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Do It Now (stevepavlina.com)
71 points by 16BitTons 2092 days ago | hide | past | web | 39 comments | favorite

Before taking anything in this article literally, you should be aware this is the same guy who claims ghosts give him gambling advice:

Several people have asked if I’m still able to connect with my recently departed friend Ron who died in a car accident on August 14th. The answer is yes. He’s been hanging around often. The connection is so strong that I don’t have to meditate or anything. I just think of him and can instantly converse with him. I’ve never experienced such a strong connection before.

Seriously, read the whole thing[1], he claims his ghost friend helps him win at blackjack.

[1] http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2008/08/can-spirits-help-yo...

Sorry, but what does that have to do with the validity of the original post? So the guy talks to some imaginary being? Guess what, billions of other people do that too! It's called religion. Yeah, I admit it is kind of strange but that's a just an ad hominem attack. I actually found the article interesting.

It's beyond strange, it's credibility damaging. How can you trust anything written by a guy who claims dead people take up residence in water bottles?

Then Ron [his dead friend] says to me, “Put the water bottle back on the table. It makes it easier for me to see.”

And wouldn’t you know it? As soon as I return the bottle to the table, I start winning again — fast.

All I'm saying is this guy isn't a credible source. He makes fantastic claims with no evidence, and people should be aware of that.

I agree this guy comes off as a crackpot and that damages his credibility.

But you have to admit he is unusually self-aware for a crackpot:

If you haven’t concluded by now that I’m totally nuts, this post should push you over the edge.

Most crackpots are quite aware of the public, and expert, opinion on their ideas and use that to strategically undermine criticism by acknowledging at upfront. Drawing attention to criticism lowers the chance that someone will be influenced by that criticism: "if the crackpot himself draws attention to the argument, surely it can't be any good?"

The fallacy here is that acknowledging some opinion exists in no way implies you have have seriously considered it; let alone have refuted it.

That's hilarious. Anyways, like other readers, I too am skeptical of his "finished 2 bachelors in Comp Sci in 3 semesters" claim, as well as his psuedoscientific polyphasic sleep theories, but there is still a great deal of truth to what he's written about setting goals and time scheduling.

It almost seems like he gets a kick out of making people believe his outlandish claims.

When reddit first launched publicly, there was a new Steve Pavlina article every week on the #1 spot -- polyphasic sleep, passive sources of income, etc. I can't be the only one who remembers this.

George Bush says he speaks to god every day, and christians love him for it. If George Bush said he spoke to god through his hair dryer, they would think he was mad. I fail to see how the addition of a hair dryer makes it any more absurd.

I do have to give him one thing. When I was younger and more naive his polyphasic sleep experiment seemed pretty neat and his motivational articles really got me going.

However once he started in with the nonsense I bailed out and started looking to other intellectuals for inspiration.

People who are new to SP don't need to be warned. They will get what they want out of it and eventually come to their own conclusions ;)

(I forgot to mention that in 2005 I'm pretty sure he claimed to have 1 single degree in CS)

I have to agree that my best semesters in college were the ones that I overcommitted myself (22-23 credits). I actually found the lack of downtime a way to stay focused and move from one project to the next. Likewise, my worst performing semesters were the ones where I only attempted 12 credits. I would find that having large breaks of time would cause me to get comfortable wasting time and then it would take moving a mountain to get me back into the groove.

During my 2 semesters of intense credits, I was able to have a social life too, but that consisted of eating with classmates during our study sessions and spending several hours in the library.

The only thing I regret from that experience was that I didn't challenge myself sooner.

As soon as I read his tale of accomplishing seemingly impossible feats, I figured he must be selling something.

Scrolled to the bottom of the page, and sure enough, it is so.

Guy Kawasaki is also selling something. I'll be seeing him live next month. I'd pay even more to have 15 minutes with PG. (hell I'd even go see John Chow if it was free, lol)

Your point is...? You don't agree with selling things for money? His story is untrue because of unrelated fact X?

I guess my point is that when a story sounds too good to be true, you have to consider the source.

My experience is honestly the opposite. I found my best semesters were when I narrowed the number of courses I had down. I focused on doing a few things very well and it worked out.

I also wonder how the author handled pre-requisites. During the third semester wouldn't he be taking courses like linear algebra, differential equations, compilers and artificial intelligence at the same time? I am quite impressed that someone can absorb all that course material while working a 40-hour a week job.

