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Quick Hits: Tales of Disconnection, Free Books, and Tips for Aspiring Writers

August 16th, 2010 · 15 comments

Update (8/17/2010): I forgot to mention that a loyal reader has set up a Facebook fan page for Study Hacks. I’m not on Facebook, but I can still view this page and the comments you leave, and I really appreciate the support. If you’re a fan, consider joining (liking? friending?) the page as a way to spread the word to your own network of friends.

Quick hits is an occasional feature where I take a breather between my epic big idea posts to share ideas, ask questions, and in general provide a catch-all place for me to catch up with you.

Tales of Disconnection

Rough Type, the blog of Nicholas Carr (my favorite commentator on digital distraction; c.f., The Shallows), recently pointed me toward two fascinating articles…

Outdoors and Out of Reach. This latest entry in the New York Times’ meme-spawning series on how data overload affects our brain, follows five neuroscientists on an offline wilderness rafting trip. My favorite quote comes near the end of the article, when a hyper-connected lab director realizes:

“I have a colleague who says that I’m being very impolite when I pull out a computer during meetings. I say: ‘I can listen.’ … Maybe I’m not listening so well. Maybe I can work at being more engaged.”

Off-Line, I Reconnect. This article, from the Montreal Gazette, follows a freelance writer who works from home with no Internet service. He makes do by going online once a day, for about an hour, at a local Internet cafe, where he checks his e-mail and looks up any needed information. My favorite quote:

“Once I eliminated the Internet from my apartment, I rediscovered the joys of reading books (not blogs). It’s a feeling I haven’t experienced this intensely since my adolescence, when I devoured books, like a human sponge with a lust for everything.”

Book Update

The launch of How to Be a High School Superstar is underway. (As always, if you like my philosophy and either know someone in high school, or are curious about how to build an interesting and engaging life — at any age — please consider buying a copy.)

You may have seen my guest post on Tim Ferriss’ blog. I have three more blockbuster guest posts lined up, so stay tuned. In the meantime, check out this fantastic series on interestingness (a key concept from High School Superstar) at Justine Musk’s blog, Tribal Writer.

Last Friday, I sent out my first batch of signed books to readers who helped me spread the word about High School Superstar. Their book-earning actions included calling members of their school board to recommend my book, adding the title to a class reading list, and designing me an an excellent poster.

I have a couple more copies to give away; if you’re interested, do something cool to help spread the word, and then send me a report on what you did.

Finally, if you bought a copy of the book and enjoyed it, please consider leaving a review on Amazon.com, as this helps other students decide whether or not the book is right for them.

Agent Obvious

Interested in publishing a book? My sharp literary agent, Laurie Abkemeier,  became Internet-famous for the “Agent Obvious Tip of the Day” feature on her twitter feed, which corrects obvious mistakes that (too) many aspiring writers make. This wisdom has now been captured in a clever new iPhone app called Agent Obvious. If you’re trying to break into the world of publishing, listen to Laurie: trust me, she knows what she’s talking about!

From CEOs to Opera Singers — Welcome Tim Ferriss Readers

July 28th, 2010 · 16 comments

A Clarification (3:42 pm):  A few commenters both here and on Tim Ferriss’ site seemed to come away with the mistaken perception that Michael Silverman, the exceptional student profiled in my guest post, was somehow a slacker. This is definitively not true. He worked his ass off in high school. The crucial point of my article is that Michael applied this hard work somewhere smart and likely to provide big returns — his niche of sustainability projects — instead of the same old targets pursued by most students — inching up in class rank, etc. I’m sure 99% of you came away with this impression, but it never hurts to clarify.

Hacking the Superstar Effect

I just published a guest post on Tim Ferriss’ blog.  It’s titled: From CEOs to Opera Singers: How to Harness the Superstar Effect. The article, which is based off one of the major sections in my new book, details the science behind the Superstar Effect — being the best at something provides disproportionate rewards — and then describes a corollary that is often leveraged by relaxed superstars — this superstar bonus holds even if the field you conquered wasn’t prohibitively competitive.

This concept can help you stand out in a variety of settings, from college admissions to becoming CEO.

For Study Hacks Readers: This article aligns perfectly with our recent discussions of sustainable success, I recommend that you go to Tim’s site to read it.

For Tim Ferriss Readers: This blog is dedicated to strategies for building a remarkable life, which I define to be one that is both remarkably accomplished and remarkably enjoyable to live. Though the site started out focused on achieving this goal as a student, it has since broadened its scope to all walks of life.

