The Essentials

Mon 17 February 2014 in Mixed. Tags: Programming, University, Discipline. By mrwonko.

As you may have noticed, I haven't written much recently. It's similar in other areas - I code little, I learn little, I don't get much done. That's what it used to be like.

I'm finally changing that. Last year I stumbled upon Ramit Sethi's website. I read some of his blog posts and subscribed to his newsletter. He writes on becoming a top-performer and all the things that encompasses. A lot of his material he releases for free, but he makes his money through selling courses. The idea being that his free material convinces you he knows what he's talking about so you buy his courses. And that works: I bought his course on finishing what you start.

So what did I learn? A lot of things, some of them common sense and none of them things I couldn't have learned elsewhere, but the point is that you don't know where to look and once you find something you don't know if it will succeed. The problem is not the availability of information, it's that there's so much of it and most of it is of little use. So I appreciate someone taking the time to research this stuff for me.

One important thing is focusing on the important things. There are many things I could be doing but which are worth doing? One interesting metric is "how many people (can) do this?" The rarer a skill is, the more valuable it is. I won't stop reading and answering the forum posts on JKHub anytime soon for this reason: There are very few people with my knowledge of Jedi Academy modding so I'm providing a valuable service.

It's also good to be aware of your fears (f)or they will guide you. I realized the reason I follow so many news feeds and people on twitter and why I read reddit is due to fear of missing out. What if something interesting happens? Well, what then? I may miss it, big deal. Thinking back, there's rarely anything I can remember later so there's evidently not so much of importance after all.

If I have to check the news, I should value quality over quantity, keeping only those that genuinely entertain or enlighten me. Like Rock, Paper, Shotgun or the Idle Thumbs podcast. And only check those at set times, I don't need to be notified every time a new post is released, even if the hourly publishing of articles on RPS very much encourages it. Same for email notifications. They're all just distractions. When do I ever need to answer an email immediately? Rarely, if ever.

Another powerful tool is scheduling something for a specific time. I learned (both in the sense of being told and experiencing) that I'm much more likely to do something that way than by just having a deadline, or not even a deadline and just having the vague idea that I should do it at some point. And if I keep doing it at the same time for long enough (and ideally reward myself for doing it so I'm more inclined to) it'll eventually turn into a habit (and I won't need the reward anymore). Habits are a great thing since I don't need to think about them so they take less effort. And since my (and everybody's) energy and willpower are limited, minimizing effort is the way to go. That's also why habits should be built one at a time.

I don't really do that though. I want to change way too much at once. The problems are already showing: I don't learn as much for uni as I scheduled. I do stick to some parts of my schedule though, and once those have become habits I can look for more. So far I'm standing up and going to sleep early and doing regular cello practice and Russian lessons. Learning for uni and coding don't get quite so much attention yet.

Wait, Russian? So yeah, that's mostly due to often having Russians and Ukrainians in my Dota 2 games and wanting to be able to communicate with those that don't speak English. I don't have much use for it elsewhere. Well, I could experience the Metro books and games in Russian. At any rate, learning new languages is a good exercise for the brain so I don't think it's time wasted. Provided I keep it up until I get results.

So far I can read the Russian Cyrillic alphabet, albeit not very fast, and I'm now learning the keyboard layout. That turned out to be quite important when I wanted to start learning the actual language and found myself helplessly pressing all the keys when trying to write something. And negative transfer (also known as "damn you, muscle memory!") is making it hard: For example there's the letter н: It's pronounced N and to write it I have to tap Z (since I have a German keyboard). The N key writes т instead, which at least is pronounced the way you'd expect. And that goes on and on...

On the upside I now know why ХВОСТ is pronounced the way it is. And there are a couple of words you can understand just by knowing the alphabet since they're practically the same otherwise. We'll see how it goes.

So while I'm building lots of habits I think it's a good idea to also make a habit of posting more often. So expect bi-weekly posts on Saturday from now on.

So long,



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