The Importance of Copywriting

Copywriting is a work of art.

It paints a picture in the reader’s mind.

It draws attention.

Words are molded to create a piece that could even make Michelangelo swoon.

Great copywriting makes the reader do something.

It’s as easy as that.
Well, at least it should be.

Let’s break it down.

You have something… Let’s call it a business.
You want your business to do well. (I’m assuming).
And we know customers are the fuel that keeps your business running…

Stay with me here…

Now the question is, how do we get (and keep) customers coming back?

Wait for it…
Wait for it…

Ding! Ding! Ding!

You got it. It’s copywriting.

What Exactly Is Copywriting?

To copywrite, not to get confused with copyright. Is Creating Clear, Concise, Compelling, Content to Consumers.

That’s a lot of C’s.

Copywriting is EVERYWHERE.

No seriously, everywhere. It’s on:

  • Blog posts
  • Newsletters
  • Emails
  • Social Media
  • Your favorite cereal box

Copywriting is the reason you want to buy that candle for the long-lasting scent.

Or that giant new coffee mug because… well… coffee!

The bottom line…

Copywriting is important. Here is why:

SEO

What the heck is SEO? CEO?

No, no.

SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization. It is the process of increasing a website or webpage’s visibility in search engine results.

How?

For starters, people search for things. A lot of things.
So in order for your business to make its debut appearance on Google’s first page, you need…

Traffic.

Not the traffic on the way to work. We hate that. This traffic is actually good.

What brings in traffic?

High-quality content of course!

That depends on the awesomeness of your copy. Also the keywords in the copy. The stuff that goes into the search box. Keywords help answer our question:

How many seeds are on a strawberry?

The keywords are in bold. Google’s job is to answer the question by providing a website (yours hopefully) with the most relevant information. Remember. The keywords in your copy must target your niche. Be specific.

(By the way, the answer is 200.)

Tells a Story


We all love a good story. Scratch that. A GREAT story. The one our grandkids will nag us about telling them over and over again. Storytelling is an important element in copywriting. It draws the reader in. Making the reader feel what you feel brings them to action. Click. Donate. Buy. You name it.
Keep in mind. People can read something and know its total BS from the start. So be honest, keep it interesting and be mindful of the length.

Taps Into Emotions and Solves Problems

99.999% of purchases are emotional. There is little logic involved.

People want to know they are making the right choice. Even if it is impulsive.

This is where copywriting comes in.

Copywriting justifies a purchase by using logic.

Effective copywriting associates an emotion with an experience. 

The more powerful the emotion, the more likely it will move the reader. 


Remember what I mentioned earlier? By creating:

– Clear

– Concise

– Compelling

– Content

Please remember the four C’s

It’s important.

Next is solving problems.


Everyone has problems (even me).

These problems cause anger, sadness, confusion, pain…


The list goes on.

How does your product solve this problem? Will it ease the pain of the customer? Keep these questions in mind. 

Copywriting is your friend that listens to your problems. They know what you’ve been through. They offer solutions.

Dear Copywriting,

Thank you.

Generates Traffic and Sales

Let’s cut to the chase.

No matter what kind of business you have or how good your product is…

The goal is to sell.

Period.

The amount of sales you generate builds trust between you and the customer. Establishing trust makes your business credible. Not to mention increased traffic to your website. Engagement is key. So when customers see interaction within your website it brings in more customers. Paying customers. We want all of this.

Wrapping Up

I don’t know about you. But copywriting is pretty (excuse my language) damn necessary. It represents your brand. It speaks to your audience. It lets potential customers know that their problems can be solved by using your product. You have everything to gain (customers) and nothing to lose with copywriting.

Make Killer Headlines That Sell… In Less Time Than It Takes To Do The Dishes.

You know the headline is the most important part of the copy, right?

It’s because the headline selects the audience.

Choose wisely, and you have a half-sold prospects at your front door…

Choose badly, and you’re trying to convince Eskimos to buy more ice…

No Bueno.

But don’t worry…

Because In this short post, I’ll teach you how to select audience with the accuracy of a cruise missile.

Oh, btw…

You don’t need any creativity.

It’s a dead-simple process that anyone with 5 working brain cells can follow.

Ready? Grab your notebooks and let’s dive in.

“Scotty, Is it The Time To Write Headlines Yet?”

There are two schools of thought regarding when to write a headline. (Of which I don’t belong to any.)

First, writing the headline after research, before writing the copy.

This way, you have a clear target and prevent your copy from being a jumbled mess of gobbledygook.

However… You also prevent yourself from discovering new interesting marketing angles while writing.

Second, writing the headline after writing the copy.

This way you’ll increase the congruency of the headline with the text. However, you might write a killer copy from an angle that people don’t care about.

Which one should you choose? My advice… Both. (More on this later.)

“I get it, but how do I do it?”

How long do you think writing headlines should take?

5 minutes…?

1 hour…?

10% of the time spent writing?

Top Copywriters like Ogilvy and Claude Hopkins recommend that 25% to even 50% of writing time should be spent on headlines.

This means if you dedicate 4 hours to writing a piece of copy (not including research), you should spend 1 to 2 hours crafting headlines.

My advice to you…

Spend 25%, and split it into two sittings.

Have your first session after research before you start writing. And your second session after writing.

This way you can have the best of both worlds.

Laser-like precision and adjustment for even more congruency.

Now, let’s move on to…

Five Methods To Asswhopping Headlines

The 4U Technique

Four Us stands for Uniqueness, Urgency, Usefulness, Ultra-specificity.

On a subjective scale from 1-4, you can judge your headline (and copy) by each of the 4Us. Aim that you have at least 3 or 4 on each.

For example… The headline “Buy a car”, would score a 1 in uniqueness, 1 in urgency, 2 in usefulness, and 1 in specificity. (IMO.)

But… “Invest In The Brand New Octavia RS Before The End Of The Year And We Buy You Gas For The Whole Of 2021!”

Now THAT is unique, urgent, useful, and ultra-specific.

The Three Lenses

Different people have different personalities.

Some like to compete. Some want to prove that they can. Some just want an easier life…

We can, therefore, write headlines that appeal to any of the groups.

Take any headline, like… “Buy this engine-powered lawnmower”

And send it through any of the three lenses…

  1. Competitive: “Have the best front yard in the neighborhood…”
  2. Inspirational: “You too can have a luxurious looking lawn…”
  3. Beneficial: “Don’t break a sweat mowing…”

Which works the best for your product and audience?

Test and see what drives the best results.

Headline Robot

A general formula for making headlines is…

[end result] + [time period] + [address objections]

Or in any order you want.

For example, selling tanning marmalade…

“Get a chocolate-brown tan in 20 minutes… without being sticky!”

(Not the best selling point but it would work for me because I hate feeling sticky after applying any kind of cream.)

“20 minutes a day for a month for perfect abs… or we give your money back!”

Don’t be too strict with this formula. Let your headlines have a bit personality…. (But you gotta know the rules to break the rules, am I right?)

Swipe File Technique

For this one, you need a huge library of winner headlines. Find them online or in any good magazine.

Then read them all and start adapting them for your product.

As of writing this, I’ve just found this headline in the National Enquirer…

“No Bite In The Big Apple? Celine Dion Looks Scary Skinny In New York”

You could adapt this for a restaurant…

“Want a slice of The Big Apple? Five-Star New York Restaurant Is Offering 90% Off For The First 100 Guests…”

Cool headline. I’d be interested.

The Monte Carlo Technique

And finally, my favourite.

Sit down, and pump out 20 to 100 headlines.

In any way you want.

Don’t stop to edit.

Once you’re done go through them again. I guarantee you’ll have at least 5 winners.

Which One To Use?

Try all of them. Then Try combinations.

I start with the Swipe File technique or Three Lenses… With Monte Carlo on top.

Then I use 4Us to further refine my winners.

‘Till next time…

Mihael D. Čačič

Prose To Verse

My dear reader,

How can we copysmiths improve the flow of our writing? Making it more memorable, fun and easy to read?

Is it the editing? Kinda

Is it the powerful visual adjectives? Hyup

Is it the jokes… puns… clever lines… and personality? Ye, but don’t overdo it

However!

There is one exercise I haven’t seen ANY other copywriter do.

Yet this exercise made Benjamin Franklin the MASTER of the English language.

So if it’s good enough for the Editor of the Declaration of Independance… It’s good enough for any run-of-the-mill copywriter.

This exercise is called….

Turning Prose to Verse.

And it will help you write a more beautiful, crisp prose.

(Do it once a week. It’ll help you develop a more intimate understanding of the language. Your copy will flow better, be more memorable, and easy to read.)

But First, What IS a Verse?

Prose is plain talking. It’s what we speak – and write all the time. It has no rhymes, and no recognizable rhythm (also called meter).

Verse, on the other hand, can have rhythms, meter, or both.

If it has both, it’s called a Rhymed verse. If it only has meter, it is called a Blank verse.

