Force Multipliers – Studying things that make a difference

Force Multipliers – Studying things that make a difference

Right now, I’m busy studying to find out what to do with my life since losing my business. It’s been a tough year with losses in my family and a radical shift from the future I expected. Force multipliers are something I have been reading a lot about, and it’s interesting to read up on how focusing on key points has a dramatic effect on over just wide and shallow studying.

For example, reading every AWS digital course as I am right now has given me a wide shallow view of what AWS has to offer for customers, developers, and businesses in the cloud; that’s not a bad thing, mind you. It’s a good idea to have a high altitude view of the area before focusing on anything in particular. If you have no idea what’s available, how can you find what’s important?

So what force multipliers exist or are suggested, well there are a few I’m come across that make some sense to me and I’ll share them below.

Touch Typing

I’m pretty sure this is a universally useful skill for any person living in the western world today. The ability to type fast and smoothly on a computer is a ubiquitous force multiplier for any professional in the 21st century. As a programmer and someone who grew up with a keyboard, it shocks me how many people don’t practice this. I have recently started retraining my skills using the website:

I was shocked at how slow I had become (40 wpm) and the number of mistakes I made while typing, so I started almost from scratch. The ability to type fast and accurately will help me with; creative writing, programming, writing emails, writing documentation, etc. The list is nearly endless. While speeding up your writing speed by just a few words per second seems on the surface trivial, we can multiply it by the number of seconds, minutes, and hours we save every week from that minor increase.

If I double my typing speed and have a 95% or more accuracy, I would be, theoretically, able to do double the writing, double the coding, or double the draft rewrites than before. This is what it means to be a force multiplier, a skill that impacts multiple fields and skills in your life in a single blow.

Grammar, punctuation, and tenses

Okay, so as an English teacher for 10 years you might assume that this is a given. I should have mastered every tense, comma and semi-colon while teaching. This is partially accurate. I have improved my tenses and writing skills no doubt. But there’s a big difference between teaching English to foreigners and using it well for native readers. The best way to construct a paragraph and how to express myself whether in technical writing or in creative writing, avoiding the passive voice or using the oxford comma are less important for somebody trying to decide between “I have saw” and “I have seen”.

Again, the ability to write clearly punctuated, well-formed sentences and paragraphs on the first try will help anyone reduce the time they spend on any work they do. Also, beyond the tenses and grammar, there is knowing what is appropriate for the audience and material at hand. The use of the passive voice in creative writing or one’s C.V. is a terrible idea. When writing a technical how-to document, it can be perfectly acceptable.

writer working on typewriter in office

“The use of the passive voice in creative writing or one’s C.V. is a terrible idea. When writing a technical how-to document, it can be perfectly acceptable.”

Mathematics and programming

As force multipliers and studying go, nothing is probably more powerful than Maths. This is painful because Mathematics and I would not be considered friends. But there is simply no doubt that having a good grounding in maths will help you in way too many domains to be ignored. To this end, much like with touch-typing, I am working on this using online resources mainly the incredible

Not much to explain here, it’s just something that I need to find a better approach to and master. Whatever field of programming or software I want to dive into Mathematics will be a force multiplier in that, my finances, my loans, everything.

Maths confused

Cross the X and Y carry the Z and add 人 now?!

Programming is something I have studied a lot but not in the depth and breadth I could have. I need to go back to fundamentals like maths and work my way back to a better level. I have time; I have the capacity I need to study the fundamentals again. Learning AWS, cloud services, SaaS, PaaS, IoT, and other projects will definitely put me back on track. Still, I think revisiting computer science theory such as OOP, and other skills is necessary.

Talking of science…

Once I’ve cleared the maths cobwebs from my brains, science is another keystone and force multiplier in all its glory, physics, chemistry, and biology. It depends on what I want to do with my life as to how much and what to study. I find space endlessly fascinating and space exploration, so Physics and Chemistry seem a no-brainer. One step at a time, I’m practicing writing 500 words a day and touch typing; I’ll start to do Mathematics once or twice a week and programming every day. I’ll need to get some clear goals in mind. I don’t need to master these things; just raising my awareness to pick a path to focus on.

The other big one of course is exercise and health, I’ll speak about that in another post. But being healthy, fit and being in a good condition is just as important.

How to find your purpose (attempt 3)

How to find your purpose (attempt 3)

15 Questions

Duncan Hull - Flickr

Duncan Hull – Flickr

This list was borrowed from Tina Su’s blogpost which focuses on a purpose rather than passion seeking. I am merely using her method, if you want more methods like this I strongly suggest going to her blog.

  1. What makes you smile? (Activities, people, events, hobbies, projects, etc.)

Films, good conversations over wine with friends, old stories, helping someone “get it” when they didn’t before, compliments, new experiences, getting to the summit of a mountain or hill and then enjoying the mad descent. Finding out how something works for the first time, having a moment of realization about the world we live in.

  1. What are your favourite things to do in the past? What about now?

In the past it was painting, role play games, Judo, guitar, travel, meeting strangers and talking. Now I am working so much at the school I have little time for hobbies, I guess I like to meet with friends, walk around town, meditation… I need to do more stuff now apparently.

  1. What activities make you lose track of time?

Debating people about subjects I feel are important, researching something, walking in the countryside, reading (or listening) to a good book.

  1. What makes you feel great about yourself?

Getting people to understand something they didn’t before, receiving praise from people about my work.

  1. Who inspires you most? (Anyone you know or do not know. Family, friends, authors, artists, leaders, etc.) Which qualities inspire you, in each person?

