I think it is possible to be an objective critic. To never call anything bad or wrong. To instead state nothing but the facts, and let those who listen to you come to their own conclusions.
How likely is it that you will be able to solve that problem? How likely is it that the people who follow you on social media might be able to solve that problem? If the answer to the first question is “not very,” maybe you shouldn’t read about it. If the answer to the second question is “not very,” maybe you shouldn’t post about it.
Do you want to learn? Do you want to become enlightened? If so, you might want to throw away that spiritual book and just get out there. Try to start a business. Run a marathon. Take an ice bath. Have face to face conversations, and experience all the ups and downs they will inevitably induce. Learn about all the pain in the world. Learn about all the joy. Experience the true nature of reality for yourself. As far as I can tell, these are pretty good strategies for becoming enlightened.
The pain of a journey is a lot easier to bear if you feel that, overall, you’re heading in the right direction.
If I tried to count all the instances in which my fears were unfounded, I’d be counting for a long time.
So many pop sci articles these days talk about how some type of activity or meditation routine led to changes in the brain. As though these changes were of massive importance. This isn’t necessarily true. If you spent twenty minutes twiddling your thumbs every day for a couple weeks, it would probably lead to a detectable change in one or more brain regions. The indicators that I like to look for to quantify the efficacy of an intervention are changes in the metrics relating to performance. Improvements in scores on memory tests. Reductions in depressive symptoms. Elevated markers of sleep quality. These are the types of metrics that actually mean something.
How did “the experts” actually come to that conclusion? A significant amount of the time, the answer is “through reasoning that was actually pretty faulty.”
So many people these days seem to have forgotten that theories are not facts.
What do you have that you do not want? What do you want that you do not have? How could you trade the former for the latter?
How can I cultivate my sensitivity to the subtle patterns of reality?
If you are suffering, it’s usually because you are refusing to face something, or refusing to let something go.
Is the solution to this problem a noun or a verb? A healthier diet, or an exercise practice? A pill, or a shift in behavior?
More and more, I’m beginning to see the value of barriers to entry.
Is this decision really worth obsessing over, or will things probably work out alright regardless of which choice I make?
What do you value? What do you believe in? What do you love? I think there is a lot to be said for asking yourself these questions and writing down the answers that come to mind.
Give it enough space, and it will rise. After it has risen and washed away, you will be transformed.
You are the one holding the blindfold over your eyes. You are the one who can take it off.
So often, scientists have said a feat was impossible, and been wrong.
The fallacy of non-apparent progress: Disregarding the words of someone who seems to be behind the pack because the amount of progress they’ve made over the course of their lifetime is not immediately obvious.
Money water and electrons all flow from place to place, changing things along the way. Though rarely, if ever, do they undergo a fundamental change of their own.
If you have an excessive tendency to take setbacks as signs that you should be doing something else, or that your endeavor is not “meant to be” you are unlikely to get very far in life.
Instead of trying desperately to convince others to come over to our way of seeing things, perhaps we should simply say what we feel is true, and let them choose for themselves.
The fact that you’re not there yet doesn’t mean you won’t get there eventually. This simple truth can be so easy to forget.
I’m all for reading holy books, but in the end, I think it’s best to have experience as your primary religion.
Most people want to have rules that they can follow without thinking. Rules that eliminate uncertainty, and the challenge associated with needing to make a choice.
As far as I can tell, a person’s success in life is largely a function of the degree to which they can resist the urge to distract themselves.
The longer I live, the more I come to feel that there are subtle levels of reality that have an influence on the physical reality that we can perceive with our senses and measure with scientific instruments.
Successful people are not necessarily successful for the reasons they think they are. When they tell you why they achieved their success, I think it’s best to take their words with a grain.
I’m a great believer in the practice of the learning about the patterns, trends, and tendencies of reality.
The degree to which a person is willing to say “I don’t know” is usually a pretty good indicator of their maturity.
You don’t need to be honest. But if you are, the amount of suffering in your life will be massively reduced.
