My 5 Favourite Blogs About Life

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Hello People!

This blog will be the last blog of January 2017… Where has the time gone?!? January is often the month of reflection and this is where a lot of people make (well.. at least certainly try to) make changes for the better.
Although my main passion is technology, I have wrote blogposts about many different subjects and one of my favourite topics to talk about is this weird and wonderful thing called life.
Here are my 5 favourite posts that I have written about life that I have written and I sincerely hope that they help make a positive change in your life experience.
1) 2 Ways to Totally Mess Up Your Life – My 1st ‘life’ blog and this is really where I made the commitment to explore my passions. You only have one life. Don’t use it up doing things you absolutely hate.
2) 3 Subjects You Hated In School But Will Make You A Better Person. Period. – If you master these subjects, they will take you far, young grasshopper…
3)  3 Ways Social Media Kills Your Relationships – And How To Save Them – Research has said time and time again that the quality of your life is determined by meaningful relationships. Please preserve them.
4) Stop Bullying Yourself – With the alarming growth of anxiety and depression diagnoses around the world, I think it’s time we stopped beating ourselves up but patching ourselves up.
5) The Simple Exercise That Busted My Stress & Boosted My Happiness – It’s surprising as a culture how obsessed we are with getting things done and being ‘efficient’. But what is equally important are the things that we DON’T do…
Guys again thank you for reading! What did you think? Were there things that you disagreed with? As always comment below or tweet at me @karlwebdev.
Thank you for reading and see you next Thursday!
Karlwebdev
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5 Life Lessons I Learnt From XCOM: Enemy Within

Reading time: 6 mins
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Hello People!
For me, XCOM:Enemy Within (EW) is the greatest strategy game of all time. Hands down.
XCOM:EW is a 3D turned based strategy game about a hostile, technologically advanced alien force that is trying to invade & conquer Earth. The game places you in the role of ‘The Commander’, a general and master tactician who has been recruited by ‘The Council’ (think the UN or NATO) to lead the campaign to end this menace.
Your main job will be guiding a platoon of 4-6 soldiers through various ground missions where you will have to combat the aliens.
          In between missions, you will have to run a top secret base that will serve as your mission control centre which also has barracks, research & engineering facilities that will help your campaign against the aliens.
But this all costs money and your main source of income will be from the 16 member countries of ‘The Council’ who all have their own competing demands & interests. If you ignore requests for assistance or fail too many missions, countries will leave ‘The Council’ & take their funding with them. If more than 8 countries leave then its game over dude/dudette.
This game is so incredibly and immersive that I have played it many times over. But after hours of gameplay, I realised there are several life lessons that can be applied to your ‘the campaign of your life!’
So I proudly present to you 5 life lessons that can help improve your life!
Good luck Commander.

1) Invest In Your Network

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In XCOM:EW, the Mission Control Centre provides you valuable intelligence of alien activity from around the globe and guides the missions that shape your campaign.
At the beginning of the game, one of your first priorities is to set up a satellite network over all ‘The Council’ countries around the globe. Launching satellites are invaluable as they allow you to track UFO’s, helps you access mission critical missions and reduces the country’s panic level. But the aliens will soon cotton on that you are on to them and will often try to shoot down your satellites – thus you must invest in fighter craft to protect them.
Likewise in life, having a good social network, both real and virtual is absolutely critical to success and happiness. Research has shown that the chances of life success increase with the size of your personal network. Especially if you are considering changing career paths like I am, people who are in the industry can provide invaluable intel about the industry and set you on the right path. As well as the traditional real-life networks I have, virtual networks like Twitter has helped me immensely and created great opportunities. It’s easier than ever to create and maintain one – try it!

