Your Simple Guide To Being Funny 1: Mindset And Finding The Comic In You

You have probably met those types of people, the ones that always have a witty remark that fits every occasion and that always brings the room to laughter. How do they do it? And how can you be like them?

The good news is that you can. Any skill can be learned and humor is one of them. The first step is to begin thinking funny.

You need to start finding the funny in everything. Funny people are just those that see the world in a different way. Stop being so serious and start seeing the absurdities of the world. The world isn’t serious. You can find the humorous part in every daily action imaginable.

What you need to do in order to do that is to reframe your mind. Put a different spin on daily events. See the humor in everything.

Start by observing what is around you, see the funny relationships and connections. Train yourself to see the humor.

Use what Jerry Seinfeld calls your “third eye”. It’s something that every comedian has in order to be able to view life with an ironic dettachment. This eye is the one that looks at what is happening from the funny angle, distances itself from the situation and sees its ridiculousness.

Life is full of humorous things, but you need to be able to see under the surface of what appears a serious world.

Here are some examples to point out the absurdities of the modern world:

256px-François_Clouet_004

How do you find the picture above? The clothing is a little ridiculous right? You would probably chuckle at anyone wearing that today. However in the 18th century that was perfectly normal clothing and nobody would even bat an eye, if they saw it.

And now something from the modern world, just a different continent:

pgourd1b

For Papuans this is pretty normal clothing. Nothing to laugh about for them…

How about for you? 🙂
Read More

To Be Or Not To Be: When To Be A Contrarian Thinker And When Not To Be

640px-Bulle_und_Bär_Frankfurt

What we often see today is people going with the herd, falling into groupthink and never thinking for themselves. Even groups that profess to go against the mainstream (like the “goths” or hipsters for example) usually just reproduce the trappings of a mindless herd, with their own uniforms and ideology.

This type of herd mentality is due to our own evolutionary backgrounds. If you observe the way herds of animals behave in the wild, you will see how this works and why it is often beneficial for the individual not to stray away from everyone else.

There is safety and power in numbers and the lone individuals that get separated from their herd often don’t make it on their own, either falling prey to larger predators or because they are not able to get to the resources that they need to survive.

As humans in modern societies, we don’t face many of these dangers anymore. However many people still have the old herd mentality deeply ingrained in them. So how do we succeed in today’s world? Is it better to separate from the pack and strike out on your own or is it better to follow the herd?

I have been thinking about these issues for a while now. A recent post on Ludvig Sunstrom’s blog “Start Gaining Momentum” on contrarian thinking has inspired me to write down my own thoughts on the topic.

In Ludvig’s definition, a contrarian is someone who goes against the mainstream:

Being a contrarian means doing and thinking in unconventional ways.

I have always been a contrarian. I have never followed the herd and have always tried to act and think in a way that is independent of what the common groupthink consensus is. I have been aided in this by my unique background and my thirst for knowledge and self-improvement. This is reflected in my blog and my quest to become a Renaissance Man.

However one thing has always bothered me. Is this the correct path to success?

First off, being a contrarian does not mean being a conspiracy crackpot. Those are not contrarians. A contrarian should always follow the principles of rational thought and be aware of his biases. A contrarian is a critical thinker.

As investor Ben Graham stated:

You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you. You are right because your data and reasoning are right.

Contrarians are people who are keen observers of the world, who try to figure out how it works and often go down to first principles or lateral thinking. They are the rational innovators and bringers of progress. They are the Steve Jobs or Elon Musks of this world.
Read More

Bored At Work? Use That Time To Learn!

6082519811_dc71294133_z

There are those people who will get ahead in life and those who never will. It’s pretty easy to tell the difference between them.

Just walk around the modern workplace. You will see that there are some people who are constantly on social media, posting pointless statuses, fiddling with their phone or looking at random pictures.

Instead of using their free time at work for productive purposes, they just waste it. And for productive purposes I don’t mean finishing up another pointless work task, but instead working on their own skills, learning and trying to improve their knowledge and skills.

