Richard Feynman passed away 26 years ago on this date. I was not even born 26 years ago (1990, what’s up!). Richard Feynman was one of the greatest professors of all time. Let’s sume up a little. He studied at MIT and Princeton, where he was invited by Niels Bohr to work on some special project called ‘the Manhattan Project’. For everybody who doesn’t know: this is the group of scientists which invented the A-bomb.
During his time at the Manhattan Project he kept joking around, having a lot of fun in his life. One of the many examples of this is that he breached the security of the Project by lockpicking a safe of one of his bosses.
Later on in life he became a professor and was very successful in the field of quantum mechanics. He kept on entertaining and he kept on teaching. He teached students, as well as regular people with written works on his life, on quantum mechanics and how to stay away from the regular path.
Oh and did I mention he won a Nobelprize for Physics?
One of his written works is ‘Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman‘. Here he described a lot of situations where he did something, which seems very logic out of context, but is hard to understand for people who work with him. A big recommendation for everybody who is aspiring a successful professional (and/or academic) life, as well as a lot of fun. This post will focus on some of the biggest lessons we can learn from his life.
Study by Creating Examples
“Another thing I did in high school was to invent problems and theorems. I mean, if I were doing any mathematical thing at all, I would find some practical example for which it would be useful.”
When studying Feynman always created examples to understand the concepts of what he was studying. This is a fairly odd way to study such an abstract field of science, but it seemed to work for him. You can do this in any field and it will probably work in every field. It might take some practise though in work like Math or Rocket Science.
Always be on the lookout for examples. Examples give you a grasp on the material through reality.
He also does this when talking to other people:
“I had a scheme, which I still use today when somebody is explaining something that I’m trying to understand: I keep making up examples.”
With this scheme he was always able to ask really good questions to his sparring partners in discussions, something which is frustrating for his colleagues at first, but very valuable on the long term.
In the book he describes some really interesting (and most of all funny) conversations with colleagues while using this scheme.
Keeping an Open Mind
A painter once explained how to make yellow paint by mixing red and white. Feynman said it was impossible and couldn’t see how it was done. Eventually the painter simply did it by adding some yellow paint. Feynman should have had an open mind and he would understand. He later acknowledged he had problems with this in his academic life as well.
“I’ve very often made mistakes in my physics by thinking the theory isn’t as good as it really is, thinking that there are lots of complications that are going to spoil it-an attitude that anything can happen, in spite of what you’re pretty sure should happen”
Always expect anything can happen and every result will seem logic to you.
Always Do Important Work
About teaching a class in physics at CalTech:
“I have to have something so that when I don’t have any ideas and I’m not getting anywhere I can say to myself, “At least I’m living; at least I’, doing something; I’m making some contribution” – It’s just psychological”
Feynman made it a point to always teach. Always do some sort of important work, even when you are not doing anything else at all. This way you will always have something to show for, something to be proud of.
If you combine this with the idea of Identity Capital, you always will have motivation to do some sort of meaningful work. To always take some sort of step in the forward direction in your life.
Discuss what You Are Studying
Richard was offered to teach a class in Brazil for a period of time, which he gladly did as it gave him a chance to study another language. He saw something interesting in these students:
“So you see they could pass the examinations, and “learn” all this stuff, and not KNOW anything at all, except what they had memorized.”
In Brazil, the students only study definitions, formula’s. They didn’t use actual examples in them, they didn’t discuss what they are learning. Questions in class would only delay the class and it costs time for the rest of the students in the room.
Interesting enough when he asked questions the class could reproduce the definition, but they could not use it into practise. They were never thought to neither were they motivated to.
When you are studying a concept or a formula, discuss it with friends. Put it into practise and see what you can do with it.
Go. Act. Do.
Richard Feynman was, as you wouldn’t expect of a scientist, fairly good with women. How he learned this? By doing. He went to night clubs when he was giving lectures somewhere, out of boredom and out of curiosity. He saw how other guys could simply talk to the ladies and how some other guys could only gaze at them and giving them drinks. He analyzed what the successful guys did and actually talked to a couple of these guys. He understood and he knew what to do: practise talking to girls. And he did.
“At first I was a little bit afraid: the girls (show girls in Vegas) were so beautiful, they had such a reputation and so forth. I would try to meet them, and I’d choke a little bit when I talked. It was difficult at first, but gradually it got easier, and finally I had enough confidence that I wasn’t afraid of anybody.”
He trained himself in getting out of his comfort zone. By this he did something a lot of people are too afraid of to do. By getting out of your comfort zone you are growing fast as a person. A nice side-effect for Feynman was he talked to some very beautiful girls.
Feynman was a great scientist, an amazing professor and a fun guy to be around. Check some of his videos on physics, read the book ‘Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman‘ and you will learn some valuable life lessons. By this we will keep the legend alive.
