Self-Motivation and Mountain Moving

Self-motivation is great. It helps you take those online courses and pass with aplomb. It gets you connecting with amazing people. It inspires you to write about your chosen profession,  your hobbies, and anything on your mind. It lets you present videos, go to talks and conferences.

Self-motivation takes you to a place where you can create stuff, argue stuff, make stuff happen.

But how often is this happening?

It’s easy to forget how useful a dose of self-motivation can be.

So it’s time to remember. Self-motivation is a big deal.

Nothing is guaranteed in life, but you have to reach out to get it.

When you don’t, nothing happens.


The more self-motivated you are to show up and take action, the more likely you’ll find the good stuff. And you see those people who seem to get asked to do absolutely everything? They usually got to that place by asking a lot before all this happened. It took a lot of asking to get a lot of asking back at them.

Choices and Making Things Happen

When you take action, you need to make choices.

Choices are tough. What do you give up? What do you prioritise above everything else? There are only so many hours in the day. And when you do have the time, do you worry about every last detail before committing to something?

First, consider if your actions somehow make a difference to you or someone else. What value does it have? Even if that value is personal, that’s fine.

Second, think useful, not polished. For example, when I write, I don’t edit much until later. Editing as you write is a pain and it limits your output. If your brilliant idea can only be expressed in a few bullet points for now, so be it. You’re better off making a couple of notes than not writing anything at all.

Another example is through Gary Vaynerchuk. When he gets a great idea in his head that he wants to tell the world, he doesn’t care about production values. He’ll take out his phone and, no matter where he is, he’ll shoot a quick piece and post it online. When the message is more important than a fancy presentation or high definition video, push it out.

All you need to do is flip your phone around and shoot a video. Get an idea out there, make something happen. When you’ve got something great to impart, you can move mountains. Keep communicating, keep creating, keep connecting. Don’t wait for someone–including yourself–to tell you you’re good enough, to tell you you’ve made it. That’ll never happen. And if people do tell you you’ve made it, don’t stop learning on account of that.

Don’t stop creating either. There’s always more to do.

So get out there and instead of trying to do something good, try doing something new, learning as you go. Some stuff will be grainy and useful. Some stuff will be polished and rubbish. You’ll even have perfect days and terrible days.

But that’s only if you do it. If you just play it safe and do nothing at all, there’s nothing to show and you get no further forward.

You have to make choices because you can’t do everything. But when you say you really want to do something and it’s perfectly possible to do it, why would you still not do it?

I had an email the other day from someone who wanted to write a guest post for the blog. They said they wanted to get into blogging and were looking for a way in. I asked them what their own blog was and they didn’t have one.

Let me repeat that once more…A person who really wanted to blog, but didn’t have a blog yet and were looking for a way in.

A way in to what? Just sign up and start publishing stuff!

Now, I’m pretty sure their real aim was to promote another website. But imagine if that person really did want to blog. Nothing would be stopping them so long as they had an Internet connection.

If you’re reading this, you can be writing it too.

Taking Life Seriously

As you can tell from this site, I still find university fascinating. I understand that there are other routes and that uni isn’t for everyone. But I’ve found something that speaks to me and that I want to be a part of. It may bore the socks off you, yet it works for me. I want to help students make the most of their time at university and learn about their experiences because I feel in a good position to do that. I like the academic side, the social side, the admin side. It’s a strange position to be in, but a wonderful one.

I moved away from academia after I graduated. It seemed like the only thing I could do at the time.

I was wrong. And I’ve been wrong about a lot of things throughout my life.

We’re all wrong about a lot of things.

Luckily, we get a lot right too.

One thing I was right to do was return to the world of higher education. Not only did I work to my strengths, I also worked on my weaknesses. I didn’t know enough about the administration side of academia, so I made it my business to do so. I took it seriously.

The first step of the process was self-motivation.

If I didn’t want to do this, the outcomes would be different. I wouldn’t have been asked to do many of the things I’ve done. I wouldn’t have found people wanting to consume the content I’ve produced. I wouldn’t have participated in the activities that have helped along the way.

I wouldn’t have taken this seriously.

How seriously do you take the things you’re aiming for?

I’m writing at the time of year when new university students are starting a journey toward a degree while applicants are at school or college writing personal statements so the whole process can begin again next year.

When I was writing my personal statement, I was only half-hearted about it. I wasn’t looking at the bigger picture. Nobody had explained what any of this meant and I hadn’t done enough research of my own either.

