The power of truly listening

November 11, 2018

For almost three decades, John Francis has been a planet walker, traveling the globe by foot and sail with a silent message of environmental respect. For 17 of those years he didn’t speak a word.

Here’s what he said about listening:

[Before he stopped talking] I used to listen to someone just enough to think I knew what they wanted to say and then I would stop listening because I thought I knew what they were going to say. And then I would start thinking about what I was going to say back to show them that they were wrong or that I could say it better or look how smart I am. Not speaking was a great relief for me because I was able to learn from so many people. People have so much to teach if we listen to each other.

https://www.npr.org/2014/11/21/364688000/why-would-someone-choose-silence-for-17-years

Here is how to fix the education system

November 4, 2018

Every school, at every level, has these two mantras:

  • Learning is a lifelong process
  • Look longer and see more

The teachers repeat these mantras to their students, often. And at every level (1st grade, 2nd grade, …, 12th grade).

Every teacher exhibits, daily, a pure joy and love for learning.

No more summer vacations. School is year-round. 10 days off each year – a day off for Christmas, a day off for New Years, etc.

No more rushing to get through a curriculum. Slow down. The teacher introduces a concept and then lots of time is given for the students to explore the concept from all sides, see how it fits in with other things they’ve learned … let the concept become part of the student.

No more tests. Instead, students write, write, and write. “I don’t know what I think until I write it down”

Do these things and it will revolutionize our world.

The education system is broken and needs to change

October 13, 2018

Learning is a lifelong thing. We should stop treating it as something you do just in your youth. Teachers should stop flying through a curriculum for the sake of pronouncing “We covered all the material”.

I was a good student in school. I did well in all the tests. But as I reflect on my schooling, I realize that my learning was superficial. I didn’t deeply understand the material. I didn’t internalize the material. Internalizing a new idea comes about only by spending lots of time with it, looking at the idea from various angles, and relating the idea to other things. It’s only now, after many years away from school, that I am deeply understanding things. How? By slowing down and spending lots of time thinking about each idea.

Look longer and see more.

Researchers create new font designed to boost your memory

October 11, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

A new font can help lodge information deeper in your brain, researchers say, but it’s not magic — just the science of effort.

Psychology and design researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne created a font called Sans Forgetica, which was designed to boost information retention for readers. It’s based on a theory called “desirable difficulty,” which suggests that people remember things better when their brains have to overcome minor obstacles while processing information. Sans Forgetica is sleek and back-slanted with intermittent gaps in each letter, which serve as a “simple puzzle” for the reader, according to Stephen Banham, a designer and RMIT lecturer who helped create the font.

“It should be difficult to read but not too difficult,” Banham said. “In demanding this additional act, memory is more likely to be triggered.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2018/10/05/introducing-sans-forgetica-font-designed-boost-your-memory/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.ee5902abf438

Look longer and see more

September 16, 2018

Look longer and see more.

I find that simple little saying amazingly profound. It tells me to slow down, look more closely, and understand more deeply.

I wrote it on a yellow sticky and stuck the sticky on the side of my monitor screen so that I am reminded often.

Here is the path to the Fountain of Youth

September 15, 2018

Constant change in both food intake and body stimuli is a key to the Fountain of Youth, I think. Intense, infrequent jolts to the body.

The body adapts shockingly fast. Jolt the body one day and the next day that jolt is far less effective. Everyday must be dramatically different from the last.

Here are the foods and body stimuli that I use to jolt my body.

Foods

  1. Blueberry sauce: get one of those large packages of frozen wild blueberries from Costco (I think it’s got about 10 cups of blueberries in it). Make a simple blueberry sauce with half the package and eat it over the course of a day. So, 5 cups of blueberries are consumed in one day. Wow! What a jolt of energy and mental focus that provides.
  2. Green drinks: get a bunch of greens (spinach, lettuce, arugula, etc.), put them in a blender with a bit of water, and make a green drink. Do this at breakfast, again at lunch, and again at dinner. Plant-based is awesome.
  3. Soup: steam a bunch of carrots, celery, and beets (or some other in-season vegetables) and then pulverize them into a soup. Consume at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  4. Fresh orange juice: squeeze 4 oranges to make a wonderful glass of fresh orange juice. Do this at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  5. 500 calorie day: eat just green salads all day; use fresh lemon and/or balsamic vinegar for seasoning.
  6. Supplements: I used to take supplements every day. What a mistake that was. Now I take a multi, omega 6, and B12 supplement just once a week to jolt my body.
  7. Caffeine: The benefits of caffeine (increased alertness and energy) accrue only on day one. The next day the benefits drop precipitously. So, caffeine (e.g., black tea, green tea, coffee) should be taken infrequently (once a week, or every other week).