Meter is made out of feet. One foot is a pair of syllables.

Now here comes the dum da DUM da DUM DUM de dees part…

Every word (and sentence) is made out of syllables. On paper, they all look the same. But when spoken, some are stressed and some are not.

Like…

we HOLD these TRUTHS to BE self-EVident

Lastly, we’ll check which syllable in the foot is stressed.

If it’s the first, the foot is called a troche.

If it’s the second, the foot is called an iamb.

We can see that Franklins edit is made out of (mostly) iambic feet.

We HOLD | these TRUTHS | to BE | self-EV|ident.

Typically, Shakespearean verses are written in rhymed iambic pentameter. Meaning each line consist of five iambic feet… But no need to follow that at all. I prefer short sentences, with four iambic feet.

The Koan

The instructions are easy.

Take any piece of copy…

And transpose it into a verse of your choice.

(Rhythm or blank, with as many troche or iambic feet as you please… just keep it consistent.)

Example

Here’s an introduction paragraph of a direct mail piece i’ve written for my Dungeons and Dragons campaign.

It’s a letter from my character urging a local dwarf blacksmith (in the town of Farcross) to start smithing and repairing weapons – and not just farm tools. As the Warriors Guild needs good quality weapons to fend off monsters…. (Yeah, Dungeons and Dragons. Epic boardgame.)

Here is the opening paragraph:

My dear old friend,
You know there is an active mercenary guild in Farcross yet there is no place adventurers can fix or buy new weapons? Well by expanding your workshop, ALL traffic would go TO YOU!

Now, I took this paragraph, and after some trial and error, I’ve produced this verse…. (4 iambic feet in each line, except the intro)

My dear old friend,

There is an active fighter guild;
Yet no place hero could rebuild;
His mighty axe that shields the land;
So please expand your blacksmith stand;
And all the traffic would be yours;
Thus making you the richest dwarf;

It ain’t the best verse… and the last rhyme is wonky… HOWEVER, writing this stretched my brains to its limits.

I’ve included a working copy below. Read it OUT LOUD!!! Help yourself by drumming with your first as you read… Strike down on each stressed syllable.

Then try to read it in reverse – stress lower cap syllables. You’ll see that it sound odd to an English ear.

my DEAR | old FRIEND…
there IS | an AC|tive FIGH|ter GUILD;
but NO | place HE|ro COULD | reBUILD;
his MIGH|ty AXE | that SHIELDS | the LAND;
so PLEASE | exPAND | your BLACK|smith STAND;
and ALL | the TRA|ffic WILL | be YOURS;
thus MA|king YOU| the RICH|est DWARF;

’till next time…

By Mihael D. Čačič

Fact-Benefit List

Ever wonder why copywriters fail to make sales?

Learning Dynamics Incorporated (a sales training firm) claims it’s because…

they don’t know how to translate the product features into customer benefits.

Instead, novice copywriters cite endless specifications… Facts… Trivia… Production methods… History… Stats…

Leaving all the hard work of thinking for the customer…

Now…

SPOILER ALERT: Thinking is HARD. And EVERYONE hates to do it.

Let alone the busy prospect.

Just image having to think deeply about every single damn ad you saw on your way to work. You’d die of exhausting halfway there!

What Is a Feature, Anyway?

A feature is a property of a product that you can clearly notice.

It’s the bone dry description. Facts. The obvious.

A benefit, on the other hand, is the usefullness of the feature… TO THE PROSPECT.

That leads us to…

The Kōan

Study, use, research an everyday object in your home. Create a list of its features.

Then imagine a prospect in your mind’s eye – try to “get under his skin”.

Read the list again. But this time stop after reading each line and shout…

“SO WHAT! WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?”

Answer it. And write the benefit(s) of the feature in a parallel column.

Example

My Chemical Pen(ance).

FeaturesBenefits
A cylinder.Won’t hurt your thumb.
+ Grab it anyway you want without much adjustment.
Made of plastic.Is durable, and sweat resistant.
Is see-through.Can see how much ink is left.
Has ergonomic rubber handle.Ensures a tight, comfortable grip that won’t slip.
Button that hides the ink cartridge.I can protect the tip when I’m carring it around.
+ I won’t accidentally smear my clothes.
Inner spring mechanism.The tip jumps in the pen with a click on the button. No double-hand pulling, pushing or twisting required.
Plastic clip near the top.Ensures the pen doesn’t roll off the table.
+ A sleek way to tuck it behind my clothes or pocket for easy transportation.
Can be disassembled.I can replace parts that don’t work (usually the ink cartridge). So I don’t have to buy a whole new pen with it dies: thus saving money.
Is 1/4 inch in diameter.Slender shape. Easy to hold and write.
Is 7 1/2 inch longLong enough to last quite some time.
Black exterior.Signifies the color of the cartridge. If I have a lot of pens I can easily identify the correct one for the job.
“Pilot G-2 05” writing on top.Don’t have to remember the model – which is needed to buy a new ink cartridge.
Is made in France.Signifies quality. Makes me feel secure that this pen will last me a long time.

By Mihael D. Čačič

Mental Movies

Pssst, hey kid……. Wanna… Persuade your prospects?

Of course you do. So show them – let them feel the negative consequences of not taking action… And shower them with rewards if they do.

This technique is called Instilling Mental Movies.

MASTER IT.

… Otherwise kiss goodbye to any chance that your prospect will develop a burning desire for your product… Not with your stale old copy.

Ok, so how’s it done? By using PVAs that focus on VAKOGs of either positive or negative imagery.

Huh…PVAs? VAKOGs?! What the HELL you talking about?

PVA stands for Powerful Visual Adjectives.

(It’s also the noise your prospects make when they read the copy for your deep-dish bing cherry pie made form freshly picked, organic fruit, and a flaky, handmade, buttery crust, topped with a big ‘ol scoop of double-churned vanilla-bean ice cream.)

VAKOG stands for Visual (seeing), Audiatory (hearing), Kinesthetic (feeling), Olfactory (smelling) and Gustatory (tasting)…

By using PVA-VAKOGs to describe a scene, you command the readers attention to the fullest. And can easily instill positive or negative emotions… I hope you can see just how powerful this technique is.

Now, link a few scenes together and your reader just boarded an emotional roller-coster with all gas and no breaks!

Twist and turn his attention any how you want… The same way great novels do. (Or as I like to call them, multi-sensory movies.)

YES, Mihael! I want to learn this! How do I Start?!

Well…

Pick a simple scene…

Observe the details as closely as possible…

And find hard-hitting PVAs that create the most powerful mental representations of the scene.

Struggling to find PVAs? Don’t worry. It’s hard at first because we’re not used to talking like this in everyday life. Learn some PVAs online (google “sensory words”) or while reading your favourite novel.

Pro tip! Start with a plain sentence. Then iterate over it… Adding more and more PVAs with each cycle.

Lemme show you…

Example.

Eat this pear.

Here, eat this sweet, yellow pear.

Why don’t you eat this delicious, mouth-watering, amber pear from the orchards in my backyard.

Sink your teeth into the sweetest, juciest, most delicious bright amber pear handpicked by my 78-year old grandma this morning from our golden, sun-drenched orchards.

Just wait until you sink your teeth into the sweetest, juciest, most mouth-watering bright amber Barlette Pears you’ve ever eaten! And not just one or two… But a full one-dozen of these crisp luscious beauties! Each one carefully hand-picked by my 78-year old grandma this morning from the golden, sun-drenched orchards in our very own back yard!

Feel the difference?

By Mihael D. Čačič

The One Thing That Will Immediately Improve Your Life

Reading time: 7 minutes

Can you guess one thing that every successful politician, businessman, scientist and philosopher had in common?

It is by far the single most beneficial habit you can have to radically transform yourself and achieve your goals. Without it, I simply can’t see how any success is even possible.

The habit of journaling.

I know what you’re thinking. “Pff, journaling is not for tough guys like me. That’s for lovey-dovey teenagers and their dark, twisted fantasies!”.

Well, maybe.

But it is also for you if you want to:

  • Learn how to formulate better arguments and win more often
  • Expand your capacity to think things through
  • Develop a well-organized and efficient mind
  • Find unique solutions to your problems.
  • Form coherent and clear ideas about important issues
  • Reduce stress, improve your mental and physical health
  • Be happier, have more energy, and live a more fulfilling life.

Sounds pretty sweet, huh?

Not only that, once you know how, it is also extremely simple.

In just five minutes, I will explain to you everything you need to know to radically transform your life. Step by step.

All you have to do is give me your left kidney read this article and do the challenge at the end!

Exercise 1: Weeding The Roots Of The Problem

Your brain evolved to solve problems.

So how come you still have so many?

I know it’s hard to believe, but even your amazing brain has its limitations.

Generally, it can consider seven to nine ideas at any given time. But to solve complex problems of our lives, careers and relationships, we need much more than that.