That wasn’t the best attitude to have. Yet it’s an attitude repeated time and again for far too many people, year after year.

I had a chance to turn things around and I took it. If I hadn’t, my university experience might have been pretty poor. I may not have gone to university at all.

Yet here I am, writing stuff like this, trying to help others win. Among other things, that needs a regular dose of self-motivation.

None of this is about finding your passion at an early age. Neither is it about ignoring what you believe in. At the core of this is taking what you do seriously. Even the fun stuff. Make every action count and find motivation in what you do.

This Post Is For YOU

I write this as an inspired ramble. I’m posting it here without (much) editing.

This post is for you to chew on as is. If it speaks to you, that’s awesome. Let me know what you’re inspired to do. Keep in touch. Even if it’s just a quick tweet (@universityboy) I’d love to hear what you’re doing and how you’re self-motivated.

And if you think I’m crazy, that’s fine. Do your thing and be inspired by what makes you tick. The point is to find what makes you want to wake up in the morning (or night!) and do amazing work. I’m only trying to help with that. If someone else is helping you achieve that in a completely different way, brilliant.

I’m talking to each and every student out there who gets what I’m saying and who feels like I’m helping them. If I’m not helping you, I’m comfortable with that. If I’m not helping anyone, I need to reconsider.

From where I am, I feel comfortable at the moment. So while I’m self-motivated, I can’t do it all by myself. This is a two-way process.

Thank you for that. Thanks for reading and I hope you get a spark of inspiration from this post or anything I’ve created over the years. May your own self-motivation (along with the help of others) take you to wonderful places.

Not long ago, I referred to a Dr. Seuss book, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!“. The book’s message is that you can move mountains.

I believe you can move mountains. It’s time to get motivated. Are you ready?

Let me know what your personal mountains are and how far you’ll move them.

move mountains (Dr. Seuss image from Oh! the Places You'll Go) (photo by Curtis Gregory Perry)

“Kid, you’ll move mountains” – Dr. Seuss image from ‘Oh! the Places You’ll Go’ (photo by Curtis Gregory Perry)

Why Pointless Learning Still Has a Point

What’s the point in learning anything with no future purpose? Take juggling. Isn’t it just a waste of time when you could be learning something more relevant to your future?

Not always.

photo by Stéfan (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

photo by Stéfan (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Lifehacker talks of a University of Oxford study from 2009 that discovered changes in the brain when learning new and complex tasks. In the case of the study, juggling.

This is positive. But hold your horses. It’s hard to come to any bold conclusion straight away:

“MRI is an indirect way to measure brain structure and so we cannot be sure exactly what is changing when these people learn.”

Nevertheless, this may be a sign of how important it is to stretch yourself. You may not want to always look for the easy option.

When you feel like you’re on a roll and you’re getting through everything easily, it feels good to work in that state of flow. We tend to enjoy flow as a productive state and gravitate toward it as much as possible.

But Cal Newport explains that flow is not as useful as the state of strain. When you’re in the flow, there’s nowhere to go. Not much challenges you.

The challenge comes when you introduce something new, difficult, and potentially risky. If you’re not used to juggling, it’s difficult, and you risk dropping a lot of stuff that you’re not meant to drop. Just to clarify, juggling involves keeping stuff up in the air…

The activity of juggling itself may provide few direct benefits for you, yet the magic comes through the indirect qualities of such ‘strain’ on the brain.

I spend more time when learning new things than when dealing with tasks and content I already have awareness of. Although it’s easier to find the state of flow because I’m enjoying and recognising what I’m doing, it isn’t challenging me in a total sense.

I have never learned to juggle. But if I ever wish to, I should jump on it.

Same goes for you. The combination of desire to learn mixed with rising to the challenge is strong. No wonder Josh Kaufman says it only takes around 20 hours to get pretty competent in something new. Forget 10,000 hours to become world class, spend less than one day total becoming good enough. It’s surprising how much you can learn this way.

Strain sounds uncomfortable. It certainly doesn’t sound preferable to flow. But under the right circumstances it’ll bring you far more satisfaction and open your mind to far more than you could imagine. Over the past year or so, I’ve spent relatively little time learning a lot about nutrition, baking, ukulele and guitar, early years learning, and the beginnings of humankind. I’ve also picked up some basics regarding steam engines, the solar system, and physics. Much of it has come about outside of anything I deliberately wanted to learn. Yet I still discovered a lot.

