100+ Practical Cognitive Exercises


I use the term cognitive exercise to encompass all activities that “exercise” the brain, including meditation, self-hypnosis, and diary-writing.

The brain is a like a muscle, or a collection of muscles, just like your body. Similarly, you have to train these different muscles with exercise. There are many parallels between physical and cognitive exercise. You have to do it often. You want to hit all the muscles. There are a variety of ways to do it, some will work better for you, others will not. You need to consider your goals and choose the appropriate exercises. There’s a difference between doing it alone and with other people. The list goes on.

I’d like to share with you 100 practical cognitive exercises to strengthen your brain.

Some are quick and easy, some will take a little more time and effort. Some are specifically designed to exercise parts of your brain. Some are things you already do, and for these, just approaching it as a cognitive exercise and tuning into how it effects you amplifies it’s effect. Sounds simple, but it works.

  1. List out things that help you de-stress.
  2. Think about what you want your life to look at in 5 to 10 years.
  3. Think about things you have that others don’t and say thank you.
  4. Exercise
  5. Meditate
  6. Listen to music
  7. Breathing exercises
  8. Stretch
  9. Yoga
  10. Eat. Are you hungry? Feeding your brain is just as important as using it.
  11. Eat indulgently. Something that makes you happy. Ignore health.
  12. Talk to someone you love.
  13. Talk to a family member (you don’t have to love them).
  14. Talk to a relative. (not parent, child, or sibling)
  15. Talk to a semi-close friend.
  16. Think about how when you’re stressed, it’s a chemical reaction. You can mentally separate the feeling of stress from the problem if you practice this.
  17. Sing
  18. Dance
  19. Think about something completely random.
  20. Watch tv. One that’s familiar, that you used to watch a lot.
  21. Watch a movie. One with a main character that inspires you.
  22. Clean your room.
  23. Organize your closet.
  24. Clean around the house.
  25. Draw or paint something.
  26. Sculpt something.
  27. Send a thank you letter.
  28. Take a nap.
  29. Look at old photos.
  30. Write down the names of people you love.
  31. Write an email to yourself one year from now.
  32. Read your diary, or old social media photos.
  33. Visit family.
  34. Take a long bath.
  35. Create a bucket list.
  36. Create an anti-bucket list. That’s a list of things you’ve done that would be on your bucket list if you hadn’t.
  37. Do a body scan. Look it up, it’s a meditation technique.
  38. Cook food for yourself.
  39. Take a walk.
  40. Free write. Don’t stop writing for 5 minutes. Keep moving your hand.
  41. Write down your favorite dishes.
  42. Imagine a perfect future.
  43. Throw things away.
  44. Buy something for yourself.
  45. Buy something for someone else.
  46. People watch. Notice demographics, personality, clothes, mood, emotion.
  47. Approach and talk to a random stranger.
  48. Toss a ball with someone.
  49. Clear your desktop.
  50. Clear your email.
  51. Organize old photos.
  52. Play a board game.
  53. Organize files on your computer.
  54. Measure your heart rate.
  55. Do a color scan. Think “red, red, red…” with your eyes open to notice all red things in sight. Then do orange, yellow, etc.
  56. Read Wikipedia articles.
  57. Watch TED videos.
  58. Learn something new.
  59. Play a game.
  60. Wash your car.
  61. Read a book.
  62. Hang out with friends.
  63. Grab a drink with friends.
  64. Dance with somebody
  65. Dance by yourself.
  66. Discuss politics with a friend
  67. Give to a charity.
  68. Host a game night.
  69. Hug someone
  70. Draw your golden circle (Why, How What).
  71. Drive a different route to work.
  72. Eat alone at a restaurant.
  73. Go on a solo road trip.
  74. Write down a to-do list.
  75. Scan book titles you’ve read and think about them.
  76. Take an artistic picture of something in your house and post it.
  77. Regularly attend a weekly gathering.
  78. Write down the names of people who can make you smile.
  79. Have sex.
  80. Masturbate.
  81. Take a personality test.
  82. Ask people what they think of you.
  83. Tell people what you think of them.
  84. “You are who you’ve met” exercise. Write down a list of all the people who’ve influenced who you are and the most important lesson you’ve learned from them. Include friends, family, and even movie or tv show characters.
  85. Stare at one thing for a really long time.
  86. Volunteer
  87. Pick someone and imagine what it’s like to be them.
  88. Do something for someone.
  89. Get someone to do something for you.
  90. Build an IKEA table.
  91. Build an IKEA table with someone.
  92. Turn off your phone for a day.
  93. Go camping.
  94. Attend a music festival.
  95. Go to a concert.
  96. Watch a musical or play.
  97. Volunteer at an event
  98. Organize a group dinner or happy hour.
  99. Do a “silent night”. Only communicate in hand-written notes.
  100. Cook with someone.
  101. Reconnect with an old friend.
  102. Play or learn an instrument.
  103. Write your own obituary.
  104. Read about the brain.
  105. Do something embarrassing.
  106. Write down your strengths.
  107. Create a vision board.
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2015 New Year’s Resolutions

As you may know, I like writing down 10 New Year’s Resolutions and posting them on the wall in my bedroom by the door. It’s a constant reminder for myself throughout the year.

