How Running Your Life Using Principles From Software Development Can Make You More Productive

David Ek had it made.

By the age of 22, he was a multi-millionaire, drove a brand new red Ferarri and lived in a huge house in downtown Stockholm. His nights were spent ordering bottle service at the most exclusive night clubs, while being surrounded by Sweden’s hottest girls at every turn. He was living every young man’s dream.

Yet he was not really happy. The inner voice kept on telling him that all this was fake. His “friends” only wanted him for his money. Would they have really hung out with him if it weren’t for his millions? He had all this flash, but was he really living the life he wanted to live?

So one day he decided to call it quits. It was time for a reset.

The mind needed a period of reflection and rest in order for the spark to be reignited. He got rid of everything and retired to a log cabin to meditate and ponder on the future. It turns out, this was all that he required to refocus himself and to rekindle his drive.

He was pumped. For the first time, he could see things clearly. This was the start of something great: a new goal, a new challenge.

Ek is not a man to sit idly and watch as life passes him by. Instead, he views life as a series of missions. In an article in The New Yorker, he described his personal philosophy this way:

I like to formulate 5-year missions for myself. That’s how I think about life. Five years is long enough for me to achieve something meaningful but short enough so I can change my mind every few years.

His outlook on life practically guaranteed that this new mission would be a success. The short interlude in the cabin let him build up the energy to launch himself into a new project, one that could potentially revolutionize the world of music as we know it today.

The trends to him were obvious. People wanted a new experience and the old record companies weren’t delivering. More and more music was being pirated through torrents (Ek even briefly served as the CEO of uTorrent) and didn’t want to pay outrageous prices for whole records, when in fact they only liked one or two songs on them.

The old greedy record companies didn’t get it. They wanted to stop all this by class action lawsuits and trampling on people’s freedoms. Ek knew that the people were quite willing to pay up if someone delivered an experience for them that was better than piracy.

That was how the streaming service, Spotify, was born. Right from the get go, the service has managed to attract millions of users and is quickly becoming the go to site for music for the younger generation.

David Ek is all about the process. In his life, he follows the same type of philosophy that is behind the agile development of products. He sets out his goals and a plan to execute them, but if on the way he finds out that things aren’t working out the way they were supposed to, he changes things up. He is continuously improving himself.

The way Spotify is developed is a reflection of the way that Ek develops his missions. The founder is agile and his baby is agile too. The developers of Spotify use an agile method of development called SCRUM.

SCRUM is the name of an agile and iterative way of developing software and other products. The philosophy behind SCRUM is also about continuous improvement, of the product, but also of the method to develop the product.

The term and the process were first described by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka in an article in Harvard Business Review. They compared the approach to the sport of rugby, hence the term “scrum”:

Under the rugby approach, the product development process emerges from the constant interaction of a hand-picked, multidisciplinary team whose members work together from start to finish. Rather than moving in defined, highly structured stages, the process is born out of the team members’ interplay. A group of engineers, for example, may start to design the product (phase three) before all the results of the feasibility tests (phase two) are in. Or the team may be forced to reconsider a decision as a result of later information. The team does not stop then, but engages in iterative experimentation. This goes on in even the latest phases of the development process.

Principles from SCRUM can not only be applied to software development, but can also guide you in your process of self-development. After all, what is a more important product than your own self? Why not apply methods from SCRUM to organize your greatest project ever, that of your own self-improvement?
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The Secret To Growing Big Inside And Out


How often do you visit your relatives?

I don’t mean your parents or your brother. I mean people like Aunt Sally or grandma’s cousin Aunt Beth or a myriad of other distant relatives.

Probably once in a blue moon.

You drive up to their house, get out of the car, go to the door, ring the doorbell and wait. Suddenly the door opens and a small mob swarms you, Aunt Sally, her husband Uncle Bob, and… who is this guy?…some guy who you have never seen, who is apparently your third cousin and several other people.

They all start pinching your cheek and telling you how much you’ve changed, how you’ve grown. You scratch your head and wonder why they are saying that, you haven’t changed that much. You are still the same you. They must be trippin’.

