I’m pretty sure Michael The Situation Sorrentino from the “reality” show Jersey Shore is sitting in the seat in front of me. Or it could just be his Doppelganger.
I’m writing this to you on a plane departing from New York to Stockholm, while listening to the song Molly by Le Matos (you can listen to it here).
The woman sitting next to me (now sleeping) is a marketing consultant who specializes in social media marketing. She just invited me to come to NYC.
During my previous transit, from Boston, two funny things happened.
First, I saw Mitt Romney.
He was walking with a well-dressed blonde woman by baggage claim. Then he went into the restroom, took a piss, and didn’t wash his hands (according to an acquaintance of mine who was in there).
Second, when I had a few hours to kill while waiting for my plane, I sat down to read. This is a smart habit. You should always carry a book and a pen with you so that you don’t miss out on learning.
After I’d read for a while I lost concentration and stopped. I then went into a book store and looked through their History, Biographies, Business, and Classics sections.
I spent the next 2 hours skimming 100+ books — that I narrowed down to 36 interesting books. Then I bought the 10 most important ones. I would’ve bought them all, but I wouldn’t have been able to bring them with me on the plane. I’m a frugal person. But not when it comes to books and learning.
So I asked the book store employees to stack up the books in piles on the counter.
After they’d done that I took pictures of all the books I didn’t buy, which I later filed into my commonplace section “Books to read”.
The book store employees thought this was really interesting, so they started asking me questions. They’d never seen anyone come into their store doing what I did. They wanted to take pictures of me taking pictures of the books. I told them, “go ahead”, so that’s what they did.
Here are the books (perhaps you’ve read some of them? If so, tell me what you learned.)
Then the manager of the store told me about her son-in-law, who happened to be a writer of relative fame. She thought I should contact him.
So I did that.
Lesson: Chance encounters happen often. ABP — Always Be Prepared. Always be the vigilant hunter.
And speaking of buying or selecting books (or any other products for that matter). . .
. . . After you examine some of them and decide to buy — let’s say 3 of them — you’ll start acting irrationally. You’ll be inclined towards buying stuff you don’t need, just because you’re in a good physiological state.
This is because you’ve triggered your brain’s spreading activation, which makes you think about all the things you desire and other positive things like that.
When that happens all your positive associations start firing and you become overly focused on the positive.
Because of this, I asked myself: Do I really need this book? How will it be useful for me? Can I just Google this stuff later?
. . . And similar questions to bring me back to reason, and help filter out the books I didn’t really need. Before I did that there were more books than the ones you see above.
If you’re into retailing, neuroscience, or work with in-store marketing you probably knew this already. . .
. . . And ironically enough, one of the books I bought in the store was by Paco Underhill (a retailing-pioneer).
Now then — onwards to the topic of the day:
It’s Been 2 Years Since I First Started Gaining Momentum
. . . Back in September 2012.
The first year I just wrote for myself to improve accountability and get a feel for blogging. I knew it would be a valuable skill set no matter what I would pursue later.
And it turns out I was right in more than one way.
Here are a few benefits I can attribute directly to having started the site and adopted the SGM philosophy over the past 2 years:
- I’ve become a lot more consistent and disciplined.
- I’ve become more resourceful.
- I’ve become better at organizing my thoughts, probably mostly thanks to the mad amount of writing I’ve done (most of it is not published).
- I’ve connected with a lot of great people who I’ve learned a tremendous amount of cool stuff from.
- I’ve got plenty first-hand experience of what online marketing is about.
Now, you’re probably wondering. . .
What is the future of SGM, what comes next?
You will just have to wait and see.
But I can tell you this much:
What you’re seeing right now is nothing compared to what SGM will be.
And I know that. . .
SGM Will Keep Providing Value to Plenty of People
How do I know that?
Well, for starters, based off of tons of emails I receive.
Here are a few of them.
That email made my day, because it’s exactly what I want to do with the articles on SGM.
Here’s another one.
And a last one:
I really appreciate these emails. They let me know I’m on the right track, and that people understand what SGM is about.
