Hacking Knowledge: 77 Ways to Learn Faster, Deeper, and Better

This great article Hacking Knowledge: 77 Ways to Learn Faster, Deeper, and Better by Online Education Database is a must read for anyone who wants to get a little bit more out of their brain. It’s a fantastic list of tips and I’ll draw your attention to number 38:

Every skill is learned. With the exception of bodily functions, every skill in life is learned. Generally speaking, if one person can learn something, so can you. It may take you more effort, but if you’ve set a believable goal, it’s likely an achievable goal.

I think maybe we forget that the ability to learn is an innate survival skill for us and that the abstract ways that we use this ability are just adaptations in human thinking and not new skills in themselves. Even if you didn’t forget, seeing that someone else was able to learn something really does mean that you can learn to do it too.

What Is Karma?

Karma is the consequence of an action. It is neither good nor bad. However, since you have very little impact on what the consequences are you are best to try and limit the amount of karma that you create or allow to be created because there is always the potential that the outcome will be negative.

The concept of karma is misunderstood because people want to believe that the world is a fair and just place so that those who create suffering in others will get what’s coming to them – you get what you give. It’s an understandable desire because we do seem to be exposed to extreme cruelty and uncaring, but the world doesn’t work like that.

If you act according to your nature, you will create the least amount of karma. If your nature is positive, as most people’s true nature is, you and others will enjoy the consequence to your actions. If you act in a way that is different from your true nature, for example looking at the world with yourself as the center of everything, others may suffer as a result of your actions. Also, in the long run, any enjoyments you experience may dissipate and fade away completely. Very often these actions will create a feeling of cognitive dissonance within you that will be immediately experienced as a negative feeling such as anxiety, tension or sadness. If your nature is not positive, all of your actions will come from a place were you are the center of them and others will not enjoy the consequences of these actions.

Karma is minimized when someone is fulfilling their life purpose because they will be taking fewer actions that deviated from their natural tendencies; you will create only intended consequences.

One goal should be to create as little karma as possible through living the life that reflects your nature. This is why it is important to figure out what your nature and your life purpose are. Steve Pavlina outlines how to uncover your life purpose with his simple and effect method – it worked very well for me and I found the experience to be very powerful.

An example here may be useful. My life purpose has something to do with trying to empower people to achieve their goals and potential. While this has always been my purpose, I haven’t always known it and in fact it only became evident to me after a training seminar early in February of 2007. Before it was uncovered, when I would try to fill this guide role for others I would either feel shame for trying to change them, incomplete because I felt I needed others to change in order for me to be useful or just completely creepy for talking to people about what I saw in their essence. Try and tell a complete stranger at the gym that you see that they could be an excellent personal trainer because of the way they engage the front desk staff or that the person who pumped my gas should be a motivational speaker because of the clarity of their observations about whatever. People aren’t used to this kind of honesty or insight and they tend to be very suspicious of anyone who brings it to them. So before it was clear to me why I do what I do, I would suffer from the dissonant feeling that I was acting weirdly. Worse was the often-hurt feeling I would get when people would respond poorly through lashing out or just ignore what I had said. I have alienated a number of people through voicing my observations in a genuine attempt to help them.

To draw this back to karma, I was actualizing my life purpose through these interactions. The consequences to these actions were, for the most part, non-existent because very few people are receptive to what I said such that my talking to them created very little karma – any karma that results from their continuing down the same path is their creation. However, in the odd case where someone buys into what I tell them, they take some strength from it and begin to move towards their potential, a lot of karma is eliminated – their path through life has been changed or reset to a path that more closely represents their true nature. My actions were the result of my nature and they serve only to decrease the amount of karma that is created. In fact, if I had kept my mouth shut and said nothing I am, in essence, knowingly creating karma through willfully allowing others to continue down the wrong path.

The moment of enlightenment when I uncovered my purpose was very liberating because it allowed me for the first time to see my actions as appropriate and independent of the outcome. I am following my nature by TRYING to help others find empowerment to grow and not by GETTING them to find the empowerment to grow. The result is not as important as the effort. The result is only important for me. I MUST become empowered and TRY to help others but others actions are not even a consideration in the karmic equations that defines me. When it comes right down to it, I create more karma when I do not take an action that I feel I should. If my pure actions are inhibited it is because I am putting myself as the center of everything because I want to avoid shame. This is the recipe for Karma so I work to avoid it.

