14 votes

Drowning in ideas, Lacking in focus

This is my first post on the Daily Paul, I didn't bother searching past posts for something related to what I'm about to ask, please bear with me...

Scroll all the way down for a TL;DR (Reddit-speak for "Too Long; Didn't Read") and my actual question.

Long story short I am a young college student with too many ideas and not enough action. There is so much I'd like to do. Here's a list of just some of my goals.

1) Excel in my undergraduate studies for engineering
2) Work on related projects in that industry: internships, programming, etc.
3) Make enough money to pay for my living expenses, they aren't much
4) Start various businesses to begin my dream of having my own little empire
5) Learn various skills
6) Perfect taking care of myself through nutrition and other health areas
7) Train to compete in my sport on an amateur/semi-professional level

... Between family, friends, obligations, taxes, stress, following world events and the many other distractions in my life it almost appears impossible. Of course I'd like to believe nothing is impossible, or else I'd be a defeatist.

I'd like to think I have a better chance of reaching my goals than the average American but so far I've only disappointed myself. I'm doing well based on others standards but I have my own standards. I'm not necessarily lazy, but surely I am not as motivated as some of the men and women I look up to.

This is ending up being a long story not-so-short...

My initial thought is to follow Maslow's hierarchy of needs (or something similar) in order to build my life in a somewhat proper manner. I've managed to divide life into major categories that I think are important. Something like: Social, Financial, Spiritual, Personal, Physical, Career(ical). Trust me, I've spent WAY too many hours on the internet aimlessly perusing the internet in search of tools to help me reach my goals. I have countless Word documents outlining things I want to achieve as well as notes for the many projects I haven't come close to completing. My browser is constantly filled with tabs and I never seem to be able to focus. I'm great at planning, bad at finishing.

I know I sound like a pussy and that I should man up. I've had to find out a lot of things on my own in life and find the DP to be a perfect place to search for Masterful guidance. If you could spare me quotes like "Action is the key" and all the other clever sayings that'd be great. I've heard them all. All I'm looking for are actionable tips from the DP community.

I don't need tips on my specific goals, just general helpful hints that are able to assist anyone looking to achieve something.

TL;DR: What are some specific techniques for a young man who is drowning in ideas to find a way to focus his attention?

Thank you for your spare time.

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The Power of Prayer

I was lucky because when I was 21 my sales manager, Arlo, told me, "My Grandfather wrote a book called The Power of Prayer, you should read it."

His Grandfather was R.A. Torrey who has this message for you:

"If you are this moment troubled about any sin that you have ever committed, either in the past or in the present, just look at Jesus on the cross. It is an act of base ingratitude to God to brood over sins that He, in His infinite love, has cancelled."

Reuben Archer Torrey (28 January 1856 – 26 October 1928), was an American evangelist, pastor, educator, and writer.

Thank you. I often wondered

Thank you. I often wondered what being 'born again' really meant; now I know!

"If you are this moment troubled about any sin that you have ever committed, either in the past or in the present, just look at Jesus on the cross. It is an act of base ingratitude to God to brood over sins that He, in His infinite love, has canceled."

Finish college first....

"Between family, friends, obligations, taxes, stress, following world events and the many other distractions in my life it almost appears impossible. Of course I'd like to believe nothing is impossible, or else I'd be a defeatist."

Unless you're slacking in your coursework I would expect nothing less from an engineering student.

My suggestion is to just focus on finishing college (and family/friends too). Don't skimp on the health/nutrition though (don't be one the fools who thinks they are clever by trying to subsist on ramen)
Then get a job.
Once you get a job, and are not spending nights/weekends finishing 5 different projects plus homework, you will have a lot more time (and money) for developing skills/sports.

The most important advice I

The most important advice I can offer? Don't overthink it. Just do something positive to get the ball rolling and then build momentum.



Defeat the panda-industrial complex

I am dusk icon. anagram me.


I went to "The Appleseed Project" ( a historical society with a heck of a marksmanship program ) and we were asked by the host "Scout" why we were there? Everyone gave their answers all based on how they didn't like the direction of the country. He asked "what can you do about it?", again everyone answered. After everyone gave their two cents he added "First you have to secure yourself". Meaning make sure you can take care of yourself ( food, water, shelter and faith in whatever form that comes for you ). Once you have done that, move your area of responsibilty out 5 feet and secure that. You sound like you are on your way. Don't OVER THINK, LIVE! Bad things will happen, so will GOOD. Keep the GOOD leave the bad ( those bags are too heavy to carry through life ).


+1 for project appleseed

Do not underestimate the

Do not underestimate the value of laziness and "doing nothing". I think even Michael N was in Japan for some time "doing nothing". Stephen Hawkings was a bad student. Einstein was a slacker working in the patent office in Zurich. Dostoievsky was in jail. Putin had a dead end job in Eastern Germany where his greatest accomplishment was to purchase an unclassified manual from an American soldier. Bill Gates dropped out of school.

Do things that every one will criticize and that's how you will build character. Maybe you can troll those liberals in the University/education institution as an exercise. Preach the existence of God to atheists and argue with religious people about the shallowness of religion.

Don't eat the yellow snow

Also, play the guitar because you get chicks for free


Pick out one thing you want

Pick out one thing you want to do and do it. As you progress other associated things you want, or did not even know you want to do will just pop up. Don't worry about what it is, your own consciousness and awareness will automatically guide you. Stay healthy, happy and keep doing whatever comes next.

As someone who was in your

As someone who was in your shoes just a few years ago (Physics/Engineering graduate with motivation troubles), I would say the most important things you can do, which I recognize now that I've changed, are:

-Set a routine
-Start a VERY healthy diet. Health has a remarkable affect on energy and motivation. Moderate Coffee or Tea in the AM is valuable as well.
-Become a morning person. One of my greatest influences used to say "Every hour of sleep before 10 PM at night is worth two hours the next morning" and I found this to be quite true.
-Workout in the AM, if even for only 15 minutes. It wakes up the mind and body and allows for focus.

and, as Benjamin Franklin suggests, each morning set your goals, each evening reflect on the goodness of your day.

I like these tips especially,

they're relatively easy to follow and set you up for success with minimum input.

In my High school sport we use to have morning workout 3 times a week starting at 5:30 (7:30 school time). My grades were better in-season than they were after season.

I remember reading somewhere that Ben Franklin took sun baths in the nude after waking up. This lends more to his credibility IMHO.

Try this

Are you over-extended, over-distracted, and overwhelmed? Do you work at a breakneck pace all day, only to find that you haven’t accomplished the most important things on your agenda when you leave the office?

The world has changed and the way we work has to change, too. With wisdom from 20 leading creative minds, Manage Your Day-to-Day will give you a toolkit for tackling the new challenges of a 24/7, always-on workplace.


The Diamond Dog is a real cool cat. | Reporting on the world from an altitude of 420.

Beware of poachers who hide behind trees

come here little puppy arf arf arf

What is your legacy?

The best advice I can offer was presented by Stephen Covey:

If you could write the script for what your friends, family, and acquaintances would say about you at your 80th birthday party, what would it say?

Once you have the script prepared, then you have your desired legacy. Compare your desired legacy to the list of achievements that you provided. Are they in alignment? If you achieve everything on that list then I would say that your legacy would go something like this: "He was the hardest working person I ever met in my life"

Another related quote from Alice in Wonderland:

"Would you please tell me which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat
"I don't much care where.....", said Alice
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat

And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.

Have you lost your mind?

You say you sound like a pussy and "My problem is mental masturbation".

You might be a fruitcake.

The Daily Paul (DP) is Full-of-Fruitcakes (FOF) so you are in good company.

Always remember: RG is smarter than everyone else because he is older than everyone else.


Here are a few links

which may help answer your question. I'll rewrite your question below.

"What are some specific techniques for a young man who is drowning in ideas to find a way to focus his attention?"

The biographies of Entrepreneurs, Inventors, Scientists & Engineers etc.; includes books on History, Economics & How to Study - Posted by Stillwater

In my post above, there is a book called How to Study by a civil engineer and MIT professor by the name of George Fillmore Swain. (Here is the direct link to the section of the post which gives an overview of the book and the author.)

The title of chapter III says "The third essential for a proper method of study is system."


"DISCOVER THE FUNDAMENTAL IDEA OF THE SUBJECT.—Strip off the detail and get down to the root of the thing. See the really important point. Then, after this has been clearly perceived and mastered, arrange the details in their proper relations to the fundamentals. The subject will thus have a skeleton, and upon this the details will be placed. A subject of study thus viewed may be compared to the human body, with its bony skeleton or framework, and all the various organs and parts supported by it; or to a tree, with its trunk, branches and leaves. Thus to consider the relative importance of facts, to sift out the essential ones, will train the power of mental discrimination and cultivate the judgment.

When this is done, subsequent facts relating to the subject can be correlated with what is already known, and will in this way be easily retained by the memory. Remember and observe Jacotot's maxim, "Learn something accurately, and refer {43} the rest to that." Unessential facts, or those of secondary importance, may be passed over in the first reading, and left for a second or later reading, for a proper method of study always involves re-reading, perhaps many times.

You cannot possibly know everything even of a single subject, hence the importance of knowing the fundamental things about it and knowing them thoroughly. Even if you gain but an elementary knowledge of a subject, that knowledge may be thorough and should include fundamentals. Thorough elementary knowledge must not be confused with a smattering. The latter is worse than useless, and is marked by vagueness, uncertainty, and failure to grasp fundamentals. But elementary knowledge, if clear and definite as far as it goes, is valuable, and the first step toward more complete knowledge."

Also, here's a little time management book you with a lot of specific suggestions and techniques.

How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life - By Alan Lakein

My physics professor

Makes an effort to learn us the fundamentals, he stresses concepts over memorization. His questions on the test are so different from the homework but if you understand the theory he taught you can apply it to any problem easily and quickly.

He only gives you an A if you deserve it. Prepares you well for a real life job.

Thanks for the reading material.


I'm so positively overwhelmed by everybody's responses, even the short ones. I honestly didn't expect this. Ya'll just proved to me why I made a good decision in joining this site, and to have this happen on my first post is amazing.

Even if I feel like any particular response didn't directly answer my question I don't care, your thoughts are worth my time and energy.

It's a good feeling being able to publicly state my inner dialogue.

I'm done telling everyone my appreciation, it's time to get to work.

fireant's picture

You need to develop the habit of accomplishment.

Us dreamers need self-discipline to see each step of achieving a goal through to completion. Starting and completing a project is a series of steps. Make sure you have prioritized your goals, then proceed step by step until complete. Depending on the project, each step can be a separate goal. Focus like a laser on the top 2 or 3 goals. Let nothing get in the way of following the process.
Discipline is key, and you must be brutally honest with yourself. Are you capable of self discipline, or do you need a "boss" to provide the discipline? Neither is better than the other, but you must understand yourself.
In my experience, being the dreamer, creative type, the self discipline is easiest when I'm working on something that I'm motivated for. Otherwise, in my working career, I was more productive working for someone else, which provides an automatic discipline. As an example, I'd like to change the way golf is taught. Teachers make it way too complicated and the number of paid rounds is going down. It's much simpler than they make it. I have to prove that, or I'm making a lot of enemies for nothing. So 6 days a week in the cooler evenings, I practice for 2 hours. I have my long term goal, and I break my shorter term swing goals down into steps. Each day I make progress toward my goals. Occasionally I'll have a set-back day, but they are becoming fewer. The point is, I'm motivated, because I selected the top goal out of a list of things I like and want to do. I am single minded focused on accomplishing that goal. I love golf, and am passionate about improving how and what is taught.
I know this is rambling and may not be coherent, but hopefully you will get some use from my 65 years. Whittle your goals down, then map out steps to achieve them. Write them down, then get yo ass crackin!:)
Discipline your time. All those tabs open are spinning you around. Give yourself specific time to do web dreaming; an hour at night, whatever. The world will spin whether you are watching it or not.
Start small, but see something through to completion, and make that a habit.

Undo what Wilson did

So relevant

I'm involved in a specific sport as well and spend a lot of time breaking down goals for the team I coach. It's easier to plan for my team since I have a responsibility to them.

As for planning my personal goals I dream more and follow through less. I'll be re reading your advice (and everyone else's) multiple times.

My mom has the same issues. She and I are totally dreamers. ADHD may not exist but I'm certain we share common nutritional deficiencies that affect our executive functioning. That is a small part of our problem.

The bigger part of our problem is that we stay complacent in our comfortable lives. I intend on mending both parts.

Cyril's picture

If that helps, also :

If that helps, also :

you weren't very specific at all about your ideas' specifics, precisely. And that's fine. But one thing you should know, if we're to stay in the generality, is it's (in general) pretty difficult to come up with really genuinely new AND interesting ideas that make sense to a number of people as much as those may do to you.

One the other hand, a number of great ideas actually only built upon existing ones, already well-proven, by improving on long-neglected or unresolved issues. E.g., cost, performance, ease of use, ease of make, resilience, etc.

Problem solving in any domain and its touchy areas is a great way to build something not forcibly new, but which still be interesting, or very interesting in the end, if only for the improvements that it brings to the legacy.

Hence the importance of understanding the markets' supply and demand laws. Find where is the demand. E.g., find what still needs to be solved for this or that to be significantly better, with a likely (or very likely) market, if you can build it.

And as a nice by-product, that's also sometimes how, precisely, those rare and genuinely new ideas, that lead to a breakthrough in and of their own eventually, show up "spontaneously" because you looked at things or problems in a new way - if you're lucky and persistent enough. :)

"Cyril" pronounced "see real". I code stuff.


"To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." -- Confucius


The direction of the economy towards niche markets. I think this would probably happen faster in a free market but I'm hoping the trend is inevitable, regardless of artificial Govt interventions.

Hopefully my unique life experiences can help me fill a couple niches within my lifetime.

I think the hardest part of being successful

at anything is just getting started. There is so much to learn and do, where do you start? You don't have to be highly educated in a subject before you start doing something. Don't fall prey to analysis paralysis. You have your goals so you are already ahead of 95% of the people out there. Form a plan and break it down into little steps and just do the first step. You are probably going to make a mistake and if you are like me, you will take 10 steps forward and then nine backward. It's ok to be disappointed in yourself and it's easy to give up at this point. The experience of failure can be the best teacher, don't give up unless you have changed your goals. Don't listen to the naysayers who say you are wasting your time. Once you get started, seek out people with experience who can guide you and learn from their mistakes. Many people love to share their knowledge with a beginner, because it makes them feel like the expert they've always strived to be. If you're having trouble finding your expert, a good way to meet one is by reading an autobiography. Learn from their mistakes but don't be afraid to make your own.

And don't forget to pay it forward. Some day someone will ask you how you did it. Be sure to tell them about the stupid mistakes you made and not just the story of your successful attempt. Thats when you know that you are now the expert.

Good luck with the hardest part, which is just getting started!

Your advice

On reading an autobiography to self teach reminds me of Robert Greene's book Mastery. Interesting & inspirational book that breaks down the lives of various masters in history. I expected specific strategies in it but the biographical stories were even better.


What does your heart want?

In my view and if honoring that love, it makes the trip en route worth it.

Good luck (and congrats on your 1st Post)!

It wants....

... a pretty woman and a family. To satisfy my primal needs by maximizing happiness. That is why I don't seek money itself but the opportunities that Wealth can bring. I am not in a position to start a family in a world full of overbearing government but I'm guessing that is my ultimate goal. I just need to find a way to get there.


Not meaning to pry, but what professional activities do you value?

If having a knack for carpentry or art or business etc, that would seem to be a means of happily supporting your family, yes?

Better to pry.

Engineering, specifically electrical since I find electricity to be a universally applicable subject. Related: that documentary about our "Electrical Universe".

Supporting a family is good enough but my ultimate goal would be to provide endless bounty.

I have an idea of WHAT I want to do, I struggle with HOW to do it. It's difficult in an era of so many distractions and I didn't always have manly guidance growing up.

I posted seeking specific tips, words of wisdom are great but not tangible. I apologize if that sounds jerk-ish.

Can you really separate the

Can you really separate the two?

If you walk blindly through life, you will run into a lot of walls.