If we are faced with a complex problem we can’t think through, we will develop a thought loop. The problem will constantly loop and loop in our head and we feel like we are chasing our own tail.

Thought loops are deadly. Not only you aren’t able to find a solution, but your brain also hates anything that is left undone. So it will keep coming back to the loop. This can last for months and even years!

To break the loop, we need to temporarily expand our thinking capacity to consider all the necessary ideas. The best way to do that is by writing.

You see, when you write, you download ideas on paper, an external storage. Laying one thought on top of another, you can now give your full attention to only one idea at a time.

This is the basic principle for the first exercise: weeding.

With weeding, your goal is to find solutions to your problems. We are not looking at superficial symptoms – which would be the things that are bothering you, but the underlying root of the problem – why things bother you.

  1. The biggest challenge is defining the problem. Think about something that is bothering you. Look at it objectively – how it is in real life. How would you describe a random person on the street if he had your problem? Now think about it subjectively. How does the problem make you feel?
  2. Once you have described your problem in-depth, summarize it in one sentence. Keep it as short as possible.
  3. Lastly, simply begin to write about your problem. Anything that comes to mind, write it down. Don’t filter yourself, be open to new insights. A solution will most likely pop up after a few lines. Or it might take up two pages.

Do this exercise as much as you want. Multiple times a day even. It will help you solve all the problems you have in your life.

However, sometimes you don’t need to solve a problem. Sometimes all you need is advice.

The next exercise will teach you how you can mentor yourself.

Exercise 2: Advice From A Mentor

A year ago, I was going through hell.

Something happened to me that caused some sort of an existential crisis combined with chronic anxiety. Really severe anxiety.

One day I was particularly bothered with this one question. I climbed a hill and opened up my notebook. At that point, I was confused, anxious, and sad. I didn’t understand what was happening, nor what to do with my life.

But I knew that deep down I have the answers.

So I wrote down “hi.”, and got a reply.

Broken Mike: "Hi Mike"
Chad Mike  : "Hey"
Broken Mike: "Man, I'm having this question: —.
              What do you think I should do about it?"
Chad Mike  : "Hah, this one is easy, listen..."

At first, I was utterly dumbfounded about what just happened. I knew the solution all the time! Maybe not consciously, but subconsciously it was there! And by entering a semi-meditative state with hiking and writing, I was able to mine the gold that was already deep inside my mind.

That day I came home a different person.

Whenever we have questions, we always turn to google, youtube, or friends. Not knowing that we actually might already know the answer. That is no way to conduct yourself. Even a scientist makes a hypothesis based on his intuition first and only then performs experiments.

Every time you are faced with a difficulty and need a bit of advice, ask your alter ego. Your big bro. Your spirit guardian. Your future successful self. Summon the deeper part of you to give you the answers.

“Ask, and you shall receive.”

  1. Take a walk, go in nature or an isolated and calm place.
  2. Breathe deeply to get yourself in a semi-meditative state.
  3. Choose a mentor – your alter ego, who will provide answers.
  4. Take your notebook and say hi.
  5. Respond back: remember, you are the mentor.

Exercise 3: Connecting Values To Your Actions

I discovered value journaling from James Clear.

In his post, James describes a psychological experiment made by the Stanford University. During the winter break, researches chose two groups of students.

The first group had to write all the positive events that had happened during the day. A soft of a gratitude journal.

The second group had to write down all the events, positive or stressful, and connect them with their personal values.

The second group won.

The researchers found that the students who meditated on their values had less stress, visited the doctor less frequently, were happier, healthier, had more energy, and a better attitude than their peers. These changes lasted for months after the experiment.

Stanford professor Kelly McGonigal described the experiment:

“It turns out that writing about your values is one of the most effective psychological interventions ever studied. In the short term, writing about personal values makes people feel more powerful, in control, proud, and strong. It also makes them feel more loving, connected, and empathetic toward others. It increases pain tolerance, enhances self-control, and reduces unhelpful rumination after a stressful experience.

In the long term, writing about values has been shown to boost GPAs, reduce doctor visits, improve mental health, and help with everything from weight loss to quitting smoking and reducing drinking. It helps people persevere in the face of discrimination and reduces self-handicapping. In many cases, these benefits are a result of a one-time mindset intervention. People who write about their values once, for ten minutes, show benefits months or even years later.”

—Kelly McGonigal

Researchers believe that these changes happen because connecting personal values to stressful events gives them meaning. After all, it is well known in psychology that by willingly facing your fears and challenges ahead, a completely different circuitry is activated in the brain.

One thing is a dragon creeping up on you and taking you by surprise. Still, a whole different matter is you going out to hunt dragons and choosing the place of battlefield yourself.

“What is the difference? A dragon is a dragon”, you might say. Yes, but in the latter case, you chose to fight because it is honorable to do so. This reframing makes all the difference. Not only on your perception of the situation but also on your self-esteem.

Your boss wants to talk to you. He summons you in his office. “Although we respect your work,” he argues, “it is currently not needed in our company.”

At that moment, you feel crushed. It is like the entire world is against you. All of a sudden, this massive “dragon of unemployment” popped his head from the shadows. How will you survive the next month? How can you possibly pay the rent? What will your friends say? How on earth will you find a new job?

Questions are racing in your head.

But when you come home, instead of wallowing in self-pity, you decide to fight the dragon head-on. Wasting no time, you sit down, open project-mike.com, and do the writing exercises.

“How will I pay my rent? Easy, I will think of 100 ways I can earn some cash. Food? I’ve got some money saved up. Besides, I can sell my stuff and change my spending habits. I always wanted to try a minimalistic lifestyle. Job? Was I really satisfied? What do I actually want to do with my life? How will I achieve that?”.

Writing frantically for the next six hours, you fall into bed exhausted but excited for a new ahead. The dragon is looking all dumbfounded: “what the heck… I thought you were scared shitless of me”. “Oh, I am.” you boldly respond, “but I am even more excited to hang your head on my wall”.

It’s you who is on the hunt.

We, humans, are both fragile prey animals and exceptional predators. By willingly choosing to go on a hunt, we tap into our nature of vicious hunters.

  1. At the end of the day, write down all the events that happened to you.
  2. Write down five of your most important values.
  3. Connect events with values and explain exactly how this connection exists.

Exercise 4: Introspection For Rapid Progress

I learned this exercise from Scott H. Young. The guy I’m currently taking Rapid Learner from.

For this exercise, you first need to have a well thought out project. I can help you do that in this post.

After you finish your work for the day, document precisely what you did in your learning journal. Meditate on which exercise or studying method was effective, ineffective, and what will you do to improve them. You can even think up new learning drills altogether. Define the problems you are having, and brainstorm for solutions. Consider what is essential for your goal.

Once you are happy with your analysis, write down precisely what you will do tomorrow, and how you expect things to go. This will teach you how to make more accurate predictions.

By documenting your journey, you won’t undervalue your achievements. You will also learn not to overestimate the difficulty of the next step you need to take. Everything you don’t know how to do right now looks difficult. But looking back, everything will seems like child play.

Once you are done with the project, save the journal. It will serve as a guidebook for new challenges in the future.

Exercise 5: One Sentence Per Day Habit

This exercise helped me get started with journaling.

It will help you create a habit of writing daily. Over time you will automatically and effortlessly expand the habit to include one or more exercises I mentioned above. This is the perfect exercise to help you practice your “getting started” muscle.

Every day write one sentence about anything that comes to mind.

Make sure you keep a physical journal. To help you with the habit, place the journal with a pen on your bed or on your toothpaste. This way, you will effortlessly create a new habit with the help of existing patterns.

Challenge For Rapid Progress

  1. Do the Weeding exercise ten times.
  2. Do the Dialogue exercise three times on three separate days.
  3. Write in your value journal every day for one week.
  4. Every time you are done with studying, analyze your progress. Do this five times.

Good luck on your journey!

Becoming a Rapid Learner, Part 2/6: Productivity

Reading time: 6 minutes

Last week I started with Scott H. Young course Rapid Learner.

Rapid Learner is a course that guides you through a strategy for learning almost anything as effectively and efficiently as possible. Great for any student or a professional who wants to deepen their knowledge about a certain topic.

In my first post, I explained how Rapid Learner is structured and what you can expect from it. Make sure you catch up on that first. In the same post, I also reviewed the first week’s module and how I would improve it.

Week Two: Productivity

One thing is having a plan. But following it is a whole new matter.

This week tackles the problem of procrastinating and spending time unproductively. It introduces two fundamental productivity systems. These are made to help you know precisely when and what you should be doing at any given time.

Productivity systems are for everyone. They are especially useful if:

  • You have a plan, but don’t know how to start or continue.
  • You are often overwhelmed or have feelings of guilt and burnout.

A sound system will help you identify the steps you need to take every day to reach your goal. Once you can identify bite-sized tasks, the system will tell you exactly when you should and shouldn’t be working. Productivity is important, but if your system doesn’t take rest into account, you will burn out and quit. We want a system to help us achieve goals and not overwork us to an early grave.

