Monthly Archives: October 2010

10 Lies You’ll Hear Before Pursuing Your Dream

Written by

(photo: salty_soul)

Unfortunately, just before you take your first step on the righteous journey to pursue your dreams, people around you, even the ones who deeply care for you, will give you awful advice. It’s not because they have evil intentions. It’s because they don’t understand the big picture—what your dreams, passions, and life goals mean to you. They don’t understand that, to you, the reward is worth the risk.

So they try to protect you by shielding you from the possibility of failure, which, in effect, also shields you from the possibility of making your dreams a reality.

As our friend Steve Jobs says:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Here are ten ill-advised tips (lies) people will likely tell you when you decide to pursue your dreams and the reasons why they are dreadfully mistaken:

1. You can follow your dreams someday, but right now you need to buckle down and be responsible.

Someday? When is ”someday”? “Someday” is not a day at all. It’s a foggy generalization of a time that will likely never come. Today is the only day guaranteed to you. Today is the only day you can begin to make a difference in your life. And pursuing your dreams is what life is all about. So don’t be irresponsible. Don’t wait until “someday.” Make today the first day of the rest of your new life.

2. You’re totally screwed if it doesn’t work out.

Wrong! This is a giant, lame load of BS. You’re not even close to being screwed. In fact, the worst case scenario is that things don’t work out and you have to go back to doing exactly what you are doing right now.

3. It’s safer to stay at your day job.

Sure, I suppose. But you know what’s even safer than that? Going home, locking yourself in your bedroom, and never, ever coming out. And just like that, you will have flushed your entire life and your dreams down the toilet. Remember, safer doesn’t always mean better.

4. That’s impossible!

It’s only impossible if you never do anything about it. The reason certain things seem impossible is simply because nobody has achieved them yet. But this doesn’t mean that with your help these things won’t become possible in the future. If you truly dedicate yourself to an end result, almost anything is possible. You just have to want it bad enough.

5. Only a lucky few “make it.”

That’s because those lucky few got off their rear ends and did something about it! They had the drive, determination, and willpower that you have right now. You can be one of them. It’s up to you, and only you.

6. You might fail. And failing is bad.

Failures are simply stepping stones to success. No matter how it turns out, it always ends up just the way it should be. Either you succeed or you learn something: win–win. The biggest mistake you can make is doing nothing because you’re too scared to make a mistake. If you can’t handle failure, then you can’t handle success either.

7. You don’t have access to the right resources.

It’s not about having the right resources; it’s about exploiting the resources you do have access to. Stevie Wonder couldn’t see, so he exploited his sense of hearing into a passion for music, and he now has twenty-five Grammy Awards to prove it. Get it?

8. You need more money saved before you can take the first step.

You don’t need more money. You need a plan. You need a budget. Eliminate ALL the nonessential costs in your life. If pursuing your dream requires you to leave your day job, figure out the absolute minimum amount of income that you realistically require to live. Studying those who have succeeded with similar ventures also helps. But above all, take baby steps. Don’t be foolish and assume that you must have a certain amount of money saved right now, or that you must quit your day job today in order to pursue your dreams. Instead, ask yourself, “What actions can I take right now with the money and resources I have right now that will bring me closer to desired goal?”

9. You don’t need any help. It’s smarter to go after it alone.

You are the sum of the people you spend the most time with. If you hang with the wrong people, they will negatively affect you. But if you hang with the right people, you will be far more capable and powerful than you ever could have been alone. Find your tribe and work together to make a difference in all of your lives.

10. That sounds like a lot of hard work.

You’re darn right it does! But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. I think success in life hinges on one key point: finding hard work you love doing. As long as you remain true to yourself and follow your own interests, values, and dreams, you can find success through passion. Perhaps most importantly, you won’t wake up a few years from now working in a career field you despise, wondering, How the heck am I going to do this for the next thirty years? So if you catch yourself working hard and loving every minute of it, don’t stop. You’re onto something big. Because hard work ain’t hard when you concentrate on your passions and dreams.

Disregard these misguided bits of nonsense and you’ll be well on your way to fulfilling your dreams. Now get out there and make a splash!

Bonus:TIL I was using the wrong term all along.

Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully in Ten Minutes

Written by Stephen King

I. The First Introduction

THAT’S RIGHT. I know it sounds like an ad for some sleazy writers’ school, but I really am going to tell you everything you need to pursue a successful and financially rewarding career writing fiction, and I really am going to do it in ten minutes, which is exactly how long it took me to learn. It will actually take you twenty minutes or so to read this essay, however, because I have to tell you a story, and then I have to write a second introduction. But these, I argue, should not count in the ten minutes.

II. The Story, or, How Stephen King Learned to Write

When I was a sophomore in high school, I did a sophomoric thing which got me in a pot of fairly hot water, as sophomoric didoes often do. I wrote and published a small satiric newspaper called The Village Vomit. In this little paper I lampooned a number of teachers at Lisbon (Maine) High School, where I was under instruction. These were not very gentle lampoons; they ranged from the scatological to the downright cruel.

