The mind is a kite

The gravitational force of paradoxes always flies the mind in different directions, it the unconquerable stick of our intentions.  #amwriting #poetry gif
via giphy

Think about a purple cow, a rainbow-striped zebra, or a dog driving a pick-up truck. Now try to jettison those images from your mind.

Mull over why you're happy and you may cease feeling so.

The process of getting stuck and unstuck originates from the same internal wiring. The unexpected unwanted variable always stings with a force of awareness. Now try this:

Here’s an interesting trick to try: let your arm dangle but continue to think about swinging it in a controlled way without actually doing it. You will notice that your arm does not dangle as freely. You really do have to let the associated mind states go, a trick many uptight people never learn, which makes them poor learners overall. If you can’t let go, an instructional process cannot take over.

Why We Slouch by Venkatesh Rao

The gravitational force of paradoxes always flies the mind in different directions, it the unconquerable stick of our intentions.


Memory is not the enemy of creativity

Great find by Alan Jacobs from the book The Craft of Thought by Mary Carruthers, where it's pointed out that medieval culture emphasized memorization as means of innovation.

The orator’s “art of memory” was not an art of recitation and reiteration but an art of invention, an art that made it possible for a person to act competently within the “arena” of debate (a favorite commonplace), to respond to interruptions and questions, or to dilate upon the ideas that momentarily occurred to him, without becoming hopelessly distracted, or losing his place in the scheme of his basic speech. That was the elementary good of having an “artificial memory.” …

I repeat: the goal of rhetorical mnemotechnical craft was not to give students a prodigious memory for all the information they might be asked to repeat in an examination, but to give an orator the means and wherewithal to invent his material, both beforehand and — crucially — on the spot. Memoria is most usefully thought of as a compositional art. The arts of memory are among the arts of thinking, especially involved with fostering the qualities we now revere as “imagination” and “creativity.”

Perhaps rote memoritization isn't so bad as it seems, assuming its foundation leads on to creative forms of thinking.

Stimulate the imagination

Presence is about more than chasing mindfulness. It's also about pulling intelligence from the heart.

It is possible to know something before asking how you know it. You don't analyze a morning breeze; it feels like an extension of the imagination.

Think less, not more, to unlock the unconscious and get out of your own head. Maintain your curiosity about everyday things to help you escape the routine. Noticing stimulates itself.

Thin Slices of Anxiety

From the book Thin Slices of Anxiety

The troubled mind can turn doubters into doers. Anxiety is a tool for action, prompting us to do something about our nagging worries. The longer we wait to tackle anxiety, the more uneasy we get.

Anxiety creates a fear that doesn't exist. Yet we can be assured that there will always be some sort of change.

Read more on Anxiety



The page rattles with emptiness,
The mind fumbles in thought,
Starting paralyzes the hands,

Is this what they want, you ask,
Or is this what I want, you ask,

Good taste inspires,
Creativity perspires,
Practice breeds confidence
Shipping calms the lizard brain,

Passion begets patience,
To be known now or known later,
Beware: Fame disrupts,
Art ebbs and flows with the craft.

The courage to tweet

  • something provocative without the need to offend
  • something digestible that others can relate to
  • something that everyone else is thinking about but not bold or articulate enough to say

You don't need permission to tweet. You just need the courage to say what's on your mind in the most succinct way possible. The simple truths and observations are the most likely to be retweeted. So tweet something you too would endorse.

Sharing is caring.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Take the same path to the office every day? Do the same exercises and work the same muscles? Write on the same topic?

I personally have a tendency to do all these things, mostly because I don't have to think twice. But habit is such a rut-creating experience that atrophies curiosity and strength over time.

To allay boredom, I've been taking a new route to work each day this week. A change of scenery has made the work path more exciting. I've also stopped doing daily pushups because I injured my shoulder. Self-inflicted wounds are telltale signs to stop doing what you're doing. Instead, I do more sprints with my dog. And I've been publishing less on Tumblr, saving those pieces for an end of week recap.

Boredom is the enemy. Sameness destroys creativity. Newness stimulates the brain. The next thing I need to renew is my daily meditation. Even that's become a desultory routine.