I’m recommending that people take the time to figure out who they are and what they need to do on the planet to have a meaningful life. Then go out and do it. Stop living a life that doesn’t complete you because you are creating a lot of needless Karma.

25 Years, 25 Mistakes

25 Years, 25 Mistakes by Mike Boyle from T-nation

Most of the mistakes deal with weight lifting and physical training, but there are a few very good general life lessons in the list:

Mistake #14: Confusing disagree with dislike
I think it’s great to disagree. The field would be boring if we all agreed. What I realize now is that I’ve met very few people in this field I don’t like and many I disagree with. I probably enjoy life more now that I don’t feel compelled to ignore those who don’t agree with me.

Mistake #15: Confusing reading with believing
This concept came to me by way of strength coach Martin Rooney. It’s great to read. We just need to remember that in spite of the best efforts of editors, what we read may not always be true.

If the book is more than two years old, there’s a good chance even the author no longer agrees with all the information in it. Read often, but read analytically.

Mistake #16: Listening to paid experts
Early on, many of us were duped by the people from companies like Cybex or Nautilus. Their experts proclaimed their systems to be the future, but now the cam and isokinetics are the past. Just as in any other field, people will say things for money.

You don’t think his post applies to you? Read mistake 25.

6 Dumb Training Mistakes

Christian Thibaudeau from T-nation talks about 6 Dumb Training Mistakes

Dumb Thing #5: Misunderstanding “Overtraining”

If you ask me, “overtraining” is the most abused and misunderstood concept in the entire strength training community! Perform more than twelve sets for a muscle during a workout and you’ll undoubtedly be accused of overtraining. Train a muscle group more often than two times per week? Overtraining! Relying on set extending methods such as drop sets, pre or post-fatigue, or rest-pause? What are you doing? Don’t you know that’s overtraining and you’ll shrink faster than your masculine pride on a snowy Canadian winter night?!

Yes, overtraining can eventually become a problem when it comes to your training performance, injury risks, and growth. However, it’s far from being as common as most people would have you believe.

The problem stems from the term itself, which is composed of “over” and “training.” Because of that term, individuals are quick to equate it to “training too much.” So every time someone thinks that a routine has too much volume, frequency, or advanced methods, they’re quick to pull the “overtraining” trigger. When someone is tired and has a few bad workouts he’ll also automatically assume that he’s “overtraining.” In both cases this shows a misunderstanding of what overtraining really is.

In the post, he has a full description of the states of physiological fatigue associated with training too much and it includes an image outlining the type and amount of recovery time needed to return to a normal state. For this one item alone it is a fantastic article, but there are a few other mind opening ideas that make it a must read.

Resistance Training – Think Movements, Not Body Parts

This article is for you if you resistance train in splits with different body parts being worked during different workout.

Ask yourself, do you have a shoulder day when you will work each of the three heads of the deltoid muscle group? If so, why do you do this?

I used to and I didn’t like it very much. As a consequence my shoulders suffered. It wasn’t that they lagged very far behind the rest of my body, it was that I didn’t train with enough intensity to get to know how to work them correctly – I never felt the muscles working the way I could feel my biceps when I train arms.

What I did find was that my rear deltoid muscles would be fatigued and pumped on back day, particularly when I finished off with a narrow rowing movement (reverse grip barbell row, seated row, cable row).

I found that my front deltoid muscles were slightly fatigued on chest day, particularly when I would focus on the upper chest (incline barbell press, incline dumbbell press).

I found that the medial deltoid muscles would be well rested on back and chest day because they were hardly used at all.

What did this all mean? I started to think about it and after a while I saw the movements in my head in a new way. It turned out that the rear deltoids have more movement in common with the muscles of the back than they do with the muscles of the chest, which have more movement in common with the front deltoid muscles. The medial head of the deltoid muscle has little movement in common with either the chest or the back, but lots in common with the trap muscles.

This was good news for me because I didn’t like doing the shoulder workout I was doing. This new understanding about the supporting role the front and rear deltoids played in chest and back movements meant that I could gut the the shoulder workout of exercises that isolated either of these two heads and instead focus all of my energies on the medial head. It meant that my shoulder workout got a lot shorter, which was perfect for me because it wasn’t fun to do.