The strain I felt fuelled my enthusiasm further. None of it was easy, but it was multiple times easier than I would ever have imagined. A spark is all it takes. A bit of strain is just as necessary as the state of flow.

New and complex tasks sound scary and time-consuming at first. But it seems that’s the point!

Next time you’re interested in something with no apparent future purpose, it may be one of the most important things you learn.

What are you going to challenge yourself to today?

Are You a Planner or a Structured Procrastinator?

Doug Belshaw likes to plan. He’s even created his own daily planner.

But recently, Belshaw has been wondering if planning is required for productivity. Does everyone need to set out their day ahead to get ahead? Well, not necessarily.

Belshaw recently discovered structured procrastination and was amazed to find it was a real thing and not a joke. The plan is to get more done without a plan. Just work on what you feel like.

Such a simple idea sounds brilliant. But it’s never that simple, is it? Nevertheless, Belshaw found that high-profile people such as Arnold Schwarzenegger made use of structured procrastination to get things done.

Arnold Schwarzenegger (photo by Gage Skidmore) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Arnold Schwarzenegger (photo by Gage Skidmore) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Has this prompted a change of heart in Belshaw? Nope. He says, “I’ll keep my planner!”

To schedule or not to schedule? That is the question.

Or is it? I think a binary argument of schedule versus non-planning is too simplistic. A total lack of planning still requires an element of planning once the day is underway. And not everyone can dismiss timetabling completely, on a whim. Stuff happens around you. The world doesn’t pander to you, so you must respond to the needs of others. This, sometimes, requires a schedule of sorts.

One reason why I like the David Seah Emergent Task Planner is that it looks a few major tasks, extra tasks if you have time, plus emerging stuff because “Life just happens”.

The 1-3-5 Daily To-Do List is good for a basic schedule too. One big, three medium, and five small tasks on your list. That’s it. Nothing fancy. Just a basic breakdown of things to do in varying degrees of size/time/importance.

As you’d expect, there is no one-size-fits-all. Much depends on each person and their current individual circumstances. A structured plan is necessary for some activities, while it hinders others. Also, while some thrive on orchestrating every last minute to perfection (despite the realities), others don’t want to get bogged down with anything more than a basic starting point.

Structured procrastination sounds like fun. But it’s serious stuff. You have to be determined and driven to make it work effectively. Otherwise structured procrastination becomes…well, it becomes procrastination!

How do you work best? Much of the consideration boils down to the following questions:

  • Do you feel productive enough?
  • Are you satisfied with how you lead your day to day life?
  • Does this day to day activity correspond with your future plans leading to personal success?
  • Have you tried new approaches to improve your productivity, even when you feel confident that your current approach is successful?

If you have any doubt here, it might be worth taking the plunge. If you haven’t tried any other methods, can you truly be sure that your approach is best for you? You may feel efficient, but until you try alternatives, there may be a more amazing set of tactics to propel you further than you’d ever imagined.

One compromise is to only use due dates when absolutely necessary. Most of your schedule is free to do what you want, when you want. For the few matters requiring a definite time or your definite presence (either physically or emotionally!), get it booked in. Not only can you then schedule, but you can also keep the schedule to a minimum. Everything else is available to you and your whims.

What do you think? Are you a planner, a structured procrastinator, or something else entirely?

Dedicated Diaries and Perfect Planners

Users on The Student Room recently discussed their favourite diary and planner for the academic year.

Most of them recommended the Palgrave Student Planner.

The Palgrave offering may not be the cheapest, but the layout and the extras were worth it for most users. One person goes as far as calling the planner “an absolute Godsend”.

Over at Amazon, one user has helpfully added a few shots of what’s inside the planner. It’s all specific to students (as you’d expect!) and laid out nicely.

I’ve never used this planner myself, but with a lot of love over at The Student Room, it’s worth a mention. The 44 five-star reviews and average score of 4.6 stars on Amazon paint a positive picture too!

A diary is a great step for sorting your life out and getting things on track. Timetabling is a mental necessity one way or another. Beyond these plans, you may also want to keep an academic journal about what you’re learning, why you’re learning, the things you want to learn more, and so on.

There are loads of different diaries and planners out there. Do you have a favourite diary that you return to every year? Have you discovered the perfect planner? Or do you have a completely different way to arrange your year ahead? Let us know!

photo by Amir Kuckovic

photo by Amir Kuckovic