Month: July 2013

Do fish notice water?

Going with the flow. Seems like an expression derived straight from the life of a fish. It’s an evolutionary process that humans have in common with many social animals. Go with the pack and you have the best chances of survival. Good for life in the dark ages, but bad for personal development in the 21st century.

As for the fish, it seems logical that they do not notice the water. Destined to become aware of it only when a fisherman catches it and lifts it out into the air, removing the environment that the fish thought took for granted. And when the fish is released back into the water, it embraces the water, notices it. That would be the case, if the fish could think or its memory would last for more than 5 seconds.

Do you notice the water you are in? The flow of your everyday life.

Personally, I became aware of it sometime in the last summer. I was walking down the beach with my earphones on. The kind which cut you out of the outside noise completely. There were plenty of people, the day was warm. I walked through the small crowd and in the silence, everybody seemed to lack a purpose in their actions. Moving by me just for the sake of going and because they are used to walk those roads, when the day is warm. I washed through the people and started to think that what is my purpose there. What could be the purpose of others, as if there is a lack of purpose, then it seemed a waste of potential.

As the fish was denied oxygen, I  cut off the sound of the world. Something unusual and interesting that created new thoughts and ways of thought. As always, routine holds back innovation.

Inspired by my new perceptions of the world, I wrote my fist poem that day(kindergarten doesn’t count). Just writing down unfiltered thought that rose into my mind:

I like to think.

Start discussions

about things, that otherwise would slip

by me.

Only this separates

a man from beast –

the ability to think.

Why have many forgotten it?

What is your purpose,

your motive, why

you do the things you do?

Routine should not be

the answer to your life.

People, you do not think

as much

as you believe you do.

No given moment, action

or your whole life is

for letting it

slip by thoughtlessly

like an ant or a bear.

Better remind yourself, what makes

you tick, what gives you meaning and soul.

If there is something

stuck inside you, then find out what

and how to set it free.

Create something with your life.

The times, when the sole goal

was to stay alive and breed

are over, because

the power of thought is so immense.

And it must be

used.

In short, notice the beautiful surroundings, notice other people, notice your own actions. Give thought to what you are doing and why.

Noticing others helps you in the social world, too. Keening your eye on noticing details about others is an amusing exercise. Ever wonder how Hercule Poirot became so good at being the worlds best detective? He had to start somewhere. I started by trying to notice the eye color of the persons I talk to. Trying to notice unusual ticks in body language is also the way to become a good at telling when others are bluffing.

A good place to begin is to start making a list of “Top 3 interesting things I noticed today”. Guaranteed self improvement.

Happy noticing!

Are you making the right decisions?

Aside from Michael Jackson, few of us believe that they are “bad” people. It has almost the same effect as the “I’m better than average” thinking. When everyone believes that they are better than average drivers, then there is a logical error. Everyone can not be better than average. When there is a conflict, usually both sides think they are right, that they are the good people. But everyone cannot be good in reality right? Or can they..?

In a very large proportion of literature/movies/series, there are strongly distinguishable good characters and bad characters. Harry Potter has his Voldemort, video games have the final boss, we do not need an example out of horror movies and history has Hitler. Pretty straight forward plus there is less figuring out to do for the consumer. But I enjoy a good moral dilemma, when I see one. That’s why shows like “Dexter” and “Breaking Bad” and films like “Fight Club” and “Blade Runner” are so interesting to watch. We do not see the line of right and wrong so clearly, we see the dilemma, a point of view. You get what seems to be wrong, but still discover that you’re rooting for the “bad guy”, because the intentions were kind of right. And in my mind, Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) series excels in this kind of morality issues.

[On a side note, one of my recent discoveries in the social world has been that nowadays, „Game of Thrones” is the safest choice for a conversation starter. I have been to a few gatherings, where I don’t know almost anyone, but finding someone who watches “Game of Thrones” has been very easy. And usually, people are quite enthusiastic about it, too. That’s why I am quite sure that most of you who read this post, understand what I’m on about next.]

At a first look, we have the same classification of good and bad sides – Lannisters vs. Starks. But getting to know the characters and their way of thinking, we see that everyone just has their own hidden motives. The main idea in the book and in the series is the one that the mothers most clearly unveil. Cercei’s conversation with Ned reveals the motives behind her actions. All the deeds she has done or will do come from the desire to protect and make a future for her children. Can anyone blame her for that wish?

Good or Bad? Good in their own minds. Is Cercei bad for wanting to create a future for her children? There is some kind of “spider sense”, an innate feeling of what is bad. But the look on her motives does not generate that feeling. Protecting children is one of the noblest motives for actions. When you harm someone, it is bad. If you harm someone, while trying to save your children, then it becomes passable as morally correct. Likewise for Catelyn, while Jaime had killed 2 of Lord Karstark’s sons, Catelyn still aided Jaime’s escape – for her daughters could have a chance to be freed from King’s Landing. Aiding a criminal to escape, but doing it to save her children.

Tywin is another example, but from a different angle. He places his family’s name above all else, he does everything in order to preserve the “good name” of Lannister. In his mind that is the ultimate goal. All actions are moral for him, as long as those actions help to keep red the dominant color in Westeros. And as a final example, there is the spider Varys. He’s motto being “for the good of the realm” or as the city council in “Hot Fuzz” would say: “for the greater good.” Aiding the killing of young Daenerys in order to prevent the hordes of Dothraki from invading and save tens of thousands – what is one life worth, when you could save 10 000.

