Learning Rat Race: How to read faster and remember more

Long story short, too much to read, too many MOOCs, TED to watch, podcasts to listen, and not enough time.
But what can we do? I feel being in a rat race and maybe you feel that too.

I am not saying this from the perspective of fear of missing out but from the one of not knowing the optimum recipe for learning and doing. I don’t have any fear of control and I love chaos and ambiguity, I jump in the pool and start learning as I am drowning and so far I navigated my life really nice. But I am an optimizer, in my work life and in my personal life. Why do something harder if there is a smarter way?!

Life-long learning and having a growth mindset are amazing buzz words that may sound easy but don’t get yourself fooled, you still have to put stuff inside your mind.

My challenge and my question: When do we find time to apply the things we learn if there is so much to learn? What’s the perfect receipe for the mix of actions and learning? We just block times and go with the flow?!

There’s so much good stuff to read and learn. For example:

I’d like to share with you what helped me so far in reading more and better and these resources may also help you:

  1. How to read a book [really helped me]
  2. Blinkist or other similar apps [cheating on reading]
  3. Writing down [to summarise]. I use an iPad Pro with a stylus and GoodNotes app (best one). My system here: max 1 page per book, 1 short Conclusion and max 3 ToDos]
  4. How to read faster [really helped me]. Btw, you can test your speed here.
  5. How to remember more [beginning, this is one of this year’s goals]. This is the intro as an idea, Art of Memory is a way better resource and complete.

This speed-reading and the memory-boosting journey started with 2 books:

Frankly, I started reading very late in my life, at the end of high school. Until then I was sure I don’t like reading because I never liked anything school made me read.

One day I started reading Harry Potter and for the first time I saw that there was nothing wrong with me and then I discovered that I love reading. But it took some years to really learn how to read. The resources above and these two books helped me. Hopefully, they will help you as well.

  • Moonwalking with Einstein – this is how I first found out about mnemonics. If you are interested in the story, read it. Spoiler Alert: Anyone can become a memory champion, but it requires practice.
  • How to read a book – I was fascinated to see how many things I did not do and it struck me the irony of no-one ever telling me to learn how to read and the fact that it took me 26 years to do that Google search.
  • If you are more a video-kind-of-person, on Coursera there’s a great free very usefully course offered by McMaster Univ and Univ of California San Diego.

My recommendation, based on my experience, is to follow the 5 resources I shared above in that order, from easy to harder.

Videos I usually watch/listen to at home, when doing other jobs and Podcasts I usually listen to while driving or commuting. No other tricks here. I tried to use the 1.5x-2x speed but it drives me crazy. This is why I prefer reading to watching or listening.

Thank you for your time.
I hope it was worth reading this.

Btw, I would love to hear what is your approach in learning better.


This was the first assignment from the altMBA I am going to start on the 6th of January. One month of intensive projects, discussions and debates. More about my altMBA journey in a future post.

TEDx: Who builds the world you want to live in

I am more than excited that I had the opportunity to share my ideas at TEDxBucharest Metamorphosis, which took place on the 16th and 17th of November. For 2 days, around 1000 attendes came to listen to 23 speakers and 5 exclusive performances share their ideas. It was an amazing experience and the best TEDx I have been to.


  • we all want to live in a better world, but who builds that world for us
  • if life would be a car, we would prefer to be the driver or passengers
  • it took me more than 20 years to have the courage to ask the questions who builds this world
  • I was taught to talk just when asked, to memorize and be obedient, to not think critically and analyze, to have opinions
  • I feared questions and hardly learnt that questions are more important than answers
  • I learnt that to be creative meant to paint, I was trained to be a wheel in a machine. It took me a lot of time to see the importance of interdisciplinarity and diversity
  • after 30 years of democracy, the Romanian educational system still prepares us to be passengers
  • dreams are possible if somehow you learnt or you believe that dreams can come true
  • the one YES matters more than hundreds of NOs
  • there are good people and bad people in the world and you cannot change that
  • fail until it hurts, if it is not hurting it means you did not really fail
  • metamorphosis requires pain, because metamorphosis is change and change is painful
  • dream you can change a law because one day you may actually succeed
  • build hope and courage around you
  • believe that anything is possible, because, in time, it really is.

