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Daily, snackable writings and podcasts to spur changes in thinking. Why?

If we wish to change the person we find ourselves to be, we must change our thinking.

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THE ASYMMETRICAL WRITER

April 3rd, 2020

 

 

A writer, when faced with the blank page has the opportunity to compose any sentence.  The amount of potential upside for this situation is practically unlimited.  This makes writing asymmetrical, that is, there is usually a lot more potential upside than downside.  The only downside is potentially a bit of lost time, but considering what can be gained, even by composing the worst piece of writing, a writer almost certainly gains more than if that time had been wasted by watching another rerun.

 

The asymmetry of writing depends heavily on the initial incentive to sit down and write. A journalist who sits down to write something for work has far less potential upside than a random person sitting in a café looking at a blank sheet of paper.  The aim of the journalist is far more constrained, not just in terms of the task, but the perspective.  The writing of a journalist is automatically constrained, either consciously or unconsciously by the fact that a superior has to approve the piece of writing.  The writer is already warping their own attention to the task by the dictates of another.  And both the journalist and the boss are ultimately constrained by the financial incentives that bracket the entire endeavor.  The shift in journalism as clearly seen by the advent of click bait headlines demonstrates this shackle, which ultimately limits the upside of writing, and increases the downside, making the whole endeavor less asymmetrical.

 

On the other hand, the writer who composes words for no one in particular and perhaps no one at all grows the asymmetry.  Having no set audience means that the writing is not constrained by the need to cater to that audience.  It also means that the opportunity to generate an audience is also asymmetrical.  Anyone who doesn’t like the writing need not be a part of the audience and in the absence of incentives like financial leverage, a disagreeable reader has very little influence, and this leaves open the opportunity for an enthusiastic readership to form themselves into their own group.

 

This entire discussion of an audience, however, is ultimately irrelevant.  The business dictate that the customer is always right has somehow bled into the world of writing and reading in a way that is totally invalid. Remove the incentive-leverage mechanism of financials and this business dictate vanishes.  The writer is under no obligation to craft something that is agreeable, pleasing or in anyway oriented towards the reader. 

 

Readers might scoff at this, claiming that the writing is useless or ineffective, but such a reader does two things with this perspective.  At the very least they exclude themselves as part of the audience for that writer.  But more importantly, such a reader fails to see the original, and core upside of writing in the first place: exploration.

 

The writer ultimately sits down to explore their own mind.  This is the Arbitrage of Language.  There’s simply no telling what sort of useful idea or thought might crop up while we are recording with that old technology of the written word.  At the very least, a writer gets to know their own mind a little better, and how is that not also the greatest upside of this whole endeavor?  Understanding your own mind a little better, exploring how your own perspective navigates reality, this is in some sense what living is all about.  And the writer gets it for free.  Anything else that might occur, like when writing finds an enthusiastic audience, or wins some sort of award, or merely gets read by anyone else, these are all like icing on the cake.  The true value of writing occurs far before any readers get involved.

 

 

This episode references Episode 505: The Endless Arbitrage of Language.

 


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Podcast Ep. 719: The Asymmetrical Writer

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TIME DILATION

April 2nd, 2020

 

This episode is dedicated to Preethi Kasireddy who tweeted about how time flies in a life time.  You can connect with her on Twitter with the handle @iam_preethi or check out her website Preethi Kasireddy.

 

Sometimes time flies, and other times, time seems to drag.  When we think about time, we imagine this uniform linear constant that somehow moves forward, but our experience of it varies so much that we’ve pluralized this singular phenomenon.  There are different times, not just as a tool for events, like good times and bad times, but actually different kinds of time, or rather speeds.

 

The way time dilates forms a paradox depending on how much we zoom in or how much we zoom out.

 

On a large timeline the days and months and years can collapse to almost nothing, if we are doing the same thing day in and day out.  There’s no real demarcation, at least not one that is different and unique - there’s nothing in all that time that stands out.  But, change things up often, and suddenly a long life is tickered with all sorts of different phases and thresholds. 

 

We can imagine a very long wall, perhaps a hallway.  Imagine nothing on this wall, imagine it’s just a simple coat of paint.  You can see and understand the whole thing in barely a glance, and of course the small blemish three quarters of the way down stands out.