Here are a few highlighted articles to give you a taste of what Study Hacks has to offer. If you like what you see, consider subscribing to my feed.

Articles on Building a Remarkable Life

Articles for Students

Quick Hits: Deliberate Practice for Writers, Entrepreneurs, and Hollywood Superstars

January 30th, 2010 · 66 comments

Quick hits is an occasional feature where I take a breather between my epic big idea posts to share ideas, ask questions, and in general provide a catch-all place for me to catch up with you. 

Deliberate Practice in Unconventional PlacesThinking Man

I’m not the only one with deliberate practice on my mind. A variety of bloggers have been exploring this powerful idea…

Do You Love What You Do? If So, I Want to Talk with You.

You may have noticed by now my infatuation with the science of career satisfaction. I want to temper all this fancy lab learning with some good ‘ole fashioned on the ground reporting.

With this in mind, if you’re someone who loves what you do — the type of person people point to and say “that’s what I want my life to be like” — please consider sending me an e-mail at author [at] calnewport.com.

I want to hear your story.

Use the Comment Thread of this Post to Ask Me Anything!

Speaking of e-mail, if you have a question, comment, or devastating insult to hurl my direction, and you don’t want to wait the 1 – 2 weeks it can sometimes take me to get through my blog e-mails, leave it as a comment on this post. For the next few days I’ll check and respond to these comments regularly.

(Photo by envios)

Let’s Teach Ramit That Study Hacks Readers Rock!

December 29th, 2008 · 8 comments

An Innovative Scholarship

Earlier in December, my friend Ramit, who runs the wildly popular I Will Teach You to Be Rich blog, announced the I Will Teach You To Be Rich Scholarship for Social Innovation. The concept is simple. You pitch him an entrepreneurial idea you have for making the world better. It can be something you’ve already started or something you’ve dreamed of doing. He’ll choose the best idea and give its originator $2500 as well as advice and access to his considerable contact network.

Let me put this another way: if you have a cool idea for helping the world, and you win this contest, Ramit can provide exactly what you need to make it a success. If you’re in high school, the result will be the type of innovative pursuit that lets you breeze into your dream school. If you’re in college, it will put you in a completely different league when seeking post-grad opportunities.

In other words: This is a chance to transform your student life.

Let’s Show ‘Em What We’re Made Of…

I want a Study Hacks reader to win this scholarship. This type of project fits perfectly with our Zen Valedictorian Philosophy (specifically: The Law of Innovation), and you’re some of the brightest, most motivated students on the planet. So let’s show Ramit what we’re made of…

Here are two items to sweeten the deal:

  1. Ramit always complains about how few people apply for his scholarships. This means that if you have a good idea and actually take the time to enter, you have a great shot.
  2. I will help you win. If you want to enter, send me a draft of your idea and I’ll give you feedback to help make it irresistible.

The full rules for entry can be found here. The deadline is January 15th. Send me a draft of your entry by January 10th and I’ll give you my feedback. If you’re looking to become a standout, this is a perfect opportunity to start down that path.

Bonus Post: The Five Most Popular Articles in August

September 2nd, 2008 · 5 comments

Popularity Contest

I’m introducing a new feature here on Study Hacks — a recap of each month’s most popular posts. I hope this will help readers keep up with the content and sift the best from the rest. Below are the five most well-received articles of August, as determined by a combination of page views and user comments.

5 Articles That Will Change The Way You Think About Personal Productivity

July 18th, 2008 · 11 comments

Re-Thinking ProductivityThe Thinker

There’s nothing more satisfying when reading than that magic moment when something flips a switch deep within the neuronal recesses of your brain, and completely transforms your world view. I wanted to share with you a collection of productivity-related articles that, for me, generated this feeling. They have helped challenge my own beliefs about what it means to be “productive.” Indeed, you’ve likely seen their influence ricocheting throughout many of the recent posts here on Study Hacks. These are the the type of articles that keep me excited to check my RSS feed in the morning.

I hope they have the same effect on you…

#1. The Alternative Productivity Manifesto

This attention-catching tirade on the counter-cultural The Growing Life blog, is motivated by a simple question: if our productivity has doubled since WWII, why aren’t we working 20-hour weeks?

