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Why “For Example” Is A Bad Way Of Explaining Things

When our math teacher in high school introduced a new topic, what happened next would always follow the same pattern:

  1. She explains the Pythagorean theorem.
  2. Nobody gets it.
  3. She makes an example.
  4. Some people get it.
  5. The rest of the class goes “Can you make another example? Pleeeeeeeaaaaase?”

Steps 3-5 of the pattern would then repeat until the majority of the class understood the new concept and the “More examples!” screams slowly died down. Then we moved on.

Since I was often part of the group who got the gist the first go around, I’d be bored for the remainder of the lesson, waiting for everyone else to get the joke so we could continue. In the meantime, instead of listening, I tried to come up with more of my own examples.

I didn’t know it back then, but as it turns out, I was doing something right.

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If You Forget As Fast As You Read, This Is For You

“Knowing and not doing is the same as not knowing.” — Peter Sage

If you read a lot, but seem to forget most of the information you so eagerly soak up, this is for you. I’d like to give you 3 things today:

  1. A wake-up call.
  2. An explanation of why it’s necessary and how it’ll help you remember better.
  3. Four hacks you can use to memorize stuff more easily.

Let’s go!

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How To Make Sure You Never Find Your Passion In Life

Has anyone ever asked you for directions and you were too embarrassed to admit you don’t know? So much in fact, that you tried to tell them where to go regardless? Just to save your face?

“Uhhh, I think it’s that way.”

That’s what most career advice feels like these days. Nobody has a clue, so everyone goes with their best guess — which is everybody else’s best guess also.

Hence, we live in a world of depressed millennials, which is permeated by two ideas:

  1. Only once you find your passion can you become really good at what you do.
  2. This passion will magically carry you through years of hard work, because suddenly, every day will be fun.

If you’re fine with putting your life into the hands of chance, then you can stop reading right now.

Or, you can flip both of these ideas on their head.

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How To Make Yourself Memorable With Weird Bits About Bestsellers

One of the most common conversations I remember from sitting in high school classrooms is the “Why should I remember this?”-debate.

“Why should I memorize where carbon is in the periodic table of elements, if I can just look it up any second on my phone?”

“Why should I remember when the Vietnam War started, if it’s on Wikipedia?”

“Why should I…”

It’s true that memorizing facts simply for the sake of memorizing facts has become useless.

Except for the one case where it hasn’t:

Being interesting.

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This Is What They Teach Students About Being A CEO

In October 2016 I started a Master’s Degree program at the Technical University of Munich, which is widely ranked as one of the best universities in the world.

This semester, I’m taking a class about strategies of global organizations.

Basically, it’s supposed to teach us how to think like the CEO of a global company, which I expect a rare few of my fellow students to become (don’t look at me, I wanna do my own thing).

Today, I’d like to start an experiment by sharing what I learned from the first of six chapters of that class. If the feedback is good, I’ll turn this into a series.

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The No Game Cover

The No Game: How To Figure Out What You Want

Being 25 is hard. When you look at the big truths that roll around the quarter century mark, it becomes easy to see why ‘quarter-life crisis’ has become a thing: Your happy, careless, worry-free, post-teenage phase is definitely over at this point. You’ve already spent 90% of the time you’ll ever spent with your parents and closest family.

However, you still have the majority of your own life ahead of you…but no idea what to do with it.

The land of opportunity has never been this big. If you own a laptop with an internet connection, you have more production power than a 200-person company had in 1970. This power is so great that it paralyzes us.

Petrified by the paradox of choice, we can’t decide whether we want to become a freelance Facebook ad designer, surf novel writer, or start a cupcake business – because we know all of it is possible, we think we want each choice equally as much. Like Buridan’s donkey, we’re just as hungry as we are thirsty, stuck between hay and water.

Or are we?

You Don’t Really Want Everything Equally

In a candy store, everything looks good. Plus, it’s all right in front of you. The licorice is just as easy to grab as the chocolate.