What Exactly Is A Productivity System?

Broadly speaking, a productivity system is a framework of limitations you impose on yourself.

  • Finishing your work by 5:30
  • Having a checklist to do before you call it a day
  • Using a Kanban board

Within this framework, you typically have habits and methods.

A habit is a reoccuring activity that helps you stay on track. This could be planning your work the day before, turning off your phone while working, or even eating well and exercising.

Methods are tricks to help your brain focus on the task. For instance, one straightforward method could be the Pomodoro technique. Methods could also be bargains like rewarding yourself with 15 minutes of video games for every hour of study. Or they could be grand gestures like going to the library even though you could study at home.

Content In This Module

The core lesson and the quick guide of this week teaches you the Weekly/Daily Goals productivity system and how to implement it in your life. Everything else is taught in auxiliary lessons.

  1. The first auxiliary lesson is about the Fixed-Schedule productivity system. Scott recommends you try them both. You can even create a hybrid system.
  2. Improve Your Energy: Scott teaches you all the ways you can improve your energy in your life. Some of the things are rather basic, and some are somewhat advanced. It is similar to what I have written in my post about Purpose Lock.
  3. Kill Procrastination: A few methods for how to muster your willpower and start working.
  4. Make Productivity a Habit: Why do productivity systems fail? Scott presents three main reasons and how to fix them.
  5. The Calendar Look-Ahead Method: A way to upgrade your weekly/daily goals system.
  6. Troubleshooting Weekly/Daily Goals: This section answers some of the most common questions regarding the weekly/daily goals system.

Review

The module was informative, though not as replayable as the first week. Creating new habits is crucial for productivity systems to work. Because of this, it might take you quite some time to see the benefits of your system.

The Good

  1. Productivity systems can get complex. They can become rigid and overly-specific, thus useful only for certain situations. Luckily, Scott kept it simple. He presented only two systems that are comprehensive and applicable to any type of work. You can later use them as a backbone to build more specific systems.
  2. Anticipating and mitigating bad days. There are days when you simply aren’t as motivated and productive. The course teaches you a few methods of how to turn these bad days into average days, and average days into good days.
  3. The course also touches on how to make a habit out of your productivity system. Building a new habit is hard. The module makes this proces much easier, even though the course guidelines are rather simple.

The Bad

There is only one thing I disliked in this module: not enough focus was given on resting and relaxing. Although it was briefly mentioned that you should take “smart breaks” while working, no principles were given for how I should structure my time outside of work. Having deep face-to-face conversations, playing board games, or going on a hike is a better way to rest and relax than it is to watch TV series or play computer games. The way you rest influences how you work. I’ve explained this in-depth in my article here (available on 7.5.2020).

Potential Improvements

  1. I would include more productivity systems. From my understanding, Scott only uses these two. Still, having a dozen more presented could help some people find the one that really works best with them.
  2. I would also describe principles of how to productively spend your free time. A productive free time doesn’t mean you actually work during your time off. It simply means that you return to work in a better shape than when you left it. A lot of people do this part wrong. So I believe having some guidelines for what constitutes a proper downtime could benefit this module a lot.

How it Helped me

Going in this course, I was already familiar with productivity systems and tactics. Still, I managed to find some bits of information that are useful for my current situation.

Overworking

My main problem with productivity was overworking. I generally don’t have a problem logging in the hours and staying focused. However, I always neglect the work-rest equation and eventually come crashing down. This is not good for long-term productivity.

I gave Fixed-Schedule productivity a try. It is still in the experimental phase, but I love the idea that my day has a clear stopping point. Beyond that point, all work is forbidden. This introduces time-scarcity.

For instance, I value making good blog posts. I like to take my time polishing them. However, once I introduce a deadline, I only have a few hours to write and refine my posts. This forces me to stay intensely focused on the task at hand because I know I don’t get a second chance. Once the timer is up, the post goes online.

This opened up more time for me to work on my other passions. Drawing and composing. Activities that I otherwise love to do but often get pushed aside because of my ambitions.

The main problem I have with fixed-schedule productivity is that I can’t implement it most of the time. I am a student who works part-time as a software engineer. On the days that I work or study, I pretty much have to log in 12 to 14 hour a day to finish everything that I want. It is simply not possible for me to work for 8 hours, study, do writing exercises, craft blog posts, and still have free time.

Mitigating Bad Days

On some days, I just don’t feel like working. I still do – but I am lazy, and the work is either not as good or takes me too much time to complete. To shift these bad days to average days, I now use some of the methods that this module taught me. With their help, I can combat unpleasant emotional states and distractions more easily. They help me muster my focus when the focus is scarce.

Then, there are moments or tasks where I am in a state of deep procrastination. When I simply don’t want to do the activity because I don’t value it. Scott briefly touched on deep procrastination. But I go more in-depth in my post about four deadlocks of productivity.

Smart Rests

Resting while working can get very problematic. Done incorrectly, a break can completely neutralize your flow and introduce new distractions in your work. Though I have already written about this, Scott gave me a few new ideas to try.

Conclusion

This week focuses on two main and fundamental productivity systems. Essential if you are just starting with productivity. These two can be used by anyone. A creative professional, a student, or even a stay at home mom (or dad). Scott also mentions some ways you can alleviate the initial discomfort of starting to work, as well as some ways you can make your productivity system a habit.

In the end, the productivity system is nothing more than a few limitations and a set of questions you ask yourself every day.

10x Your Focus: Four Productivity Deadlocks No One Is Talking About

Reading time: 11 minutes

Productivity systems.

They are great and all, but the ugly truth is…

No system or time management in the world can help you.

That’s it. You’re doomed.

Until you solve this one thing.

Energy management

All the time management skills, secret formulas, honest-to-god gurus, online course, or voodoo rituals (okay, maybe voodoo rituals) won’t make you successful. The only thing that will make you successful is your ability to intensely focus on work for an extended period of time.

The purpose of this image is to display the graph of Intensity times time, which gives the amount of work done.

The Problem With Energy Management

Intense focus burns a lot of energy. And energy is, sadly, a finite resource. [1] There is only so much energy you can expend during the day and only so much you can restore. Once it gets exhausted, you’re done. [2] Have fun giving in to temptations, [3] procrastination, and other naughty things that you do when no one else is watching.

Work Capacity As A Water Reservoir

Let us illustrate this energy concept a bit more. Consider your energy – or work capacity, to be a water reservoir on top of a hill. The deeper the tank, the more water it stores. Which means more water can run the mills in the valley during the day. The townsfolk are happy. The rye gets powdered into flour, the electricity runs, and everything works fine. Once the reservoir gets exhausted, however, everything comes to a stop.

But don’t worry, your reservoir comes with a pump. It starts to pump water back into the reservoir whenever the demand for it decreases. The more efficient the pump, the faster the tank gets refilled.

The best way to “pump water” is by resting and relaxing. That’s something I deeply explored in this post (available on 7.5.2020)

Today, however, we will look at how to increase the depth of your reservoir, so more stuff can get completed during the day. This can be done simply by sacrificing four virgins unlocking four deadlocks:

Dopamine, Tummy, Purpose, and Garbage Locks.

Deadlocks are things on which your body unnecessarily spends a lot of energy. Consider this energy locked. You can’t use it until you solve the problems that locked it in the first place. Think of it as if your reservoir has chambers. Big chambers. But they are all sealed off by nasty things. Deadwood, hair, rocks, rats, and cake – or whatever gets stuck in your local water systems. Having and maintaining clean pipes is essential for the water to flow.

Dopamine Lock

Dopamine is an organic chemical in your body that has an essential role in the reward-motivation circuitry. It makes you feel good. It developed to encourage you to do things that, in olden times, meant better survival. By olden times we mean 600 million years ago when our ancestors still looked like jellyfish.

Back then, there were not a lot of things that could give you dopamine. All of that changed in the last century.

We are now literally swarmed with dopamine hitters. Video games that keep us hooked, social media slot machines with likes and notifications [4], excessively sweetened foods, TV series with cliff hangers and fast cut scenes, pornography of the wildest imagination is just a few clicks away. Pretty much everything you consider “fun” that is also wildly popular, got that way because it usurped our dopamine pathways – and in the process kidnapped our attention.

Living in this high-stimulus environment, intoxicated with dopamine, has literary rewired our brains [5].

We are unable to do “boring” activities anymore. Activities, like reading and working deeply, simply don’t release as much dopamine as grinding World of Warcraft or binge-watching Jane the Virgin. Attempt to do them, and your brain will continuously jab you to switch over to a more stimulating activity.

The dopamine circuits are dumb. They evolved way back when higher cognitive functions didn’t exist. The lizard brain still thinks the easy, feel-good way means a better chance of surviving, but it’s actually the other way around!

Try A Low Dopamine Diet

The rules are simple.