Guess to which one of the two categories the people above belong to.

You should not be like them. While the others are using their downtime to “entertain” themselves, you can use that time to learn.

workday

Pick a skill you want to improve upon, or a subject you want to learn more about. Find some resources that you can use to do that and keep them handy. The internet today provides you with everything you will ever need to learn about anything and so you don’t need to go far in order to get the materials that you require for this.

After you have identified the skills and subjects you want to learn or improve upon and have found some resources which can help you with this, then set out a plan on how you will do this.

It doesn’t have to be some elaborate plan. Even a simple resolution that you will spend all your “free” time on productive things that will help you get ahead will suffice.
Read More

What Have We Learned On The Two-Year Journey Of This Blog?

road-690138_1280

It’s been two years since I started this blog. During that time, I have undergone quite a journey and the blog has changed to reflect that.

I originally started this blog as a way to share my experiences and what I have learned on gaining weight and muscle. Everywhere, everyone was talking about losing weight and all that, but the fact that there are millions of people who have the opposite problem, that of being underweight, was not being talked about. I wanted to help those people out.

So I started the blog in a very particular niche (gaining weight). At the same time, I started other niche blogs as well, such as in language learning. I was working on several different blogs because that was the prevailing advice I was reading on the internet, start niche blogs… So I did.

However over time, it became quite challenging to update all the different blogs, especially with quality content. I also started blogging at a time when blogging was exploding and the internet was saturated with myriads of blogs in basically every niche imaginable, including all the niches I was blogging on.

How could I differentiate myself from all these other blogs? I decided to focus on my strengths and the unique things that I had developed over the years that very few people had.

I looked at all the different blogs and the people behind them. What I saw reflected the era of specialization that we currently live in. Many of the people running the different blogs were heavily specialized and lacked skills in other areas. The language bloggers were all usually out-of-shape, the fitness bloggers didn’t know much else besides fitness, and many of the social commentary bloggers were really out of touch with reality. Plus many of the big-name travel and lifestyle bloggers had bucket lists that were not that impressive (for some of them I had already done a majority of the things on their list).

The biggest eye-opener was that almost noone was combining all these different things. The people who you would describe as polymaths, those who combined a good body with different mental skills such as polyglottery, could be counted on the fingers of one hand. That is where I could make a great impact.

What was it that I could offer to the world that people would want to learn? My biggest strength was my multi-dimensionalness and the fact that I had actually managed to combine all these different skills. I spoke 6 languages fluently, I had reached elite fitness levels and had been a top track star in high school, I had a very deep knowledge of history (I scored a perfect 800 on the SAT2 World History without even studying back in high school), and I had a knack for learning new things.

I think people would want to know how to reach these high levels of achievement and become multi-dimensional. That’s why I decided to transform what was originally Gain Weight Journal, combine it with my other blogs, and focus on a wider variety of topics. The Renaissance Man Journal was born.
Read More

How To Quadruple Your Salary And Get The Job You Want

512px-CubeSpace

I remember sitting in my chair at work one day, looking around and noticing all the sour faces sitting at their desks. It was an open office type of set-up which has become very trendy for big multinational conglomerates, but also increasingly started appearing in the smaller firms as well. Everyone was sitting, staring at their screens, clicking away.

I thought to myself: I don’t want to do this. I didn’t want to work at this type of job for the rest of my life. Freshly out of university, I ended up getting hired to do what was essentially a dead-end job.

Most of the talk at the office revolved around people looking for other jobs or getting a mortgage in order to buy a house. People were tired of doing things that even a trained monkey could probably do. They didn’t like taking home paychecks that ended up barely covering the necessities. They had studied long and hard in college and suddenly once they entered the real world, it didn’t turn out the way they expected.

When you are young, you have these big dreams about the world and your place in it. You dream about making a difference, doing something you love and making a lot of money. However once school ends and it’s time to get a real job, reality hits. The world isn’t all that it is cracked up to be.