It was easy to put this to work for me. I started off adding rear machine laterals to the later part of my back workout when I knew the joint and deltoid muscles had been well warmed up. I would do three or four back exercises and I would just slide laterals in after the 3rd or 4th back movement. My only consideration was to make sure that they would have enough energy left in them to play a supporting role in any remaining back exercises that I would do. For example, bent over reverse grip rows recruit a lot of rear deltoid muscle fibers, so they must be done before rear laterals. Front lat pull-downs do not rely so heavily on the rear deltoid muscles so I can do them after rear lateral movements. The shoulder pump I get from doing rear laterals on back day is awesome, arguable the best pump I’m able to get out of any muscle.

Concerning the front deltoids, I now do front dumbbell laterals towards the end of my chest day when the join and muscles are well warmed-up. But I’ve changed the way that I do them. I used to just raise the weights up to the front trying to use only my shoulder muscles. Now I also focus on squeezing the pectorals on the way up because engaging the upper pectoral region during this movement will shift some of the work on to them to help to more fully fatigue them. And the movement of the weight is slightly changed too, the line they follow is more of a “)(” shape. My goal with this is to improve the appearance of the pectoral deltoid tie in area.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have a shoulder day, but I call it medial deltoid day and that is exactly what it is. I’ll do an overhead pressing motion (dumbbell shoulder press, machine shoulder press) and lots of medial laterals. Occasionally I may do a single arm dumbbell press before medial laterals to ensure symmetrical strength and development. As you can imagine, the these workouts do not take very long to complete, maybe 25 minutes to work through a max of about 12-14 sets. I’m now able to add a couple of trapezius exercises to the end of the work out, or train abs, or do some plyometrics training during the same workout. By eliminating direct training of the front and rear deltoid muscles on shoulder day I’m able to engage in movements that compliment the medial deltoids or are completely unrelated and therefore on fresh muscles.

This small change of training movements vs. body parts has really made a big difference in the overall appearance of my shoulder and neck. It has also allowed me to better manage the demands of a complex split training regime along with making resistance training a lot more fun. It has also allowed me to experience some mind blowing pumps that leave me laughing at what I see in the mirror after my workout – sometimes I can’t believe that my shoulder muscles could look so bloated.

I am presently experimenting with training gluts and hamstrings as the same body part and training them separately from the front of the leg. While the anatomy and planes of movement are a lot more complicated than that of the shoulders, I have found that stiff legged dead lifts have more in common with glut raises than they do with leg press. I’ll just leave it at that until I have a more complete understanding of what is actually going on and how to best put it to work for you.

Try gutting your shoulder workout and move front deltoid training to chest day and rear deltoid training to back day. Shoulder day should be about the medial head of the deltoid because that is what is going to give you the massive width. Give it a try and see how well it works for you.

People Who Get It

As a reformed bitter person I take some pride when people say that I “get it” because I never used to.

What do I mean by “getting it?” Well, very simply, you get it when you figure out what the world is all about and when act accordingly.

What is it that they get? Basically that the world is a tough place for most people and that you have a choice to make when it comes to how you engage it. You get it when you realize that other people have a similar experience of reality that you do and that your actions impact their experience of this reality. You get it when you realize life is about the journey and not about the destination. The destination is what motivates us, but the living occurs along the way.

  • Those who get it tend to work hard at their jobs because they like doing a good job and not because they are paid to do the work. Payment is required for them to agree to the work, but they will work to their potential at EVERYTHING they attempt to do because that is what gives them satisfaction.
  • Those who get it tend to have a work ethic that helps them deliver quality results with little managerial intervention. They thrive in an independent work environment when they have clearly defined expectations.
  • Those who get it tend not to view themselves in adversarial relationships with other people. They tend to view others as partners in tasks or as people to avoid due to the negative attitudes they hold.
  • Those who get it tend always to be to be involved in some sort of personal development project. It can be further education, reading, exercise or an artistic pursuit. They see themselves as a work in progress and are very open to new experiences and to change.
  • Those who get it tend to welcome and embrace new information because it improves their understanding of the world.
  • Those who get it tend to be people that others like to be around because they make you feel good. Their view of the world is enriching or enlightening and their optimism about things is a fresh change from the glut of bitterness that modern living seems to nurture.
  • Those who get it tend to improve group synergy because they foster an atmosphere of caring and non-judgment that gives other the permission to speak freely and express more creative solutions.
  • Those who get it tend to laugh freely because it feels good and because they view things in a more positive light.