Eventually, a copy of this little newspaper found its way into the hands of a faculty member, and since I had been unwise enough to put my name on it (a fault, some critics argue, of which I have still not been entirely cured), I was brought into the office. The sophisticated satirist had by that time reverted to what he really was: a fourteen-year-old kid who was shaking in his boots and wondering if he was going to get a suspension … what we called “a three-day vacation” in those dim days of 1964.

I wasn’t suspended. I was forced to make a number of apologies – they were warranted, but they still tasted like dog-dirt in my mouth – and spent a week in detention hall. And the guidance counselor arranged what he no doubt thought of as a more constructive channel for my talents. This was a job – contingent upon the editor’s approval – writing sports for the Lisbon Enterprise, a twelve-page weekly of the sort with which any small-town resident will be familiar. This editor was the man who taught me everything I know about writing in ten minutes. His name was John Gould – not the famed New England humorist or the novelist who wrote The Greenleaf Fires, but a relative of both, I believe.

He told me he needed a sports writer and we could “try each other out” if I wanted.

I told him I knew more about advanced algebra than I did sports.

Gould nodded and said, “You’ll learn.”

I said I would at least try to learn. Gould gave me a huge roll of yellow paper and promised me a wage of 1/2¢ per word. The first two pieces I wrote had to do with a high school basketball game in which a member of my school team broke the Lisbon High scoring record. One of these pieces was straight reportage. The second was a feature article.

I brought them to Gould the day after the game, so he’d have them for the paper, which came out Fridays. He read the straight piece, made two minor corrections, and spiked it. Then he started in on the feature piece with a large black pen and taught me all I ever needed to know about my craft. I wish I still had the piece – it deserves to be framed, editorial corrections and all – but I can remember pretty well how it looked when he had finished with it. Here’s an example:

(note: this is before the edit marks indicated on King’s original copy)

Last night, in the well-loved gymnasium of Lisbon High School, partisans and Jay Hills fans alike were stunned by an athletic performance unequaled in school history: Bob Ransom, known as “Bullet” Bob for both his size and accuracy, scored thirty-seven points. He did it with grace and speed … and he did it with an odd courtesy as well, committing only two personal fouls in his knight-like quest for a record which has eluded Lisbon thinclads since 1953….

(after edit marks)

Last night, in the Lisbon High School gymnasium, partisans and Jay Hills fans alike were stunned by an athletic performance unequaled in school history: Bob Ransom scored thirty-seven points. He did it with grace and speed … and he did it with an odd courtesy as well, committing only two personal fouls in his quest for a record which has eluded Lisbon’s basketball team since 1953….

When Gould finished marking up my copy in the manner I have indicated above, he looked up and must have seen something on my face. I think he must have thought it was horror, but it was not: it was revelation.

“I only took out the bad parts, you know,” he said. “Most of it’s pretty good.”

“I know,” I said, meaning both things: yes, most of it was good, and yes, he had only taken out the bad parts. “I won’t do it again.”

“If that’s true,” he said, “you’ll never have to work again. You can do this for a living.” Then he threw back his head and laughed.

And he was right; I am doing this for a living, and as long as I can keep on, I don’t expect ever to have to work again.

III. The Second Introduction

All of what follows has been said before. If you are interested enough in writing to be a purchaser of this magazine, you will have either heard or read all (or almost all) of it before. Thousands of writing courses are taught across the United States each year; seminars are convened; guest lecturers talk, then answer questions, then drink as many gin and tonics as their expense-fees will allow, and it all boils down to what follows.

I am going to tell you these things again because often people will only listen – really listen – to someone who makes a lot of money doing the thing he’s talking about. This is sad but true. And I told you the story above not to make myself sound like a character out of a Horatio Alger novel but to make a point: I saw, I listened, and I learned. Until that day in John Gould’s little office, I had been writing first drafts of stories which might run 2,500 words. The second drafts were apt to run 3,300 words. Following that day, my 2,500-word first drafts became 2,200-word second drafts. And two years after that, I sold the first one.

So here it is, with all the bark stripped off. It’ll take ten minutes to read, and you can apply it right away … if you listen.

IV. Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully

1. Be talented

This, of course, is the killer. What is talent? I can hear someone shouting, and here we are, ready to get into a discussion right up there with “what is the meaning of life?” for weighty pronouncements and total uselessness. For the purposes of the beginning writer, talent may as well be defined as eventual success – publication and money. If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.

Now some of you are really hollering. Some of you are calling me one crass money-fixated creep. And some of you are calling me bad names. Are you calling Harold Robbins talented? someone in one of the Great English Departments of America is screeching. V.C. Andrews? Theodore Dreiser? Or what about you, you dyslexic moron?

Nonsense. Worse than nonsense, off the subject. We’re not talking about good or bad here. I’m interested in telling you how to get your stuff published, not in critical judgments of who’s good or bad. As a rule the critical judgments come after the check’s been spent, anyway. I have my own opinions, but most times I keep them to myself. People who are published steadily and are paid for what they are writing may be either saints or trollops, but they are clearly reaching a great many someones who want what they have. Ergo, they are communicating. Ergo, they are talented. The biggest part of writing successfully is being talented, and in the context of marketing, the only bad writer is one who doesn’t get paid. If you’re not talented, you won’t succeed. And if you’re not succeeding, you should know when to quit.

