Let’s start with why.

Although this is not really a book review, I did recently read this book. I found it entertaining, at times repetitive – Apple is the primary, exemplary case – and both inspiring and instructional. The final chapter touched my emotions in a way a management book rarely does. So why, then, would I blog about this here, for students aiming to improve their academic performance. The answer to that question is very simple.

Why are you in university? Let’s start with why. I am very confident in stating that if you examine the question: what am I doing day-to-day in my university life, you will quickly discover your why. Are you here it to learn new things? Are you here it to make new friends, meet new people? Are you here to plan your next vacation? Are you here to party?

Looking and your what you do gives great hints to why you have chosen to be in university. Now ask yourself another question: is your why aligned with the idea you have of yourself, four years from now?

If you take Simon’s concept (it goes too far for me to call it a theory, sorry Simon) and use the simple model he provides to organize your motivation, you may find that you see your actions, your behaviors and your decisions reflected in the mirror of WHY?

And there is nothing wrong with that – if the why is something that you can get behind. The interesting thing about balancing your life in university today with the purpose of university, which is preparing your to think and act in the future, is that a variety of why’s can apply. Your mission – if you choose to accept it – is to create that magnificent why that makes what you eventually do incredibly easy for you to stand by. Whether others agree or not.

(Hint: when you feel unsettled by your own explanation, its probably because you know you’re lying to yourself…)

Intuitively, you understand the purpose of university, yet in the clutter of temptations (sorry, opportunities to express yourself, meet new people, develop your skills) you may loose sight of why you do what you do. In my direct experience, students who excel have a very clear explanation of why they do what they do – also when it comes partying hard. It is when someone cannot explain why there are more parties than lectures in a week, that I get worried.

Watch the video and this weekend, start with why. It’ll make coming monday very interesting indeed!

Book review (4): They call me Coach – John Wooden

The Student Achievement Program Education Learning StudyingWho can ask more of a man than giving all within his span? Giving all, it seems to me, is not so far from victory. – George Moriarty

This is the quote accompanying the first chapter is this wonderfully inspiring book about the life and time of late John Wooden, a man whose coaching career in university basketball is an awesome story – pure and simple.

What is more, the quote simply summarizes a basic philosophy of success which is a solid basis for any endeavor you may undertake in life.

In an honest, conversational tone this book discusses events and people from John Wooden’s career. His candidness lets his words travel to your heart and give you a glimpse of the great passion he had for the sport of basketball.

If you keep to busy learning the tricks of the trade, you may never learn the trade.

A simple phrase, yet very true. Also in learning and educating yourself – there comes a time when learning the tricks to learning is over and you need to get down to it. No matter how much training in using your brain efficiently you receive, you will only graduate from university when you apply that training to your curriculum.

The great thing about this book is the metaphor of coaching basketball which can be applied to many aspects of life. In sharing his experience, with that his wisdom, with you, John Wooden shows you a possible direction you can steer your mind in which enables you to grow and be successful in a way which is fulfilling for you.

To me, the most inspiring aspect of this story, and I am cherry picking from many possibilities, is the chapter in which John Wooden discusses his definition of success.

To me it rings very true and requires a strong command of yourself to live up to. In the end, he says, only you can judge whether or not you were successful. Perhaps you may fool others, but deep inside you will always wonder wether you could have done more, done something different and perhaps changed the turn of events in your life. Only you will know.

The phrase at the start of this chapter summarizes it best, and it is a thought I want to leave you with.

Succes is peace of mind, which is a direct result of Self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the Best you are capable of becoming. 

Book Review (3): The Mind Map Book – Tony Buzan

The Student Achievement ProgramThis is a book I am very fond of. I read it recently, upon completing another book, Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. The Mind Map Book by Tony Buzan is an interesting read, as I find it to be a celebration of the amazing abilities of your brain. And because it gives you so many different thoughts and ideas on how you can use paper and colors to help your brain and learn more efficiently, I thought it would be a great book to review in this section.

In this review, I am going to highlight two parts of the book which I find especially informative for you as a student; radiant thinking and mind mapping for study skills.

Radiant thinking

In other posts the concept of associations was discussed; in Tony Buzan’s philosophy on mind mapping this is called radiant thinking. The multitude of connections made between information stored in your brain and sensory stimulation is so complex that it simply cannot be linear. Rather, the process is radiant: as thoughts occur they branch out to other thoughts or memories, logically related or not, encompassing more and more information related in some way to the starting point.

You may consciously filter the information, for example when you are engaged in a discussion or answering a question on an exam, however, to help you derive the relevant information all these connections in your brain are helpful.

Mind mapping for study skills

In an earlier post we discussed how remembering topics helps you remember course material for an exam. Mind mapping is a great tool to facilitate recall of important information, as it gives you so many different paths to the answer you are seeking.

To memorize a chapter, mind mapping is a great tool to use to have a complete summary of the topics of the chapter in a visual representation. By constructing different sets of mind maps, one for the chapter as a whole, and one for each section of the chapter, you can assess both your overal understanding of the chapter as well as your content knowledge per topic discussed in the chapter.