That being said, let’s jump into some. . .
Because there are certain types of questions I receive frequently via email.
I have articles in the works to respond to some of these questions, but for now I’ll just answer the most recurrent ones here.
Do you offer coaching / mentoring / Skype?
Maybe I will do it in the future if I can find some scalable way of doing it.
However, I do read and answer all email I get.
If you send me an email I’ll always do my best to help you out, whether you have a question, want some advice, or just want to say hello.
I have a blog/website about [insert topic]. Can you help me out?
I often get emails from bloggers, people who make a living online, and various people who are trying to build a presence on the Internet.
And if I can, I like to help them out because:
- I remember how hard and “lonely” it was when I first started out. I also know that most people quit because of the initial complexity and lack of encouragement. It’s hard in the beginning.
- I’m selfishly hoping they’ll blow up, become successful, and that they will remember me later. This is known as “expanding your luck surface area” by helping as many people as you can. Here’s a guy who puts it well:
The amount of serendipity that will occur in your life, your Luck Surface Area, is directly proportional to the degree to which you do something you’re passionate about combined with the total number of people to whom this is effectively communicated
If you’re just starting out with blogging or making a presence online, I’ve written two popular (and good) articles about that.
“How to Blast Out of Obscurity” On StartupBros
“How to Pitch Your Content to an Influencer” On Bold And Determined
They should help solve most of your initial problems. Don’t ask me unless you’ve read those articles.
Who is the typical SGM reader?
It’s hard to say.
Harder than you might expect.
My ideal reader is an ambitious young guy aged 15-30.
But from what I can tell there are all sorts of people who read SGM.
Both men and women.
People with high education. People that have successful careers and businesses. And people on the other end of the spectrum.
The common denominator seems to be a belief in never-ending self-development.
Here’s a really cool Swedish guy who reads SGM, and he has a very interesting site of his own. Make sure you check it out!
What is your most popular article?
It’s the one about how I got ripped in 2 years.
It’s gotten picked up by Google and gives me a bit of organic traffic (randomly found by people via search engines).
What drugs do you do — if any — and what is your opinion on drugs? Do you think they’re good or bad? Do you recommend nootropics?
I only consume caffeine (pills, coffee, and tea), alcohol in moderate use, and psychedelic drugs a few times per year (for self-development purposes).
What is my opinion of drugs? I think it’s extremely individual. Different drugs suit different people — it comes down to self-experimentation.
I used to smoke a fair amount of cannabis when I was younger, and I liked it. It helped me expand my thinking and it made me feel creative. . .
. . . Then suddenly, about 3 years ago, that changed overnight. Ever since that time cannabis has just slowed me down and made me feel congested. So I quit it.
When I was reading books about neurology and brain health I would find some science indicating that most drugs are bad for the brain over a long period of time. But the problem is that most of those studies are based on hardcore addicts and extreme users.
To my knowledge there aren’t many good studies on long-term moderate users.
And if you study some of the greatest men in history (thinkers especially) you’ll find that many of them were long-term users — and some even abusers — of various drugs. Guys like Einstein, Darwin, Hemingway, Gurdjieff, Nietzsche, Sartre, etc.,
I think that if a drug dramatically boosts your productivity, and helps you achieve your goal, it may be worth taking even if it’s moderately unhealthy.
I have little experience with nootropics, so I have nothing to recommend.
I think I suffer from candida, and I read you had it and successfully cured yourself, how did you do that?
I will write a detailed article on this eventually. . .
. . . For now, all you need to know is that the few most important things I did was:
- Doing longer periods of fasting (this is how I invented my 2-day fast)
- Drinking 5 grams of L-glutamine each morning (and skipping breakfast)
- Cutting out all sugar from my diet
- Minimizing all carbs except broccoli and spinach
- Eating a lot of high quality coconut fat before each meal, and plenty of it with each meal
These things took my gut health from awful to awesome during a period of 6+ months.
What is your political opinion?
I have a bunch of opinions.