 

But now imagine the same wall covered in pictures.  Imagine polaroids, imagine drawings, imagine paintings of all sizes and shapes, imagine the wall rebuilt, being brick over here, and log cabin down further with trinkets and souvenirs hung on nails.  Imagine part of the wall is a dry-erase board with equations and questions.  Imagine chalkboard paint splashed along another section, and a dazzlingly mural in chalk.  Imagine another section where the wall itself was clay, that had been molded and sculpted into scenes of trial and triumph.

 

Now if you turned a corner, and looked at this magnificent collage, would you be able to take it all in with just a glance or does it slow you down?  Would you walk slowly, taking in each and every little detail and change?

 

Simply put, life feels longer, the more we switch things up.

 

But if we zoom in, right into the moment, the rule inverts:

 

We can slow down time, by paying attention to the moment, and we can speed it up by paying attention to the task.

 

The task, whatever it is we are doing, is a lot like that interesting collaged wall.  Even if the task is something we’ve done many times before, it inevitably involves our attention to switch between details and track them against one another, whether that be deleting the last few letters to fix a typo while keeping in mind the rest of this sentence, or filing taxes, or building a log cabin, or coding an app. 

 

But if we pull back and simply try to pay attention to the moment, everything slows down.  That is, if our wandering thoughts don’t get the best of us.  The moment, as it’s own thing, is unchanging, regardless of what’s happening in that moment.  We can recognize this ethereal quality of the present, and this recognition is a big part of the focus for a practice like mindfulness meditation.  It’s the art of the Thoughtful Pause.  It allows us to take in time slower, and potentially come to realizations that are never on hand in the busy task.

 

By practice, or by luck, it’s possible to pull your head out the hurried task and realize that all the tasks you’ve been busy with are all much the same, and that life is beginning to look uniform, the years are beginning to collapse into a single day that’s merely repeated.

 

That realization on offer during a slow moment can spark an idea for something new, and ultimately send our life careening into a new and exciting direction.

 

 

This episode references Episode 23: Pause, and Episode 472: What Meditation Does

 


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Podcast Ep. 718: Time Dilation

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WHO'S LOOKING?

April 1st, 2020

 

 

This Episode is dedicated to Jack Butcher.  He is the mind behind Visualize Value.  You can connect with him on Twitter with the handle @jackbutcher or better yet, checkout Visualize Value with the handle @visualizevalue.

 

Today’s post is a little late, and it’s fortuitous, because today was a genuine surprise.  Today Tinkered Thinking played a little prank on social media.  It is April Fool’s day, after all.

 

This morning, Tinkered Thinking posted to Twitter that it was abandoning social media and anyone who wanted to stay in touch should subscribe on the website.  The turnout, as it happens has been a genuine surprise.  The mailing list increased by a full 50%, which is incredible.

 

For those who fell for the trick, including friends, family, loved ones, and panicked fans who hurriedly sent in DM’s:  genuine apologies to stress you out, but even in such trying and stressful times, a good joke, a good prank, an excuse to laugh, simply cannot be passed up. 

 

The more serious things are, the more necessary it is to indulge in a good joke.  Laughter and humor does not insult the tragic, because the tragic is almost always an insult to living, and genuine, heartfelt laughter is a celebration of life.

 

It must be admitted that the idea arose during an exhausted morning stupor and was casually executed.

 

The inspiration came from something Jack Butcher did recently on Twitter.  He created what might be called a “scarcity campaign” where he offered a product for a limited time at a certain low price and then ratcheted the price up at designated time intervals.  He did this with a good deal of genuine transparency to show the effect.  The same concept worked for Tinkered Thinking today as fans who saw the April Fool’s post rushed to subscribe.

 

Granted Tinkered Thinking was far less methodical, and certainly didn’t anticipate the fact that so many would fail to suspect that it was an April Fool’s joke.

 

Nonetheless, the support, interest and genuine concern is humbling, appreciated, and most important: very motivating.

 

Tinkered Thinking seeks to treat your attention as an incredible gift and an amazing resource.  And in honor of that, a lot of things are in the pipeline just for subscribers, so if you weren’t on Twitter today, make sure to subscribe now.

 

 


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Podcast Ep. 717: Who's Looking?

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STATUE DANCE

March 31st, 2020

 

There are few ironclad aphorisms that don’t have an exception to the rule or some extenuating circumstance.  One of the few statements that sheds all weight of exception is that

 

change is the only constant.