When is that? I don’t know. It’s different for each writer. Not after six rejection slips, certainly, nor after sixty. But after six hundred? Maybe. After six thousand? My friend, after six thousand pinks, it’s time you tried painting or computer programming.

Further, almost every aspiring writer knows when he is getting warmer – you start getting little jotted notes on your rejection slips, or personal letters . . . maybe a commiserating phone call. It’s lonely out there in the cold, but there are encouraging voices … unless there is nothing in your words which warrants encouragement. I think you owe it to yourself to skip as much of the self-illusion as possible. If your eyes are open, you’ll know which way to go … or when to turn back.

2. Be neat

Type. Double-space. Use a nice heavy white paper, never that erasable onion-skin stuff. If you’ve marked up your manuscript a lot, do another draft.

3. Be self-critical

If you haven’t marked up your manuscript a lot, you did a lazy job. Only God gets things right the first time. Don’t be a slob.

4. Remove every extraneous word

You want to get up on a soapbox and preach? Fine. Get one and try your local park. You want to write for money? Get to the point. And if you remove all the excess garbage and discover you can’t find the point, tear up what you wrote and start all over again . . . or try something new.

5. Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft

You want to write a story? Fine. Put away your dictionary, your encyclopedias, your World Almanac, and your thesaurus. Better yet, throw your thesaurus into the wastebasket. The only things creepier than a thesaurus are those little paperbacks college students too lazy to read the assigned novels buy around exam time. Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule. You think you might have misspelled a word? O.K., so here is your choice: either look it up in the dictionary, thereby making sure you have it right – and breaking your train of thought and the writer’s trance in the bargain – or just spell it phonetically and correct it later. Why not? Did you think it was going to go somewhere? And if you need to know the largest city in Brazil and you find you don’t have it in your head, why not write in Miami, or Cleveland? You can check it … but later. When you sit down to write, write. Don’t do anything else except go to the bathroom, and only do that if it absolutely cannot be put off.

6. Know the markets

Only a dimwit would send a story about giant vampire bats surrounding a high school to McCall’s. Only a dimwit would send a tender story about a mother and daughter making up their differences on Christmas Eve to Playboy … but people do it all the time. I’m not exaggerating; I have seen such stories in the slush piles of the actual magazines. If you write a good story, why send it out in an ignorant fashion? Would you send your kid out in a snowstorm dressed in Bermuda shorts and a tank top? If you like science fiction, read the magazines. If you want to write confession stories, read the magazines. And so on. It isn’t just a matter of knowing what’s right for the present story; you can begin to catch on, after awhile, to overall rhythms, editorial likes and dislikes, a magazine’s entire slant. Sometimes your reading can influence the next story, and create a sale.

7. Write to entertain

Does this mean you can’t write “serious fiction”? It does not. Somewhere along the line pernicious critics have invested the American reading and writing public with the idea that entertaining fiction and serious ideas do not overlap. This would have surprised Charles Dickens, not to mention Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Bernard Malamud, and hundreds of others. But your serious ideas must always serve your story, not the other way around. I repeat: if you want to preach, get a soapbox.

8. Ask yourself frequently, “Am I having fun?”

The answer needn’t always be yes. But if it’s always no, it’s time for a new project or a new career.

9. How to evaluate criticism

Show your piece to a number of people – ten, let us say. Listen carefully to what they tell you. Smile and nod a lot. Then review what was said very carefully. If your critics are all telling you the same thing about some facet of your story – a plot twist that doesn’t work, a character who rings false, stilted narrative, or half a dozen other possibles – change that facet. It doesn’t matter if you really liked that twist of that character; if a lot of people are telling you something is wrong with you piece, it is. If seven or eight of them are hitting on that same thing, I’d still suggest changing it. But if everyone – or even most everyone – is criticizing something different, you can safely disregard what all of them say.

10. Observe all rules for proper submission

Return postage, self-addressed envelope, all of that.

11. An agent? Forget it. For now

Agents get 10% of monies earned by their clients. 10% of nothing is nothing. Agents also have to pay the rent. Beginning writers do not contribute to that or any other necessity of life. Flog your stories around yourself. If you’ve done a novel, send around query letters to publishers, one by one, and follow up with sample chapters and/or the manuscript complete. And remember Stephen King’s First Rule of Writers and Agents, learned by bitter personal experience: You don’t need one until you’re making enough for someone to steal … and if you’re making that much, you’ll be able to take your pick of good agents.

12. If it’s bad, kill it

When it comes to people, mercy killing is against the law. When it comes to fiction, it is the law.

That’s everything you need to know. And if you listened, you can write everything and anything you want. Now I believe I will wish you a pleasant day and sign off.

My ten minutes are up.
This article originally appeared in The Writer in 1986. It appears here with the permission of the author. Really, it does. Stephen King’s seminal memoir On Writing is available from lots of good online booksellers named after South American rivers. And be sure to visit Stephen King’s website for more Stephenage. Which would have worked better as a joke if he’d spelled his name with a ‘v’, and even then only marginally so.

Bonus: Jesus Doesn’t Have All the Answers


This Is Why Your Waiter Hates You

Written by Michael Procopio

roger jones/Flickr

If you can afford a $200 Pinot, you can sure as hell afford to tip on it.