This year, I kept my resolutions simple. Less specific means I won’t “finish” anything in particular, but my goal here is “progress, not perfection.” Without further ado, my 2015 New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Eat Healthy
  2. Sleep Well
  3. Exercise
  4. Rest
  5. Focus
  6. Smile
  7. Work Hard
  8. Clean
  9. Help People
  10. Have Fun

If I can do these, life is good. Yeah?

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How to solve every major problem in the world.

TL;DR – have our kids do it.

Every major problem in the world – hunger, poverty, environment, etc. – is rooted in a complex system of intertwined systems: culture, politics, economics, and so on. I assume there are major problems we have yet to realize (or accept as a society), but let’s focus for now on problems we agree upon. The first step to solving any problem is identifying it, but figuring out how to do that is not my goal here.

Dominant cultures in the world today teach us inadvertently to focus on short-term solutions by identifying and celebrating individuals’ achievements. That’s one of many reasons we have difficulty focusing on the greater good and ask ourselves “what can I get out of this?” Today, there are many people doing good for the world, through both non-profit and for-profit companies. Many of these solutions, while extremely useful for the purpose of collecting data (which is very important), are short-term solutions that often ignore the complexity of the problem.

Major problems rooted in complex systems take time to solve. For example, the abolitionist movement of 1844 can be dated back 150 years to 1688 when four people presented a protest against the institution of slavery to their local Quaker Meeting (it was ignored). Many people would argue that root problems with slavery persist today, in a different form.

The point I’m trying to make here is that it takes generations to solve major problems. It takes time for the desire to solve a problem to reach enough people that we act on it. We are wired to think and feel a certain way, engrained in our minds from decades of programming we call life. A logical explanation is often not enough to make us feel a certain way about something. This is why it takes generations to solve major problems.

We don’t act on what we understand, but what we feel. In order to feel a certain way, we must be exposed to it before we are programmed to feel another way. This is why we need to teach our children about the problems in this world, so not only do they understand it, but they also feel it. Perhaps even our children’s generation won’t reach a tipping point, so we must teach them to teach their children. We won’t solve any major problem in our lifetime, so let’s at least make sure we, as a human race, continue to tackle it, without giving up or forgetting.

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Sometimes I get jealous of trees

Sometimes I get jealous of trees.
Because they never have to ask themselves, where am I going?
They’re in one place, their whole life, and they don’t really have a choice.
So I guess there’s no point in wondering if they’re in the right place.
As far as they’re concerned, it’s the only place.
Maybe I should be glad I have a say in where I’m going to be.
Or do I?

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Life is all about balance

When it comes to life, it’s all about balance. At least that’s what I’ve come to conclude based on my current life experiences. As with anything, it’s subject to change.

For every piece of advice I’ve read or received, I’ve heard the opposite. Given the context, they usually both make sense to me. When a Texan tells me to eat steak, that’s great advice. So is the advice from a vegan yogi not to eat steak.

I’ve noticed that when someone gives advice, they tend to have needed to follow it in the past. People who’ve overworked themselves before tend to talk about the importance of life-work balance. Someone who recently got off the couch to start pursuing their dream will talk about the importance of working hard to get what you want.

Optimism and realism, efficiency and patience, organization and flexibility, confidence and humility, curiosity and content. Those are a just few things I find myself constantly trying to balance.

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Review: My 2013 New Year’s Resolutions

At the beginning of 2012, I wrote down 10 New Year’s Resolutions and taped it on my wall. At the end of the year, I reviewed my resolutions. I started this process without a specific outcome in mind, but found that I learned a lot about myself, not just from reflecting on my resolutions, but by also taking notice of my reactions as I reflected.

I wrote down 10 New Year’s Resolutions for 2013, and here is me reflecting upon them. The one key thing I noticed, is that I seem to be setting goals that are specific to that moment in my life. What I mean is that while I’m trying to better myself, it feels less like an upward motion (which is what I assumed it would be like) and more like a balancing act.

For the purpose of candidness and transparency, this post (and many others) are barely edited. It’s a purposefully different communication method from writing a well thought-out, edited essay. Also, I’m just lazy and would never post anything if I took the time to edit things.

1. Create more art

When I wrote this as my first resolution, I must’ve been stressed about how I was lacking opportunities to creatively express myself; that’s no longer a problem I feel. Early in the year, I bought light gloves and gave light shows to friends, danced a lot more expressively, painted my face for festivals, dressed silly for events, carved pumpkins, decorated for christmas, and made gingerbread house cookies.

