Last year, I issued myself a challenge to read 52 challenging books I already owned. I made up the list in advance and made it my goal over the course of that year to read every one of them. I read Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty, Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graeber, The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and a whole bunch of other books — 49, in fact — that I had accumulated in paper and e-book form.

A few years ago, I challenged myself to get 100% of the achievements in a couple of strategic computer games that I felt I was pretty good at. I managed to get to 100% on one of them and very close on the other.

Just last month, I set a month-long goal of getting my speed at solving a Rubik’s Cube down to 30 seconds — not just once, but an average over five solves in a row. I practiced this a ton throughout the month, which mostly centered…

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