Do you consider yourself a polite, sophisticated diner? Of course you do. You say “please” and “thank you.” You know how to use chopsticks. You can define the word “Burrata.” But if you’re one of the millions of people who have never waited tables, there are a few subtle breaches of dining behavior you might (unwittingly) be guilty of ? ones that are causing your server financial and emotional harm.

You’re more interested in your Smartphone than you are in your dinner.

Or your fellow diners. Or your waiter. Here’s a tip: When you sit at the table with other humans, they might be offended that you find what’s on your iPhone more fascinating than you find them. And your waiter will hate you because you’re going to ask him to repeat the litany of specials he just described to everyone else for the second (or third) time because you weren’t paying attention. Put the phone down. Better yet, turn it off and put it away. And please take that damned Bluetooth thing out of your ear. Your server might not be as technologically savvy as you think. He might mistake it for a hearing aid and yell directly into it.


Don’t sniff. Please.

You sniff corks.

Tasting wine should be a relatively simple ? and ideally a painless ? procedure. The waiter shows you the bottle you’ve ordered, citing the pertinent information (maker, vineyard, vintage, etc.); you accept the bottle; waiter opens said bottle and pours a little of the wine into your glass after placing the cork in front of you. The sole purpose of cork inspection is to determine whether or not the bottle has been stored properly. When you sniff the cork, it is a clear sign to your waiter that you have no idea what you’re doing. A true cork will invariably smell as God intended it to smell: Like cork. Take a whiff of the wine instead. And, whatever happens, never dramatically wave a screw cap under your nose, even as a joke. That particular move has led to blood loss on more than one occasion.

You stay all night.

Don’t be a “camper.” Lingering over a romantic dinner is one thing, but hogging a table in a busy restaurant for the entire evening is a surefire way to bring on the ire of your server, the hostess, management, and the nice people who have been patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for their turn to dine. If someone came into your place of business for an appointment in the morning and then decided to hang out until closing time, making it impossible for you to see other clients and earn money, you’d probably hate them, too.


This is not tipping ? it’s more like clearing your pockets.

You’re a crappy tipper.

There are few things that can match the sense of betrayal a good server feels when he or she has been stiffed on a gratuity ? especially after her guests have just finished telling her what a marvelous dinner they had and how great she was. The last time we checked, landlords and student loan officers do not accept good wishes as legal tender. Don’t think you need to tip on that $200 bottle of wine? Think again: Not only is your server taxed on that sale, but she has to pay her support staff (hostess, busser, food runner, etc.) on it, whether you tip or not. If you can afford to eat well, you can afford to tip well. Otherwise, just do takeout. That way, you can check e-mail to your heart’s content, sniff anything you like, stuff a dollar in the tip jar, and hang out all night in the place where you truly belong anyway ? at home.

Michael Procopio works as a waiter in San Francisco and blogs at Food for the Thoughtless. Follow him on Twitter at @procopster. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie.

Bonus:Pure fantasy


Written by David McRaney

The Misconception: You procrastinate because you are lazy and can’t manage your time well.

The Truth: Procrastination is fueled by weakness in the face of impulse and a failure to think about thinking.

Netflix reveals something about your own behavior you should have noticed by now, something which keeps getting between you and the things you want to accomplish.

If you have Netflix, especially if you stream it to your TV, you tend to gradually accumulate a cache of hundreds of films you think you’ll watch one day. This is a bigger deal than you think.

Take a look at your queue. Why are there so damn many documentaries and dramatic epics collecting virtual dust in there? By now you could draw the cover art to “Dead Man Walking” from memory. Why do you keep passing over it?

Psychologists actually know the answer to this question, to why you keep adding movies you will never watch to your growing collection of future rentals, and its the same reason you believe you will eventually do what’s best for yourself in all the other parts of your life, but rarely do.

A study conducted in 1999 by Read, Loewenstein and Kalyanaraman had people pick three movies out of a selection of 24. Some were lowbrow like “Sleepless in Seattle” or “Mrs. Doubtfire.” Some were highbrow like “Schindler’s List” or “The Piano.” In other words, it was a choice between movies which promised to be fun and forgettable or would be memorable but require more effort to absorb.

After picking, the subjects had to watch one movie right away. They then had to watch another in two days and a third two days after that.

Most people picked Schindler’s List as one of their three. They knew it was a great movie because all their friends said it was. All the reviews were glowing, and it earned dozens of the highest awards. Most didn’t, however, choose to watch it on the first day.

Instead, people tended to pick lowbrow movies on the first day. Only 44 percent went for the heavier stuff first. The majority tended to pick comedies like “The Mask” or action flicks like “Speed” when they knew they had to watch it forthwith.

Planning ahead, people picked highbrow movies 63 percent of the time for their second movie and 71 percent of the time for their third.

When they ran the experiment again but told subjects they had to watch all three selections back-to-back, “Schindler’s List” was 13 times less likely to be chosen at all.

Yes, this is my queue

The researchers had a hunch people would go for the junk food first, but plan healthy meals in the future.