2) Pick Your Battles

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XCOM is all about trade-offs. In the early stages when the aliens are rampaging around the Earth, many countries will all ask for your help at the same time and you can have up to 3 countries at the same asking you to save them, but you can only pick one. Now whatever 2 countries that you ignore, the panic level will go up and it it goes too far, the country will leave and withdraw their funding. Each country will give you an assessment of how difficult the mission is from ‘Easy’ all the way up to ‘Very Difficult’.
Also different countries will give different levels of funding. For example, the USA will give 3 times more funding than just say India or South Africa and protecting a group of countries that exist on the same continent i.e France, Germany and the UK form ‘Europe’ in the game will give you bonuses like additional funding or more efficient laboratories and workshops.
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Also you must consider the state of your squad. If you veteran soldiers are all injured or dead, leaving you with a group of rookies, you could be sending them on a suicide mission and still lose the country. It’s not easy!
Likewise our lives are also about trade-offs but no where near as dramatic! When ever we are making any important decisions such as starting a new job, getting married or starting a family, there are many factors that we need to consider such as our careers, finances, health, family relationships and time. As we go through our daily lives, all these areas demand our attention but contrary to popular belief, we really can’t do it all and we must learn how to prioritise what are the most important things to us and be willing to delegate or let go of the rest.
The key to winning at XCOM:EW and at life is to try to take the long term view.
At one point in my life I made money and my career my main priority and I put it above everything. But a short time later, when I got sick and very unhappy, I had to realise that things like health, happiness and great relationships were vital in my life and I am now conscious to factor them into any major decisions. It’s OK not to be able to do everything. Pick the projects and goals that overtime will give you the most peace about the goal or path you have chosen.

3) Protect And Invest In Your Soldiers

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Your soldiers are everything in XCOM and like real life when they die in the game, they are gone forever. When you start the game, you are given 10 rookie soldiers that you can take in a team of 4-6. These rookies are rubbish shots, run away and if panicked can shoot their teammates! But if you manage to keep them alive and well, with each mission, your soldiers gain experience and can start climbing the ranks eventually going all the way up to Colonel. After awhile, soldiers gain a specialism: i.e snipers, medics, assault and rocketeers and every time your soldier climbs a rank, they get new exciting abilities  which make them more effective on the battlefield.
As The Commander you must try to make sure that you have the right types of soldiers that will balance your squads. For example, snipers are great at shooting enemies over long distances but are virtually useless in close quarters combat. The key to a great platoon is trying to have one of each type of soldier to handle the ever changing battlefield.
In real-life, your ‘soldiers’ could be your skills, assets or personal brand. To be truly successful, you will need to be able to effectively ‘skill-stack’ so that you bring the right blend of skills to help you win the game of life. What I have learnt is that although it is important to get great technical skills like coding, practising medicine or law or marketing, do not neglect so called ‘soft-skills’ like communication, negotiation and influencing. If you are a great coder but you are an absolute douchebag to everyone around you will only get you so far. Nurture you technical skills but don’t neglect people skills – they are both important!

 

4) Tread Carefully In The Battlefield

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Once you have done steps above, you are now ready to launch a ground mission in the Area of Operations (AO). So should we rush in all guns blazing like Rambo? Hold your horses, Arnie. Even the toughest soldiers in open space will usually be slaughtered in one or two turns and soldiers that rush into unfamiliar places will get ambushed and sent home in a bodybag.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. When you first land in the AO, the uncharted parts of the battlefield will be covered in a ‘fog’ until you send your soldiers move into that area where any enemy will also be revealed. The key to completing your missions with any casualties is to move very carefully in the AO and find good cover behind objects that will shield them from enemy fire, with no more than 2 soldiers going forward and the other soldiers providing covering fire. That way if any aliens are discovered, the back soldiers can eliminate them or be a good position to win a firefight. Placing the right soldiers in key positions make battles much easier and help you achieve your objectives. For example, placing a sniper in a high place like a hill or building with good cover, will help you pick off pesky or difficult enemies from a long distance without hassle.
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Likewise in your life, whenever you want to make any major decisions, by all means experiment and explore but it would be wise to do it in careful logical way. The popular thinking is that when you have got a dream is to “take drastic, massive action” and give it 120 percent. Although this can work sometimes, unfortunately it can be disastrous for your life. But research has shown, the successful people amongst us don’t do that at all but take small, logical risks that can be easily reversed or corrected, only taking bigger ones when their hunches have been proved. If you have an idea or want to make a change, like your soldiers go forward but make sure that you have a couple of ways to protect yourself if things go wrong or you can correct it easily. For me, taking little steps have helped me greatly and they all add up.