To get an example of who and how Richard Feynman is, check out this hour long interview with him.
Of course, 2014 has already started, but I don’t think I’m too late for defining and publishing my three words for 2014.
This exercise is something I picked up from a Dutch friend, who learned of it from Chris Brogan.
The exercise is not very simple and requires some deep thought beforehand, something I did during a flight of a couple of hours.
Chris puts it like this:
“The idea is that the words you choose will go past being a simple goal and will become part of the way you identify yourself, and thus, a guiding light for your efforts.” – Chris Brogan
The idea is that you define three words, which will function as a daily reminder of your goals. So they can remind you to take a certain action, or be a certain way.
My Three Words
No. I have a tendency to say yes to everything. Help everyone, do work on projects and work out every idea I have. This goes against my pretty lazy nature and it results in a lot of work on my part. I want to say no more, so I can focus on the work which I do right now and choose what I want to do later. Another part of this is say no more to simple urges, like checking Facebook, messengers and watching television shows before going to bed.
This no doesn’t mean negativity, it means more thoughtful choices of where I spend my time and valuing my time appropriately.
No: Work with attention on the current task and choose consciously what to do next.
Deep. Although I am definitely satisfied with what I accomplished in 2013, maybe even proud, I feel like I’ve been lacking ‘deep work’. Deep work is a concept described by Cal Newport where you work with attention on a mentally demanding tasks:
“Deep work: cognitively demanding activities that leverage our training to generate rare and valuable results, and that push our abilities to continually improve” – Cal Newport, ‘Knowledge Workers are Bad at Working (and Here’s What to Do About It…)‘
Most of my work was fairly shallow, with quick results. I feel the lack of deep work shows both in my online life (StudySuccessful for example) and in my academic/offline life. I want to create a habit of working deep two or three times a week. Where I will read a scientific article, or where I think about a concept for a blog post.
Deep: Practice with cognitively demanding activities.
Structure. In the end of 2013 I started using the ‘Weekly Review’ where I go through all my inboxes, calendars and notes of the past week and review whether I am still on track. This gives me an up-to-date feeling every week and I love these little 30-60 minutes in my week. (More on the weekly review including a detailed list on what I review later.)
This little extra piece of structure in my week helped me a lot in finding continuity in my projects, being up to date on meetings and follow-up with these meetings (emails to send, people to connect with on different networks). I love it. Although spontaneity is great, and a lot can be found in chaos, structure is needed to deliver great work. Structure can be a foundation on which you will personally excel.
Structure: Finding a structure in my daily life on which I will excel.
What are your words?
No, deep and structure are my three words for 2014. I hope to be reminded of them on a daily basis and I hope they will remind me to be a good person. What are your three words?
With a busy student life one of the things which you can easily forget is working out every once in a while. A schedule with classes during the day and extracurricular activities in the evening doesn’t have much space for gym sessions, football practise or swimming a mile or two.
Even though we understand how important regular exercise is for your mental health as well it can get out of focus. Therefor you can try the 7 Minute Workout.
“The Scientific” 7 Minute Workout
The idea behind the workout is very simple. A set of exercises you each do for 30 seconds with 10 seconds of rest. In total? 7 minutes. Check out an elaborate article about the workout.
How it works is easy as well. There are a bunch of iPhone apps available to use as a guidance during the workout and all you need is a chair. I summarize the workout in this Vine (a 6 sec video, I’m doing more of these simple explanations, check out my channel :))
So that’s all you need. Sporting gear, an iPhone app and a location. And I’ve talked in a serious voice to you, which probably helps.
How to implement the workout?
Having a way to do this every couple of days is key. You need to find a moment during your day where you can do this workout, just to get some regular exercise.
Try in the evening before going to bed. A good reason for a before-bed shower as well. Or try right when you get up. What is a better way to start the day?
I’ve been working with the morning-routine. Try to get up 15 minutes before you get up regularly, as that is around the time you need to get your clothes, go to the location and get back. Now try to do this 3 days a week (monday, wednesday and friday).
How did this work for you? Any thoughts?
The last two years I had a simple PDF file online, it was called ‘How to build a Blog as a Student.’ It was a guide on building your own website, with screenshots explaining the several steps.
It was a pretty neat guide, even though I am biased. It was simple, it was complete and it was probably helpful.
There were also a couple of things wrong. First of all, the name. The guide was in the first place on building a BLOG, while what most students need is a WEBSITE. Although this guide showed you how you can build a website as well, it was focused around the word ‘blog.’ This resulted in more information on blogs (case studies for instance), while most of the people were interested in case studies about websites. I changed this, the guide is now COMPLETELY focused on building a website, not a blog (although you could still use it).