Action creates evidence. Instead of wondering, maybe you should just do it and see what happens.
Why are you so interested in figuring out how you got messed up? Why you have the neuroses that you do? Who cares why you are the way you are? Wouldn’t you rather know how you can become the way you want to be?
Out of all activities, reading perhaps best epitomizes the phrase “double-edged sword.”
It doesn’t matter how many mystical spiritual experiences you’ve read about. Until you’ve had one for yourself, you will have some doubt of their validity.
How often have you had your mind made up about actions you wanted to take in the future, but ended up changing it when the future arrived?
If you find doing nothing unbearable, it’s probably a sign that doing nothing would do you a lot of good.
Perhaps everything is exactly as it should be, and the fact that it doesn’t seem so is due to our limited perception.
The fact that a person did something you feel is amoral, or said something you disagree with, does not invalidate everything else that they have done or said.
It’s very easy to talk about how unhappy people need to “just be positive” or “have better attitudes” when things are going well for you.
If I do X, what will happen? Just keep asking and attempting to answer this question, and you’ll eventually arrive at the truth.
Asking someone a question they enjoy answering is like asking a musician to play a song they enjoy playing.
If you find doing nothing unbearable, it’s probably a sign that spending some time doing nothing would do you a lot of good.
Why is it that witnessing simple acts of kindness can move us to tears? Many scientists probably think the reason is purely Darwinian; That this response exists because it makes those who exhibit it more likely to pass on their genes. Something tells me that’s not the case.
Theories and advice often have some value, but the excessive consumption of either can quickly lead one astray.
Are things the way they are simply because of the four forces of which we are currently aware (gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force, and the weak force) or is there more to the story?
On what evidence are you building your beliefs and basing your claims?
Writing down a bunch of ideas without sharing any is a bit like growing a bunch of nutritious food and letting it rot.
Money, water, and electrons, all flow place to place, changing things along the way, though never undergoing any fundamental change of their own.
Every tear is a gift.
Reality always seems to find a way of balancing me out.
Are you channeling your creative energy into something you can share, or simply using it to fuel self-indulgent fantasies?
If an all knowing entity appeared before you and said that it would answer five of your questions, what would you ask?
What is worth investing in? What is likely to gain value over the next ten years? If you keep your money in the bank, you are not not investing. You are investing in the dollar. There are plenty of investments that are likely to gain more value, over the course of the next ten years, than the dollar.
Long ago, Native Americans wove nets and cast them into the water to catch fish. These days, we create content and post it on the internet, which serves a similar purpose. The “fish” we are after, is the attention of others. This attention can be converted into ad revenue, which can in turn be used to purchase fish.
During one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life, I was looking out at a beautiful view, and being hit by a barrage of not so beautiful thoughts. I closed my eyes, only to see that menacing faces had appeared on the inside of my eyelids. It felt as though there was no escape. But eventually, I just thought to myself “Bring it on” and the faces instantly vanished.
I’m a huge fan of evidence, examples, and specificity.
To what degree are you aware of others? How sensitive are you to their emotional states? How easily are you overwhelmed by the energy of the people around you?
Would you rather learn a small amount about twenty peoples’ lives, or a large amount about five peoples’ lives?
For a long time, I have gone around telling people about my belief that if the U.S decided to reallocate its military budget to foreign aid, we would no longer need a military. That no foreign countries would want to go to war with us, because of how grateful the were for the aid they received. The other day, I found myself looking up information online to strength my ability to argue with others about political issues. And then I realized that this behavior was quite similar to our country’s military spending. I decided to stop investing in my intellectual arsenal, and to double my efforts to research and share information that is non-inflammatory, and that I think will improve the lives of those who see it.
How much space do your collections occupy? A collection of songs can be stored on an iPhone. A collection of clothes often requires an entire wardrobe. A collection of cars requires a large garage. A collection of memories requires no space at all.
For some, exploring a physical landscape by going on a hike feels like progress. For others, exploring a mental landscape by reading a book feels like progress. What forms of exploration feel like progress to you?