 

5) Research, Research, Research

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So far so good Commander. But doing the 4 things above will get you probably to the middle of the game and then you will still die miserably. As the game progresses you will meet increasingly more aggressive aliens with increased body armour and devastating
weapons. No matter how skilled your soldiers become if they still have low grade armour and starter rifles, they will be all six feet under.
This is where the Research Laboratory and the Foundry come into play. The Research Lab will allow you to study alien artefacts that you recover from the AO. Research Labs they complete their individual studies, create the blueprints for advanced weapons and armour like laser rifles and the ‘skeleton suit’.
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As the game progresses even further you can splice the DNA of your troops with alien genes that will give them special abilities, like super-jumping, further vision and even invisibility which can help even the odds with tougher enemies.

 

Likewise, in real-life to achieve your dreams and goals, you will need to take a regimen of personal development to keep on improving in every area of your life. Where ‘protect your soldiers’ means about nurturing existing skills, research involves being creative and trying new things and innovating so that you can create something even better. An example of this I can use is from my own life: I started off as a music producer and through research discovered that I can teach those skills. After 2 years of study I become a music production teacher and one day, I had to teach a ‘digital marketing class’. From there I realised the power of the Internet and music and wanted to learn programming. I am currently learning to code and this lead me to writing the blog you are reading now.

 

Treat your life like a laboratory. Run experiments and do research about your industry, goal or interest. It also doesn’t have to be in massive chunks either: as I have mentioned in previous blogs, small but consistent steps can lead to massive results. Research allows you to reinvent yourself and like the soldiers gives you an ‘edge’ in this ever changing battlefield of life.
Thank you for reading and please let me know what you thought in the comments below or hit me up @karlwebdev!
Thank you for reading and see you next Thursday!
Karlwebdev

7 Books That Changed My Life – And Will Change Yours Too!

Reading time: 5 mins

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Now that’s what I call stacking!!!

Happy New Year People!

I hope that you had a great one but now we’ve finished the last of the turkey and put away the Christmas decorations for another year, we’ve got some work to do!

Usually the New Year is the time in which we reflect and look at ways to improve our lives! As you guys know, I’m a massive fan of Personal Development books and in honour of 2017, these are 7 books that made a major impact on my life!

This blogpost will give you a mini-review of what they are about & how it helped my life. I hope you enjoy!

1) The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

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For me, this is the greatest personal development book I have ever read.

This is the book that will make all the other books work. Period.

I use The Slight Edge in everything in my life: from teaching, to learning to code to even writing this blog. If you will buy one book this year, buy this one! I’ve reviewed it already for this blog, so please click here for the full review!

2) The Richest Man In Babylon by George S. Clason

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This is the Granddaddy of personal finance books and it is an absolute classic. Written in the 1920’s just before the Great Depression, this book actually started off as a collection of pamphlets that Clason wrote advising people on how to manage their money.

The book is a collection of fables that centre around a man called Arkad – an extremely wealthy merchant that lived in Ancient Babylonia over 4000 years ago. Arkad spends many of the stories advising friends, children and other merchants on how he made his wealth.

Please note. This book will not give you the secrets to picking the latest tech stocks (it was written almost 100 years ago – for goodness sake!) But it will give you universal principles on how to earn, keep and invest money. I still consult this book to this day. If you are absolutely clueless about personal finance (as I was), this will be a great investment!

 

3) The Complete Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

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If “The Richest Man in Babylon” was the beginner’s class on Personal Finance, then Dave Ramsey’s book is the intermediate/expert class that will take you finances to the next level.

Personal Finance guru Dave Ramsey takes you through a 7 step plan that is designed to get you out of debt, build an emergency fund and if you have the stamina, help you become financially free. Please note: I said financially free NOT rich. In the very simplest terms, Financial Freedom means that if you lost your main source of income (your job) you would have enough assets (things that make you money) to cover your expenses/costs of living – which is perfectly achievable. This book seriously changed my life. It taught me how to eliminate my debt, budget and basically get my money right. Dave is frank and straight forward and the stories in the book are very motivating! A must buy!

4) The Education Of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg

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Author Michael Ellsberg believes that the formal education that is taught in schools and universities, apart from teaching you technical skills, teach you very little on what it takes to be successful in the real world – especially if you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur. After meeting and interviewing several millionaires and billionaires, Ellsberg sketches out in this book, the alternative ‘life degree’ of key skills that will help you get promoted quicker, start a business, meet the right people and have a more fulfilling life in general.