Here is my presentation, the video recording will be available someday on TED.com website.

The story of energiaTa, how to change a law

energiaTa in a nutshell

energiaTa is a Romanian initiative that finally changed a law in Romania making the energy prosumers a reality at the beginning of 2019, after 3 years of hard work.

Due to that work today there are +150 energy prosumers and in 2020 there will be more than 33.000 energy prosumers in Romania, having a big impact on our country’s energy transitions and the acceleration of transition towards a green carbon-neutral economy.

Website / Facebook Page / Facebook Group

Team of energiaTa

I cofounded energiaTa in 2016 with my good old friend and NGO partner, Claudiu and we were also lucky enough to have Eduard from the very beginning as a technical consultant. In 2019 our team grew to 4 people, bringing Dalia on board in helping us to create the Prosumer’s Guide. Our team is small, but our community is big.

L to R: Mihai Toader-Pasti, Claudiu Butacu, Eduard Răducanu, Dalia Stoian

History of the initiative

In 2016 the Energy Union already envisioned having ‘the citizens at its core’ where they can ‘take ownership of the energy transition, benefit from new technologies to reduce their bills, participate actively in the market and where vulnerable consumers are protected’.

Meanwhile, Romania had no plans in creating a legal framework or a plan for prosumers and we were in the last place in Europe at PV installation time, with over 450 days needed. And even after all this waiting, you still weren’t paid for the energy sent into the grid.

On top of that, what we discovered from the first meetings with the authorities was that they did not even know that this problem existed in Romania, and they blamed it on the lack of demand. We proved that demand existed, and the problem was the legislation which made energy prosumers impossible.

To solve the problem we created Romania’s first energy prosumers Community, by brining every decision-maker and stakeholder on board. We did that by starting a series of round-table events at the EFdeN House.

Before one of the first meetings with the energiaTa Community

After 2 years of work, on July 20, 2018, the law of 184/2018 was approved by the President of Romania, a law that defines the term of prosumer, essential tax simplifications and the obligation of distributors and suppliers to accept prosumers.

But in order for prosumers to exist, we also needed to have the secondary legislation in place. After 5 more months, on December 28, 2018, three orders 226, 227 and 228 were approved, which together with law 184 provides the legislative framework for ensuring the right of the final consumers to become prosumers and to be remunerated for the electricity supplied to the network.

Therefore, starting with 2019, after 3 years of work, there are finally prosumers in Romania, small producers of clean energy, from renewable sources, energy which can be injected into the network.

3 types of Challenges: Awareness, Technical and Political

  1. Make decision-makers aware of the problem
  2. Prove that this is an important issue and there is public demand
  3. Map all the problems related to the problem
  4. Develop real solutions that will work for every party involved
  5. Get the legislative support to pass the law in Parliament
  6. Let people know they can become energy prosumers and teach them how to do that

Our simple but effective Strategy

In order to reach our goals (reduce the duration needed for installing PVs and ensure the right of the final consumers to become prosumers) we approached the problem from 3 directions:

  1. National Campaign (we talked about this problem everywhere: events, media, forums, etc. We also needed to make everyone aware of this issue and the importance of it so we created the Energy Prosumers Community to bring expertise and awareness)
  2. International Support (we searched for other best-case examples, we discussed with members of the European parliament, with other countries’ energy authorities)
  3. Legislation and Norms (we mapped problems and developed solutions together will the relevant stakeholders, decision-makers and industry experts. We tries to find the perfect compromise and we believe we succeded)

We went everywhere: conferences, labs, events

I knew that increasing awareness was critical to our success, so Claudiu and I participated in more than 30 energy events where we exposed the current problems and expressed the need for unblocking the prosumers market, including Aspen Energy Labs, ZF Power Summit, InvestEnergy, Energynomic, etc. Furthermore, together with Romania Green Building Council, we had a national campaign with 10 events in 8 major Romanian cities: Cluj Napoca, Bucharest, Iași, Brașov, Galați, Timișoara, Craiova and Târgu Jiu.

energiaTa Energy Prosumers Community

energiaTa was not the only NGO to address to energy prosumers issue in Romania, but we were the first ones to bring at the same table all the decision-makers and stakeholders: people willing to become prosumers,  representatives of Energy Authorities, Minister of Energy and Minister of Development, members of the government, other NGOs and media institutions. Together, we all provided support and recommendations and put enough pressure to have the legislation changed, both primary and secondary.

