5 Apps that Transformed my life

A rainy September night in the Fall of 2015 was a turning point in my life. My roommate had just landed a full time job at Google after finishing an internship with Twitter. As an individual who thrives when surrounded by success, I spent that night thinking of what I could do to step up my game. Patience was the answer, the work I was doing on my journey would eventually pay off but that September night I turned to the App store in search of new Apps - I was looking for a framework to implement routines into my life.

The following apps, helped me become calmer, smarter, fitter and more organized. They eventually turned into automatic behavior patterns that I activate when using my phone instead of losing myself in a world of news and social media. I realized that there are so many apps out there that can positively impact your life and I want to use this article to share 5 apps that really transformed my day to day life.

1. Headspace 

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Headspace has transformed my life more than any other app before by helping me integrate meditation into my day to day- having meditated 60 times in the past 119 days. It taught me to meditate through its different guided meditations and helped me stay on track with its progress tracker. Its very well designed user interface make implementing the habit of meditation an easy task. 

2. Evernote

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Notes, pictures, recordings - Evernote is the best digital version of the traditional Moleskin notebook. Perfect synchronization between devices, clearness and easiness to use. You know that you can never go wrong when using Evernote.   

3. 7 Minutes Workout 

The only app on the list that I do not use on a day to day basis but only because I am a gym rat. Great workout that gets me sweating after 1 lap -which only takes 7 minutes. I used it a lot when traveling but I feel that it could also be used to get into working out. Jack Dorsey has publicly recognized that he is a 7 minutes workout daily user, nothing else has to be said...

4. Blinkist

The most expensive subscription of the list and the only one that I wouldn't necessary tell you to download because it sucks until you get into it. 15 minutes summaries in audio and text form of the best books in personal development, economics and current world affairs. Great for the current fast paced world we live in, highlights is that it synchronizes with Evernote. Not so good: $80 per year. 

5. Elevate 

The latest edition to my routine. Elevate feels like an app I should have had when I was studying for my SATs. Brain training made fun but also competitive-  language, speaking, memory, math, vocabulary. If I wasn't a college student who's mentally challenged on a daily basis I think this would be a number one app on my list to keep my mind sharp. 

How I learnt the importance of motivation

 

“A satisfactory life is a win. Success is not a present. You must work for it." 

 

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In the following article, the firsts three paragraphs aim to explain through concepts and personal connections the importance of being motivated. And the last four points are recommendations by Dr. Fuster to stay motivated. If you dont have time jump directly to four last points.

When I was a kid, I used to believe that life was a cycle in which I fluctuated between different stages. Some days I felt happy but other days I felt like the world was falling apart. I remember sitting down in my moms apartment and creating what I called El Cercle de la Vida The Life Cycle as I sought for an explanation of my changing mood. At the time, I had a black Moleskin notebook and one day I draw a cycle that resembled the graph of a highly volatile security. The y-axis represented my level of happiness and the x-axis symbolized time. Later, the graph evolved and it became what I called The Cycle. It portrayed the different feelings that I had over time. I referred back to it for a period, as it was a tool that helped me explain how I felt at a given moment. It made sense that it was not possible to always be on top of my shit and the cycle was a great graphical way to represent it. Eventually, I stopped using the cycle because like many other good habits in life, it slipped away. Time passed and I forgot about the cycle But last summer I read El Cercle de la motivacio by Valenti Fuster and the cycle came back to my life.

Dr. Fuster presents life as a cycle in which we move between four different stages: satisfaction, passivity, motivation and frustration. The book focuses on the motivation part of the cycle because he thinks - and I strongly agree - that being motivated is necessary in order to happily find our place in the world. We must act when we are satisfied to prevent our satisfaction from slipping away - which as a Spaniard can be hard to understand because I have grown up in a culture that advocates in favor of putting the minimum effort into things. However, I strongly agree with the idea that we must be motivated in order to be happy and feel complete. Following, I want to share my process of learning such an important way of living life.

I always failed at following the crowd. Growing up, I had an obsession with being different; I hated to fit in. And most of the time I was the outlier. Eventually, I moved to the States to attend boarding school Westtown - a Quaker school in the middle of PA. It was a big change, I never adjusted to their way of life but I received a religious education that taught me the importance of spirituality. Back then, the cycle was an important part of me and I focused my motivation on being accepted to a top tier university, which eventually happened. Simultaneously, I aimed to make big bucks and as I returned from boarding school I promoted parties in Barcelona. I was in the motivation stage of the cycle but as time passed and I achieved my goals I settled down into the passivity stage.

