Tuesday, May 24, 2016

3 Neat Online "Tools" for Meditation

Meditation seems like the favorite child of the wellness world. We all know it's important. We all know it does so many great things.  A person doesn't really need anything to meditate except their mind and attention.  Mix in a little willpower and you have everything you need already to start meditating.

But you can add pizzazz.  Who doesn't like pizzazz?

Add zest to your meditation:

 #1: MyNoise.net 

The MyNoise.net sound generator has curated sound environments. With ease, you can alter the volume at different frequencies. There are lots of choices to choose from. Right now, it is one of my favorites. I highly recommend dark water. Despite its name, it is not the soundtrack of a 2005 horror movie.

#2: Online Meditation Timer

Don't want to end your meditation with an annoying alarm? Try a nicer bell. This timer has intervals. It is easy to use.

#3: NatureSoundsforMe

Mix and match your own meditation sound environment and save it for posterity.

#4: Calm

New to meditation and would like some guidance? True to its name, this tranquil program guides you through with relaxing sights and sounds.

Which do you recommend?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Four Reasons Why You Should Consider a Bike Tour Too

Today I rode a bicycle. 
Let me start over.  Today I "re-learned" how to ride a bicycle and narrowly avoided running into a fence.  (I actually bumped it a little.)

Because I am training for a bike tour.

Background: (I'm 23. Long story short, I learned to ride poorly when I was a wee thing.  Then, I quit. I had always feared things with wheels. In fact, I had a love affair with the ground when it did not move beneath me. 
Remember those 12-volt seater cars that go about 3 miles per hour? I got one for Christmas when I was 7. Do you think I played with it?
Five seconds on it (going at half speed) made me want to curl into a small ball on the ground. "My dear precious love, how I hunger for your touch..."
This stock kid is more of a badass than me. 
Unfortunately, my fears of getting hurt got worse when I fell into the end of 4th grade. By falling, I mean I fell and broke my arm on the first day of summer vacation.  Like most kids, I healed. No problem. Yet, more caution followed me. It would linger over a decade. Years later,  circumstances dictated that I would wait to drive.  Part of the delay was financial. Yet, my lack of motivation concerning it was partially due to my dreams of the car rolling out of control. I doubted my physical ability to keep myself safe.
Fast forward 5 years. Having to get rides at home... ...using buses ... 
...and other circumstances have made me feel like I am less in control of my life than I want. 
A bike tour might be the answer to claiming more independence,  self-assurance, and a better lease on life . Here are the reasons why:

Reason 1: I will learn to suffer and not complain about it- AKA Stoicism 

When a person feels they have to have things "just so" for comfort, they limit where they can go. They have to limit what they can experience. Comfort isn't so great. Constant comfort is a path to stagnation.
Nothing says uncomfortable like expending your own energy up and down hills for 4 to 6 hours a day.
 I would also be better off if I wasn't bothered by small inconveniences. Half the time, it seems stressing over problems is often worse than the issue itself. On a bike tour, I will have to learn to deal and let things go.

Reason 2: Because I want to know what it is like to stealth camp

It will make me rethink what I am willing to pay rent for and what luxuries I am willing to give up. Think of it as my own mini Walden experiment. I have seen what a financial struggle for housing looks like. Based on that, I am more pro-peace of mind than luxury.  The less need I have for luxury, the easier it will be to attain this peace of mind.
Also, I will start working after graduating and I want my job to be about acquiring skills and challenging myself--not the money.  Money would, however, be an issue if I had strict housing standards. 
Not to worry. If I can sleep in a tent in the backwoods after bicycling in the rain, I can handle just about any housing situation. 

Reason 3: Because I want control over where I go

When this is complete, I will know I can travel cheaply on my own volition and power. I could save my money and bike around other countries if I wanted to.

Reason 4: To get over my irrational fears, so I won't limit myself 


Reason 5: Because I want to know what it feels like to eat a shi*t ton of food every day

Triple Yup. To be honest, this is an extremely compelling reason for me.
So that's  just some of the reasons. It might sound crazy. 

