Category Archives: Accelerated Learning

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2016 Review & Top Books

2016, what a year! As per usual, even-numbered years always have the advantage on the sports landscape, this year was no different. The Rio Games were the first time in 2 decades where Canada truly impressed on the Summer Olympic stage and who can forget Usain Bolt’s historic and unprecedented Triple Triple? Penguins won the Stanley Cup, Broncos won the SuperBowl, Chicago Cubs (yes, Cub–and yes I just referenced baseball) won the World Series and Canada breezed it’s way through the newly revived World Cup of Hockey.

On a personal note, 2016 was particularly memorable for me as I put real life on hold and backpacked through Asia for 2 months right in the middle year. 6 countries in 7 weeks, it was an eye-opener with a few good times along the way. I told a few friends I would share my TOP reads of the year, so here they are:

Favourite Books:

 

  1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Quite possibly the most unbelievable true story I have ever read. An Olympic distance runner finds himself on the front lines of WWII, stranded at sea for a record length only to be washed up to a Japanese POW camp.

  1. The Road to Character by David Brooks

An eloquently written book that changes the way you think; are you more interested in what achievements you can put on your resume, or how others will remember you on your eulogy?

  1. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

I’m a little biased here, because this book hits on both sports and business; two of my favourite subjects. That being said, this story is remarkable and I simply could not put this book down. The story of Nike is a roller coaster ride that anybody and everybody can learn from.

 

 

Honourable Mentions:

The New Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins

King of the World by David Remnick

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Yerba Mate – The Wonder Drink?

The resurgence of tea in North America has been trending since the early 2000s. The health benefits of all its shades (green, white, black) are irrefutable and its subtle caffeine is adopted by many as a welcome substitute to the afternoon coffee. However, when it comes to mornings, few are willing to part with the full caffeine punch that coffee provides, despite the imminent crash to follow a few hours later.

Enter: Yerba Mate

Hailed as the answer to all your morning tribulations: caffeine levels closer to coffee, but without the acidity; whilst also boasting the feel-good antioxidants and vitamins & minerals of tea.

A quick rundown of caffeine levels in your morning beverages (per 250mL)*:
  1. Brewed Coffee = 163mg
  2. Bulletproof Coffee = 145mg
  3. Yerba Mate = 85mg
  4. Matcha Tea = 70mg
  5. Black Tea = 42mg
  6. Oolong Tea = 37mg
  7. White Tea = 28mg
  8. Green Tea = 25mg

*according to www.caffeineinformer.com

Health Canada suggests a maximum of 400mg of caffeine per day, equivalent to 3 cups (250mL) of brewed coffee (or only one 5-hour energy shot).

Back to Yerba Mate, here is it’s overview as per WebMd:

Mate is used as a stimulant to relieve mental and physical tiredness (fatigue), as well as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). It is also used for heart-related complaints including heart failure, irregular heartbeat, and low blood pressure.

Some people use mate to improve mood and depression; to relieve headache and joint pains; to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs), and bladder and kidney stones; for weight loss; and as a laxative.

Yerba Mate may seem new to North Americans, but folks in South America (namely Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina) have been drinking it for generations. I first heard of the beverage a couple years ago,  but just this month it’s been mentioned on both the Jay & Dan Podcast and Tim Ferriss’ Reddit AMA.

For myself, I’ve been a religious green tea-drinker since undergrad. The working life, however, presented new challenges of longer hours, monotonous work, and the dreaded “structured” work-week. I dabbled in coffee (still enjoy it once or twice a week), but the crash, sweats, and acidity deter it from a daily ritual. This week, I’ve decided to give Yerba Mate a try; as per Tim Ferriss’ recommended method:

  • 1 cup of brewed Yerba Mate (start with 5 mins, work up to a max 10mins steep time)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil (similar to the “Bulletproof” concept & much cleaner than creme & sugar)

I picked up a pack of Guayaki, but if you’re feeling really fancy, I’ve heard good things about Cruz de Malta, both available on Amazon.

So far, it’s been quite pleasant. A much needed kick in the morning that other teas can’t quite provide; but no jitters or emphatic crash. I usually round it off with a mellow cup of green after lunch and stay true to my 2pm caffeine curfew to ensure a quality night’s rest.

What’s you take on morning beverages? Would love to hear your recipes and rituals, send me a Tweet @BearJohal!

 

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The Books of 2014

First and foremost, a massive thank-you goes out to all the friends who continually provide recommendations of books to read; this past year’s reading list in entirely composed of either your suggestions, or recommendations from other bloggers. The main reason for this post is to pass these books on, there’s not a single one I do not endorse as a fantastic read.

For the year of 2014 I set the goal of reading 25 books (5 more than 2013’s 20) and, thanks to a 6 hour binge on the 31st of December, was able to polish off number 25. Here is the complete list, in chronological order, with the top FIVE life-changing reads highlighted at the end.

