Does Music Improve Focus?

A recent Wall Street Journal article asks the following question: Does listening to music improve one’s focus? After exploring the Mozart and Slayer Effects, the answer is that there’s no definitive answer. Music helps some while it hinders others.

I don’t always listen to music when trying to focus. If I’m sufficiently self-motivated, I just dive right in. If I’m distracted or unmotivated, I’ll put in my headphones and fire up Google Music or YouTube.

The science confirms it’s best to avoid music with lyrics. This is probably easier for those of us who already enjoy classical music. But if I decide to listen to music with lyrics, it must be a single song on repeat. I picked this tactic up from Ryan Holiday, who writes that it “allows the songs to fade into themselves—to become a more or less continuous stream.” You don’t even hear the lyrics once you enter “the zone.”

Whether or not you listen to music while concentrating, these findings are unlikely to change your habits. There is no right or wrong way to focus. Continue to do whatever works best for you.

Three Things You Need to Do For At Least an Hour Every Day

Reading, writing, and training. Alexander Cortes explains why:

Reading, Writing, and Training are absolutely critical practices. Within those three things you enable the broadest possible range of skills and cultivation of personal qualities that support your success in ANY field. I believe this is the foundational formula to becoming the top 1% of human beings, in any any given realm. It acts as a cornerstone to building skillsets, increasing cognitive learning, and maintaining physical health and resiliency to continuously improve. And it can be be done at ANY TIME, with a minimum of cost and a maximum of gain. There are ZERO prerequisites to doing it.

Said another way, it tilts the odds of success in your favor. And you WANT to the odds to favor you. The world is ever more competitive with each passing year, and staying competitive requires judicious action. The world has many narratives, many challenges, and many opportunities.

We all occupy a world where ideas have become the most valuable form of currency, where the ability to focus is under fire in a world of noise, and where “mastery” and making sense of truth is more important than ever before.

Reading and writing are self-explanatory. Training, however, means more to Cortes than just exercise:

3. Training-People might take this to mean “exercise”, but it is not so specific as that. Training is anything of a physical nature. Walking to have time to think, playing an instrument, physical training of the body through various forms of exercise, this is something that everyone had their own version of. What was recognized was that physicality creates mentality, and that to self-actualize, you must have the physical health to support doing so. Strong body, strong mind, the two are inextricably linked. (outliers exist of course, but they do not disprove the heuristic)

Read the entire post here.

Busyness vs. Distraction

Musician and writer Mich Manaras discusses an important concept in a recent article of his: If you think you’re perpetually busy, you just might be perputally distracted—distracted by obligations, commitments, material wealth, etc., that prevent you from feeling in full control of your life. But when you free yourself from such distractions, you’re able to enjoy a freedom you never thought possible. Excerpt:

For years I was a busy person with a busy work schedule, a busy social life and a busy family life. There was always something to do and always somewhere to be; better than being bored and alone, right?

With that many things going on, it was really tough for me to put any time or focus towards my health, or anything other than my obligations, quite frankly. My lifestyle revolved around events, eating and drinking, from work to family, and consequently I wasn’t scoring very high in the health department.

It was only when I made the decision to get myself into better shape did I open a door I never expected to open, where I’d see my life and the world around me in a completely different light.

Read the rest of Manaras’s story here.

Five Things We Can Learn From Vladimir Putin’s Daily Routine

Vladimir Putin intrigues me. So do people’s routines and habits. Thus you can imagine how delighted I was to stumble across a Business Insider article on Vladimir Putin’s daily routine. After reading through it, I came up with five self-development lessons we can learn from his lifestyle:

1. “I don’t have time” is a terrible excuse to avoid exercising.

Putin is the president of a superpower, yet he somehow finds the time to swim two hours each day and lift weights afterward. You’re probably not as busy as Putin, so never ever tell yourself or others that you can’t find the time to exercise. We all know it’s hogwash, and you do too.

2. Schedule tasks based on your energy levels at various times of the day.

Putin rises late, eats breakfast around noon, and doesn’t get to work until early afternoon. He compensates for this habit by working late into the night. Don’t listen to those in the self-development community who insist you wake up at 5:00am every day. By all means try it for a couple weeks, but if it’s not working for you, don’t force yourself to do it. As Craig Ballantyne says, it’s not about what time you get up, it’s about what you do with the hours that you’re up.

I find I’m most creative in the morning, so I start blogging right after waking up. I’ve never enjoyed exercising in the morning, so I do it in the early evening. I like staying up past midnight, so I never get out of bed earlier than 8:00am (with rare exceptions). Maybe you’re most creative at night and most willing to exercise in the morning. Figure out what works best for you.

3. Cut the alcohol (and the cigarettes and the drugs).

Putin is an abstemious man, which may surprise you since he’s the president of a country suffering from widespread alcoholism. He only drinks during formal receptions, and I bet it’s not very much. Social drinking is fine, but the less alcohol you consume, the better.

I shouldn’t have to explain why it’s a bad idea to smoke or do drugs. If you’ve begun your self-development journey and still struggle with either of those, I’m not your resource, as I’ve never even gone so far as to experiment with them.

4. Make time for cool activities and hobbies.

Raise your hand if you’ve done this before: You come home after a hard day’s work and feel tired, so you end up watching TV for six hours before calling it a night. I’m guilty myself.

As Arnold Bennett writes in his book “How to Live on 24 Hours a Day,” you’re not as tired as you think. So instead of being a couch potato, immerse yourself in your favorite hobbies (or try new ones). Take a martial arts class, read amazing books, go to the gym with your girlfriend, learn how to cook or paint or draw, etc. Pretty much any hobby you can think of is significantly more fulfilling than binge-watching reruns of “The Big Bang Theory.”

For his part, Putin likes to spend his free time hunting, fishing, and playing ice hockey. Now that’s cool.

5. Stay disciplined while traveling.

Temptations to throw your self-development practices out the window lurk everywhere on vacation. It’s all too easy to splurge on mediocre airport food, sleep in at the hotel (or worse yet, hit the snooze button), and neglect exercise altogether. Putin is not only disciplined during episodes of travel, but perhaps even more disciplined than he is back home. On the road, Putin refuses milk products and he doesn’t accept food that hasn’t been approved by the Kremlin. I bet he manages to stick to an exercise regimen too.

So there you have it. Can you see why Putin remains in such amazing health—both mentally and physically—at age 64? Regular exercising, working hard, limiting alcohol, partaking in cool hobbies, and staying disciplined on the road are the keys to long-term energy, productivity, and satisfaction.

How to Be Charismatic

Little known fact: Charisma is not something one happens to be born with. Charisma can be learned.

What makes someone charismatic? Decisiveness. Or, as Jason Capital puts it, certainty.

Early to Rise:

With everything we do, we ultimately have a choice: We can do it with certainty, or uncertainty.

As a mentor once told me, “Jason, do things with certainty and doors open. Do them with uncertainty, and I swear, knock all you want, but that door will never open for you.”

What does it really mean for us to do things with certainty?

Certainty means you’re not hesitant, not wishy-washy, not unclear.

Instead, everything you do has a certainty to it. When you’re in a business meeting, you’re certain. When you’re having dinner with someone, you’re certain. When you’re walking to lunch, you’re certain.

And if you’re in the business of selling something, whether it be a product, a service, or an idea, your prospects are heavily influenced by this type of certainty.

People are subconsciously attracted to it as well.