Just about every comedian that I’ve heard interviewed, even the very best, usually mentions the fact that they have bombed spectacularly on numerous occasions.
What incentives are present? What incentives are affecting the behavior of this person, group, and or organization?
Some people love listening to music, but struggle to read. Some people love reading, but are virtually unmoved by music. Some people love going to art museums, but would never be caught at a sports game. Some people love going to sports games, but would never be caught at an art museum. What are you closed off to? What are you receptive to?
If you struggle to pay attention in class, you can take a pill to help you focus. But before you do so, you might want to consider the possibility that you’re simply taking the wrong class.
Throughout history, there have been a large number of geniuses who displayed profound deficiencies. Beethoven was terrible at just about everything aside from composing and playing music. Isaac Newton was incredibly anti-social. In his younger years Richard Branson could barely read. So much of life is about finding your niche.
Curing disease. Preventing disease.
Solving problems. Avoiding problems.
Thinking about how to win games. Considering which games are worth winning.
Some say globalization is good. Some say it’s bad. Some say facebook is good. Some say it’s bad. The same goes for the chemical industry, taxes on businesses, investment banks, bitcoin, capitalism, socialism, environmentalism, the list is endless. Why is it so hard, for so many, to see that in nearly every circumstance the answers are highly nuanced, and probability lie somewhere in the middle?
Having incredible abilities is one thing. Being capable of leveraging them to produce wealth is quite another. Countless individuals with remarkable skills are never able to effectively monetize them.
Learning about others is one of the best ways to decrease the amount of time you spend obsessively thinking about yourself. This is one of the reasons why I make such a strong effort to spend lots of time reading biographies and autobiographies.
Not sure what to do with the next few hours? Try reaching out to a bunch of people who you haven’t spoken to for a while.
The less I think about what I’m going to say prior to having a conversation, the better the conversation tends to go.
Are you more drawn to mountains or oceans?
I’m starting to believe that many of the so called “rules” of reality, even the laws of physics, are not quite as set in stone as most of us imagine them to be.
Would you rather have ten deep friends or one hundred acquaintances? Would you rather be a master at one instrument, or reasonably good at four? Would you rather be fluent in two languages, or able to scrape by in five?
If you find your mind wandering to a place you’d rather it didn’t go, just take a few deep breaths and refocus on what is happening in front of you.
Reading uplifting content is like introducing beneficial species into an ecosystem. The species are thoughts, the ecosystem is your mind.
If you want to heal, listen to water. Listen to the rain. Listen to the rivers. Listen to the waves.
It’s so easy to criticize. To imagine that if you were put in the other’s place, you would have acted more intelligently or honorably.
For the vast majority of human evolution, we processed a minuscule fraction of the amount of information that we process today. It seems likely that our current levels of informational consumption might be well above that which is best for long term wellbeing.
Would you rather know many facts or have many skills?
Perhaps the difference between dreams and our waking experience of reality is one of degree as opposed to kind.
People use the phrases “have to do” and “had to do” far too often. “You have to do Y.” “I had to do X.” Most of the time when these statements are used, the more accurate statements would be, “I want you to do X,” or “I think that you should do Y.” Or, “Well everyone says that you have to do Y, and I’m just going with what they say.”
One of the best skills a person can have is the ability to drive home their points by using questions instead of statements.
The more you learn and grow, the less you are troubled by petty things.
Throw yourself into the storm. There’s a chance that it will kill you. But there is also a chance that it will instead kill those things within you that make living unbearable.
All creative outlets are a means by which to discover who you truly are.
Who do you trust? Which people? Which organizations? Why do you trust them?
It’s easy to convince yourself that by seeking out and sharing information on issues and stories of injustice you are making the world a better place. And perhaps you are. However, you can do an equivalent amount of good by drawing attention to solutions, and to stories about people who are doing wonderful things. And if you get yourself into the habit of doing the latter, you will probably be a whole lot happier than if you get yourself into the habit of doing the former.
If you want a lot of low quality information, spend some time randomly searching the internet. If you want a few high quality insights, go for a walk in the woods.
