An Olympian’s guide to managing stress

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.

Read How to Manage Stress Like an Olympic Biathlete

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Curiosity is not neutral

Life can be a string of unnoticeable moments.

That’s why we compel our eyes to see.

The secret to paying attention is being inquisitive.

Not just asking questions, but seeking a different perspective.

People act like each other on the surface but deep down they are unique. They know how to intuitively think for themselves.

It is impression that cages the person. It is expression that unleashes the individual.

The courage of our convictions opens the gate to opportunity, allowing for more information to pass through.

Curiosity is not neutral

Once the switch is turned, the entire world becomes our oyster.

A reminder about life from a poem by Roger Key:

“Hokusai says Look carefully.

He says pay attention, notice.

He says keep looking, stay curious.

He says there is no end to seeing.

He says Look forward to getting old.

He says keep changing,

you just get more of who you really are.

Facebook is a video game for adults

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Photo by Pawel Kadysz

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.

We could argue that CNN and Fox News are also culprits.

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.

Jedi mind tricks have their consequences.

Losing the freedom of mind

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gif via Adam Black

Lost, gone, vanished.

Our short-attention spans attend to media manipulation.

Yet, we are the purveyors of news. We can spread a thought or opinion on the internet without the slightest veracity, a task only governments used to be able to do.

But we no longer think for ourselves. Our thoughts are almost always somebody else’s. The opposition holds the same blind bias.


A war of words froths with inevitability in the online space

Tethered to the smartphone, we yield the liberated sense of self to the perfect selfie. We think we’re different but we’re just trying to be naked and famous like everybody else.

But our ability to woo others with pictures and words stop at the screens we share them on. We are fearful to express such individuality in the real world.

Without showing genuine authenticity between ourselves and others, we restrain society of original thought. Genius becomes a mere shadow of itself.

Wrote John Stuart Mill in On Liberty:

“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.”

David Bowie predicted Internet-enabled dystopia in 1999

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.”

Tech’s promised utopia is just beginning to release the unimaginable. But that’s not all:  check out what these kids in 1966 predicted about today’s world.

Go another click

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via giphy

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.

Stuck on autopilot

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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.

If you can learn how to flow forward, the world becomes less sober and gamelike.

Chaos and the cosmos goad unpredictability and order, a pendulum that hangs in the balance only by staying awake while being at peace.

We can only control the whims of the market if we control our own attention, values, and beliefs.

Yet, we let go. We enroll in life, maybe even live a little.

The gateway to light is the eye

A short-term realist, a long-term optimist.

Can one hedge against fear and doubt while simultaneously pushing for a better and brighter future?

Most of us struggle in bear markets, when confidence ebbs into despair. We can only permit pertinacity.

What keeps one going is the light at the end of the tunnel, connecting the slightest ideas to extend the road through all perceived hurdles.

The obstacle is the way, they say.

Necessity is the mother of invention. If we can’t tolerate ambiguity along the way, we’ll most certainly give up.

If the gateway to light is the eye, persistence lies in the guts.

‘No, it burns, it shines’ 🌞

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“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.”

Ice and Fire by Andrea Dworkin

Don’t compete. Make things.

When we compare ourselves to other, we get detached from ourselves.

The emotional journey of creating anything great

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via Bill Gross

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.

If innovation were easy, anybody would do it.

Alan Watts: The Story of the Chinese Farmer

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.


Alan Watts sums up the conundrum of interpreting the nature of chance:

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?

In the blink of an eye…

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Photo by Wells Baum

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.

The first taste is with your eyes. But what you perceive in your mind’s eye is what empowers an agile interpretation.

The unique shall inherit the Earth

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There are three ways to stand out and be remembered:

  1. Be so good that they can’t ignore you.

  2. Be so interesting that they can’t ignore you.

  3. Be so unique that they can’t ignore you.

Talent is usually enough, but everyone can take a great picture. Technology and the internet leveled the playing field.

Grabbing attention can be fleeting. Remember the digital tenet that new things get consumed and forgotten.

But what cements you in someone else’s memory is acting remarkably daring and different.

In a world of masses, it pays to go micro. But the loopholes in individuality are getting smaller and smaller.