Be Smarter than the State

scrooge
I never understood the economy. All the obfuscated mumbo-jumbo lingo that you hear in the media is extremely confusing and explains nothing. At some point I thought that maybe I’m too dumb? But wait. After all, I was able to understand the formalities of Quantum Physics, Electrical Engineering, and much of Psychology. So why not the economy? The key to understanding is accurate and precise explanation. What I learned is mind-boggling: modern economy is based on a giant fraud scheme. It’s sad, but it explains what the hell is going on. I think you should understand it as well if you care about your well-being, wealth, and future.

Within the last six months I took the time to educate myself about the basics of Macroeconomics. I found these fantastic online lectures by Prof. K. Petrov. Here I would like to describe my understanding of one fundamental concept of modern banking system: inflation. Don’t worry. Actually it’s all extremely simple. It is also extremely evil.

Inflation. It simply means price increase across the entire economy. When you hear the news, you think that inflation is natural and that’s the way things are meant to be. But hey, do prices increase themselves??? Of course not. One of the ways to increase inflation is to increase money supply, the infamous money printing. This is not how things are meant to be! Please, do yourself a favor and watch a short episode of Duck Tales (that I absolutely loved as a kid):

 

So what is the lesson here? It’s the following: if you print money (and others don’t), you are the one who primarily benefits from it. Imagine yourself printing extra money. Got it? You can buy a new car, travel more, and get more financial freedom. What are the consequences? After a while the money supply on the market increases and prices go up. In other words: the money loses its value. Let’s say you’ve got $100 today, but someone doubles the money supply within one day. What happens? Tomorrow the actual value of your savings is only $50. You lost half of the hard-earned money. The entity that printed the money, however, already spent it and benefited from it.

 

dollar
Who prints money? In the real world central banks print money. They can print as much as they like. For example US Federal Reserve printed several TRILLIONS of $$$ in the last several years. If they print, it is called quantitative easing. If you print, you go to jail. Unfair, isn’t it? I’d say more. It’s immoral.

 

print
Why do they print money? Have you noticed that governments always spend more money than they have? Consequently, they need to somehow borrow more money. When you borrow money, however, you have to pay it back. But wait, how can you pay the loan back if you have no money? You can either take another loan or you can print more money! So this is what happens in practice. The government prints money. The government is the one who benefits from printing. Citizens, on the other hand, lose money. Are you cool with that?
Dollar_value_chart
How come they are allowed to print money? It is possible because modern currencies are fiat currencies. Their value comes from the law; they are not backed by any tangible commodity. Several decades ago currencies were backed by gold and silver. For example, you could always exchange US dollar for a fixed amount of gold ($1 = 1.505g of gold), and British pound for silver. That prevented the government from printing money, because they could not replicate precious metals. Fast forward to the year 2013; due to inflation dollar dramatically lost its value. If you had $100 at the beginning of the 20th century, now it would be worth only $4. If you have savings, what’s their value in 50 years when you retire?

 

toilet
Is there some way to defend yourself from getting ripped off by the government? Yes, there is. You can be smarter then the state. Get rid of all the paper money. If you have savings, invest them in something tangible, experience, or of real value. For example, you can invest in own education, traveling, a startup, stock market, precious metals, etc. In fact, for the last several thousands of years silver and gold were good stores of value. Unlike any kind of paper money issued by governments/central banks/banksters. If at the beginning of the 20th century you exchanged $100 for gold, you would get 150.5 grams of gold. Do you know how much it is worth these days? $5896. That’s a slightly better business than the $4. Isn’t it?

 

gold
Disclaimer: although the article talked about US dollar, all the above applies to pretty much any other currency: British Pound, European Euro, Swiss Frank, Canadian Dollar, Swedish Krona, Polish Zloty, Japanese Yen, etc. Throughout the history the governments have been making the same mistakes over and over again. The future is predictable. In the end the paper currency is worth nothing.

Which Trait Would You Rather Have: Confidence or Accuracy?

conf
Would you rather be confident but, perhaps, incorrect, or accurate but insecure? Would others appreciate you more as a confident person or an accurate one? It all depends on the situation, for sure. Let’s talk about day-to-day life situations and communication through mass media (including Twitter, Facebook, etc.).