  1. If an activity gives you unearned dopamine hit (sugar, social media) = avoid it
  2. If a fun activity has no clear stopping point (video games, tv series) = don’t do it

At first, removing high dopamine triggers will make you sad and cranky. But don’t worry, that is only because you are a filthy dopamine addict. The withdrawal symptoms won’t last long, as your beautiful brain will quickly adjust to the new diet.

Be careful, though. The chance of relapse for dopamine addiction is very high. If that happens, don’t be too hard on yourself. Dopamine hitters have become the standard in our culture. Expect to be under constant siege of temptations. But if you manage to stay clean, you will be spiritually, mentally, and professionally miles ahead of everyone else – the constantly distracted and unfocused.

So what should you do instead?

Do hard things that make you feel good only after doing them. Exercise, cold showers, studying, work, walking, reading, deep face-to-face conversations, various hobbies like painting, tinkering, cooking, writing, blacksmithing. Consider this your new downtime.

Unlocking this lock alone will infuse your life with meaning, calmness, happiness, and productivity. But there is even more.

Tummy Lock

Unlocking your tummy is not only about what you eat, but how much and when you eat.

What you eat

Garbage in, garbage out.

Some foods are harder to digest than others. [6] This means your body will expend more energy and allocate more resources to process such foods. Aid your body by eating easily digestible, low-inflammation foods. Consume olive oil, spinach & other leafy greens, unsweetened oatmeal, walnuts, and some fat (yes, bacon) as your primary energy source.

Drinking various concoctions from ingredients like turmeric, ginger, cayenne pepper, apple cider vinegar, and lemon can also help your digestion and reduce inflammation. These are amazing before a meal since they prepare a very acidic environment that is crucial for proper digestion.

The Wim Hof method and physical exercise are also great ways to reduce inflammation and optimize the brain – as I have already thoroughly explained in my post How to get out of a rut.

How much you eat

Digestion has unwanted biological and psychological effects on us, productivity nutjobs.

Biologically

Stuffing your face with food stifles the blood flow to your brain and skeletal muscles by expanding the blood vessels in your gut. Once your belly is full, insulin is released to regulate the glucose level. Insulin causes brain fog and the feeling of sluggishness (as you know, after a big Sunday lunch).

Moreover, by eating frequently, your body will be continuously exposed to insulin. The worrying fact is that the body adapts to insulin. So it requires higher and higher amounts of it to achieve the same result. All up to the point where your pancreas can’t take it anymore and simply burns out – leaving you with diabetes. Fun.

Psychologically

Once the body eats a large meal, it considers the day to be a success and can begin to shut down. If the organism is full, there is no reason to move or think. “Why expend more energy? We already have everything we need.”.

You might argue that you still can work after eating, or that you can’t work if you’re feeling hunger. The feeling of hunger is usually fleeting, and the fact that you can work doesn’t mean you function optimally.

As the saying goes: “A hungry dog hunts best.”


To unlock your tummy, eat foods that help keep your blood sugar stable (low glycemic foods), and are easily digestible at the same time. Moreover, eat less frequently. Try one of a dozen intermittent fasting routines, or even fasting focused lifestyle. Maybe eat only after your work for the day is done. This works best with a fixed-schedule productivity system, which I talked briefly about in this post (availible on 21.5.2020).

Purpose Lock

A special kind of lock. It has unlimited potential and can even counter the adverse effects of tummy and dopamine lock. In this section, I will not only show you how it works but also suggest what you can do every day to deepen it.

Two-Faced nature of dopamine

Let’s return to our good old friend, the dopaminergic circuitry.

Up until this point, we focused only on the consummatory nature of the circuit. You get rewarded for consuming something. Since 99% of things we nowadays consume are actually bad for us, we aren’t so thrilled about this side of the coin.

Luckily for us, the circuitry also has an incentive reward system. This is what keeps you moving when the going gets tough. The idea that if you just push yourself through pain and suffering, it will all be worth it in the end. A beautiful view from the mountain top, financial freedom, passing the exams, raising children, deepening a skillset, writing an elaborate post about productivity, an organized and stable life. All of these are worthwhile.

You can identify when the incentive reward system was in action by remembering a moment in your life when you toiled hard and suffered for a goal, but looking back, you still have pleasant memories of the process.

So it’s simple. We just say a goal and the incentive reward system will propel us towards our wildest desires. Easy peasy.

Yeah… No. There is a catch.

The incentive reward system can get activated only if you are successfully moving towards a goal that you genuinely value.

You see, it is not necessary that you will experience a firework of orgasmic sensations after reaching an incentive goal, as you do with consummatory rewards: eating sugar, binging TV, or shooting cocaine up your nose. It is that you will be happy while working towards the goal.

The place where meaning is born

Practically all “good” positive emotions in life emerge from pursuing goals. [7] If you don’t have a goal, or you don’t find it to be meaningful and worthwhile, then dopamine chemicals that keep you engaged won’t release. This will cause you to be deeply miserable, do subpar work, or even quit altogether. It is challenging to consistently invest a lot of effort into work you don’t find to be meaningful.

The incentive reward system even has an actual analgesic effect. Some athletes are so focused on the goal during the game, they might not even notice they sustained severe injuries, like broken bones and twisted ankles. They continue to play the game as if nothing happened. This is also what kept Elon Musk working ungodly amounts for decades – with no time off. The goal to technologically advance our species and make life on earth multi-planetary is a goal that is so deeply meaningful and worthwhile to him that he literary can’t do anything else. The same is true for any great person in history.


Once you start moving towards a goal that serves your ultimate purpose, you will notice you get easily absorbed in the activities. You will find them to be remarkably meaningful. This meaning is produced as a consequence of the activation of the exploratory circuit that is nested deep inside the hypothalamus. That is an ancient part of our brain that, among others, also regulates hunger and thirst.

Pause and imagine that for a moment…

Our need for purpose is as old as our need for food and water.

This sends chills down my spine every time I read it.

Meaning is as old as hunger and thirst.

It is such an essential part of being alive that it should not be trivial to say you don’t find your work or free time meaningful. Is it also okay to say you’re starving or dehydrated? It’s a crucial problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

Finding Your North Star

It is challenging to find your calling. In a sense, you can never honestly know it. However, no matter where you are in life, your ultimate purpose leaves breadcrumbs on your way. These manifest in your life as interests. Follow them. Even if they lead you in a dead-end, at least now you moved somewhere. The world will look different from here. Find another breadcrumb. Keep moving. You will get lost a lot in the beginning. Don’t be afraid to experiment and change direction completely. The more experience you accumulate, the better you will be at knowing yourself, which is not much different than knowing your calling.

Here are some things you should consider.

  1. What are your values? Who do you look up to? What are his/hers values? Chances are you see an unexpressed part of yourself in the people you admire.
  2. What type of person are you? Are you logical and price or a builder and creator? Do you like to entertain and present, teach, or talk to people? Are you outgoing and social or reserved and introspective?
  3. Dig into your memory and look for events where you were fully absorbed in the thing you were doing.

If you don’t have interests, then just pick something at random and keep walking. Change direction often. See where the road will lead you. It’s not like you have anything better to do.

The best way to organize and become familiar with your mind is through journaling, which I will explain in an upcomming post. (available next week on 30.4.2020) Also, consider researching your personality type more rigorously. I have a post comming about The Big Five Personality Traits as well. (available on 14.5.2020) You can use these to help you find a meaningful vocation.

Closing thought on purpose

This was a complex section, so let’s create a final overview.

  1. Meaningless or no goals won’t produce any positive emotion.
  2. No positive emotion means you won’t be engaged in the activities you’re doing.
  3. If you aren’t engaged in what you’re doing, the exploratory circuit won’t activate.
  4. If the exploratory circuit lies dormant, it won’t produce the sensation of purpose, or meaning.
  5. Without meaning, you won’t be able to shield yourself from suffering and tragedy of life.

Meaning produces the strength to get you through hard times, and to persevere right to the end.

Developing your full potential as a human being requires the amounts of energy you can get only by living a deeply meaningful life. Therefore choosing a meaningless life is a crime against Humanity.

We are left with one more lock. Let’s keep it short and sweet.

Garbage Lock

Did you just get a new message?

Maybe you should glance at twitter to see what Trump is doing.

While you are at it, switch to a new tab and watch “I tried parenting with Kylie Jenner nails for a week”.


If you have carefully considered your purpose lock, then these calls to action leave a bitter taste. Compared to your purpose, you can now see how wasteful, and even harmful, such activities really are. To take it all the way home, consider this: Memento Mori.

Memento Mori means Remember Death. If you are lucky, you probably have about 40 good years left. That is 14 600 days or 2080 weeks. Now realize how short one day feels like. It passes by in an instant – a second. If one day was one second, you only have four hours left to live out your purpose.

Time is scarce. Be mindful of every moment.

