10 Days to Faster Reading: How I went from 300 wpm to 480 wpm

I started at 300 wpm (words per minute) with 80% comprehension and by the end of the book was up at 480 wpm with 80% comprehension. Here’s how I did it.

I never thought of myself as a fast reader. Yet I had no quantitative data to back my feelings. Feelings are subjective right. I think this feeling came from the fact that English was not my 1st language. Polish was. And as 2016 arrived I set a goal to be reading more books this year. Maybe like Bill Gates does knocking over at least 1-2 books per week.

book-library

But to get there I needed to start with a small goal of at least 1 book per month and then go up from there.

So this is the way I see it:

More Books => Faster Reading == Better Comprehension => More Blogging

Then Casey Neistat reminded me of something Seneca said about time and how we use it:

“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested.” ~ Seneca

I think I can do this!

BIG opportunity. Think back to what life was like only 100 years ago where only distinguished and affluent had access to knowledge. Now we all do. But today we are time poor. But there’s a way.

“The road to knowledge begins with the turn of a page.”

We all know foundational skills are important. A house without foundation is a sitting duck. What if what I learnt at school was wrong. Or out of date with modern times. Or not enough. It was time to go back to basics of reading and find out what I could do better when reading. So I picked up a book by The Princeton Language Institute and Abby Marks Beale called 10 Days to Faster Reading. Fitting title for what I wanted to achieve. The book starts crushing school fallacies. They include “you have to read every word”, “hear the sound out words in your head”, “don’t skim, thats cheating”, “you need to completely understand everything you read”. Ok book, you have my attention.

read-book

The basic foundations

What does an average reader actually look like? They read at 200-300 words per minute. Take a look here.

100-200 Slow reader – move their lips and probably read to themselves
200-300 Average reader – whisper when they read
300-400 Good reader – may talk a little when they read but not as much as average reader
400-500 Above average reader
  • Humans talk at 100-150 words per minute.
  • Humans THINK upwards of 400 words per minute.

What happens to the delta between talking and thinking? Well that’s your wondering brain as you read. Hence why slow readers sometimes fall asleep while reading.

Good comprehension

Reading speed alone isn’t enough. Good comprehension is also required. Good comprehension falls between 70-90%. If your comprehension is below the 70% then you need to work on your vocabulary.

Your comprehension is better than you think. We underestimate our abilities. The brain works in mysterious ways. Thus you should TRUST your brain more and believe that you are capable of better comprehension.

The 3 most common passive reading habits:

  • Mind wandering
  • regression and
  • subvocalization

It is impossible to eliminate them. But you can reduce them. First by becoming aware of their presence and then by learning to read fast while trusting your comprehension. 1 & 3 can be reduced by using techniques to read fast. Remember that you brain works at a faster pace. Don’t give it the delta to wander around (ie. day dreaming). And 2 trust your mind that it understood the context of the message. Contrary to what you were taught, you don’t need to read word by word.

Techniques to Faster Reading

What I found useful throughout the book is the end of chapter tests. Each chapter introduces you to a technique with wisdom followed by a reading test. You should do the reading test. It gives you quantitive data on you reading speed and comprehension using a lookup table in the appendix. This played a role in giving me confidence I could do this. Goodbye old school fallacies.

“Your brain is prewired to learn language. But not reading. Learning to read faster is like understanding how to decode words in a more efficient way.”

Technique 1: Pacers

Use your hand, a pen, or a blank white card to increase your reading speed. These are called Pacers. Think of a pacer as a stick shift. Pacers force the eyes to move in a directed pattern down the page to help you get up to speed. Pacers function like a pace car in a race. You know, that 1st car which guides the rest around the track to a certain speed before moving out of the way.

The general rules for any pacer is:
Keep your pacer moving down the page not across and Do not stop or go back.

PS: a finger as a pacer is also ok.

Technique 2: Widen your Track

To read fast you need to see more words. Access your peripheral vision. You don’t need to be focused on 1 word at a time. Phase Flashing is a means of grouping words together into thoughts. The book has a technique there to teach you this called The Eye Span Pyramid. Give it a shot. Even if its just to see how wife your peripheral vision is.

Technique 3: Concentrate, Focus!

Focus. Find a quiet place where you can concentrate. Reading in bed won’t work. You sleep in bed. You will quickly drift away there. Anything lying down is going to put you to sleep. Cut off all distractions like background music. You also need to be sitting up to stay awake. Ever tried to meditate while laying in bed? Yeah you fall asleep pretty fast.

I found the library is a perfect place to concentrate. It is quiet and has a purpose for studying/reading. It has that energy around it that its what people do there and forces you to concentrate and read while sitting up. If you need a tool to help you focus on 1 thing at a time then take a peek at GSDfaster’s Pomodoro Technique. It uses a timer to help you focus on 1 thing for a period of time. Sitting down for hours often breaks your focus. This way you group your reading into periods of 30 minute intervals with breaks between. No burnouts.

Technique 4: Have a Purpose

This is more powerful then you might realize at first. Ask yourself:
“WHY am I reading this?” and
“WHAT might I need this information for?”

This is a powerful motivator. It helps you uncover your purpose and responsibility. It literally says, this is important. It must be done. It’s like a personal trainer. If something isn’t important then it can be done at any pace and at any time. The WHY and WHAT set a level of importance and urgency.

Technique 5: Reading Between the Lines

Speed up your reading and comprehension by stopping on the white space just above each line. Not on the line of print.
Example – see pic below; which is easier to read?

strike-through-words-above-vs-below

“Faster reading then becomes a tool to help you get the comprehension you want.”

There are other techniques in the book you might want to explore. The ones I mentioned above resonated with me.

Turbo Comprehension: Getting to the Gist

It’s no use reading fast if you cannot understand what you just read. The context. The score in the book states that anyone with <70% comprehension lacks vocabulary. Better comprehension is proportional to the breath of your english vocabulary.

Here are 2 useful techniques:

Use the 5Ws and H: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Pre-View or read looking for these to give you context. These clues will give you about 40% of the key information. The remaining 60% is filler, fluff or explanation.

Expand your Vocabulary. The more words you know the better. When you come across a word you don’t understand reach for the dictionary and learn it. A Dictionary is a great tool to learn new vocabulary. Especially if English is not your 1st language. The more words you know the easier it is to not only read faster but also with great comprehension. Comprehension takes 3 forms – Literally, Interpretively and Applied. Make sure your comprehension spans all 3. The book has great examples on these.

“It takes time to save time.”

