Learning to code in Python Challenge

“Learning to Code in Python” Challenge Complete

Read Time: 5 Minutes

Hey guys! It’s time to give you an update on the Python Challenge that I mentioned previously. I’m happy to say that it was a success and I learned some very interesting things while doing it!

I was initially planning to learn Python within twelve weeks. It ended up only taking two (but I kept working on it for the remaining ten weeks anyway), and would have probably taken a week if I had put in more effort.

Let me clarify though, learning Python in a week is definitely possible if you only want to learn the basic programming concepts and ideas. Being a proficient user will take a lot longer, but a week or two is enough to code a few simple programs.

This was my first proper attempt at learning to program (not including a horrible failed attempt at MATLAB a few years ago), so it was all quite new to me. Perhaps the most surprising thing to me was that I found coding to be to be very creative in nature!

We usually think of coding as being logical and strict, but perhaps counterintuitively, there is actually a lot more art involved than you might expect. Once I really started getting into it, I started to understand how code could be described as “elegant” and even beautiful, but we’ll leave that explanation for another time!

Why Start With Python?

Python is such an easy language to learn. It’s been described as being easy enough for a child to read so when I saw that, I immediately thought to myself “That’s what I need”.

The syntax (or structure) is very simple, and you don’t have to worry about missing a semicolon or some of the other finer detail that exists in a lot of other languages. It reads like English, and it’s a great (possibly even the best) first language to learn because you only need to focus on the logic and basic concepts, and not worry too much about the syntax.

That being said, it’s an incredibly powerful language and is commonly used in the fields of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. This factor, combined with its simplicity, is probably the reason for its explosion in popularity.

Once you’ve learned Python, learning other languages will become remarkably easy, because the logic for all of them is the same and the only real difference is in its syntax (there are larger differences like libraries for example, but that’s beyond the scope of the challenge).

So it might look slightly different, but the concept is essentially the same. Let me show you what I mean. I’ve included two examples of code that are simply used to make the computer display “Hello!”:

Code written in Java

void sayHello() {
  System.out.println("Hello!");
}

sayHello();

Code written in Python

def sayHello():
  print("Hello!")

sayHello()

In Python, there aren’t any curly braces before and after every block of code, nor are there semicolons at the end of each line. Also, System.out.println(Hello!) from Java has been simplified to just print(“Hello!”) in Python!

You can also see that they’re both very similar. That’s what I meant when I said that the concept is basically the same, it’s just the little things in the structure that are slightly different between the languages.

Sources That I Used and Recommendations

I started learning Python on Udacity’s platform (before the price hike), but knowing what I do now, I wouldn’t have started there at all.

You can learn Python for free using many other resources, especially YouTube! They are quite comprehensive and are more than enough to learn the basics.

  • An excellent course that I found is Al Sweigart’s Automate the Boring Stuff which is an online textbook that is free of charge!

Automate the boring stuff with python ebook

  • If you’re a visual learner, he’s also made a video course that is well worth the money. On Udemy, I think it’s $50 but you can use the following link to get it for just $10: Automate the Boring Stuff With Python Programming . This video course is where he walks you through the material and shows you exactly how it works.
  • If you’re unsure, the first 10 videos are available for free on his YouTube channel. 

One thing I’d like to mention is that Automate the Boring Stuff is great especially if you’re just interested in writing code to make practical programs that you’ll actually use even if you aren’t planning to become a programmer.

Programs I’ve Built

I’ve coded a few simple programs in Python to test my understanding of the concepts:

  • The classic Hangman game
  • Guess the Number
  • A madlibs generator
  • A simple password generator.

There are probably higher level coders who will scoff at these, but a surprising number of others are more than willing to lend you a hand and take the time to explain things to you.