Eventually, I slacked because I had forgotten my goals and as I lacked a purpose in life; I went from the passivity stage to the frustration part of the cycle. From there, it took me 18 months to get fully back into the motivation part of the cycle. Currently, I am working to stay satisfied and striving to experience new things that help me discover my vocation and what I want to devote my life to. I now understand that it is fine to lack goals or a purpose in life but it is not okay not to search for them. Therefore, we must always be in the motivation stage of the cycle and strive to become better every day. The following 4 tips are given by Dr. Valenti Fuster with the aim to help you always stay in the motivation stage of your cycle. 

 

1. Time for Reflexion: 

If we dont think how we live; we will soon think how we are living."

    •       Set 15 minutes aside everyday to think about your priorities and put your agenda in order. During that time, consider your best options and evaluate the different paths that you can take to reach your goals. 

    •       Run away from the noise that the crowd generates because it allows you to focus on your own path. Do this by practicing reflection, to avoid running around like a headless chicken.

 

2. Talent to Discover:

Choose a job that you are passionate about and you will not have to work a day in your life."

    •       Find an equilibrium between your opportunities and talents. Everyone has an inner talent. And you must strive to discover your vocation and devote your time to it. If you arent sure about your vocation, try new things. Do not settle until you find your vocation. 

    •       Non-Profit work can be extremely helpful in helping you figure out what you want in life and what your vocation is. Be sure to devote some of your free time to it.

 

3. Transmit Optimism: 

Giving up is not an option. Just keep going.

    •       Surround yourself with optimistic people and listen to their advice. At the same time, feed others with optimism and guidance. You must be optimistic to stay motivated. The journey is hard and life is not an easy one to tackle but positivity enables the best of you to come out.

    •       Being able to adapt in different situations is key. Everything can be overcome, just fight for it but keep in mind that out of suffering the strongest souls have merged The most massive character are seared with tears.

 

4. Mentorship 

Without acceptance, it is impossible to win. Seek for help during the hard times."

    •       Life is a group project and alone you wont get too far. It is essential to find a mentor that gives you advice. Also, seek for advice because whatever you are going through, you are not the first one. Someone has gone a similar path before and the voice of experience can be really helpful when figuring out the right direction to take.

    •       Share what you learn with others. Your knowledge will be valuable to someone else. Also, it will make you happy to give back as it is equally important as receiving.

8 Tips for the perfect apprenticeship

“ Do not think what is hard for you to master is humanly impossible; and if it is humanly impossible, consider it to be within your reach” Marcus Aurelius 

The term apprenticeship was conceived during the Middle Age, a time period when family businesses were expanding and in need of a skilled workforce. That time marks the beginning of today's internships as the firsts forms of practical training appeared. Back in the day, masters devoted from 5 to 7 years training their naïve apprentices with their techniques, who then became masters after passing an “exam". Today, as society is more complex than ever in history and the need for complex skills has sky rocketed, the process to acquire skills has adapted. However, I think that it can be useful to look at the apprenticeship process of many masters during the middle age, the industrial revolution and this last century as a way of drawing tips on how to acquire and master complex skills, which are in so much need in todays economy. 

Mastering a skill  is one of the best investments one can do because it is the ultimate commodity that will pay dividends for decades. Firstly, you must select one skill to master because it increases the size of the frontal lobe in the brain and hardwires connections that prepare the brain for mastering future skills. It is a painful process. You must build mental strength to move beyond these firsts stages and ultimately achieve mastery. Secondly, you must use a proactive learning method and transform your mind and character to the person who you ultimately aim to become. Humans have the longest infancy of all mammals and during childhood, we develop learning habits based in the passive absorption of information that must be adapted through a more critical approach as we grow up. Mastering a skill is a long process, good things take time, be patient.

The tips given in this post, are drawn from Robert Green’s work in his book called Mastery where he studies the apprenticeship process of successful masters and presents different strategies that each person can use to tailor and craft their own road. The 8 tips presented are drawn from the stories of some of the most prominent masters in history. Be aware that there are no exact rules to achieve mastery and that in today’s world it can be done in many ways but its generally the result of combining graduate school and practice.

