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Arts Creativity Life & Philosophy Psychology Writing

How to unthink

Knowledge can be a hindrance. The more we know, the more likely we’re to hesitate in times of execution.

So the overthinking basketball player misses a wide-open layup, the tennis player misses an easy return, or the painter or writer can’t seem to get their inspiration to convert on a blank canvas.

Stalling is a symptom of facing the resistance. When we try too hard to be perfect, we may do nothing at all.

So how can we stem the tide of excess contemplation?

One of the ways to think less author Flann O’Brien once said was to act “calculatedly stupid” and to enjoy what we’re doing. As Vincent Van Gogh put it: “Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile.”

We are at our best when we’re relaxed and instinctive, free from the chaos of the monkey mind.

Unthinking is the ability to apply years of learning at the crucial moment by removing your thinking self from the equation. Its power is not confined to sport: actors and musicians know about it too, and are apt to say that their best work happens in a kind of trance.

So do the work and let go, let God. Let inspiration be free-floating perspiration.

Read Non cogito, ergo sum

art via giphy

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Productivity & Work

A day of two halves

Umberto Eco was right when he said “We make lists because we don’t want to die.”

We feel dead without a challenge. That’s why some of us split the day into two halves.

Morning is the first half. We try to prioritize the hardest work between the hours of 9-12 before lunch so the rest of the day is comparatively easy. But we have to be ruthless in following through.

“It’s more important you do work that’s important, than you do work that’s pretty.

Seth Godin

Alternatively, we could use those few hours at the start of the day to build up toward an industrious afternoon.

The hardest part of any structure is dealing with interruptions. All it takes is the presence of our phones to disrupt our thinking. Text messages add more petty things into our heads and onto our to-do list.

Getting to-done is a daily discipline. The imperative of movement makes us feel more alive, freer, and less regretful.

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Productivity & Work Sports Video

In the search of greatness

Great athletes break the mold. They’re not just gifted. They get creative in the arena, using their intuition and imagination to do things never seen before on stage. The same genius can be said for select actors, musicians, scientists, thinkers and the like.

In the fortchoming documentary In Search of Greatness, director Gabe Polsky takes us through the athletic genius of athletes like Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, and Serena Williams to explain what sets them apart from the rest. Find out more on the documentary here.

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Sports Video

Take The Ball, Pass The Ball: trailer for documentary on Barcelona’s Guardiola years

Watching FC Barcelona from 2008 to 2012 was like watching a performance art piece. The way coach and former Barcelona player Josep “Pep” Guardiola had the Blaugrana pass and move, with the added dynamics of Lionel Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta was just extraordinary.

“I don’t like it when a player says, ‘I like freedom; I want to play for myself.’ Because the player has to understand he is part of a team with 10 other players. If everyone wants to be a jazz musician, it will be chaos. They will not be a team, and nothing will be possible.”

Pep Guardiola

The team collected 14 trophies in four years, including the Treble of a La Liga title, Spanish Cup, and Champions League title in the 2008 – 2009 season. Hear the story straight from the players who lived it: Thierry Henry, Eto’o, Xavi, Iniesta, and more. Take the Ball, Pass the Ball. This documentary looks monumental.

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Sports

How to bowl a strike 🎳

Pro tip: No need to be a muscle man. Use the lighter ball to get down those extra pins.

By itself, bowling a strike isn’t all that hard. Most amateur bowlers end up doing it by accident at least once a game. What makes a great bowler is the ability to bowl a strike consistently, which comes from hours of practice, great technique, and a few insider tips to get you started.

First, don’t go for the heaviest ball imaginable. It’s uncomfortable and less effective. Heavy balls hit pins up and out of the way while lighter balls spend more of their time banging around, causing the type of havoc that results in a strike.

(via Art of Manliness)

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Sports

Designing the official World Cup ball

Every four years Adidas redesigns the official ball for the World Cup. This year’s ball is called The Telstar 18, a perfect sphere that designed to reduce wobbling.

The Telstar 18, the design for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, is as close to a perfect sphere as you can get. It has subtle pimples and six thermally bonded panels designed to avoid knuckling, which is the characteristic bobbing and weaving movement when a ball is kicked without spin. All 32 teams have been able to play with it since November in preparation for the tournament, which runs from June 14 to July 15. But despite its similarities to the old ball, players have grumbled about the Telstar 18. Compared to the last few World Cup balls, the Telstar 18 is very similar to the ball used for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It won’t fly quite as far down the pitch, and will wobble in the air a little differently, but aerodynamic testing suggests it will be more stable in the air overall.

Adidas tested the balls using wind tunnels, trying to mimic the unpredictable nature of a Ronaldo or Messi kick. Some say past designs weren’t so sturdy and may have given some teams an advantage. The 2010 South Africa World Cup ball, known as the Jabulani, fit the short-passing style of the World Cup winners Spain.