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2. Understand my finances

As embarrassing as it sounds, I had no idea how much money I was spending at the beginning of this year. Over the course of the year, I’ve taken some time to manage my Mint.com account, which alone helped my understand my expenses. In addition, I started using my Simple debit account. I haven’t seen the direct results from this since it’s been less than a month, but I’m proud to say I’m finally enjoying the process of tracking my expenses.

3. Maintain an awesome body

This seems like a rather cocky resolution since I don’t think I have an awesome body, but I see what I was trying to do there. This year, I biked a lot (commuting and running errands), consumed a lot more veggies and fruits (also the occasional juice cleanse), and spent more time doing yoga than I’ve ever spent at a gym in one year. So I’m feeling pretty good about this one.

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4. Stress less about small things

Perhaps it’s the yoga, perhaps it’s the meditation, or perhaps it’s being surrounded by amazing friends I call family. I don’t even remember why this was a resolution. I feel pretty much zero stress right now. #WINNING

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5. Help 100 entrepreneurs

Thanks to the amazing opportunity Coloft gave me, this one was a breeze. I’ve set up approximately 50 classes this year, averaging approximately 15 or so students, which comes out to well over 100 entrepreneurs I’ve helped, even while taking into account students who’ve attended multiple classes. In addition, I had the honor of teaching the Santa Monica Youth Tech Academy this Summer, mentoring SW Next, guest lecturing at university classes, and I had the time to create a resource guide for entrepreneurs.

6. Make more strangers smile

I can’t say I crushed this one, because I’ll admit: sometimes I’m not in the mood to entertain strangers. I guess that’s okay though. I smile and dance a lot, which I notice is sometimes enough to put a smile on a stranger’s face.

7. Trust myself, my decisions, my path

This is another one that I apparently crushed, because at this moment it seems silly that this was even on my resolution list. I have nothing but faith in myself, my decisions, and my path. I guess it’s a good reminder that sometimes we do question ourselves, but that we also have the ability to bounce back.

8. Thank my friends often

I think I’ve done a good job with this. I feel like I’m constantly having the conversation with my friends about how lucky we are to have each other. I wish I did a better job keeping in touch with friends I don’t see often. I kind of tackled that during Christmas when I made a “Naughty & Nice List” (because all my friends are both naughty and nice. lol), which ended being almost 200 people. I spend most of Christmas day individually texting people, and managed to reach out to 100+ friends on that day alone. Since it wasn’t in any particular order, I definitely missed some people I wish I’d reached out to, it’s better than not reaching out to anybody at all.

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9. Do awesome shit

Killed it. I feel like I did nothing but awesome shit this year. Coachella, running a school for tech entrepreneurs, Lightning in a Bottle, teaching high schooler’s entrepreneurship, biking regularly to free pier concerts during the Summer with a big group of friends, throwing awesome house parties w over 100 people, traveling to EDM shows by party bus (at a water park in Arizona, on the beach in Huntington, and on a boat in Newport), starting the local Code for America meetup, organizing Startup Weekends, organizing Civic Hackathons, dancing the night away at Desert Hearts, weekday game nights with friends, pumpkin carving parties, orphan thanksgiving potluck dinner, christmas decorating, and so much more…

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10. Dance more

I’m dancing so much, it’s not even funny. Coachella, Wet Electric, Lightning in a Bottle, Nervo, Boatylicious, Swimming with Sharks, Desert Hearts, Chainsmokerz, White Panda, Candyland… and all those small dance sessions with friends. Life’s one big dance party.

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Extra Credit: Be happy

Is this even a question? I’m happy as a camel on Wednesdays, everyday of the week.

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An Introduction to Startup Methodologies

There are a handful of startup methodologies that every entrepreneur should familiarize themselved with. These concepts, widely accepted amongst tech startups, were developed by seasoned entrepreneurs to help fellow entrepreneurs avoid common mistakes.

The Business Model Canvas, developed by Alexander Osterwalder, is a framework for analyzing the different components of a business – it’s essentially a substitute for the traditional business plan, a long document that nobody will ever actually read.

The Customer Development methodology, developed by Steve Blank, is a scientific approach that can be applied to startups to improve the likelihood of their product success by developing a better understanding of the customer.

The Lean Startup method, developed by Eric Ries, was built on top of the Customer Development methodology, specificically with tech startups in mind. It focuses on testing hypothesis and quick iterations of product.

Take This Free Online Course

If you’re unfamiliar with the above concepts, the best place to start is Steve Blank’s Udacity course, How to Build a Startup. This course covers both the business model canvas and the customer development methodology.