End of Chapter: Time Trial

The book has time trials at the end of each chapter to test your words per minute (wpm) and comprehension. At first I was resistant but soon I became a convert and found this section super useful. There is nothing like tracking and comparing progress. Especially if it improves and you start seeing the value in what you are learning. So how did I perform? Better than I imagined. I started at 300 wpm at 80% comprehension and finished up on 480 wpm with same comprehension.

My scorecard

Day Content WPM Comprehension
Day 1 Pg8. All About Reading 300 wpm (1:18s -> 1:20) 80%
Day 2 Pg26. Battling the Worry Bug 265 wpm (1:28s -> 1:30) 80%
Day 3 Pg50. A True Athlete 345 wpm (1:08s -> 1:10) 80%
Day 4 Pg69. The History of Speed Reading 369 wpm 80%
Day 5 Pg122. It’s All Relative 345 wpm (1:03s -> 1:10) 80%
Day 6 Pg131. The Ties That Bind 400 wpm (56s -> 1.00) 70%
Day 7 Pg159. Books Join the Electronic Wave 400 wpm (56s -> 1.00) 90%
Day 8 Pg177. A Few Words 480 wpm (47s -> 50) 80%
Day 9 Pg192. April Fool’s Day: A Real Kick in the Pants 480 wpm (49s -> 50) 80%

Now that I have quantitive data, I can make better decisions. This changes how I felt about my reading ability, speed and comprehension. I feel more positive about myself than I did before. This is a huge win!

My top 3 take aways

  1. Trust my brain that it will understand (comprehend) what I read.
  2. Use a pacer to keep my eyes and mind focused on content.
  3. It is ok to skim. Ref point #1.

Final note. Reading this book alone is not enough. The book is a wealth of knowledge breaking down old barriers and giving you tools you wish you had earlier in life. Now that you know, you need to program your brain through repetition of movement and activity. Apply these techniques and thought patterns daily to get faster!

Happy reading!

~ Ernest

Book mentioned in the blog post: 10 Days to Faster Reading by The Princeton Language Institute and Abby Marks Beale.

google-self-driving-car

Cute Google Self-Driving Car Fail (video)

Mountain View, California. The heart of Silicon Valley. Where in our local streets you can actually find roundabouts. Yes the type you see everywhere in Australia and UK. Not the norm for US. But, something is difference. The Roundabouts here also have a Stop sign. Yes, the traditional stop sign you see at just about every street in the USA. Now we know a roundabout’s purpose is to keep traffic moving while a stop sign’s is to stop traffic. The 2 together are counter intuitive right?

Now what would happen when you have a roundabout and you must give way to your left? Confused? Me too. Even for the new 100% automated robots cruising the local streets of Mountain View. Those cute bubble Google Self-Driving Cars. These cute self-driving cars have been around Mountain View for the past few months. They are the future of transportation. An awe of inspiration to see. A Borg like intelligence, developed by mankind up the road at Google HQ, is making autonomous decisions in transporting humans. This is the pinnacle of human innovation! They are still in closed Beta mode. Carry max 2 people. One day I hope to get an opportunity to order a lift from my smartphone.

So back to the roundabout and stop sign issue. We know the scene. We know the car. Now check out the video my wife recorded of this Google self driving car getting confused as it pulls up to such a roundabout with a stop sign. PS. I did some edits to the video to add character in good spirit. Enjoy!

Life with a Smartphone – Stop the Noise!

It feels like it’s never going to stop right? Information overload. Who isn’t bombarded with too much stimuli from the fast paced world we live in? Stop the Noise!

A friend recently tweeted this article from AFR. The article is about an individual who “liberated” himself from the noise of his distracting smartphone. His solution was to replace his smartphone with the old school Nokia phone capable of SMS and phone calls only. Maybe some WAP too 😉

nokia-phone-old-school

Is this extreme? Yeah I think so. Are there simpler methods to quieten down your world without going as extreme? Sure there are. Many actually. Let’s take a peek at each.

Your smartphone

Your smartphone is calling you for your attention every time an email arrives across all your n email accounts. From your uncle’s cat tweets to your cousin Billie posts about the latest pizza he had for breakfast. Oh let’s not forget the calendar on your phone nagging you about that meetup you have tomorrow night. Oh the distractions. They all arrive on your smartphone in the form of a buzz, vibration or light flicker. Yes you can get your phone to blink the camera light. The switch is under Accessibility settings.

Stop the Noise

Note: the following instructions are for the iPhone only. I’m sure Android has similar.

  1. Turn on DND (Do Not Disturb) by swiping your screen up and pressing the moon icon. Your phone will stop buzzing and/or vibrating. Make sure you add your favorite contacts inside your contacts app so at least they can reach you via phone.
  2. Turn off most apps Notifications. Head into your phone’s Settings > Notifications and turn them off. Be smart. And decide which of the top 5 apps you need to bug you. Every time you install an app it gives sneaks in full Notifications. Unless you are explicit when you first run the app. Most peeps press Ok hence the Notifications burden.
  3. When focusing, place the phone face down. This will stop the stream of notifications invading your lock screen from disturbing you. If something is urgent they will call you. If the person is important (favorite) contact the call will by pass DND mode.

And that’s it! Your phone is now quieter.

Get Productive!

  1. Offload all the nonsense in your head for processing later. This way you can focus on the task at hand. Use a tool like GSDfaster app which has GTD at its core of collecting stuff into a trusted source. GTD is a method that works well for me and countless others. When our short term memory contains 7+ to-dos, a FIFO (First In First Out) algorithm kicks in. You only realize this later. When that deep uncomfortable feeling creeps in. That thing you forgot pops up and you panic in a “drop everything and do this before I forget” mode. Not an effective way to function in today’s busy society. Offload everything from your head into a trusted source. Focus and get things done faster stress free.
  2. Focus on 1 thing at a time for a set period of time. The feeling of having completed something is relieving. Remember that multitasking is a misnomer. Humans have one processor with many threads spawning processes every few seconds. Hold on, that’s like a traditional computer. Yap. The way multitasking works in humans is these chunks of stuff get processed by context switching. Unlike a machines, you have limited energy. So most folks never end up completing stuff to feel that relief of achievement. Best method I’ve found to help you focus is The Pomodoro Technique. It forces you to do 1 thing in a set period of time.
  3. Unplug & Relax your body and mind with exercise, meditation and/or sensory deprivation. This is how you unplug & recharge you batteries after a long day. It also helps you learn to focus better. My favorite form is exercise and the isolation tank for sensory deprivation. Both are easy to get into and have immediate results.

