yourself to it in the first place. Our brains are amazing, but they can’t make something out of nothing. You’ve got to give them something to work with.

Intent

There’s also the matter of intent. Imagine your old high school history class. You probably found it boring, and you likely even fell asleep in it from time to time. Now imagine taking a class in something you’re truly passionate about. Perhaps blogging, entrepreneurship, or yoga. You’re almost guaranteed to learn and retain more in the class you’re passionate about. Why? Intent.

If you’re not interested in what’s being taught you’re not going to put as much effort in and your subconscious isn’t going to bother processing it. If you’re not engaged with the subject matter on a conscious level why would your subconscious allocate additional mental energy to learning it? It just wouldn’t make sense.

By exerting a lot of conscious effort to learn things or understand problems your brain attaches importance to them so your subconscious will work harder as well. In addition remember that the incubation effect isn’t the end all be all of problem solving.

It definitely has its place for solving extremely complex or difficult problems, but it shouldn’t be used as a crutch. The majority of problems you have in everyday life can be solved more quickly through conscious effort.

Applying The Incubation Effect

Now that we’ve got the theory down we can apply the incubation effect in three simple steps.

1. Try Lots Of Solutions And Work Hard To Solve Your Problems. Trying lots of solutions will give your brain more alternate models of reality to work with. Working hard will typically allow you to solve your problems in itself, but if it doesn’t your subconscious will now identify the problem as important and be willing to spend additional energy processing it.

2. Step Away From The Problem, But Don’t Give Up On It. After you get stuck on a problem for too long you’ll begin to spin your wheels. You can try spending additional time on the problem, but most likely you’ll continue to get similar unsuccessful iterations.

This is the ideal time to step away from the problem and let your subconscious get to work. Ideally you’ll begin working on a relaxing activity that’s completely unrelated to your problem.

Going for a walk, taking a shower, or emptying the dishwasher are good options here. Ideally you’d pick something that’s active to get additional blood flowing to the brain, but meditating, or cleaning the house are almost as good.

Watching television isn’t a good option, however. We’re looking for something that’s relaxing, active, and requires few mental resources. Television isn’t active, but it’s not relaxing to your brain either. It requires constant processing in the form of passive intake.

The other important thing to remember is to commit yourself to returning to the task. The reason I publish a new blog post almost everyday is because it puts pressure on my brain. If I post crappy content it’ll waste your time and make me feel bad.

I’m no blogging superhero, but the regular practice and constant subconscious processing is quickly improving my ability to express my ideas and help contribute to the field of personal development.

There’s huge consequences to both others and my emotional well being if I write low quality posts, so by writing everyday my brain is constantly thinking about how I can make tomorrow’s post even better than today’s.

The power of everyday, or at least regularity is huge. If I only wrote one blog post a month I’d get little practice and my brain would have little incentive to improve my abilities as a writer. Therefore I highly recommend doing whatever you’re trying to work on everyday if possible, and if not at least regularly.

3. Return To The Problem

After you’ve taken a break and allowed the incubation effect to take effect it’s likely you’ll see a solution to your problem almost immediately after you begin working on it. If not, don’t fret.

You may not have reached the epiphany, but you’ve almost certainly made some internal progress on it. You’ll probably find the solution to the problem within a few hours of hard work. If you start to begin spinning your wheels again step away from the problem and give your brain another chance to go through the incubation process.

Most difficult problems can be solved through a couple cycles of the process, but particularly complex ones may require several. It took Thomas Edison several hundred nights of “sleeping on it” to come up with the light bulb.

If you’re attempting something particularly complex it may take many, many nights of sleeping on it, but if you stick to the process you’ll eventually come to a solution, and it’ll likely have been an obvious one that was in front of you the whole time 🙂

What are your experiences with the incubation effect?

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