My Very First Python App – A Digital Bookmark

Persistence without Focus or Direction

When I first began to study Python programming a few months ago, creating an app, no matter how simple, seemed like a pipe dream. While I was beginning to understand some of the Pythonic concepts in theory, I didn’t know how to apply them. I battled on with broadly unrelated books, articles and courses, but this inevitably lead to a lack of focus and belief on my part. I knew the principles behind learning something new, but it seemed like I spent a lot of time in persistence mode while being out of sync with the focus and incremental progress that I also needed.

Connect the dots with Python OOP

Prior to taking the Python OOP Course I had read a little bit about object oriented programming but not an awful lot sank in. I was still coming from a place of trying to comprehend what a function, class and method was. This course has given me a sense focus and direction that I previously didn’t have. I firmly believe in starting small, keeping things as simple as they possibly can be, and building on my skill sets from a solid foundation. I feel this course has given me this along with the practicalities of tangible apps to start a portfolio with. The great thing about this course is it’s ROI on time and money. A student could easily get through the course in a matter of hours. Personally, I have chosen to gradually work my way through it while working on solving other problems and using other resources for learning Python. My first real app that I have made as part of this course is the below version of a digital bookmark.

Digital Bookmark

As part of the Python OOP course, I recently created a bookmark for my favourite websites.  I used the tkinter module to create the window.

Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 09.31.10

Bookmark Customisations

I made two main customisations from the tutorial I followed.

  1. Change background colour.
  2. Include an image.

To do this I had to do my own research. It would be much easier for me to stick to exactly what I am shown but that is not what I am encouraged to do, and I won’t be able to retain the principles behind what I am learning if I do so. While my mind can sometimes be lazy, I find that it is often open to making small tweaks. Below is a description of the two adjustments I made, while my mind was telling me this seems like too much work:

Background Colour

To change the background colour of the window I simply had to add this line of code:


Sometimes the most noticeable changes are the easiest to implement 🙂

Adding an Image

I imported the PhotoImage module from tkinter in order to insert the GIF image.

from tkinter import PhotoImage

P1 = PhotoImage(file=”image.gif”)

I initially wanted to use a JPEG image but it wouldn’t work for me. From what I read it seems to be easier to insert a GIF image in tkinter. I don’t fully understand why this is but I felt that it wasn’t necessary at this stage to pursue the answer any further. Once I saw that the GIF image appeared, I then spent my time positioning the image to where I liked it best.


I used the .grid method to position the elements in the bookmark window. There are 3 main ways to position in tkinter

  1. Pack
  2. Grid
  3. Place

When using the .grid method the window is divided into grids with unique coordinates for row and column. The positioning is relative. For items to appear horizontally the row value remains constant while the column values increment, for items to appear vertically the column values remain constant while the row values increment. Here is a table to demonstrate this logic when inserting buttons in a window with the .grid method:

Vertical Buttons Horizontal Buttons
column=0 row=0 column=0 row=0
column=0 row=1 column=1 row=0
column=0 row=2 column=2 row=0
column=0 row=3 column=3 row=0

Here is a tutorial on tkinter positioning, that goes into more detail.

DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) example

The Cleverprogrammer landing page and the Cleverprogammer Blog have the same beginning to the URL. The only difference is that there is a /blog in the blog URL. Therefore, in the course, we created a variable called URL and to direct to the blog we simply used the variable name URL + /blog.

Source Code

Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 09.31.24

So there you have it, with my first app in Python now completed, I am looking forward to seeing what problems and apps I can tackle next 🙂

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80/20 Python & Garden Peas

The Birth of the Pareto Principle

The seed of the 80/20 principle germinated, of all places, in an Italian pea garden. It was peahere that the economist Vilfredo Pareto observed that only a ‘vital few’ of the pea pods in his garden produced the majority of peas. He went on to use this principle to demonstrate that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.


I believe there is truth in the maxim

 how you do anything is how you do everything

Ever since applying the 80/20 rule to language learning I frequently view the world through this lens.

Python 80/20 in action

When I learn something new I start by reading around the topic and taking some online courses. Usually these courses are short and free, but not always. This period could last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the difficulty of the topic, how natural it comes to me and my current level of knowledge in it. For Python, I spent about 3 months before I made my 80% decision. Generally I will spend enough time to catch a glimpse of the ‘bigger picture’, I then look to focus about 80% of my learning on one resource. The other 20% is divided among a handful of other resources, that alternate and change as my level of knowledge increases.