Then you start noticing it too. Uncle Bob has even less hair than he used to, Cousin Jed has ballooned to XXL and Cousin Jennie…wow Cousin Jennie is hot now; she ain’t no kid anymore. 🙂

You see, things change. You change as well. You don’t notice the changes that your body undergoes, because you continue being you day in and day out, and never realize the small incremental changes that happen.

People who you haven’t seen in a while often comment on how you’ve changed. They remember an old version of you and now they see the current version of you.

They have two different versions separated by a lengthy amount of time to compare between. If they would be seeing you everyday, they would not notice the changes so easily.

In order to measure your progress, you have to compare between quite distant periods of time.

That’s why you also cannot expect a visible change overnight. You go to the gym and the minute you get back to your house, you take off your shirt and go flex in front of the mirror. You really think something changed just by you being in the gym for two hours that day?

A big change is the sum of small incremental changes happening over a period of time.

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Sharpen Your Wit: Tips On Humor From The Ancient Romans


Humor is a powerful thing. The person who wields it can change the moods of the people around him just by using a simple word or phrase. Humor can serve as a tremendous weapon, one that can circumvent the outer defenses of others and capture hearts and minds.

It has the ability to speak to people’s inner emotions and provoke a physical reaction. This reaction is called laughter. The Ancients recognized the power that humor has and used it to their advantage.

Catulus, a Roman prosecutor was once challenged by one of his opponents:

Why are you barking, catule?

Because I see a thief!” retorted Catulus.

This exchange became the stuff of legend. It was recounted at gatherings of the Roman elite and the story, even though retold a thousand times over and over again, could always amuse. Roman philosophers, orators and historians would keep on writing about this story for hundreds of years after it had happened.

How does it strike you today? Did you laugh at that joke? Probably not. Did you find the exchange witty? Maybe or maybe not. Some of you might have let out a chuckle, but most of you probably read it in dead silence, not understanding the context. Yet the Ancient Romans found the above story extremely funny!

You either get a joke or you don’t. However since we are going to be discussing humor and what makes things funny, I will try to decompose the jokes in order to further the analysis. The best way to kill a joke is to explain its meaning, but that is precisely what we will have to do in order to arrive at a set of greater principles. 🙂

These principles can then guide you to become funnier yourself and also to be able to use humor in different contexts. For this, we can use the wisdom of the Ancient Romans to guide us in turn.

Those of you who let out a chuckle, might have visualized an image of a dog barking due to the use of the word “bark” and that of a thief due to Catulus replying “because I see a thief“. Even in our days, dogs guard houses against thieves and this is a common association that we have. You let out a chuckle because you probably had a previous association of dogs and thieves and something funny that happened whether due to you owning a dog or maybe seeing something on TV.

Oftentimes humor works on associations. A joke can reawaken a funny memory that people have stored deep in their brains. So people who in their past might have heard a joke about dogs or had experienced a funny event involving puppies put this event into their long-term memory.

Upon hearing the word “barking”, this memory was accessed and associated with the current joke, prompting laughter. This is the associative part of humor. If you can relate a joke to someone else’s experiences, that makes the joke funnier for the other person.

However there is further context for the story that you are missing. The name “Catulus” actually means the word “puppy” in Latin and the word “catule” that was used by the guy taking a swipe at Catulus can be translated as “puppy dog”. The opponent basically used a clever play on words that was meant to belittle Catulus in front of the audience, using his name as the basis.

It backfired, as Catulus, with his quick wit used that jibe and threw it back at him with the reply that he sees a thief. We have to remember that this was done in the context of a trial and Catulus was the prosecutor trying to land a guy suspected of stealing in jail.

In fact, he used that attempt at aggressive humor by his opponent to strengthen his case by coming up with a witty reply. Now can you see why some Romans, especially from the elites, could have found it funny?

Humor and finding something funny is very subjective. Humor can be:

1) situational
A certain joke might be funny in one situation, while not funny in another one. You would not be telling the same joke at a wedding and a funeral for example.