This article is one of the first I’ve seen to note that many of the most popular productivity gurus — ahem, Mr. Allen — are not working in the interest of the people; their goal, instead, is to help companies squeeze as much work as possible out of us poor worker drones.

#2. Rethinking Life Hacks

Writing with the trademark tone of academic sophistication that separates the Academic Productivity blog from so many others, Jose investigates a damning question: when it comes to productivity advice, where’s the evidence?

Of particular juicy goodness, is his list of some of the top internet productivity gurus — Steve Pavlina, David Allen, etc — annotated with what, exactly, these people have achieved to justify their guru status. The result, as you might imagine, is not too kind to the gurus. Like any good academic, Jose concludes with some suggestions for a more systematic approach validating life hacks.

#3. The Planning Fallacy

The always thought-provoking Eliezer Yudkowsky, in a guest post on the I Will Teach You to Be Rich blog, describes a common cognitive shortcoming: we are terrible at planning. Again and again, research has revealed that our attempts to estimate how long things will take are really no different than our prediction of the best case scenario. In other words, we are hopelessly optimistic.

Understanding this ingrained flaw can transform the way you think about project planning, leading you to take on less and schedule more time for completion.

#4. How to Act Productive

The mysterious grad hacker lampoons hyper-stress work cultures in this hilarious, and often biting, 12-part satiric series. Each entry, from #8 Skip Meals to #2 Talk About How Much You Haven’t Slept, helps pick away at the shell of social convention that conceals our worst work instincts. It also draws attention to just how much of the stress and unhappiness in our work lives (especially student work lives) is invented; a show we put on to prove to others that we belong where we are.

The series is a must-read for anyone who: (a) owns a blackberry; (b) uses the phrase “how you holding up” as a standard greeting; or (c) thinks productivity advice is for other people, you know, those with much easier jobs.

#5. The Only Guide to Happiness You’ll Ever Need

The incredible success of Leo’s Zen Habits blog baffles many people. On the surface, he peddles the same life hacking-style advice as countless others, and his format, including inspirational quotes, long tip lists, and, of course, the ubiquitous pictures of generic people jumping or watching sunsets, reeks of cliche. But something about Leo stands him above the crowd.

At its core, Zen Habits tells the story of a real man, living on an isolated island with six kids and real problems, struggling — and more often than not, succeeding — to construct a life that is engaging, but also happy and, above all, peaceful. We see us in him, and his experiences give us hope.

This recent article is an example of Leo at his best. He summarizes the core components to living a good life. Though simple, this advice resonates strongly. Something about it just seems right. It sweeps away the gunk that builds up when you spend too much time down in the proverbial dirt of the life hacking world, trying to figure out how to make the little things slightly better, and provides, instead, a big picture target. If you set down a path to satisfying the advice given here, the rest seems like it will all just click into place.

Weekend Links: An Ideal Life, Summer School, Young People Jobs and the Problem with Work/Life Balance

June 15th, 2008 · One comment

My Goals for Life | Scott Young
A great case study for the lifestyle-centric career planning concept we’ve been discussing: Scott Young lays out the key pieces for his post-college ideal lifestyle.

Offer Summer Classes to Yourself — Then Attend Them | Grad Hacker
The good folks over at Grad Hacker lay out a case — and a strategy — for taking advantage of the summer to bone up on the random subjects you’ve always wanted to know about, but never thought you had the time to master.

Some Careers are Better to Do Young | Ben Casnocha
Ben discusses how some jobs are better to do young, while others are not.

Dr. Stewart Friedman on “Time Bind” vs. Psychological Interference and More | Time Ferriss
Tim interviews business guru Stewart Friedman about his hot theories regarding forming a happy life. Among other insights: balancing work and play is out, integrating the two is in. You may hear more about these ideas here in some upcoming posts.

Unexpected Wisdom: Some Interesting Articles From Interesting Places

May 8th, 2008 · 3 comments

Gone for the Weekend

I’m leaving this afternoon for a three day trip. This means no Friday post and I might be a little slow moderating comments. In the meantime, I wanted to leave you with a few interesting articles that I found in some unexpected sources.

(I might also suggest that you go back over Dan Pink’s interview from Wednesday and review what he said about “fundamental” versus “instrumental” interests. I’m increasingly impressed by the idea, and I think there is a lot of wisdom packed into those few sentences.)

See you Monday!

Unexpected Wisdom

Interesting articles from unexpected sources (at least, “unexpected” for a student advice blog):