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There is a maxim that has been widely circulated in the business world: “What gets measured gets managed.” This principle is popular because it has so many diverse applications. Do you want to improve productivity on an employee by employee basis? Measure each worker’s current output in order to know where to invest in staff development. Do you want to drive more traffic to a website? Use Google Analytics to measure your current page views and figure out where they come from. Do you want to mitigate time wasted on your smartphone? But wait... why would anyone want to do that?
A vivid orange sunset, a fluffy golden retriever puppy, a colorful breakfast of yogurt and artfully sprinkled fruit.
“If you don’t do it this time, you’re going to fail and we’re going to do this over again a different day.” Master Taylor’s voice was stern.
“I believe there are 48 hours in a day.”
If you ever visit the hallowed gambling halls of a Las Vegas casino, and if you aren’t overwhelmed by the dazzling flashing lights and symphony of bells and whistles, you may realize a stunning fact. Time itself seems to have fled the immediate vicinity. Nary a clock is to be found across the vast space. Similarly lacking are (generally omnipresent) windows, which might allow you to discern the passing of day and night.
I woke up recently to a realization. I am addicted to my iPhone. It’s as if I’m addicted to alcohol, sugar, heroine or cocaine. It’s in my hand within seconds of waking. I carry it with me everywhere and worry when the battery life is getting low as if it were a small child that hasn’t been fed in days. My father has been warning me of it for some time now, but I always took it with a grain of salt (in other words, I ignored him).
Every successful individual knows this one secret. It’s a secret that will make you a million dollars, or however much money you want to earn. It will make you famous, too, and everyone will wonder what keys you possess to unlock the life of your dreams. This secret is… Their morning ritual.
We all have that friend who, for the life of them, cannot seem to fail at anything they try to do. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least three people I know who fall into that category: a Duke friend who transferred to MIT because he was offered a full ride, takes six classes per semester and still has time for research and startup projects; an Irish friend who is studying engineering at one of the best schools in the country and has still managed to represent Ireland on six international athletics teams (twice for field hockey and the tetrathlon and once each for ultimate frisbee and the pentathlon); and a Duke Pratt engineering student who (in his spare time) plays field hockey, is mastering every coding language he can get his hands on and even manages to practice the art of knitting. None of these individuals have sacrificed grades for extracurricular pursuits, nor have they given up on the special skills and activities that set them apart from the herd. So the million dollar question becomes: how do they do it?
They controlled the majority of the known world for almost a thousand years. They maintained the foremost military of their time. Their might was feared, their wisdom was sought and their wealth was envied. Drumroll please as we welcome to the stage…the Roman Empire!
We live in a world in which victory is unpopular. People have gotten into the shameful mental habit of believing that for every winner there must be a loser, and they have become more concerned with not being the loser than with being the winner. Just think about that for a second. What kind of mentality is this, in which fear of failure overwhelms the desire for victory? It’s the kind of mentality that makes you a loser, despite all your efforts.
Chief Tecumseh was a powerful Native American leader who inspired thousands of his people in a resistance against the American invasion of their lands in the early 19th century. Allying himself and his confederacy, aptly named “Tecumseh’s Confederacy,” with the British in the War of 1812, Tecumseh’s movement only terminated with his death in 1813. However, his words live on in transcriptions of his most famous speeches, which still inspire motivation in the hearts of those who read them. In one, he describes how to live a good life, and his words have much to teach us:
Sam Ovens always knew he didn’t want to be a worker bee. In fact, the New Zealand entrepreneur left his first post-university corporate job after only three months and moved, classically, to his parent’s garage to start building a business of his own.
I used to think that the most important ingredient of programming was knowledge of the coding languages involved. Java, Python, C, C++, Ruby on Rails...all different methods for computer scientists to communicate with the vastly complex machines under their care. Going in, it seemed like my hardest job was going to be keeping straight which of the plethora of languages to choose. "Not so, young Padawan," said the Jedi Masters of Duke Computer Science.
When it comes to New Year's resolutions I am as guilty as anyone of having high aspirations and less than stellar execution. But I have a hypothesis that would explain why so many of us aim “too high” and end up burning out before we even see the results. In a world that glorifies outcomes while ignoring the hard work that makes those outcomes possible, we are making it difficult for ourselves to differentiate between success and the appearance of success.
Momentum and Habit stand together, shields locked, in any battle formation. Habit reinforces Momentum when he seems about to fail, and Momentum charges forward to slay the enemy. As in battle, there is advance and retreat. The goal in this crusade is simple: constant advance in the right direction. Momentum is the key to positive action, building on past successes to spur you onward.
Computer Science 101 is a class of more than 100 students, the largest lecture I’ve attended at this university. It meets in a large hall reminiscent of a movie theatre with tiered seats, a glass-windowed booth in back and plenty of those irritating flip-up armrest desks that aren’t quite large enough to securely balance a laptop. Never having taken a computer science course in the past, I was not sure what to expect when I enrolled last spring. I was more than pleasantly surprised. Despite that one group of rowdy freshmen who won’t get the hint and quiet down after the professor asks them for the fourth time, the lectures are interesting. More than just being useful, in fact, being able to code makes me feel cool. I can pretend to be some hacker, an international spy, perhaps, or even Neo from the “Matrix” trilogy.
There’s always a split second before the water hits my skin where I wince and the thought flashes across my mind, “Why the f*** am I doing this?” Then, the freezing water washes over me and, with a shiver, I begin the post-workout, cold-shower ritual. Shampoo. Rinse. Soap. Escape. Drying off and glancing at my phone I see that it’s only 7:30 a.m. Not bad.
“This is a great moment in time that you have created. This memory can last a lifetime. An extra $200 will not mean anything to you in 5 years.”
When I was younger I always imagined that Sir Isaac Newton, the renowned scientist and mathematician, looked something like Sir Isaac Newton, the anthropomorphized newt in Beatrix Potter’s illustrated storybook, “The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher.” However, Newton the man has his own certain charm and usefulness (as I’m sure physicists, engineers, mathematicians and quite a few other scientific groups will attest). Today, I want to share a thought I have about Newton and his teachings and apply it to my favorite domain—motivation, productivity, and effectiveness.
Stress is par for the course when it comes to surviving the rigors of a top-ten university. One 2008 study found that 80 percent of college students reported feeling stress daily, with 34 percent having felt depressed in the past three months. A lot of us assume that this is unavoidable. I know I used to. “If I didn’t feel on the verge of a nervous breakdown then how would I know that I was pushing the limits of my academic capabilities?”