A ‘2-hour rule’ based on the habit that led Einstein, Darwin, and Nietzsche to brilliance

Albert Einstein was 16 years old when he first flirted with the idea of special relativity.

He was a daydreamer. The pioneering theory that lead him to establish the foundation of modern physics was actually envisioned in one of his many famous thought experiments.

He wondered, specifically, what would happen if he were to ride a moving light wave at a constant speed, say, like a surfer.

Given that they would be traveling at the same speed in such an instance, he went on to predict that the light wave would appear frozen to him.

He didn’t know it then, but that simple thought would lead to the downfall of some of the most impressive work done in physics over the past few centuries. It changed everything.

The funny thing is that stories of such brilliant insights spurring out of deep thought aren’t unique. Throughout history, luminaries ranging from Charles Darwin to Friedrich Nietzsche have attributed much of their genius to the many hours they spent lost in their mind.

Darwin had a “thinking path” that he would walk down to ruminate, and Nietzsche is said to have strolled around in nature for hours and hours on end to make sense of his ideas.

Behaviors that have been chastised today as being unproductive by a culture that mostly fetishizes measurable outputs like hours worked and reports produced seem to actually be some of the most productive. It begs an interesting question.

Is it just a coincidence? If not, what gives?

The leverage of reflective thinking
Fiona Kerr is a scientific communicator and a member of the faculty at the University of Adelaide, and she gives us insight into how and why this kind of reflective thinking works.

“Daydreaming (as with reflection) allows the mind to wander,” she explains. “The outcome is consistently more productive when dealing with complex problems or coming up with creative solutions and ideas.”

She isn’t alone in her interpretation of the research. For example, in the field of education, there has been a lot of work done on the idea of reflective thinking since the 1980s, and it’s something that is now seen as a critical component of being an effective teacher.

At their core, a healthy amount of daydreaming and reflection enable memory consolidation, and they allow non-linear connections to form, which both help our ability to break down and target issues and look at them through a new lens.

The daily mind-wandering that occurs here and there for most of us helps with this, but a deeper and more purposeful effort can yield a disproportionately greater reward.

Introducing the 2-hour rule
Once a week, usually on Thursdays, I block out a 2-hour period of my day just to think.

In the evening, I remove all possible distractions, especially electronics like my phone and my laptop, and I basically lock myself in a room to question my work and my lifestyle with a pen and a notebook.

2 hours is a long time, and some of it will feel unproductive and not all of it will be structured, but I have a few general things that I almost always start off with to set me in motion.

Here are a few questions I reflect on:

  • Am I excited to be doing what I’m doing or am I in aimless motion?
  • Are the trade-offs between work and my relationships well-balanced?
  • How can I speed up the process from where I am to where I want to go?
  • What big opportunities am I not pursuing that I potentially could?
  • What’s a small thing that will produce a disproportionate impact?
  • What could probably go wrong in the next 6 months of my life?

I can quite honestly say that this is the highest return activity in my life. It forces me to balance the short-term with the long-term. I catch problem before they become problems, and I’ve stumbled onto efficiencies and ideas that I wouldn’t have come across otherwise.

Interestingly enough, much of the value doesn’t come out of the routine questions, but from the time I have left after I run out of things to think about. It’s when I let my mind wander.

I’m not one for easy one-size-fits-all solutions, but this is an idea that I think can serve a lot of people well. We all think, of course, but not all of us do so deliberately and without distractions and guilt.

There is immense value in leaving time for that.

The takeaway
Einstein wouldn’t be Einstein without his thought experiments, just like Darwin and Nietzsche would both likely have struggled with their creativity and productivity if not for their walks.

Although that in itself is a small sample size and doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a magic bullet, the research also seems to support the benefits of reflective thinking and the odd daydream.

2 hours may seem like a long time to just think, and maybe something shorter works better for you, but leaving aside at least an hour or so is a worthy investment. It lets your mind play, and if you ask good questions, it’ll sharpen it, too. That tends to compound over time.

It can be easy to neglect something as simple and straightforward as the idea of just taking time to think as wasteful. After all, most of us are lost in our own thoughts more often than not, but there is a massive difference between a random 10 minutes of distraction and a dedicated block of rumination.

And let’s be honest, no matter how busy we think we are, most of us easily waste that on trivial things that add nothing to our lives. If the average person can spend 2 hours a day on social media, a few hours a week to organize your life isn’t a big ask. It’s a small price to pay for a consistent reward.

Who knows? You may even find it to be life-changing.

This article and any associated images were originally published here:
http://www.businessinsider.com/i-created-a-2-hour-rule-based-einsteins-habits-2017-8/?IR=T

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Book recommendations: 33 books to read before you’re 30

Things to do before 30: read these 33 books

Your 20s are a time for figuring out who you are and what you want from life.

