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Last Updated on February 25, 2018

How to Grow 10x Faster by Picking the Right Battlefield

How to Grow 10x Faster by Picking the Right Battlefield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Improving everything = Becoming average at everything

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

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

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    But what exactly should you do?

    1. Clearly identify your strength

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

    2. Define it clearly by doing detailed research

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Reference

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

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    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on September 20, 2018

    8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

    8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

    You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

    Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

    When you train your brain, you will:

    • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
    • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
    • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

    So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

    1. Work your memory

    Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

    When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

    If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

    The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

    Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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    Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

    What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

    For example, say you just met someone new:

    “Hi, my name is George”

    Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

    Got it? Good.

    2. Do something different repeatedly

    By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

    Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

    It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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    And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

    But how does this apply to your life right now?

    Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

    Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

    Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

    So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

    You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

    That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

    3. Learn something new

    It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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    For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

    Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

    You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

    4. Follow a brain training program

    The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

    5. Work your body

    You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

    Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

    Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

    Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

    6. Spend time with your loved ones

    If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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    If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

    I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

    7. Avoid crossword puzzles

    Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

    Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

    Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

    8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

    Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

    When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

    So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

    The bottom line

    Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

    Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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