No Booze, Phones or Permission… #NoNothingNovember Here We Go

You may have seen that Kid Strangelove in conjunction with /r/TheRedPill are running #NoNothingNovember.  This is post-modern Lent, where we become ascetics with the things that are bringing us down and making us weak, in the hope that we will become strong.

I’m quitting alcohol (pretty boring), my smartphone (sort of interesting), and asking for permission (I have no idea where this will lead).

No Alcohol:  I’m starting this from the 3rd of November rather than the 1st.  I’ve a party to attend.  It may not the be the whole of November, but hey.  I’m no masochist.

Alcohol and I have a funny relationship.  I get terrible hangovers, which has mostly prevented me from drinking more than 6 beers at a time for years.  This is a good thing.

I don’t mind a beer to relax.  But when beer happen everyday, and starts to wear away the sharp edge of my awareness in the evenings… then there is a problem.

I’m the sort of guy who can keep to a goal like this once I’ve started.  ( I wasn’t always like this… but that’s for another time.)  It’s not the first time I’ve quit drinks for an extended period.  So I’m taking this opportunity to put booze back into the barrel for a month.

No Smartphone:  This is one I’ve been thinking of for a while, and wondering how I would go about it.  Well, I’m going cold turkey.

Why you ask?  My iPhone is ruining my head.

I’m an info junkie.  When I get interested in something I read everything I can on the subject until I get smashing headaches.  My phone is my research vehicle, and I will read blog after blog after blog until my brain literally feels full.  This happens every couple of weeks.

In between those times, my phone is my distraction machine.  If at any time I am slightly bored, the phone will come out.  Even if there is nothing for me to read, I will search around on the web until I find something, anything.  You know and I know, there is a ridiculous, tottering refuse pile of shit on the net.  I usually cannot remember what I’ve just read the moment I close Safari.  And I don’t even use Facebook, Reddit, or any other forum style time-wasters.

Not only does my brain literally hurt, but my eyes are paying the price.

I have always had excellent vision, both long range and short.  Due to iPhone use my eyes feel incredibly tight.  It feels like I look, but I don’t see.  I sweep my gaze around a view, but I don’t take anything in. I’m sure this is due to the tiny eye movements one does when reading the small screens of phones over several years.  I don’t know how common this is, so I’m interested to see if anyone else out there has the same problem.

So what are the rules?  The only things I can use on my phone are text messaging, phone calls, Apple/Google Maps and photos.

No Permission:  I read this article about audacity over at Danger and Play and it’s been bugging me ever since.  Whenever I’ve been audacious in life it’s paid off.  Usually it’s been a function of anger and frustration, where I finally say what I’ve been bottling up, and the results are usually excellent.

Audaciousness is a function of permission.  When I ask for no-one’s permisson but my own, I become a white hot pillar of unstoppable flame.  Metaphorically of course, cos otherwise I’d be dead, stupid.

I really don’t know how this one will turn out.  Character change is a very long term project (i.e. 5-10 years minimum), and this particular aspect is bound to cause significant anxiety over a period of a month.  There are important relationships in my life (my wife, my work colleagues) that this will greatly affect.  Nevertheless, paying attention in this way will show me how much permission I’m asking for in my life, and how much it will pay off by refusing to ask for it.

I have no measuring stick for this one.  I will simply be paying attention to when this behaviour crops up, and monitoring my anxiety levels when I go against my regular character-based actions.

 

Thanks again to Kid Strangelove for instigating this little bit of awesome in my life, and also TheRedPill Reddit group for supporting it.  Nice one guys!

Are You Intelligent? Or Just Smart?

I got called “smart” a lot at school.  It was not usually meant as a compliment, nor as an insult.  It was just the way it was.

My father often commented on how much smarter I was at my age than he was.  I liked it when he said that.  Unfortunately it really didn’t mean as much as what you might think.

Being smart is not hard.  Being smart means two things: having a decent memory, and being able to manipulate symbols in a culturally useful way.  Both of these things are relatively easy to practice.

To improve memory one must practice remembering things: facts, trivia, poems, songs, or, as in my childhood experience, bible verses.  To manipulate symbols effectively, one must read, write and speak often enough with appropriate feedback to ingrain the symbols.