Victory doesn’t always feel as great as I imagined it would, but it certainly feels better than defeat.
Either consciousness continues after death, or it doesn’t. To me, either option sounds pretty fantastic.
So often, the best choice is to slow down. So often, the best choice is to just let it be.
If you want to climb a tree
Holding on is essential
And so is letting go
There are so many lies on the internet
In the forest
There are none
Many medicines are most effective when taken in small doses.
Recently, I’ve been trying to let go of one or two things per week. It could be a song I delete from my spotify account, or a possession I give away. It could also be a chunk of money in my bank account that I give to a charity. The more I do such things, the better I feel.
I always feel the happiest at the ends of days in which I spent several hours elevating my craft. Always the happiest after the days of dedication.
Your body is an instrument. Your movements and creations are its song.
Some say it’s what you know. Others say it’s who you know. In most instances, it’s actually what you know multiplied by who you know. If one of the two variables is quite large, it can make up for a deficit in the other.
Some days, you show up and get nothing. Other days, a perfect creation flows out over the course of a few minutes.
Plenty of people have found their passion after spending years, and sometimes even decades, feeling lost and purposeless. Keep going.
How can I listen to many different people and maintain my sanity? They’re all saying different things, many of which clash with one another. Sometimes, the dissonance created is overwhelming.
Until you strike the gold, every shovel will yield nothing but dirt. The fact that you haven’t gotten what you wanted yet doesn’t mean you’re digging in the wrong place.
Depression often seems to arise when one believes that something, or several things, will never change. In other words, from some type of excessive certainty. Certainty that reality is a specific way. Or works a specific way. Or will remain a specific way forever.
The destination towards which you are headed may be very beautiful, even if the terrain you’re currently moving through is not. In fact, plenty of beautiful places require that you cross rough terrain in order to reach them.
The overconsumption of information can cause almost as many issues as the overconsumption of food.
I generally place more value tangible examples than I do on abstract theories.
As you grow and evolve, your old vices will become ever less appealing. Once you reach a certain place, the temptation to indulge in them will vanish entirely.
In some instances, making your life more chaotic can be just as beneficial as making it more ordered. From time to time, I think we all need a little chaos.
Imagining vs fantasizing. When you imagine, you think about how things could be. When you fantasize, you think about how your experience of things could be. I’m of the opinion that imagining is a great way to spend your time, and that fantasizing is not.
You might not get the answer to your question immediately, or even for a month, or year. But in the intervening time, you can get great answers to questions you didn’t even know you had.
One of my newest passions is archery. It can be frustrating when I’m not performing the way I’d like to, but I’ve developed a mantra that helps tremendously. Regardless of where my arrow lands, I try to tell myself this: Every shot teaches you something.
In which aspects of your life are you not practicing what you preach?
What scares you more: The possibility of your work might be panned when you show it to other people, or the possibility that you might get to the end of your life and wonder whether other people might have appreciated your work if you had showed it to them?
Can you show up and create, even when you’d prefer to consume?
How will this stack up over time? If I spend ten minutes doing something every day for a year, how many hours will I have spent doing it once the year has elapsed? (10 minutes x 365 days / 60 = 60.8 hours)
What could you benefit from doing more of? What could you benefit from doing less of? If you want to get rid of a habit, replace it with different, more uplifting one. If you want to engrain a habit, make it easy enough that doing it several times per week feels like nothing. If you want to start going to the gym, begin by going fifteen minutes every other day; and only lift weights that are five times lighter than those you’d be capable of lifting.
As our tools become more powerful, there is usually some sort of tradeoff. Once chainsaws started replacing axes, it became far easier to cut down a tree. And far easier to injure yourself while attempting to do so. Once the internet started replacing libraries as the place to go to find information, it became far easier to find what you are looking for. And far easier to become so distracted that you never find what you are looking for.
I’ve spoken with many people who have worked with the Amazonian hallucinogen ayahuasca. One man’s anecdote about his experience really stuck with me. It was quite simple. Shortly after drinking the ayahuasca, a voice in his mind kept repeating the same sentence, over and over: Focus on what’s happening in front of you.
