When you aim for the donut hole, you’ll certainly miss it. The obsession with victory backfires. Says Olympic biathlete Clare Egan on hitting the last of five targets:
“‘If I hit this, I’ll win the gold medal’ — as soon as you have that thought, you’re definitely going to miss it. That extra push or desire to win is not only not helpful, it’s counterproductive. You have to eliminate that from your mind and focus on the task.”
When you compete against others, you also impede your ability to get the job done. Says Egan:
“I think such a big part of this is focusing on what you are doing. You have to let go of how everyone else is doing, and focus on your own work.”
The lizard brain wants you to compete out of fear. The monkey mind wants to you to assay your inner monologue. Ambition trips you up.
The mental game is just as important as the physical one. Focusing on process rather than pursuit may give you a better chance at achieving victory.
Facebook is a video game for adults. The social network specializes in goading emotional responses that dupe the older crowd into thinking they are legitimate purveyors of news.
The reality is imperfect. Technology companies compel people to spread misinformation that emboldens preexisting echo chambers. A post-fact society threatens the plurality of opinion so fundamental to healthy democracies.
Overheard someone say 'Facebook did to your parents what they worried violent video games would do to you' earlier this week and haven't stopped thinking about it.
Screen staring and the rapid spread of information distort what’s real and what’s false. Unfortunately, it is the networks that benefit most from the gray space in the middle.
Facebook is a weapon of mass propaganda, a platform where conspiracy theories thrive. We should be giving our parents the same lecture they gave us on video games but about their manipulative online use.
“In this age, the mere example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.”
In a 1999 interview with the BBC, David Bowie foresaw the internet’s impact on music and society. The walls between artist and fan would be broken down, but the era of echo chambers and fake news would break internet culture itself.
“We are living in total fragmentation…I don’t think we’ve even seen the tip of the iceberg. I think the potential of what the internet is going to do to society, both good and bad, is unimaginable. I think we’re actually on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying.
Is there life on Mars? Yes, it’s just landed here. I’m talking about the actual context and the state of content is going to be so different from anything we can envisage at the moment. With the interplay between the user and the provider will be so in sympatico it’s going to crush our ideas of what mediums are all about.”
Ask more questions, not because you want to be right but because you’re naturally curious and want to know more about the spaces inside, not the exterior of opinion. Wrote René Magritte: “Everything we see hides another thing; we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.
Every thought has one that precedes it. Opinions can be traced back to what you’ve seen, heard, or read in an effort to confirm bias. But loosen the emotional grip of sidedness. Said physicist Richard Feynman, “You must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.”
Have strong opinions, weakly held
It is not necessary to be confident in order to act. “Rightness,” wrote author Louis Menand, “will be, in effect, the compliment you give to the outcome of your deliberations.” Your gut instincts remain plastic. Dealing with conflict and uncertainty is what makes us human and non-robotic.
Going deeper provides more questions than answers. Curiosity stimulates the will for discovery. Things tend to only make sense in reverse.
Do you ever ask what happened to the day that just past?
We often carry on throughout the day without thinking about our actions.
We tune out of our existence, and we turn into robots, competent without comprehension. Said writer and philosopher Colin Wilson: “The more I allow the robot to take over my life—that is, the more I live passively—the less real I feel.”
On the flip side, one can also be too mystic, excessively absorbed into the occult.
Reality is too sober
There are some things worth being awake for and others being drunk on habit. Even the routine — doing the dishes, going for a walk — can excite the deepest thinking. Meanwhile, overthinking like anxiously driving a car stresses one into accidents. Thinking how to run will trip you up.
“Does the sun ask itself, ‘Am I good? Am I worthwhile? Is there enough of me?’ No, it burns and it shines. Does the sun ask itself, ‘What does the moon think of me? How does Mars feel about me today?’ No it burns, it shines. Does the sun ask itself, ‘Am I as big as other suns in other galaxies?’ No, it burns, it shines.”
Why is it that every new idea begins with excitement but ends in the ‘dark swamp of despair?’
Writes Angela Duckworth in her book Grit: “Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”
The key to achieving anything is not necessarily maintaining that excitement but pushing through all the CRAP (criticism, rejection, assholes, and pressure) and maintaining a beginner’s mindset.
Of course, you’re likely to lose interest, energy, and emotional support from family and friends along the way. That’s why it’s equally important to have a vision of where you want to go and what you’d like to accomplish. Developing habits, a daily practice, also help fight the resistance.
Good things are supposed to take time. Progress ebbs and flows. It’s beneficial, almost necessary, to step away from the work and plan unscheduled time. Even when you’re not thinking, you’re thinking; the brain never turns off.
Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That evening, all of his neighbors came around to commiserate. They said, “We are so sorry to hear your horse has run away. This is most unfortunate.” The farmer said, “Maybe.” The next day the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it, and in the evening everybody came back and said, “Oh, isn’t that lucky. What a great turn of events. You now have eight horses!” The farmer again said, “Maybe.” The following day his son tried to break one of the horses, and while riding it, he was thrown and broke his leg. The neighbors then said, “Oh dear, that’s too bad,” and the farmer responded, “Maybe.” The next day the conscription officers came around to conscript people into the army, and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Again all the neighbors came around and said, “Isn’t that great!” Again, he said, “Maybe.”
‘Maybe’ we pick up clues as we go along, hunting how misfortune or good fortune go together. The truth lies in how we react to our experiences.
Perhaps we already live in a simulation, with everything already meant to be.
The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad — because you never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune; or, you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.
Shall we accept our own fragility or remain antifragile?
That’s how subtleties move along, transparent, through the chaos of abundant information for which the likes of Facebook and Twitter sell our eyeballs to the attention merchants.
As John Berger wrote in Ways of Seeing, “seeing comes before words.” Images overpower our digital world. Video maximizes these stitched images. People lose interest in thinking by themselves and using their imagination.
Said color photography pioneer William Eggleston: “Words and pictures don’t — they’re like two different animals. They don’t particularly like each other.”
Showing speaks louder than telling. One can intuit a concept quicker with a visual cue more so than a verbalized one.