Many studies over the years have shown you tend to have time-inconsistent preferences. When asked if you would rather have fruit or cake one week from now, you will usually say fruit. A week later when the slice of German chocolate and the apple are offered, you are statistically more likely to go for the cake.

This is why your Netflix queue is full of great films you keep passing over for “Family Guy.” With Netflix, the choice of what to watch right now and what to watch later is like candy bars versus carrot sticks. When you are planning ahead, your better angels point to the nourishing choices, but in the moment you go for what tastes good.

As behavioral economist Katherine Milkman has pointed out, this is why grocery stores put candy right next to the checkout.

This is sometimes called present bias – being unable to grasp what you want will change over time, and what you want now isn’t the same thing you will want later. Present bias explains why you buy lettuce and bananas only to throw them out later when you forget to eat them. This is why when you are a kid you wonder why adults don’t own more toys.

Present bias is why you’ve made the same resolution for the tenth year in a row, but this time you mean it. You are going to lose weight and forge a six-pack of abs so ripped you could deflect arrows.

You weigh yourself. You buy a workout DVD. You order a set of weights.

One day you have the choice between running around the block or watching a movie, and you choose the movie. Another day you are out with friends and can choose a cheeseburger or a salad. You choose the cheeseburger.

The slips become more frequent, but you keep saying you’ll get around to it. You’ll start again on Monday, which becomes a week from Monday. Your will succumbs to a death by a thousand cuts. By the time winter comes it looks like you already know what your resolution will be the next year.

Procrastination manifests itself within every aspect of your life.

Photo by Ron J Anejo

You wait until the last minute to buy Christmas presents. You put off seeing the dentist, or getting that thing checked out by the doctor, or filing your taxes. You forget to register to vote. You need to get an oil change. There is a pile of dishes getting higher in the kitchen. Shouldn’t you wash clothes now so you don’t have to waste a Sunday cleaning every thing you own?

Perhaps the stakes are higher than choosing to play Angry Birds instead of doing sit-ups. You might have a deadline for a grant proposal, or a dissertation, or a book.

You’ll get around to it. You’ll start tomorrow. You’ll take the time to learn a foreign language, to learn how to play an instrument. There’s a growing list of books you will read one day.

Before you do though, maybe you should check your email. You should head over to Facebook too, just to get it out of the way. A cup of coffee would probably get you going, it won’t take long to go grab one. Maybe just a few episodes of that show you like.

You keep promising yourself this will be the year you do all these things. You know your life would improve if you would just buckle down and put forth the effort.

You can try to fight it back. You can buy a daily planner and a to-do list application for your phone. You can write yourself notes and fill out schedules. You can become a productivity junkie surrounded by instruments to make life more efficient, but these tools alone will not help, because the problem isn’t you are a bad manager of your time – you are a bad tactician in the war inside your brain.

Procrastination is such a pervasive element of the human experience there are over 600 books for sale promising to snap you out of your bad habits, and this year alone 120 new books on the topic were published. Obviously this is a problem everyone admits to, so why is it so hard to defeat?

To explain, consider the power of marshmallows.

Walter Mischel conducted experiments at Stanford University throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s in which he and his researchers offered a bargain to children.

The kids sat at a table in front of a bell and some treats. They could pick a pretzel, a cookie or a giant marshmallow. They told the little boys and girls they could either eat the treat right away or wait a few minutes. If they waited, they would double their payoff and get two treats. If they couldn’t wait, they had to ring the bell after which the researcher would end the experiment.

Some made no attempt at self-control and just ate right away. Others stared intensely at the object of their desire until they gave in to temptation. Many writhed in agony, twisting their hands and feet while looking away. Some made silly noises.

In the end, a third couldn’t resist.

What started as an experiment about delayed gratification has now, decades later, yielded a far more interesting set of revelations about metacognition – thinking about thinking.

Mischel has followed the lives of all his subjects through high-school, college and into adulthood where they accumulated children, mortgages and jobs.

The revelation from this research is kids who were able to overcome their desire for short-term reward in favor of a better outcome later weren’t smarter than the other kids, nor were they less gluttonous. They just had a better grasp of how to trick themselves into doing what was best for them.

They watched the wall instead of looking at the food. They tapped their feet instead of smelling the confection. The wait was torture for all, but some knew it was going to be impossible to just sit there and stare at the delicious, gigantic marshmallow without giving in.

The younger the child, the worse they were at metacognition. Any parent can tell you little kids aren’t the best at self-control. Among the older age groups some were better at devising schemes for avoiding their own weak wills, and years later seem to have been able to use that power to squeeze more out of life.

“Once Mischel began analyzing the results, he noticed that low delayers, the children who rang the bell quickly, seemed more likely to have behavioral problems, both in school and at home. They got lower S.A.T. scores. They struggled in stressful situations, often had trouble paying attention, and found it difficult to maintain friendships. The child who could wait fifteen minutes had an S.A.T. score that was, on average, two hundred and ten points higher than that of the kid who could wait only thirty seconds.”

– Jonah Lehrer from his piece in the New Yorker, “Don’t”

Thinking about thinking, this is the key. In the struggle between should versus want, some people have figured out something crucial – want never goes away.