2) personal
Jokes can vary and whether they are funny can heavily depend on the person. One person might find the joke hilarious, while another will not. This can depend on the person’s background, their history, their personal opinions and many other personal factors.

3) cultural
Jokes can also be very cultural. You need to understand the cultural context in them in order to find the humor. A lot of jokes depend on the subtleties of the language they are said in, or might be a reference to some particular book, regional stereotype or incident that you might not always be aware of, if you are not from that particular country or region.

The exchange between Catulus and his opponent is funny because it happened in the context of a trial. So in that situation it left the entire court room laughing. It might not have had the same effect if it had happened while the guys were having a picnic.

There was also a strong personal factor. The incident was discussed by friends of Catulus and fellow lawyers and orators. For them, this was a prime example of wit. The guy on trial probably did not find it that funny. 🙂

The joke has a big cultural element as well, as the primary tactic of the opponent was to use a play on words based on the fact that the word “catulus” means puppy in Latin. This is a very language specific thing. For someone who speaks English or any other language, this association between the name and a puppy dog are not clear.

After this brief introduction into the world of Roman humor and witticism, we will try to dig deeper into what makes things funny and how to be funny. We will use some tips and advice from the Romans themselves in order to do that.

Catulus himself can serve as an inspiration for you. Because of his quick wit and humor skills, he was able to fend off an opponent’s attempt at humor and ridicule and actually strengthen his own case. At the end of this article, you too will have the tools necessary to do what Catulus did in whatever situation you may find yourself.

While the Ancient Romans lived two thousand years ago, their works keep on having a profound effect on our world even today. There are amazing parallels between their world and our world. They were an inquisitive and eloquent people and had the amazing ability to grasp at problems and come up with solutions. Many of their ideas are still as pertinent and applicable today as they were millennia ago.

Actually the Ancient Romans also had a wicked (sometimes very perverted) sense of humor! 🙂 🙂

Just take a look at some of the graffiti that was found in the ruins of Ancient Pompeii:

Weep, you girls. My penis has given you up. Now it penetrates men’s behinds. Goodbye, wondrous femininity!

Restitutus says: “Restituta, take off your tunic, please, and show us your hairy privates”.

Satura was here on September 3rd.

I screwed the barmaid.

The one who buggers a fire burns his penis.

Palmyra. The thirst quencher.”

Lesbianus, you defecate and you write, ‘Hello, everyone!’

Secundus likes to screw boys.

Theophilus, don’t perform oral sex on girls against the city wall like a dog.

written three times:
Secundus defecated here
Secundus defecated here
Secundus defecated here

Floronius, privileged soldier of the 7th legion, was here. The women did not know of his presence. Only six women came to know, too few for such a stallion.


Those silly Romans! 🙂
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Frauds R Us: Do You Feel Like An Impostor? The Impostor Syndrome Explained

impostor syndrome, fitness, life, business

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong? Picture one of those times. You were sitting in a meeting, looked around at all the people sitting around the desk and asked yourself: “What am I doing here? When will they finally discover that I am a fraud?

You felt a short burst of panic coupled with serious doubts of whether you really know anything about the subject that was being discussed. You shot another glance at the people around you, their confident postures and listened to them voicing their views with ease. These guys are the real experts and their expertise must be light years beyond yours.

Yet you felt like this despite evidence to the contrary. You worked hard to get to the position you were in, you studied hard and were obviously a very competent person. Despite all this, you still felt like an impostor, just waiting to be found out.

You might think that you are the only one feeling like this, but you are not. It’s a very sure bet, that some of the people around you are feeling the very same things, feelings of being a fraud and waiting to be exposed as such.

This is actually a very common feeling among many competent people and it even has a name. It’s called the “impostor syndrome“.

I am one of the people that has this impostor syndrome. It has diminished a bit, as I have gained more experience in my present job, but it’s still there, pulling at my brain, giving me negative thoughts and killing my confidence. Previously it was a constant burden, now it pops up from time to time.
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Frustration Is A Necessary Part Of The Journey


Have you ever embarked on a process of self-improvement, yet found yourself frustrated again and again? When you embark on such a journey, it is very easy to come to obstacles on the way. These obstacles can be very frustrating and many times are the primary reason that people abandon their path to self-improvement.