In my personal life I would say Kevin Carr; for his determination and perseverance to follow his dreams despite their enormity. Andrew Medlin; Who dedicated his life to his martial art and who constantly works to improve himself in whatever it he’s doing whether it be bartending or Computer Science. My brother, for his dedication to his writing and his lens like focus on his career.

In public life, Martin Luther King and  Mahatma Gandhi; both inspired entire movements that created great change and who did so with a completely non-violent approach. To peacefully inspire such a profound changes to the world they lived in constantly blows my mind.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Malcom Gladwell et al. Those writers who try and understand the human condition and try to see ways to improve it.

Neil Degrass Tyson, Steve Nye, David Attenborough et al; All the passionate scientists and researches who through their works have helped me learn a great deal about the world we live on and the universe we are just beginning to discover.

  1. What are you naturally good at? (Skills, abilities, gifts etc.)

I would say I’m fairly good at explaining concepts using allegories, similes and metaphors; taking something complex and reframing it so it is more accessible. I am good at thinking up concepts and novel solutions to problems but I do need to work on actually seeing them through.  I also am a moderately good programmer, although I’m out of practice on that front. Oh and I’m very good at finding stuff quickly on the internet either to defend a position or find a solution I can find it if given a few minutes!

  1. What do people typically ask you for help in?

Computer problems, I generally can fix most issues. Many people now are starting to ask for my help in the domain of English and translation (scary stuff).

  1. If you had to teach something, what would you teach?

Hah! Trick question :), I already teach English!!

  1. What would you regret not fully doing, being or having in your life?

Well that’s 3 questions not one so I’ll answer each in turn.

  • Doing – I’d be disappointed if I didn’t visit more of the planet, I’d love to travel more and see the world, from South Africa all the way to Norway and likewise across the America’s, Asia and Australasia. I don’t have to see every mountain and tree but I want to end my days well travelled.
  • Being – A manager of my own company… I mean technically I am right now, but I’d like a permanent staff, a working business and a stable enterprise before I feel like a true manager. In fact more than some manager I’d like to be a leader of something bigger than me, I don’t just want to make a school, I want to make a movement that helps teach people.
  • Having – A family, whether mine or adopted, a nice cabin on a mountainside somewhere, where I can relax meditate read and contemplate.
  1. You are now 90 years old, sitting on a rocking chair outside your porch; you can feel the spring breeze gently brushing against your face. You are blissful and happy, and are pleased with the wonderful life you’ve been blessed with. Looking back at your life and all that you’ve achieved and acquired, all the relationships you’ve developed; what matters to you most? List them out.

That I have left something meaningful that can grow and help future generations become more than they were.  To have touched the lives of others in a meaningful way.

  1. What are your deepest values?

    Select 3 to 6 (See list of words to help you ) and prioritize the words in order of importance to you.

  • Variety
  • Curiosity
  • Respect
  • Inner Peace
  1. What were some challenges, difficulties and hardships you’ve overcome or are in the process of overcoming? How did you do it?

No easy answers here, I struggled through University, I found my first job as a programmer and struggled to get to be good at that, I cycled around the south of Europe overcoming mountains, extreme heat, cold and wind. At the moment I am struggling to create a school here in France. How did I do these things? Mostly I’d like to say it was through determination, although it’s also because of massively supportive parents helping finance some of the more ludicrous things I’ve done. I’ve also been exceptionally lucky in all my endeavours, leaping into things without a plan has always been an issue and I need to do much better in the future in that regard.

  1. What causes do you strongly believe in? Connect with?

I find very few causes I strongly connect with in the way you’re implying I like Sir Ken Robinson’s cause to change education to be much more centred around the individual learning than the current system allows. I like Ben Goldacre’s campaign to have all medical trials released to improve the medical system. Maybe I should get more involved in some kind of movement, in fact maybe that’s what I’m missing in life.

  1. If you could get a message across to a large group of people. Who would those people be? What would your message be?

We need to do more for the future and not just focus on the immediacy of our lives. To paraphrase JFK

“Ask not what the world can do for you, but what you can do for the world.”

His “Ask not” speech galvanised a nation, it made them put up with adversity, it took a nation and asked them to accept the difficulties and fears of the time and face them. I don’t think we need to completely lose our limited time here by doing everything for those that follow, but I do believe we need to seriously look at creating something that will last into the future with a net positive benefit to humanity.

  1. Given your talents, passions and values. How could you use these resources to serve, to help, to contribute? ( to people, beings, causes, organization, environment, planet, etc.)

I could help program, teach (English or Programming), help organisations notice bottle necks and re-organise or change established routines. I would happily go to impoverished regions and help people with maths, English and basic literacy.

How to find your purpose (attempt 2)

How to find your purpose (attempt 2)

So if you read my older post on passion being overrated then you’ll know I have embarked on a journey of self discovery to find my why, my raison d’être and not necessarily a particular activity that I enjoy but the reason behind my motivations. I followed that up with Daniel Priestley’s “themed rant“, now I’m taking some advice from @Miss_Georgette who said mind mapping and brainstorming might help.

Apparently I can't decide between capitals and lowercase

Some things about me

While currently this doesn’t say too much about me it’s a start, the idea is to look for common themes or threads, brainstorming just the basics about me gives me a reference I can work from. I am also presently listening to the book So good they can’t ignore you by Cal Newport. It talks about cultivating career capital and a craftsman mindset. In fact it’s the complete antithesis of the passion mindset that I doubted in my first post.

While I like the alternative look I think it’s a little severe in the opposite direction. Think I’ll continue sketching and mind-mapping new thoughts as time goes on. Either way I am feeling very motivated at the moment!