Most people adjust to this reality, ending up just going through the motions. The reason for them conforming is usually internal. They cannot overcome the mental barriers that they have, whether it is a lack of vision, not having the right priorities, being afraid of risks, or just plain laziness.

For me, it was different. That day I decided that I am not going to get stuck in this endless cycle leading nowhere. I resolved to do everything necessary in order to pull myself out. I had bigger plans for myself and they did not involve resigning to my fate. If I was going to go down, I was going to go down fighting.

In order to chart out a course of action, you need to sit down and analyze the situation first. You need to know where you are and where you want to be and then do a gap analysis. It’s OK, if you don’t know precisely where you want to be, but it is important to plan a course of action that leads somewhere. Pick a direction and go for it. You can always change mid-course.

I took a cold, hard look at what was going to bring me to my preferred destination. Doing the actual work that was supposed to be my main task was not going to do it. It was essentially doing what we jokingly referred to as “copy+paste”. People who would blindly just execute the tasks were going to get stuck doing the same thing 30 years later. In order to rise up, you need to do things differently.

In any start-up, you have essentially 3 main roles:

the visionary
the project manager
the coder

The visionary comes out with the ideas and plans out what is going to get done. The project manager follows the work daily and oversees the tasks and makes sure that the plan gets done. The coder is the guy who does the actual work.

This type of framework does not apply only to start-ups, but also in other jobs, including in the corporate world. You usually have the guys who set the direction and strategy, the ones who come up with the ideas, then you have the guys who oversee that these ideas are carried out and then you have the guys doing the actual day to day work.

I wanted to be the visionary.

There was only one problem. How was I going to go from being a lowly clicking monkey in a dead-end job to a person who makes the decisions and has others execute them? And how was I going to do it fast?

I was starting from the bottom. I had graduated with a degree in economics and after a long period of searching for a job, I ended up getting hired for a big multinational in order to work in sales support and finance. The work consisted essentially of updating databases, getting data from databases and creating reports in excel, and when I changed positions, applying some formulas to come up with prices that salesmen could then use to bid for certain contracts.

It was very boring. My brain hurt every time I did it, but not from being challenged at work, but instead because of the incredible dullness of the work I was doing.

However I noticed that people were stuck in their own little routines while doing the work, but that they were not efficient. Things could be done differently.
Read More

How To Motivate Yourself To Do Things When The Going Gets Tough

When you look at people who are successful, you will find that they aren’t the people who are motivated, but have consistency in their motivation.” Arsene Wenger

When I was a kid, my motivation was really on and off. I remember in first grade, there was a tryout for some karate class. They had us do all kinds of tests like running, push ups, sit ups…etc. and then they selected the best people to get into the class. I did not make it.

I got pissed and made my mom go beg the instructor of another karate class to let me in, even though the class had already started. Finally, after a lot of begging, they let me into the class. Let’s just say that at that time, I was really physically untalented.

The good thing about the class was that it wasn’t just about karate, but also about developing overall physical fitness for little kids. At the beginning, I was pretty bad. However I started practicing at home, doing all kinds of exercises and very fast I got my act together, got faster, stronger and more coordinated and made it to the top of the class.

Then I lost motivation and gave up. This type of thing would repeat itself all throughout my school years. I would go for short burst of intense effort (both mental and physical), and then I would just give up. After a while, I was begging my mom to unsubscribe me from the class.

One factor in this was the fact that I was young and when you are young you don’t realize that you only have a limited amount of time. I felt like I had a lot of time to spare and would act like it. Part of my lack of motivation also had to do with laziness, part of it with the fact that we moved around all the time (I went to 6 schools in 12 years), and part of it had to do with the fact that I just didn’t like to put out too much effort, instead coasting on my talent.

All in all, I just didn’t like doing things that made me feel uncomfortable. If I could avoid doing them, then I would.