80% ‘in’ is often a wiser move than ‘all in’

For the sake of clarity, 80/20 isn’t an exact measurement, it is a quick and relatively accurate ratio. Our brains are hardwired to make sense of the world through generalisations. If our brains were incapable of doing this, then the world would appear to be a much more difficult and scary place for us to live in. Instead of using this mechanism to ingrain stereotypes deeper into my head, I have chosen to leverage this innate capacity, when I scan the world with 80/20 goggles on.

The main reason I don’t go ‘all in’ on a single resource is that I find that this approach often leaves me ‘blinkered’. Even if I have the best mentor in the world, he/she is only human, and humans can only experience their own thinking no matter how hard we may try. Therefore, even if he/she is Six Sigma gold and makes a handful of mistakes per million, that could still be a few mistakes more than I may need to personally make.

I also believe that when I have a narrow focus of  attention on one single person or area, it leaves me wide open to becoming a victim of a dogmatic approach. What I look for in a good mentor is that they not only encourage me to use my common sense but they also recommend resources that they have found valuable themselves. This demonstrates that they are a team player and that they are doing the best they possibly can to help their students.

My 80/20 Python Plan

My goal for learning Python is to become a more effective problem solver, create personal projects, freelance and potentially become a Software Developer. With these goals in mind, I have included the below table of my 80/20 learning plan. My learning is centered around Clever Programmer because the platform is in alignment with my personal goals.

80 20
Cleverprogrammer SoloLearn
Project Euler
Code Fights
Talking to Friends/ Meetup Groups


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tkinter, Tkinter in a Graphical World

Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 18.09.32 I successfully ran my first import of the tkinter module this week. tkinter is a module I have been aware of in the past but it isn’t something I was able to use until now. The code I wrote as part of the Python OOP course allowed me to create the above GUI (Graphical User Interface) window with the word Banana. This may not look like much but I think it is incredible how quick and simple this can be created in Python. While it is simple I don’t want to give you the false impression that it is easy. Even while taking a course, I find that a beginner mind, will tend to find mistakes for you. It is almost like perseverance is a shadow that follows you around every corner until you learn to see through its self created nature.

The biggest obstacle I have encountered so far reappeared once again, when I was trying to import the tkinter module. I followed the code exactly as it was writtenScreen Shot 2017-04-12 at 17.59.35 in the course video. I must have rechecked these 7 short lines of code about 20 or 30 times and I spent some time trawling the internet for an answer. I was left feeling frustrated, but knowing that I wasn’t going to quit, I decided to deflect my attention to solving problems in the ‘easy’ section on HackerRank. I generally find HackerRank problems tricky but not too tricky. This strategy allows me to keep building on the invisible force of nature that is momentum.

It may have helped if I were able to assimilate the ImportError: No module named tkinter that appeared in terminal but as a novice programmer I don’t always find my intuition guiding me to read the error and think of some logical explanations. In this case, the error seems more like an outlier for a beginner programmer rather than a rule to soak into my awareness.


I put tkinter to the back of my mind and I eventually found the answer when on a call with my Python mentor. The mistake was so simple it was almost embarrassing. When trying to run my file , I was attempting to run the below terminal command:


On my MacBook by default this will launch Python 2.

I should have typed:


This would have launched Python 3. My MacBook comes preinstalled with Python 2, I manually installed Python 3 when I began to learn Python. There is also the alternative to make python an alias of python3.  The reason there is an issue in the first place is that in Python 2 the word Tkinter is capitalised and in Python 3 it isn’t. The problem I encountered was that the GUI window would fail to launch when I ran the Python script because Python 2 does not recognise tkinter as a module.


When looking back on the process I can see that I was caught in the trap of over complicating a problem that had a simple fix. It is the same feeling a student gets when challenged by a curious philosopher with the below task:

Prove this chair does not exist

In effect, I tried to come up with some complex theory that would explain the existence of the chair. As long as I was looking in this direction I would never find the fix, simply because the more time I spend looking in the wrong direction, the less likely I am to find the simple fix right in front of me. What allowed me to eventually look in the other direction was giving myself distance from the problem by putting it to the back of my mind, and by having a mentor that had already been there and done that.


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Fibonacci Sequence

Problem set: Given a fibonacci list of 2 items, add the next 10 numbers in the sequence and return the sum of the even numbers only. 

I was working on a variation of a fibonacci problem set on Project Euler recently. I spent the best part of two weeks trying to find a solution. I ended up solving about 50% of itfibonacci at most. Does this hurt my ego to admit this? HELL YES. Does this matter in the greater scheme of learning Python? NO, NO IT DOES NOT.