Small barriers can have big effects. If the information is hidden behind two clicks instead of one, you can bet that half the number of people will end up seeing it.
Other people are life’s great amplifies. Every person you interact with will amplify a unique aspect of yourself. This is one of the reasons why spending time with others is such a great way of learning who you are.
Musical instruments can communicate truths that spoken language never will.
For so long
The solution is elusive
Seemingly out of nowhere
It comes to mind fully formed.
There is so much to be said for learning the little things
How to tie a knot
How to juggle
How to cook a certain recipe
With each little thing you learn
You move one step closer to the ultimate truth.
So often, we get caught up in semantics arguments
Arguments about definitions
Arguments about what things are
Some say a stool is a chair
Other say it is not
Some people say life is a game
Some people say life is a journey
You can call these things what you will
Regardless of what you call them
They are what they are.
Parroting ideas doesn’t take much skill. Linking many ideas into a coherent whole does.
If you can design a more intuitive and or aesthetically pleasing user interface, you can destroy your competitors. Facebook is basically just an easier and prettier version of MySpace. You don’t hear many people talking about MySpace these days.
Plans are often useless, but planning can be very helpful.
Are you bothered by uncertainty? If so, you are probably bothered pretty often.
How often do you put your ideas to the test? Are they backed up by any evidence? If not, they could very well be nothing more than fantasies.
I’ve come to feel that the thoughts I choose to think have a far more significant influence on my life than I once believed they did.
Molecules and sentences have some interesting similarities. A string of atoms, such as a drug molecule, can change behavior if ingested. A string of words, which we call a sentence, can change behavior if heard and comprehended.
I disagree with anyone who is entirely against judging books by their covers. Same goes for websites. Aesthetics speak volumes. The are not the only factor a person can use as an indicator of quality, but they’re often a useful one.
“I’ve never told anyone that before,” is quite a thing to hear.
The quality of my state of mind is largely a function of my most recent interaction with another person. If the interaction was awkward and or negative for some other reason, I usually feel pretty off for at least an hour afterward. If the interaction went well, I usually feel pretty good for at least an hour afterward.
Life changes significantly when you start making your ideas and creations public. That’s when things get real.
You are like a song that is always changing. New notes are always being played, and old notes are fading into silence. The quality of your state of mind is a direct reflection of the amount of harmony or discord between the notes in the song of you. The quality of your relationships is a direct reflection of the amount of harmony or discord between the notes in your song and the notes in the songs of those you spend time with.
I realized recently that I’ve never been less afraid of death than I am now. I’m almost looking forward to it, though I’d rather it didn’t happen to me any time soon. It’s not that I want to die, it’s just that I love mysteries, and death just might be the greatest of all mysteries.
Being very good at deductive reasoning can be a huge liability if your fundamental presuppositions are inaccurate.
Listen to those who have overcome large obstacles. Listen to those who have done hard things.
Writing is a lot like fishing; Sometimes you have to sit and wait for a while before a good idea bites.
Most trees require years of care before beginning to bear fruit. The same is true for nearly all worthwhile endeavors.
Anger often stems from an inability to see the world from another’s perspective.
There is something very special about having a physical book in your room, instead of simply having a digital copy stored on a computer or a kindle.
We are all programmers. Speaking and writing are ways of programming humans. The difference between humans and computers is that human behavior is less tightly coupled to our languages than computer behavior is to programming languages.
How likely is it that the way I’m spending my time right now will benefit me at some point in the future? In other words, what is the probable ROI on this way of spending my time?
So often, the best choice is to subtract. To cut away. Instead of asking what else need in your life, ask yourself what is in your life now that you no longer need.
Lectures and symphonies are both forms of music. In fact, I would argue that everything is a form of music.
All we can say is that when a certain part of the brain is damaged, some aspect of the body or personality or mind changes in some way. This does not mean that the brain is the sole mediator of the aforementioned aspects of one’s being. It simply means that the brain is involved with them to some degree. The brain is no doubt important, but it might not be all that you are.