Procrastination is all about choosing want over should because you don’t have a plan for those times when you can expect to be tempted.

You are really bad at predicting your future mental states. In addition, you are terrible at choosing between now or later. Later is murky place where anything could go wrong.

If I were to offer you $50 now or $100 in a year, which would you take? Clearly, you’ll take the $50 now. After all, who knows what could happen in a year, right?

Ok, so what if I instead offered you $50 in five years or $100 in six years? Nothing has changed other than adding a delay, but now it feels just as natural to wait for the $100. After all, you already have to wait a long time.

A being of pure logic would think, “more is more,” and pick the higher amount every time, but you aren’t a being of pure logic. Faced with two possible rewards, you are more likely to take the one which you can enjoy now over one you will enjoy later – even if the later reward is far greater.

In the moment, rearranging the folders on your computer seems a lot more rewarding than some task due in a month which might cost you your job or your diploma, so you wait until the night before.

If you considered which would be more valuable in a month – continuing to get your paycheck or having an immaculate desktop – you would pick the greater reward.

The tendency to get more rational when you are forced to wait is called hyperbolic discounting because your dismissal of the better payoff later diminishes over time and makes a nice slope on a graph.

Evolutionarily it makes sense to always go for the sure bet now; your ancestors didn’t have to think about retirement or heart disease. Your brain evolved in a world where you probably wouldn’t live to meet your grandchildren. The stupid monkey part of your brain wants to gobble up candy bars and go deeply into debt. Old you, if there even is one, can deal with those things.

Hyperbolic discounting makes later an easy place to throw all the things don’t want to deal with, but you also over-commit to future plans for the same reason. You run out of time to get things done because you think in the future, that mysterious fantastical realm of possibilities, you’ll have more free time than you do now.

“The future is always ideal: The fridge is stocked, the weather clear, the train runs on schedule and meetings end on time. Today, well, stuff happens.”

– Hara Estroff Marano in Psychology Today

One of the best ways to see how bad you are at coping with procrastination is to notice how you deal with deadlines.

Let’s imagine you are in a class where you must complete three research papers in three weeks, and the instructor is willing to allow you to set your own due dates.

You can choose to turn in your papers once a week, or two on the first week and one on the second. You can turn them all in on the last day, or you can spread them out. You could even choose to turn in all three at the end of the first week and be done. It’s up to you, but once you pick you have to stick with your choice. If you miss your deadlines, you get a big fat zero.

How would you pick?

The most rational choice would be the last day for every paper. It gives you plenty of time to work hard on all three and turn in the best possible work. This seems like a wise choice, but you are not so smart.

The same choice was offered to a selection of students in a 2002 study conducted by Klaus Wertenbroch and Dan Arielly.

They set up three classes, and each had three weeks to finish three papers. Class A had to turn in all three papers on the last day of class, Class B had to pick three different deadlines and stick to them, and Class C had to turn in one paper a week.

Which class had the better grades?

Class C, the one with three specific deadlines, did the best. Class B, which had to pick deadlines ahead of time but had complete freedom, did the second best, and the group whose only deadline was the last day, Class A, did the worst.

Students who could pick any three deadlines tended to spread them out at about one week apart on their own. They knew they would procrastinate, so they set up zones in which they would be forced to perform. Still, overly optimistic outliers who either waited until the last minute or chose unrealistic goals pulled down the overall class grade.

Students with no guidelines at all tended to put off their work until the last week for all three papers.

The ones who had no choice and were forced to spread out their procrastination did the best because the outliers were eliminated. Those people who weren’t honest with themselves about their own tendencies to put off their work or who were too confident didn’t have a chance to fool themselves.

Interestingly, these results suggest that although almost everyone has problems with procrastination, those who recognize and admit their weakness are in a better position to utilize available tools for precommitment and by doing so, help themselves overcome it.

– Dan Arielly, from his book “Predictably Irrational”

If you fail to believe you will procrastinate or become idealistic about how awesome you are at working hard and managing your time you never develop a strategy for outmaneuvering your own weakness.

Procrastination is an impulse; it’s buying candy at the checkout. Procrastination is also hyperbolic discounting, taking the sure thing in the present over the caliginous prospect some day far away.

You must be adept at thinking about thinking to defeat yourself at procrastination. You must realize there is the you who sits there now reading this, and there is a you sometime in the future who will be influenced by a different set of ideas and desires, a you in a different setting where an alternate palette of brain functions will be available for painting reality.

The now you may see the costs and rewards at stake when it comes time to choose studying for the test instead of going to the club, eating the salad instead of the cupcake, writing the article instead of playing the video game.

Ulysses and the Sirens by Herbert James Draper

The trick is to accept the now you will not be the person facing those choices, it will be the future you – a person who can’t be trusted. Future-you will give in, and then you’ll go back to being now-you and feel weak and ashamed. Now-you must trick future-you into doing what is right for both parties.

This is why food plans like Nutrisystem work for many people. Now-you commits to spending a lot of money on a giant box of food which future-you will have to deal with. People who get this concept use programs like Freedom, which disables Internet access on a computer for up to eight hours, a tool allowing now-you to make it impossible for future-you to sabotage your work.