If you’re interested to see what I’ve built, you can access the all of the code on My GitHub Page.

example of hangman game written in Python

Most Important Takeaway From this Challenge

  • When learning something for the first time, it seems very alien, but I found that things suddenly fell into place once my brain made those connections. That’s the “aha!” moment when everything suddenly clicks!
  • Don’t feel discouraged if it all seems too difficult and confusing at first!
  • Use the 20 hour rule and I can pretty much guarantee you’re going to find that you can learn Python too.
  • Coding can actually be fun. I know, I know, I sound like a total nerd, but it’s true and I have to accept that that statement will always sound super dorky.
  • Meditation was quite helpful to stay fresh, and to clear the mind when trying to come up with different solutions.
  • Using the Pomodoro technique was really useful here to stay alert and retain what I was learning!

One Basic Misconception I Had About Learning to Code

I used to imagine programmers as people who could sit at their computer and be in complete control, speedily typing out lines of code, hitting enter and sitting back while they watched it execute.

While this does happen some of the time, the reality is a little different. Most coders spend a lot of time figuring out how to solve their problem and get themselves “unstuck”. A lot of the time, they refer to online forums like StackOverflow or a similar site to ask for help or refer to someone else’s solved question.

At first, this might not sounds like much fun at all, I mean, who enjoyed being stuck on a math question in high school right?

Soon though (and quite early on in your learning process),  you’ll find yourself working through some extremely interesting problems that you’ll actually enjoy working out.

What I’m Working On Next

I’m still working on the French in 12 Weeks challenge, and I’ll be back very soon to update you on that.

My next challenge however, will be a little different! I’m planning to start an online 30-day challenge to learn to draw, and I’m hoping you’ll join in! I’ll create a hashtag so everyone who wants to participate can upload their progress on any social media.

I’m planning to use Steve Huston’s Beginner Head Drawing course New Masters Academy to complete my portrait challenge, but you are more than welcome to use any resource that you like!

As always, I enjoy hearing from you, so leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts on this!

I Made a Mistake With My Degree. Don’t Do the Same.

If you’re reading this, there might still be hope.

If you’re thinking of studying finance in the hopes of becoming a day trader or working with investments, please do yourself a huge favour and read this article before you leap headfirst into one of the worst career decisions possible.

This post is going to be quite specific, so if you’re not thinking of doing this, I won’t blame you for skipping this one, although there may be some similarities with your field!

Now that I’ve come out on the other side, I feel as if it is my duty to tell everyone I know that they need to do their research and be sure that the finance qualification is relevant to what they want to do.

This is of course, opinion based on my own experience, and whether you agree or disagree with me, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments!


If I could have written a letter to my earlier self, this is probably what it would look like:

Dear Meathead,

First of all, congratulations! The future version of you has completed a five year double major in commerce, and now has a near-worthless degree!

Not quite what you were expecting?

Well, it turns out that most proprietary trading firms (prop firms) react something like this to graduates with a finance qualification:

A finance grad! They shriek, waving their arms in terror. Another one! Quick, send them the automated email that says we’re impressed but don’t think they’ll be suitable for this role in particular, but we hope that they’ll apply for future roles! 

Okay, I’ll admit, that’s not quite what they do, but in general, they’re not too keen on hiring finance graduates unless you have some serious quantitative skill, which you probably won’t learn from your degree.

Even in what would seem to be a traditionally finance-related career, companies are shunning finance graduates and opting instead for graduates in fields you wouldn’t even have considered as the competition!

Instead, they’re turning to engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists and physicists for positions that you should have been fully qualified for!

I know what you’re about to say (because I’m you):

“Wait, what? But why?”

Allow me, future Sanjay with 20/20 hindsight, to enlighten you.

Companies are well aware that finance graduates are basically irrelevant in today’s ultra-competitive business world, but it’s not entirely the students’ fault.

Graduates are leaving universities armed with a degree that equips them with a blunt dagger, to bring to a battle that is largely fought with the latest in drone technology. And there you are, outclassed and outgunned.

Why am I saying this? When you’re studying a finance degree in today’s world, the universities you study at are still largely living in the 18th century, when Microsoft Excel was all the rage and possessing knowledge of this single program was the gold standard.

They’re still proudly confusing students with irrelevant theories that will remain impractical and unused throughout their future careers.