In order to assure the passing of the law, we worked to introduce energy prosumers in our country’s National Energy Strategy and actively participated in parliamentary committees along the legislative process, or met the Minister of Energy. Across the process, other two NGOs proved to have an important contribution, PATRES and Greenpeace Romania. Even if at the beginning the public authorities were not part of the group, along the way they proved to be very open and communicative, willing to solve the problem.

The first conference of energy prosumers in Romania

On February 19th, 2019, we have organized the first conference in Romania about energy prosumers with over 150 participants including representatives from the public authorities, distributors, installers and prosumers. We had more than 100 people watching livestream, video available here.

Energy Prosumer’s Guide

On the 24th of May, we organized another event to launch the Guide on How to become an Energy Prosumer [Romanian language only]. We tried to explain everything about solar energy, the technical equipment needed, myths and advice in order to generate awareness. We tried to make it as easy as possible for anyone to become a prosumer, explaining every step of the process. 

So how does the law look today

According to the law no. 220/2008, the prosumer is the final customer who owns electricity production facilities, including cogeneration, with a power of less than 27kW, whose specific activity is not the production of electricity, who consumes and can store and sell electricity from renewable sources produced in his building, including an apartment block, a residential area, a shared service location, commercial or industrial or in the same closed distribution system.

  • Green electricity producers
  • Households, blocks, private or public HQs, commercial or industrial spaces
  • Installed power <27kW
  • Production for own consumption, not commercial activities

energiaTa in numbers

  • In 2 years we had over 110k views on the energiaTa.org website and over 55k unique viewers
  • >7000 members of the prosumers community
  • >6000 followers of the facebook page
  • 15 k comments in the community 
  • 25,5 k reactions in the community

Media Coverage [+60]

Awards

  • Defense of individual / collective rights – Gala Societății Civile 2019
  • Special Award for Innovation – Gala Societății Civile 2019

What’s next for energiaTa

Mihai Toader-Pasti – energiaTa @ GoTech event in Bucharest, 2019

We aim to promote energy prosumers in Romania, to make as many people aware of the changes and that this is something now possible. Our next milestone is 1.000.000 energy prosumers in Romania and our long term mission is bringing the energy sector in Romania to carbon-neutral, before 2050.

Above everything else, we are happy and proud we proved that when people come together, they can have a big impact and even change the law and that young people can have a critical role in creating the change our country needs.

We are always open to share with other initiatives that have similar goals in any industry or one any cause that aims to have a positive impact in society, to protect people or the environment and create prosperity for all.

PS: Join the Energy Prosumers Community. Romanian language only, btw.

Sustainability and Collaborations at IKEA Democratic Design Days 2019

On Monday evening, I arrived at IKEA home – Älmhult, a small town of just 9,000 inhabitants in Sweden, to attend the annual Democratic Design Days. This year’s focus has been on sustainability, and within the 2-day event, a series of cool things have been announced in this area, some very exciting collaborations, and a project of rethinking cities and living with Space10, which I love!

Beyond CSR and business with purpose, IKEA integrates sustainability into its business directions, and this is essential to make the transition to a clean economy. We shouldn’t need NGOs and philanthropy to make things right, we need companies to do business responsibly, socially and environmentally. Instead of fixing problems, we should try not to generate them in the first place. We have to go from being always reactive to becoming proactive. It’s smarter and more efficient.

How a sustainable event looks like

No prints, no PETs, no waste and no useless stuff. Upon registration, we received a water bottle and a coffee mug which we could refill in different areas, all these in a beautifully designed bag that made my girlfriend extremely happy when returning home. For the agenda and access to resources, useful information and locations, there was an event app (Hello, 2019), where we also received notifications when things happened or when surprises occurred. Well done, IKEA!