 

A recent study of Twitter investigated how professional pundits and amateurs predicted the results of baseball games. The study shows that people who are confident about predicting the results have more followers and are in more demand, regardless of accuracy of the predictions. In other words, if you are confident, you get more popularity. It does not matter whether you are right or wrong.
crowd
What are the implications of that study? The results can, perhaps, be generalized. They may explain some of the examples where confidence brings significant benefits to an individual despite of low accuracy:
  • Hitler moved unparalleled crowds. He had a vision and was confident about it. His accuracy was very low. For sure. His racist claims were not backed by any scientific evidence.
  • Recently I was told a story how you can travel by bus in Copenhagen with an invalid ticket. How do you do that? Be confident that your ticket is valid, smile to the driver, and show only a part of the ticket so that the expiry date is hidden. Perfect confidence and no accuracy. It is confirmed that the story works for blond girls. If they can pull it off, then you can do that as well.
bus
It’s easy to say be confident, but how do you gain confidence if you are not confident? Confidence comes from experience and familiarity with various situations. Getting into unexpected situations gives you new experience. Getting out of your comfort zone makes you uncomfortable and exposes your fragility to others. That’s how confidence is built. What is a natural setting where you can exercise both? Traveling!

A Major Problem of Humanity Solved!

Play the song and enjoy this fantastic video! It’ll put you in the right mood before reading the remainder of the post. I promise

 

There is one problem that majority of people experience every day. What’s worse, that problem sometimes greatly impacts the whole day. What is it? The problem of waking up in the morning! You know it very well. You set the alarm and plan to wake up at a given time. When the alarm goes off, you push the snooze button to sleep for just 10 more minutes. After the 10 minutes… you do the same. It’s so hard to wake up and get things going. Imagine, wouldn’t it be wonderful just to wake up and start the day with a big smile?

msleep

So, why is it so difficult to wake up? Turns out that the difficulty of waking up depends on the sleep phase you are in. If you are  in deep sleep and immediately interrupt it, you feel tired and your mental ability is greatly reduced. You’d like to go back to the beautiful dream… This is what typically happens in the morning. If you are, however, in light sleep, then awakening is very easy, because your body is ready go. What if there was a way of determining when you are in light sleep and then starting the alarm?

wsleep

I’ve got good news for you. Personally I think it’s one of the coolest uses of smartphones. There are applications that can track your sleep cycle and wake up when you are in light sleep. They analyze your movements in bed and rely on a simple principle: if you don’t move, you are in deep sleep; if you move a lot, you are in light sleep. Instead of setting the alarm for a fixed time, you let the application wake you up within certain time window. For example, if the time window is 30 minutes and you have to wake up at 7:30 at the latest, it will wake you up at the most suitable moment between 7:00 and 7:30.

 

I’m really excited about that, because I’ve been testing Sleep as Android for several nights and I woke up without any problem. You can find similar applications by searching for sleep in Google Play for Android/App Store for Apple devices/App World for Blackberry.

Learning a New Language? This Is How I Do It!

babel
It’s been a while since I wrote my last post. I’ve got good excuses, though! Let’s go back in time and see what happened. Well, majority of people travel in August. But I got to the conclusion that the weather in Canada is still very nice in August. So instead of traveling I decided to stay in Waterloo, work hard on my research, and party with friends. Then, most of September I was away; traveling around Europe. Among others, I went to Portugal, Spain (including Majorca!), and Italy. As usually, thanks to CouchSurfing and GzowskiClub I met very generous and adventurous people. As the weather in southern Europe is great in September, it was another summer month for me. That was definitely good strategy for prolonging the summer. Now, I’m back to Canada, and besides doing research and supervising students, I am learning Portuguese. How cool is that?
lisbon
Learning a new language is always a great adventure. In fact, it’s not just about the language. You learn a lot about another culture, you get the opportunity to meet new people, and experience another country. Ideally, you’d like to move to that country to learn the language. In many cases, it’s not that easy. Houston, we’ve got a problem! My grandma used to say that there are no problems, there are only solutions. Let’s focus on solutions then. Throughout the years I came up with a combination of techniques that helped me learn English, German, and Swedish. Now, I’m employing them to learn Portuguese. Truth to be told, I never used German and forgot it. Polish is my native language, I’m fluent in English and can still understand a good part of Swedish. After Portuguese, I’d like to pick up some Spanish and maybe French.