Future you once asked a lecturer why we were learning material that isn’t applicable in the working world. He said: “Because we don’t have anything else to teach you.” That essentially sums up most commerce degrees. 

The nature of the coursework means that students never develop critical thinking and problem solving skills that employers value so highly.

My personal favourite is when universities attempt to pass off common sense knowledge as an almost biblical revelation.

To tell you the truth, the most practical and useful business knowledge can be gained by simply visiting a book store and purchasing any of the bestsellers in the field. You can learn from people who’ve actually done it, rather than learning from a textbook written by an author who gained his knowledge from yet another textbook.

I daresay the knowledge you gain from that $14 paperback will be worth far more than any $70,000 commerce/business degree.

As a finance graduate, I am embarrassed to say that I would not have been able to explain to you the basics of how the stock market works or how a simple index fund could earn you returns. I had to figure that out for myself, from books and the internet.

To survive in the business world, graduates require technical skills, like mathematics, statistics and programming. Yet, universities somehow decided that they would shrug of this minor detail and allow graduates to enter the “real” world without any technical skill or practical training whatsoever.

The reality is that quantitive degrees are in demand, because employers value an integral skill above almost everything else: Problem solving.

Move over finance graduates, because the business world is being taken over by engineers, statisticians, mathematicians, physicists and computer scientists.

Sincerely,

Sanjay.

P.S. I would like to thank my (your future) friend Yoni for the discussion that became the inspiration for this post.


Does this apply to your field as well? Let me know what you think in the comments!

mental-math-and-abacus

Going Mental with Math, and Attempting the Abacus

Read Time: 5 minutes

Are you good with mental calculations? I certainly wasn’t. I always had issues with even the most basic problems. My confidence really took a hit because it would take me ages to answer a simple math question, like how much change someone needed, or how we’d split a bill.

It affected me in a lot of ways, but I never took any steps to get around it. I just chalked it up to being bad at mental math. Not too long ago, I had a couple of interview rounds in which passing a mental math assessment was a requirement. Knees week, heart in my throat, I took the tests, and failed spectacularly.

I missed the benchmark by a mile both times and knew that I had to do something if I wanted a job in the industry.  That’s how I began my latest experiment: improving my mental arithmetic.

If improving your mental math skills is something you want or need to do, you might want to try the approach I took.

Here’s how I got started:

I downloaded a mental math app on my phone and started doing the practice problems during my morning commute on the train.

The app I use is called Math: Mental Math Games, although there are a lot of other options out there if you’re looking for one. I like this particular one, because there are a couple of features that I find quite useful, like the helpful tips section that demonstrates techniques or shortcuts that you can use to speed up your calculations.

There are different modes, but I tested myself on speed to figure out my benchmark. The speed training has a set of ten problems, and a timer, to track your performance.

I was shockingly slow at even the most basic level. I’m not kidding, I’m pretty sure this was preschool math and there are toddlers who would’ve gleefully decimated my time, taken a nap, and woken up to find me still struggling with the questions.

I started by taking note of the time it took me to answer the ten problems on day one. This is something you should do if you’re going to try this yourself, or you won’t know how much you’ve improved.

My time was over 30 seconds on the ten single digit subtraction and addition problems. I had a lot more difficulty on the double digit addition and subtraction problems, with an average time of almost two minutes, and over five minutes on the triple digit problems.

So here’s a quick summary for easy comparison:

Time taken to complete 10 problems

  • Single digit subtraction and addition = 30 seconds
  • Double digit subtraction and addition = 2 minutes
  • Triple digit subtraction and addition = 5 minutes
  • Double digit multiplication = N/A

Yeah, it took me an average of three seconds to answer a problem like “7 + 9”. For double digit multiplication problems, like “43 * 57”, I didn’t have a benchmark time. I was so bad at them, I couldn’t complete the ten problems at all.

The results of the experiment

After just a couple of days of practice, my speed was a lot better. It’s now been over a month, and my average times are as follows:

Time taken to complete 10 problems

  • Single digit subtraction and addition = 8 seconds
  • Double digit subtraction and addition = 30 seconds
  • Triple digit subtraction and addition = 50 seconds
  • Double digit multiplication = 2 minutes 40 seconds

I know these times are nothing to be bragging about, especially my time on the multiplication questions, but it’s a major improvement for someone who couldn’t answer them at all just over a couple of weeks ago.