Most children without learning difficulties or brain damage are smart.  My boys can rattle off more dinosaur names than David Attenborough.  They can memorise song lyrics after one or two listens.  My five year old can write his name with ease.  They are classically smart for their age, and their grandmother (to my disdain) reminds them to the point of ridiculousness.

 

But would you call them intelligent?

 

I have spent a lot of time trying to define what I mean by intelligence.  The current dictionary definitions do not capture the specificity of it.  They tend to list popular meanings instead.

The Random House definition:

1. capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity; aptitude in grasping truths,relationships, facts, meanings, etc. 2. manifestation of a high mental capacity 3.the faculty of understanding.

The Merriam-Webster definition:

(1) : the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations :reasonalso : the skilled use of reason(2) : the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (as tests)

The closest they come to my definition is “aptitude in grasping relationships”.

My definition:

The ability to correlate at least two previously unconnected points.

 

 

 

Timothy Leary described the growth of a child’s symbol manipulation skills as laryngeal-manual development, referring to the use of the voice and the hands as the primary conductors of symbolism.  Many people use the word intelligence to describe how well a person uses these muscles.

How well a person communicates will certainly limit the quality of the information being transmitted.   However, it’s fairly rare that an adult human encounters a situation where he requires intelligence.

Memory and rote learning are usually enough to get us through the day.  Most workplaces these days are the homes of automatons, with systems inserted to prevent thinking.  Schools reward high levels of smartness, but don’t often seem to know how to improve intelligence.

True intelligence on the other hand describes the ability to take two ideas or actions, and put them together in a way previously unknown to you.  It is an act of creation, and is usually accompanied by a small “aha!” moment.

 

…..

What are some examples of intelligent action?

 

When playing football, you keep putting the ball over the crossbar when taking shots on goal.  You find that your successful shots depend on you placing your left foot next to the ball, and keeping your right foot toe down.  These two bodily movements have now been correlated with successful goal-shooting.  This can be committed to memory to consistently improve your shot.

 

iniesta intelligence
Andres Iniesta: Geekiest football legend ever

 

Einstein drew new correlations between mass and energy, space and time.  He literally imagined himself on a train approaching the speed of light.  This metaphor brought so many previously unconnected points of data together that it changed the future for all of us.

 

intelligent physics
I got so excited!… until I saw Technically Viable

 

C.L. Sholes found a relationship between the arrangement of letters and typing speed on mechanical typewriters, thus creating the QWERTY typewriter.

 

intelligence

Then Shai Coleman decided that QWERTY didn’t make any sense in the modern era, as there were no more mechanical typewriter arms to get mangled.  He created Colemak and made typing

  • Ergonomic and comfortable – Your fingers on QWERTY move 2.2x more than on Colemak. QWERTY has 16x more same hand row jumping than Colemak. There are 35x more words you can type using only the home row on Colemak.
  • Easy to learn – Allows easy transition from QWERTY. Only 2 keys move between hands.
  • Fast – Most of the typing is done on the strongest and fastest fingers. Low same-finger ratio.

He recognised the redundancy of QWERTY and created a new interface to reflect that realisation.

…..

 

Intelligence is a skill.  Like all skills, we can improve our intelligence through improving the quality and increasing the quantity of the experiences we have.

These experiences create patterns from which future choices can be made, known as engrams.

 

Wikipedia definition of engram:

Engrams are a hypothetical means by which memory traces are stored as biophysical or biochemical changes in the brain (and other neural tissue) in response to external stimuli.

In other words, engrams are patterns that have been wired into your biology through consistent use.
Why are old men often so creative when it comes to problem solving?  They have a huge number of engrams to draw upon to derive solutions.  Although a hypothetical idea, I find engrams a useful metaphor for increasing intelligence.