The main idea is to immerse yourself into the new language. Anything you can do to learn counts. Here is how I do it:

  • Know why you learn. To be successful at something you need to have an ultimate goal. You need to know why you want to achieve it and what benefits it will bring. This is very important to stay motivated and eager to learn. Learning a new language is typically a huge time commitment. Think about the goal, write it down, and read it whenever you feel too lazy to learn. For example, one of my goals in life is to play in a Brazilian soap-opera.
    To those Canadians who don’t care about French classes. I just wanted to tell you that Paris is chock-full of beautiful models! I met some of them, and well, too bad they didn’t speak English.
  • Find a language course. If the language you want to learn is popular (like English or Spanish), you can almost always find teachers and schools in your area. Alternatively, you can learn a language on your own. I know it’s possible, because I taught myself Swedish. In that case, you need to buy textbooks, workbooks, and to find (non-)professional teachers to help you.
  • Find a group of interest. Try to find other people who want to learn the same language and practice with them. Meetup is good place to find local communities, language exchange meetings, and conversation classes. You can find language events on CouchSurfing. There are also lots of online communities, such as LiveMocha and SharedTalk. I haven’t used the last two websites, but heard good things about each of them.
  • Find penpals. Thanks to the Internet, it’s very easy to find people located in the country of your interest. When I started learning Swedish, I used ICQ to find a random Swedish partner. These days you can use other websites like Facebook, MSN, Badoo. If you are looking for random penpals, you may have to message a lot of them before you get a good response. But hey, that’s fun! Of course if you want to make the search less random, use LiveMocha or SharedTalk. You can practice with your penpal every day. It’s especially useful to practice informal language, writing, speaking, and listening. Skype allows for audio chats with good voice quality. I ask penpals to type/speak in their native language. I do my best to reply in the same language. At the beginning it’s difficult, so if I cannot, I reply in the language I know.
  • Ask friends for help. If your local friends speak the language you want to learn, schedule meetings with them. Those meeting are invaluable for improving your accent, speaking, and listening skills. Ask your friends to speak only the native language. In practice, you would be switching between languages at the beginning.
  • Radio. Internet gives you access to all the radio stations in the world. Isn’t it wondeful? TuneIn is one of such websites. Find a radio station where they talk all the time. It can be fun, it can be boring. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you listen to the language whenever possible (several hours a day). At the beginning you don’t understand anything, but after several days you will see that you can recognize certain phrases. Even if I don’t understand the phrases, I repeat them to myself.
  • Music. Listen to the music in the language you want to learn. Check out the lyrics, try to sing along. If you like the music, it’ll be a fun way for learning catchy phrases very quickly. The lyrics are not necessarily the best source of vocabulary, but they are also not the worst one.
  • Subtitles. When watching a movie use subtitles in the language you want to learn. To be honest, I never liked switching my attention between the movie and the subtitles, but it’s a way of relating subtitles to what you see.
  • Online translators and dictionaries. Those are essential for translating words and phrases. They are especially useful when you learn the language on your own and when practicing with a penpal. These days, however, you can get much more from online translators. Personally I really like Google Translate. While its translations are not perfect, it has a great speech synthesizer. It can fluently read phrases in any language it offers. I use it a lot to work on my accent.
  • Record yourself. This is something I actually do. It’s very hard to improve your accent unless you hear how it sounds. What you think it sounds like is very different from how it sounds to others. You can record yourself and later record a native speaker reading the same text. Compare and try to fix the problems with accent.
  • Travel. If you cannot move to the country to practice the foreign language you’re learning, do your best to visit it from time to time. There are always multiple opportunities.

Exercises in Open-Mindedness

brain

 

Open-mindedness is about being receptive to new ideas. Simple. Everyone is receptive up to a certain limit. This limit is what determines whether we call a person open-minded or close-minded. Now, why do I care about open-mindedness? Personally, I think open-mindedness is a great trait to have. Why?
  • You can learn from the ideas of others and come up with better own ideas.
  • It fosters creativity.
  • You’re more open to explore various topics, which can result in new hobbies, passions, and friendships.
  • I think it’s related to going out of comfort zone and trying out new things. As a result you become more adaptable to new situations and environments.
  • It helps you to become a more interesting person. If you’re open-minded, then you probably have knowledge about a variety of topics. It’s great for discussions and socializing.