There were a number of things that I had to wrap my head around just to acquire an understanding of how to approach this problem. The two primary challenges were:

  1. Finding a way to add the next number in the sequence. (In a fibonacci sequence you get the next number by adding the sum of the two previous numbers.)
  2. Adding the even numbers.

In the initial few days, I try to figure out these problems using only my thought process. This is a lot tougher than searching for answers across the internet, but it means that my thinking process will gradually change and improve. This needs to happen in order to become an effective computer programmer.

Key Error

Attempting to solve the whole problem within one function was the biggest error of judgement that I made. I was unaware of the fact that I could make a second function to calculate the sum of the even numbers, and then pass this function into the fibonacci function. It was by going through the fibonacci problem set with my Python mentor that I came to see that a function can be passed inside another function. Once I saw this it made sense for us to create a sum_even function that could be passed inside the fibonacci function.

Screen Shot 2017-04-09 at 09.10.36

This makes use of the Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY) method. It saves me time in the long run because if I want reuse this code I just need to call the function named sum_even

In programming, when I look at the reusable code in concepts like functions, classes and libraries I am often reminded of the Isaac Newton quote:

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulder of giants”

Muscle Memory

I know that as I move forward I will need further exposure to this concept of passing a function inside another function, in order to incorporate it into my muscle memory and my automatic way of thinking. However, I know that my newly acquired awareness that such a concept even exists means that it will now be in the back of my mind somewhere.


Frequently, what seems to catch me out is where to put the return statement. Up until a couple of weeks ago I wasn’t clear on the difference of returning inside a loop or outside it. A simple way to see whether a return statement is located inside or outside a certain loop is to look at what it matches up with. For example, in the above sum_even function the return statement matches up with the for loop and is outside of the if loop.

Fibonacci Solution Summary
In order to solve the fibonacci problem set, we had to break it into smaller subsets. First I figured out a way to add the next number in the sequence a certain number of times. In Python [-1] is always the index of the last item and it moves backwards from there. So [-1] is the last index, [-2] is the second last index and so on and so forth. For whatever reason, it took me a while to get used to this logic, but like in linguistics there are certain things that you just have to accept in order to move forward. The .append() method allowed me to add an item to the list and what it adds is the sum of index [-1] and index [-2]. The number of times I want this to execute is represented by the number within range and -2 serves to take away the number of items that are already in the list.

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 21.03.29

Next I had to find a way to add the even numbers. The above sum_even function was what allowed me to do this. The main thing to notice within this function is that an easy way to return an even number in Python is to use the modulus operator %. The modulus operator looks like a divisional operator but it gives you the remainder after division. So if a number is even, when it is divided by an even number like 2 there should be a remainder of 0.

Separately these solutions made sense to me, but I wasn’t at a level where I could pull the pieces of the jigsaw together just yet.  The key things for me were that I put an honest effort into solving this problem, I could understand the component parts and I had a mentor who could help me put the pieces together.


Screen Shot 2017-04-09 at 09.09.42

A Blast from the Past: The Fibonacci sequence came into existence from the medieval Italian mathematician Leonardo Pisano in a discussion about the problem of breeding rabbits. In the present day the fibonacci sequence is used in numerous fields such as music, visual arts, and architectural design. It is even used to explain phenomena in nature and human psychology.

When Python became more than an ‘Afrasian’ snake

Language learning helps me learn to code
It is difficult to see the bigger picture when you haven’t previously seen it in a different field. In my experience, there is no such thing as a completely unrelated field. In every field I have studied I have seen the presence of fundamental underlying principles. While seeing the bigger picture once doesn’t guarantee I will see it again in another domain, it does mean that I have a solid point of reference. When I have a point of reference it is easier for me to recognise what I am looking at to begin with. One practical overlap is the fact that syntax and semantics are frequently spoken about in both linguistics and programming. They are spoken about in pretty much the same manner because we are dealing with languages in both fields, it’s just in one field we swap a human out for a computer.
Why Python?