Blogging types

There are three types of blogging:

  • Fast – Twitter
  • Medium – Tumblr/Medium
  • Slow – WordPress

Twitter is a micro-blog because you write in a succinct 140 characters or less to get your message across. Naturally, Twitter is for breaking news and conversation.

Tumblr is a bit slower then Twitter. The feed is lighter and the posts are lengthier, capable of mixing all media types: Images, videos, GIFs. Tumblr is a social network on top of a blog, but it's more about showing inspiration rather than snarky conversation.

WordPress is a more traditional form of blogging. It allows for stories and thicker analysis. The platform is customizable but the content feels more rigid, like a news site.

As a blogger, I prefer to first write for the medium paced thinkers. Tumblr allows me to post a juicer piece like this without rambling on too much as well as a quote or photo to express myself, kind of like a pin board.

But it really doesn't matter which format you choose. Just share what you think is interesting. Teach the world something new. Show people that you have the ability to think or synthesize other people's thoughts. Think and create out loud. Just avoid using your blog to complain.

Here's some more advice on blogging if you're interested.

Breaks in the Assembly Line

All it takes is one person or one thing to go wrong to mess up the flow of an assembly line.

The rest of the team has to call an audible and think and move fast on their feet while customers will keep piling in and ordering to the makers shuffle.

Chaos is a good test of composure. It’s too easy to take frustration out on other employees or even the customers in line. The only option is this: Keep the patience, be kind, and suck it up until the team can catch up again.

Mistakes are lessons in disguise. Now everyone should be better prepared to manage, if not thwart, the next disaster.

Opportunities and problems go together. But it's your perspective that determines how you see the good or bad of this dialectic.

It's of course much easier to be a pessimist. Bad thoughts are typically stickier than the good ones. Optimism is harder to produce. But when you look at your challenges with a pragmatic lens you realize there's hope. There will inevitably be some wins along the way even if they're incremental.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” – Willliam James

The mind quickly identifies fake and forced positive thoughts. But it also catches you from falling into a morass of negativity. Your actions ultimately define how well you balance your thoughts.

Where Ideas Come From

  • Other people: We steal like artists and then we recreate giving attribution to the source.
  • A note: We write down what we want to remember right now, not tomorrow.
  • Disconnecting: Ideas emerge when our brains step away from our work and just relax. That’s why we get great ideas in the shower, when we listen to music or meditate, and while we exercise and drive to work. We need to turn off the brain to reactive it.
  • Research: First we collect, then we deduce and decide. The start of any major project is always the scariest because of surfeit resources, different opinions, and multiple possibilities. But mere action simplifies complexity, and the end becomes clear. As Nelson Mandela once said, “it always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Ideas come from everywhere, everything, and every little experience. Ideas are the food for our senses. But ideas are always elastic, meant to be retested, rejiggered, and improved. Life is an idea, for instance, as is the notion of democracy, and they too ultimately fail and restrengthen.

On the Inside Looking Out

People strive for certainty. Even when they don't know, they form a picture in their head of what it may be. The imagination may be quick to eradicate ignorance but bias remains extant.

Truth gets certified with perceived knowledge. Everything you know today is based on subjective experience combined with what others tell you to be true. Rumors spread so quickly that even their sheer possibility becomes absolute fact.

Seeing the world through your phone is like driving through a dark tunnel, an experience containing half of reality. What the brain can't hear, see, smell, touch or taste, the screen fills in with an image that creates a vicarious experience. The mind is a series of pictures, a movie in the making.

The Powerlessness of Positive Thinking

I asked Kappes why fantasies hamper progress, and she told me that they dull the will to succeed: “Imagining a positive outcome conveys the sense that you’re approaching your goals, which takes the edge off the need to achieve.” Oettingen and Kappes asked two groups of undergraduates to imagine the coming week. One group fantasized that the week would go as well as possible, whereas the other group conjured a more neutral version of the week. One week later, when the students returned to the lab, the positive fantasizers felt that they had accomplished less over the previous week.

Expect nothing. Prepare for everything. Maybe pragmatism and mediocrity are the pursuit of happiness.