 

OK, cool. So if it’s such a great trait, how to acquire it? Well, you’re more or less open-minded. So it’s not so much about acquiring but about exercising. I’ve been exercising my open-mindedness since April. I started with the How to Exercise an Open Mind article. Here I’m presenting the list of various exercises that stimulate the brain. Take it as inspiration!

 

Exploring Music Genres

Reading

Wikipedia Articles

ice

Cooking

  • Pierogies
  • Asparagus creme
  • Apple crumble with vanilla ice cream
  • BBQ salmon and vegetables
  • Broccoli soup
  • Cheesecake
  • Hash-browns

Volunteering with Gzowski Club

streetsalsa

 

Traveling

  • Exploring the KitchenerWaterloo region
  • Exploring Toronto, Ottawa, Mississauga and other places in Southern Ontario
  • Eurotrip
  • Booked tickets to Brazil for the Carnival 2013 in Rio de Janeiro

Activities

 

jump

 

If you’ve got something to add to that list, I would be more than happy to see it!

Sustainable Global Lifestyle: Introduction

globlife

 

Several interesting things happened to me recently. First, I got a chance to travel a bit in Europe and Canada. The coolest thing about traveling is that besides discovering places you discover yourself. Second, I’ve been volunteering at KW Latinfest to help organize an event for the local community. Imagine a PhD student running around and asking for donations. Third, I was interviewed about my expat life. One of the questions was: what is home for you? It took me 10 good minutes to define home! Finally, I just started reading The World Is Flat, a book that Anna recommended me a while ago. All those things made me look at lifestyle from an unorthodox perspective. I’ve been thinking about designing global lifestyle for a while. The recent events worked as a thought catalyzer! This post is kind of random but has the potential to change your life.

Inspiration

 

Let’s begin with the book as I found it highly inspiring. It’s very fortunate that I looked into it right now. The World Is Flat investigates how globalization changed the world. You probably often hear that globalization is a bad, bad thing. But hey, instead of complaining, let’s make the most of it! Globalization gives opportunities that have not been available to our ancestors. It can make the whole world your home.

1.0 2.0 3.0
before 1800
1800-2000
after 2000
glob1 glob2 glob3
Where does my country fit in the world?
Where does my corporation fit in the world?
Where do I fit in the world?
The book classifies globalization into 3 versions. In the era of Globalization 1.0 countries focused on conquering other countries, on acquiring more land and resources. Globalization 2.0 was defined by international corporations that struggled to be competitive and tried to find their place in the world. Globalization 3.0 started when new technologies speeded up the flow of information and allowed for global cooperation for each individual. Not only can you travel between two remote locations within hours, but also the physical location is less and less important. So, if the world is so available these days, how do I leverage that? Should I be competitive or take it slow and relax? What kind of lifestyle is available now that wasn’t available in the past?

 

Desired Lifestyle

 

Picture this. Wouldn’t it be cool to travel around the world for years and experience life on different continents? Imagine eating genuine Japanese sushi, or an genuine American hamburger cooked on 100 years old grease. How about making money in an expensive country, such as Switzerland, while staying in Thailand where the cost of living is much lower? Just by changing location your money is worth much more! Or maybe money doesn’t matter, and all one needs is a tent and a ticket to the next destination?

bridge thailand
Switzerland: a train ride in the Alps
Thailand: Phi Phi Islands

 

Recently, I was looking for answers to the above questions. Why? Because I’ve got some 600 days to finish my PhD and graduate. Also, I want to design a sustainable global lifestyle to combine permanent traveling with daily life. Let’s break it down:

  • sustainable – maintainable in the long-run.
  • global – living in different locations on the Earth. Experiencing local culture, food, nature.
  • lifestyle – a way of living life.
Such a lifestyle looks very attractive to me. I believe that you also find it attractive as long as you’re a bit adventurous. Are you? Thanks to the technology, it is also achievable to many of us. It relies on thinking globally, acting locally. 