Sensory Isolation Tank Pod

Finally I’m going to leave you with an important tip. Busy is just an excuse. We are all busy. We make time for things through prioritization. Next time you want to say you are busy carefully think about it for few seconds before answering. More on this in a future post.

So there you have it, some great techniques and tools to reduce the noise, stress and get more stuff done in 2016!

~ Ernest

My Green Card Journey: E3 to H1B to GC

6 years in the US, 1 x E3 visas and 2 x H1Bs it was time to bite the bullet and get a Green Card. 1 hiccup (delay) along the way, 1 year after applying for a Green Card and $12K later we got our Green Cards. Here’s how this journey went.

I left Sydney (Australia) and arrived in Silicon Valley in 2009. The plan was simple and short. Get Couponstar Ltd acquired by Coupons, Inc., profit, then go home. 2 years max. Unfortunately life doesn’t always work the way we want it to. Fast forward to 2015, 6 years later, our H1B renew maxed out (6 years). It was time to move to a Green Card or go home back to Sydney.

Go home or stay

Going back to Sydney was off the cards. There was so much more we wanted to do in the US/Silicon Valley. Going back to an E3 (like H1B but only for Aussies) meant I would continue to be tied to a US company while in the US; golden handcuffs. I learned that most things in life do not go to plan and we cannot predict much with certainty. Tying one self to an entity that governs your life is also not an astute life decision. So a Green Card it was.

September 2014 – My Green Card Journey begins

We reached out to Peter Roberts at Roberts Immigration Law Group. Peter came highly recommended by a good friend from Y Combinator (YC). Peter is an outstanding immigration lawyer who does work for YC and other startups. He also recently (Dec 2015) did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Hacker News here. Worth a read if you want more info on immigration to the US.

Peter is based on the East Coast but the distance wasnt a barrier. Throughout this process I never met Peter face to face. It was all done via email and phone calls. Maybe one day I can personally meet Peter.

Our 1st call with Peter left up feeling extremely positive about the process and Peter. That feeling we had was a result of Peter’s experience and his ability to communicate complex processes in a way that made sense. Peter advised us there are 3 Green Card routes I can take but only 1 will allow me to possibly get a Green Card.

Green Card Options

1. PERM (Employer Sponsored Labor Certification) – employer sponsors the employee. Note, you must be an employee and not hold more than a typical employee nugget of equity in the company. If you are a co/founder of a company this route will not work for you since that nugget of equity is substantially more than a typical employee’s.

Also to obtain an approved PERM Labor Certification, the employer must prove (through newspaper advertising and other recruiting methods) that they were unsuccessful in recruiting a qualified U.S. worker for your position.

2. Extraordinary Ability Green Card – EB-1 – you must demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. You are demonstrating that your entry will substantially benefit prospectively the United States. No offer of employment is required for this category but if you are running a company in such value adding field then you want to demonstrate this correlation.

3. Marriage – to an American citizen. This is the fastest and cheapest way to obtain residency in the US.

Option 3 via Marriage was out. Option 1 via PERM was also out due to my equity ownership in my startup. This left me with Option 2; Extraordinary Ability (EB-1) on the basis of a career of acclaimed work in the field of endeavor.

As a Software Engineering working in the Health sector and cofounding Medlert, a logistics and communication platform for hospitals and ambulance companies; my lawyer had confidence this route would work. This was amplified by the fact that I also have had the pleasure to talk at various industry events on technology disruption in healthcare and the opportunity to work with great investors. Now to meet this extraordinary ability, I had to meet 3 out of the 10 listed criteria outlined below to prove “extraordinary ability in my field”.

Planing for a Green Card – Start Early!

I often recommend people start thinking and planning their Green Card as early as possible. Especially if you plan to satisfy the requirements of EB1A – Extraordinary Ability Green Card. Add value to the US economy either through the company you represent, industry contributions and/or relevant publications. Also start blogging to establish your own brand. TIP: You can list your blog in EB1 requirements.

If you plan to obtain your Green Card through PERM (Employer Sponsored Labor Certification) then also start early. Not just working hard but building something key/special around your name. Again a blog helps to create that unique persona and separates you from the rest. Remember this is all going to help your employer when you apply. They need to list your position open for few months and then prove to the US gov they failed to find someone like you. So make yourself unique, special. One of a kind!

October 2014 – and so it begins… documenting our life

To kickstart the whole process our immigration lawyer sent us a list of everything they needed to begin the submission process. From documents to photos to a medical exam. A medical exam I hear you say; yeah a medical exam to make sure we are immunized against a US specific list of viruses.

Power TIP: I found that starting a shared folder on Dropbox was far better than emailing documents to Peter. Most email clients have a limitation on document size which you will most likely hit. Dropbox doesn’t. Furthermore, using Dropbox allowed me to digitize and categorized all these important documents into the 1 place. The search in Dropbox also helps when you need to find any document or picture fast. If you have never used Dropbox just follow this link to get started with few gigs of FREE storage: https://db.tt/QDC0nvU

The to-do list

1. Schedule a medical exam. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) outlines physicians who are authorized by USCIS to administer this medical exam. The USCIS-authorized physician performing the medical exam needs to complete Form I-693. Vaccination requirements can be found here. After the exam, you need to send the Medical exam results in sealed envelope back to your lawyer.

2. Passport photos. 8 photos each. See photo instructions to make sure you get the right ones.

3. Birth Certificates – Since Urszula and I were both born in Poland (but lived in Australia for most our lives) we needed to obtain birth certificates from Poland Civil Registry Office (Urząd Stanu Cywilnego) that has jurisdiction over the place of occurrence. That is complete copy (odpis zupelny) not an abbreviated copy (odpis skrócony). The abbreviated copy provides insufficient data for the US Embassy. This is important. Then have a local translator translate them. We used online …

A complete copy of a birth record provides the following information: the last, first and middle names of a child, gender, the place and date of birth, the full names of the parents, dates and places of their births, their places of residence, mother’s maiden name, whether or not the parents were legally married.

4. Marriage Certificates. A complete copy of a marriage certificate with the following information: the full names and previous marital status, places of residence, places and dates of birth of the concerned couple, the full names of the parents, the names of two witnesses, and the married name of each party.

5. Employment history. Past and current. Including employment authorization prior jobs e.g. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-797 approval notice(s) and visa(s) and Form 1040 from Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It’s good to keep these in your Dropbox.