The race

One moment that still haunts me happened in my senior year of high school. I was on the track team, ran sprints (100m, 200m, 400m) and was pretty fast. We were running the divisional finals. I was pretty mad. All year, I had been posting solid times, but the local newspaper had labelled two other guys as the favorites to win the sprints and stated that there was nobody even close to them.

640px-Crawford,_Dzingai_200_m_Berlin_2009

I beat one of those guys last year and the other one I never faced. I posted similar times as them and I should have been one of the favorites. So I arrived at the track meet, a man on a mission. Or at least I thought.

The first race I ran was the 100m final. I got in the blocks next to one of the guys labelled as the favorites. I was never good at starting out of the blocks, but I was ready. Then something happened. The favorite next to me jumped the gun by a milisecond and so did the other favorite. I was expecting them to go for a repeat start, but they didn’t. The gun went off a few miliseconds after, but that is an eternity in the 100m sprint. That cost me the race. The race should have been restarted, but wasn’t. Nothing I could do about it.

I came in third, a bit disappointed, but then a few minutes later I found out that I ran my personal record (11.1 seconds) and my time was fast enough to qualify me into the big all-divisions final. There, I would end up racing against the fastest high school sprinters in the world (but that is another story).

The moment

However it was not this moment that haunts me. I did feel a bit cheated that I lost due to someone else doing a false start, but I still had the 200m to look forward to. One of the supposed favorites pulled out, which left me with only one other contender. I beat this guy last year by a pretty good margin. I was sure I was going to win.

We went down into the blocks, got ready, the gun blasted and we were off. I was leading the race. I was running fast in first place, but a little by little I was starting to feel tired, the lactic acid was starting to make my legs feel heavy. I was in the final straight, a few meters before the finish…

At that moment, instead of gritting my teeth and giving my best effort and going for the last push, I did the opposite. I was in the lead, felt tired and gave up. I slowed down a bit, coasting towards the finish.

Then I saw the other guy speed past me. He had done the opposite of me, he had mustered the last amount of strength and raced past me, collapsing just behind the finish line, totally winded and out of power. I came in second, happy that I gave it my “best” and that I got a medal. I was happy with second place.

However that came back to haunt me. Even now, entering my early thirties, I still look at that moment with despair. I had victory at my fingertips and I let it slip away. The other guy had more heart. He was more motivated to win and mustered the last amounts of willpower and strength in order to do that. I didn’t.

I just wasn’t motivated enough. That lack of motivation defined my early life. I now look back at this and want to beat my head against the wall. Sure, the circumstances were against me (especially the fact that we moved around all the time), but I still could have done more with what I had.
Read More

Happiness Doesn’t Depend On Having Goals, But On Having The Right Goals

Monkey-typing

Work hard, cut the BS

Many guys spend most of their time trying to be flashy. When working out, they only train their “show” muscles like the chest and biceps, neglecting their other muscles. They are focused on making as much money as possible, without realizing that it’s not about the money, but instead what you can do with it. It’s all about the flash and the bling, bling for them.

What usually happens is that these guys end up really unhappy, sometimes even ending up turning to drugs in order to get their kicks. Instead of having real valid experiences, they try to substitute them with the quick hits that drugs provide.

On the outside they seem to be doing everything right. They set goals and work in order to achieve them. They have a plan and often they end up completing that plan. So what’s the problem?

Problem is a lack of values

The problem is that they lack values and therefore their goals are outcome oriented, instead of being benefits oriented. What do I mean by outcome oriented versus benefits oriented?

By outcome, I mean they focus on getting material things like a fast car and money, instead of focusing on the benefits that these things can provide. Their goal is to make a million dollars, instead of focusing on the things that being rich can provide for you like independence and the ability to pursue your other dreams.

Things like money should not be the end goal, rather your goals should be structured around benefits. The money is just a means to an end. With money you can do a lot of wonderful things, like travelling the world, seeing many wonderful things, learning about different cultures and meeting new people.