Rock climbing has a number of different styles, one of which is crack climbing, as above.  You may notice she has her hands in a crack. Now, let’s say she has climbed several routes like the one above.  Perhaps this one:

 

 

and this one:

 

off-width crack

 

You can see that all the routes are different, but they all have similarities too; they are all on rock, they all have cracks to climb, they are mostly vertical.  Our climber has built up a decent skill set on cracks; a set of engrams she can call upon whenever she encounters cracks.  The more engrams she has to call upon, the more likely her chance of success on any given crack climb. Our climber then encounters this (horrors!):

 

 

Although she has never done a crack route like this before, her experience and engrams will allow her to make intelligent choices and correlations between her past and present climbs.  This increases her chances of success many times.

So too with intelligence.  The more problems you can solve, the more experience you will gain, and the more engrams you will develop.  All this experience will give you a wider range of options when it comes to your solution. At heart it’s the need for a successful result that drives intelligence.

To improve intelligence you must search out problems that need solutions and goals that need achieving, then find the points to correlate for a solution. Over time you will notice increased correlations and realisations.

Only then will you find an appropriately awesome ending for this post.

 

References:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/intelligence

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/intelligence

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engram_(neuropsychology)

Bored Men Make Me Puke In My Mouth

I was in the work truck today and my two companions were discussing how their wives/gfs were away at the time.

To my horror, they both said how bored they were.

WHAT IN THE FUCK.

 

bored man

 

As I quietly retched in my mouth, my internal doorway of friendship came crashing down, crushing several small cute and furry mammals in a mess of intestinal pulp.

I actually felt physically ill after their admissions. These men had degraded themselves to the point that they needed another human to make their lives worthwhile. I could barely be in the truck with them.

What happens to a boy to make him decide that his life is only interesting when his woman is around? Why have they no interests in their pitiful lives that they can enjoy without Les Woman?

I am so proud of my individuality (in the original sense of the term) and independence that to see another “man” (or more accurately “human with a penis” – they are men in only a purely technical sense) dismiss those things makes me weep flaming balls of pissed-off acid.

Yet again I had to reject humans whom I thought were reasonable beings worthy of my friendly company. It is not worth spending energy on friendships that will end with the realisation that they are merely shells of people.

 

Somewhere along the line these men had their development retarded, and decided to believe in the Almighty Lie: that there is a a soulmate out there, somewhere, floating in the mist.  Once found, these men would then be complete, whole, free to travel the world in a cornucopia of polka-dotted delight and companionship.  As a result they felt they could give away their insides, their desires, wants and ambitions, and trade them for company.

I, a man of substance and intelligence, am sick to loathing of these exoskeletons whose thoughts resemble inconsequential soap bubbles.

These men need to build The Rock.

Without a rock inside a man sinks into the quicksand of boredom and apathy. That rock is the sense of self that cannot be vilified by others. It cannot be destroyed until death. That rock is the monument to oneself. It keeps a man strong, chained to his principles and yet buoyed by them. It is like a man’s shadow in bright sun, sharply defined and following him everywhere, keeping him rooted to the ground instead of floating with every whim that captures his imagination.

This rock must be grown and constructed.  A man must spend his life building such a rock, carving his likeness into the granite of his genetic inheritance.  His rock reflect his desire to become what hewants.  His tools are persistence and imagination.

It is an ongoing task.  But it doesn’t take long for the stone to grow from a pebble to a boulder, where it can anchor a man, strong in the knowledge that he needs no other man or woman.

And this is where boredom becomes nullified.

Build your rock.

Being Alone: Why Country Music Singers Have It All Wrong

This post was going to be called 10 Things a Man Should Do Alone.  But seriously, if you’re not already working out, educating yourself, writing to get your thoughts in order, and working on some skill or hobby, then get out and start before your vagina goes all Ouroboros on yoself.

 

You know, Ouroboros
You know, Ouroboros

 

Instead I’m going to discuss being alone, and share with you the things I’m not sure many men do.  To me, however, these are the things that propelled me quickly (relatively speaking) from being a socially-retarded loser to fully-functioning self-actualising human.

 

Be Alone.  But Don’t Be A Fucking Psychopath

Being alone is the fucking coolest thing on earth, and is highly under-rated by the majority of the population.  Assuming you are not alone because of socialisation problems like some psychopathic school kid, it is where you recharge, take stock, and get to know where you’re succeeding and failing.