While the only way to learn is to survive the inevitable cycle of successes and failures, it is always useful to have some guidance along the way.

To help you out, we’ve selected some of our favorite books that likely never made your high-school or college reading lists.

It’s an eclectic selection that focuses on topics like understanding your identity, shaping your worldview, and laying the foundation for a fulfilling career.

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/33-books-everyone-should-read-before-turning-30-a6746496.html?cmpid=facebook-post

Donald Trump will cause US power to collapse, says man who correctly predicted fall of USSR

Election of Republican ‘speeds up decline’ of America, claims Nobel Prize-nominated professor

A sociologist credited with predicting the fall of the Soviet Union has warned that US global power is in a phase of accelerated decline under the leadership of Donald Trump — and will collapse while the property mogul is the White House.

Norwegian professor Johan Galtung is known as the “founding father” of peace studies as a scientific subject and is recognised for correctly predicting numerous historical events, among them the Tiananmen Square uprising in China and the September 11 attacks.

He attracted controversy in 2000 when he predicted US global power would collapse by 2025.

But under the Bush administration he revised his forecast for the collapse to 2020. Now, he says that reality that is materialising following election of the bombastic billionaire.

Mr Trump’s election on an anti-immigrant platform coincides with one of the final phases of the decline predicted in the social scientist’s 2009 book The Fall of the American Empire—and then What? where he forecast the rise of facism before the country’s power receded.

The President-elect has vowed to deport three million illegal immigrants as soon as he enters office and build a wall along the American border with Mexico.

He told Motherboard the election of Mr Trump “speeds up the decline”, although he qualified the statement, saying: “Of course, what he does as a President remains to be seen.”

Dr Galtung added that the President-elect’s critical attitude to Nato also indicated the US would cease to be a superpower.

The Republican has previously indicated the US might not come to the aid of those in the alliance if they failed to meet the designated defence spending.

“The collapse has two faces,” Dr Galtung told the tech news site, “Other countries refuse to be good allies and the USA has to do the killing themselves, by bombing from high altitudes, drones steered by computer from an office, special forces killing all over the place.

“Both are happening today, except for Northern Europe, which supports these wars, for now. That will probably not continue beyond 2020, so I stand by that deadline.”

Yet Xenia Wickett, head of the US and Americas programme at think-tank Chatham House told The Independent it was “totally unrealistic” to believe the US would stop being a global power by 2020.

“The US is a global power for many reasons. It has the strongest military in the world, it has the most robust soft power in terms of its universities, […] in terms of its companies and in terms of the reach of its media. It also remains the biggest economy in the world. The idea that any of these things are going to change in the next four years is unrealistic.”

This article and any associated images were originally published here:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-us-power-to-collapse-predicted-ussr-fall-johan-galtung-a7460516.html?cmpid=facebook-post

1,250 Free Online Courses from Top Universities

Get 1,250 free online courses from the world’s leading universities — Stanford, Yale, MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, Oxford and more. You can download these audio & video courses (often from iTunes, YouTube, or university web sites) straight to your computer or mp3 player. Over 40,000 hours of free audio & video lectures, await you now.

http://www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourses

Is it ethical to keep pets?

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I class myself as an animal lover.  I would love to have a pet dog one day, but not until I have enough free time to take care of it properly.  I’m not a fan of leaving dogs cooped up at home all day.

In the mean time, I have a pet hamster and two budgies.  I have had many hamsters in the past and I think they are adorable pets.  I never felt much guilt over them, I feel they have had pretty good lives and have been happy.  They are living an all-inclusive-holiday rather than prison.  I’ll admit that maybe this isn’t accurate.  I don’t know if my hamster would choose to stay with me if she had the option of exploring the wide world.

My budgies, on the other hand, are the first birds I have kept.  And I’m sad to say I do feel guilty about having them cooped up in a cage most of the time.  This is definitely a prison rather than an all-inclusive-holiday.  In the wild, they would roam so far and wide.  I’m sure they would choose the wide world over me.

Then I found myself in a pickle… I can’t release them as they probably wouldn’t survive for long in the wild.  They don’t know what they can eat or where to nest or how to avoid cats… and they would probably die of the cold.  It wouldn’t be fair to set them free.  That’s like setting humans free on a paradise island and saying ‘go, be free!’ but the reality is there’s a lot of hassle when it comes to finding food and shelter.  (I know this from watching ‘Lost’)

So I have decided that I will not get birds again in the future, but I will try to give my budgies and hamster a fulfilling life.

Cats and dogs are a different kettle of fish, but this is an interesting point to ponder, further explained in this article by the Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/aug/01/should-we-stop-keeping-pets-why-more-and-more-ethicists-say-yes?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=237572&subid=10292850&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

 

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I already have the book ‘Some we love, some we hate, some we eat: Why it’s so hard to think about animals’ by Hal Herzog who explores how humans treat different animals in such different ways.  I am yet to read it (it’s on the pile) but I think it is an interesting question.  Why do we love cats and dogs but hate rats and eat chickens and pigs?  Why do we not treat them all the same?