Second of all, how I promoted the guide. Nothing more than a simple sidebar ad, while I think it is really important to build a website for yourself. A personal hub, a go-to place for employees and a portfolio is important for everybody who is looking for a professional career. How I am going to change this? It is getting a more prominent place on my website and I will refer to it more.
Third of all, the aftermath. I made the guide, set it up and I forgot it somehow. This came to a point where I even removed the sidebar ad, as I didn’t want people to read it anymore. Now I am going to handle it a little bit more professionally, working on following up with the people who downloaded it to help if necessary.
And now the v2.0 version of the guide is ready!
How to build your own Personal Website
Enough meta-talk. I have a cool guide to share. Why should you have your own website?
There are three main reasons:
Full Control of your Google Results
By owning your own website you will instantly gain a lot of access on the results people get when they Google your name. Google’s algorithm responds very well on the exact match in a domain name. Which means StefanKnapen.com gets a lot of love from Google for the search phrase “Stefan Knapen.” By owning your own domain you get a lot of control over your search results.
No matter what your job will be, owning the first page of Google for your name can mean a lot. The most important thing? You are not the only one who can register your name as a domain name. By claiming your own name in a domain right now you prevent other people from doing so. You could see it as online protection of your brand.
Personal Social Hub
With a personal website you’ve created a ‘hub’. A place where people can find you and a place where you can link to from all your social media accounts. This hub is the place where you can tell everything about yourself, show who you are both on- and offline.
The hub would be the place where you can put a résumé (partially or complete) and where you can show off your portfolio.
With a personal website you can show off examples to possible employer’s or potential customers. If you incorporate a blog into your personal website you can show off thought processes, writing skills and how you are up to date with the latest trends in your field.
For instance, you can use the blog as a business student by talking about recent developments in the online world. You could write posts like “5 Take-Overs by Social Media Giants.” These type of posts have a high chance of being shared by your readers and could generate some buzz around your brand.
The HOW part
- A Step by Step Guide. Starting at the process of getting a domain name and ending at your first published page!
- Screenshots of every step. Technical talk can be hard to understand, I believe visual can help a lot here. The screenshots show clearly what to do and how.
- The Workbook. I’ve created a simple workbook to make sure you are starting in the right way. A couple of simple assignments so you know what you are going into.
- Discounts for HostGator. With a simple coupon code you can get the hosting and domain name for a lot cheaper!
- YOUR PERSONAL WEBSITE. Downloading this guide (and an evening of work) will result in your own, personal website. This gives you the opportunity to say to people: “Well, yeah.. I own my own website, Google me.” (Don’t do this, you will be a douchebag.)
Sounds good? Cool. Download the ebook NOW. It’s free
Building a sellable personality as a college student can be frightening. Once you enter college you only have 4-6 years left to get some sort of degree, to show off ‘who you are.’ On the other side we also have to work on extracurricular activities in order to develop yourself as an individual.
Understanding key concepts on building a personal (and professional) identity early in life can give you a big advantage compared to your peers who have never heard of these concepts.
One of the concept you are going to learn today is the concept of “Identity Capital.” Identity Capital is a term coined by Meg Jay in her book “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most Out of Them NOW.” As a twenty-something, this is one of the best personal development books I’ve read in a long, long time.
Meg Jay writes:
“Identity Capital is the currency we use to metaphorically purchase jobs and relationships.”
Although it sounds monetary, identity capital has nothing to do with money. You can see it as ‘mental capital.’ Capital which you build up over time with everything you do. It grows when you do interesting/inspiring things and it decreases when you lay in bed all day watching television.
Identity Capital is what people talk about when they talk about “Investing in Yourself.”
For me there are basically two types of Identity Capital.
- Capital which you would put on your résumé. This includes degrees, workshops you attended and jobs you held.
- Capital which does not fit on a résumé. This can be (un)trainable personality traits, such as charisma or being empathic. Also random skills like playing the guitar or being able to solve a Rubik’s Cube are put here.
Focus on Building Identity Capital
After learning and hopefully understanding the concept of Identity Capital you have to work towards a continuous effort to grow your identity capital. You can do this by simply focusing on the learning opportunities which you come across in your dialy life.
Take for instance looking for a side job in college. Would you rather stack shelfs at the local Wal-Mart or would you be a resident adviser, although it may pay less? Although stacking shelfs could be the easy fit, not too high-demanding and you won’t have any responsibility, chosing the latter would give you more Identity Capital. You learn to deal with problems, learn how people work and you will learn how to handle responsibility.
Picking a side job seems obvious, but the same goes for other choices. Although it is important to relax every once in a while, choose for capital building leisure activities, if you have the opportunity. Reading is always a good one, try to read a personal development book every once in a while. When you go on vacation, you can obviously go to the beach for four weeks, but maybe an interesting trip into the country can be exciting as well. Watching TV shows when you are switching down at night? Watch the Sopranos instead of the regular talk shows to get some sort of quality TV.
