How to develop intellectual success in future generations

 

 

Intellect is a complicated problem, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous posts. There is really no good heuristic or measure out there for what makes a person truly “intelligent” (if you say IQ is a valid example, I’m going to be mad; more on that in approximately 10 weeks). However, I do believe there is a method behind allowing for the intellectual success of a person, especially at a young age.

Let me give a bit of an example so what I’m saying here actually makes sense: let’s say you have a person who was born “very smart” (we’ll say high logical-mathematical intelligence) but was born into a situation where perhaps resources are thin; say a poorer neighborhood with parents who have not really succeeded too much historically in education or otherwise. Because of this, it is going to be really hard for the said person to now “unlock” their intelligence and go on to utilize it cause they’ve never really had a chance to. Because of this, the edge of their ability gets duller as time goes on, and the competitive advantage is lost.

Extrapolating this slightly, I think now that this same problem is very much correlated with the mindset problem I discussed a few months back. You can’t get into a healthy mindset as easily if you aren’t surrounded by people who have this mindset. It doesn’t just have to be parents; it also includes friends, teachers, and a general outside support group. Since it is so hard to have the mindset to “unlock” potential or intelligence, I feel as though this is an overwhelming problem; people don’t just ignore following a healthy mindset, some outwardly reject its existence and mock people who try following it. This all comes back to how intellectual success is so hard to come by in general; if generation after generation is actively pushing against it, other people are going to fall off and fail.

I wish I had a better solution to this problem rather than “just stop doing this”, but I don’t. I do think the internet has helped a lot in this capacity – it certainly helped me – in the way that educational resources are easy to come by and that people can more readily make “mentors” out of people they might not necessarily know but be able to read the blog or watch the podcast of. Still, most people don’t use the internet for this; they use it instead for cat pictures and video game streams. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, it can provide a more “medicated” view of the world and distract us from these alternate entryways into intellectual success.

Despite the fact that I do not have a clear answer, I do think things will get better. I do believe as more people learn – as more people get out of the vicious cycle – that this problem will begin to mitigate. I just don’t know when it will happen.

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. You can subscribe to it here.

The Dangers of Obedience

 

 

One of the topics that interest me the most in psychology has to do with obedience, or otherwise the act of doing what we’re told. As humans, we’re designed to recognize figures of experts or leaders and follow their advice accordingly. It’s a natural instinct; the leader of the pack usually knows where to go for survival, and so we follow. However, like many of our natural instincts, it has now become mostly deprecated due to advancement in society.

 

One of the startling things about obedience is how easy it is construct a false figure of an authority and have people still believe it. Things like the Milgram experiment and the McDonalds strip call case intersect with micro-cases like lecture halls and national governments in the sake of people pretending to be someone they might not be. What I mean here is that much of what we’ve established in our society is based on this fundamental aspect of obedience; obedience to laws, or culture, or politics. And while there are obedience principles put in place that help all of us, there also exists many faults with principles. Some of the greatest tragedies, wars, cults, and scandals have occurred out of obedience, out of blindly following the pack without considering where the pack is going.

 

Always think before you act. It’s something you’ve probably been told since you were a kid, but let me throw an important spin on it; always think before you act on what someone says. Perhaps I’m a bit too individualist for some people’s tastes, but I believe you should always consider your own personal morals and principles before considering to act upon the will of others. I believe that with more active forethought we can avoid the dangers that come with obedience.

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. You can subscribe to it here.

The Curious Problem of Solving Transphobia

Welcome to another website exclusive! I figured that the last thing Medium and LinkedIn need a more pseudo-philosophical political conversations, so I’ve decided to keep this one (mostly) to myself.

I find the problem surrounding transphobia to be fascinating. In the way of stereotypes, I see three different categories: that of racism/sexism, that of homophobia, and that of transphobia. Racism/sexism is mostly built into specific societies based on significant historical events, i.e. America and the Atlantic Slave Trade. While there is noticeable periods of genders or races recognizing that other sides are “different”, mostly hatred between groups is only built up after significant events. However, once we get into homophobia, things get a little more complex. While there’s no biologically rational reason for rampant racism/sexism, homophobia is likely a biologically driven fear caused by the need for a species to continue to reproduce over time. Of course, this is no issue in modern day humanity, but one would reasonably assume that it would be built up over a very long time. It’s also worthwhile to note that the trend of homophobia waxes and wanes; while bisexuality was much more welcomed in something like Ancient Greece than it was in 1950s America.