Negative self-talk sets in:

Damn, how come I am so small compared to that guy?

I have been coming here for so long and this is all that I have been able to achieve in that time?

I should never have started going to the gym in the first place. I suck and will never improve.

I can’t seem to be able to learn the technique!!

How does he do that and how come I can’t do it?

I got injured again!

I bet you have experienced some of these feelings when going to the gym. I sure have.

You should know that you are not alone and almost everyone has felt those feelings at least at one point. You see that big guy in the corner? Yeah he probably too had the same feelings you are feeling right now. He too questioned himself.

When something is not going according to plan or if you are comparing yourself to others, there will always be frustrating moments. There will always be something that will prevent you from being perfect. There will always be someone who will be bigger or stronger than you.
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Who Were The Roman Gladiators?

The gladiators

It’s a hot day. Two men are waiting at the gates of the arena dressed in battle gear, ready for their fight to start. Sweat is flowing down their cheeks and their breathing is becoming heavy. This might be their last day alive.

Yet these men are professionals. Training has prepared them for this day and they know what needs to be done. They stand proud and determined, wiping all doubts from their mind and instead refocusing their thoughts on the task ahead.

Each one has the same thought flowing through his mind. No, this will not be his last day. He will go on to score a huge victory and be celebrated by the crowds, going on to become a real sports superstar. Each one of them knows that they are the best, yet there can be only one winner. One of these will leave the arena a victor, while the other one will be the defeated…

Each one of them will do everything in his power in order to remain the one standing up, to be the victor. There is no other way. They are Roman gladiators and that is their way of life.

Gladiatorial fights were all the rage in Ancient Rome. They were the equivalent of today’s Super Bowl in magnitude and popularity, with one huge exception: some of the contestants would probably not make it through the day alive.


Ancient Rome was a martial culture and any type of sport where the contestants aren’t risking their lives was a pussy sport. That’s why athletics, which were very popular in the Ancient Greek city states, never became very popular in Rome. The Ancient Romans thought athletics were not something real men should compete in, because there was no risk in them. They might use similar methods of training originally developed for athletics to train, but athletics were for the pussies, real men wanted to see sweat and blood and feel death knocking at the door.

Many gladiators started off as lowly slaves, purchased on the market or captured in war, but went on to rise to become veritable superstars with fans cheering their name and women throwing themselves at them. They went on to enjoy lavish lifestyles just like the sports superstars of today.

However for the majority of gladiators this was not the case. Many of them died during their fight in the arena or suffered crippling injuries and lived out the rest of their lives as cripples. Gladiatorial fights were high risk, high reward contests.

Reflections on the role and popularity of gladiatorial fights in Roman society

Gladiatorial fights were the epitomy of Ancient Roman society. They demonstrated the ideal values that were held dear: valor, strength, bravery, cunning, discipline and above all risk. These were the individual traits valued in what was a very martial society. Rome was built by war and martial values were what was supposed to define Roman society.

The gladiatorial games exploded in popularity, when Rome had grown very far beyond its original borders. The very dominance of Rome in the ancient world at that time was the instigator for the growth in popularity of gladiators. Originally Rome was a small city-state and all male citizens were required to protect it. So in times of need basically all males had to go on military duty. During these times, most male Roman citizens experienced combat first hand.

However as Rome grew and conquered lands far and wide, less and less of its inhabitants directly participated in war. The empire of Rome also brought in more and more new subjects and these needed to be exposed to Roman culture and in that way “romanized”.

It is at exactly this time, when we see the importance and popularity of gladiatorial games grow and expand into all parts of the lands that Rome brought under its control. The games were sports, spectator sports, but they served not only as entertainment, very bloody entertainment, but as a way to remind the masses of their martial spirit and the original values of Rome.
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Suffer Now And Live The Rest Of Your Life As A Champion – Success Tips From Muhammad Ali

I remember a while back I watched the movie “Ali” with Will Smith in the title role of Muhammad Ali. It was a powerful movie, especially since it was based on the true life story of one of the most dominating boxers who ever lived.