6. Copy of all passport pages; even if blank. I used my iPhone to take photos and again threw them up on Dropbox. No need for a scanner like the old days 😉

7. Copy of back side of our I-94 cards.

See why having all this in Dropbox is helpful. There is a lot of documents to share with your immigration lawyer. Email just doesn’t cut it especially if you need to check back and see whether something was already provided or not.

8. RILG – Immigration Questionnaire. This is a 7 page document full of questions like:

  • Information about U.S. Employer inc founders, equity, investors, funding, revenue and what the company I co-founded does.
  • Information about Employment is about your Role. From a detailed job description to your salary, benefits & stock.
  • Information about Employee is about You. Where you live, SSN, spouse etc..
  • Complete copy of employee’s and employee’s family’s current passports, including blank pages and I-94 admission “cards” if in U.S. (available online).
  • Copy of any USCIS approval notices and any other relevant documents (for example, Form I-797, Form I-20, DS-2019, EAD, etc.) relating to current and past U.S. immigration status (both non-immigrant and immigrant) of employee and employee’s family.
  • Copy of employee’s CV. Yeah that’s you. We are all employees even of our own company.
  • Copy of employee’s tertiary diplomas (and transcripts) from any universities or post-secondary schools attended in United States or abroad.
  • Copy of any professional licenses or certificates held by employee.
  • Copy of corporate establishment documents of U.S. employer (such as certificate and articles of incorporation).
  • Copy of U.S. employer’s business plan and/or pitch deck.
  • Copy of U.S. employer’s most recent 409A valuation report.
  • Copy of press (online, print, etc.) about U.S. employer.
  • List of U.S. employer’s major clients, current and projected revenues for each client, and copy of contracts with same.

Satisfy the Requirements of EB1A – Extraordinary Ability Green Card

  • “Published material and press about prospective employee and prospective employee’s work.”
    • This is very specific to your employer/company but try to tie it to great good and US economy.
  • “Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance, including patents and provisional patents.”
    • I have 1 Patent under the belt. Apparatus and Method for Network Based Remote Mobile Monitoring of a Medical Event.
  • “Authorship of articles in professional journals or other major media”
    • Personal blog like The Road to Silicon Valley is acceptable inc.
    • other media I appeared in like VentureBeat and News.com.au.
  • “Participation on panel, or individually, as judge of work of others”
  • “Speaking engagements/conference presentations.” Here is an example of few I listed on my application:

    • TriCON 2014, San Diego. Topic: The Future of Medical Transport
    • PINNACLE 2014 EMS Leadership & Management Conference, Scottsdale, Arizona. Topic: New Perspectives on EMS Reimbursement & Focus Group
    • ZOLL Summit 2014, Denver, CO. Topic: Mobile Technology in Medical Transportation
    • Evening with The Social+Capital Partnership: Personal Health Edition, Topic: A Mobile First Approach to Disrupting the Archaic Emergency Response Ecosystem.
    • Redline Executive Summit 2014, Orlando, FL, Topic: Connected Healthcare
  • “Noteworthy work/achievements at U.S. employer and previous employers”
    • This is basically your work history. Mine included being a CTO of a company acquired by a US entity (Quotient Technologies formerly Coupons.com) to founding Medlert, a company in the Healthcare space doing something disruptive.
  • “Letters from prior employers documenting 10 years of employment – i.e., confirming dates of employment and positions held and providing description of role and accomplishments”
  • “Names of 10 potential reference writers understanding that primary purpose of letters is to talk about potential impact/value of U.S. employer’s products and/or services and secondary purpose is to talk about employee’s role/importance in success of company and its products and/or services”
    • Before you include anyone as a reference you should always reach out to them to get their approval.
    • Mine included GPs of the VC firms that invested in Medlert (Social Capital Partnership & Subtraction Capital) and few other notable figures in the industry that we worked with.
    • It is pivotal that you network. Business is about people. And these people may one day be your references in where ever life takes you.

As mentioned above, even before you apply for a Green Card, make sure you are:

a. You are deeply engaged in your industry/profession eg. talk/present at industry events.

b. References – Important to have industry and accomplished references here. Build deep connections. Business == People. Make sure the reference you include in your application have seen you work and can backup your claims.

December 2014

The lawyers submitted all this information listed above to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and provided us with a Green Card application receipt notice in the form of Form I-797C.

Next Steps; assuming all the paperwork is moving forward, USCIS will schedule a biometrics appointment (finger prints) for you to have your biometrics electronically captures at a USCIS Application Support Center (ASC). The notice for this arrives by mail. Your lawyer should also alert you of this so you don’t miss it.

Most time is spent waiting with other immigrants at the USCIS. The actual finger printing process is fast. If you ever came through immigration in the US you would have already been familiar with this process.

May 2015

The I-140 national interest waiver petition has been approved. Woohoo! This means that I-485 “Green Card” applications should be approved soon as well. At this point we were thinking any week now. But little did we know what would come next.

June 2015 – Hiccup!

USCIS asked us to provide different versions of our birth certificates. Remember what I said above about providing sufficient birth certificates. We provided abbreviated copies (known as odpis skrocony in Polish) and USCIS wants us to provide complete copies (known as odpis zupelny). This means we needed to apply for them at the nearest Polish consulate or directly at the Civil Registry Office. The former turns out to be a 3 month turn around process, few hundred $$$ later and 0 guarantee of success. A joke right. So we reached out directly to our family in Poland to help us organize it from the actual city council we were born in. Note we are Australia citizens for most of our life yet where we hatched was a big deal. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

A month later we had the complete copies of our birth certificates. Sign of relief. But this wasn’t the end of that. We now needed to translate the Polish complete copies and have them notarized. I found https://www.rev.com/certified-translation/birth-certificate-translation/polish and gave them a try at $27 per page with a 48 hours turnaround. Unfortunately the 48 hours turned into 1 week.

We sent everything to the lawyers. And waited for our Green Cards.

September 2015

Our Green Cards have arrived! Sorry for the wacky pic but it was the 1st pic I took lol.

Ernest Semerda holding his Green Card

The whole Green Card process took close to 1 year. And half way through this journey our H1Bs expired. Apparently this is ok and deportation was never an issue 😉

How do I feel? Like Ultron!

“I had strings. But now I’m free. There are no strings on me.” ~ Ultron

How it feels to have a Green Card ~ "I had strings. But now I’m free. There are no strings on me.” ~ Ultron

Visa == Chains

A Visa is a chain to an employer. If you are an employee on a Visa you may be getting the short end of the stick. I will explain this in a future blog post and why it’s pivotal you are off a Visa ASAP. This is one of those things hardly anyone talks about but is an issue that affects you personally. Knowing your rights and options helps.