Body Stimulus

  1. Donate blood: once a quarter donate blood to the Red Cross. The loss of blood forces the body to generate new blood, which is a massive stimulus to the body.
  2. Cold shower: take a cold shower and/or ice bath. Again, this is a massive stimulus to the body.
  3. Long walks: go for a long walk, at least 1 hour in duration.
  4. Leg exercise: the leg muscles are some of the largest muscles in the body; an intense stimulation of the legs will jolt the entire body (and mind). Among other things, I do a static leg press. I have gotten up to doing a 1700-pound static leg press (strongmen do over 3000 pounds). This is a huge jolt to my entire system.
  5. Stretching and foam rolling: an intense, infrequent session of stretching and foam rolling will jolt the body and mind.
  6. Deadlift: lifting heavy weights is a great stimulus of both the body and mind.

Self-determined approach to seeing the world

August 11, 2018

For many people (myself included) it is the media (TV, newspapers) that determine what we see of the world. The media decides what we see and what we don’t see. I suppose that by viewing a range of TV newscasts and newspapers, one can have a larger aperture on the world. And, by and large, I think the media does a descent job. Nonetheless, it would be nice to determine my own view of the world. Rather than someone else feeding me a view of the world, it would be nice if I deliberately chose the mechanisms by which to see the world. I wonder if it would be good to simply cut off all media and identify, say, 5 (non-media) avenues for getting an understanding of what’s happening in the world? How do you get your view of the world? Are you on a self-determined path to seeing the world? I am interested in hearing your thoughts.

Food scientists know how to make addictive foods, web scientists know how to make addictive web sites

July 28, 2018

I remember years ago hearing about how food scientists have figured out the right combination of sugar, fat, and salt such that it affects the brain in a way that you can’t stop eating the food. The food is a drug and you become an addict.

For a long time, I frequented the web site XXXXXXX. Throughout each day I would break away from what I was working on to see what was happening on XXXXXXX. I spent a significant amount of time each day on XXXXXXX. Then one day I decided that I didn’t want to spend my life’s precious hours viewing XXXXXXX, so I stopped cold turkey. Every day for months after my mind kept telling me “Go see what’s happening on XXXXXXX”. It was only after 3 or 4 months that the insistent pull to that web site subsided. Literally, the web site was a drug for me and I was addicted, and it took hard work to stop the addiction. As I now think about it, I can see why it was addicting: the web site is filled with bright, colorful pictures, and tantalizing, teasing salacious stories. Just as cooking scientists have figured out how to create addictive foods, so too web scientists have figured out how to create addictive web sites. Recently I decided to stop visiting another site, XXXXXXX. I am going through the same withdrawal symptoms as I went through with XXXXXXX.

Note: I redacted my blog. No point identifying specific web sites.

“I don’t know” is a good response

July 22, 2018

I ran into an old friend recently. He does research at Harvard University. A very bright fellow. I observed during our conversation that he responded, “I don’t know” to many of my questions. Since then I’ve reflected on that conversation and realized the wisdom of his response. I think about the things that I know with absolute certainty; it is a short list. Anything that I say outside this list is pure speculation. Sadly, I often speak with an air of confidence and certainty, when consciously or unconsciously I know that I really don’t “know” and am just making things up. I’ve decided that the mark of a wise person is one who is willing to say, “I don’t know.” I am going to say, “I don’t know” a lot more often from now on.

This is the ultimate diet (really)

May 22, 2018

In my lifetime I have tried just about every health diet ever created. In just the last month I’ve tried two diets. In every case, the first day of the diet I notice a remarkable increase in energy and alertness. I tell all my friends what a fantastic diet it is. The next day, a little less energy and alertness. By the end of a week on the diet, I am back to the same energy and alertness levels as before starting the diet. Nonetheless, I continue the diet. By day 10 I feel worse than before the diet – less energy, less alertness, and sometimes even nausea. I feel like an idiot for boasting to my friends about what a great diet it is. Eventually I wise up and I jump onto the next diet. And the cycle starts all over again.

I have come to realize two important things:

  1. My body adjusts shockingly fast to a new diet. It just takes 2 or 3 days for my body to fully adjust. Once adjusted, the improved energy and alertness levels fade rapidly.
  2. My body loves change. Every time I change my diet I get a significant boost in energy and alertness.

What is the ultimate diet? The ultimate diet is one that constantly changes.