We all know a few people who get it and we find that we engage these people more frequently for assistance or help because we know that they will offer their service to us without attitude or with any attempt to make us feel like we are inconveniencing them. We identify these people because we can see their passion for their activities and we’ll often believe that they would be doing the same thing anyway, even if they were not getting paid to do it. They make things happen without creating bad feelings or a sense of obligation, and they smile and say thank you.

Study Findings About Long-Term Exercise Compliance

Gary Homann talks about his findings into long-term exercise compliance in this T-nation thread called Long Haul Training.

He covers all kinds of stuff such as goal setting periodization and what the evidence indicates about exercise intensity is well worth the read if you’re prone to quit training:

Back to the intensity issue. Unfortunately, this is another example of experts prescribing what they think people will do rather than what’s best or optimal. Reviewing the research makes it clear that higher intensity exercise leads to a longer life and less cardiovascular disease. (5) Studies have also demonstrated that people who do higher intensity exercise are leaner than people who only do low or moderate intensity exercise even when they eat more calories and burn fewer calories during exercise. (6) In short, you get more bang for the buck with higher intensity exercise.

Posture, Breathing, Intention, Aura – What I Meditate On

Posture, Breathing, Intention, Aura are the things that I will meditate to when my attention is not better placed elsewhere. Each one leads into the next one, building into the presentation of a purposeful me.

Appropriate posture is absolutely critical for taping into the energies of your body. When you first feel your body blend in with the earth’s gravity you will understand exactly what I am talking about. Gravity seems to pull the hips downward in such a way that they force the shoulders back, opening up your chest. It’s a powerful feeling that tells you that you are aligned. As the feeling builds, your mood and thinking will change to correspond to this improved state. Your breathing will become easier and deeper.

Once this happens, I shift my attention on to my breathing. I will be breathing from the belly instead of the chest. My diaphragm will be drawing air deep into the lungs and the abdominal muscles will be contracting and forcing it out. This will be a dramatic change from the normal shallow chest breathing that is more common and the consequences will be improved oxygen and CO2 exchange, increased breath size, decreased breathing frequency and a passive massaging of the organs of the abdomen. As attention remains on the breathing, there is a building sense of energy and stillness of the mind. Now I direct my attention to my intention.

When I’m mediating, my intention is to find peace and unity. I find these things when my mind is silent and they come about because of the sensation of NOT being ME. Thoughts and feelings of me being a part of everything, part of the individual global picture that everything belongs to, are peaceful because I am aware of no suffering and no isolation. It is within this peace and unity that I find the power to create and build my intention aura.

My aura is the energy I give off or sum total of the paralanguage that I radiate. Some people see energy auras radiating off of other people, others pick up on an energy field that radiates while others present paralanguage communications that indicate to everyone around them that they are positive, powerful, confident, at ease, peaceful and open. These may or may not be the same thing, but in this deepest stage of my mediation I am attempting to build an aura that others can pick up and draw power from. I want to beam energy and positive intention to everyone who sees me and I want to coat myself in a field of energy that allows me to hold on to this aura for as long as I can. It may seem unlikely, but people have commented on me looking different when I do this. They are unable to place exactly what it is that they are picking up on, so they just say different, and maybe a little brighter.

I will focus more on aura than anything else because of the four items as it is the only one that you cannot measure.

My practice of aura building goes back to my university days when I lived with Tony and Beth and was prone to fall asleep in front of the TV at night. As I feel asleep I would try to focus my attention on feeling a warmness within my fingers or toes. If you think about it, other than when you injure yourself or are in some sort of distress, you are rarely aware of anything existing within your body – you know there is something inside your head when you have a head ache, your back when you have back ache, in the muscles when delayed onset muscle soreness and your stomach when you bring in food or cold water. But you are, for the most part, oblivious to internal sensations of your limbs. This makes sense, given that the human perception works by determining contrasts – when you are not injured or sore, you have no reason to be aware of your limbs and will quickly and completely habituate any awareness. My goal with turning my attention towards my fingers or toes is to tune in to these sensations and try to perceive them.