It took me a few months before I made my final decision to commit to Python. DuringPython_Logo this time I briefly flirted with JavaScript, Ruby on Rails and PHP. I don’t view this as wasted time or a period of slight procrastination because, among other things, this allowed me to see that becoming good at one language would make it easier to learn another. This is largely because the semantics behind the language remains static by nature, while the syntax and the purpose of the language dynamically changes. Shakespeare once wrote in Romeo and Juliet;

‘ A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’

I am now going to butcher this phrase and say that in programming;

‘A loop by any other is still a loop’

Once you learn to think like a programmer you don’t need to relearn it, you just need to work on becoming a better programmer by widening and deepening your understanding. The exact same approach is found in the field of linguistics and language hacking. I firmly believe that a minute spent properly planning and organising myself is worth hours, days or even months to my future self. I wanted to choose the language that I thought was the most versatile and had a relatively simple syntax. Based on this criteria Python was the language that stood out for me.

Python Focus

A few online videos, books and courses later I found my current Python mentor. He seemed to have a similar way of looking at things, but with a lot more domain experience and expertise. This gave me hope because I seemed to have made a good decision with a shallow conceptual understanding of programming. My choice was based primarily on my experience with online learning and from conversations with a friend who had taught himself Ruby on Rails. I believe in the maxim that I need to be a good generalist to become a great specialist and so far I feel it hasn’t steered me too far wrong.

Here is a video from my current Python mentor Rafeh Qazi explaining why he sees Python as a good choice for a ‘newbie’ coder. He gives an overview of different programming languages and what they are used for. He explains why a student would choose Python and why he/she might consider learning more than one programming language. Qazi also talks about human languages in relation to programming languages, this makes this video a lot more accessible to complete novices:
New2Code is a website created by William Kennedy. William is a self taught ruby on rails developer, one of the areas he focuses on is soft skills for computer programmers.

Fun Fact: Python actually refers to the British comedy show Monty Python. Teachers of Python often use variables names such as ‘spam’ and ‘eggs’ in their code rather than the more frequently used ‘foo’ and ‘bar’.

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My Python Programming Adventure

My Pre Pythonic Story

I currently work full time in the field of technology but I spent many years with the misunderstanding that it wasn’t for me. I bought into the romantiscised idea that I was a label jars‘humanities person’ and not a ‘tech person’, and that is how I showed up in the world for many years. Ironically it was through my study of translation studies that the first cracks on this self-limiting belief appeared. After a summer spent working on my extended translations I had two key insights:

  1. I was able to adapt to using the CAT software tools.
  2. That technology was becoming inescapable.

The years ensuing my studies saw my first real venture into the working world. I didn’t know what to expect and I heavily doubted what value I could bring to any company. However, as the months passed by I realised that something was different. I had this real sense of freedom that I didn’t have when I was at university. For almost the first time in my adult life I wanted to study. I could now see clearly how it could improve my life. It could help me get better in my existing role and I felt it could open up opportunities that may have been outside of my existing awareness. The first big goal I set myself was to create a language learning website.

For about the next six months I spent an hour or two in the evening’s learning HTML and CSS with a dash of JavaScript for good measure. The task tried my patience, perseverance and even my insecurities but my love of the process of learning saw me through. I also had a little bit of luck because one day, when I had almost resigned myself to the fact it would take me a year or two to create the website, a friend mentioned the magical word Bootstrap and my project was complete. The reality wasn’t as magical and as easy as that but you get the picture. The end result was a website called Efficient Languages that has since been ‘pivoted’ to become a simplified verb conjugator called Linguahacks.

My online learning experience

In truth my first online learning venture was when I first got out of university. I spent a year in France where I became fluent in French. Around that time I wanted to learn Spanish and Italian. This goal came from the fact that I had always wanted to learn Spanish and I had spent some of the previous summer with an Italian family. I was also teaching English and I wanted to demonstrate to the students that language learning was predominantly a mindset game, so it could help them approach English with a more productive attitude. I now speak 3 languages largely because I had it in my head that I would find a way to do it even if it seemed impossible to me.

I learned a lot from these two projects and it has made me completely reevaluate what success means to me. I also learned where to find my balance. On my online language learning adventure I was much younger and a lot more naive than I am now. I would like to think I was more innocent but if I am being honest I was naive. Among a few other key mistakes, I was more focused on the end goal rather than enjoying the process. I didn’t realise how draining, both intellectually and emotionally, learning something new can be and this eventually took a toll on my health.

Over the next couple of months I will document my process of learning Python programming for you so that you can learn from my insights as well as my mistakes. As I have said, I have some knowledge of HTML and CSS but Python is a different animal entirely, no pun intended. My main goal is to demonstrate what online learning actually is, what it entails and why it may be a good idea for you to consider it more seriously. I also want to help you find your balance. Online learning is for everyone who is willing to learn, it’s not easy but the immense variety to online learning means that it really is that simple, especially if you can approach it with an optimistic and balanced mindset.