Isn't this the same guy that started the polyphasic sleep fiasco?

Same guy that says ghosts helped him win at gambling.

Same guy that wanted an open relationship.

Same guy that sells talks to get rich but got rich selling talks.

The guy is poison.

Useful insight, among others in this article:

"I believe that the real purpose of planning is simply so that you remain convinced that a possible path exists."

This guy is crazy, but in the awesome kind of way.

The fact that this bogus story has 61 points and is on HN's coveted home page is just unbelievable. Are you kidding me!?

From Wikipedia:

Pavlina was a student at University of California, Berkeley in the early nineties. He performed extremely poorly in his studies, because he devoted his time to shoplifting. Pavlina claims he then went on to earn two degrees (computer science and math) from California State University, Northridge in three semesters (also incorporating advanced placement credits for courses he had taken in high school).

1. He's claiming this and it's never been proven, despite how easy it is to actually prove. If he truly did this and people didn't believe him, he can simply show proof. (if you read the post, just like he showed proof to the people that doubted how many classes he was taking).

2. IF it is true, then it's widely fudged. The guy had APs and (bad apparently) college credit. This "3 semesters" claim is akin to someone going to school for a couple of years, accumulating a lot of credit, transferring to another school and graduating in 1.5 years. Seriously not that impressive.


There are great blogs with successful students that went to extraordinary lengths in college. But this just isn't one of them. He also seems to be someone who got rich by talking about how to get rich; excuse me for not admiring that.


Aside from all that, here's the really important point I came to HN to make: instead of a 'do it now' attitude, don't rush it Seriously.

College is a few years of your life and an amazing experience. Our society has this issue of rushing things and making races out of events that weren't meant for that. This reminds me of Norvig's rant on books with titles like "Learn Advanced Java in 24 Hours".

Challenging oneself with more classes in college is one thing; taking so much that you couldn't possibly retain such knowledge is another. Slow down, concentrate, and actually learn the material. College isn't a race; it's a journey. I say make the most of it.

Take that rant however you want. As a recent college-dropout (start of 4th year), a lot of the celebrated and arbitrary things in college (from how many classes you're taking to how many majors you're studying to how fast you're finishing college) just don't seem that interesting 99% of the time.

How I wish Universities here didn't enforce 75% minimum attendance...

Despite the questionability of this guy's reputation and the outlandishness of some of his claims, this is actually a decent article about time management. I've worked with a lot of people in both academia and startup land who would do well to read this. Here are my thoughts on some of his best points.

"Every activity has an opportunity cost."

I'm dumbfounded by the number of entrepreneurs and engineers I run into who don't understand the concept of opportunity cost. If you aren't consciously aware that every month you spend doing X is a month you didn't spend doing Y, then you're going to be very inefficient. A startup is a race against the clock (your diminishing bank account), so inefficiency can mean death.

"Work all the time you work."

One of the unofficial mottos of MIT was "work hard, play hard". In other words, when you're working, work, and when you're not, don't. The most miserable students were those who attempted to study while hanging out, watching movies, etc. They'd spend entire days in a half-work half-play state, which of course results in no work getting done, and less-than-satisfactory entertainment as well. I should know -- that was me for a year. There are some pretty good techniques for breaking this habit, but first you have to be consciously aware that you actually have this problem.

"People who succeed also fail a great deal."

This is cliche, I know. But it's some of the most misunderstood advice of all time. People only think of it on a macro level, because the examples are always of the form, "Person X failed at starting 3 companies before he created SuperSuccessfulMegaCorp!" But I think it's more important to understand this advice on a micro level. For example, I used to be an incredibly shitty web designer, but now I'd say I'm pretty good at it. What changed?

When I first started, I would make a design, it would suck, and I'd say, "I suck." Then I would release my shitty design and move on to something else. Nowadays when I make a design, it still sucks... but instead of releasing it, I start tinkering with it. It continues to suck. I fail for hours and hours. At some point, I usually lose confidence in myself. But I keep working and, on a consistent basis, I always manage to "stumble upon" a great-looking design. So learning to fail is, in essence, learning to be a perfectionist. I think this is a useful skill for any creative profession (writing, coding, designing, etc).

This man is now my hero.

