Study Hacks Blog Posts from July, 2010 - Study Hacks - Cal Newport

From CEOs to Opera Singers — Welcome Tim Ferriss Readers

July 28th, 2010 · 17 comments

A Clarification (3:42 pm):  A few commenters both here and on Tim Ferriss’ site seemed to come away with the mistaken perception that Michael Silverman, the exceptional student profiled in my guest post, was somehow a slacker. This is definitively not true. He worked his ass off in high school. The crucial point of my article is that Michael applied this hard work somewhere smart and likely to provide big returns — his niche of sustainability projects — instead of the same old targets pursued by most students — inching up in class rank, etc. I’m sure 99% of you came away with this impression, but it never hurts to clarify.

Hacking the Superstar Effect

I just published a guest post on Tim Ferriss’ blog.  It’s titled: From CEOs to Opera Singers: How to Harness the Superstar Effect. The article, which is based off one of the major sections in my new book, details the science behind the Superstar Effect — being the best at something provides disproportionate rewards — and then describes a corollary that is often leveraged by relaxed superstars — this superstar bonus holds even if the field you conquered wasn’t prohibitively competitive.

This concept can help you stand out in a variety of settings, from college admissions to becoming CEO.

For Study Hacks Readers: This article aligns perfectly with our recent discussions of sustainable success, I recommend that you go to Tim’s site to read it.

For Tim Ferriss Readers: This blog is dedicated to strategies for building a remarkable life, which I define to be one that is both remarkably accomplished and remarkably enjoyable to live. Though the site started out focused on achieving this goal as a student, it has since broadened its scope to all walks of life.

Here are a few highlighted articles to give you a taste of what Study Hacks has to offer. If you like what you see, consider subscribing to my feed.

Articles on Building a Remarkable Life

Articles for Students

I’m Not Stressed About College Admissions, Why Are You?

July 27th, 2010 · 20 comments

I’m not stressed about college admissions, why are you?

Pub Day Arrives

I don’t want to belabor the point, so I’ll be brief. My new book, How to Be a High School Superstar, comes out today. You can read more about it here and here and here, or read an excerpt here. You can buy it here or at major bookstores. (If they’re sold out, tell them, so they’ll increase their order!)

My pitch is brief:

  • If you appreciate my philosophy and have a family member, friend, or relative in high school, please consider buying them a copy. 
  • If you like what you read, please consider adding an Amazon review to encourage others to follow suit. I’m following a strict no-fake-review policy for this book, so I’m leaving it to real readers to give honest opinions.
  • If you have a Twitter or Facebook account, perhaps tell your followers and friends it’s something worth looking into. An easy way to spread the word, for example, is to post a link titled “I’m not stressed about college admissions, why are you?” that connects back to the Amazon page for the book.

More importantly:

I can’t thank you enough for your support. This book literally wouldn’t exist without the extended and intelligent conversation I’ve had you, my Study Hacks readers, over the past three years.

Now back to writing…

(Note: The excellent artwork for this post was done by Arturas Petkevicius, an excellent freelance designer who you can contact here. If you want to help spread the word about my book, please feel free to post the image on your Facebook page or blog; send me a link if you do, so I can pass along my thanks.)

The Craftsman in the Cubicle

July 25th, 2010 · 33 comments

Old Town Zurich

An Old Town Wander

Earlier this evening, I explored the cobbled lanes of Zurich’s old town center. Switzerland is infamous for shutting down on Sundays — a legacy of a rigid Protestant past — and tonight didn’t disappoint; I often had whole streets to myself: the fading sun lighting the Renaissance-style row houses in the same way it has for hundreds of years, stretching back to when the city was still run by the guilds.

The scene, naturally, infused me with a sense of timeliness. I imagined the craftsman and apprentices who honed their skills in this late-medieval industrial center, and this got me thinking…

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I Want to Send You a Signed Copy of My New Book

July 19th, 2010 · 25 comments

The Book ArrivesHow to Be a High School Superstar (250 px wide)

Over the weekend, I received a large box from Random House containing copies of my brand new book, How to Be a High School Superstar, which is coming out next week.  (Click here to pre-order.)

  • Here’s what the book jacket says it’s about: applying the philosophies of sustainable success I preach here at Study Hacks to high school — teaching students how to build interesting, engaging, and low-stress lives, yet still do well during the college admissions process.
  • Here’s what it’s secretly also about: my general philosophy on how anyone — be they a student or CEO — can build an interesting life. I combine a diverse collection of scientific results — from signaling theory to the economics of superstars — with in-depth case studies to deconstruct exactly how people become fascinating.

I Want Your Help

I tend to feel guilty about my abysmal book promotion skills. My lack of a Facebook fan page, for example, has been cast as a mortal sin. But as I explained to my publisher, I do have one secret weapon: the smartest, most engaged readers in the world of advice blogging.

Here’s my request: if you’re a serious fan of my philosophy, and believe this book deserves an audience, send me a proposal for how you can help spread the word. It can be something local, such as organizing a reading group with parents at your local church, or something epic, like convincing your good friend Oprah that it’s worth a read.

  • I’ll send a signed copy of the bookand my eternal gratitude — to the best (implemented) idea.
  • If there are lots of great ideas, I’ll send out lots of signed copies. (I have a bunch.)
  • If the idea is particularly epic, I’ll throw in a free phone consultation on admissions, interestingness, or whatever else you want to chat about.

If you’re interested, e-mail me: author [at]

What to Expect Over the Next Few Weeks

The book launches next week on Tuesday, July 27th, so you’re going to see a lot more post traffic over the next month or so.

As part of the promotion efforts, I’ve arranged fascinating guest posts with a series of high quality advice blogs.  I’ll announce and summarize these posts as they go live in late July and early August. The result: expect a large amount of original content in the near future. 

These are exciting times. I hope you like the book, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts…

Treat Your Mind as You Would a Private Garden

July 6th, 2010 · 56 comments


Living the focused life is not about trying to feel happy all the time…rather, it’s about treating your mind as you would a private garden and being as careful as possible about what you introduce and allow to grow there.

This quote, tucked innocuously at the end of the third chapter of Rapt,  Winifred Gallagher’s 2009 ode to focus, is life-changing.

Gallagher’s book begins with a cancer diagnosis (“not just cancer, but a particularly nasty, fairly advanced kind”). She realizes that this disease wants to claim her attention, and that this was no way to live what may be the last moments of her life. So she launches an experiment to reclaim her attention, relentlessly redirecting it towards the things that matter most: “big ones like family and friends, spiritual life and work, and smaller ones like movies, walks, and a 6:30 pm martini.”

Gallagher comes away from the experiment with a good prognosis for her disease and a visceral appreciation of a surprising fact: “life is the sum total of what you focus on,” yet most people expend little effort cultivating this focus.

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