How this book really helped me was it taught me that skills like sales, networking and marketing were not just skills for entrepreneurs but skills that everyone should learn. The book has plenty of case studies and personal exercises to help you put them into practice. The sections about networking and sales are absolute genius and has helped me massively in my personal and professional life. I recommend this book especially to young people out of Uni or those that may be jaded by formal education and traditional careers. It’s a great book!

5) Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck

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Carol Dweck is a professor of Psychology at Stanford University who’s main specialism is in Performance and Motivation. Dweck through her research found that most people’s thought processes when undertaking a new task or skill came in 2 flavours:

a) Fixed mindset – These people believed that the ability to perform a task was directly linked to your innate talent and that this could never change.

b) Growth Mindset – These folks believed that ability was flexible and could grow like a muscle if you worked on it.

Her research showed that the majority who were at the top of fields had a ‘Growth’ mindset which caused them to practise more, keep learning and bounce back from failures – and these things are the building blocks of lasting success. This book has a very special place in my heart. Dweck’s book, backed by lots of clinical research,  has a lot of practical tips on how to develop a ‘Growth Mindset’ and this has proven invaluable as I am taking on my greatest challenge to date: learning how to code. Whenever I have felt down about my progress, I remember the lessons in this book. If you are learning any new skill, please read this book first.

 

6) Seven Strategies For Wealth And Happiness by Jim Rohn

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Jim Rohn was a giant in the Personal Development industry and some say he may have been the greatest of them all. Rohn was the personal mentor of Performance Coach superstar, Tony Robbins and you can see where Tony got his groove from!

Rohn talks about 7 areas in which we should focus our attention on to maximise our lives. He talks about the obvious areas like finance and career, but looks at the less obvious areas like health, family and even spirituality. Jim’s very simple, folksy but direct style is fantatsic as he breaks these complex areas down and each line really hits home. Jim believed that “nothing in your life will change until you change” and spoke about improving your ‘philosophy’ which is the way that you think about life.

This book changed me profoundly as it made me look at, analyse and work on my own personal philosophy. I have read the book at least 5 times and I always come away with something different. This book inspired ‘The Slight Edge’ and it is an excellent companion to it. If you are serious about Personal Development then you need to read this book!

7) Mastery by Robert Greene

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Now Robert Greene is a divisive figure: He wrote the best-selling book “The 48 Laws Of Power” which described ways that you could manipulate, steal and crush your competitors (and sometimes even your friends) to gain power and influence. This book is not the CareBears…

But… I absolutely love Robert Greene’s style of writing as he seamlessly mixes psychology, science and history in ways that are elegant and beautiful and I think that this book is one of his masterpieces.

Greene expands on the ‘10,000 hour rule of mastery’ which was made popular by Malcolm Gladwell in his bestseller, “Outliers”. The premise is simple: In any field in the world, whether it is being an winning Olympic athlete to a world-class coder, the masters in that realm spent 10,000 hours perfecting their craft.

But it’s not as simple as it seems. What Greene’s book did for me was show me that there are different stages on the path to mastery that will require you to do different things like finding a mentor, discovering a suitable niche, experimenting as well dealing with often difficult people and troublesome organisational structures. “Mastery” gave me a roadmap on what to do and what to avoid as I try to become a expert coder and the best that I can be in my life!

Well I hope these mini-reviews helped! If you pick up one of these books, I’m sure that it will make a real difference to your year.

What books have helped improve your life? As always please share! Leave your comments below or tweet me @karlwebdev & give me your feedback!

Thank you and see you next Thursday!

Karlwebdev

Come Share Your Stories With Me…

Happy New Year Guys!

As I said in my previous post, thank you so much for reading my blog, retweeting commenting on my posts!

I just had a quick brainwave: During the six months that I have been blogging I have chatted to many of you, who like me, were thinking of changing their careers into Tech. Well, this year I wanted to hear YOUR stories.

Guys, if you are new on your coding journey, I would love to hear from you about how’s it going! What successes have you had? What difficulties have you encountered and how did you overcome them? Is there anything that you wish you knew before you started?

It doesn’t have to be a whole blog – it could be some wise words that helped you or books/online courses that helped… whatever!

My hope is that we can help support each other more and I want to take the first step!

Add a comment below or tweet at me @karlwebdev and we can see what we can put together!

I look forward to hearing from you!

See you next Thursday!

Karlwebdev