Total Investment

Immigration Lawyer: Peter Roberts <proberts@robertsimmigration.com>

Legal Fees:

  • $5,000.00 for I-140 NIW petition
  • $2,250 for the principal’s I-485 application
  • $2,000 for the spouse’s I-485 application

USCIS Filing Fees:

  • $580.00 for I-140 petition
  • $2,140.00 for I-485 applications

Miscellaneous Expenses:

  • Copying, mailing, tracking, etc.: $150.00

Rev Translation Service

  • URL: https://www.rev.com
  • Certificate Translation $54
  • Notarization $20
    • $74 x 2 – 1 for Ula and 1 for me

Total: $12,268.00 and 1 year to get those Green Cards.

Power TIP #2: Have a good GTD system in place. Human memory limitations means you will not remember all of the above items. Create a to-do list aka Project as it is know in the GTD world and collect stuff to do there. I used GSDfaster which is a productivity app with the GTD method as it’s core. Full disclosure; I built GSDfaster. Get app from here.

Power TIP #3: Check out http://www.simplecitizen.com/ — they simplify the whole US immigration process. This is a brilliant startup idea! I have never used their service but I understand the pain points they are solving and it makes total sense.

If you have a different experience or want to share yours please do so below. Would love to hear your story.

~ Ernest

EQ: Emotional Intelligence, 3 Brain Theory & Leadership

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. A skill now highly regarded as a necessity for great leaders. Traditionally analytical skills measured by IQ tests were considered as the pinnacle of leadership missing probably the most important quality of a leader, EQ.

Recently I gave Daniel Goleman’s book called “Emotional Intelligence” a spin. In his book, Goleman explains how emotions play a much greater role in thought, decision-making and individual success than is commonly acknowledged.

Let me explain.

Paul MacLean – 3 Brain Theory

Dr. MacLean said we do not have 1 brain but 3. Each brain evolved over time one by one over the older brain until there were 3 distinct brains interconnected with their own purpose and function. This is called the Triune Brain Model.

The 3 brains – starting in the center

3 brains - primitive, emotional & rational

1st – Reptilian (Primitive) is at the brain stem, root brain. This controls breathing, heart and organ functions. It is a part of the brain which cannot be reprogrammed since it regulates your body. Its goal is to make sure you stay alive and reproduce.

2nd – Limbic (Emotional) sits over the primitive brain and is impulsive and powerful. It controls how you feel to certain stimulus. Knowing something is right in your heart. It connects information to memory and works best during emotionally charged context. It serves the primitive brain giving pleasure to natural survival needs.

We like to believe that our decisions are based on our thought but in reality they are based on our “emotional state of mind”, how we feel at the time.

It’s important to know that there was an emotional brain long before rational brain.

3rd – Neocortex (Rational) is the newest part of our brain and is also referred to as the “thinking brain”. It sits on top of the emotional brain and it controls higher level processes such as logic, reasoning, creative thinking, language etc.

Neocortex tends to be swamped by the brains beneath it, especially the emotional brain on which it sits & connects to directly. The emotional brain is known to hijack your rational mind when it its basic needs for survival & reproduction are threatened sending a storm of messages to the lower brain to execute pre-programmed instructions in a fight or flight response. E.g. Fear sends stress signals to all parts of the brain immobilizing the body.

I’m sure by now you can see the importance of the 3 brains and their impact on us and people we lead.

A Japanese tale

There is a nice Japanese tale about a samurai and a zen master. The samurai wanted to know the difference between heaven and hell. The monk replied to the samurai “I have no time to waste with a lout like you”. The samurai flew into a rage and pulled his sword in anger yelling “I could kill you for your impudence!”. “That”, the monk replied “is hell”. Startled, having realised what the monk said the samurai put his sword away, bowed and thanked the monk for his insight. “And that” the monk said “is heaven”.
This illustrates the crucial difference in getting caught up in a feeling and becoming aware that you are getting swept away by it.

Socrates injunction “know thy self” speaks to this keystone of emotional intelligence. Awareness of ones own feelings as they occur and self-awareness as an ongoing attention to ones internal states – being aware of our moods and thoughts about that mood.

How to manage your emotions?

Here are a basic set of set of steps you can follow to learn to control your emotions and in turn understand the emotions and drivers of the people you lead.

  • Cease and challenge the emotion (e.g. anger) before reacting to it.
  • Realize that you cannot stop emotions flooding your mind. Emotions happen too quickly and outside your rational mind. But you are in total control of how you will react.
  • Have an open mind and realise that you may not understand the other story where the emotion was triggered. The situation might not be as bad as you perceive it.
  • Each thought triggers more emotions. So use the power of distraction to stop it.

Why is this important?

  • We are all affected by the 3 parts of our brain in making and dealing with decisions and people.
  • As a leader understanding how this affects you is fundamental in understanding your followers, those that you lead. How can you lead people if you do not understand basic fundamentals of how your emotions drive your world. Understand 1st, then apply.
  • Being an effective leader means you understand that people are emotional creatures and at times can get swamped by their lower brains in response to various environmental triggers.
  • Intentions and Behaviours are 2 different things. Behaviours are sometimes triggered by lower brain functions. Never make conclusions based on them, rather on the “true intentions” of the said individual, their rational mind. Have an open mind.

Emotional Intelligence

Before you can be effective at this you must understand your own emotions better just like the samurai in the Japanese tale. Once you learn to manage your emotions you will have a profound deep understanding of the people around you and how to best respond, motivate, lead and inspire them. That my life explorers, is true Emotional Intelligence.

emotional-intelligence-bubbles

Goleman in his book on Emotional Intelligence shares great stories and examples on EQ. If you haven’t already, spend some time immersing yourself in this knowledge. You will be surprised what you learn.

daniel-goleman-emotional-intelligence

~ Ernest

TED: 8 Things that Lead to Success by Richard St. John

After seven years and 500 interviews, analyst Richard St. John isolated the eight things that lead to success.

Richard St. John did a fantastic presentation at TED which I’m sharing here with you in a summarized format. Further down in the post is the actual video of Richard going over these points. Even though what is being said is nothing revolutionary, it’s still good to be reminded of what it has taken others to be successful.

In summary

What Leads To Success?

