Oliver Sacks: Self-experiments in chemistry

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Image by Wells Baum

“Somehow I got off at the right bus stop and onto the train, even though everything now was in motion, whirling vertiginously, tilting and even turning upside down.”

— Oliver Sacks, Altered States: Self-experiments in chemistry

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The life of an Instagram post

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Image by Wells Baum

The first five minutes in the life of an Instagram post are key. This is your ‘hype’ period where the velocity of likes predetermines the organic reach of your content.

As the clock strikes 11 AM, your goal is to publish something you know people will like, not what you think they’ll like. Predictability is the name of the game. There’s little room for experimentation, the freedom of trial and error.

Instagram went from a tool for seeing to a competition of optimizing an algorithm, which seems to emphasize its users’ activity on the platform. Instagram rewards its members with more attention if they like and follow other people’s accounts. The social network wants you to act like a bot so it can sell your rabid activity to advertisers.

We are all Instagram’s participants and its workers, chomping at the bit for more followers and thus more credibility. The expectations hamper creativity and reward conformity and mechanical behavior. It’s all a bit banal, addictive more than exciting.

If you care about the art of photography, you’ll have to go elsewhere.


This is my daily collection of interesting reads and new music. I spend a lot of time digging the web for cool stuff and remixing them here. If you dig the blog, please consider making a donation or buying a book. A cup of coffee to helping out with hosting goes a long way.

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Building emotional agility

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Find the space in between.

“During the average day, most of us speak around sixteen thousand words. But our thoughts – our internal voices – produce thousands more.”

— Susan David, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life

They say the quietest people have the loudest minds. But even extroverts have noisy heads.

Our inner dialogue is all over the place. The harder we try to tame the monkey mind, the crazier it gets. But instead of anxiety loop, we can “step back and ask: “Is this useful?”

How we react to our inner-narrative predetermines our well-being. We have to keep our emotions in check. Recounting his time in an extermination camp, Viktor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

We may be naturally fragile. But we can strengthen our emotional agility to withstand our impulses. It’s not about forcing optimism, rather, it’s about dancing with the fear, and maintaining courage and curiosity despite self-doubt. As health psychologist Kelly McGonigal notes in her Ted Talk, the stress of caring can strengthen resilience.

Wake up call

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Shake things up. Spit them out. Start from scratch. Look at it from a new lens. Clean house. Restart. Rethink the fundamentals. Reframe the issue. Recast anew. Remix. Rewrite the future. Say bye to the predictable. Out with the old and in with the new. Rebel yell!

It turns out a rush of blood to the head is what we needed. The jolt rejuvenates us. It reminds us that we’re alive, and why we should pursue what matters.

The desk is a purposeful mess, a clarion call to get more creative. Within chaos lies a solution, a chance to recycle what’s important and throw out the rest.

Leave it to the experts

Doctored knowledge
We’re all created equal but we’re not all experts.

Experts are the hedgehogs, the servants; they do one thing well. They’re indispensable like doctors. Yet, the internet came along and unleashed a free for all of know-it-alls.

Our friends and family members, even ourselves, opine on subjects where we have voice but no mastery, not even of the fundamentals. We’ve given people a microphone, a platform, and they produce garbage, demonstrate ignorance, and bask in mediocrity.

Says Tom Nichols in his new book The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters:

“Having equal rights does not mean having equal talents, equal abilities, or equal knowledge. It assuredly does not mean that ‘everyone’s opinion about anything is as good as anyone else’s.’ And yet, this is now enshrined as the credo of a fair number of people despite being obvious nonsense.”

We need practicians. We need the ideas. But we really need people we can trust. It’s no surprise that our experts are usually the ones with most humility and eagerness to learn.

Rock climber Alex Honnold demonstrates how to dance with fear

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The amygdala is the prehistoric part of our brain responsible for controlling fear and pleasure. It tells us when to flee from a dangerous situation such as when we see a lion in the jungle; it also encourages us to seek more of something whether that be social media likes or sex.

But legendary solo rock climber Alex Honnold may be immune to fear. That was the hypothesis until he allowed scientists to take an MRI of his brain to measure his fear levels.

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