  1. Andre Agassi – Open
  2. Jordan Belfort – The Wolf of Wall Street
  3. Christopher MacDougall – Born to Run
  4. David Shenk – The Genius in All of Us
  5. Piers Paul Read – Alive
  6. Joe Simpson – Touching the Void
  7. Josh Waitzken – The Art of Learning
  8. Richard Bach – Illusions
  9. Gregory David Roberts – Shantaram
  10. Josh Kaufman – The Personal MBA
  11. Jeremy Roenick – J.R.
  12. Tom Wrath – Strengths Finder 2.0
  13. Gary Vaynerchuk – Crush It!
  14. Jon Krakauer – Into the Wild
  15. Dale Carnegie – How to Win Friends and Influence People
  16. Jordin Tootoo – All The Way
  17. George Samuel Clason – The Richest Man in Babylon
  18. Cal Newport – So Good They Can’t Ignore You
  19. Chris Hadfield – An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
  20. David Epstein – The Sports Gene
  21. Charles Duhigg – The Power of Habit
  22. Malcolm Gladwell – David and Goliath
  23. Malcolm Gladwell – Tipping Point
  24. Viktor E. Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning
  25. James Allen – As a Man Thinketh

The Top FIVE:

5. David Epstein – The Sports Gene

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A must read for not only sports fans, but anyone with a curious mind. I know many people enjoyed Born to Run, this book is similar, but with a much stronger scientific base, as well as touches on several aspects of extraordinary athletic performance, not just running. Simply could not put it down, some jaw dropping facts and explanations, organized into neat story-based chapters.

 

4.  Jordin Tootoo – All The Way

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Admittedly, this one’s a little biased, I’m a sucker for both hockey books and, more so,  a thrilling biography. If you’re the same way, you’ll love this book. Tootoo’s story, as the first Inuk-born player (from Rankin Inlet, Nunavat, no less!), is truly one that defies the odds. It’s concise and features commentaries from famed sportswriter Stephen Brunt.

 

3. Cal Newport – So Good They Can’t Ignore You

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I’ve been vehemently recommending this book to all my friends, especially those caught in the mid/late twenties rut. This book is the only one on the list I would deem as ground-breaking, it shatters all the previous conceptions of what a career should be by dispelling the passion principle and instead introducing the craftsman principle. Want to love what you do? Don’t chase your “passion”, instead become VERY good at something through consistent, dedicated practice.

2. Viktor E. Frankl- Man’s Search for Meaning

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Ok, I lied, if you want to talk ground-breaking, this book is it. Rightfully in the list of the “Ten Most Influential Books in America,” it was written by Jewish neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl during his imprisonment at the Auschwitz concentration camp and published in 1946. The first half is a staggering first-hand account of life in the concentration camp, while the second gives way to “logotherapy,” the type of psychology coined by Frankl, in which he delves into identifying a purpose in life to feel positive about. The odds of an inmate surviving Auschwitz were 1 in 26; those who couldn’t find purpose in their suffering, simply could not summon the strength to survive. The book is concise, but incredible powerful. An absolute must read.

1. Gregory David Roberts – Shantaram

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Action, drama, suffering, romance, despair, triumph–pretty much everything you could want out of a book, all loosely based on true events. This book is often hyped, but never underwhelming, although it did take me a few years to get through, as it’s a little slow at the beginning. Once you’re into it, be warned, you’re entranced. Roberts’ writing style really tugs at your heart strings and imagination, taking you on a truly wild ride.

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3 Books for Enhanced Learning

Reading is one of my favourite past times, I spend a good portion of each day engaging in literature, predominantly of the non-fiction variety. Books that promote higher learning (I hate when people call them self-help) are some of my favourite. Here are THREE, which inspired this blog itself and notably improved the way I consumed information:

1. Flow by  Mihály Csíkszentmihályi

This is less of a book, but rather an entire new way of thinking. Summarized as: “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity,” flow has become the accepted term to describe complete absorption in what one does. Learning is a dominant theme, but flow applies the experience as a whole. You’d be hard pressed to find a self-help book that doesn’t reference Csíkszentmihályi and his psychological break through.

2. The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin

The name undoubtedly speaks for itself, written by chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin, the star of the book and film “Searching for Bobby Fisher.” Although arguably less enigmatic than that of Bobby Fisher, Waitzkin also lived a life as a young chess prodigy, constant being paralleled to his older American counterpart (as is the context of the “Searching for Bobby Fisher,” written by Waitzkin’s father). The Art of Learning finally gives Josh the canvass, who provides some remarkable learning tools gathered in his chess journey, of which were successfully transferred to other facets of life, including a Thai Chai championship in minimal time. The techniques shared are unprecedented and Josh continues to push the frontier of learning in all of his life endeavours.

3. The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman

It took me a few years to get through this one, be warned, it can feel like a straight-up business textbook. However, as Josh states in the preface, skip around to the things that interest you. This book has an insatiable amount of knowledge packed into it, but it’s all incredibly condensed and concise. Kaufman doesn’t waste a word, something which isn’t an option when trying to condense the meat of an MBA degree into one book. By far my favourite part of the book was the section on productivity and ways to increase efficiency in both learning and getting things done. That being said, I’ve riddled this book with sticky notes and check back on it at least once a week.