Alone time is especially important to me, cos I have kids.  And holy shitballs, do they suck the time away.  It’s tough enough getting laid with my wife, let alone getting time by myself.  If you’ve got kids, you need to take the time to take time out.

There’s a bunch of things a man should do alone.  Any of these can be done with others, but being alone removes the Need To Socialise.  Socialising means communicating, competing, and seeking attention.  It’s tough to understand how much of this you do without being alone for extended periods of time.

There are a bunch of socialisation patterns you use with everyone you know, and without being alone you will never know of your choices: using those patterns, changing to other patterns, or burning them with the other useless paraphernalia of your life.

Being alone is also the only time you’ll hear yourself.  A lot of this has to do with socialisation patterns.  It takes a significant amount of time (thirty minutes to an hour) of conscious awareness of being alone before socialisation breaks down and the inner you starts to be heard.

 

Silence In A World Of Noise, Aka Smartphones Make You Miserable In A Happy Way

Today’s world is one of noise.  Almost everyone I meet wants to fill it with more.  People love the sound of their own voices, regardless of whether they add value, or create filth.

But it’s not just the audible noise that I want to discuss.  Every bit of data that you see, hear, taste, touch and smell takes attention.  Think of attention as a fuel tank.  There is only so much you have per day, per week, per year.

With our cache of attention we can absorb noise, or we can absorb signal.  The noise is rubbish, redundancy, rehashes.  The signal is novelty, newness, interest. Noise is obviously trash, and we want as little as possible.  It’s like using fuel to run your car on a rolling pad.  It takes you nowhere.  Signal on the other hand can often take us from A to B.  It can educate and inspire.  But not always.

The problem with signal, and it is a huge problem in today’s world, is that it is addictive.  In previous eras the information problem was a huge ratio of noise to signal.  Now that we have all of humanity’s data available to us, the problem is reversed.  We now see an immense section of society addicted to novelty.

Almost everyone I know under the age of 40 cannot leave their phones alone.  Every minute of spare time, literally as soon as there is nothing to do, the phones come out.  I have not been immune to this.  It became an awful habit.

And the worst part?

I often didn’t need to check anything.   Phones and the internet are great for getting directions, finding tradesmen, making appointments, and googling important and timely data.  But 90% of the time I needed none of those things.  All I wanted was a distraction.

In actuality, what I needed was a hit.

You’ve probably heard about dopamine before, and its effects on the brain. It’s often touted as a “reward chemical” or part of the brain’s “reward center,” but more recent research has shown that, like novelty, it’s actually more closely related to our motivation to seek rewards rather than being a reward itself. Animal studies around the brain’s reaction to novelty have suggested increased dopamine levels in the context of novelty. So the brain reacts to novelty by releasing dopamine which makes us want to go exploring in search of a reward.

http://lifehacker.com/novelty-and-the-brain-why-new-things-make-us-feel-so-g-508983802

The problem is that because dopamine encourages us to seek rewards, it may be encouraging us to look for more, and more, and more stuff on the internet.  We get sucked into long cycles of internet surfing because our brain is reward-seeking due to the dopamine hits from novel information.  Every time we see something new, it only primes us for more surfing.

So, rather than being a useful pastime, phone and internet use has become an addiction.  It is robbing you of your life, your time, and your health.  My eyes have not been the same since my first smartphone.  The fine motor muscles are extremely tight, and I find it much more difficult to actually “see” my surroundings.  I look, but I my eyes don’t engage.

How Do We Escape This Pernicious Habit? And What Does Pernicious Mean?

We need silence.  Utter digital silence.  Our brains have been changed by the internet.  We need to restrict this change.

We still have a beautiful world around us!  But how many of us notice it? Do we notice anything less than the change of seasons anymore?

As men it is our charge to remember how the world is.  One day the internet may disappear.  We must be able to remember how to live without it.  Women can keep their Facebook and the rest.  They are far more distracted than we are.

When you are alone, put away your phone.  It is a simple task, and you WILL struggle with it.   It is a habit you have to break.  Use your phone only when others are around, if you must use it at all.  Alone time is much too valuable to waste on phone surfing.