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Rover and his Monkey Mind Tail

Rover was a dog but not just any old dog, Rover had the ability to talk and perhaps more importantly he had the ability to think. His ability to think meant he was in firm control of his feelings and how he perceived reality. He had only one problem, that damn annoying tail.

A few years ago Rover went on a trip to Japan and he was amazed at how ‘different’ it was from his home town in the Scottish highlands. He loved the contrast between the bright lights of Tokyo and the Zen nature of the countryside and from that point onwards he fell in love with fashion.

As it turned out Rover was quite fashion minded. He was very creative and he could see potential that was seemingly invisible to everyone else. Everyone loved his creations and they brought immense joy into the lives of many people. Rover loved what he diddog but he had one simple reoccurring problem. He could never catch that annoyingly elusive tail. This was taking up a large portion of his day and it was beginning to affect his work and relationships. Unfortunately, Rover remained blissfully unaware that the tail was a natural extension of himself and with this misunderstanding he would forever be chasing shadows.

One day Rover had had enough and as anyone would do, he travelled to India to visit a sage Shaman. Rover decided that it was worth showing some humility in order to help himself and in turn help others with his gifts in the field of fashion. On meeting the Shaman he got straight to the point and asked him for his help on how to catch this tail. The Shaman felt quite amused by this question but he didn’t display this feeling of amusement. He said to Rover that this ‘complex’ problem would require a relaxed and clear mind. Therefore he invited him to come relax with him by the riverside for the night. Rover wasn’t expecting this response but thought to himself that as he had paid all this money to be here he may as well try and enjoy himself and ‘kill two birds with one stone’.

The following morning Rover did indeed feel more relaxed but he still wanted an answer, or  a strategy or anything that would allow him to solve this problem and get back to his life. Just thinking about this made him feel a little more tense, but that didn’t matter because it felt like he was doing something to solve the problem. Once again on meeting the Shaman he asked for a solution to his problem. The Shaman could feel the tension that had started to build up again, and he offered him a green tea while they chatted.

Shaman: ‘Why is it important for you to catch this tail you speak of?’

Rover: ‘Because I will no longer have to think about it and be able to get on with my life again.’

Shaman: ‘I understand, that sounds highy logical. So what is this tail doing to you that disturbs you so much?’

Rover: ‘Well it is getting in my way. Every now and again I see it out of the corner of my eye and it drives me mad. I just don’t want to see it, I want to see the world without having this white and black thing in my peripheral vision.’

Shaman: ‘That does sound rather frustrating. You said it happens every now and again which means there are times when you don’t see it. Can you tell me what is happening when you don’t notice it?’

Rover: ‘Hmm, I never really concentrated on that before but now that you say it, I generally don’t notice the tail when I am working on a new piece of clothing. When an idea comes to mind and I get straight to action on it.’

Shaman: ‘Very good, and can you tell me where the tail disappears to in those moments?’

Rover: ‘That is a good question. I had presumed that it disappeared, but come to think of it I think it is still present. I just don’t seem to concentrate on it, so I don’t see it.

Shaman: ‘Very good, I believe that is a reasonable assertion. I believe this because that tail follows you everywhere, because you own it. You always have the power to choose whether to focus on it or not’

Rover: ‘Awwh. I cannot believe I didn’t see this before. I had such a blinkered focus that I no longer could see the trees from the forest. I must admit that this is the most stupid I have ever felt. However, I feel such as sense of relief and lightness right now that I am more than happy to sacrifice my ego’.

Rover returned back to Scotland shortly after this and made some of his most prolific pieces. While his new understanding wasn’t a cure to all his problems, now when he saw his tail in his peripheral vision he chuckled to himself and continued on with what he was doing.


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The Carpenter and his New Suite of Furniture

There once lived a carpenter in a wooden house. He had built the house along with the furniture within it. A couple years had elapsed and the carpenter noticed one day that the furniture could talk. The carpenter was delighted as now he had company to share his happiness with.