But now comes a particularly strange issue. Transphobia is different because transsexuality itself hasn’t really even existed before. While gender dysphoria and simple substitutes such as drag have been a reality for a while, biological sex switching is a completely different ballpark.  This, in turn, can create a significant cognitive dissonance in a person; which is a lot harder of a problem to solve than the previous two.

In my opinion, if we want to mitigate transphobia over time, we need to do so by reducing the amount of cognitive dissonance associated with transsexuality. In all honesty, I don’t have a clear answer of how to do this; but we’ll need to use some way of normalizing the idea of gender not being a simple two way street, but rather a wider scope where people can be dotted around, much like race is considered by most now. I see transsexuality as a major breakthrough in changing the gender discussion, and I believe in the next 20 years or so we’re going to see a long of conflict – and resolution – in the way that it’s headed.

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. You can subscribe to it here.

The Difference between Quitting and Giving Up

 

 

I’m usually really bad at quitting things. Once I’ve gotten into something deep, it’s hard to stop it; even if I really don’t like it or it otherwise isn’t giving me value. I just hate the idea of giving up on something.

Part of this probably has to do with the fact that, when I was younger, I had the exact opposite problem. I was giving up on things left and right. I would think of a new great idea for a website, or a project, or a book, get really excited, work on it for about 2 weeks, and then hit a wall. And then never came back from that wall. Repeat ad nauseum.

For veteran readers of the blog, this might sound familiar. It’s something I brought up in my final post on the #100DaysofCode challenge. In the post, I make a promise to myself to continue climbing even when I’ve hit that wall. And while I’ve done pretty good at continuing to hit on things now, I’m starting to wonder; is there anything that you should give up on? And if so, how do you figure out what it is?

About two months ago I read Seth Godin’s The Dip, which I would say touches on this subject better than anything I’ve previously read (it’s also only around 80 pages). Godin essentially fully describes this sort of wall idea that I mentioned in the 100DaysofCode, and gives some outlines on how to tell the difference between quitting for a good reason and quitting for a bad reason. I’ve decided to take a bit of a spin on these ideas and write out what I think are the key principles to think about:

Does this project give me joy?

As a good rule of thumb, Marie-Kondoing your project list will work pretty well. Now, there are a few exceptions to this rule (we’ll discuss them in the next point) but overall if over the full scope of the project you can’t think of a single redeeming feature about it that gives you confidence or excitement, then its pretty easy to see that its probably not worth it. This is the heuristic I probably use most often, although it does need to be used with restraint; just because something does not give you immediate satisfaction does not mean it is worthless in the long term.

What am I currently getting out of this project? What will I get when this project is completed?

Opportunity cost is also a pretty good heuristic for deciding whether something is worth it or not. To gauge opportunity cost, you’d have to look at both short term prospects and long term prospects to decide whether something is good. If something has only a few short-term rewards but many long-term rewards, then it’s a good investment. If there’s no short-term rewards and only a few long-term rewards, then you may want to at least consider other options. This is where the exception from earlier comes into play; something might not necessarily bring joy, but still give you better prospects if you complete it. Sometimes, if the rewards are high enough, I can understand slumping through a project at least temporarily to get into a better position later.

Will this project help me achieve my long-term goals?

Always focus with the end in mind. Not every single one of your current projects will involve one of your long-term goals (at least not obviously) but you should always make sure that the path you’re going down currently will at least lead you into hitting those markers. Don’t have long-term goals? Then make some, and follow them. Long-term goals have been the de-facto best way I have made sure to stay consistently on track, and I’ll probably continue to consistently refine it into the future.

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. I do want to point out that we have a brand new newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on. You can subscribe to it here.