I had known about Muhammad Ali even before, but the movie made me want to dig deeper into his life story, how he became who he became. The “Rumble in the Jungle” and the “Thrilla in Manila” are the stuff of legend and have entered the mainstream, however there was an entire journey that preceded those two fights, one that is often not talked about.

There was a story of how a skinny, black kid rose to become arguably one of the best boxers ever. He wasn’t always a guy who dominated over everyone. In fact, the entire path to becoming who he would later become, started off when his bike was stolen.

Muhammad Ali was born as Cassius Clay into a middle-class black family. He grew up in a nurturing home, so his upbringing was not one of living in a gutter, but instead that of supportive parents. One day, him and his friend took the new expensive bikes that they had just gotten to a convention in their hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. They parked their bikes and walked around, but when they got back they found that their bikes had been stolen.

A young Cassius Clay (12 at the time) was led fuming to one of the police officers in attendance, where he told the police officer that he would “whup” the guy who did this. The police officer responded that if he wanted to do that, he better learn to fight and offered to give him boxing lessons.

That was the start of Muhammad Ali’s boxing career. The police officer turned out to be Joe E. Martin, a boxing coach, who became his first boxing coach and taught him how to box. The little boy grew up to be a big man, and as Cassius Clay, went on to dominate the amateur ranks and win the gold medal at the Summer Olympics.

Cassius Clay would later change his name to Muhammad Ali and become the most dominant boxer of his era. He was also a polarizing figure, one who was suspended from boxing for 4 years during his prime, but came back after that long hiatus stronger than ever.

Muhammad Ali was driven right from the start to succeed. He was determined to become the best there ever was. In a later interview, Christine Martin, the widow of Joe E. Martin, gave an insight into the early workings of the kid who would go on to become Muhammad Ali:

Cassius was a very easy-to-get-along-with fellow. Very easy to handle. Very polite. Whatever you asked him to do, that’s what he’d do. His mother, that’s why. She was a wonderful person. On trips, most of the boys were out looking around, seeing what they could get into, whistling at pretty girls. But Cassius didn’t believe in that. He carried his Bible everywhere he went, and while the other boys were out looking around, he was sitting and reading his Bible.

He was focused right from the start. While other kids would be fooling around, he knew to stay away from distractions and work hard.

The story of how someone becomes a champion is always fascinating and one that everyone can learn from. You will probably not become the greatest boxer that ever lived, but you can apply the same types of principles that champions use in order to become a champion at whatever you want to accomplish. Let the words of Muhammad Ali serve as motivation and inspiration.

On working hard:

I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.‘” Muhammad Ali

In order to become a champion you need to work hard. If you want to accomplish something, you need to work for it. Stuff in life usually doesn’t come free, but instead only after having taken a long, winding road full of obstacles. In order to succeed you need to be prepared to work hard and to suffer through long hours of pain. However the light at the end of the tunnel will make it all worth it.

On taking risks:

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” Muhammad Ali

If you want to accomplish something in life you need to take a risk. Without taking risks, you will never be able to succeed. So take the plunge. Take a risk.

Life is a gamble. You can get hurt, but people die in plane crashes, lose their arms and legs in car accidents; people die every day. Same with fighters: some die, some get hurt, some go on. You just don’t let yourself believe it will happen to you.” Muhammad Ali

Everything in life is a risk. You gotta get luck on your side. You can never be sure about anything. Even if you are taking the safe road and don’t think anything can happen, there are always potential dangers and obstacles lurking somewhere. You just have to have faith that nothing will happen to you and if something does happen, then have the courage to overcome it.
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Even If Your Original Dreams Don’t Work Out, You Should Continue On Dreaming

Watching the happy faces of the German players after they had won the World Cup, I thought back to my childhood. Once I had dreams of being in their place, enjoying the emotions that they had been experiencing. I too had wanted to be a World Champion, to score the winning goal and to hold up the Cup for all the world to see.