This is good news if you’re looking to attempt this yourself, because I noticed that improvement occurs quite quickly.

Tricks and technique

Improving your mental math skills isn’t just a matter of attempting a bunch of questions on repeat. A few simple tweaks can really improve your ability to perform calculations in your head.

Schools tend to teach math in a way that’s clunky and impractical for quick mental calculation. For instance, most of us were taught to do math from right to left, but it’s far more natural to do it from left to right, especially when calculating mentally.

I used a combination of the app mentioned above, and an online course from The Great Courses, The Secrets of Mental Math. I found the online course to be especially useful. It’s well structured and the techniques are explained in full.

I can now calculate the square of any double digit number in my head — something that I always thought would be impractical because I would be too slow at it.

If you decide to give the course a go, you’ll probably find the presentation of the course to be quite cheesy, but the content is practical and very helpful. This isn’t a paid advertisement or anything, it’s just a recommendation I’m making because I found it worthwhile. The course is often on discount, so I’d suggest waiting for the sale.

What’s next?

If you’re interested in improving your mental math even further, you may want to consider learning the soroban or Japanese abacus. 

I tried my hand at learning the abacus, and while I’ll need lots more practice, I have noticed that the abacus offers a couple of significant advantages over regular mental arithmetic:

  • There’s significantly less cognitive load:
    • Consider trying to add the numbers 74, 986 and 17, 239 mentally. I’m sure you could do it, but I’ll bet keeping those numbers in your head will be a challenge in itself.
    • The beads on the abacus provides a visual form to the numbers and allows you to hold the numbers in your head with less strain on your memory.
  • It’s a lot quicker:
    • I’ve found that the using the abacus is like executing an algorithm to solve math problems. You barely have to think about the numbers, because the calculations become part of your muscle memory.
    • This factor, combined with the lower cognitive load, makes you a lot faster. It’s almost impossible to articulate, so you’ll have to try it yourself to know what I mean.

If you want to learn the abacus, you can certainly do it online. There are many options available, but as I haven’t used them myself, I won’t make any recommendations.

As it turns out, I’m no longer trying to apply for the job that required mental math skills, but sharpening the skill was definitely worthwhile. I’m going to continue working on my abacus skills too, perhaps at a more leisurely pace.

Mental math can come in handy in ways most people wouldn’t necessarily think of. Par exemple, if you’re quick with math and have some knowledge of basic probabilities, you could improve your odds of winning at poker. Those game nights could become a lot more fun with a couple more tools under your belt.

I hope you’ve found this useful, and if you do decide to give this a go, keep me updated on your progress! If you’ve found other ways to improve your mental arithmetic, leave a comment and let me know how you did it.

 

 

sapiens-kurzgesagt-richard-branson-virgin

Fascinating Finds: Books, Videos and the Big Bang

Reading Time: 3 Minutes

With my final exams on the horizon, I’ve been excelling at what I do best: Finding ways to procrastinate.

In my impassioned quest to find the best ways to do anything other than work, I’ve made a few interesting discoveries that I’ve been spending a lot of time on, and I’d like to share them with you. Feel free to add to the list in the comments, and I’ll check them out!

YouTube Highlight: Kurzgesagt

Kurzgesagt-logo
One of the best YouTube channels. Ever.

I’d like to give a shout out to my roommate, Toby, for introducing me to this YouTube channel that’s virtually impossible to pronounce. Within the span of a week, I had watched pretty much every single video they’d ever produced. Kurzgesagt creates videos on scientific concepts and makes them fun and engaging to watch.

I recommend checking out their videos on overpopulation, human origins, “What is Life? Is Death Real?”, “Why the War on Drugs is a Huge Failure”, and – you know what, watch them all. They’re amazing. Amaaaaaazing.

The videos are expertly produced and each one can take anywhere between two hundred and six hundred hours to create!

