Fear is a Unique Motivator

Fear is a unique motivator. If we find some abnormality in our body we go to the doctor because we fear what it could be. We fear old age so we just continue acting like children. Or we fear failure so we avoid ever trying to succeed.

Why don’t we take care of our bodies and optimize our health before we get sick? Or why don’t we mature early so that old age isn’t a transition but merely a continuation of our youth? Perhaps we could put forth continuous effort in our endeavors so we have such a large body of work, we’re bound to succeed somewhere?

Instead, we wait until events are upon us and then react to them. Usually with poor results.

Great Ideas Are Hard to Come By

When I get a great idea for a project that would be satisfying to complete, my first reaction is often to shelve it and not start. Two things drive this:

  1. An unfulfilled idea means I still have the potential to finish it. If I start on it, I might find I lack the motivation and drive to finish it. It would become another idea in a huge slush pile of ideas that never came to fruition.
  2. If I start on it, I might find that the idea itself is flawed.

The irony of the first excuse is that if I never start a project or play with an idea, there’s a 100% certainty that it will never get done. The slush pile is already started. The goal is to eventually get one or two things out of it.

The second driver of inertia is itself a flawed idea. An idea may well be bad. But I’ll never know it if I don’t work with it and see what it’s made of. The fact is, most ideas are going to be bad. It’s in the formation of a glut of ideas that you end up with one or two that are home runs.

The lesson I have to keep teaching myself is that ideas are a dime-a-dozen. Great ideas that are unique and useful are much harder to come by. But you can’t have the great ideas until you sift through all of them, good and bad. You don’t automatically know which is which. You have to research, experiment and think. Ultimately, most will fall to the slush pile. But first, you have to make sure they belong there.

Violent Strawberries

For a while now I’ve kicked around the idea of using some old and new drawings as pages in a coloring book. There are plenty of coloring books out there with perfectly drawn mandalas and flowers. So I’ve started choosing things that are a little, different. Below is an example of one of the different drawings that I plan to use as the base to one of my pages. I’ll have to expand it a bit and add more features so there is more for someone to color in. But it’s a start. 

Have an idea for a coloring page subject that you’ve never seen in existing books? Let me know.

 

 

 

The Internet is an Unnecessary Evil

I’ve come to the conclusion that the internet is an unnecessary evil. Unnecessary because we can certainly live without it (people did at one time you know). Evil because it wastes so much of our time and encourages us to be exposed to so much data without absorbing it. Because we rarely retain the data we acquire from the internet, we’re doomed to return to it time after time as if it’s a surrogate memory.

None of this is to say the internet isn’t useful. I wouldn’t want to do without it entirely. It’s a great tool for acquiring information, being entertained, and communicating with others. But my own experience with the internet is that there’s too much information. News at all levels comes at us unfiltered and in unceasing streams.

My email inbox is stuffed with alerts, newsletters, ads and spam. I get a little thrill when I see a personal email from someone who’s writing to me and has actually met me in real life.

My browsers have 40 or 50 tabs open at all times because there’s something on them that I don’t want to forget but I don’t want to get into right then and there. And yes, I do use bookmarks but those are like charging cables for things you no longer have. You accumulate loads of them in a box because some day you may need one. Then ten years later you end up putting them out at a yard sale with a sign that says “free”. Or you just throw them away.

I’ll fully admit that this is all my fault. The internet doesn’t jump out at me, grab me by the throat and force me to search it. Although, I once had Opera open unexpectedly! Individuals have to be adults about their internet use. We have to exercise self-control and discipline with our behavior.

The tools we use to search have become so commoditized, so focused on selling and so determined to grab our attention. It’s hard to concentrate on a single search thread without unwittingly being drawn aside.

And then there are the sites themselves. There are too many information channels all vying for our attention. Between Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and blogs, I’m constantly checking the state of this or that. Almost every time I look at a browser I’m invited down rabbit trails to some previously unneeded site.

I don’t know what the solution is. Maybe I just need to try harder to control my actions. I should certainly look at the tools I’m using. I used to think tabs were great but now am considering turning off tabbed browsing.

I need to purge my email address from as many lists as possible. And I wish there was a way to put in a search term and only get one million results instead of twenty million. I mean, there’s only so much I can sort through. But seriously, I would love to only get five results and have them be exactly what I need. If my field of view is narrowed, perhaps I’ll wander less.

 

How to Reach the Top of Your Game

World Champion Chess Player Reveals Performance Secrets

I recently sat down with world champion chess player Sergei Lobatomov as he explained his five secrets for reaching the top of his game. Although he comes from the world of chess, Sergei’s insights can be applied to any endeavor.

Here is Sergei in his own words:

Set your goals appropriately

The top of your game is a subjective term. If you set your “top” to be 10 year olds who don’t play chess, you’ll reach your goals faster.

Fake it ‘till you make it

Identify the worst players near you and beat them over and over again. This will make you feel much better about yourself. You’ll feel like you’re at the top of your game even if you’re not.

Use leverage

Pay off opponents who are better than you. You could waste time by practicing but these days, who has the time? A few extra numbers in someone’s account makes for a stress free match. Pro tip: Use a low interest credit card to take out a personal cash advance. Don’t worry. Look at it as an investment in your future.

Always be improving

Learn what the queen can do. After 17 years of playing chess I finally asked someone and it has revolutionized the game for me. I was like, really? Any direction?

