First time, for the last time.

Doing something the first time can be life-changing, or a simple moment of realisation that guacamole flavour ice cream is not your thing. New experiences can be exhilarating, devastating, and everything in between.

We don’t need to do grandiose things to experience the “new”. Observing small children shows quickly that even the simplest action performed for the first time can cause a stream of happiness accompanied by loud uncontrollable laughter.

As we grow we quickly lose the joy of life coming from experiencing the basic world. We need bigger things to trigger dopamine. We need travel, restaurants, new shiny things… Those things are great, I enjoy them. Though I would like to also enjoy the rest – “mundane” every day.

Our life is time-boxed. There is a start and there is an end. This has a consequence: there are things that will happen for the first time, but as well there are things that will happen for the last time. We can’t be certain about the future, but the past is already here. “For the last time” things have happened already many times. Retrospecting on life and contemplating those moments brings valuable insight into the joy of “every day”. Whatever you do now – someday it will be for the last time. Everything will be taken away. Last cup of coffee, last time you woke up without pain in your back, the last smile from your spouse, last time you have said goodbye to someone, last time you have been somewhere, your last breath…

Looking back the things that have happened for the last time should not be seen as an act of sorrow. Things have passed and there is nothing that we can do about it except to appreciate that we had a chance to experience them. It is important that there are people and things that are still here, and they are equally important – and we have time to recognize that.

This are my personal notes on the subject of “For the last time” after reading: The Stoic Challenge: A Philosopher’s Guide to Becoming Tougher, Calmer, and More ResilientWilliam B. Irvine

Nocturnal cooling.

I love the cold summer morning after the cloudless night. There is something exciting for me during dawn. I get outside dressed up for the sun that will soon scorch the earth. It is cold, chilly, but there is no reason to go back and grab a coat. Soon we will long for that frigid feeling. The sun will unleash its power upon the earth. The morning dew will disappear as well as the small patches of fog here and there. Everything will slowly start to boil. So, for now, let’s enjoy the cold, energizing air.

Pure magic.

The gray reality of the everyday life of a child in a post-communist country stood in stark contrast with images we have seen on TV. The world we have observed in a glimpse was so different that it was impossible to comprehend. That wonderful land was predominantly of USA origins. Everything was amazing. Even then I could sense that Hollywood touch makes things better than real life – but it did not matter, I was enchanted. For me, one thing did stand out far more than anything. Drive-throughs. Yes, it is silly but It was pure magic. I think that this was the concept of the whole thing that made it stood out. It was so foreign, new and unique and so different from my own experience. To this day I love them. I love sipping freshly made coffee and I love even better when my wife feeds me with hot fries.

We try to eat healthily. We basically never go to fast-food restaurants with our kids – except when on the road. I can see that this made my kids associate drive-throughs with travel and adventure ahead. I often wonder if this is good or bad…

It’s mostly crap.

Sturgeon’s law puts it’s simply:

Ninety percent of everything is crap.

Derived from various Sturgeon’s quotations.

I have read about Sturgeon’s law while reading the Dennet’s Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking[1]. I was intrigued by it. Dennet explains it bluntly: “90% of everything is crap. That is true, whether you are talking about physics, chemistry, evolutionary psychology, sociology, medicine—you name it—rock music, country, western. 90% of everything is crap.”

Of course, it goes without too much explanation that the numbers here are just very coarse estimations. It can go both ways and depends on lots of things.

There are several implications of Sturgeon’s law. The first thing that strikes me with the law is that there is only 1/10 chance that we will pick at random, for example from a new music genre we want to discover, something interesting and valuable. That is why we rarely do random choices. We investigate, we try things out, we ask people who should know more.

Most importantly we live in a curated world where algorithms try to make this 10% as all there is.

History has a tendency to filter the crap out and leave the best bits for future generations. If you want to listen to classical music and google it then you mostly will find examples of “the best of“, “essentials” and other similar collections. That is great. 90% is still there but you need to try hard to find it. Did you know that the famous, brilliant philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche[3] wrote music? Probably not. Don’t look for it.

So now this blog. This is my introductory post. I think most of the things I will write will be crap. That is OK. I just hope that I will at least squeeze out a solid 10% of good stuff.


Reference:

  1. Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking (W. W. Norton & Company – May 6, 2013) (ISBN 0-393-08206-7)
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Romantic-era_composers
  3. https://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/nietzsche-piano-music

Carlsen on genius and work

Magnus Carlsen gave very nice talk at Milken Institute’s Global Conference 2017. Tickets to the event cost from $12,000 to $50,000 which is fantastic if you wanted me not to show up.
Carlsen is the best of the best in Chess and very different compared to a lot of other chess players when it comes to work – two small quotes that are work related:
“What kind of talent I had when I was really young was that I was able to concentrate on something for a really long time. My interest didn’t really wane…That’s been my main advantage. I’ve never been the one to grasp things the quickest, but I never stopped learning as soon and I became interested in a subject.”
“I would want to be a role model. As you talk about an athlete who wakes up at seven every day, then you have two training sessions…for me, it’s not like that.  I definitely think about chess all the time. I work at chess every day but it’s not like I have a routine. It’s always been based on inspiration for me. Fortunately, I haven’t run out of inspiration yet…Sometimes I play better when I haven’t slept that much, because you kind of play more creative.”

This statements are recurring pattern among high achievers in basically every discipline. Hard work ( not very structured for Carlsen but still hard work )  and dedication that is basically what you need to succeed – forget about the talend it is irrelevant.

Two great  books on the topic that i highly recomend:

  1. The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown.
  2. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

More about Carlsen talk can be found at Chess.com: Carlsen At Milken Institute: ‘I Don’t Presume To Know Much At All’