 

Everything that we lock down as a certainty seems to bend under the scrutiny of further investigation. Even Newton’s theories had to concede details when Einstein came along. But this statement, that change is the only constant, is too removed.  It’s what we see going on “out there” in the world around us.  Our inbuilt need to rationalize the past, to turn it into a sensible narrative, smears over the fact that change is the only constant, refers also to our own selves.  Not just physically, but regarding too the mind.  And yet we all have the frustrating experience of coming up against people who seem dead set in their ways.

 

dead set is perhaps a phrase all too appropriate.  To settle one’s mind is to die in a sense: to be unmoving in perspective, opinion and belief. 

 

This is what we can never let happen, and yet it is what our mind is always trying to accomplish.  Despite the stir from daily life and new information, our minds are constantly trying to make themselves up with a particular understanding, with a theory or model, with an opinion or belief.  Somehow, we manage to convey a lot of confidence to each other by making bold and solid claims.  It is perhaps attractive in others because it is what our own mind is seeking, that is: less confusion and less uncertainty.  We lead ourselves unwisely by leading to such a set and solid place.  We are in some sense, seeking the eternal rest that otherwise terrifies us, as though an automatic undercurrent in our being lulls us towards the night.

 

Dylan Thomas once wrote “rage, against the dying of the light.”

 

We can easily reinterpret this in terms of our mind trying to settle on some certainty.  We are better to withstand that mental cement.

 

The reason is simple.  We live in a reality that is continuing on in it’s rapid dance, and it cannot dance with statues, cast in stone or metal.  Reality needs a partner who is willing to abandon understanding as soon as it arrives just as we merely touch balance and throw ourselves off it in order to move through space, and dance.


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Podcast Ep. 716: Statue Dance

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RATTLE THE CAGE

March 30th, 2020

 

Everything that drives you is stuck in a cage.  That cage is you.  Every desire, hope, dream, curiosity, ponderance, hypothesis, question and inkling is stuck inside of your mind. 

 

But they all obey a certain law of hunger, that is: if you feed something it grows.  If you starve something, the hunger eventually dies.

 

This applies literally and across the board.  Our well-fed modern society is almost universally ignorant of the fact that physical hunger – that is for food – drastically vanishes after a few days of fasting that are undertaken with a basic mineral supplementation. 

 

This connection between fasting or abstinence and the decline of hunger or desire carries to many other arenas.

 

Children are naturally quite curious, so what happens to all the adults they become?  The curiosity is starved, and eventually, it goes quiet.

 

Hunger goes away if you don’t feed it. Notice how many different areas this applies to: Fasting Goals Addiction Curiosity Relationships Learning.

 

Now think of this in the reverse.  What we feed or don’t feed follows the same pattern of a vicious or virtuous cycle.  What is fed grows and grows the more it’s fed.  We can quite literally see this with obesity or with the extremes of any kind of addiction.  We are prone to notice the negative here.  The extreme examples that are obvious are negative, and the examples of the opposite that are obvious are also likewise negative: curiosity is killed off in most people, and we grow lazy with our learning and relationships.

 

But we can swap the extreme to the positive, by starving those things in us that don’t serve us (i.e. an addiction) and feeding the good, like curiosity.

 

A well fed addiction is like a dangerous animal in a flimsy cage.

 

A well fed curiosity is like an energizer bunny generating power with a running wheel.

 

One can help you keep the lights on.

 

The other might destroy you.

 

This image of the cage is a way of figuring out what is driving you, and what you’d rather have driving you, if you don’t like the answer.

 

A well fed curiosity or habit of learning will wake you up in the morning and get you going on the things that are actually fulfilling.  But if you’ve got other things rattling your cage, how can you expect that the person you’ll be tomorrow or next week or next year will get up and get going at the things that will make life interesting?

 

One further point is to realize that all of these things that drive you, for good or bad are all stuck in the same cage together.  Whatever is weak cowers before the strong which uses it’s strength to horde your attention and get fed first, and most, leaving the neglected to die a little more.

 

Change, involves a difficult and mindful assessment of the situation, and then confronting the fear that some well fed addiction won’t bite you as you push it aside to feed that dying flame of curiosity deep within you.

 


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Podcast Ep. 715: Rattle the Cage

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Tinkered Thinking


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If you appreciate the work of Tinkered Thinking, please consider lending support. This platform can only continue and flourish with the support of readers and listeners like you.

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Appreciation can be more than a feeling. Toss something in the jar if you find your thinking delightfully tinkered.