3 Tips for Avoiding Project Burnout

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Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

For ambitious people, burnout can be a real problem. I can speak from experience when I say that I would love to do ten times more than I actually do, but simply physically cannot. Even then, I try futilely, only to realize the stress builds up and you notice you all of a sudden aren’t have quite as much fun as you used to.

So, in this post, I wanted to give some tips for avoiding burnout. These tips are mostly things that I have found helpful for me, and so hopefully you’ll find them helpful as well.

1. Recognize you have burnout

Yup. When it comes to something like this, recognition is oftentimes half the battle. Sometimes burnout can be confused with just plain stress; both are negative factors, but one has much worse long-term repercussions. Keep cognizant of whether there’s something specific that you’ve been working on that’s been causing all your fatigue, and you’ll be able to better pinpoint your burnout.

2. Give yourself a break

Once you’ve recognized that you’re feeling the effects of burnout, take an hour or two to relax. Many times this can be surprisingly hard; when you’ve been working on a project for a long time, it can be hard to quit. The urge to “be productive” takes a hold of you, and you can’t easily let it down. However, the facts are that you are actually much, much more productive if you take regular breaks than if you stay laser-focused on a project for an extended period of time; your ability to perform tasks well grows logarithmically over time, and can only be refreshed with the occasional break. This is by far the best way to fix short-term burnout.

3. Take out the non-essential

For long-term burnout, we’ll have to take some different, more extreme measures. Sometimes it isn’t that you’ve been working on a specific project for a long time in a given day; sometimes its that you’ve been working on many different projects for a long time in a given week, month, etc. In this case, it might be best for you to think of what to cut out.

One of my personal favorite quotes is from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who said that “perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”. I love strategically quitting projects. Whenever I work on something long enough and begin to feel it hitting a dead-end, I think to myself whether or not working on it would really help me progress to one of my long-term goals; if it does not, I stop working on it. Now take in mind that strategic quitting really is a skill; it’s hard to just give up on something, especially when you’ve made decent progress on it. But when that project is hurting you more than helping you, then its time to kill it off. Only then will the burnout cease.

Anyway, that’s all for this one. I do want to point out that we have a brand new newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff going on, with the first issue coming out this Saturday. You can subscribe to it here.

Getting out of an Unhealthy Mindset

 

 

 

I’ve spent a lot of time as of late thinking about how to change someone’s mind. Not how to change their mind on a topic, or on an argument, but how to fundamentally change their perspective. I see a lot of people out there with unhealthy mindsets, whether they be depressive, arrogant, or otherwise. I think back in my own experience to how I got out of my unhealthy mind, and I find that it’s pretty incredible that it happened at all.

I think fundamentally what helped me get out of it was keeping myself open to other possibilities. And yet, if you are in an unhealthy mindset, this can be very difficult; you aren’t going to believe that things will be better if you are in a depressive mindset, because that statement fundamentally conflicts with what you currently believe, thus generating cognitive dissonance.

So how do we avoid this cognitive dissonance barrier and get people out of these states? I believe the best answer is to do it over the long-term and focus on making incremental changes. This relates to how my own progress came about, and so I believe it could be a model that would help others as well. For example, if we instead ask the person in a depressive mindset to think about simple things like cute puppies or a good joke every time they get upset, and then slowly move that over to “well look at all these people who went through the same thing that you are going through, and got out fine” then move to “look at these charts that say the world is getting better” and then maybe, just maybe, you’ll see their mind open and begin to take on better ways of looking at the world.

Now that’s just an example, and I’ll be the first to admit that those specific steps probably wouldn’t work. Finding out a strategy that will work I leave to the reader to consider. Another big caveat (and I’ll mention this since I’ve been focusing specifically on the depressive mindset, though there are many different types of mindsets one could consider unhealthy) is that this will not work with mindsets that are caused by disorders based on chemical imbalances, as those are caused by circumstances far beyond the individual’s control and my area of expertise.

I’d also be interested in anyone else’s opinion on this theory – if you do have one, feel free to post it I the comments below. You can also (as always) take out my Twitter  for more miscellaneous musings.