Have you ever considered such a thing? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Avoid these 3 Engineering/Entrepreneurial Project Mistakes

Poorly planned engineering and entrepreneurial projects can leach the life out of anyone.  These mistakes steal your time, money, enthusiasm, and sometimes pride.  
I've reviewed peer projects many times. I too have had plenty of failures of my own. What is funny is that there are some mistakes I see often.  They should be easy to dodge. Yet, knowing how to run away from them requires that you can see them when they are chasing after you. This blog post is intended for students new to engineering, and would-be entrepreneurs with an idea in mind.
Here are some mistakes beginning project designers make:

Deadly Sin #1: Not knowing the availability of needed resources early on

Assumptions are the path to the first circle of hell in failed project design. Never assume you will have money or facilities until there is a guarantee. Contact facility managers before you begin. Have a financial estimate of what you will need. Can you affordably by it? 
Consider your time too. This is an unrenewable resource. Do you know (really know) how long steps will take? 

Here is your accountability checklist

  • I have emailed facility contacts. They have followed up. I have confirmation that I can use these resources without further paperwork or training.
  • I have a spreadsheet that tracks the costs of my project in detail. I have the links to the materials I will buy online. The total is a reasonable cost. I have a HIGH chance of affording it through personal investments and crowdsourcing (see Deadly Sin #2). Someone more experienced than I has approved of this spreadsheet.
  • I have divided my project into short term goals with the end in mind (working backwards). I've added time to each deadline to account for unforeseen delays. I know what my daily tasks will be. Someone more experienced than I has approved this plan (notice the pattern here?).

Deadly Sin #2: Crowdsourcing before Crowd Polling

No one wants to find out that their idea lacks the needed financial support after months of hard work. If you know you will need funds from grants or crowdsourcing, you need to put your idea up for peer review. There are lots of ways you can do this. 
Here is your accountability checklist:
  • My project is so worthwhile I would fund it fully myself if I could.
  • I am in contact with the people that would benefit from my idea. My benefactors know how they can  financially support me (e.g.  they know where the link is to your crowdfunding page).
  • I have shared my idea with 15 other people in person. I fixed my message and methods based on critiques that came my way.
  • I tried a meetup group and I have presented my idea in front of a crowd. http://www.meetup.com/
  • I have participated in online communities.  People seem excited.They know which crowdsource links support me. https://www.reddit.com/ 
  • A person with more expertise than I has approved of the feasibility of my idea.
  • I have made online polls that show me how many people would be willing to chip in $X for my plan.  I have a clear number of supporters. www.surveymonkey.com
  • I have at least half of my costs covered already.
  • If crowd-sourcing fails, I have a way of earning the cash I need by  bootstrapping.

Deadly Sin 3: Falling in Love with an Idea (rather than the problem)

Even the most seasoned scientists (Nobel laureates included) fall victim to this mistake. To come up with good solutions, you need to have an intimate understanding of the problem you are trying to fix.  Placing too much stock in one's own solutions can hamper progress. This is because it creates a confirmation bias in the learning process. Instead of seeking ways to understand the problem, a person constantly seeks support for their idea. 
There is a great quote from Richard Feynman concerning this that I first heard from a Tim Ferriss Podcast:
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool."
Too much faith in an unsupportable idea can be a disaster of time and effort if your idea turns out to be wrong. Don't spend decades fooling yourself with your own biases. Keep a light hold on your theories. That way, if they are disproven the shock of separation does not hurt you.
This is not just relevant in science. It can be seen in just about any area of life
Trying to start your own business? An overattachment to a certain product idea without proof it will work (crowd polling) can mean thousands of dollars lost. A person could have avoided this downfall by spending more time understanding their customer's problems. Knowing the problem is what creates the solution. You don't create something, and then try to bend it to fix a problem you do not truly understand.
Well, there you have it. Have any other ideas about the pitfall of inexperienced entrepreneurs? Let me know in the comments.

3 Podcast Episodes Worth Your Time

I am a podcast lover.  I can play them in the background as I write, browse the internet, or do grunt work. Although multitasking generally gets a downvote, this type dulls the discomfort of boring activities.
"How to become Great at just about Anything"- Freakonomics
This episode explores a few questions. Does talent count or is it overrated in comparison to training? What is the 10,000-hour rule? How do you perform deliberate practice? Find out:

