WHAT IS THIS?
Daily, snackable writings and podcasts to spur changes in thinking.
A blueprint for building a better brain by slow, consistent, daily drops of influence.
The way we think is both our greatest tool - indeed our only tool - and very often it is also our biggest leash. We are only who we think we are. Our opportunities are also limited by who other people think we are. It stands to reason that if we’d like to change who we are, we must start with an effort to change our thinking. Read more here
December 16th, 2018
Lucilius picked up his godson for the day and found the boy was in a funk.
“Are you ok?” Lucilius asked.
“Yea,” the boy lied.
“Sure doesn’t seem like it, what’s up?”
The boy looked off as they walked away from his parent’s home. “I got put in a new school this year, and none of my friends from last year are with me.”
“What about the kids in the new school? Any friends there?”
“Well, the funny thing about friends is that you only need to do one thing to get more friends.”
“What’s that,” the boy asked.
“You just need to be a good friend to people.”
“But how do you be a friend to people who don’t want you as a friend?”
Lucilius thought for a moment, trying to penetrate the haze of his own memories about those formative times. But everything seemed so vague and he could sense the pollution of his own adult perspective on those old realities. Lucilius decided to change tactics a little bit.
“Well, you are a bit right,” Lucilius said, “it is a bit of a crap shoot about who you find yourself around.”
“So what am I supposed to do?” the young boy asked.
“Well, we could take a chance, but it might not work.”
“What’s that?” the boy asked.
“Well, there’s a way to sort of read your future, but it’s risky, because knowing your future can drive you a little nuts.”
“I wanna do it.” The young boy said.
“Ok,” Lucilius said. He stopped and took some paper from his knapsack, squared it and started folding it. Then he pulled out a pen and started writing on the fortune teller. Once he was done, he showed it to the boy.
“Ever seen one of these?”
“No,” the boy said.
“It’s a fortune teller.”
“How’s it work?”
“Pick one of the four words.”
“Truth,” the boy said.
Lucilius spelled out, T-R-U-T-H, pulling the fortune teller apart each way. Then he held open the fortune teller for the boy to look at the words inside.
“Pick another word.”
“Friends,” the boy said.
Lucilius again spelled out the word. F-R-I-E-N-D-S, and then held the fortune teller open for the boy to pick again.
“One more,” Lucilius said.
“Happiness,” the boy said.
Lucilius flipped open the inside of the fortune teller and held it out for the boy to read.
“You will see the crowd single someone out, and then you will see you chance to be kind, and before long they will all call you friend.”
A limp smile rose on the boy’s face, and the two kept walking along.
Years later while looking through his godfather’s abandoned possessions, the boy, now grown found the fortune teller tucked away. He smiled, repiling the papers, but then hesitated. He went back and pulled the fortune teller back out and opened it completely to look at the rest of the fortunes. His godfather had reworded the same sentiment over and over so there was no opportunity to pick anything else.
December 15th, 2018
Which direction is the force of motivation coming from? And is it pushing or pulling us towards our goal?
If we think of the context of a bullshit job that is not enjoyable, we might place the motivation to do anything in this job as being behind, pushing us towards some set of actions.
On the other hand, if we think about a hobby we are passionate about, is the motivation in the same position? No. Our actions for such a hobby are striving towards some desired outcome that we genuinely wish to see. [As an aside: many things people are asked to do in their jobs often do not have an outcome that seems all that important to the employee that is directed to make it happen. This may be because the employee doesn’t see the bigger picture, a piece of logic lorded over subordinates by superiors. More likely though, superiors have lost touch with the ground level-reality of what is actually effective. ]
The word obsession comes from the latin ‘besiege’ as in to besiege a city. To surround it and over take it.
We might think of an intense curiosity about a subject bordering on obsession. In this sense, we can think of obsession as besieging our own ignorance, as though a gap in our knowledge and understanding were an unconquered negative space that needs to be taken over and filled in.
Obsession, passion and curiosity are all descriptive facets of the same function which is an efficient question forming process.
When we plan on an answer, we are setting up imaginary rail road tracks. This path lacks agility and flexibility. It might work with a lot of brute force, but it’s certainly less likely to be enjoyable or efficient.
The curious mind on the other hand is less concerned about a path to a certain place as it is with exploring an area that may or may not have that certain place. Such exploration not only raises the probability of finding such a place if it exists but can build a context on which to understand why such a place doesn’t exist if indeed some goal isn’t possible. This context may further breed questions that start interpreting the goal from different perspectives- none of which the curious mind is all too tied to- and give rise to a way of building a way…
Regardless of whether or not our aforementioned goal exists or not, all of this exploration represents previously unknown spaces, places that healthy curiosity besieges in order to understand.