As I have said in the first chapter, we live in a world filled with distractions. And not of the trivial kind like loud lawn mower on a Sunday morning. The distractions we are fighting are extremely challenging to resist and have the ability to hook you once you give in to temptation. Remember, these distractions will steal away your time and energy.

If you want to stay on the path, it is crucial you remove as many of these distractions as possible.

  • Embrace minimalism and clean your work/life environment.
  • Block Youtube or other distracting websites.
  • Become harder to reach. Put your phone on airplane mode.
  • Wear noise-canceling ear muffs while working.
  • Cancel your World of Warcraft and Netflix subscriptions.

Conclusion

Adjust your brain to be content with low-stimulus activities. Such activities might seem tedious at first but are extremely beneficial to your life and long-term well-being. Make sure you stay hungry while working. Then eat foods that regulate blood sugar and can be easily digested. To find meaning in life, follow the Breadcrumbs of Light. These will typically manifest as your interests. Pay close attention to them. They grip you for a reason. Finally, remove distracting triggers that send you down a spiral of bad habits.


Footnotes & Links

[1] Is Willpower a Limited Resource?
[2] Ego Depletion – Roy F. Baumeister
[3] Decision Fatigue
[4] Silicon Valley Insider On Why Smartphones Are Slot Machines
[5] How Social Media Is Rewiring Our Brain
[6] Specific Dynamic Action
[7] Why Work Towards A Goal?

Special thanks to Alex Becker – The Science to Destroy Low Motivation for inspiration.

Becoming a Rapid Learner, Part 1/6: Introduction and Crafting my Project

14 minute read

Scott H. Young is an Ultralearner.

In 2012 Scott decided he wanted to be a programmer. Just graduating from economics, he felt like he didn’t find what he was looking for. He asked himself if he should attend MIT, go further in dept and spend additional four years of his life in college. Scott decided that the answer is no. Going back for a second degree was not a worthy investment of his time and money. After discovering MIT releases all class resources on the internet for free, he decided he will learn the required material all by himself. In just one year.

Twelve months later, he succeeded.

Since then, he went on to tackle other challenges, such as learning to draw portraits in thirty days, Quantum mechanics, and even various languages – Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Korean.

When it comes to learning and productivity, Scott knows what he is talking about.

He runs his own blog, where he shares ideas about studying tactics, productivity, feeling better, habits, life philosophy, and more. But the main reason why I’m writing about him is because he recently upgraded and opened a new session of Rapid Learner.

Rapid Learner is a six-week program that teaches you how to master the process for acing tough classes, accelerating your career and learning anything quickly and efficiently.

Scott on Rapid Learner

Scott distilled years of experience and knowledge into this program.

Back when I was in college, his blog helped me a lot. Not only did I significantly cut my studying time, I also taught myself how to code. With this new skill, I managed to score a lucrative job as a database engineer, even though I’m (still) a Physics student. Going from being broke to being not-so-broke, I decided to give back and invest in this course.

Every week for the next six weeks, I will write about my Rapid Learner experience. I will apply everything from the course to my new learning project – writing for the internet. I hope to present a clear picture of what Rapid Learner has to offer.


You will find this post useful if you are one of the following:

  1. You are interested in buying Rapid Learner yourself, but you aren’t sure what you’re getting yourself into.
  2. You already are a Rapid Learner, but want to see some examples of theory in practice.
  3. You want to learn how to write and need a way to structure your endeavor.

I structured this post in three parts:

Part One: Rapid Learner in Total

Whether you’re a student who wants better grades with less studying, a professional who wants to quickly master your field, or just someone who wants a system for learning anything quickly and effectively, Rapid Learner is for you.

Scott

Rapid Learner is split into two parts. The Core and the Advanced part, each made out of three modules. Each module has one Essential Lesson, one Quick Guide video, and a dozen Auxiliary Lessons.

The Essential Lesson is the bread and butter of the module. It presents and explains the main idea while the Quick Guide will give you a step-by-step structure you can follow to apply theory in practice.

The principles described in are broad. They can be used by a student, as well as a professional software engineer, a librarian, or an artist. Auxiliary Lessons are here to help you successfully adapt the ideas to your situation.

The Core Part

  1. Project: This module is all about the importance of crafting and planning a project. It is similar to what I have described in my Three-Phase-Learning cycle method. Scott argues a project needs not only a clear goal, but also deadlines, milestones, and a clear weekly to-do list.
  2. Productivity: How to get things done. Balance out the work-rest equation, overcome procrastination, and improve your focus.
  3. Practice: The best way to learn new things is through active practice. Avoid passive reading and watching since these activities have a bad Value return on time Investment.

The Advanced Part

  1. Insight: Powerful techniques for learning complex subjects you don’t yet understand.
  2. Memory: How memory works, and how we can exploit its quirks to remember things more efficiently and for longer.
  3. Mastery: The point of learning is to retain ideas for a lifetime. This module explores how to keep and improve your knowledge over long periods.

To recap, the algorithm of the course is as follows:

  • Watch the essential lesson
  • Check the quick guide to see how to apply theory to practice
  • Do the assignment homework
  • If you get stuck check out relevant auxiliary resources

Part Two: Lessons from Week One

What Does Week One Try to Achieve

Week one is concerned with teaching you how to create and plan a good project. A good project is a project you can see through the end and learn something useful from it.

First, a thorough explanation is given for why you need to learn by doing actual and well-designed projects. Scott also gets you to start thinking more deeply about the reasons why you are trying to learn. Your whys will serve as a motivation boost for when the going gets tough.

Then follows a walkthrough for how to design your project in six steps, with six more videos to help you with the endevour.

  1. Crafting projects for practical skills
  2. How Scott prepared for the MIT challenge
  3. Adapt your learning project for school
  4. Finding learning material
  5. Make realistic predictions
  6. Soft Deadlines, a productivity tip to keep you on track

The good

My list of items is ordered form what I think is least vital to the most crucial.

  1. Transcripts, video format, and audio format. Each piece of content can be downloaded in MP3, video, or even text format. All of excellent quality. This allows you the freedom to digest the content in your preferred way, or on the go.
  2. Helpful team, immediate response, vibrant and useful comment section. In my experience and observations, Scott and his team are incredibly responsive and are willing to listen to suggestions. The commenting community is small but vibrant. Reading the comments from other rapid learners has immense value since they describe their personal experience applying theory in practice.
  3. The structure, organization, and user experience design is intuitive and logical: The flow of Theory – Practice – Tips sits well for me. I can also see the interface design being simple to understand even for someone not tech-savvy.
  4. Insane replayability. This module is broad. In the sense you get something new from it every time you watch it. Following through with one project, and you will learn one set of skills. Return after a month with a different kind of project, and you will learn a completely different set of skills. I can see myself rewatching this module whenever I will plan another project in the future.

The not-so-good

In this module, nothing is bad – as to “this shouldn’t be here.”. Some things seem “icky” at first. However, this is the result of a wrong mindset and expectations going into the course.

  1. In module one, not all auxiliary exercises are immediately useful. Note, this might not be the case in the later modules. However, I hope that it is – for this is precisely the reason the module is so highly replayable.
  2. It is rather basic. If you have been reading Scott’s blog for years, high chance you already read 90% of the material in this course. Though groundbreaking novel information was never the selling point. The essence of the course is in organizing and presenting information in a way to best help you apply it in your projects.
  3. The course is broad and abstract. You absolutely must follow it with a concrete learning project. As I’ve mentioned before, the real value of the course lies in leading you, step by step, through the process. Watch passively, and most concepts will fly over your head. By applying theory directly to your project, you learn how to materialize the abstract into the concrete. That is where true learning happens.
  4. Not enough practical examples! I believe this is the biggest weakness of Module One. In my experience, after completing the assignment, there was this looming sense of “what if this is subpar?”. There was no presentation of other ultra learning projects similar to mine for me to get some sort of feedback. I understand, though, the document is an organic one. With weekly introspection, you do refine it over time and find better drills and so on. However, people have a varying degree of introspective ability – which I think is the most common deadlock for further learning. Having a vast vault of ultra learning projects and journals to query ideas & tips – directly from the battlefronts, would be of tremendous help.

How to Improve Week One

As you can see, most “flaws” in Module One can happen only because of a faulty mindset and expectations. There are only two things I would add or change: one minor and one major.

  1. I would join the Homework section and all the worksheets for the current module on one page. I find it slightly annoying to see the worksheet and homework under each video. At first, it gave me the confusing sense of “oh, there is more – homework for each lesson.”. Now, I just find it to be unnecessary clutter.
  2. More practical examples or a vault of ultra learning journals for various projects. A year ago, I tried my first structured attempt at ultra learning – teaching myself how to draw better plants (I had my reasons). Having Scotts 30 Day Portrait Drawing Journal by my side was insanely useful – and I can’t stress this enough. Even though we practiced utterly different things, reading his daily train of thought allowed me to improve mine. Ultralearning is not just about structures and habits. It is a way of thinking. Seeing the story unravel in front of your eyes, or watching a master-thinker at work is priceless. Absolutely priceless.