Democratic Design Days 2019

IKEA’s vision is ‘to create a better everyday life for the many people’, and alongside the 5 Democratic Design Principles, they are the foundation of everything IKEA does and creates. At one of the interview sessions we found out how everything they develop starts from setting a price tag, from which they do not deviate so they have to innovate to get a product that complies with all five principles:

  1. Form – all products should look very good
  2. Function – to be useful and comfortable to make life easier
  3. Quality – be more durable than competitive and more sustainable than I promise you to be surprised
  4. Sustainability – this has an environmental, social and financial efficiency component, reduces waste to a minimum
  5. Affordability – not cheap, but affordable, even if it is the ultimate principle, is actually the most important since innovation begins after they have set the price they need to get to

The event also took place in several buildings, sometimes different things were happening in the same time. We heard all the announcements in the 2 Spotlight Sessions, but we also had Interviews, Presentations, Tests, Museum Visits, and Interactions with products. I organised by theme all IKEA announced, but I have also added some things that were previously announced, but they are still new for the people.

Collaborations

  • Sonos (speakers in furniture bodies or speakers as supports, super high quality sound at a great price)
  • Ori – ROGNAN, Moving robotic furniture – super cool
  • UNYQ și Area Academy – chairs with 3D pieces made specifically for the body shape of gamers
  • Greyhound Original – small, low budget, repurposing stuff
  • Adidas – how to make more sports at home, the first products will appear in 2021
  • LEGO – gama BYGGLEK, pentru mai multă joacă acasă, aici nu au fost clari cu ce lansează, dar o să apară în 2020
  • Claus Meyer, co-founder of Noma Restaurant – More Sustainable, More Fresh Food in IKEA Restaurants
  • Saint Heron – how to bring art at home, combine art into functional objects – why having to go to the museum always?!
  • Zandra Rhodes, famous British designer – to create textiles with colours, patterns. I can not wait, I love th crazy stuff Zandra is doing

Sustainability Announcements at DDD2019

IKEADDD2019 was both an amazing and useful experience, which, beyond all, made me more optimistic. What IKEA and other similar, large and innovation-oriented companies are doing, serve as examples of good practice for other large, medium and small companies.

#plastic

  • MUSSELBLOMMA – a collection made partly of recovered plastic, originating in the Mediterranean Sea. Launching on the selected markets will take place in 2019.
  • Recycled Polyester – As part of the transformation into a circular business, IKEA aims to replace all virgin polyester products with recycled polyester by 2020.
  • A new collaboration with the World Wide World Surf (WSL), a partnership where IKEA and WSL will collaborate on a climate awareness awareness project and will inspire action to reduce the pollution of the ocean.

#clean air

  • Indoors: Climate and Clean Air – IKEA joins the United Nations Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CACC) to advance what it learned from the Better Air Now initiative and develop solutions for burning crop residues and reducing pollution air. Until now, they have developed curtains that purify GUNRID air and now work on mechanical cleaners. Bonus, here is a guide [PDF] on how to breathe cleaner air step by step.
  • OUTDOORS: FÖRÄNDRING – a collection made from rice straw, a residue that is traditionally burned, which contributes to local air pollution. The launch will take place in some markets in autumn 2019.

#energy

  • SAMMANLÄNKAD – a collection in collaboration with Little Sun and his founder, artist Olafur Eliasson. The ambition behind the collection is to provide tools for everyday life where renewable energy contributes to a better and more independent life.

#food and urban farming

  • Alternative meatballs 😀 with meat taste, but from vegetable protein – beyond the direct impact, the indirect impact is also important. Eating healthier food it is also good for our health but it also mitigate global warming and is fair to animals
  • Urban Farming – news about Tom Dixon’s collaboration through which IKEA is exploring affordable solutions to grow plants and vegetables at home.

#cities and living

Lately, I have researched everything happening around the world in terms of innovation in cities and dwelling, and so far the only company doing interesting things was happening was Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Alphabet (Google), making a mega a project in Toronto in a public-private partnership, of rethinking communities. Finally, there is something happening now in Europe as well, which I think, is more interesting: the Urban Village Project.

IKEA, in partnership with Space10 and EFFEKT Architects, has launched the urban village project, but this is such an amazing initiative that it deserves a separate article. It’s almost everything I hoped a project like this to be, some stuff took me by surprise (positive), and in others, I think it’s room for better, but overall, it’s wow. And there is also the collaboration with Ikano Bostad in The better living project I would strongly recommend to look into.

  • RÅVAROR, a collection of 20 flexible, modular products that will be launched in September 2020 for small spaces.