I think it’s so easy to forget that humans are animals too, but we barely see ourselves as all of the other animals around us.  And we forget that we control the lives of animals in ways that we would never treat our fellow human beings.

For now, I still think pets are awesome, as long as it’s a mutually beneficial relationship on some level and both parties are (relatively) happy.

 

Sociopath-Psychopath Awareness

Did you know that an estimated 4% of the population have no conscience?  That means 1 in 25 people have no feelings of guilt or remorse, that thing that often keeps your behaviour in check.  They also feel no love or empathy for others.

Apparently sociopaths (for me ‘sociopath’ and ‘psychopath’ are interchangeable terms) are masters of understanding and mimicking human emotions.  So if a sociopath plays their cards right, you’ll never know that something is amiss.

Many psychopaths have a superficial charm and are good with words, things that make them seem very attractive.  They also don’t feel fear, making them appear to be very calm even under very stressful situations.  Every once in a while, you might notice a little discrepancy in their expression of emotions.  Something just doesn’t quite feel right.  They also can be deceitful, impulsive, parasitic and pathological liars.

Many people associate ‘psychopaths’ with those people who kill their mothers or are mass murderers.  But killing isn’t every psychopath’s cup of tea (and even if it is, they wouldn’t feel guilty about doing it).  Just like everyone else, psychopaths are individuals who have different wants and needs in life.  Many will just want to live a normal life and work.  Quite likely you already know some psychopaths but have no idea of what they really are.  So what’s the problem if some people have fewer emotions than others if they’re not likely to try and kill you anytime soon?

There are many other potential issues bar imminent death, including financial issues, emotional issues and being taken advantage of.  The problem is that many sociopaths will have no problem with manipulating others for their own benefit.  Most people would feel guilty for using or manipulating someone, sociopaths will not.  Manipulation can be subtle, you probably won’t even realise when it’s happening.

And it will especially become a problem in your life if you inadvertently end up in a relationship with someone who suffers no remorse or guilt.  Like that poor frog being boiled in a pan, you won’t know what’s happened to you until it’s far too late.  This kind of relationship is a form of emotional abuse and it will follow a pattern: love bombing, idealisation, devaluation and discarding.  They’ll make you fall in love with all that charm and all the right words, love will be blind so nothing else in the world will matter, and then you’ll end up in a really weird alternate universe where the person you love obviously really loves you, except for all the lying and cheating… and you’ll find yourself wondering why you don’t just leave… but you can’t, because you’re convinced this is real love.  In the mean time, your partner is probably eyeing up his next victim to take advantage of.

Anyway, my point was, that everyone should educate themselves on psychopaths.  Unfortunately, I have been that frog in the boiling pan, and I wish so much that I had known about psychopaths before I fell in love with one.  It didn’t even occur to me that there are people who fake their emotions and don’t feel guilt or remorse.  As a normal human, you just assume that everyone has the same range of emotions as you do.  That just isn’t the case.

Whether this behaviour is ringing bells for you or not, whether you think you might know a psychopath or not, my advice is the same.  Find out more, and be prepared for the day a psychopath crosses your path.  Ideally, you should just avoid these people and keep them out of your life.  But if it’s a family member, your colleague or even your boss, avoidance might not be an option.  So the next best thing is to know the score and try to keep an upper hand through awareness.

There’s absolutely loads of information on the internet.  I also found the following books very helpful (with links):

‘The Sociopath Next Door’ by Martha Stout (very good overview)

‘202 Ways to Spot a Psychopath in Personal Relationships’ by Adelyn Birch (specific to relationships)

‘Psychopath Free’ by Jackson MacKenzie (aimed for those recovering from toxic relationships, but also very informative)

It’s also important to be aware of your personal boundaries, so you realise when someone is actually pushing your boundaries and potentially being manipulative.  I found this book particularly helpful for that:

‘Boundaries After a Pathological Relationship’ by Adelyn Birch (also beneficial to avoid such relationships)

Wishing you a psychopath-free day!

Stoicism with video links

I didn’t really know much about what stoicism is, so I thought I’d have a little look into it. It’s a philosophy that works to control negative emotions, like anger and anxiety, by changing expectations and being aware of what is and isn’t under your control.

Interestingly, it has similarities with Buddhism, such as encouraging mindfulness.

Here are some great videos that provide further explanation:

PHILOSOPHY – The Stoics (5 minutes)

Stoicism in 6 minutes (6 minutes!)

10 Themes of Stoicism (15 minutes – interesting but a bit monotone, good for background listening)