Yet here I am, sitting at home, watching the television and realizing that most of the players on the field are younger than me. The dreams that I had in childhood never came to fruition. I think about it and imagine how close I had been. As a kid, I had been playing with similar types of players, outrunning them, outdribbling them, outplaying them… Even now, I have some basic prerequisites, which are better than theirs. I can confidently say that I am faster and stronger than most of the players that are on that field in Brazil. Yet here I am and they are there.

How did this happen? Growing up, we had different values in the family. Sport was seen as a good way to complement your life, not live it. The primary focus in our family was always given to studying. I played a lot of sports (especially focusing on basketball and track), but the primary goal was always seen as being good in academics.

I kind of regret some of the choices I had made in the past, but you cannot go back now. We can only move forward. I also had a lot of other hopes, dreams and goals, besides sports, that did not work out. I can’t do anything about that now. I can only move forward.

So I form new goals, ones based on the current circumstances. There are little goals, which are achievable with just a little effort, and there are some secret dreams that will require a lot of hard work and luck.

Don’t fret too much about the past. What is gone is gone and cannot come back. Instead focus on the now and the future. Where are you now and where do you want to be in the future?

These dreams can still come true. The good thing is that now you have a higher probability of your dreams coming true. You have a lifetime of learning behind you. You live and learn. Now you can look at what types of dreams you had, and why they did not come true.

You are wiser now and can prevent these mistakes from happening. That is why you are closer to achieving the dreams that you make now. Think about where you want to be. Imagine your secret dreams. Now imagine the path you need to take to achieve them.

Continue on dreaming, that is what life is about. Hope dies last and you should continue on holding on to your dreams until they come true.
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Who Do You Want To Be?

marcus aurelius, philosopher king, warrior, statue, horseman, Roman Emperor

marcus aurelius, philosopher king, warrior, statue, horseman, Roman Emperor

If you could be perfect, who would you be? Answering this rhetorical question can tell you a lot about yourself, your values and your goals. Just imagine in an ideal situation, how would you want to look like, what would you want to know, how would you like to behave?

I started this blog in order to share tips and things that I learned on gaining weight and bulking up, but on the way, I discovered that it’s more than that. There is a reason why people want to gain weight and muscles. It’s just a piece of a bigger part.

You need to know this bigger part in order to keep yourself motivated, even in such things as gaining weight. There is a reason why skinny people want to look bigger. For example they want to be respected or just be able to do things that they are not able to do in their skinny frames. They want to be big in order to do something else.

So getting big is just a subset of something bigger. It’s a part of self-development and growing yourself inside and out. That’s why I expanded this blog to cover other topics. You not only grow big on the outside, but the inside as well.

It’s actually a two way process. Knowing other things, gives you bigger self worth as a person, which then keeps you driven in areas such as fitness. Getting bigger physically, gives you more confidence and spills over to other areas of your life, which then means you are successful in those areas as well.

These things are interlinked in many ways and when being treated together, they reinforce the positive benefits you get from each individual area of your life. Human beings are more than a sum of their parts. The different areas of your life create a unique you.

We sometimes lose this overall perspective in the modern world. In order to survive, people have to become more and more specialized. Generalists are not valued anymore, only specialists are. In today’s world, people specialize more and more in very niche areas. That’s where the money is.

In the old days, people used to be much more well-rounded, both physically and mentally. Being well-rounded was actually encouraged. The most successful people were philosophers, athletes and warriors, all in one.

The world has changed over the years. We have discovered new things, the means of getting from one part of the globe to the other has changed and gotten exponentially faster. The ordinary person cannot keep up with all the knowledge that is being created. So specialization is the key to getting ahead now. However I believe that also having the generalist perspective on top of that, is still something important and to be valued.

In order to truly enjoy the wonderful benefits of this world, people should strive to be more well-rounded. You still need be a specialist in at least one area, because that’s just the reality of this world, but having a breadth of knowledge in other areas, and also having a healthy body, can only make you stronger and happier.
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