Despite the ball’s aerodynamic optimization, one thing is certain: the goalies always hate it.

I kind of feel sympathy for the players and especially the goalkeepers that have to get used to a new ball,” Goff says. So far the Telstar 18 has received criticism from a few goalkeepers that played with it starting in November, unhappy with how it moves in the air and the way the surface feels. Goalkeepers, unlike every other player on the pitch, have to predict where the ball will go in order to block it, while also not having the freedom to run around the field to adjust as the ball flies. That means goalies often have the most complaints about a new design. “Every time there’s a World Cup and a new ball the goalkeepers complain, because they’ve been given a new ball,” says Goff.

Read How the new World Cup ball was designed to not influence the games

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Life & Philosophy Sports

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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Psychology Science

Rock climber Alex Honnold demonstrates how to dance with fear

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.

It turns out that Honnold is predisposed to fear just like everybody else, but he has been so accustomed to facing worse case scenarios through visualization and experience, he is not only used to it; he knows what to do when he climbs into perilous situations. He is a so-called a “super sensation seeker,” one that puts fear in its place before it even makes him second guess himself.

“If you don’t have any fear to begin with, there’s a lot less to control.”

It reminded me of a little bit of Michael Jordan; he used to practice so hard that the games were often easier. Furthermore, it is the preparation — both physical and mental — that set up success and make some achievers appear godly.

If you want a brain like Honnold’s, you need be willing to dance with fear again and again. By moving toward your fear, you train your amygdala to be less reactive so you can just execute.

“You may not have the traits of a super sensation seeker, or be able to quench your amygdala on command, but with conscious effort and gradual, repeated exposure to what you fear, any one of us might muster courage that we didn’t know we had.”

Would you think twice?

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Creativity Productivity & Work Psychology Sports

How to build up and sustain intrinsic motivation

usain bolt animation

The thing about cliches is that sometimes they’re true. Take this one for instance: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Competition is the quickest way to demotivate yourself.

You may enjoy excelling, but you will realize the game is really within yourself to achieve greater personal growth. According to career analyst Dan Pink, there are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic motivation is rewards-based where things like fame or money drive your effort. Intrinsic motivation seeks a deeper purpose – it drives people to do what matters to them than what impacts the bottom line. Naturally, people that are intrinsically motivated play the long-game.

Purpose is what gets you out of bed in the morning and into work without groaning and grumbling — something that you just can’t fake.

A Gallup study shows making $75k a year does not make people happier; in fact, they are more likely to fall into the trap of jealousy and bitter competition. Dissatisfied people always want what they don’t have.

They say that having a backup plan can demotivate you as well. As Mark Manson wrote, “Action isn’t just the effect of motivation, but also the cause of it.” The doing mindset creates momentum. If you want to be consistent you have to “put your ass where your heart needs to be,” says author Steven Pressfield.

When it comes to motivation, consider focusing on why what you do matters rather than quitting just because someone else does it better. A ‘trying’ attitude put Jamaican Bobsleigh into the 1988 Winter Olympics–“being there” was like winning a gold medal.

When trying to stay motivated, try to keep perspective by practicing “objective optimism”:

“don’t replace “She’s better than me” with “I’m the best,” but, with something quantifiable, like “This presentation I made really looks great.””

The only way to hack motivation and avoid burn out is to enjoy what you do with purpose even if progress is slow. A thousand drips can fill a bucket.

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Sports

Is Escape to Victory the best football movie of all-time?

Before he released Rocky III, Sylvester Stallone played goalie for the Allied Prisoners of War in the 1981 soccer (football) movie Escape to Victory along with fellow Hollywood star Michael Kaine and football legends Pele, Bobby Moore, and Ossie Ardeles. It’s considered by some to be “the greatest football movie ever made.

Pairing world-class athletes with movie stars on the same team had its challenges. Pele told Michael Caine:

“Give me the ball and try to kick me to make it as realistic as possible.”

Pele made Cain look better than he was, so Caine returned the favor. He made acting sound easy, even for Pele, who couldn’t speak fluent English.

“Once I’d said to them, ‘Come on, don’t worry about it, just say the lines,’ everything went like clockwork.

The most bizarre thing about the movie though is why a rising celebrity like Stallone would participate in a film about soccer, still a niche sport in the United States to this day. At least his position on the field was realistic — America does produce exceptional goalies!

Perhaps Stallone just wanted to be celebrated in another hero’s journey. Maybe he cared about US World Cup qualification – the USMNT qualified for the 1990 World Cup after a 40-year absence. Theories aside, just look at Stallone’s incredible save to defeat the Nazis!