Capable psychonauts who think about thinking, about states of mind, about set and setting, can get things done not because they have more will power, more drive, but because they know productivity is a game of cat and mouse versus a childish primal human predilection for pleasure and novelty which can never be excised from the soul. Your effort is better spent outsmarting yourself than making empty promises through plugging dates into a calendar or setting deadlines for push ups.


Sorry I Haven’t Posted

The Classroom Procrastination Study

Good Procrastination vs. Bad Procrastination

The Freedom Program


The Movie Selection Study

Counteractive Self Control

Doing it Now or Later

Maps Showing Popular Netflix Rentals by Region

Study on Netflix Renting Habits

Study on Online Grocery Shopping

Why You Can’t Say No

10 Things to Know About Procrastination

Bonus: Best Batman Costume Ever

15 Killer Google Chrome Features You Might Not Know About

Written by Abhijeet

chrome logo Google Chrome has been steadily gaining in the browser market share since its launch 2 years ago. It’s not without its flaws but it definitely falls in the “kinda cool” category. Its simplicity and minimalistic, yet feature-rich, interface caused a lot of users to ditch their old and trusted browser in favor of this new tool.

Chrome has a lot of obscure features which could immensely enhance one’s browsing productivity if he were to know about them. This post intends to do reveal exactly those features.

Some of the following features might be something you already know. But as you read on, you are sure to bump into an amazing hidden chrome feature that you weren’t aware of, and that’s what makes this post worth going through. So, check it out!

1. Pin Tab


We have talked about Chrome’s cool Pin tab feature before. Just right click on a tab, hit “Pin tab” and the tab converts into a favicon and sticks itself permanently to the extreme left. Use this on those tabs that you never close (Gmail, for instance).

2. Paste and Go / Paste and Search

chrome paste and go

If you copy any URL outside Chrome and intend to visit that site on Chrome, then instead of doing Ctrl+V and Enter on the address bar, you could just right click and click “Paste and go.” Same for text that you want to search using Chrome’s address bar. Right click and “Paste and search.” Saves time in the long run.

3. Drag and Drop Downloads

drag and drop downloads in Chrome

You can easily drag downloaded files from Chrome to your desktop or any other folder on your computer. That means, from now on, you don’t need to go and change the download location each time you want the files to be downloaded in a separate place other than desktop (or downloads folder).

4. Resources Page

resources in chrome developer tools

While the entire Developer tools feature which Chrome offers (you can access it by pressing Ctrl+Shift+I ) is unique and amazing, the Resources section is particularly useful for webmasters and anyone who owns a site and wants to know how fast his site loads on the browser. As you can see in the above screenshot, there are various options available to explore.

5. Task Manager

chrome task manager

Chrome treats each tab as a separate process so that if one of them starts creating a problem, it can be killed and a browser crash could be prevented. It offers a built-in task manager to let you see the memory and CPU resources consumed by each tab. You can access it through Tools –> Task Manager or by pressing Shift+Esc.

6. Quick Calculation Results from Address Bar

quick calculation in Chrome

You know that Chrome’s address bar doubles up as Google search bar too, but did you know that it could be used to make simple calculations? Yep, just type in 12*50 and wait a sec. The result will come up automatically.

7. Drag and Resize Text Box on a Webpage

drag text boxes on Chrome

Another very useful feature. A lot of times, the text boxes on webpages are annoying. They are too small and after you have typed a few lines, you get a scroll bar which is irritating. On Chrome, you could actually drag that box from the corner and make it bigger. You could try it right now with the comment box at the bottom of this page.

8. Site search from Address bar

site search in Chrome

If you have performed a search on a website then next time you can search it directly from Chrome’s address bar. Here’s how: lets say you have used this site’s custom Google search bar (located at the top right of this page) to lookup something before. Now, if you want to do it again, just type a few letters of site in the address bar, like guid.. and hit Tab. You’ll get a “Search” option that’ll allow you to search this site directly from the address bar.

9.  About:memory

about memory in chrome

For the geeks among you, Chrome provides an “About memory” page that can accessed by typing about:memory in the address bar. This gives detailed insights into how different processes in the browser are consuming memory.

10. Application Shortcuts

application shortcuts in chrome

You could create standalone apps from webpages in Chrome by using Tools –> Create application shortcuts. This option could be used for sites that you use frequently and need them open all the time.

11. Sync Bookmarks (and AutoFills, Extensions) To Google Account

sync bookmarks, extensions

This could prove to be a very useful feature, especially after Xmarks, the daddy of bookmark sync tools, decided to shut down (though there is a ray of hope). We included this method previously in our Xmarks alternatives post, and have also talked about it in detail here – How To Sync Chrome Bookmarks Using Your Google Account. (Update: as pointed out by our reader Phistuck in the comments, this feature can now also sync your autofills, extensions and more. )

12. Get iPad Interface

Gmail's ipad interface in chrome

Yes, you don’t need the iPad to see how your favorite sites look in the iPad. You could check it right on your computer, in Chrome. For more, read this – Switch To iPad Interface In Chrome By Changing User Agent String.