When you are alone it is important to keep this digital silence.  It is distracting you from hearing the awesome within you.  Being alone is the only time you can hear this voice trying to erupt from the depths.

Self Reflection and Self Therapy

This is the most important task you will ever perform in your life.  Sometimes you will do it every day, at other times you will go months without it.  But always you will come back.

Why do you stop when you are within arm’s reach of your goals?  Why do you sabotage your relationships?  Why can you not keep a job?  Why is missionary your favourite (and only) position?

Have you asked yourself the deep questions of your life?  These questions are the ones that will enable change in you life.  You may never get a clear answer, and you will not change with any speed.  But self-therapy is the way forward, and every man who is not perfect should practice it.

It’s the only way I have found to guarantee forward progress.  If you are stuck in a rut in life, and frustrating yourself with your inability to change, then there are likely psychological, emotional and physical barriers preventing you from getting on with life.

Therapy ain’t for pussies either.  You don’t have to tell anyone you are doing it.  In fact, it’s better if you don’t.  Everyone has psychological blocks, even hard-asses.  It’s just that hard-asses have the personal control to run through those brick walls when they need to.  The rest of us can take the slower, safer but not necessarily easier route.

Self Therapy 101

1. Buy a journal.  Write in it.  Draw in it.  Paint it with custard, I don’t give a fuck.  It’s yours and it’s private.  No one else is to see inside it.  In it should go any observations about yourself you find interesting.

Don’t edit yourself.  Remember, no one else will see this ever.  Be as honest as you can.

Over time you’ll start to get it.  You will begin to understand yourself.  You will edit less.  It’s not so much a book for re-reading.  It’s more about getting ideas out of your head and into a tangible format where you can begin to make sense of the nonsense.  Your brain will take what you’ve spewed onto the paper, and begin to work on it without you even knowing about it.  It’s pretty much magic.

2. Purchase Christopher Hyatt’s Undoing Yourself with Energised Meditation and Other Devices.  Do the exercises.

 

The most useful book you will ever buy
The most useful book you will ever buy

 

3. That’s it.  Take your time.  Take your whole life.  Nothing will make you perfect, so don’t rush change.  Take at least 12 months then look back and see if you are happier.

 

What’s the Goal Anywayz?

The goal is to get out of your own way so you can live life.  Most people live life on train tracks.  The tracks take them to the same places, emotionally, in their relationships and in their life situations.

We want to have choice.  We want the ability to experience not just frustration and misery, but happiness and satisfaction.  That is a choice.  We want to find friends that help and inspire us, rather than drain our energy.  That too is a choice.  We want to find meaningful work and hobbies that lend ambition and direction to our lives.  You can make that choice.

But you must be alone to start on that path.

Modern Man’s Intro To Principles

Are you living by your own rules, or by those pre-defined by others?

Principles: they make life easier.  In a set of principles I have a decision-making matrix. My principles are general enough that they cover a wide swathe of situations.

Principles govern my behaviour in a consistent manner.  When the world is going to shit around you, knowing how you will handle the fan-splatter effect creates a rock-solid foundation of confidence in your actions.

The prime reason I have principles is for energy.  Consistent action in certain areas cuts down on the energy overhead usually reserved for decisions.  Making decisions takes a bajillion joules of energy from your life every day.  I only have a limited amount of energy.  The more energy I conserve, the more I have to use elsewhere.  It’s the effect on your energy bill of having three minute showers instead of skin-blistering hour long marathons. Although saving personal energy is far more satisfying.  I hate three minute showers.

It’s the same reason corporations systematise their regular actions.  If they find something happening frequently, they create a system that fast-tracks the simple stuff:

  1. Been in this situation before?  Check.
  2. What did we do last time?  A, B and C.
  3. Did A, B, and C get us what we wanted?  Check.
  4. Do A, B and C.

Number three is key.  We need to decide what we want, and create our principles based on that.

 

…..

example time!

 

In the past, I have been overpaid by my employers.  I used to fret about whether to tell my employer and give the cash back.  I was torn between money and morals.

What did I want?  I wanted the cash, but I also wanted to not stress about 1) whether my employer was testing me, and 2) whether I was doing the “right” thing (more on the “right” thing in a moment).