 

Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

 

The principle is fairly well known in business and environmental studies. Isn’t it reasonable to apply it on a personal level?. Thinking globally means taking advantage of globalization. That includes cheap international flights, ability to work remotely, location independence, and geoarbitrage. Acting locally is about slow traveling, experiencing local culture, building local communities, sharing ideas, and possibly volunteering.

volunteer
This post is an introduction to designing a sustainable global lifestyle. I’m planning to write a series of blog posts to explore topics on:

  • various opportunities for working and traveling,
  • living in multiple locations around the planet,
  • finding a job to make geoarbitrage work.
Of course there are tons of materials on the web. The thing is that they are either generic or tell a personal story. My goal is to customize the content to a young (pre-)professional. Get ready for some cool posts and refreshing ideas!

 

Caveman-inspired Diet and Green Smoothies

collard

 

I’ve been experimenting a lot recently. One of the things that I was experimenting with were my eating habits. For over two years I had gone to restaurants for lunch. I had also been eating bread for over two decades. I got bored of that food and started looking for meals that:
  • have good nutritional values,
  • are healthy and natural,
  • take almost no time to prepare,
  • are reasonably tasty,
  • are affordable on a student budget :-)
After searching for a while I found the paleo diet. I decided to give it a try and cook for myself. That was a huge step cause my cooking skills were rather poor. Anyways, the basic idea of the paleo diet is simple: whatever was good for your ancestors before agricultural revolution (from 2.5 million to 10 000 years ago), is good for you. You should eat whatever your ancestors hunted or gathered (those who made a mistake died and were not your ancestors :-) ). Assumptions of the diet sound totally reasonable to me. I took it as a starting point and adjusted to my needs and lifestyle.

 

So how is life on the paleo diet? I think it’s great now. At the beginning the food that I made tasted pretty bad. I didn’t know what tastes go well each other. After 2-3 weeks of experiments I got to a meal plan that I really enjoy! First, I did a little research and carefully selected food items that contain the highest nutritional value on a given budget. I used websites like NutritionDataWHFoods, or Wikipedia. Here is a list of things that I buy:
  • Fish and meat: fresh salmon, smoked salmon, cod, haddock, herring, chicken breast, turkey breast, beef.
  • Vegetables: carrots, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, romaine lettuce, collard greenskale, spinach, dulse (sea vegetable), basil, mint.
  • Fruits: blueberry, kiwi, grapefruit, orange, banana, blackberry, strawberry, apple, mango, pineapple, avocado, lemon, lime, cucumber, red peppers, tomatoes (yeah, the last three are not vegetables :-) ).
  • Nuts: walnuts (but pecans and almonds are also good).
  • Legumes: red beans, bean medley, falafel (made from chickpeas).
  • Other: almond milk, eggs, cocoa, honey, dark chocolate.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Breakfast

Every breakfast includes leaves of romaine lettuce, nuts, carrots, and some other vegetable or fruit (e.g., cucumber, red pepper, tomato). All the veggies and fruits are raw. Also, each morning I make green smoothies (described later). Six times a week breakfast includes a boiled egg. Twice a week it includes smoked salmon, and twice a week herring. Total time: (includes preparing, eating, and cleaning up): 30 minutes.

Lunch/Dinner

I typically sauté fish/meat with spinach. I add dulse instead of salt to make the food salty. Avocado goes well with chicken and turkey breast. What I like about sautéing is that I haven’t used any oil for several weeks. It’s totally possible :-) At times, I bake fresh salmon as it contains a lot of fat and does not require extra oil. Each lunch/dinner includes a lot of fish or meat, otherwise I would be hungry. It also includes boiled vegetables (e.g., Brussels sprouts, asparagus, broccoli) and/or legumes. I use microwave instead of boiling the green veggies. I also add some spices to taste (e.g. curry goes well with poultry). Total time: 40 minutes.

Supper

Supper is very lightweight. It includes nuts, carrots, and fruits (e.g., kiwi, orange, strawberry, apple, pineapple, blueberry, banana, blackberry). Total time: 10 minutes.