Your motivation should be intrinsic

Your motivation should be intrinsic and not extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation has to do with your own internal desire to seek out new challenges, explore new things and enjoy the activities that you are doing. Extrinsic motivation is largely dependent on external factors and material things.

Burning-money-and-yuanbao-at-the-cemetery-3249

When you are intrinsically motivated, you end up focusing on things that make you happy. You are not bothered by things that you cannot control. This is the basis behind Stoic philosophy. Work on things that you can change and don’t worry about things that are outside of your influence.

You should work on challenging yourself, finding balance and working on your own internal self-improvement, instead of going for the flash. When you focus on that, you will most likely end up getting the flash as well, however the flash won’t be the end goal, but just the by-product.

What matters at the end is the depth of your personality and not the flash around it. Flash is fleeting, but depth stays around forever. You need to work on improving all aspect of your personality, your mind and your body.

Read More

What Makes A Renaissance Man?

renaissance man, vitruvian man, leonardo da vinci,

renaissance man, vitruvian man, leonardo da vinci,

When you hear the word “Renaissance Man”, the first name that usually pops up in a person’s head is that of Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci is the epitome of the Renaissance humanist ideal. He was not only an outstanding painter, but also an engineer, inventor, scientist, and philosopher.

Leonardo was born the illegitimate son of a wealthy legal notary in Florence. His father kept on changing women, usually marrying women way younger than himself (including a 16 year old and a 20 year old), however he did take care of his little son as well.

At 14, Leonardo became an apprentice in the studio of the painter Verrocchio. This apprenticeship is one of the main reasons why da Vinci became the man that he became. It set him on the path to becoming the ideal Renaissance Man. When thinking of a painter’s studio, most people will picture some brushes and a canvas, but a Renaissance painting studio was much more than that. It was in fact a mini-incubator for people who could do a variety of things.

Verrocchio encouraged his students to study anatomy in order to be able to correctly draw the human body. So the young Leonardo spent countless hours studying the body and all its features, even performing dissections. Painters of that period also had to be skilled in chemistry, as they kept on experimenting with new materials in order to try to create the best colors possible.

Being skilled in anatomy and chemistry were just a fraction of the things that Renaissance artists had to know in order to be able to create their works. This made them very different from modern artists. The artists of that period had to be jacks of all trades and in many ways resembled scientists, always experimenting and trying to come up with new ways of doing things.

The fact that he started off as a painter, gave Leonardo a very special tilt to his scientific explorations. His way of examining the world was very different from that of other scientists. His theorizing heavily integrated the arts and painting. Through paintings and sketches, he tried to capture what is really happening in order to study it better, and this was at the center of his method of analysis.

Another word for Renaissance Man is “polymath”. A polymath is a person who is an expert in a wide range of different subjects and areas of knowledge. Leonardo fit this description perfectly, not only did he draw the Mona Lisa, but he also worked as an engineer, for example coming up with a system of moveable barricades to protect the city of Venice, drew various very accurate maps, came up with many inventions (including specifications for a primitive tank and helicopter), and performed numerous scientific experiments.

An important aspect of his work is that he kept very detailed notes and journals, which included many sketches of various ideas. What is interesting is that many of his writings were written in a mirror-script. This attempt at secrecy could hint at an internal fear that some people might steal his ideas. However he never left an explanation of why he used this mirror-script and so that will most likely forever remain a mystery.

Twenty years after his death, the King of France said this about Leonardo: “There had never been another man born in the world who knew as much as Leonardo, not so much about painting, sculpture and architecture, as that he was a very great philosopher.

Bringing Back Ideas From Antiquity

Renaissance humanism tried to bring back the knowledge passed down from Antiquity. The humanists of that era searched through libraries and read widely in order to try to find as much ancient knowledge as possible and try to learn from it. They then applied these ancient ideas to their own world.