Conclusion

Overall, in module one, Scott delivers what he promised. Like a great piece of literature, you get something different out of it each time you digest it. Work on the course alongside your project to materialize the abstract and get the most value out of it. And lastly, document. Check out Scott’s journal and start logging your train of though daily. We, the community of ultra learners, need a vault, an archive, a library of Alexandria of all previous ultra learning battles. History is a great teacher, lets learn from it.

Part Three: Structuring my project

In the third part, I will present my project – writing for the internet. It is based on six steps described in the first module. I won’t go into many details – that is Scotts job. I will only take the minimum necessary skeleton to demonstrate what you can expect from the course.

Step 1: A Clear Goal

The What

I am learning how to write for the general audience. To write high-grade posts, I need to strike a balance between the next four dimensions of writing:

  1. Essay writing: Structure the post in a logical and easy-to-follow manner
  2. Article writing: Research what you write about to present factual and real information
  3. Copywriting: Not only to craft exciting headlines but also to persuade and inspire the reader to take action
  4. Story writing: Demonstrate concepts with engaging stories and examples as they easily anchor in the mind.

The Why

He who has a why can bear almost any how.

Friedrich Nietzsche

I have always been interested in producing content. Writing was by far my weakest medium of self-expression. And I’m not happy with that. Here are my reasons why I think writing is a central life skill to master.

  1. The primary reason to learn how to write is so that you can formulate coherent and clear ideas about important issues. Only by thinking about such matters can you live a life of competence, productivity, and originality.
  2. Thinking by itself is limited. But when you write, you expand the capacity to consider several ideas at the same time. Thus you make better and more bullet-proof conclusions.
  3. No matter where in life, the person who can formulate and communicate the best argument almost always wins.
  4. I have personal and professional problems, for which no satisfactory solution yet exists. By becoming a better writer, I will expand my ability to conjure solutions to my problems. This way, I can also help people who walk on a similar path as me.
  5. Life is a tug of war between good and bad ideas. By learning to write and edit, I will be able to tell the difference between the two.
  6. The mind is organized verbally. Only by learning how to think, through writing, can you develop a well-organized and efficient mind.
  7. Without writing, we would still be living in trees. When I’m writing, I am harnessing the full might of culture to my life.

By writing, I am conquering the unknown.

The How

To achieve competence in writing, I estimate that I will need to complete the following goals.

First, I will have to invest twenty hours per week for the next three months. That is 240 hours in total.

Next, I will have to examine the writings of famous bloggers & authors. My current favorite writers are James Clear and Jordan B. Peterson. By comparing their writing side by side with mine, I will be able to spot insufficiencies in structure, story craft, grammar, flow, and transitions more easily.

They say you need to read, in-depth, at least three books to become more knowledgeable in particular a domain than most people. Currently, three books that have grabbed my attention are The Writer’s Journey, The Ultimate Sales Letter, and The Copywriters Handbook. For me, in-depth reading means immediately applying the concepts in practice, until they feel natural to use.

There is nothing better than throwing yourself straight in the deep end. In the next three months, I will write 25 blog posts, not limiting myself to stories or essays. I still don’t know precisely in which direction I want to go as a writer. I want to keep experimenting, and move in the direction I feel is most natural.

Every day I will do writing drills to stretch myself and practice specific elements of writing, like headlines, outlines, intro paragraphs, and others.

Step 2: Learning Materials & Approaches

During my project, I will use the following materials:

Books

  • The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers This book describes the underlying monomyth of every story. Regardless of genre, each story follows a clear progression, called the hero’s myth. Each story also contains characters, which embed the archetypes. These are fundamental tools for any story crafter.
  • The Copywriter’s Handbook This book includes a dozen of copywriting techniques.
  • The Ultimate Sales Letter This book explains why do some sales letters work and others don’t.

Skillshare videos

  • Going Viral: Write content People Share
  • Copywriting for Beginners: How to Write Web Copy That Sells
  • How to Become A Freelance Writer and Make Money From Home
  • Storytelling 101: Character, Conflict, Context & Craft
  • Creative Writing Essentials: Writing Stand-Out Opening Scenes

Daily writing Drills

  1. Outlines: Each post needs a skeleton. Outlining is not actually that time-consuming. I found out, a rough sketch can be done in five minutes. With the help of “fast prototyping”, I can cycle through ideas very rapidly and only use the ones that stand out. Considering I will write two posts and make seven outlines per week, I will have the privilege to choose only the best ideas.
  2. Headlines: The headline makes or breaks the post. It gives an overall feeling of what the post will be about. Here, the concept of rapid prototyping comes into play again. By writing one page of headlines for one post (roughly 30 headlines), I am almost guaranteed to come up with something interesting.
  3. Intro-Paragraphs: Learning is hard, and no one wants to do it. A great intro grabs and leads the reader into the material, without him realizing it. Before he knows it, he has learned something new.
  4. Story-paragraphs: Each post should have some sort of a narrative and interesting sentences. The best way for me to stretch my ability to write more poetically is to short write stories. My friends and I have recently started to play a board game called Dungeons and Dragons. I have decided to make a journal for my character and update it every second day. These logs will be roughy 500 words long. Story-paragraph drill will, therefore, allow me to work on these logs, as well as apply principles from The Writer’s Journey as I go.

Analyze blogs

  1. James Clear

Finally, get feedback from friends, family, or readers. If possible, observe their reaction while reading.

Step 3: Time Required

Here are my initial estimations for how much time each writing session and drill exercise will take. I will log these hours as the week progresses. At the end of it, I will adapt these numbers to fit the real situation better.

  1. Writing 10 hours per blog post twice a week. 2-3 hour per day
  2. Reading 60 minutes per day
  3. Drills 60 minutes per day

Step 4: Deadlines and Milestones

I’m starting my challenge on the 20th of April 2020. The project will end after three months, on the 20th of July 2020. I have two soft deadlines, one after each month.

By the 20th of May, I will have completed

  • 8 Blog Posts
  • The Writer’s Journey
  • 33 Essay Outlines
  • 33 Pages of Headlines
  • 33 Introduction Paragraphs
  • 33 Story Paragraphs
  • Going Viral: Write content People Share
  • Storytelling 101: Character, Conflict, Context & Craft
  • Creative Writing Essentials: Writing Stand-Out Opening Scenes

By the 20th of June, I will have completed

  • 16 Blog Posts
  • The Copywriters Handbook
  • 66 Essay Outlines
  • 66 Pages of Headlines
  • 66 Introduction Paragraphs
  • 66 Story Paragraphs
  • How to Become A Freelance Writer and Make Money From Home
  • Copywriting for Beginners: How to Write Web Copy That Sells

Lastly, By the 20th of July, I will have completed

  • 25 Blog Posts
  • The Ultimate Sales Letter
  • 100 Essay Outlines
  • 100 Pages of Headlines
  • 100 Introduction Paragraphs
  • 100 Story Paragraphs

A potential trap I might fall into is June’s examination period in college. Because of that, I will try harder during May to do some work in advance. There is no point in cramming, though, since the power of the drills lies in the fact that they are done daily.

Step 5: Break Down the Work

Due to the nature of my project, every week is going to look the same. The pace I need to keep up is the following:

  • Write a blog post on Monday and Thursday (done is better than perfect)
  • Make one drill exercise each day (1 outline, 1 page of headlines, one introduction sentence, one story-paragraph)
  • Read 12 pages of a book every day. By keeping this pace five days of the week, I will still be on time with my plans.
  • Invest one hour every week in skillshare videos

Not going into too many details, I expect to write roughly 50 journal logs for my DnD character (25k words) and 25 blog posts with an average length of 3000 words (75k words). Here, I didn’t include the drills since their purpose is only to help me write, and not produce any kind of body of work. Still, 100 000 words (or medium length books) in three months is a fair amount for someone who is still in college and works part-time.

Step 6: Review and Update

Once a week, on Sunday, I will review everything I have written the corresponding week. I will also reread this document, update it and write a weekly journal.

This Simple Routine Will Get You Out of a Rut in One Afternoon

7 minute read

Ugggh…

Don’t you just hate it when it happens?

You’ve been productive, getting tons of work done, feeling good, and the progress is plenty. Then it happens.

You wake up. Brain fog. Energy drained. Willpower depleted. You’re irritable, anxious, moody. Responsibilities and habits can wait. All you do is hit the couch and binge-watch the entire season of Britannia. Yeah, I’ve been there. Yesterday.

A rut usually happens because of three reasons.

  • You entertained a boring and unchallenging routine.
  • You burned yourself out with an overzealous lifestyle.
  • Or you recently did something that knocked you out – you ate food that doesn’t agree with you, drank, binged, or stayed up all night.

Doing any of these is like driving your car from the highway straight into a wall. Your body won’t like it one bit.