They are fantastic at weighing both sides of an argument, and they present those arguments in a clear, concise manner.

Many of their videos on the universe and philosophy can induce existential dread, something they often acknowledge in their videos, but don’t let that scare you away. It’s a fantastic resource. Cheers Toby!

Check out this fascinating video they made on the topic of addiction:

 

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

This is a really fascinating book about the history of humanity. It’s been out for a while, so I was quite late to the party. I’d describe it as brilliant mix of philosophy and history, and is written in a way that’s engaging. To sum it up in one sentence, Sapiens talks about the rise of humankind and how we became what we are today.

It’s an excellent book. It was a fifteen hour listen on Audible, but I found myself wishing there was more. My full review of Sapiens will be out soon, so stay tuned for that!

Food for Thought: What Existed Before the Big Bang?

Something I’ve been pondering a lot recently (mostly due to the binge-watching of Kurzgesagt videos), is the origin of the universe. More precisely, what happened before the big bang?

how-the-universe-began-big-bang
What Happened Before This?  Image Credit: Wikipedia

There’s a very long winded explanation by Stephen Hawking that’s extremely interesting (although hard to understand at times) that you can check out, or you can watch the video below, also by Kurzgesagt (in case you needed more evidence of how much I love them).

If my interpretation of it is correct, the short answer is that time didn’t exist before the Big Bang, and so the concept of before doesn’t have any meaning, because in order for there to be a “before”, time itself would need to exist. Whoa.

I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around this concept myself, so if you can explain this to me, please leave a comment and let me know!

Podcast Highlight: Sir Richard Branson — The Billionaire Maverick of the Virgin Empire

This is a fascinating conversation between Tim Ferriss and British billionaire, Sir Richard Branson.

1.jpg

The conversation revolves around Branson’s history, how he ended up in prison, his habits and decision-making processes, risk management, and the lessons he’s learned. It’s one of the best podcast episodes I’ve listened to and I highly recommend having a listen. If you enjoy it, his first autobiography, Losing my Virginity is definitely worth picking up as well.

 

Side note, if you’re looking for a decent podcast app, check out CastBox (thank you to my friend Harold for the tip).

If you liked this post, give it a like so I know to make more of these. As usual, drop me a line and share your top recommendations!

See you in the next one!

Image credits: Kurzgesagt, Richard Branson by David Shankbone.

Full disclosure: Some of the links are affiliate links, so if I do make a profit from your purchase, the money goes into supporting this blog!

 

I-will-teach-you-to-be-rich-book-review

Book Review: I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

Rating: 8/10

Look, I get it – unless you’re like me and have some kind of weird obsession with optimising your finances, you’d probably be hard pressed to think of a topic more boring than personal finance, and I don’t blame you. It’s dry and tedious and no one really cares very much to spend time dealing with it.

This is precisely is why it’s all the more important that you set up everything to be completely automatic, so you can devote as little time as possible to it. What most people lack when it comes to personal finance is having a system that works. Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich (Let’s call it IWT because I can’t be bothered typing that out over and over) is all about that: Creating a system that works on autopilot and allows you the freedom to worry about more important stuff, like selecting a new Netflix show to watch now that you’re done binging on House of Cards and watched Friends for the ten thousandth time.

If I had to recommend one personal finance book to anyone, it would be IWT. Hands-down, the best, no-nonsense, practical book on getting your finances in order. The best part? It doesn’t bore you to death.

It’s not about simply cutting back and living in the most bare-bones way possible.

It’s about conscious spending and living a sustainable lifestyle that’s suited to what you love doing the most, and my favourite part: Setting your finances on autopilot.

I’ve actually managed to negotiate my way out of bank fees because of this book. I followed the exact script that Ramit provides in the book, and voila! The representative on the other end of the call went:

“Sure, not a problem. I’ll just remove those fees and refund your account. Was there anything else I can help you with?”

And I (grinning widely) thanked him, hung up and thought, man, this book works. Honestly, people need to know this stuff. It’s simple, actionable and in just a couple of days, you can have your financial situation turned on its head.