It takes a few minutes to feel something but I slowly become aware of a warmness either in the fingers / toes or in the hands / feet. My eyes are closed so I imagine that blood is pooling in the extremities and this is create both a pressure and an increase in temperature – whether or not this is happening is irrelevant, what is critical is that I feel it happening. Once I feel the heat, I work at growing the heat up my arms / legs towards my torso. As the sensation builds I shift my focus towards my arms or legs, depending on how I started the aura-nurturing portion of the mediation. The sensation is a lot easier to generate once the whole thing has been set in motion and very quickly I feel both my arms and legs and my torso quickly fills up with feeling. As the awareness takes over my entire body, I reestablish the connection to my breathing and allow it to keep the sensation alive. I will try to maintain the feelings for as long as I can, imagining that there is something radiating from my body. Since my eyes are closed I visualize a sort of blurry field about 6-12 inches surrounding every part of me – I imagine that it is like looking at the top of a toaster that is on when the heat coming off of it makes the air rising from it look and behave like a liquid. I try to see myself surround in a field of that. After some time I would fall asleep. Upon waking the next day I would find myself full of energy and beaming with a social confidence and I’d be free from anxiety.

The aura building process works the same sort of way now, except I use the posture, breathing and intention steps to prime my body and mind and get them ready for it. After a lot of practice I am able to achieve this state with my eyes open and when I’m doing other activities like riding a spinning bike, climbing a hill or cruising a long straight section on a road bike or climbing a steady section on a mountain bike. With my eye closed I find the sensation easy to create when I’m doing resistance training. In fact, I credit my ability to generate this body awareness for big improvements in isolating specific muscles during resistance training sessions when it is critical to feel the muscle contracting.

I did say that this is the only item of the four that cannot be measured so why would I make it the biggest part of my mediation? Well, because I think there is something happening and I do enjoy improved feelings when I focus on generating an aura. Even if it is only psychosomatic, the improved feelings of well-being are worth the effort. It is also possible that the sensation of heat that I generate plays a similar role as delayed onset muscle soreness in letting me know that there is more of me than I am normally aware off. I’d liken this to the increase in confidence that many body builders experience when they gain weight. They feel more confident because there is actually more of them. Regardless of the mechanism of action, I do find an increased sense of wellness following this type of mediation.

“Posture, Breathing, Intention, Aura” said repeatedly until I tune into each one of them. It’s a great way to your attention onto something that will make you feel better.

Dr. John Berardi Wonders Out Loud

Finding inspiration in a return drive from Toronto to Philadelphia and back John Berardi wonders out loud.

I wonder…
Would more people overcome “average genetics” if they devoted 1-2 hours to their exercise plan every single day?

A new Canadian television program, The Dragon’s Lair, features aspiring entrepreneurs who are given the opportunity to pitch a business idea to 5 successful venture capitalists in the hopes of convincing them to invest in their business ideas. In typical reality TV fashion, the show presents a string of woefully unprepared contestants making a mockery of entrepreneurship.

However, on a recent episode, a woman from London Ontario, home of my Alma Mater, the University of Western Ontario, impressed the “dragons” with her business model and approach. She had started a line of delicious, omega-3 rich, organic salad dressings, She already had distribution and was looking for capital to mass-produce and distribute her dressings. Her presentation was on point, her marketing and advertising was solid, her product was of high quality, etc. And as a result, two of the dragons kicked in a total of over 100K to help her along.

When interviewed, post-show, she confessed that she was a mother of 2, worked full-time during the day, and devoted only 1-2 hours/night during the week to her salad dressing business. “People are always shocked when they hear about how I’ve grown the business” she stated in the interview. “But you’d be amazed by how much you can accomplish with 1-2 hours of directed effort performed consistently 4-5 nights a week, every week.”

It’s surprising how little incremental effort is required for long term success. His observations are solid and his article is worth the read.

Clearing Off The To-do List So I Can Think About Nothing

Ever wonder what makes some people accomplish so much while others just sit around waiting for life to happen? I used to wonder until I became one of those people who do things.