Action One was giving the cash back.  I would be relieved of anxiety and stress, but I would be poorer.  Perhaps my employer would think of me as an honest person, but this would give me no benefit in real terms.

Action Two was keeping the cash.  I would stress about it, but I would have more money, a very real benefit.

My current over-riding principle in this situation is: keep the cash, AND don’t stress.  Why?  Telling my employer about paying me too much gives me no benefit at all.  In the past, perhaps, an employer would then regard you as an upstanding and honest employee who could be trusted, which may have given you an advantage at some point.  Nowadays, your boss could not give a shit about you or your apparent do-goodiness.

As for not stressing, if my boss found out and asked for it, I could simply play dumb and pay it back.  If he didn’t find out, then I have the money.  It’s a win/win.

If you give the cash back, you boss says “thanks!”, and you walk home $100 poorer.  What’s the point?  You’ll feel better about yourself?  Why?  Because you’ve “done the right thing?”  You’ve done the WRONG thing.  You have exchanged value for fluff i.e. moral virtue.

 

…..

Let’s talk morals for a moment.  I would hope that most of you reading this would know that morals are the rules imposed on your behaviour by an external force.  That force is cultural, and its main proponents are the parents and teachers who educated you.

Morals can be loosely defined as a code that defines appropriate behaviour.  Literally, a code of conduct.  That code is divided into a series of principles for each behaviour.

I reject externally imposed morality because in general those morals benefit society more than myself.  Society in this case being most people in my country who are not me, and primarily those people with lots of money and power who are also not me.  I don’t reject all of society’s morals, I merely reserve the right to choose the ones that work for me and reject the ones that belong in a bucket of shit.

Morals should be personally defined according to principle and the cultural matrix in which you live.  For example, I might want to slaughter my neighbour for stealing some mayonnaise when I went out for a kebab.  Goddamn delicious-mayonaisse-stealing asshole.  If I did so, because of our culture the police would kidnap me and remove my ability to live freely for a number of years.  Butt-rape in prison is not an outcome that I desire, therefore I reject murder as a behavioural outcome of principle.  Not because it is inherently “bad” in all situations, but because the culturally-imposed repercussions of murder are extremely bad for me.

 

Scary prisoner says, PICK UP THE SOAP

 

We should also talk about “good/right” and “bad/wrong”.  What is good and bad is also culturally defined.  I would hope that you also know this as an educated man.  I define “good/right” as that which energises and benefits me and my family over the short to long term.  I define “bad/wrong” as the opposite of that.  Simple.

Not everything good and right is possible.  Not everything bad and wrong is avoidable.  This is cultural impact on personal morals, and it’s just the way things are.

 

…..

So let’s talk specifics.  I want to talk about one of the most important of my principles.  This one has saved me so much energy over the years, and so much stress and heartache.

Do what you say.

 

This one guiding principle has helped me in so many ways. Back when I was a loser I would make plans with friends that I never intended to keep.  Or I would be in two minds about whether to go out with them.  I now know that if I am going to say I will do something, I’d better move heaven and hell to do it.  If that is to be the case, I have to be careful with my words, and not promise anything I cannot deliver.  That means I have to maintain awareness during conversation and also be discreet.

 

This principle not only cuts down on stress, it also makes me into a better, more aware person. 

 

This one principle cuts down an incredible energy overhead.  I no longer have to think about whether I going to do something or not.  Have I told someone I would?  Yes?  Then I am doing it.  The social benefits of such an attitude should be obvious.

This one principle is so internally satisfying that it should be elevated to a religious precept.

The correlate to this principle is: Watch your mouth.  Don’t say anything you don’t plan to follow through with.

I got this off a good friend.  Once I asked him if he wanted to hang out.  He said he’d like to, but for whatever reason, no.

I was taken aback.  Who the hell could be so honest?  What sort of person didn’t mitigate at all?  I was so impressed with his behaviour that I adopted it on the spot.  Nowadays I can’t believe I was ever that soft…

 

…..

The moral of this story is:  Begin to create your own morality.  Decide on the principles that both enhance the energy in your life and cut out the crap.

Begin NOW.