 

1. Value Learning Over Money

Choose the internship opportunity that allows you to best acquire and develop skills and not one with a fat paycheck. Do not make the mistake to gear your learning years towards pleasing and impressing the right people. Instead devote this years to acquire and master skills that will pay you dividends for a long time. Also, use this opportunity to learn how to get by with little money and make the most of your youthful energy.

2. Keep Expanding Your Horizon

Add dimensions to your world, explore the unknown and try new things without settling. The reality is that no one will really help nor give you direction. Struggle against limitations and expose yourself to the world because this will expand your mind and force yourself into new circles and challenges. You must use this stage as a process of self discovery. 

3. Revert to a feeling of inferiority

As we learn and grow up, the human mind uncosciently closes off to new ideas, which has the detrimental effect of decreasing our learning capabilities. In order to acquire new skills as an adult, it is a good idea to reverse to a children’s sense of inferiority because it gives humans the hunger to learn.  

4. Trust the Process 

The process will be hard. You must visualize the future and have faith in it, with the aim to avoid frustration and be mentally strong to not quit. Trusting that it will happen will allow the natural learning process to move forward and everything else will fall into place

5. Move Toward resistance and Pain

Develop a strong discipline and a sense of criticism that allows you to become your own critic. Practice your weakest skills and ultimately develop a resistance practice by going against your natural tendencies when it comes to practice. 

6. Apprentince yourself in failure

There are two kinds of failure. The first one results from never trying. The second one happens when you try and fail. Make sure that you fail because you tried it out and not because you missed on the opportunity. 

7. Combine the “theory” and the “practice"

Make sure to find an equilibrium between the concepts and the practical knowledge as you apply what you have learnt through your formal education and you face new challenges and opportunities.  

8. Detach from emotions

Try to detach yourself from emotions with the aim to be able to analyze with perspective the events in your life. Do not make the mistake of spending too much time engaged with emotional issues because it inhibits your capabilities to reflect and learn from past experiences. 

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What every 20 something should know

It has been over a year since I turned 20. Leaving my mom’s house and settling down abroad has challenged me in ways that I could never have imagined. Your 20’s are equivalent to becoming “a grown up” but this is not an overnight process; it is rather a long journey. Throughout this last year, two readings have really helped me figure things out and better understand my doubts and in this post I want to share what I found to be most relevant on them.   

 

The first reading, is a blog entry by Mark Manson titled “What I learnt in my 20’s” ; interestingly, this article was published the same day I turned 20. I remember sitting on my couch and reading it over and over again. You can find the full article at: www.markmanson.net/surviving-my-20s#.vunqsz:EhEZ ; but these are my take outs from the reading:

1. Fail early and often: Time is your best asset because it grants you the opportunity to take risks and make big mistakes. Chances are this is the period of your life when you have the least to lose. Utilize it by taking risks and making unpredictable decisions, like moving to a new city, changing industries or backpacking around the world. Because you are not held back by the financial responsibilities that come with later adulthood nor a rigid family structure, use this flexibility to your advantage.  

 2. No one knows what the hell they're doing and it’s fine. Contrary to what society teaches you, it’s fine to work only to your best guess. Take this time to explore and discover what you truly like. Use your early twenties to find your passions because it will never be easier to try new things.

3. The world doesn't care about you. And it’s fine. No one puts it better than David Foster when he says: "You'll stop worrying what others think about you when you realize how seldom they do”.   

4. The sum of the little things matters much more than the big things. Overnight success only happens in movies. Big things are only accomplished as a result of thousands of little things that must happen silently over long periods of time. Consistency is the key to mastery and no one says it better than Malcom Gladwell as he explains the 10,000 hours rule - you need at least 10,000 hours of practice to start becoming good at something-. 

5. Your parents are people too. And chances are that growing up you will realize that they might have screwed up sometimes. Perhaps the first duty of adulthood is the acknowledgment, acceptance and forgiveness of one’s parent’s flaws. Take advantage of their time on earth and become friends with them.