Why Should you Build Identity Capital?
Hopefully it is becoming clear building somewhat of Identity Capital is important, even it is only to grow as a person.
But there are more advantages as well.
When you are working on a certain skill, or reading a certain book or when you are engaging in an interesting job you get the feeling of Mastery. When you get more experienced, when you work more, you will understand the job better. After these experiences you will feel you’ve mastered something.
The best moment in my 6 months of playing the guitar right now was when I could pick up my guitar, find the tabs of “Ring of Fire” (of course, by Johnny Cash) and I just could play it. I didn’t need any practice, as it is an easy song. But the chords just made sense to me and the melody was familiar. I had a sense of mastery (although I am not anywhere near a guitar master) in my journey to understand the guitar.
Mastery works motivating, building Identity Capital gives you this as a reward every once in a while.
Spending Time “Useful”
One of the biggest dangers in college life is wasting time. Playing Candy Crush for hours (I’m at level 305, who can beat me?), browsing Reddit or just watching TV with friends. All of the sudden a year is over and you have nothing to show it. When you focus on building Identity Capital you always have something to show.
So when you are right out of college and you have to settle for a job below your education level, try to go for a job which will bring you some sort of Identity Capital. Meg Jay’s example in her book was a girl who had to choose between a job as a barista or an entry job at a digital design studio. Both were low-paying, but the work you do in the design studio will be more rewarding in the long term. It may seem like ‘paying your dues’, but it is nothing more than investing in your future.
You will create Stories
Stories matter. When you enter the job market your interviews won’t be checklists. They will be genuine conversations. With stories you can show real-life examples, in an interesting way, of how you are and why you are that way.
When focusing on Identity Capital you are creating stories. The vacation at the beach? Not that interesting. Going to a distillery in Scotland, please tell me more!
Take for instance my buddy Thomas Frank, from College Info Geek. He chose to build a blog completely of his own, by which he managed to pay off all his student debts. He has an amazing story to tell and a lot of people will be psyched to hear what that story is.
Working on your stories is something you can only do by getting out there. Have interesting jobs, create social skills and get more out of life than what the local paper is offering you.
The time is now, your college years are the perfect opportunity to start creating a Warren Buffet worthy capital of Identity.
Personal Development is nothing more than the stack of experiences with a flavor of your personality. Build the stack, work on the flavor. In time you will have a jaw-dropping personality!
Identity Capital is build one piece of capital at the time. What is something you can work on today to improve your story? What will do in the upcoming week in order to be satisfied with the past week? What is something you’ve worked on and where you are proud of? Let me know.
Ps. The book by Meg Jay, ‘The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them NOW’ can be a great help to every twenty-something. Check it out. If you are not sure, watch the TED talk by Meg Jay, “Why 30 is not the new 20“.
People following the StudySuccessful Facebook Page received some teasers already. I was working on something.
In my life I talk with a lot of people, lot of friends of course, but I also meet a lot of new people. Most of these people have an interesting story to tell. A couple of those interesting stories are about how to live a successful college life. Their story resonates with the message I try to communicate on this website: You can get a lot out of college life.
Listening to these stories I was looking for a way to share these with you. I’ve tried doing something with a podcast, which was too hard to maintain. I tried something with video as well on a Flip Camera. That camera broke. Of course I’ve been working on writing these stories down and although I think the written word can be very strong, I think a story needs a voice of it’s own. I needed an interview.
With that idea, and a roommate who knows a thing or two about film, the StudySuccessful Interviews were born! Today I would like to share the first episode with you. The idea is just two people talking over a couple of beers about getting the most out of your college/twentysomething life. Nothing fancy, just an interesting conversation with interesting people. Every episode I will invite another guest and we will talk for 20-30 minutes about their story.
StudySuccessful Interviews Episode 1: Julius Glauche
This episode is with a buddy of mine from my study. I work with him in several projects and I think he is a fairly interesting guy. He gets the grades, he does the extracurricular activities, but he has also a ton of personal insights and he always attends every party.
A highly sociable guy who is also successful in his academic endeavors. An interesting study object.
In this episode we talk about three rules he lives by which help him in his life.
Check out this episode now.
So that was the first episode of the StudySuccessful Interviews. There are more to come! We have our rooftop terrace ready and people have been contacted. Let me know what you think about these interviews and let me know what kind of topics you would like to see discussed.
Share you thoughts, would love to hear from you! Like the StudySuccessful Facebook page in order to stay up to date when a new episode will air! You can also subscribe to the StudySuccessful YouTube Channel, where these videos will be published.