Another great free course can be found on Udemy called Build. Measure. Learn. Lean Startup SXSW 2012. These are recordings from the Lean Startup Track at SXSW Interactive 2012 with Eric Ries, Dave McClure, and other great startup founders.

Check Out These Books

You can learn more about the Business Model Canvas by visiting the website, where you can purchase the book and download the Canvas for free. Every entrepreneur should go through the process of filling out a the Business Model Canvas at least once!

If you’re going to read one book on Customer Development, it should be Steve Blank’s book, The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company. It’s a more detailed and readable version of his first book, The Four Steps to Epiphany.

Check out the Lean Startup website, where you can learn about basic principles and check out some great case studies listed. You should also purchase the book, which many would tell you is a must read for any technology entrepreneur.

In-Person Learning

There are a few in-person courses designed to help you apply these principles to your business. The Lean Startup Machine is a three-day workshop that’s been going on for a while. SW NEXT is a similar course that meets once a week for 5 weeks, developed in conjunction by Startup Weekend, Steve Blank, and Udemy. Both courses force you to “get out of the building” and talk to customers, which can be difficult without a little push.

For a more casual opportunity to connect with people, check out the Los Angeles Lean Startup Circle Meetup. You might as well know name Patrick Vlaskovits, our local “Lean Expert”, co-organizer of the LA Lean Startup Circle, and co-author of the books The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development and The Lean Entrepreneur.

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Best Resources for Learning Startup Marketing

Here’s a list of the best guides I’ve found to teach yourself startup marketing, digital marketing, growth hacking, or whatever else you want to call it:


Growth Hacking is becoming an increasingly popular term for metric-based marketing for early stage startups. The term itself can be controversial, but don’t focus on that too much. It’s a mentality that’s very helpful to understand.

The Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking – A great place to start and get in the mindset of what you need to focus on when growing an early-stage startup. This resource was put together by Neil Patel and Bronson Taylor. Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics, and is one of the most prominent growth hackers out there.

The Ultimate Guide to Startup Marketing – This one is less of a general overview of what it takes, but has simple actionable starting points for you. This one is put together by KISSmetrics, which as I mentioned above, was started by Neil Patel.

Want some cool case studies? Check out this slide deck (Dropbox, Living Social, AirBnB, etc.).


No matter how much traffic you drive to your site, if those visitors don’t do anything, it does you no good. Conversion rate optimization is all about increasing the conversion rate of your passive visitors to active visitors.

The Beginner’s Guide to CRO – Everything you need to know about optimizing your site is right here. It’s hosted on the Qualaroo site, a company started by Sean Ellis, who is credited for coining the term Growth Hacker. He’s helped many companies grow, but most notably he was the first marketer for Dropbox.

Chapters: What is Conversion Rate Optimization?, Why Conversion Rate Optimization is Important, The Basics of Conversion Rate Optimization, Building and Testing an Optimization Plan, User Experience and Funnel Optimization, Landing Page Optimization, Reducing Bounce and Exit Rates, Myths About Conversion Rate Optimization, Tools to Test and Optimize Conversion, Measuring Conversion Rate Efforts and Calling Winners, Bonus Advanced Tips and Hacks for CRO, Conclusion


SEO is all about how to rank high on search engines when potential visitors/users/customers search for something relevant to your service. While it’s not the ideal marketing focus for everyone, for most, it’s very crucial.

The Beginner’s Guide to SEO – Moz’s guide to SEO is IMPO the best out there. It’s a little long, but read the whole thing and you’ll know SEO better than some of the cheaper SEO consultants out there.

The Advanced Guide to SEO – Another great guide to SEO put together by Neil Patel (same guy who did the growth hacking guide at the top).

The Advanced Guide to Link Building – Again, by Neil Patel. I put this under SEO instead of it’s own section because link building is core to SEO.


Content Marketing is about publishing content online that’s so helpful to people that they share it with others, and they all become your customer. Not quite, but something along those lines. You could say this blog post, and most of the guides on here are content created as part of a content marketing strategy.

The Advanced Guide to Content Marketing – Again, by Neil Patel on Quicksprouts. He’s really killing it with these guides.


I hope I don’t have to explain to you what social media is. All the guides below are from Mashable, the king of social media news online.

Twitter Guide Book

Facebook Guide Book

The Beginner’s Guide to Tumblr

The Beginner’s Guide to LinkedIn

Reddit: A Beginner’s Guide

Beginner’s Guide to Facebook

Beginner’s Guide to Twitter


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How to Get Into YCombinator

I started reading HackerNews recently, and I love it. Today, 3 of the top 100 posts happened to be advice for getting into YCombinator, so I though I’d post them here for people who might have missed it. While these are tips for YC, the same advice goes for applying to startup accelerators in general.

And because it’s not all about getting in (also a top 100 from Hacker News today):

And because it’s not all about getting into an accelerator


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