One of humanism’s main tenets was that humans are limitless in their capacity for development. The Renaissance ideal was to try to embrace all knowledge and develop yourself as fully as possible. A man should be skilled in different areas: intellectual, artistic, social, physical.

There are some general prerequisites that a man has to fulfill in order to be able to function to his fullest potential in society. A man should be able to speak and write with eloquence, describe things clearly, and be persuasive. He should also be physically fit and have a deep knowledge of various subjects. Having all these abilities would result in the perfect gentleman who is able not only to talk about any subject, but also contribute to advancing several of these domains.

Franciabigio_-_Portrait_of_a_Man_-_WGA08191

The idea was that the Renaissance Man ought to do all this with effortless ease. This was described in a book by Baldassare Castiglione called “The Book of the Courtier”. In the book, he advances the notion of “sprezzatura”, or doing things as if they took no effort. The courtier should be able to display “an easy facility in accomplishing difficult actions which hides the conscious effort that went into them.

Modern movies try to show this easy nonchalance in their main characters all the time. Just think of all the movies where the hero does seemingly impossible things as if they were easy. The hero easily breaks into a high-security installation, runs effortlessly through the desert, dispatches ten enemies at the same time, constructs powerful bombs out of a soap on a rope and some sticks, or solves puzzles through powerful deductive skills.

Read More

Your New Self: Step 1 In The Renaissance Man Construction Project – Creating A Vision

Most people in this world drift aimlessly through life. They have no vision, no purpose and sometimes do not even know what they value the most. It is no wonder that they never achieve anything and are never happy. Instead of working on improving themselves, they spend most of their time complaining. That’s no way to go through life.

If you want to be a success, if you want to be happy, then you need a clear direction in life. You need to have a vision of yourself and a clear plan on how to achieve that vision. This includes setting clear goals and then working hard in order to achieve them.

vision-154854_640

The first thing to do in any process of self-improvement is drafting a vision of where you want to be. The purpose of this vision is to give you a clear direction on where you are going.

Preliminary Brainstorming

In order to draft a good vision, you need to do some preliminary work beforehand. This involves a lot of visualizing and brainstorming. This initial exercise should result in a collection of different elements that will serve as input for your final vision statement. The better you do your preparatory work, the better your final vision statement will be.

Below I outline some preliminary work that you can do in order to better refine your vision. Feel free to pick which of this you do and which you don’t do. If you already have a good idea of where you want to be, you can skip many of the preliminary steps and just focus on a few key steps to help you hammer down the key elements you want to cover.

In any process of change, it is good practice to start by analyzing the present situation. Take a good, hard look at yourself and ask yourself these questions: What do you do, why do you do those things, what is your internal make-up? A good tool to use in order to get a deeper understanding of your internal makeup are NLP meta-programs. These are often at the root of your behavior and drive the choices that you make. Therefore you can use them to understand yourself on a more profound level.

Your behavior often also depends on a particular situation. You might behave differently at home or at work and each of these situations usually has a different need. Thereby your goals might differ based on the role you play. You should create a list of the roles that you play in life (for example individually, at home or in your job). This list will then serve as input later on when you are looking at your future self.

Before writing down your vision statement, you need to have a clear idea of where you are at the present moment. To help you out with this, you can create three further short lists: one listing your values, one listing your strengths and one listing your weaknesses. These can give you a better idea on what things are important to you and what things you can and cannot do.

Once you have this present state down, then you can move onto defining where you want to be and your ideal future state.

To help with the visualization of your future self, you should ask yourself some basic questions. If all things turned out perfectly, who do you want to be, what to you want to be able to do, what do you want to look like? You need to ruminate long and hard on what you really want out of life.

What things do you want to change about yourself? Why do you want to change them? You can use the list of roles that you created before and link them with specific needs that you have in each role. These needs then can serve as an indication of the things that you can change about yourself in order to perform the role better.
Read More

Copyright Renaissance Man Journal 2017
Tech Nerd theme designed by Siteturner
%d bloggers like this: