Fundamentals of Success, Life and Academic Performance

The following videos outline some general rules of success and how one can ultimately change the world, through focus, dedication and commitment coupled with giving back to the world / community that has contributed along the way.

Arnold Schwarzenegger – In this video he outlines 5 key Rules of Success. A far more detailed and in-depth interview exploring Vision, Goals, Confidence and Time Management may be seen (online)

One of the key elements mentioned in the video above is to have a clear vision, a destination. Perhaps the following video from Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country, 1991 (IMDB) is a good example, as the Enterprise is asked by a Klingon outpost for its Destination – “What is your Destination, Over”. Even with a warp capable Starship like the Enterprise, without a Heading / Destination one will just drift through space without ever getting anywhere. Many star athletes “begin with the end in mind” to quote Stephen R. Covey and “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, they visualise and see the ultimate goal the wish to achieve.

As with all journeys one must first have a direction of travel, in the case of Samwise and Frodo departing the Shire in The Fellowship of the Ring, 2001 (IMDB), their initial destination was the village of Bree. As with all journeys one must set off by putting one foot in front of the other and embrace the adventure that lies ahead.

Admiral William H. McRaven – highlights 10 key life lessons that are very much centered around how one can change the world by adhering to some basic principles. A more detailed account, along with a 20 minute video may be seen (online).

Many of the above Rules & Life Lessons can be readily applied to Academic study. As Schwarzenegger mentions one has to “work your butt off”. Putting in hard work and focus is essential, however perhaps even more importantly is to focus on working hard at doing the right things. The following video below highlights several key things that the top 10% of students do in stark contrast to the other 90%. Two of the key things that make all the difference is to develop a Schedule / Plan and also to put in the work doing Practice Exams / Homework.

An interesting article in which the speaker in the video above contributes, can be found (online) and is aptly named the “Science of Student Success”.

Just turning up to class for example, isn’t going to guarantee success in coursework / exams. One must put in the work. Its just like having a Gym membership, paying the membership fee, and going to the gym for just a few weeks or on the odd occasion will not produce any results. One must put in the work over and over again, moreover it is important to do the right thing, hence how one works out at the gym with the correct form is also crucial. The real key to building muscle mass is not stopping once you have done 10 reps just like everybody else, the real value comes at the very end by putting in that extra couple of reps. This extra bit of effort is what makes all the difference to making the most of the training session. This is something that Schwarzenegger mentions time and time again in many of his interviews.

Perhaps it is apt quote Colonel John Hannibal Smith from the A-Team – “I love it when a plan comes together”. The videos below depicts Hannibal (George Peppard) from both the TV Show and the more recent move (Liam Neeson) saying the well know line.

Commitment is also a key ingredient, as is well voiced by wise Jedi Master Yoda “Try not, Do or Do not, there is no try” – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, 1980 (IMDB). Trying to do something half-heartily will not lead to success, if you are going to do something the commit to it 100%. Another very good example of this is from The Karate Kid, 1984 (IMDB), at the point where Mr. Miyagi ask Daniel if he is ready to begin his Karate training. Daniel responds by saying “Yeah, I guess so”. Mr Miyagi in turn outlines a short story about walking on a road, both the left and right sides are safe, but if one walks in the middle, then sooner or later you will get run over. Again it all comes down to Commitment, either you are going to do something and give it 100% or not.

Perhaps one of the most important thing at University, especially in Computing is to treat it like a Gym. Only by working out and learning to tackle new problems can one problem solving skills improve along with their programming ability.

Any other tips for success?
Do you know of any other good strategies useful on the road toward Academic Success?
Have you seen any interesting videos recently about how to focus, do the right thing and ultimately achieve the best results?
What interesting things have you learned from watching the videos above?
What are the most profound / useful things you can take away and action from the above videos?

Life Lessons and Leadership Principles

The video below is of Lt. General Hal Moore discussing Leadership, recorded at the 2007 American Veterans Conference in Washington D.C. He highlights a number of principles that has guided his life and also guided him on the battlefield.

1 In baseball, three strikes and you’re out. In the game of life three strikes and you are not out, there is always one more thing you can do, to influence any situation in your favour. All you have to do is think, what else can I do, and after that there’s one more thing you can do. The more things you do the more opportunities that open up.

2 On the battlefield always try to be where the action is going on. A battlefield leader has to lead on the battlefield.

3 In any situation you’ve got to think what am I doing that I should not be doing and what am I not doing that I should be doing, to influence the situation in my favour. There’s always one more thing.

4 Trust your instincts. Your instincts are the product of your experience, your reading, your personality. Your instincts are your best resource. Your gut tells you one thing and your heart tells you another. Go with your gut.

5 Life is not a bed of roses. You are going to be hit with adversity, now and again. When hit by adversity, you’ve got to believe that you will prevail in the end.

The trailer below is of the 2002 film We Were Solders depicting the Vietnam War  battle of la Drang in 1965. The film stars Mel Gibson as the then Lt Colonel (imdb).

Another interesting example of a speech revolving around life lessons was by Navy Admiral William H. McRaven during the University of Texas 2014 commencement. It can be summed in the following principles below.

1 If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

2 If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

3 If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

4 If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

5 If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

6 If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.

7 If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

8 If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

9 If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

10 If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.

Many of these principles can be summed up as “Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often. But if you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up”.

Another key idea discussed is that by changing the lives of just a few people within a few generations this can impact the lives of everybody on the planet.

One can read the entire transcript of the speech (online) at the University of Texas website.

The video below is again of Admiral McRaven highlighting eight key leadership lessons.
1 Know your troops.
2 Communicate constantly.
3 Set the example.
4 Accountability matters.
5 Allow room to maneuver.
6 Own the problems.
7 Learn from failure and move on.
8 Be a servant leader.

Some other blog posts that may be worth reading:
Prof Randy Pausch Time Management & The Last Lecture (online)
Schwarzenegger Interview: Vision, Goals, Confidence and Time Management (online)

Do you know of any other interesting videos / articles discussing interesting life lessons or leadership principles?


Post-it Note Art in Video

During the summer I spent some time at Google London along with around a dozen other academics from half a dozen universities. One thing in particular that caught everybody’s attention was the displays of Post-it Note Pixel Art adorning the interior windows. As you would expect, many of the mosaics were game characters. It seemed like a really good, fun and collaborative way of brightening up the offices spaces and bringing them to life.

It would seem that this use of Post-it note art has spread from Google London’s office to its Dublin Office as can be seen in the time-lapse videos directly below (posted less than two weeks ago – 15/09/2017), whereby Wonder Woman now adorns some of the windows of Google’s Dublin Office.

Some other offices have also made use of Post-it Notes to make the otherwise plain walls sparkle with excitement and colour. The videos below depict the creation of a murial of several characters such as Iron-man, Wonder Woman and Batman requiring a total of 8024 Post-it notes (online). The work of art was of a temporary nature as they were moving to another office within a few months. The manner in which they removed the artwork was quite unique employing a leaf-blower to prise the post-it’s from the walls.

The video below shows yet another office taking a Star Wars theme to the creation of their Post-it Note murials.

It would seem that this imaginative use of Post-it notes commenced with a simple “Hi” being posted on the window of an advertising agency, with another agency right across the street replying to same (around 2 years ago). This quickly escalated into an all out Post-it note battle (online) as can be seen from the news segments and videos below. The hashtags #postitwars and #canalnotes also began to be bounded around on twitter. If you do some further searching around you will find several other examples of Post-its being used for artistic purposes going back several years previous to this post-it war.

Quite a few other videos may also be found online with companies and individuals adorning their windows and walls with post-it notes.

From the time-lapse video below captured in a sports hall it would seem that post-it note art has been taken to a whole different level in terms of sheer scale.

The following website (online) has some useful tips for creation Post-it note art. From suggesting to use 3M Super Sticky Notes, to measuring your wall space and planning out a grid. On another Note – pun intended – you can find out more about the accidental invention of the glue and inception of the post-it back in the late 1970’s (online).

Overall this form of art seems like a really fun and simple way to liven up an office space or blank wall / window. It could be a really fun and collaborative way of turning whitewashed walls of university computer labs into something exciting, immersive and inspirational for instance.

Hackathon Examples Around Birmingham in Video

Hackathons are a great way to learn new skills and provides opportunities to work with other students in small groups / teams. Many Hackathons take place around Birmingham with the essence of some of these having been captured in video format. The selection of videos below from past Hackathons should help to give you some idea of what they are like and perhaps help to encourage you to attend such an event in the future if you haven’t been to one before.

Even if you have little to no programming experience you should still go along to a Hackathon. Sometimes you will find participants who have graduated several years before and others who may still be in secondary school depending on the format of the event. Some Hackathons are closed events – focused on a particular University institution, many are more open to all who are interested. Many of the larger more open Hackathons are helped by Major League Hacking (MLH) an organisation that can help you setup and run a Hackathon event.

Bull Hack 2017, Curzon Building

Hack The Midlands 2016, Millennium Point

Local Hack Day Birmingham 2016

Aston Hack 2015

Brum Hack 5.0

BrumHack 4 Final Presentation (2 Hour Video)

BrumHack 2014, Live Demos (~80 Minute Video)

BrumHack 3 (30 Hour Timelapse <5 Minute Video)

Game Jam 2014

Typically Hackathon events take place over a period of 24 Hours, though some can be shorter day long events, or longer 48 Hour events. Often these events have a theme or some suggested areas within which you should try to develop some form of novel / interesting software solution. At the terminus of the coding period, each team will then have the opportunity to give a short presentation / demo of the product. These presentations / demos are often judged by a panel whom award prizes at the end, before the final wrap up. Above all the most important part about a Hackathon is participation, as you never know what potential employers may be in attendance. They also serve as a very useful addition to ones CV and can help to make it stand out.

Examples of Graphics, Animation and Fractals in Film

Vol Libre (1980) created by Loren Carpenter is an extremely well know example of early computer animation. It used fractal terrain generation of create a flythrough of a three dimensional landscape. This would in turn lead on to the development of the Genesis Sequence in Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan (1982) (IMDB).

The following video provides a nice bit of background about fractal terrain generation as described by Loren Carpenter himself. In 1978 he came across the book Fractals Form, Chance and Dimensions by Benoit Mandlebrot and having read the entire book twice started use fractal techniques to develop computer generated terrain.

Another good example of computer generated imagery is the Light Cycle battle from Tron (1982) (IMDB).

Tron Legacy (2010) (IMDB) features an updated Light Cycle battle.

Flight of the Navigator (1986) (IMDB) demonstrates the first use of image mapping the surrounding environment on to a surface. In this case it is mapped on to a Trimaxion Drone ship from Phaelon. It also features some nice scenes whereby the Drone ship morphs from “Class 3” mode to “Class 1” – thereby allowing it to efficiently cut through the Earths atmosphere.

Going back to Fractals – its interesting to see how Fractal Graphics seem to crop up in film’s from time to time such as the Mandelbrot Fractal paint job of a car featured in a desert scene from Transformers Revenge of the Fallen. This can be clearly scene at time index (0:36) in the following video clip.

Fractal techniques were again used to generate the lava spewing forth and landing upon a platform, on which Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker were engaged in a lightsaber battle, located on the volcanic planet Mustafar in Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith (2005) (IMDB).

Another nice example of fractals being mentioned in a film comes from Star Trek First Contact (1996) (IMDB), whereby the Sovereign Class USS Enterprise NCC1701-E is being taken over by the Borg. The Borg are trying to reroute main control to Engineering where they are based. Upon hearing this Captain Picard asks commander Data to “Lockout the main computer”, after some interaction with a console, Data responds by saying that “I have isolated the main computer with a fractal encryption code, it is highly unlikely the Borg will be able to break it”. Hence as you can see even in the 24th century, fractal techniques still prove to be very useful.

The term “Fractal Zoom” is used to describe the opening screen effect of Limitless (2011) (IMDB). The camera carries out a number of moves in the X, Y, Z planes commencing with a downward looking view onto a city street. One can read some further detail about how the effect was achieved (online).

Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) developed a new Fractal Rendering technique for Lucy (2014) (IMDB). An overview of this may be seen (online) with detail of the work being published at SIGGRAPH. The technique was used to render many of the space travel scenes in the film.

Fractal techniques were also used more recently in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017) (IMDB). The following articles (online) (online) provides a good deal of detail on the use of fractal techniques, particularly in the creation of Ego’s planet. Such techniques may also be seen in other segments of the film.

Wikipedia has a nice list of computer animation in film and television available (online). Do you know of any other interesting examples of computer graphics / animation featured in films.

Essential Viewing – Schwarzenegger Interview: Vision, Goals, Confidence and Time Management

In a previous post (Online) I highlighted many of the key points from Randy Pausch’s lectures on “Time Management” and “Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”. The video below is of an interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger that is very much focused on achieving ones vision, time management and the ineffable fear that most people have of public speaking. Many of his comments can not only be applied to bodybuilding but to all facets of life. The video was published in March 2015 and at the time of writing had 1.86 million views. The interview is divided into two segments, commencing with a focus on bodybuilding, then around the half way mark moving on towards having a Vision.

00:25:54 Have a Deadline, the day of the competition he had to be in the best shape possible. Should focus on the diet, training and to not slack off. If he lost because he didn’t schedule the training in the proper way, didn’t have the right frame of mind, or didn’t give everything he would be so angry, so he never wanted to be in that situation.  It  is therefore essential to set a deadline and work towards it (go to).

00:27:29 Have a Specific Plan, if you don’t have a specific plan then you just wonder around. You could have the best ship or plane in the world, but if you haven’t a specific goal of where you want to go and when you want to get there, you will just drift around and never get anywhere. Creating a sense of urgency is therefore very important (go to).

00:28:04 Have a Vision, The most important thing is to have a Vision, have a Goal, because without such one is just drifting around and never end up getting anywhere. People don’t become successful by accident. One has to have a Goal, it can be anything, having a goal motivates. Put pictures of your goal all over your bedroom wall so every day when you go to sleep or wake up one can see the end goal , which acts as a form of motivation. You therefore know exactly what you are after. He looked forward to working-out as every Set and every Rep that he did, because it brought him one step closer to transforming his  Vision/Goal into reality. Have a clear Vision /Goal of what you wish to accomplish (go to).

00:33:50 Have a Training Partner, Have somebody to train with, if you are feeling down then it’s the responsibility of the training partner encourage you (go to).

00:35:01 Lack of Confidence, Confidence builds by making small achievements that build on one another. When you have one little Victory it leads to the next, little Victories add up, which ultimately leads to confidence (go to).

00:37:50 Public Speaking, little Victories again help to build confidence. Speaking in public is the biggest fear factor for people than anything else (go to).

00:40:20 Time Management, Everybody has a problem with time. The day has 24 hours, and one can sleep 6 hours, therefore you have 18 hours remaining to do your work, family, hobbies and to do/learn something new. Therefore out of the 24 hours in the day, don’t waste one single hour, it’s too precious. Don’t say that you don’t have the time to do something, you make the time (go to).

To Conclude
These are all very good points, especially if you are working on something like an Honours / MSc or PhD Research Project. Having a mentor / supervisor that will push you is key towards achieving success. Certainly in academia – time in the most precious commodity, therefore one must carve out the time to do what’s important. Setting clear goals / plans / deadlines and building on little victories is one very good way to build confidence and to ultimately see ones vision transform into reality.

Dare to be Digital 2016 – Examples of Past Video Pitches

Just a few days ago I received an email from the Dare to be Digital (online) Program Manager that Applications for 2016 were open, with a deadline of 13th March 2016. Details of the various key dates, deadlines, eligibility and a link to the application form are available (online).

One can find out about last years teams (online) and see trailers of the completed games hosted on YouTube, that should give you some sense of what the final products are like. The teams who get to develop their games over the summer will also have the opportunity of taking part in Dare Protoplay – the UK’s largest indie games festival (online).

Its a great opportunity for a small team of students to get together and spend several weeks during the summer completely focused on developing a game. It also offers the opportunity to win a number of prizes, including the possibility of winning a BAFTA (online).

One of the key parts of the application process is to submit a link to a video no longer than five minutes that provides a clear overview of the team, the game concept / storyline, unique selling points, visuals and a number of other elements.

Doing a bit of exploration online one will find a large selection of pitches for entry to the Dare to be Digital Competition. A small selection of some past pitches are included below to give you some sense for how various teams have approached the process over the years. You will see some are very much focused on the team members, others focus more heavily on the visuals, project planning and other elements.

Further Links and Info

Competition Website

2015 Video Pitches

Selection of Pitches that took part in Dare to be Digital 2015

Other Pitches submitted towards entry to the 2015 Competition

2014 Video Pitches

Selection of Pitches that took part in Dare to be Digital 2014

Other Pitches submitted towards entry to the 2014 Competition

2013 Video Pitches

Selection of Pitches that took part in Dare to be Digital 2013

Other Pitches submitted towards entry to the 2013 Competition