But I will hold off from talking or writing about them for now. Maybe I will write an article on this eventually — not on my specific political opinions or beliefs, but on my general outlook regarding politics.
The reason I’m not going to go into details or specifics is not because I’m afraid of being persecuted or anything like that. It’s for pragmatic reasons. You see. . .
. . . When you put things on paper, for example by writing an article about something, you solidify your thoughts. You increase the likelihood of committing to a course of action.
And I don’t want to do this unless I’m certain about a thing.
And I’m not certain about politics.
I consider myself far too young to form an opinion about it. The Greeks and Romans had it right by instituting barriers to entry for political life, including an age limit for participation. And this is takes me to my main point.
You see, the brain doesn’t develop fully until you’re around 30-40. And if you’re a smart person you will respect this, and do your best to remain somewhat open-minded for as long as you can.
Because once you make a definite decision about a thing your mind closes itself off and your teachability goes down.
This makes your ability to learn things taper off for a number of reasons — notably so because of confirmation bias.
Someone who understood this well was Charles Darwin. After he had already spent many years coming up with his ideas about evolution he took another another 20+ years (!) before concluding that he was correct. During those years he read and studied counterarguments to his thesis and adapted his ideas to whatever feedback or resistance he was met with.
Does this have anything do with politics?
Yes it does.
Ideological beliefs — political and religious in particular — tend to be some of the most emotionally intensive beliefs. Hence, they are the hardest to change.
This is why there are so few intelligent and accomplished fundamentalists of any sort. Because of their strongly held ideological beliefs they fail at adapting to the marketplace, which is in a constant state of flux. Their belief system blocks them from learning useful things which may prove their beliefs wrong. . .
. . . And this limits their success.
Can you show your commonplacing system and how you use it for self-development? Can you show me all your categories and how you do things?
No, it would take too much time to explain all the categories.
I have gone through some of the fundamentals in my OneNote article.
And how do I use my commonplace for self-development?
To me self-development is the same thing as learning. And I use commonplacing to speed up my learning process. How do I do this?
–I do it based on a system I’ve created to induce deliberate repetition of the most important things I learn.
I then distill this information into best practices for different areas of my life that I’m focusing on. Then I make sure I review this quality information every once in a while to ensure it becomes part of my personality.
So, it’s a type of top-down information process, very much like my “book summary book” strategy, but on a larger scale.
Now, let’s jump into some detailed. . .
Below are a select few questions copied from the “reader content feedback” section of my commonplace (yes, I save this stuff).
If you have questions/suggestions I will remember it. And it may very well end up on the site someday.
Perhaps today. . .
I read about — and started — commonplacing but I have now stopped for the time being until I figure out this thing I’m about to ask you. You talk about the benefits of compartmentalizing your thoughts (you reference to Napoleon’s natural ability for doing this).
But I am in doubt because I recently read about compartmentalization on Wikipedia and (see here) I’m wondering if this might be harmful to me over the long-term because it doesn’t seem natural. It seems like an unnatural and unhealthy way of thinking. Maybe if you compartmentalize your thoughts too much you will get psychological problems or possibly alternative personalities?
For example I believe we should strive for unity of thought and not separation and that we shouldn’t divide things into categories like “good”, “bad”, “green”, “capitalism” and things like that. No, instead I think we shall try to see things as ONE whole (God) and accept things. Could you please tell me what you think?
Ok. . .
. . . So Wikipedia says that compartmentalization is a way to dissolve cognitive dissonance. And cognitive dissonance is how we dissolve negative tension — through thinking — between our beliefs and the actions we take.
I think the problem here is that you are overestimating how much control you actually have.
Sure, you do have a bit of control over your conscious thinking. But you don’t have much control over the subconscious mechanisms that direct your thinking.
Such as the mechanism of cognitive dissonance.
Most of your thinking is actually directed towards the aim of reducing stress. And this isn’t something you can do away with. It’s just how the brain works.
This is not an inherently negative thing — it’s an evolutionary survival tactic.
You get a problem. . .