The problem with a rut is that you think you need to stay there until you grow tired of self-pity and other destructive behaviors. But remember what Newton said: “The object at rest wants to stay at rest – the object in motion wants to stay in motion.”. The only way to get out of the rut is to rebuild your momentum. Start small and snowball.

Here is a checklist I use whenever I feel a shell of my former self. Often, it is enough for me to do two or three of the exercises. Try some yourself.

#1: Drink a health potion

Every time you feel down, the first thing to check is your hydration level. Most people are chronically dehydrated. Especially if they drink a lot of coffee. Coffee is diuretic, meaning it prevents reabsorption of water in your urinary tract, making you expel way more than necessary.

The purpose of this image is to present the needs of the body, from biggest to smaller; thirst, hunger, sleep, fun.

Gulp down a ton of fluid. But don’t go drinking tap water just yet. Tap water doesn’t contain any minerals. By drinking a lot of it fast, you risk kicking yourself out of homeostasis – the mineral & chemical balance of your body. Without the proper minerals, your neurotransmitters won’t be able to work, thus making you even more exhausted.

Rehydrate with coconut water. It contains a ton of minerals. Drinking two to three liters of coconut water is guaranteed to provide your system with all the minerals it needs. If you can’t afford coconut water, drink salt water. Simply add 1 teaspoon of table salt and 1/2 teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate into one liter of water. Chug it every hour for three hours straight.

#2: Load up on the Bees

Vitamin B and D are the most common deficiencies. Vitamin B, like minerals, is crucial for neurotransmitters to work, while vitamin D kicks your immune system up a notch. If you can, always get your vitamins from a natural source and not supplements. Your body can absorb the vitamins from organic sources much better than from pills.

Vitamin D

There is a cholesterol molecule named 7-Dehydrocholesterol that is naturally present in deeper layers of the skin. If exposed to ultra-violet light, it will undergo a chemical reaction and transmute into Cholecalciferol, or vitamin D. [1] Because glass absorbs a lot of UV light, sitting at home, even if your room is lit with natural light, will not cause this reaction to happen. So make sure you take at least a twenty-minute walk.

Vitamin B

The best natural source of vitamin B is nutritional yeast and organ meat. There is nothing better than a nice meal of beef liver with onions. The liver acts as a storehouse for vitamins and is therefore extremely nutrient-dense. Eat a polar bear liver and you can actually die from vitamin overdose. But don’t worry, beef liver is not that potent, although we still consider it a superfood.

A stick figure loading boxes on a giant bee. The purpose of this picture is to create a memory image that is easy to remember.

If you can’t get the natural versions of the vitamins, visit your local drug store. Get a good quality vitamin D. Usually sold in oil capsules. Vitamin B is actually a whole family of vitamins. Make sure you get the B-complex supplement, which includes all the necessary members of the family.

#3: Do a Wim Hof

Wim Hof recently rose to fame with his breathwork & cold exposure routine. It promotes increased energy, heightened focus, willpower, and determination, as well as enhanced creativity and immune system. It has been scientifically proven you can influence both the autonomic nervous system and innate immune system doing his techniques. Both of these were thought to be systems we can’t consciously control [2]. Wim Hof method is literally rewriting medical textbooks.

The routine is short but intense. It consists of deep breathing and cold exposure. The best way to get started is to download the free android app.

Remember, you can lose consciousness while doing the breathwork. Make sure you sit or lie in a safe place while doing it!

One breathing cycle consists of thirty deep breaths. One second for inhaling, one second for exhaling. Halfway through the cycle, you might feel charged, dizzy, and maybe even nauseous. You might also get muscle spasms or emotional reactions. Just keep breathing. After thirty deep breaths, forcefully expel all the air from your lungs. Then hold. For as long as you can. You will be surprised to learn you can stay with no air in your lungs for two minutes or more. When you feel like you can’t go on, inhale deeply and hold for fifteen seconds. This is the recovery breath. Exhale and breathe normally for a few moments then repeat two times more.

The second part is the cold exposure. This will shock your system. Immediately after rigorously oxidating yourself, take a shower. A cold shower. If this is something new to you, start with a regular warm shower and progressively make it colder. Make sure to breathe controllably and deeply. Stay in the cold for at least fifteen seconds.

Once you get used to the cold – which you eventually do, experiment with alternating between hot and cold water. This is a fantastic workout for your cardiovascular system. You might experience a flush afterward. An itchy sensation caused by a rapid expansion of capillaries under your skin.

#4: Break a sweat

Usually, one Wim Hof routine will be enough to get you out of the rut. Keep building the momentum with High-Intensity Interval Training. I love to do sprints or shadowbox. But you can also go for a swim, run or hit the gym. However, don’t work out at your average pace. Kick it up a notch and gas yourself out.

As you’ve heard a million times before, working out releases endorphins and improves cognition and memory. It’s obvious. After our ancestors successfully ran away from a hungry lion, they had to accurately remember how they managed to do so. Same thing with hunting. Learning in these high-intensity situations was crucial for the survival of our species. It’s no wonder our brains adapted to work optimally after rigorous physical exercise.

#5: Stretch Yourself Like a Shaolin Warrior

Concluding your HIIT training, do a stretching routine. If you have never stretched in your life, do a simple Sun Salutation. I’m quite flexible, and I know my yoga. I’m currently trying out more extreme “Shaolin” stretches. This involves simple exercises but cranking them up a notch. Like going in the box split and staying in it for two, three minutes, or even more, feeling indescribable pain.

Stick figure overstretching his arm. The purpose of this image is to humorously display bad stretching.

I have similar exercises for my hamstrings, quads, and lower back. My favorite is a modified bridge exercise in which I lie down on my back but tuck my legs behind it. If you are already flexible, I encourage you to experiment with more intense stretches.

#6: Enter Survival Mode

By now, you probably feel hungry. Don’t eat. Fast. After loading up on vitamin Bs, try to fast for the next 16 hours minimum. Skip dinner or drink bone broth. This will be hard, but if you can get past your cravings you will feel much better the next day. I experienced this many times during my two-month fasting experiments. It seems paradoxical at first. How can consuming less energy make you more energized? Let us take a more in-depth look at our bodies.

The body is extremely good at storing energy. As you (re)learn every time you try to fit your pants after the holidays. It does so in two distinct ways. By storing glycogen in the liver and lipids in the fat tissue.

A sitck-figure chasing a rabbit. The purpose of this image is to display what happens when your body is starving.

Glycogen stores are readily available energy that is burned up fast. It can get fully depleted in a day or two. Every time you contract and relax your muscles, a molecule called Adenosine TriPhosphate (ATP) is burned up. These molecules are made in the cell’s mitochondria through a process called cellular respiration. Broadly speaking, respiration requires oxygen and glucose. [3] This is the reason why you start to breathe more rapidly during physical exertion. Once you burn all the ATP, it only takes a few moments before stored glycogen is transported and transmuted into glucose – used to restore the ATP balance of the muscle.

Lipids are harder to query and can store vast amounts of energy. Depending on your body weight, your fat tissue can supply you with enough energy for weeks, months, and in some cases, even years. But the stores are activated only after your glycogen stores have been depleted. Once that happens, your body will start to produce ketones as the primary energy source. These are made by the liver from fatty acids. So don’t worry, even though you might feel temporarily cranky from depleting your glycogen stores, you won’t starve to death.

Only after you have used up all your immediate available energy, your body goes into the hunt mode. During this time, It is crucial that it actually catches food – more so than when you were fed.

All functions involved with hunting will get drastically enhanced during a fast: running, tracking, smelling, hearing, communicating, thinking, and coordinating.

This is achieved with the help of ketone bodies for energy, growth hormone to protect the muscles, adrenaline to boost performance, autophagy to recycle wasteful cells, and other good stuff.

Cleaning up your body by fasting is a great way to help you get out of a rut. Fasting shocks your body into the “oh shit, I have to survive” mentality.

If fasting spiked your interest, do a lot of research. Fasting-focused lifestyle, if done correctly, can be extremely beneficial; but even a small miscalculation can produce severe consequences down the road.

#7: Rethink your routine

Lastly, sit down and journal. Inspect the events and the routine that got you here. See what you can modify in a way that will make you happy. If you overworked yourself, cut down on the work. If you were stressed out, schedule in boring and relaxing walks, or an additional hour of social time. Maybe some of the steps here resonated with you, and you want to make a daily habit out of them. If that is the case, I wish you good luck.

Conclusion

Take care of your body. Feed it the right kinds and amount of food, stress it under the right conditions, and it will perform at an optimal level. Live the routine you want to live. Avoid high stimulus activities. Keep building up the momentum you gained this afternoon. Soon, you will reach the speed you were once at.


Footnotes & Links

[1] From Vitamin D to Hormone D: Fundamentals of the Vitamin D Endocrine System
[2] Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans
[3] Cellular Respiration, Oxygen is the High-Energy Molecule Powering Complex Multicellular Life.