In detail

1. PASSION

“I’m driven by my passion” – Freeman Thomas (car designer, Daimler Chrysler)

Do it for LOVE Not MONEY

“I would pay someone to do what I do” – Carol Coletta (radio producer, Smart City)

2. WORK

“It’s all hard work. Nothing comes easily. But I have a lot of fun.” Rupert Murdoch (big cheese CEO)

3. GOOD

“To be successful put your nose down in something and get damn good at it.” Alex Garden (game developer)

PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE

4. FOCUS

“I think it all has to do with focusing yourself to one thing.” Norma Jewison (filmmaker)

5. PUSH

“Push yourself. Physically, mentally, you gotta push, push, push.” David Gallo (marine scientist)

SHYNESS SELF-DOUBT

“I always had self-doubts. I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t smart enough. I didn’t think I’d make it.” Goldie Hawn (actor)

“It’s not always easy to push yourself. My mother pushed me.” Frank Gehry (architect)

6. SERVE

“It was a privilege to serve as a doctor” – Sherin Nuland (professor of surgery, Yale)

Millionaires serve others something of value.

7. IDEAS

“I had an idea – founding the first micro-computer software company…” – Bill Gamest (software guy)

Listen, Observe, Be Curious, Ask Questions, Problem Solve, Make Connections.

8. PERSIST

“Persistence is the number one reason for our success.” – Joe Kraus (co-founder, Excite)

Persist to Failure to CRAP = Criticism, Rejection, Assholes, Pressure.

What leads to success? – Passion, Work, Focus, Persist, Ideas, Good, Push, Serve

Video: Richard St. John: Secrets of success in 8 words, 3 minutes

Yerba Mate Tea – Drink of the Gods

This tea rocks! If you had enough of caffeine jitteriness or its addictive tendencies, want to quit adding sugar to your tea or not a big fan of green tea but would love something that has both the power of black tea and the health benefits of green tea then look no further then Yerba Mate. It’s refreshing and energizing and has a nice list of health benefits.

“I reached the place of our vibouac by sunset and drinking much mate, soon made up my bed for the night. The wind was very strong and cold, but I never slept more comfortably.” – Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle, 1936

What is Yerba Mate

Yerba Mate is a green leafed shrub, original of subtropical South America. It’s popularity is due not only to it’s exotic taste, but to it’s potent health benefits. It has been the drink of choice of the Guarani Indians in early colonial periods. More on Wikipedia here.

Yerba Mate - Drinks of the Gods

Health Benefits of Yerba Mate Tea

Here are a good bunch of great reasons you should be drinking this tea:

  • It’s rich in vitamins, minerals and full of antioxidants – yerba mate offers a higher concentration of polyphenols to pack a punch in the fight against free radicals,
  • Works as an appetite suppressant,
  • Due to its thermogenic compounds it helps you burn more fat by elevating your metabolism,
  • 100% of the caffeine in a cup of coffee but no side effects like the jitters or yellow teeth stains &
  • Promotes cell survival better than red wine or green tea. – Hard science sources

How does it look

Pictures speak louder than words. Here are some of the pictures I took of the tea.

Yerba Mate - Cruz De Malta

Yerba Mate - Cruz De Malta (the leafs)

Where to get it?

Yerba Mate is a lot harder to acquire in store due to lower awareness of this great tea. However there are few places online which sell Yerba Mate for basically next to pennies. Amazon as always has a good selection – notice the special Yerba Mate tea gourd for drinking this tea:

Yerba Mate - Cruz De Malta
Cruz De Malta 1/2 Kilo Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate - Rosamonte
Yerba Mate Rosamonte x 500 g Argentina Green Leaf Tea Loose Herbal Bag 1.1 lb

 

If you are in Australia, “Natures Green Gold” proudly introduces South America’s secret of well-being and vitality to Australian homes. Visit their website for Australian locations to pickup Yerba Mate: http://www.naturesgreengold.com/. Thanks to Nathan Hesse for sending me this link to help our Australian readers in acquiring this fantastic drink locally.

Tim Ferriss

Timothy Ferriss, an American author and public speaker speaks highly of Yerba Mate and it’s benefits in how it had helped him write his 1st NY Times Best Seller book called The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.

“2. Biochemically Fine-Tune. I found by accident that my best sessions all followed a specific ratio: 3 cups of yerba mate tea for each glass of wine consumed.” – Tim’s blog

Further reading

If you would like to learn more about Yerba Mate Tea then I highly recommend you read the links below. There is a wealth of information there. Alternatively send me a message and I will happily respond to your questions.

I love questions, so ask away!

Ernest

Links mentioned in this post

Stories submitted by Yerba Mate loyal customers:

“I drink Yerba Mate every morning. It is my way of waking up and greeting the day. It gives me an energy that is not a ‘hyped up’ feeling but rather like a natural energy that comes from a healthy lifestyle.”

Nancy Smith, Registered Nurse, Reno, Nevada More…

“When I sit down to paint yerba seems to give me the mental clarity and focus that I need in order to create to my fullest potential.”

Scott Cranmer, Artist, Audubon, New Jersey More…

“When my doctor suggested I give up black tea and coffee a year ago, I switched to drinking Green Tea for the perceived health benefits. However, I found it somewhat unsatisfying as a morning beverage. Luckily, I discovered Yerba Mate and I’ve never looked back. I began ordering my yerba mate from Nativa for their great services and prices (just one-third of what I was paying here in BC). Since switching to yerba mate, I experience none of the jittery side effects of coffee, sleep very well and just generally feel great!”

Jim Sutton, Family Therapist, Vancouver, British Columbia More…

Buddhism: How to Tame your Monkey Mind

Buddha described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering, carrying on endlessly.

This is your mind – the monkey mind

Monkey Brain

Monkey Brain

I’m sure we can all relate to this. You lay down in bed wanting to relax / sleep but you mind is so busy you can’t stop thinking about a hundred things at the same time. An hour passes by and you still can’t sleep. Living in a busy world has its toll on our mental state. This toll is what the Monk’s call “The monkey mind”.

How to still your mind – Meditate

The single most effective way to still your mind (rid the monkey mind) is Meditation. Of course you can disconnect from society and go on a holiday but this doesn’t teach you how to manage the monkey mind rather temporarily escape from it.

Meditation is a great way to relieve anxiety, manage stress, and focus your mind.

There are many sites describing different methods (some overcomplicated) on how to meditate. The complexities scare the masses and they try to deal with it another way. The truth is that it’s very simple. Forget about those 300 page books and just do this:

buddha-meditation

1. Find a quiet place away from all distractions.

2. Get into a Lotus sitting position. As shown to the picture to the left. This is the statue in Bangalore depicting Shiva meditating in a Lotus position.