. . . And this problem puts you off balance and stresses you out in some way. Your brain then goes to work finding a solution by compartmentalizing and organizing its thoughts to do away with the stress through some action. This is going to happen regardless of whether you want it to or not.
And one more thing: You don’t want a totally stress-free life — and try to avoid cognitive dissonance — that’s how you become a weakling (both physically and mentally).
Now, let’s talk about commonplacing.
The practice of commonplacing is the most intelligent way I have found to speed up the process of compartmentalization.
Commonplacing helps you solve problems faster, gives you more ideas, and over time makes you “smarter” than normal people.
Finally, I think you’re misunderstanding another thing. Namely, the nature of thought.
When you’re talking about “seeing things as a whole”, unifying thought, and accepting what is. . . How do you think this happens?
It happens in your subconscious mind — not in your conscious mind.
Your conscious mind (thinking) is extremely inefficient, slow, and uneconomical in terms of energy — compared to your subconscious mind. The difference is staggering. The subconscious mind is thousands (possibly millions) of times faster.
In other words, you unify (synthesize) thoughts and solve problems with your subconscious mind. And this happens without your explicit knowledge or awareness. And it happens incrementally. This process is imperceptible for most people.
Perhaps you can notice this if you’re a person who has an extremely well-developed ability for meta cognition (observing your thinking and analyzing it on multiple levels).
- You are overestimating how much “choice” and control you have over the subconscious mechanisms that direct your thinking.
- That commonplacing is in fact very healthy and that it should be done by everybody.
- That the subconscious mind is what “unifies” thought and solves problems. Not the conscious — thinking — mind. And the practice of commonplacing speeds up this subconscious process immensely.
Ok, so the Planning Fallacy is basically that we overestimate our ability to follow through on the plans we make. This is often results in overly ambitious to-do lists or unrealistic goal-setting.
The planning fallacy is also the reason most business projects take longer and cost more than they’re supposed to according to initial projections.
. . . Which is why you should NEVER trust blindly in business projections or financial forecasts.
The planning fallacy is a BIG problem for most people. It makes them feel guilty for not being able to do all the things they (unrealistically) set out to do.
The planning fallacy is why most people are biased towards overestimating their productivity. And I am no different — I overestimate my productivity all the time. And. . .
. . . I hate it.
However, over the past year I’ve made promising improvement.
There are 3 things I do every day to battle this bias:
- In the “journal section” of my commonplace I always do time-logging. (I learned this from reading Peter Drucker books)
- In the top of my journal I always post a box of “to-do items” for the next day before going to bed
- I select 1-3 of the most important things to do each day and finish them before diverting my attention
If I can do that, which I often can, then I will spend that day productively.
Here’s an image of how the time-logging in my commonplace “journal section” looks like:
Notice the red lines — indicating time of the day. This helps me in two ways:
- It keeps tracks my activity
- It keeps me accountable
[Note: If you want to read more about the planning fallacy, check out my friend Patrik’s recent article. It’s more informative, scientific, and thorough.]
I have three ethical rules for my conduct on the Internet:
- Don’t get involved in arguments or feed trolls/haters.
- Don’t say anything you can’t — or won’t — stand for. Even on a forum.
- The golden rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you.
The reason I don’t use pop ups is because it really annoys me when I visit other sites that do use them. And I don’t want to annoy the people who visit SGM.
Maybe it will get me a bit higher conversions — probably.
But I’m not willing to do it if it’s in a tacky or obnoxious way.
I know what I should do, but I’m NOT doing it. And this isn’t just a one-time occurrence, it’s my daily reality. I don’t know what is wrong with me.
I KNOW I could do some great things if I just took action on my plans and ideas. But the problem is that — I don’t! To be honest with you I don’t know why. I’m just confused about it.
I guess what I’m asking here is: Do you ever feel this way, and if so, what do you do?
Look. . .
. . . Everyone has that — to a varying degree.
You simply gotta deal with it.