  • Takes you through getting out of debt
  • Making your finances work on autopilot
  • Make saving money a breeze
  • Navigate the gatekeepers and get the most out of your bank
  • Negotiate your way to the best deals
  • Cut down on unnecessary interest payments
  • Earning more as opposed to cutting back
  • Succinct approach to investing and getting a better return than most managed funds
  • Big decisions (why houses are a terrible investment, the true cost of marriage – in a way you’ve never thought of before)

If you’re expecting a dry, text-book style regurgitation, you couldn’t be more wrong. Sethi’s style is entertaining, light, brutally honest, and yet very informative. Something I really liked was that his advice was actionable and he provided tons of links to all sorts of useful tools and resources.

If you haven’t read this book, you will not regret getting through it. The lessons are extremely valuable and will serve you very well. It’s a small investment that will provide you with returns well and above its cost.

Full disclosure, the link above is an Amazon affiliate link, and whatever I make goes to supporting this blog, so if you do make a purchase, thank you very much! If you can’t see the image above, it might be because of an ad-blocker that you might be running.

 

Picture Credit: https://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/

How to fix the education system

Education Reform: Preventing the Rise of Drones and Clones

Our current education system excels at churning out millions of homogenous, disenchanted drones every year. Isn’t it odd that students, regardless of ability or interests, are placed into the exact same system, where they are each force-fed an identical curriculum?

In my previous post on this topic, “Universities Kill Your Passion“, I discussed some of the causes of this issue, but this time I’d like to focus on discussing some possible solutions to the problem. There’s no point complaining if you’re not willing to make any changes, so let’s get started.

Possible Improvements to the Education System

I have a number of suggestions that could either be implemented individually or collectively and still be effective. Below is a summary of my ideas on education reform, with detail to follow:

  • Personalised learning pace
  • Students need to know the “why” of what they’re learning
  • Application based approach to 10x understanding
  • Autonomous learning
    • use the internet as a resource
  • Incorporating the arts

Personalised Learning Pace

Imagine for a moment that by law, we were all expected to wear standardised clothing. Every single one of us, regardless of size and height, required to wear a size medium. That would be quite absurd, wouldn’t it? Yet we do exactly this with education. A one-size-fits-all approach that’s expected to work for every individual.

Allowing students to progress at their own pace enables them to maximise their potential. For students who are able to grasp concepts quickly, the standard pace can be very frustrating. On the flip side, for those who require additional time, the standard pace can hamper their ability to understand increasingly advanced concepts, as they would have fallen behind in the basics.

Allowing each student to dictate their own pace allows the quick learners to excel and capitalise on their strengths, while the slower learners are able to catch up and even surpass the rest without the pressure of an unsustainable pace.

There are of course counter-arguments that could be made.

For instance, if you allow a child to study at their own pace, they would slack off. This is true, but then again, isn’t that also true of the current system? Students slack off all the time. I would know, I was a master procrastinator myself. I think it’s a separate issue, and one that needs to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Students Need to Know the “Why” of What They’re Learning

I’m sure many students have at some point looked at their algebra and wondered when any of it would ever become useful to them. I have certainly done this, not just with math, but with pretty much every subject I’ve ever studied.

I actually touched on this topic in my aforementioned post, regarding how I enjoyed learning when I had a purpose for learning the material. I strongly believe that if students understand why they needed to know something, they would be much more interested in learning and absorbing it.

For example, most students are forced to memorise the multiplication tables. As an 8 year-old at the time, this was an exercise in futility. I (along with most others, I suspect) had no idea why I was being forced to memorise the most boring possible combination of numbers.

I started thinking about this when I was learning the concept of exponential functions in high school. If I had simply been shown that I could use that exact formula to calculate compound interest and find out how much money I needed to become a millionaire in the future, I would have been far more interested in the application of the formula, because now I would understand why or how I could actually use this formula, rather than just knowing it in order to pass the final exam. Instead, the formula was presented to me, I calculated a bunch of random numbers and got the right answer (sometimes). Only, I had no clue what the answer signified.