Green Smoothies

Green smoothie is a smoothie made with green leafy vegetables. It sounds odd, but those leafy vegetables provide tons of vitamins. They are not so tasty on their own, so it’s better to mix with fruits or nuts and to make a smoothie! You can also add raw eggs or avocados to make them even more smooth. Yep, you need a blender to make smoothies. I recently bought one for $10, which was a great investment. I confess that when I started making green smoothies, they tasted awful. Here are some good recipes that I encourage you to try:

  1. collard greens, kale, mint, glass of almond milk, lots of blueberries.
  2. collard greens, kale, mint, glass of almond milk, blackberries, strawberries.
  3. collard greens, kale, mint, glass of almond milk, mango.
  4. collard greens, kale, mint, glass of almond milk, pineapple.
  5. collard greens, kale, mint, glass of almond milk, watermelon.
  6. collard greens, kale, mint, glass of almond milk, apple.
  7. collard greens, kale, mint, grapefruit, lemon/lime, lemon/lime zest, kiwi, banana.
  8. collard greens, kale, mint, grapefruit, lemon/lime, lemon/lime zest, mango.
  9. collard greens, kale, mint, grapefruit, lemon/lime, lemon/lime zest, pineapple.
  10. collard greens, kale, mint, grapefruit, lemon/lime, lemon/lime zest, watermelon.
  11. collard greens, kale, mint, grapefruit, lemon/lime, lemon/lime zest, orange, banana.

     

    IMG_5869

Sweet Smoothie

I’m a big fan of chocolate and honey. Once a week I make a sweet smoothie to appreciate the taste of sugar. This is how it goes: glass of almond milk, cocoa, honey, dark chocolate, banana.

 

If you are into paleo diet or have any opinion about it, I would be glad to hear that. I’m always looking for new recipes!

Success Engineering

mountainmini
Original Photo by Marcel Bak

I think that one can be successful at anything they really want. Anything? Anything! I don’t know what you do in life, but I know that you can become anyone you want and you can achieve anything you want. During the last several weeks I’ve been looking into the topic of success. I wanted to understand it to have a system in place for achieving success. I also talked to some people that I consider successful. Interested in my findings? Read on.

 

First of all, what is success? Success is achievement of a goal. Most people have some goals, such as finishing school, doing a project, making money, traveling, having a family. Also, most people fail to achieve their goals. They settle on whatever is readily available to them. Of course, I failed many times too. Now things are much better. I believe there is a general framework for being successful:

 

goal

 

Goal. Find out what you want. Goal should be a result of strong desire for something. The stronger the desire, the more likely success. If there is no desire, there is no success. I think it is very important to be as specific about the desired outcome as possible. More specific goals allow for designing better plans. If necessary, divide the goal into smaller subgoals. Use Kanban to keep track of all the goals.

 

Plan. Think what you need to achieve the goal and how to do that. Set a final deadline that you will not miss. Make a very detailed plan of action. I typically first create a bullet list of actions, and then schedule them in calendar. Stick to the schedule and be committed. If you don’t do that, you’ll fail.

 

If necessary, acquire additional resources. Find out different sources of knowledge (websites, forums, publications, people) and meet like-minded people. Think about the skills that you need to learn and how to acquire them.

 

There is no such thing as a free lunch. You heard it many times. If you want to be successful at one thing, other things will suffer. Make a list of things that will suffer and be aware of them.

 

Action. Execute the plan. In many cases that’s the hardest part because it requires you to move your ass and do something. Take action immediately, do not wait for “perfect moment”. It does not exist. Whatever you do, you’ll refine it later as you get better.

 

Of course, you’ll be tempted to procrastinate and to find lame excuses. Stay focused and motivated. You have to be persistent. You’ll meet many obstacles, but don’t get discouraged. Never take things personally. Be guided by your goal and think of all the benefits of achieving it. Remember, you get as much as you fight for.

 

Being motivated is not always easy. Approach the whole process with the right attitude like Nick Vujcic. Be positive and have faith in success. It’s the attitude that discriminates successful from unsuccessful people. It gives spark to all the action.

 

Taking action usually means working hard. Successful people are successful because they are devoted to their goals, not because they are naturally talented. They put all their resources into finishing the task. They work hard, but you also have to work smart. If you work smart, you save time and achieve your goals quicker. Be productive.