Think ahead

Learn to think several steps ahead of your opponent. For example, when I think my opponent is catching on that I’m cheating by moving his pawns when he’s not looking, I anticipate his anger and subsequent reaction of punching me in the face. This allows me to excuse myself to go to the bathroom where I slip out of the window and order an Uber.

Stay in shape

Even mental athletes need physical exercise. I went to the gym last month and won a game yesterday. Aside from my expert level skill in chess, I attribute the win to my superior physique. I’m not entirely sure why though.

Manage your time

Try playing speed chess. Speed chess is a unique version of the game where players have to make their move in a certain amount of time. Playing with a time limit gives you a built-in excuse for losing. You never want to admit you opponent is a better player than you. Doing so dilutes people’s perception of you being the best.

It’s better to blame it on the stress of an arbitrary time limit. Explain that your mind works best unfettered by such constraints. And if it weren’t for that constant ticking, you would have run away with the match.

Onlookers will be impressed by your insightful self-analysis. They will assume that everything you said is true (chess players are all brilliant) and will eagerly await a rematch where you can prove your true abilities. Of course you should never show up for rematches because the potential for humiliation is too high.

In conclusion

Before I end I want to leave you with this final question. Why do you want to play chess anyway? You have so much to live for. But who am I to judge? You do what you want. Just remember you must be motivated to achieve great heights in the game of chess.

Your motivation should come from a deep seated desire to be a top competitor. That, or the need to pay back your bookie with tournament winnings so he doesn’t break your legs.

The Effects of Music on Plants

As I was reading through Tristan Gooley’s book How to Read Nature, I came across a section where he condemns the notion that plants can hear music and react to it.

I hate to be the one to bang a loud cymbal and smash these notions, but there is no scientific evidence of plants reacting to music or noise of any kind. None. They are deaf. If that saddens you, then feel free to let your emotions go; the sound of your weeping will not slow the growth of the forest.

So where does the notion that plants respond to certain music come from? Why is it that some studies indicate there is a connection between plants and music. And why is there so much anecdotal evidence that it’s true?

Perhaps the sounds of certain music puts us in a better mood. Our improved mood makes it more likely that we open the shades to let in more light. Maybe a musically enhanced attitude prompts us to care for our plants more so we feed and water them promptly and regularly. Or maybe we just notice the growth of our plants more when we’re in a good mood.

However, I won’t entirely discount the effects of music on plants. Plants might not be able to hear like we do. But even deaf people can sometimes “hear” music through the vibrations it makes in things around it.  Why couldn’t plants feel the vibrations of music and be stimulated to growth in a way they otherwise wouldn’t? Studies have shown that even extremely low vibrations of a certain frequency for a certain period of time can stimulate bone growth in humans. Shouldn’t we expect the same type of thing with other organisms?

I don’t know if plants respond to music. I’ll never hold it against someone for playing it to them though. Too often we allow the great and mighty entity known as science to dictate what we do or don’t do. And while science sometimes helps us understand the physical world, it doesn’t hold all the answers. So crank up the Mozart and watch your plants grow.  

 

How to Overcome Creative Block

Creative block happens to everyone whether you’re a writer, programmer, salesman or builder. I’ve found the best way to overcome creative block is to do something else creative that’s totally different than the thing you were originally trying to do.

For example, if you’re stuck trying to write a chapter for a book, leave it and go sketch a landscape. On the other hand, if you can’t think of anything to draw or paint, go play the guitar, write a nonsense poem or try your hand at flower photography.

When you have creative block the problem is usually that you’re thinking too hard. You’ve allowed the “rules” of your art to put up a barrier to the creative freedom that you need to be able to come up with new ideas or develop existing ones. The exercises above give your brain permission to play and not be inhibited by the arbitrary rules it has placed on your original task.

When you go do your alternative artistic task, tell yourself that there are no rules. It doesn’t have to be good, presentable or even sensible. It just has to be you creating something new.

I find my original task is much easier to get started on after doing something different for a while. It’s amazing how quickly your mind can be convinced to abandon rules and embrace creative freedom. 

A few days ago I couldn’t get very far past just staring at the wall. I decided to get out my sketch book and draw something. Instead of starting with an idea of what I wanted to draw, I closed my eyes and just drew a squiggly line on the page. Then I started using the random shapes I’d created to sketch out whatever came to mind. I just kept adding to it until I decided to end it. Doing this opened me up to making other drawings and to doing some writing that I had been putting off.

Random Sketch

So next time you find yourself stuck for ideas or otherwise unable to do the task at hand, remember to pivot over to another task that you’re not so intent on. Loosen up your brain and you’ll be able to tackle any project.

 

Morning Walk Photos

Here are a few photos from this morning’s walk. It seems like there’s something new every time I look around. It’s amazing how much things change from day to day, month to month and year to year.

Sometimes the changes are slow so we acclimate to them and don’t really notice them. But if we take the time to slow down and be intentional about observing the world around us, amazing things become apparent.

These weedy bushes were overtaking a small corner of a field that’s being developed. I think I’ll visit these again and get some better pictures before they are inevitably removed by the construction crew.

 

Someone else must have been out for an early walk when this sidewalk was put down.

 

At first, this one didn’t make sense to me. Then I realized how much the apartment complex this dumpster serves will save never having to empty it. Brilliant!