The fact that we cannot currently detect something does not mean that it is not there.
Eventually, the evidence may start to suggest that there is something wrong with your current system of thinking. With your current beliefs. The evidence starts to suggest that they might actually not have as much explanatory power as you thought they did. This can be very uncomfortable. You might cling to the system of thinking or the beliefs, because they worked well for you in the past. But eventually, you come to realize that that they are a bit like jackets that you have outgrown; As time goes on, their ability to keep you warm decreases. Eventually, you are forced to shed them, and trek out into the unknown, into the land of uncertainty, and see if you can find some better explanations.
Create something that you can share with others. Creating something for yourself is fine, but the act of sharing gives far more meaning to the act of creation.
When you get the urge to check your phone, just wait a few seconds and do nothing. More often than not, you’ll quickly think of a better way to spend your time.
There is a huge difference between futzing around on the internet looking for random bits of entertainment, and actually sitting down staring out into empty space. I think the latter way of spending one’s time is, in many instances, more productive than the former.
The most respected worldview in many academic circles is that we are all a bunch of little particles bumping mindlessly into one another. That everything is just an accidental byproduct of this chaotic subatomic motion. This is a worldview people develop by spending a lot of time reading books and looking into test tubes, or listening to others who have spent a lot of time doing these things. If a person starts living life, and listening to music, and looking up at the stars, I think they’ll eventually come to the conclusion that something slightly more divine is going on.
At any moment, everything could change. We trick ourselves into thinking some things in life are relatively permanent, but this is not the case. At any given moment, you could have an aneurism and reincarnate in an alternate universe with different laws of physics. I’m by no means certain that’s what happens after death, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
It’s amazing how much dissonance can be created when someone you deeply trust and respect says something that goes against your strongest views or beliefs.
I’m increasingly coming to realize that I often display the behaviors and attitudes I criticize when I see them displayed by others. It’s a hard thing to accept, but it’s true. So often, my criticism is hypocritical.
You might be feeling bad, despite doing a bunch of things right, if you’re missing on key variable, like an important micronutrient (low levels of which might be associated with depression) or enough social connections. Among other things, this means that the solution to your emotional problems might actually be much simpler than you think
You can learn from the losses. But you can learn from the victories as well. In all honestly, I’m not so sure about the commonly held notion that failure is a better teacher than victory. The belief that you can win, that you can succeed, is a pretty fantastic belief to have. And victory is the teacher that instills this belief within you.
I’m generally far more interested in hearing a person’s stories than hearing their advice. Advice is just an opinion that is probably not going to serve me half the time. A story on the other hand, will bring me a tiny bit closer towards understanding how the world works.
What do you believe to be true? What do you believe to be true about yourself? What do you believe to be true about the world? Is there any chance, however slim, that you might be mistaken?
The quality of my state of mind is largely a function of how much progress I feel as though I’ve made over the past 6 – 12 hours. This holds true regardless of how well the previous day went.
You don’t need to figure everything out. Sometimes it’s best to just embrace the mystery.
When we read what early humans thought about causation, about the reason why things are the way they are and move the way they do, we laugh. I wonder if future generations will do the same when they read about our ideas on such topics.
How many times have you written that down? How many times have you told that story? Might it be time to move on to something new?
It could all fall down at any moment. That’s life. It’s a simple fact that we just have to live with.
So often something that someone said is bothering me. Some random quote or statement or idea that I am unable to figure out, or that goes against my view of the way reality works, or that is implying reality works in some way that I don’t want it to. So often one of these little statements is gnawing away at my peace of mind.
It’s strange, but it often seems as though we make progress in one area when we focus very deeply on making progress in another.
What loop are you caught in? Might an extreme event be able to snap you out of it?Extreme experiences often lead to extreme growth.
Saying the thing that you’ve been hesitant to say. The thing that has been on your mind for a while, but which you have been reluctant to express to another person. Getting this out is, I think, very healing.
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