 

You might think that some people are successful because they are lucky. But, what is luck? I like the definition of Randy Pausch. According to him luck is when preparation meets opportunity. You can be lucky only when you are ready for it. Being ready usually means working for success.

 

Result. When you perform an action, you’ll see some results. At the beginning the results will not be shocking. Maybe it’ll take months or years to see big results, but do not quit. Most people fail because they quit too early.

 

Thoughts. Reflect on the results and the whole process. Learn and improve. Often you need to adjust the plan as the conditions change.

Controlling the Brain with Sounds?

monstara_Brain_Notes

 

You are going to read about something you have probably never heard of. It sounds totally wicked: brainwave synchronization. What the hell is that? Let me explain some things first. When your brain is in a certain state, it generates waves with frequencies that are characteristic to that state. For example, if you have a deep dreamless sleep, your brain generates waves below 4 Hz  (Delta waves). Now, think about doing the reverse: let’s stimulate the brain with certain frequencies and see what happens. Will it switch to that state? For example, can you fall asleep just by listening to certain sounds? Well, it might be the case.

 

The goal of brainwave synchronization is to induce intended brain-state by feeding the brain with frequencies that correspond to the intended state. Let’s say I want to sleep, I play certain sound. I want to study and focus, I play another sound. I want to meditate, I play yet another sound. Does this work? Guess what? I tested it on myself! How? I narrowed my experiment to binaural beats. These are audio files that can be played on any computer. All I needed was my laptop and headphones. It is best to listen to binaural beats on headphones to eliminate distractions.

 

headphones

 

Here is the experiment. Almost every day I go to the lab to do research. Around 1pm I’m back from lunch. The hour from 1 to 2pm is the most lazy hour of the whole day. After eating food most of the blood flows to the stomach. There is less blood (and thus oxygen) in the brain. That is the reason why we are sleepy after eating lunch or dinner. Many times I took a nap as I was too sleepy to read and focus (fortunately we’ve got a sofa in the lab :-) ).

 

I decided to give a try to brainwave synchronization by listening to binaural beats. For that, I used a program called Gnaural. I was listening to the beats while reading papers. Every time I tried it, I always stayed focused. It is a weird stuff but seemed to work for me. It is hard to say something definitive as it might have been just placebo effect. In any case, what matters is that I can be productive after lunch. All I care about are the results.

There is a lot of stuff on Wikipedia about that topic. Not only I found it fascinating, but it also delivered good results. Feel free to try and experiment yourself. I would be interested in reading about your experience.

Motivational Sticky Notes

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Several weeks ago we had a Valentines party at my place. It was a very cool crowd and I invited some friends to my room. A number of them paid attention to something that I no longer found unusual: motivational sticky notes. Majority of the people said they really liked the idea. Some asked me to send the quotes around. The idea is indeed pretty good and maybe you’ll find it useful too.

 

First of all, motivational sticky notes is an old idea. I read about it on the Internet and wanted to give it a try. Like most good ideas, it is very simple: take a bunch of sticky notes, write motivational/inspirational quotes on them, and put the notes all over your place. Why the hell would you do that? I believe they help you to keep on track. They help me, at least.

 

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The quotes usually express obvious things. And that’s the problem :-) Many things in life are so obvious that you don’t even remember them. What happens if you forget? You start acting in a way that is far from “the obvious”. Let me give you an example. One of the quotes says “If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake?” The obvious thing here is to experiment, go out of the comfort zone and see what happens. It’s a great mindset in practice, because allows you to pick up new things with open mind. I guess you agree with me. Now, what happens if you don’t internalize the quote? You are less likely to try out new things. Is there any benefit of that? I doubt it.

 

People internalize things through repetition. A very easy way to repeat things is to surround yourself by them. You repeat just by glancing through the notes. If one catches your eye, think about it for a few seconds. Paper notes seem to be more effective than virtual notes. People often post motivational/inspirational quotes on Facebook. It is pretty much useless, because you forget the quote as soon as you post it :-)

 

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Where to find good quotes and questions? I recommend being creative and tailoring the quotes to what matters to you. Try to come up with some sentences and quote yourself. It’s pretty cool to quote yourself :-) Another source of quotes are books and websites. One particular website that I like is a blog entry: 50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind.