Tag Archives: learning

Lifechanging information sources

The sources I list below have changed many millions of lives for the better (including my own). They contain timeless wisdom that everyone can benefit from – whether the information is new to you or you just need a refresher.

Three categories are presented (also the three cornerstones of this blog): health, personal finances and mental control.


Healthy at 100 – John Robbins. This book convinced me shift to a much more plant-based diet – very impressive considering that I was a born and bred carnivore. It is a bit long, but definitely remains a worthwhile read. The accounts of the lifestyles of the world’s longest living communities were especially interesting.

50 secrets of the world’s longest living people – Sally Beare. Here we have a much more punchy and easy to read version of Healthy at 100. It also has interesting accounts of the lifestyles of communities enjoying extraordinarily long and healthy lives. In particular, this book got me to incorporate lots of nuts, seeds and berries into my diet.

The world’s healthiest foods – George Mateljan. This resource contains a number of interesting healthy recipes, but the most valuable aspect of it is the detailed nutritional information about the world healthiest foods. The information in this book is so powerful that it convinced me to eat spinach every day – something I would have seen as flatly impossible 5 years ago.

Personal finances

The automatic millionaire – David Bach and The millionaire next door – Thomas Stanley. These two books pretty much give the same message: Live within your means and automate your investments. It is very simple advice which clearly illustrates how people can become rich even on a modest income. Everybody knows this stuff, but reading these books will convince you to such a degree that you might actually start doing it.

The richest man in Babylon – George Clason. The message in this classic is much the same as that in the two millionaire books listed above. It is conveyed in a much more entertaining manner though – mostly through interesting stories from Ancient Babylon told in a wonderfully classic linguistic style. If you don’t have millionaire ambitions, but still want healthy personal finances, this is the only book you need to read.

How an economy grows and why it crashes – Peter Schiff. This is another book with a rather obvious message: saving and investment is good, excessive debt is bad. However, the very interesting way in which the message is conveyed makes it a thoroughly entertaining and convincing read. It also gives you a very nice understanding about the workings of a modern economy.

Mental control

Psycho Cybernetics – Maxwell Maltz. Many people call this the only self-help book you ever need to read. It is a true classic that has changed millions of lives for the better through practical teachings on how to control your own mind. Thought habits and self-esteem are key elements in this timeless masterpiece.

177 mental toughness secrets of the world class – Steve Siebolt. Despite the rather corny title, this book is a great quick reference for the best mental control strategies. Each “mental toughness secret” is only one page long and simple to digest. I’d especially recommend the audio version where Siebolt and his co-presenter expand a bit more on each secret in a fun conversational style.

The “21 great ways” series – Brian Tracy. Although I sometimes find Tracy’s approach to mental control a bit too mechanical, his extensive 21 great ways series contains information that anyone can benefit from. The information is communicated in a punchy manner and you can select from a wide range of titles to suit your needs.

Filed under: Consumption patterns – Consume information

PS: Why should you take lifestyle advice from a random guy on the internet? Good question. Take a look at the effects that these guidelines had on my life and decide for yourself.

The greenest consumption choice: Information

The right information at the right time can be incredibly valuable, not only in the moment, but for many years to come. In addition, modern information technology makes information highly accessible, affordable and environmentally friendly. Shifting some of your consumption from “material” to “information” is therefore a great way to make your life a few shades greener.

It has been said that we live in the “information age” or “the age of the mind”, but very few people really understand the implications of these phrases. The first implication is that your ability to use your mind to process information is critical to your success in this world we live in. In the marketplace today, the lowest paid workers exchange their time and energy for a little bit of money, the middle-class exchange their skills for more money and the elite exchange creative ideas that solve real-world problems for huge amounts of money. The reward gap between those who have mastered information and those who have not is huge and constantly growing.

The second implication is that it has never been easier to get the most out of life. Since information is critical to most things we do in this “information age” and a tremendous wealth of information is accessible to everyone with an internet connection, we have everything we need to be happy and successful. Naturally, it is up to you to pick out the wholesome information from all the junk out there, but this gets progressively easier with practice. The sooner you get started as an avid information consumer, the better.

The third implication is that we have a great opportunity to address our environmental problems through information. Habitual information consumers will have little time or inclination towards primitive material pursuits. A big fancy house, a small fleet of cars and lots of miscellaneous stuff simply become unnecessary and cumbersome to a mind that has successfully evolved beyond the primitive pursuit of material possession towards information acquisition, processing and sharing.

The next post will share some simple guidelines for assessing information quality in order to streamline this crucial mental evolution.

Filed under: Consumption patterns – Consume information

Psychology example: Healthy mind

As outlined in the seven posts on a healthy psychology, I consider life-long learning (1, 2), creative expression (3, 4) and unconditional contribution (56) to be the primary causes of the very interesting health and longevity statistics listed here (7). This post will give a brief example of how these three factors complement each other in my life.

When it comes to learning, my primary occupation (research scientist) makes this very easy because I simply have to go to work in order to get myself into an environment where constant learning simply has to happen. However, this researcher mentality has spilled over into many other areas of my life as well. The One in a Billion project in particular has been a tremendous learning experience.

I consider myself very fortunate to have accidentally fallen into this natural learning environment because I have now come to realize that constant learning is a prerequisite for creative expression. It is only when you have developed your understanding or your skill set to a certain level that you can really get access to the power of creative expression. For example; I first had to read a lot of literature before I could start writing my own scientific papers, I first had to develop my basic skills to a certain level before I could participate in spontaneous team plays or write new songs and I first had to work through hundreds of books, programs and articles before the One in a Billion project could begin to take shape.

Just as learning is a prerequisite for creative expression, creative expression is a prerequisite for true unconditional contribution. We will talk a lot about this later on, but if you really reach the level where new ideas just form all by themselves, the process of adding value to the world becomes the reward in itself and compensation beyond that which you really need becomes totally irrelevant. From this frame of mind, unconditional contribution is the natural state. At the moment, I consult for the company I will return to after my PhD is complete, I coach the local rugby team and I write this project all completely free of charge and without expecting any favors in the future. Most people would think this is crazy, but my mind has now reached a stage where this feels completely natural.

Now the crux of the matter is that these three components; learning, creative expression and unconditional contribution, automatically create a self-sustaining healthy psychological environment. The more you get exposed to the joy of creation and the joy of really contributing to the world, the more you are motivated to learn, create and contribute further – the very definition of a self-sustaining healthy environment. Our world really needs a lot more of these self-sustaining benevolent cycles.

Psychology: The power of learning (practice)

As outlined in the previous post, the most important reason for maintaining excellent mental fitness is preventing degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. We also saw that, just like the benevolent cycle of fitness, getting into the benevolent cycle of learning is crucial simply because a fit mind makes learning easier and more fun to do, thereby leading to more learning and more mental development.

But still, nothing will happen if you never begin. If you never build yourself a mental and physical environment within which mental development becomes automatic I’m afraid that learning will forever remain nothing but a tedious chore – just as is the case for physical fitness before you construct a healthy fitness environment.

So how do we build such a mental fitness environment? Well, firstly we have to acknowledge a common mistake that many people make: waiting to become naturally interested in something before they start studying it. This really is putting the cart in front of the horse. The truth is that you most often have to work with something for a while before you truly become interested in it.

The reason for this is that you first need to raise your understanding to a certain level before you can actually begin using this new understanding to better you own life (or the lives of those you care about). It is only at this point, when your understanding has reached a level where you can start applying it and experimenting with it, that a specific subject area becomes sufficiently interesting to fuel a self-sustaining cycle of learning. The study of personal health is an ideal example of such a subject area since you can start applying the things you have learnt in your own life very soon after you have begun the learning journey.

The best way to get started is to get yourself some good resources. If you decide to study personal health for example, the information on nutrition and fitness on this blog (summarized on this contents page) is a good place to start, but I would strongly recommend buying some good books on the subject (as discussed in a previous post). An excellent habit to get into is always having a good non-fiction book next to your bed to read until you are really sleepy. This method can really broaden your mental horizons and also ensure that you never have problems falling asleep. Another excellent habit is to simply follow the advice of Groucho Marx who said: “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

So, why not develop excellent mental fitness for good health by learning about good personal health practices? You really win all the way with this strategy.

Psychology: The power of learning (theory)

There is an old saying which I believe in very deeply: If you’re not growing, you’re dying. Once you have reached adulthood, however, you really should stop growing physically, but definitely continue growing mentally. Unfortunately, most people today get this equation completely backwards, continuing a rather impressive horizontal physical expansion thanks to the standard American diet (SAD) and halting mental development due to the totally idiotic perception that learning becomes redundant after high school. This social norm is highly detrimental to health and longevity, not only because of the SAD, but also because of the mental stagnation. 

It really is vitally important to give your brain regular stimulating workouts. After all; if you don’t use it, you lose it. This old maxim is just one of the many parallels between body and mind: just like a fit body will make exercise progressively easier and more fun and thereby lead to more exercise, a fit mind will make learning progressively easier and more fun and thereby lead to more learning. The benevolent cycle of exercise we have talked about in the fitness section will be echoed in this section as the benevolent cycle of learning. 

Unfortunately, these benevolent cycles can just as easily turn very vicious as well. The vicious cycle of sedentary living is very hard to break simply because your body can become so bloated and weak that exercise becomes very strenuous. Similarly, the vicious cycle of a sedentary mind can make even the tiniest mental challenge seem insurmountable, thereby causing you to shy away from many stimulating intellectual tasks.

The most terrifying expression of the vicious cycle of a sedentary mind is Alzheimer’s disease. Mental stimulation plays an important role in preventing the terrible emotional, practical and financial implications of this degenerative condition. Just like paralysis can cut away access to your arms and legs even though you still have them, Alzheimer’s can cut away access to your entire store of memory, knowledge and experience even though you still have your brain. You quite literally lose your life while you are still breathing. Don’t let this happen. Keep your brain fit.

As always, the hardest part of the journey to mental fitness is the first few steps. But if we simply apply the good old One in a Billion formula of intelligent micro-environment design in this area, we can end up with a situation where learning becomes natural and automatic just like exercise becomes natural and automatic in the healthy fitness environment we constructed earlier. We’ll look at some brief practical guidelines tomorrow.