Seriously though, I'm graduating a year early with a single B.S. (mathematics) and I thought I was doing well -- but I'm not much more busy than an average student (mathematics has low credit requirement).

I'm tempted to try to slam through the requirements super fast now -- especially since, as a regular student, I only have about two hours of homework a week.

However, my college has various requirements (e.g. so-called colloquium, a thesis, a "comprehensive" course) that are only offered at specific intervals. It's designed to allow graduation in four years. I wonder if this is a relatively new phenomenon?

edit: after a little research I see that I would end up paying about the same amount even if I cut off an extra semester, since my college charges $875 per credit over 24 a semester -- I would be taking about 30. Since it doesn't save me much money, I don't see the point. That idea ended quickly.

Two hours of homework a week? My God. I had more than 2 hours of homework per day per class when I was in college -- 7 days a week! I also majored in math. Amazing what a difference the school one attends can make, apparently.

It also depends on how much time you're willing to spend on homework. Several of my CS classes have conducted surveys on how long homework take; in every case, there was a significant spread with a long tail (some people spent 10+ hours on what took others 1).

2 degrees, 3 semesters, and a fulltime job? Sorry, but it's impossible combination. The possible ones are: 1 degree, 4 semesters, full time job (because some obligatory courses are only in summer or winter), 2 degrees, 6 semesters, half time job or 2 degrees, 5 semesters, no job. Currently I'm doing a 2 degrees, 6 semesters, no job -- graduating from CS in regular time and from Math one year early, and while I work like crazy, I think that if I planned better, I could have passed all required courses by the end of this semester. But even now, I have 2.5 times as much weekly courses than people pursuing a single degree in a regular way. Cutting the time required for me in half, while having full time job in last semester, is completely insane.

For serious college advice I would highly recommend Cal Newport's blog Study Hacks. He is currently a postdoc at MIT and has three books on high-school/college advice published.

The blog has a wealth of information: http://calnewport.com/blog/

You are a hero among men.

While I'm in awe, for some reason the math doesn't seem to work. For example, in the last term he claims 8 hours/day of classes (13 hours on Thursday), plus a 40hr/week job, plus 30 minutes/day of running. Then there's transit time to/from work and classes, and eating - no fast food since he became a lacto-ovo vegetarian: shopping and food prep for a specialized diet like that must have been time consuming.

Still it's one of those "if it's 80% true it's still amazing" stories.

I'm quite new to Steve Pavlina writings. So I've checked with Wikipedia to get an idea on his claims.

He already got college credits from high school and studying at Berkeley, this important detail is nowhere found in the article.

I've also found that most of the advice sounds great but is hard to impossible to apply.

He appears to be exceptionally clever but a term paper on math and engineering problems are not written with a 12h marathon on the weekend, at least not on my university.

Can anyone recommend serious advice?

Check out my buddy Scott H Young's site (ScottHYoung dot com) for some serious, and tested, study hacking.

He's currently doing a year-long experiment where he's attempting to complete a 4-year MIT Computer Science course in 12 months.

Oh, pfft. I looked him up and he doesn't even go to MIT. Anyone can cover the freely available material in a year if they did nothing else. However their level of retention would be ridiculously low. Testing would prove this but self study conveniently lacks this.

Actually, he's taking full MIT exams to test himself.

Utter bullshit. I can't think of a single university that would even offer its full curriculum of courses necessary to graduate in 3 semesters without conflicts.

Like he said, you need to know what your goal is. College wasn't just about the degree for me. I'm glad I didn't try to rush it.

You know, on occasion this news site walks a fine line between actual motivation and the kind of platitudes and motivational rhetoric you'd expect from a minor cult. Seriously, here's a quote from the article:

"Understand that failure is not the opposite of success. Failure is an essential part of success. Once you succeed, no one will remember your failures anyway."

Thank you, oh pyramidal guru of total bullshit.

Do you know how many failed pitches and pilots are behind every TV show you've ever watched? How many awful first novels are hidden behind the good ones? How many bad drawings every artist produced on the way from being "that kid who likes to draw" to "a master"?

You do, indeed, have to fail a lot on the way to success, unless you get very very very lucky.

Or as my anti-motivational book will be called:

"If You're So Smart, Why Are You A Motivational Speaker?"

I just, errr, haven't got round to writing it yet.

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