Rather than simply reading over your notes once you have compiled them, attempt drawing a mind map of the chapter, topic by topic and listing all the associations. You will be surprised at how many connections you are able to make simply because you take a radiant approach to remembering.

Good practical advice

Personally, I find this book to be filled with good practical advice on how to mind map. On top of that, it clearly explains Tony Buzan’s vision about how to use your brain and how a simple paradigm shift to radiant thinking will help you remember more, with less effort.

(As I am participating in the post-a-day, and yesterday I did not publish anything, today I published two pieces. Now, I can get back to the bootleg publication.) 

Book Review (2): Anthony Robbins – Unlimited Power

The Student Achievement Program Education Learning Studying

Tony Robbins

The beginning. I think this is a classic in the personal growth canon. And for me, it is the book that started me on this wonderful journey of exploring my deepest motivation and drive. Tony Robbins’ words in his book Unlimited Power, in his audioprograms Personal Power II and the Time of Your Life helped ne find resilience to adversity and hard times and inspired me to pursue my dreams and visions by building, shaping and honing my character. Therefore it seems good to start off this series of book reviews with this wonderful, original and insightful piece of writing from 1989.

This book was suggested to me by my housemate during my first year in university. He and I were both interested in personal development and he suggested I pick up Tony Robbins because he had found it insightful and entertaining. It was the first book I ordered online via the now famous Dutch Bol.com webshop, and I have reviewed and re-read it several times since 2003.

Before this happened, I had seen Tony Robbins on the infomercials with his Personal Power program; and I had dismissed his program because of that first introduction. All though I was engaged by his charisma and charm, his did not seem like a program I would be interested in because it was sold, with a discount and a bonus CD, through television. But my housemate’s opinion gave me enough confidence to, with my reservations, pick up this book and give it a shot.

A good story. Not only is the content of this book worthwhile and useful, it is also wrapped in a good story. A very important lesson in life for me has been that stories are what bind people together; the story of where we came from, of how we met, of where we are going, or of what we accomplished together. I have, through my work, met few people who do not enjoy a good story.

Not only are stories entertaining, they hold valuable lessons. And from the first page Tony takes you along in his story and he shares the lessons he learned throughout his life, in what I believe is a very open and honest way.

(Re)defining Power. What Tony does quickly is help you redefine power, your personal power to take charge of your life and make it work for you. And from that point in the book I was hooked. Could it be that I was able to turn my life into a fantastic voyage? How? What need I do to make it so?

All though the lessons are there, in the pages, there is no substitue for the school of life. Taking the lesson’s in this book to heart helped be push forward through life and pursue an unconventional career – but an extremely fulfilling life of engagement and inspiration. The seeds were planted when I read this book, but they only came to bloom two years later, when I needed to get in motion. Badly. In a hurry.

The starting point. Tony’s programs always start with your beliefs. Pick any program and you will first get a good review of what goes on in your inner world; in your mind and how that effects what materializes in the outside world; in your reality.

And it is simply true. When you learn and become the master of your mind, your thoughts, your urges, your needs, your emotions, you see the tremendous effect the way your mind works has on your life.

He speaks of how you can choose to respond to events in your life. This book confronts you with your ability to reflect upon yourself, and your life, and if you read it in the spirit in which it was written, there is tremendous power in the lessons on choosing your responses. You grow simply by planting the seeds of these thoughts in your brain.

Physiology. Tony talks about your physiology and how it affects your day to day state. But what he also does is constantly give you a way to apply what he speaks of; immediately and with results.

The force of his writing does not come from the words he puts on paper, but the action these words inspire. And by taking action as you read, you quickly find yourself making the words and lessons your own.

A great read. When you read this book by Tony Robbins, look back at my blog and you will see that many of the lessons in his book are reflected in some way in the writing here, nearly ten years after I first read his book.

Perhaps mixed with new ideas, different experiences and novel research, the principal lessons I have tried to convey to students can be found in the core of Tony Robbins’ philosophy of life, achievement, success and power. It is a timeless one that holds value for anyone who wants to learn from him.

Book review (1): An introduction

It has been an interesting journey to get this far. Since I started writing and blogging about learning, education and studying last June (mind you, my first blog posts were only published about four weeks ago, but I had been writing for a month before that already), my interest for the topic has grown. Every step leads to a new discovery, or another connection I was yet to make in my mind. It is quite an enervating experience.

Since I started to participate in the postaday (look at the badge in the right hand column on this page…), I searched my mind for new material to write about. One of the topics I thought would be of interest to you, my dearest reader, is a series of book reviews and the connections those books have to the pages published on my blog.

Since this has been a journey of nearly seven years to date, I am certain I have read numerous publications related to personal growth, psychology, neuroscience, learning, training and entrepreneurship, and by means of all these readings I developed an understanding of human learning. I really find it fascinating.

The reading varies from classics such as Shaw’s Pygmalion to modern day bestsellers such as Covey’sThe 7 Habits. And anything in between. But perhaps more important are the years of experience I have had in which I could piece together all these readings into programs that helped students learn and accomplish wonderful things during their studies.

Every week, on saturday most likely, I will pick a book and discuss it in relation to the broader topics of learning and education to which this blog is dedicated. I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts on these books with you, and I hope you are as well.