3. Close your eyes and start “deep breathing“. In through your nose and out through your mouth. It doesnt matter to what count you do it as long as you are breathing properly – using your diaphragm. If you aren’t not sure how to breath deeply read my post on breathing here.

4. Focus on each breath. Imagine the air coming in as pure white energy which gives you life. Imagine the exhaled air as black poison leaving your body. Did you know that the respiratory system is actually responsible of getting rid of 70% of the body’s waste.

5. Keep on doing this over and over. Your monkey mind will soon cease the wilderness and come to a standstill. When you reach this stop, you will experience “inner peace”. A feeling that cannot be explained, only felt and experienced. Enjoy this state for you have found yourself.

At first, start with a 15 minute meditation session and increase this up to an hour or more only when you are comfortable meditating for longer periods of time.

Why this works?

In a previous post I said “conscious mind creates the belief and the subconscious mind then executes the belief”. If your conscious mind is too busy with thoughts rushing in and out on s daily basis then how are you to send a consistent message to your subconscious mind on where you want to be in life and / or the level of success you are pursuing. Simple answer is you cannot. Your brain will filter all the noise and miss the key points.

Stilling your mind is the key here. So that you can consciously make clear and concise decisions and to tell your subconscious what you really want out of life.

Extra benefits – Bigger Brain!

The experts at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) have found that meditation helps build a bigger brain. Click here to read the article on this scientific finding. They used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of people who meditate and people who don’t and found that certain brain areas – specifically “the hippocampus and areas within the orbito-frontal cortex, the thalamus and the inferior temporal gyrus” – were significantly larger in people who meditate.

“We know that people who consistently meditate have a singular ability to cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability and engage in mindful behavior,” said Eileen Luders, lead author and a postdoctoral research fellow at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging. “The observed differences in brain anatomy might give us a clue why meditators have these exceptional abilities.”

Because these areas of the brain are closely linked to emotion, Luders said, “these might be the neuronal underpinnings that give meditators’ the outstanding ability to regulate their emotions and allow for well-adjusted responses to whatever life throws their way.”

This alone is a good reason to meditate. Gain a competitive edge today! … for free.

Let’s speed this up – how to make it work quicker

If you are impatient, like me, then you may be asking “Ernest, how do I speed this meditation process up?”. I too had this question and finally found the answer – Isolation Tank. After 20-40 minutes of floating in an Isolation Tank your conscious mind will come to a stand still and you will get to see and hear your subconscious mind. What does this all mean? – I explain in detail this natural wonder here:

There are also other methods like using the Silva Method to help with switching mental states. I will cover this in future posts and share with you free special audio to get you started instantly.

Here are other audio resources I use to get the extra edge

The Secret Universal Mind Meditation – This one is great to fall asleep to. As you sleep your subconscious mind will absorb the positive messages. This is my favorite.
audio-the-secret

Brainwave Meditation – The easiest way to meditate during the day.
audio-brainwave-meditation

Awakening Kundalini – Kundalini is the name for the extraordinary powerhouse of cosmic energy that resides within you.

audio-awakening-kundalini

Until then, silence your monkey mind and enjoy the inner peace.

Ernest

Developing the Leader within you by John Maxwell

Few of us are natural-born leaders, according to John C. Maxwell, the author of Developing the Leader Within You. Fortunately though Maxwell teaches us that the traits that are the raw material of leadership can be acquired. As Maxwell explains “You supply desire and I will show you how to be a leader”. So I immersed myself in this book on developing the leader within me. You can grab the book from Amazon.

developing-the-leader-within-you

“People don’t want to be managed, they want to be lead.” ~ John C. Maxwell

I have often found this point fascinating even before hearing it from Maxwell. A leader is someone who people will look up to because they aspire or see quality in that individual which they would want to see in them self. These people “want to be lead”. The leader must be good at managing them self before they are ready to start managing and leading others.

Maxwell speaks of Bruce Larson whom describes a leader as the one to take a place at the front and be able to handle the turbulence while the rest (those that are lead) are honking affirmations.

This draws similarity to how a flock of birds with a pack leader at the front breaking the air while the rest of the birds follow in sync. Nature it seems has engraved a form of leadership into all species on this planet. We just need to develop a desire to grow into those shoes.

He who thinketh he leadeth and has no one following him is only taking a walk. ~ John C. Maxwell

Leadership is defined as “ability to get followers”. If you work backwards from this you can figure out how to lead. It’s not a position (status / title), but to get followers. Status leaders exhibit frustration as they try to get followers.

This shadows the fact that leadership and the ability to influence others is vital to have successful relationships, a successful job or business and your overall satisfaction with life. The question you need to ask yourself is “What kind of an influencer will you be”.

The very essence of all power to influence is getting the other person to participate. ~ Harry A. Overstreet

The Lego blocks

Here are a few pieces of knowledge you might want to consider when building your influence and ultimately leadership:

  • Leadership is built like a set of lego blocks, from the bottom up.
  • Leadership begins with the heart not head.
  • You cannot lead people without loving them.
  • We want people to be results orientated.
  • Integrity keeps people. Charismatic personality draws people.
  • You gotta love em before you lead em.
  • Problems never stop but people can stop problems.
  • Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it!
  • A leader is great due to the way they empower others.

5 levels of leadership

The following are John Maxwell’s five stages of influence that individuals move through when building their leadership quality. Advancement to the next level can only happen once an individual has excelled in the present level.

1. Position – you start with a title and a level of authority it gives you.

2. Permission – people begin to follow you because they see something within you. This is the true beginning of influence with your followers.

3. Production – people inspire to become like you and thus try to produce at a higher level based on what they see you doing for the organization.

4. People Development – you have followers because of value you brought into their life.

5. Personhood – people follow you based on who you are and what you represent or stand for. This is the pinnacle of leadership here and a small amount of leaders reach this point.

Excellent leaders:

  • Great leaders-the truly successful ones who are in the top 1 percent-all have one thing in common. They know that acquiring and keeping good people is a leader’s most important task.
  • Create an excellent environment & believe in their team.
  • Know human needs. Being able to separate a behavior from intention is key in understanding people.
  • Control big 3:
    • finance,
    • personnel, and
    • planning.
  • Avoid 7 deadly sins:
    • try to be liked not respected,
    • not asking team for advise and help,
    • taunting personal talent,
    • not keeping criticism constructive,
    • not developing a sense of responsibility in team members,
    • not treating everyone same way and failing to keep everyone well informed.