If you don’t, it’ll cause problems — like it did for Germany and Russia when Hitler and Stalin, respectively, acted like children and shut themselves off from reality — and refused to make decisions in situations where they had to. . .
. . . In situations where millions of people depended on them.
Their failure to act resulted in many unnecessary casualties among soldiers and citizens. Why was this?
Because the German and Russian generals and ministers had to wait for the dictators to make their decisions before they could do their job. Imagine the frustration they must’ve felt. . .
Now, why am I telling you this?
You’re not in the position of leading a nation in war. And you’re not a dictator.
. . . Or are you?
I want you to do something for me.
Close your eyes, then flex your entire body as tightly as you can for 15 seconds.
Did you do that?
Now take 3 deep breaths.
Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Your stomach should be expanding, not your chest. This should take you at least 30 seconds in total.
. . .
Now then, I want you to do a thought experiment.
You’re going to rethink your identity.
Instead of seeing yourself as one singular identity — “me” or your “ego” — I want you to think differently. Dismiss your understanding of the ego as false. Because there is no “you”. Your identity is a figment of your imagination.
However, the billions and billions of cells you’re made of still exist.
Imagine that each of these cells represent a human being. A person who lives in a huge commonwealth. These people all live in a bunch of different towns. The environment differs vastly in each town.
All of these people are completely selfish. They don’t care if another person suffers or dies. They only care about their own survival, comfort, and well-being. And they all have equal voting power — one vote per citizen.
However, this commonwealth does not have a traditional political system.
Every person can vote at all times about everything they’d like. Each person carries with him an advanced voting machine which instantly sends feedback on a wide range of topics to a Mystic Ruler.
The Mystic Ruler then instantly and automatically tallies all the votes, makes a decision, and acts based on the result.
This commonwealth is — as of right now — a democracy. The Mystic Ruler acts as the state and carries out a decision based on majority voting on any given topic.
But. . .
. . . There is one rather big flaw in this system.
You see, not only are the people completely selfish — and take no regard for one another — but they are also extremely uninformed. They are like country hicks, they’ve been fixed to one location (their home town) their entire life.
They do not understand the nature of the whole commonwealth comprising billions of other citizens. They only know their own isolated town-environment.
As far as they are concerned, the only thing that exists is what they feel, see, and experience.
So — they have no context for what goes on in the commonwealth seen from a wider perspective.
As a result of this. . .
. . . The commonwealth currently has a very chaotic “democratic process”. Nothing is consistent or based on a long-term perspective. One second the majority wants to do one thing and the next they want something else. Any agreement or unity is haphazard at best.
Now, imagine if you were the Mystic Ruler.
You are the only one who has a big picture perspective of what goes on and what needs to be done to improve the overall situation for the commonwealth.
—What would you do?
Would you sit back and watch while these fools do crazy things that don’t make any sense?
Or would you assume control?
Would you take matters into your own hands and become a benevolent dictator?
After all, you are the only one who is in a position to make intelligent decisions, based on the information sent to you from each individual person’s voting machine. . .
. . . And there is no one to protest or stop you from assuming the role of dictator.
Remember: The people only have a will. But they rely on you to carry it out.
And if you don’t obey? Well, there’s nothing they can do about it.
–And that’s the end of the thought experiment.
Let’s return to reality.
You are the Mystic Ruler.
Your basic level of consciousness — your identity; “you” — is this ongoing voting process.
Your cells are the “people”.
Your organs are the “towns”.
However. . .
. . . As of right now, you are NOT being the dictator.
And as a result you’re seeing your commonwealth perish slowly under this chaotic democratic process governed by fools who cannot agree on anything.
Will you step up, shoulder your responsibility, and unify the commonwealth towards a goal?
Or will you let your commonwealth and your visions for it fall into oblivion?
It’s your choice.
End of Q&A
Now, let me ask you:
What Would You Like to See from SGM?
In terms of future content. . .
- More posts?
- Longer posts?
- Shorter posts?
- Posts on a specific subject?
- A podcast?
- A product / service? If so, what sort?
I’m open to all suggestions.
Let me know in the comments.