This simple step appears to be almost non-existent in the education system. It’s almost as if no one actually cares whether or not you understand the true purpose of what you’re learning, as long as you can get to the right answer eventually.

After some reflection, I realised that all my favourite teachers were the ones who took just a couple of additional minutes to explain or demonstrate the “why” behind what we were learning.

That made all the difference in the world.

Application Based Approach to 10x Understanding

This ties in with the previous point about knowing the “why”. If students are given assignments in which they have to apply what they have learned, it would enhance understanding tenfold.

For example, I did a basic course on a programming language a couple of years ago. Initially, the module had been structured in a way that we had to learn all the bits of code and it’s functions, but we would never apply any of it. As you can imagine, this was terribly boring and I quickly gave up.

When they updated the module, they would teach us a part of the code and immediately apply it to an mock-up web page. As the module progressed, we added more and more to the web page until it was fully functional. This time, I had a tangible, finished product, and could see where all the seemingly separate bits of code had come together to form one complete page.

I think many subjects can be redesigned to work this way. Applying what you learn helps you remember and understand it.

Autonomous Learning

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory, so I will just briefly touch on it. I notice that students learn best when they are allowed and encouraged to learn things on their own. Guided learning is not always necessary. In fact, most of the things I have learned have been purely out of my own curiosity. Isn’t that how learning should be?

The problem is, curiosity is stamped out of us in school. On many occasions, a student would ask a question and the teacher would reply, don’t worry, that’s not relevant for the exam. We are trained to excel at examinations, instead of being actively encouraged to learn and discover.

I think the application based approach can help to some extent. Allowing students to work on projects that encourage self-learning would be very beneficial, as the student would have to understand the subject matter thoroughly in order to apply it. The application of that knowledge is extremely important, as it cements what he or she has learned, and helps that understand why what they are learning is useful.

Incorporating the Arts

The arts are simply not given enough recognition in the academic world. However, I believe that a truly well-rounded mind can be developed through the creative process. Learning a musical instrument, dance, painting, or anything else that frees the imagination and allows for creativity is essential to the human mind.

It enables a student to develop excellent discipline through practice, allows them to express themselves, teaches them to think without constraints, and naturally encourages experimentation, all without the rigidity of traditional academia. It enhances the human mind and greatly improves focus, which in turn result in improved academic performance.

An intriguing study funded by the Dana foundation and summarised by Dr Michael Gazzaniga of the University of California, Santa Barbara, suggests that studying the performing arts — dance, music and acting — actually improves one’s ability to learn anything else. Collating several studies, the researchers found that performing arts generated much higher levels of motivation than other subjects. These enhanced levels of motivation made students aware of their own ability to focus and concentrate on improvement. Later, even if they gave up the arts, they could apply their new-found talent for concentration to learning anything new.

Robert Twigger

Below are some resources that demonstrate how art has been integrated into the curriculum.

Cross-Training: Arts and Academics Are Inseparable

Leading to Change / Academics and the Arts

Collectively implemented, I think there’s a good chance that these suggestions would actually increase a student’s interest in learning, which is the main objective. Leave a comment below or send me an email, I’d love to hear what you think!

How to Find a Mentor

Having Trouble Getting a Mentorship? – Create Your Own!

Having a mentor can be extremely beneficial for your progression in virtually any field. They can accelerate your learning curve exponentially, help you shape your ideas and empower you. Given all of these potential benefits, I thought it would be useful to have a mentor of my own, so I started making a shortlist of people whom I could pick to be my mentor.

Enter Tim Ferris – World Renowned Author, Angel Investor and Polymath. 

Throughout my early teens, I was already fascinated by the concepts of accelerated learning, self-optimisation, and getting unconventional results by utilising unconventional methods. I would always try and figure out the easiest and most effective way to get something done. No one does all of this, and more, better than Tim Ferriss. If you haven’t heard of Tim Ferriss, you should certainly do some research on him and I promise it won’t disappoint.

You can check out his blog: fourhourworkweek.com/blog/  

Why Tim Ferriss?