When it comes to our careers, the candy store is an illusion. It’s a picture the media paint for us. All we see are the end results achieved by hard-working people — those who’ve survived and came out on top.

Everything seems easy to grab, but it’s not. We know that in theory, but until our brain computes this on an elementary level, let’s turn to a better indicator of what we want: Fear.

Picking in a candy store is hard. What’s easier? Telling the waiter to take back the pizza because he brought you mushrooms instead of pepperoni. “No!” That’s not what you wanted.

Fear often hinders us because it keeps us from doing things. In the case of choosing a career, however, we can use it to systematically eliminate what we don’t want and then work with the elements that are left.

Instead of running towards something we don’t know, we can run away from what terrifies us.

Introducing: The No Game

As I’m trying to figure out what I want for myself, I’ve recently started playing a game. I call it “The No Game.” The goal of the game is to ask yourself questions about what you want, shooting for a no each time. Start with all the things you’ve done before. Use this template:

Do I want to [insert an activity you’ve done before]?

Here are some examples:

Do I want to be a freelancer? No.
Do I want to be a consultant? Maybe sometimes, but not full-time.
Do I want to work at a big company? No.
Do I want to work at an SME? No.
Do I want to work 1-on-1 with people? Sometimes, but not always.

Answer honestly, and if you have some conditions or exceptions, include them. For example, I like to consult with people, but not all the time, so it’s nothing I’d want to do as my main gig.

After you’ve run through everything you have done, start thinking about the things you could potentially do but haven’t tried. Use this template:

Do I want to [insert an activity you haven’t done]?

Here are some more personal examples:

Do I want to give talks to large groups? No.
Do I want to have a Youtube channel? Not if I have to film it.
Do I want to build a company? No, unless I can hire all my friends.
Do I want people to remember me for just one thing? Not necessarily.
Do I want to be a celebrity? No.

If something doesn’t excite you when you fantasize about it, reality will only be an even bigger disappointment. Think about it: Your imagination knows no limits in designing the experience, yet you still don’t like the thought of, for example, being recognized by everyone on the street — that’s a good signal pursuing celebrity status isn’t for you.

After you’ve played the No Game for a while, you’ll slowly realize only certain criteria and elements are left. Those will be the attributes of a career you can imagine yourself living with for a long time. Then and only then can you switch to playing the Yes Game, where you ask similar questions but now shoot for “Yes” as your desired answer, thus moving in the right direction.

Here are some Yes Game examples from me:

Do I want to create things? Yes.
Do I want to document my journey? Yes.
Do I want to keep switching projects? Yes.
Do I want people to remember me? Yes, but probably only the people I care about.
Do I want to write? Yes.
Do I want to write books? Maybe, I don’t know yet.

How To Figure Out What You Want

I love wrapping up my posts with a conclusion and saying “go do that!”

Unfortunately, in this case, I can’t – because I don’t know where the No Game will ultimately lead to. I only know it helps, and it helps me more the longer I play it.

Looking at my answers, it seems I should try being a writer. But that’s the thing: Unless I put some candy in the bag, wield the power of my laptop, and commit to it, I won’t know. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll be comfortable enough to do that. Until then, I’ll keep playing the No Game.

Right now, all I know is this: For me, being a writer is not a “No.” Therefore, I’ll just keep writing, whatever the format. That feels like it’s worth something. Maybe it’s worth even more than a “Yes.”

Try the No Game. It won’t be the last word, but it can be a useful tool in figuring out what you want.

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On Being Vulnerable: What If You Didn’t Numb It?

Stories from the metaphorical operating table…

The other day I summarized a book called Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, which is about vulnerability. It’s been stuck in my head for days, so today, I want to share this idea with you.

Here’s what Google tells you when you ask it to “define vulnerable”:

exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

Therefore, by definition, being vulnerable is dangerous. It’s unsafe, uncertain and uncomfortable. So naturally, we don’t like it and we try to escape this state as soon as possible.

When we feel exposed, endangered or on the spot, our usual reaction is to numb that feeling.

Today I want to ask you: what if you didn’t?

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