Naturally the novelty wore off as the years rolled by but the carpenter realised that his happiness levels had somehow decreased. He used to think he created the house he lived in and now he was somehow unsure of just about everything. As he travelled back in time in his head, he saw that the new thread started when he befriended the furniture. He wondered to himself whether this was a case of causation or correlation? This question was etched in his mind for a couple of days, until he finally decided he would put an end to this madness. The carpenter decided to run a little experiment.carpenter

He spent some time writing out his core beliefs and values and what he did next was genius in its simplicity. He started to listen. Sure enough he began to hear regurgitations of his new thought patterns, patterns that didn’t sit too well with him. While the carpenter knew the furniture were crafted of dead wood, somehow repetition had overpowered his understanding.  The carpenter felt he knew what the problem was but he hadn’t the understanding to develop the required solution. He innately knew what was required was an act of creation and not reaction. The fact that these words are two choices made using the same letters was not lost on him. The carpenter then looked at what was the key difference in his actions before the furniture started to speak. After a short while pondering he realised that he had all but stopped pursuing his artistry as a carpenter. So in the midst of the unknown he decided to rekindle this passion.

The carpenter had a kind heart and believed in second chances so he ran his idea past the furniture. The furniture had just about enough intelligence to see their complete dependence on keeping the carpenter small, so they dissuaded him to the point of belittlement. The carpenter was hurt but by this stage the embers had been lit and there was no putting them out.

The carpenter had not yet acquired the sufficient knowledge to deal with the uncomfortable feelings when he was around the furniture, so when the lights went out the carpenter’s day began. The carpenter spent the next few years mastering his craft through his project of making a new suite of furniture. While he knew that perfection was an illusion, one of his core beliefs was;

progress = happiness

and when he focused on a task he wasn’t one to make the same mistake twice. The carpenter spent his days subtly trying to guide the old furniture to a better attitude but they were becoming increasingly unaware of the harm they were now doing to themselves. Then one day the hourglass of patience had spent its last grain of sand. It was time for the carpenter to sharpen his axe.

The carpenter now decided to test his courage and he began to sharpen his axe in broad daylight. He felt more anxiety thinking about doing this than actually doing this, because to his surprise the furniture remained ‘blissfully’ unaware of his new actions. They were too preoccupied with their own self perpetuating dramas by this stage.

The late nights spent doing what he loved had softened the carpenter’s heart but at the same time it had given him a mental toughness that previously did not exist. When time came once again to nudge the carpenter forward he took the axe to the furniture and locked the front door firmly shut.

As the carpenter made the final adjustments to the new suite of furniture in his living room, the house began to speak, but that my friend is a conversation for another day.

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Precision beats Speed

Communication via Feeling

As human beings we innately communicate through feeling. Language is a man made tool and therefore is imperfect by it’s very nature. There are feelings and sheadspaceituations that no words can describe, this is no more plainly evident than for a student of translation.

Slow Down

When we feel anxiety about being misunderstood by others we often have the unfortunate tendency to speed up and become more verbose. Unfortunately, this reaction is largely as ineffective as moving for the brakes when a car hits ice. In the moment it may seem counter intuitive, but we need to slow down, not speed up. Precision always beats speed.

I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead

– Mark Twain

As with most programmed reactions, there is no quick fix. The solutions are simple but not easy. Here is a solution for today:


Meditation is simply a way of training ourselves to detach ourselves from our thoughts. The goal is to observe, not to suppress thoughts. When we observe we gain perspective and we realise just how ridiculous and meaningless most of our thoughts are. We also begin to see how a lot of our thoughts weren’t even originated by us to begin with. A good entry point into this field is through the HeadSpace app. The first ten days are free, so there really is nothing to lose other than a fear based overactive imagination.


The Contrarian Thinker

contrarianIn his book Zero to One, investor, entrepreneur and ex member of the PayPal Mafia, Peter Thiel talks about asking the contrarian questions. The only way to innovate is to create a new reality, and we can’t begin to create a new reality with old thinking habits. More of the same,
simply brings us more of the same, it is highly logical when we pause to think. One of his more interesting insights is the following question:

“If you have a 10 year plan and know how to get there, you have to ask why can’t you do this in 6 months?”

This may seem like a rather unusual question, and you are not alone in that assertion. However, he is using a classic tool of inversion, because most beliefs at their core are built on grains of sand. Therefore, let’s suspend disbelief and use the Socratic method, of asking 3 questions, to dissect his question.

1. What does a ‘reasonable’ 10 year plan look like to me?

2. Do I have solid underlying reasons for believing these assertions to be true?

If we are open and honest then we will see that our assertions and Peter Thiel’s questions are simply based on different mental models of reality. The third and final question is this:

3. Does my mental model of reality change as I evolve?

If we are tempted to answer No, then unless we move away from this temptation we will never have any understanding of a mind that can take a great question and use it as a framework for great action.

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. – R. Buckminster Fuller