Some highlight points
  • deliberate practice has to be outside one's comfort zone
  • the importance of a coach to bring you to the next level
  •  deliberate practice means discomfort
  • deliberate practice needs feedback on particular things
  • hours of practice do not guarantee improvement
"The Person I Call Most for Startup Advice"- Tim Ferriss fourhourworkweek.com/
Tim Ferriss interviews Naval Ravikant, an expert investor, CEO and co-founder of AngelList. You expect the grit of investing in the episode, but what you get is an inspiring commentary on life. Think zen. Think living a happier life.  Think habits to be more successful. Sounds like a good investment to me.
Some highlight points
  • picturing your life as a movie you are making
  • adding one good habit or taking one away
  • how to delve into as many books as you please

"Interview of Kevin Kelly, Co-Founder of WIRED, Polymath, Most Interesting Man in the World?"- Tim Ferriss
This episode is for dreamers. We all know that society demands we jump into a career ASAP.  I think we forget that we do have a choice in the matter. Kevin Kelly, one of the co-founders of WIRED magazine reminds me of a modern Thoreau with a hint of Da Vinci. He suggests living freely and frugally at a young age. Instead of focusing on a career so early, he gives you compelling reasons to instead spend the first parts of your young adult life as an adventurer instead of jumping on the ladder too early.
Highlight Points
  • building your own house
  • backpacking around the world
  • living actively as if you only had 6 months

Thursday, May 5, 2016

11 steps to Prepare for a Career: Reconsidering the Post-graduation "Crisis"

I'm graduating.
Very soon.
If I end up jobless next year, I won't be surprised. I hear about such situations all the time. College grads hit the market with sometimes little to no work experience. They have that shiny look and new car smell that screams, "I haven't been crash-tested yet".  That's too bad because companies aren't as willing anymore to train new workers. Also, since the economy is still not in perfect health, the demand for a huge increase in workers is questionable.
So, it won't surprising if I find myself in the same place as many of my peers. If that is how the world works currently, I won't take it personally. Moreover, I wonder if it is such a bad thing for many of us. Many people, like me, can live with their parents for a while.  There's a scaffold to build something for one's self.
Not having to go to work has its benefits, otherwise, no one would make such a big deal over vacations.  I'll have to work for most of the  years of my life.  Thus, the "idling time" post-graduation is a "Precation" of sorts. I get to see my family. I get to focus on my health and personal goals. Why not take advantage of the situation?
There are possibilities for self-development, enjoyment, and career building before employment:
  1. Interning or Volunteering for Free:  This is an easy way to get work experience.
  2.  Meet other people in your field. Find conferences related to areas of interest. Commit to attending a few a month or even every week.  You'll get new ideas, make connections, and will have a chance to contribute if you stick around long enough.  Keep service in mind, and see how you can help out. Anything you accomplish can go towards your career connections and your résumé.
  3. Learning to Code on Free Websites: It takes many hours of practice to learn coding and program design. Idling time is the perfect time to pick up such a skill. The habit of spending just a few hours each day at a set time on developing hard technical skills will give you a leg up.
  4. Finally learning a musical instrument or something else artsy:  For most of a person's life, he or she doesn't have over 12 hours of free practice time available daily. Take advantage.
  5. Going on Low-Priced Adventures:  A plane ticket is probably out of the question during unemployment. However,  a cheap bus ticket, a bike trip, or a short road trip can be affordable. Moreover, there is the time to do such things. Once a person is locked into a job, time constraints can limit these activities.
  6. Writing: Writing a book... writing a blog.. finishing that newsletter I was talking about...writing...writing...Idling is the perfect time to do that.
  7. Learning the art of thrift: Now, you'll have that extra 15 minutes a week to look for coupons, to plan your meals, and to focus on sales. You'll learn to live with less so when you do finally get a job you'll be living more comfortably and securely.
  8. Getting in  better shape: One of the most common complaints people have about being healthy are time constraints. Say goodbye to that excuse.
  9. Reading books: You have time to read all (ok, many of) the books you ever wanted to try, but never had time to read. You can invest in books to broaden your skills for your career as well. Self-education is the best education, and it never ends. Speaking of...
  10. Leveling up your skills- Taking extra free online classes or reviewing textbooks on the subjects you learned but haven't mastered in college is a great daily habit. There are also thousands of educational videos on Youtube such as TED talks.
  11. Learning a New Sport: Now would be the perfect time to join a group of people in an amateur baseball team or to learn to surf.
Those are just a few off the top of my head. I tried to focus on things you can do for free or at a low price. I understand there is still the problem of low funds. I'll talk about that in the next article.