When I first read the Four Hour Work Week, I was mind-blown. I instantly knew who my ideal mentor would be. I’d found someone who shared the same passion for everything that I enjoyed doing, except he was on a completely different level, far beyond anything I had imagined.

The reason I picked Tim Ferriss was because he is, in fact, a polymath, and exactly what I aspire to be. Secondly, I noticed that Tim was also utilising the tools that I had learned about from elsewhere, however he was applying them in ways that I had never thought of, which I found to be extremely interesting. He also has a knack for asking very simple, yet powerful questions which get you thinking and questioning everything, which can lead to some very interesting results.

To elaborate on the previous point, Tim has dabbled in a diverse array of fields, including his own television show (The Tim Ferriss Experiment, in which Tim attempts to master a new skill within a week), judo, language learning, self-experimentation, accelerated learning, and angel investing, just to name a few. He has enjoyed tremendous success in almost all of these fields. He is the living embodiment of my goals, and that makes him an ideal mentor in my case.

(Side note: I think the phrase “living embodiment” is quite superfluous, and yet I seem to find myself using it relatively often)

If I could have Tim Ferriss as my mentor, I certainly would. However, If you don’t have access to someone whom you would really like to be your mentor, what can you do?

You create your own mentorship.

How the Self-Created Mentorship Works 

Since I didn’t have access to Tim Ferriss himself, I looked at everything I did have access to and started with that. I voraciously devoured all of his books and searched for all kinds of material which he had released over the years. When I discovered his podcast, I began to listen to that too (It’s called the Tim Ferriss Show).

Side note: The Tim Ferriss Show basically involves Tim interviewing and deconstructing world-class performers from a variety of fields, and extracting the tools and tricks which we, the listeners, can put to use. I highly recommend the podcast, there’s an insane amount that I’ve learned from that alone. I’ve also recommended a couple of other podcasts, which you can check out: Podcast Picks of 2017: Productivity, Language, and Culture.

I also follow Tim’s progress through his blog, his Twitter page and of course, his podcast and try to make notes of all his titbits of knowledge that he imparts through all of the various channels.

Books, of course, are possibly one of my favourite ways to learn from my chosen mentor, because it distils all the information and leaves the reader with only the most useful and relevant content, which can be easily accessed and reviewed at leisure.

How to Create Your Own Mentorship Program

  • Find an individual/individuals whom you admire or aspire to emulate
  • Look for articles or books that they have published and read them. Write down questions and take copious notes
  • Search for other resources on your chosen mentor – read about their history and understand how and why they do what they do; it’s all about getting into their mindset and understanding how they work
  • Look for others’ work on them
    • Sometimes your mentor will not release their own material (Warren Buffett is a case in point). What you can do instead is to read books about them by other authors. These can be great because the author sometimes adds their own insight which can be very helpful.
  • Search for videos, interviews and other types of relevant content which can help you gain an insight into your mentor’s thought process
  • Finally, try connecting with your mentor. Some of them may have a Twitter account and you could try tweeting them. Hey, you could get lucky!

Now I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t anywhere near as great as having direct access to your mentor, but it’s the next best thing. I can honestly say that I’ve learned so much from all the different sources of information, even though I could not speak to my “mentors” directly.

I strongly encourage you to find someone whom you admire or would like to emulate, and embark on the journey yourself. It’s actually quite exciting to discover the information you require and try to search for all the answers by relying solely on yourself. It’s a challenge, but one that’s definitely worth it.

In fact, with this self-created mentorship program, you can have as many mentors as you want. Some of my other mentors include  Warren Buffett, Derek Sivers, John Mayer and many other incredible, talented individuals. There’s a wealth of knowledge that you can learn from your mentors, so go ahead and give it a shot!

The Best Podcasts to Listen To

Podcast Picks of 2017: Productivity, Language, and Culture

Podcasts have been experiencing phenomenal growth and it’s certainly justified as they’re extremely versatile and there’s an immense selection available. This means that there’s always something for everyone Continue reading “Podcast Picks of 2017: Productivity, Language, and Culture”