December 14th, 2018
We’ve all seen a thousand different trees and we’ve all seen a thousand different people. Many trees might look the same, but even those of the same species differ in radical ways. While above trees of a species may look extremely similar, and we may pick apart individual differences, we might for a moment reflect on the chaotic array of roots below the ground.
We can all picture a tree that has fallen over, the whole root structure, like a woven pancake peeled from the forest floor.
The roots of trees seem just as chaotic as the trunks and branches above seem similar.
We might pause for a moment and think about how that whole root structure grows. How each root decides in which direction to go. Presumably each root is stretching and straining to gain ground in a way that will benefit the tree the most.
Trees and all rooted plants are very different from humans in this respect. As humans, we all have a pretty standard body in which we fulfill. But the bodies of trees and plants have a kind of algorithm by which they grow, which does not limit them to one specific shape. Their bodies grow based on the conditions of their environment. If they find themselves existing on a small patch of soil on top of a rock, they will reach roots far off and around that rock, or burrow into cracks in the rock and split it.
Our bodies do not have anything near this kind of morphology, but our mind does. Depending on our environment, we can adapt, change the way we think and grow in a new direction.
And in order to find that direction, often we grow in many directions, pivoting, twisting and turning to find a way to function in life.
If you feel aimless, reflect on the chaos of the forest floor, and then look up to see what heights such chaotic directions achieve.
December 13th, 2018
When starting any new endeavor or acquiring a new skill, we do ourselves a disservice by wanting to be good or great. This is the mirage of the montage, which skips all the boring, frustrating parts where not much is happening. The most important thing to do is to shoot for the minimum viable success.
If say, playing the guitar, learning theory and working through scales are not really great places to start. Even if theory is learned or scales are mastered, there is nothing to really show off, even if we’re just showing off to ourselves. The best thing to do would be to fine a much admired song that is actually rather simple, and work towards being able to play that.
In the arena of computer coding, the first thing that always gets taught is simply how to get ‘Hello World’ to pop up on the screen. Again, this is the minimum viable success.
In classical figure drawing, the use of gesturing is highly employed. This is process of quickly sketching out the entire figure very very quickly. Some exercises will push the artist to draw an entire figure in just a few seconds. This leaves little room to make anything more than just a stick figure, but the exercise proves very useful, with practice, even such stick figures can be incredibly accurate and evocative of the posture.
When it comes to writing, getting absolutely anything on the page is far more important than any other word, sentence or paragraph that comes afterwards. Simply being able to see and know that something has been written has a direct correlation to our faucet of inspiration.
But we should not look for the minimum viable success only at the beginning of every new endeavor and acquisition of skill. It’s at every stage in our process of learning that we should seek the next minimum viable success.
The minimum viable success is really a moment in progress when we feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. These are boosts to our psyche and mentality that sustain us emotionally while struggling to solve the next piece of whatever puzzle and problem we seek to work on. Working in a way that optimizes finding and gobbling up those success points goes a long way in determining whether or not we will stick with something in the long term. If we can understand this about ourselves, then we can learn smarter, by learning in accordance to the satisfaction of our emotional system instead of just expecting some super expression of will power to brute force our way through. Often while learning we may feel like we are in opposition to ourselves, trying to force ourselves to do something. That lazy reptilian part of our brain needs something to chew on, and the minimum viable success is exactly the sort of treat that’ll get it to shut up and let you work in peace with a genuine sense of curiosity.
Each small success compounds into something much larger.
Every large success is simply the result of countless tiny victories.
The question here that we can incorporate into our days is:
Which small piece of this puzzle can I execute will be the most satisfying to have solved?
December 12th, 2018
As the last month of the year wanes into it’s halfway point, many people are feeling the stress that seems to mount to a sort of crescendo. Particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, people are eating too much, getting sick and because of this vicious cycle of pressure, many look forward to the new year as a way to restart. Hence New Year’s Resolutions.
People seem to think that a new year means suddenly having access to a new self. But people do not change by the tick of a clock, nor the rising of the sun on a particular day. Change is slow, and when attempting to initiate any sort of change, the going is tough and rarely shows any results. Hence why so many New Year’s Resolutions fall to the wayside and fail to ever gain the habitual momentum that is needed for a change in the brain to gain a real structural hold and somewhat secure the new behavior.
January first is an entirely arbitrary day. We would be better to think of every day as January first since we are only ever granted access to the present moment. The past ceases to exist as fast as the present develops, which is also to say that the past never starts to exist. So too with the future.
But, this does not diminish the utility of planning. There are 18 days left before that big imaginary switch, and that’s enough time to push through the hardest two weeks of instituting a new habit.
If you start right now, by the time New Year’s Resolutions rolls around, you’ll already have a change with momentum.
Simply put, when it comes to things that we can take action on right now, waiting for the future is always a mistake.