I am also going to write a separate article about the extraordinary experience at IKEA TEST LAB. I was blown away. Stay tunned.


This article is part of Pursuing Sustainability, a series of articles where I find and write about organisations and events that are examples of good practice in terms of sustainability.

Overview of Romania Energy Industry (Bad news)

by Mihai Toader-Pasti, Cofounder @ energiaTa.org and Teodora Vasâlca-Cimpoi, Editor-in-Chief @ NewsEnergy.ro

Romania today is facing various challenges on multiple domains, energy being one of them. As the country struggles with corruption problems, a backlash from the private sector for the last fiscal changes, everything appears to fail and the EU presidentship got the country’s representatives as unprepared as this winter.

Political, legal and economical instability became the national status quo during the last years, resulting in the lack of investment of any kind, whether we are referring to starting new projects, upgrading existing infrastructure or even performing the necessary preventive maintenance activity. Together with the lack of expertise and leadership at decision levels and too many and abrupt legislation changes without a real understanding of the industry culminated with the biggest crisis in the last 30 years for Romania’s Energy Industry.

Therefore there are a few good news, some bad and a lot of very bad news. The industry leaders and experts, energy associations and federations were too passive during all these years, while they should have been more vocal and engaged, but fear or the love of status quo kept them and still keep them out of the game. This is not going to end well for anybody.

Good news:

    • Romania took, for the first time in its history, the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
    • As of 1st of January, prosumers are a reality in Romania as all its laws and regulation in place for that, but utility companies are still struggling to adapt.
    • The bureaucracy was also reduced for prosumers in terms of fiscal requirements, the adjustments made on the monthly bill.
    • Prosumers are able to sell the energy with a price of approximately ⅓-¼ from the final price paid in the electricity bill.
  • 100 million euros (European money) for Romanian households prosumers (approx 24.000 beneficiaries x 4.200 euros/system) are available in 2019.

Bad news:

    • Romania had the highest annual inflation rate in the EU last year.
    • We still don’t have a final energy strategy. The last one was deleted before being adopted and a new one was put into public discussion facing big critiques from the experts in the industry.
    • Our target for 2030 is 27% RES, under 32% target of EU and decarbonization is not one the priority of the Government, saving the coal industry jobs is one of them.
    • Lack of available installed capacity in the system: the data show that we have 24,000 MW, from which only 14,000 MW is operational. Still, some of considered available installed capacities were unavailable for different reasons (needed repairs, investments, resources). As a result, from the beginning of the year, we were net electricity importers to cover the internal consumption which was below 10,000 MW.
    • A one week miners’ strike at the largest coal energy producer forced the company which provides more than 20% of internal production to close some of its units. The risk for further shutdowns is still high, because of insufficient lignite stocks.
  • In November, the Government decided to postpone until 2021 the implementation of more favorable legislation for vulnerable consumers.

Very bad news:

    • Romania’s Government changed the fiscal laws for 800 times during 2018, the last one on 28th of December, surprising the energy sector with a tax of 2% on turnover without previous consultation with the business environment.
    • This will generate an increase with at least 5% in monthly electricity bills for consumers, as the tax applies to every sector – from generation, to transport, distribution and sales.
    • The latest emergency ordinance also radically changed the rules on the gas and electricity market, as it forces the biggest state-owned electricity companies to sell up to 65% of their production with regulated prices. Also, the Government put a price cap of 68 RON (14,5 euros) per MWh for internal gas production, until February 2022.
    • The measure comes after many other legal changes for gas producers, adopted last autumn by the Parliament, which introduced higher fiscal obligations and forced the companies to sell 50% from their production on the gas centralized market. As a result, the investors in the Black Sea offshore fields postponed the final investment decisions for an undefined data.
    • We went from a free market to a very regulated one in one month
    • The new surprising fiscal legislation drastically reduced the value of the shares of the main listed energy companies, which were among the biggest losers. OMV Petrom, Electrica, Transgaz, Romgaz and Transelectrica recorded depreciation of about 9% to almost 20%.
    • Over 3 billion euros has lost Romania in a single day – called „the red Wednesday” – which brought the second highest daily decline of the Romanian stock exchange history.
  • Last week we had the most expensive energy on spot market in Europe.