Everyone has their own motives and their own philosophies to back them up morally. But we can not see into others’ minds. We can only assume. That’s why we should not make assumptions for others’ behavior. We can perceive the reflection of their desires through the mirror of their actions, but those mirrors can be deformed and create images that are mutations of the real figure. Subjectivity is the keyword here. We could fully understand only our own thoughts and even that is a complex and tricky task. But when we see the mirror of others’ thoughts, we see them from angles that create illusions.

Young girl or old lady?

The same image, but what you see might be different from what others see.

All this leads to the fact that there is no universally good or bad. All is subjective. One person might see the same situation as morally acceptable and a different person might not. Who’s to say, which one of them is right, for there is no right thing to do, only the right thing for every particular person to do.

I strongly believe that it is important to practice to think like that. That everyone is entitled to their own opinion and no one is right or wrong. Everyone has their own experiences and beliefs that shape their opinions and morals. Everyone can see the same situation differently. Of course there are acts, that are universally wrong, but that does not mean that no one could perceive those acts as the right thing to do. They are just acting according to their philosophy. We should brace ourselves for that.

Practical uses for developing this kind of thinking include enabling you to become a better negotiator. When you start to detect different sets of ideals in a negotiation, then with this kind of thinking you are more likely to arrive at a win-win situation. If you understand that both sides see the subject at different angles, then you ought to understand, that compromise is just the easy way out. Try to see, what you hold dear and what the other side sees as most valuable. Almost always there is a way for you to get what you want and for your counterpart to get his desire also. Let loose from what you see less desirable, but is important for the other and get the same treatment in return.

How to get there?

I studied in a music school for 10 years, studying classical percussions and pop jazz drums. Most of my closest friends are musicians.  I feel as I know the type „musician“ well. And the main commonality I see in them is the urge to improve their skills. I know that everyone has it to some extent. But there are few, who spend more days self-improving as most musicians do. There are the role models and idols, whose playing style and technique many want to grasp. And to do that, one must practice. It is known. But there is always something that needs more honing. It is especially true for jazz musicians, with whom I’ve had encounters with the most. The goal is vague, but the road is clear. But how do you know when you are there?

There comes a sense of what is just a checkpoint and what is the finish. Garri Kasparov was the world champion in chess for 15 years, defending it 5 times. He holds the record for highest professional chess rating. He wrote about the match, where he lost the title: „The main reason was complacency and excessive self-assertion. A victory creates an illusion that everything is perfect and as it should be. You are engaged with a temptation to think only of the positive results, leaving aside all of the real miscalculations and mistakes. After a victory, we want to party, not analyze. When something goes wrong then of course we want to fix it, but we should try for better even when everything is in order.“

Garri’s tries to get you to think. When something goes right for you, then why? What are your winning aspects? Winning a few battles does not guarantee winning the whole war.

Chess with guns

Your local book club recommends: Garri Kasparov ” How life imitates chess”

I think that the best example to illustrate the thought is playing poker. When you win an all in pot in showdown that was to your opponents favor before the chips went in, then you are probably lucky and made a bad decision. Now, when you think back to the pot, you can remember that you won and thus made right decisions throughout the hand. But you can also remember that you won, but you made a mistake in assessing your opponents hand and stack size and got a little lucky. In the first case, in the long run, you lose a lot of money by not changing your play. In the second case, you are destined to lose less(or even win), because you saw the error in your game and hopefully adjusted your views. The old saying of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it“ does not apply.

When is the time to rest? Is there a time, where you have done your duty and could sit down and look over your work, a time where you have had enough practice? Well, this is as subjective as everything else. The answer should be, when you feel like it. But you truly have to be satisfied with your accomplishments. As far as you feel the urge to thrive, you need to analyze your game, even if you are winning.

I think that becoming a master relies on the ability to analyze success stories. Everyone can point out shortcomings in failures. It is another matter to see mistakes in triumphs. Examine what brought you success and what may have threatened it. In school I always liked to make mistakes before tests. I think that it reduces the chances of making that mistake again, when it has a larger importance.

I am surprised to this day how mistakes are treated in schools. Mistakes are thought of as universally bad monsters, as signs of failure. I am (was) good in maths, but I made many mistakes in my maths class in high school, and ultimately got in an argument with my teacher about my abilities. He asked what my goal for the national exams was. I said that I wanted the maximum. He refused to encourage me and instead said that 97% will be the ultimate maximum for me. We argued over it, but he firmly believed that I was not clever enough. He based his decision on the mistakes I had made so far. Needless to say, I nailed the exam and got the maximum. But I will always remember the conversation between me and my teacher.

Instead of criticizing bad performance because mistakes are made and encouraging good performances without any consideration of possible weak spots, encourage the process of analyzing. The best of the best believe in themselves and in their plans. They work constantly towards perfecting and realizing those plans. From it rises a positive cycle: work reasserts self-confidence and the desire to reach your goals, those in turn stimulate to work even harder.

 

Until next week and enjoy thinking!