Maxwell reminds us that to always make yourself available to your people.

What motivates people:

  • Significant contribution by allowing people to purse a cause that will have lasting impact.
  • Goal participation by giving ownership to your people.
  • Positive dissatisfaction by inspiriting positive effective change.

What demotivates people:

  • Public criticism.
  • Manipulations tearing down the walls in a relationship.
  • Insensitivity by not listening to your people.
  • Discouraging personal growth by feeling threatened by the success of others.

Developing the Leader within you

Becoming a great leader only happens once you set your goal and fuel it with a strong desire. There are great qualities of a leader one can always mirror from leadership stories, mentors, people we aspire et al and practice those qualities which ultimately can become your new habits.

I highly encourage you to read leadership stories of other great leaders like my all time favorite Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way. If you want a place to start then John C. Maxwell’s Developing the Leader Within You is ideal to understanding what Leadership is all about. Enjoy your journey and please share your experiences in the comment section below.

~ Ernest

Best of Twitter from @ernestsemerda for October 2013

This Best of Twitter summary features the most relevant Tweets and stories I shared on my Twitter account (https://twitter.com/ernestsemerda) in the month of October 2013. Posting these tweets here on The Road To Silicon Valley blog allows me to expand on some of the ideas in the tweets and comment / express my thoughts in a deeper and more meaningful format than within the constrains of a 140 character tweet.

twitter-superman

If you like what I posted here feel free to follow me on Twitter => @ernestsemerda <= and let me know what you think.

It’s official. I am part of the Bay Area Bike Share Network :-) Read more about this cool healthy and disruptive program on my previous post. Use the 30 min limit of this great service as an “excercise motivator” to peddle hard burning those calories. When you hop on a bike think excercise not just a A to B transport.

Another cool weekend at Foothill College sipping in information and learning new stuff. I have in the past covered in detail Silicon Valley Code camp in 2011 here and in 2012 on Raising Capital by Bruce Schechter from Band of Angel. Worth going at least once to experience this.

What’s hilarious about this whole new movement against sitting is that scientists have been saying this for years. Read Brain Rules by John Medina if you want to see for yourself. John Medina is a development molecular biologist and has summarized all scientific evidence that passed his “grump factor”. ‘Sitting is the new smoking’ — 60% of Americans suffer from Silicon Valley Syndrome. Get off your ass and ride a bike!

I am a big fan of flat orgs. The fat cats of yesteryears love hierarchy because they crave power. Today’s smart leaders are realizing that hierarchy structures create fear driven cultures. Not good for a company which is to compete in today’s competitive and fast changing landscape where talent is in short supply. Watch RSA Animate – Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us for a fast intro to Daniel Pink’s book Drive and you will get the idea behind the no managers movement.

Good lessons here. Don’t build shit because you have a gut feeling or some super human power. Use data to determine what needs to be built and whether what you did before is worth keeping or killing. Learn from data. Be data driven. Lean Startup approach. I find that people who do not use data is because they are lazy or do not know how to read data to make better decisions. Both are unacceptable since they get you no where – read The Myth of ‘I’m Bad at Math’ below.

Scott Adams is a farken genius! Basically failure is where success likes to hide in plain sight. Your goals are most likely all about some sugar coated ferry tales. Adams basically says go out there and get shit done through a systematic approach. If you chase goals you constantly are riding a Sine wave and need to reset your expectations. People who use systems do better.

This is a good one! Having gone through all sort of roles in my 13 year career I have seen shitty managers which had no clue about software engineering micromanage their employees because they believed that typing away at a keyboard was work. #lol Design always starts in the head, then whiteboard/paper then discussions then more thinking then some prototyping before finally setting in to code. Code is a very small part of building something great.

Good reason why you should sleep more or use Melatonin to optimize your sleep cycle. Software Engineers are notorious for sacrificing their sleep to smash away through code to get shit done. The most productive time for a Software Engineer is mostly in the evening with close to 0 interruptions. There is also something in the air knowing you are one of the few folks awake in your hood. However, manage your sleep if you want to retain those super duper cells that make you a kickass software engineer.

Aussie lingo and humour. Definitely the perfect way to describe the ideal startup team.

This has to be the best implementation of education and gaming that I’ve seen in a while. Too many educational startups focus on content delivery. Well that has already been done by a hundred other startups and beaten to death by cookie cutter startups. So what is next? How do you keep someone engaged while learning? This is where CodeCombat comes in. They teach you JavaScript by forcing you to code to get through the levels killing your enemy and getting through obstacles. Not to mention these guys got into YC13 Winter at Startup School 2013. Superb work guys!

Are you using GSDfaster to Get Stuff Done Faster? This is a pet project of mine that has been shaping over some time now. It grew out of my own need for a better system of managing notes. After reading David Allen’s GTD book I was inspired by the GTD concept and built a product which suits me. Yap it was initially just for me until friends wanted to use it too. So I opened it up on iTunes for anyone to grab. Check it out and let me know what you think.

There you have it. The debate has been settled with hard numbers. You may recall that Python’s The Zen of Python basically tells you to use under_score for identifiers in your code. Hint hint Python 😉

This finding is great. I hate it when people use the excuse of not being a maths person as an excuse for their laziness or shortcomings. Hard work = Results. Isn’t this what your parents told you when you were in school! Never too late to learn maths.

I’ve been quiet vocal about this monstrosity. Not just because the website is poorly written breaking most accepted programming fundamentals but because it cost so much and what was delivered is a total mess. There have been excuses from those responsible for delivery from “Facebook wasn’t built in a day”.. well Facebook didn’t have $300m to build it either .. to nonsense like complexity of back end systems. When you build real products they are all complex and will grow in complexity over time. Which is why you need people on board that have a history of delivering complex systems not mediocre individuals that talk a lot but fail to deliver. Everyone is an expert until they have to deliver something that works.

Those that know me well know how strong my passion is for the Python language. For years I have been championing Python as the language of choice if you must choose between the sea of languages out there. I have a intro to Python post here if you want to get started:  or take a peek at my rant about why PHP is a house of horrors. The sketch I did on a whiteboard might give you a clue where to focus your learning energy. Check it out.

 

And that wraps up the month of October 2013. There were obviously more tweets but these are the most relevant to this blog. I encourage you to follow me on Twitter if you want to be entertained and educated on the world of Tech, Silicon Valley and other ramblings.

~ Ernest