 

The second reading is a book by Meg Jay titled "The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter--And How to Make the Most of Them".  It is an easy quick reading that I highly recommend to anyone in his or her early twenties. The book is divided between three main sections: work, love and the brain and the body. Also, it includes tons of advice on how to approach your twenties since most of the events that will determine your life are most likely to happen during this decade. Live life with a perspective and always remember why you are doing what you are doing. When things fall appart, calm yourself down and realize that at the end your options are limited to no more than 5 or 6. Take negativity away from life, stop complaining and always think what you would do if you don’t win the lottery and not vice versa.   

 

Work

" Adults don't merge. They're made."

1. Identity Capital is your collection of personal assets - investments that you make on yourself. It is divided between those that go on the resume (languages, computer skills...) – your hard assets - and those that don't (public speaking, social skills...) – your soft assets. Claim your interest and talents and work from early on to develop both your hard and soft assets. Invest in yourself for what you might want to do next.

 2. Put your foot early in the work place because 2/3 of salary growth takes place during the first decade. Also, twenty somethings that don't feel anxious and incompetent at work are usually overconfident or/and underemployed. 

 3. Weak Ties are those people that you hardly know, but they are the ones who can have a larger impact on your life. Don't be afraid to reach out to weak ties or even unknowns. The Franklin Effect - named after Benjamin Franklin - states that if weak ties do you a favor, they inevitably start to like you. 

 

Love

“Traveling in a third-world country is the closest thing there is to being married and raising kids. You have glorious hikes and perfect days on the beach. You go on adventures you would never try, or enjoy, alone. But you also can't get away from each other. Everything is unfamiliar. Money is tight or you get robbed. Someone gets sick or sunburned. You get bored. It is harder than you expected, but you are glad you didn't just sit home.”

1. Do not settle until 25.

2. Picking your family. Your family needs to work in the here and now and in the there and then, because getting divorced is a lot worse. Make coherent decisions and ensure that you travel across a third world country with your future partner before settling down.

3. "People love those who are like themselves”. I strongly recommend that you read “Influence” by Robert Cialdini because it provides a clear understanding of the laws of attraction. 

 

The Brain and the Body

"Life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forward."

1. The frontal Lobe of the brain is responsible for reason and judgment. It is the part of the brain that regulates emotional impulses and where rational thoughts are balanced. This region matures through the early 20’s. You should aim to control your emotions and handle bad days on your own. 

2. The twenties are the time to acquire technical and sophisticated skills needed in many careers today because you'll never be able to learn knew things so quickly ever again. Devote this time to learn technical skills.

3. You become what you do and hear everyday. It is time to get busy, to explore out of your comfort zone because this is the period of your life that will most shape your personality and the person you’ll become.

 

The opportunities I see in Cuba

This year the US will be lifting an over 50 year embargo on Cuba. Last March, I had the opportunity to travel across Cuba for 10 days and I found this small 11 million people island in the Caribbean to be marvelous. As the US embargo on Cuba goes, tremendous business opportunities lay ahead on the island and I believe that the last generation of American companies will capitalize on them.

In the first quarter of 2015, tourism in l'Havana increased by 15%. And this is only the beginning because as Americans are allowed in the island, tourism is set to sky rock.  However, not everything looks great in a country where the average salary is $20 and only one fourth of the population has internet access. It is clear that Cuba has a long journey to go. 

Surprisingly, an american, Mark Zuckerberg, could have the key to power Cuba's change. Under his initiative internet.org, he could catalyze the process of connecting the country to the internet and create the perfect conditions for the following four companies to enter the island.   

1. Xiaomi, as people gain access to the internet, they will have to buy devices and Xiaomi is best positioned to be the company selling smart phones in Cuba.

2. Google, Xiaomi is powered by Android. And android is owned by Google.

3. Uber, Cuba is popular for its "maquinas"-a more archaic version of Uber Pool- and 70's taxis. And I believe Uber will be able to organize and capitalize on them. Especially, among tourist and expats.   

4. Airbnb, Cuba is highly populated by "casas particulares" where people rent bedrooms of their homes to tourists. Airbnb has the opportunity and the challenge to become a leading service in the island.

Following, is a little video that Quique made during our trip to Cuba:

May 7th 2015

After a while, I have decided to finally start this blog. It has been over a year of thinking wether or not I should have a way of sharing with the world my expiriences and leanings in life. Today, and after a reflexive evening, I have decided to follow the Chinese proverb that says: "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now." And start my own blog. Through this blog, I aim to create a collection of writings, photos and videos that narrate my learnings as I grow and reflect my journey as I discover the world.

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