When I was at university I learned very quickly that you didn’t need to go to classes or do all the readings, all you needed was to do well on the exams, tests, assignments and you’d get a good mark. I was lucky enough to be able to do well on these things without having to work very hard. Instead of investing any of this un-spend effort potential on something worthwhile, I worked hard at doing nothing, literally NOTHING. I watched Law and Order on A&E, Simpson’s reruns, sat around drinking with friends talking about a future that we’d one day get to. Looking back I sort of wish I had done something, take a dance, art or music class, start indoor climbing or mountain biking, go to the gym or even go to the library and learn something that I cared about but wasn’t going to be marked on. It would have been nice if I had done something for its own sake instead of doing nothing for the sake of it.

Well school ended, I got a job and life got going. Now instead of doing things because I was getting marked for it, I was doing things because I was getting paid for it, but all in all I was still doing very little. I remember back on my mid to late 20’s as a miserable time in my life. I had a high paying IT job and could buy all the things that I wanted, but I was still used to doing nothing so I found myself not wanting anything. I kept drinking with my friends and I discovered a love of eating in restaurants. I had taken up smoking so even when I was sitting there doing nothing, I felt like I was accomplishing something because I was having a cigarette. Talk about your life preserving fictions!

In hindsight, it was the IT crash of the early 2000’s that was responsible for a big shift in the way I looked at the world. The company I worked for went belly-up and I was laid off. I hated the job so I wasn’t that unhappy about it, and because I was laid off, I was able to go on EI. I was collecting a pay cheque without having to go to work. This was, in my view, the best of days. It wasn’t of course as I was still very unhappy and completely unmotivated to do almost anything. I didn’t find or look for work and had to move back into my parents place because the money ran out.

This was the beginning of the end for the old me. My parents didn’t drive me to get a job but they did need to see me doing something “productive”. Since they didn’t give me any specific instructions, I took it to mean that if I could improve my mountain bike riding they’d be happy. I bought a trail pass at Kelso Conservation Area in Milton and started riding there daily. This was fantastic because I started to get better. I was able to ride tougher and tougher sections without clipping out and I began to enjoy climbing hills. I developed a passion for riding and with my improvements I became more and more confident. At the end of the summer when I took part in a 24 hour team relay race my improvements were noticed by my teammates and my improved confidence allowed me, for the first time ever, to feel at peace with what I was doing. I had set the goal of improving as much as I could by focusing on my training and I was enjoying the success of achieving that goal. It was the first time in my life that I had wanted to do something and had actually worked to attain it. It was the first time in my adult life that I didn’t feel like I was doing NOTHING.

The switch was flipped and things started to change very quickly after that. I began setting goals, planning how I was going to achieve them and then setting that plan in motion. It was fantastic and addictive. What replaced the feeling of apathy and fear towards the world was a sense of excitement and empowerment that I had some impact on what I got out of life. I learned that I could do things and that I would feel better after I did them. I think it was around that time that I discovered that the voice inside my head that reminded of all my failings would go quiet whenever I was working on something or had just finished something. That was a huge step forward in my development because I hated this voice and welcomed anything that would make it go away. The problem now was that I was working to get rid of the voice. Well, it isn’t so much a problem because I was getting a lot done, it’s just very annoying to have to listen to it at all. While doing things is a great way to silence it, the voice is still there to remind me that I’m wasting time.

At 33 I accept that I did this to myself. Whatever environmental influences there were, they play only a legacy role in who I am and how I create my present understanding of the world. However, the antiquated role they play still impacts me today. For example, back when I learned to do nothing, a part of me felt shameful or guilty for it. If the voice spoke to me and told me that I was being a failure, it was absolutely correct. If I had continued down that path I would have ended up dead very early and never accomplished anything with my life. The voice served a very important function, it warned me that I was wasting time and it created a sense of urgency to drive action. But because I left it untested for years, it is a part of who I am today and it will fire-up whenever I’m wasting time. The problem now is that I hear it even when I have the right to take some down time, which makes taking it easy and doing nothing extremely difficult. I blame my tendency towards overtraining on this characteristic. I think in time I will learn how to get back to doing nothing and not feel bad about it, but it’s going to take a while.

Today I need to clear off my to-do list before I can relax. I guess it’s good because when I wasn’t like this and I never got anything done. Now I can’t get around to wasting time if there’s something pressing on my mind or if someone is waiting for my input. I can’t because my mind won’t let me. It requires my action to silence it and I’m only too happy to oblige it.