13. Select Reopen All Tabs

reopen tabs in chrome

Chrome has an option that lets you reopen previously opened pages before you closed the browser. This comes in handy if the browser crashes for some reason and you had a lot of tabs open. I recommend that you make sure this option is checked. Learn how to do it here – How to Restore Tabs & Save Tab Groups In Google Chrome.

14. Organize Thumbnails Using Full Screen Key

organize thumbnails

This tip was contributed by a reader over at Lifehacker. You might not have noticed this but if you’ve got more than one Chrome windows open and you are using Windows 7, their thumbnails would interchange positions if you do a full screen ( F11) on any one of them. So, if you want to arrange the thumbnails in a specific order, you could use the same F11 key to do it.

15. Copy Paste Only Text

And last, but by no means the least, is this hidden Chrome feature that I, personally, have found it to be extremely useful since the day I discovered it. You know that if you copy anything from a webpage and paste it on some other application (except for pure text editors like Notepad), they bring along all sorts of HTML and CSS stuff with the text, right?

Next time, when you copy stuff from Chrome, and want to paste it somewhere else, use Ctrl+Shift+V instead of Ctrl+V if you just need the text. Quick and easy.

Hope you discovered something new about Google Chrome today. I’m sure there are lot of other cool features which I might have missed. Well, that’s why we have you, the readers. Start commenting! 🙂

Bonus: Are you short sighted?

13 Things Your Trick-or-Treater Won’t Tell You

Written by Phillip Done

1. Old people are either very generous or give you one peanut. There is no in-between.

2. The cuter our costumes, the more candy we get.

3. Good loot: Tootsie Rolls, Kit Kats, Nerds, Twizzlers, Jolly Ranchers, Starbursts, Skittles, Snickers, and Whoppers. Bad loot: toothbrushes.

4. Pillowcases hold twice as much as plastic grocery bags and three times as much as plastic orange pumpkins.

5. Don’t get stuck behind little kids at the door. They take forever to decide.

6. Handing out candy is like serving wine at a party. People serve the good stuff first and save the not-so-good stuff for later. The longer you stay out on Halloween night, the worse the candy gets.

7. Lots of decorations in the front yard means good candy. They spend a lot on Halloween.

8. If a group of children gathers at the door, sometimes it’s best to be in the front so you won’t have to wait and can run immediately to the next house. But sometimes it’s better to be the last one: You might get two pieces of candy for being patient.

9. It’s always better to choose your candy than to have someone else choose it for you.

10. When parents chaperone, moms say “Be careful” and “Remember your manners.” Dads say “Wha’d ya get?”

11. Know your shortcuts. Slide through hedges. Jump over gutters. Dodge strollers. And run, do not walk.

12. Dads stay out later than moms.

13. Do not show your teacher what you have in your lunch bag the day after Halloween. Otherwise, he might point to his “Official Halloween Candy Taste Tester” button and ask for all your Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

—Excerpted from Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood, copyright © 2009 by Phillip Done (Center Street/Hachette, $22.99).

Bonus: Who else thinks Snickers Halloween ad is horrifying?

20 Times That ‘No’ Actually Means ‘Yes’

Written by Waffles McButter

There has always been a negative association, and for very good reason, with the phrase “no means yes.” It is most prominently, and unfortunately, linked with rape; just this past week, a bunch of idiots in a Yale fraternity caused a campus uproar by chanting “no means yes, yes means anal.” Not funny at all. To be clear, we certainly are of the opinion that rape or sexual assault of any kind is absolutely despicable. When it comes to sex, no always means no, and any Bro who thinks otherwise should just go ask for early admittance into Rikers.

That said, we believe that there are times outside of the bedroom when “no” can certainly mean “yes.” Below are 20 instances when you definitely know that the person answering “no” actually means “yes.” Add more of your own in the comments.

20. When the hot chick you want to fuck asks if you’d mind her bringing her fat friend with her to your party.

19. When your girlfriend asks you if you watch porn.

18. When you ask your girlfriend if she is going to make you late because she is fucking around with her hair and makeup.

17. Anytime Sammie asks Ronnie on the “Jersey Shore” if he did something behind her back.

16. When a hot girl at the bar asks if you have a girlfriend.

15. When someone asks a closet homosexual if he or she is gay.

14. When your parents ask if that weed, stowed neatly away in a shoebox under your bed, belongs to you.

13. When a stranger asks if you just farted.

12. When a dominatrix asks you anything.

11. When a cop pulls you over and asks you if were aware that you just committed vehicular manslaughter (or that you were speeding).

10. When a girl asks if you’re starring at her titwagons.

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9. When your girlfriend asks if you hate her mother’s terrible cooking because you barely ate.

8. When anyone asks you if you enjoyed “The Notebook.”

7. When someone asks you if you’d like the final slice of pizza.

6. When your parents ask you if you’ve been drinking (or doing drugs, or building a bomb in the garage).

5. When your girlfriend asks you if you have been cheating on her after she catches you sexting another girl.

4. When someone asks if you’ve ever masturbated using alternative lubricants, such as melted crayons or blueberry jam.

3. When the dean of students asks if you know who threw cups of urine all over Sig Ep at a football game.

2. When your girlfriend asks if she looks fat in those jeans.

1. On opposite day.

Bonus: Got my new plate in. Now maybe people will stop asking me “how was it?”