“A human being,” wrote Einstein in reply, “is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.”
This was published in NY Times in 1972 https://www.nytimes.com/1972/03/29/archives/the-einstein-papers-a-man-of-many-parts-the-einstein-papers-man-of.html
“Our inward power, when it obeys nature, reacts to events by accommodating itself to what it faces—to what is possible. It needs no specific material. It pursues its own aims as circumstances allow; it turns obstacles into fuel. As a fire overwhelms what would have quenched a lamp. What’s thrown on top of the conflagration is absorbed, consumed by it—and makes it burn still higher.”
Identify and don’t tolerate problems that stand in the way of your achieving your goals.
Accurately diagnose the problems to get at their root causes.
Design plans that will get you around them.
Do what’s necessary to push these designs through to results.
What do you think? No-brainer?
What does having clear goals mean? I have a goal to get six-pack abs, but is that a clear goal? No. It’s a goal without a time box. If it were “I have a goal to get six-pack abs by Dec 31, 2020 6PM”, that would be a clear goal. Having a goal is not enough, what if you have the clear goal in mind but you don’t stop eating cupcakes and drinking soda every day. What if you don’t start doing the right workouts, take the right nutrition. Having clear goals is not going to automatically get you the six-pack abs, so then what else needs to happen?
Identify the problems. Solving problems is not limited to math class. Once you have set a clear goal, identify the problem(s) that stand in the way of achieving the goal. It’s the diet and the workout routines. that are not aligned with the six-pack goal.
Once the problems are identified, understand what exactly is causing these problems. Are you clear on which foods to eat and which to avoid? Are you clear on how much quantity to eat? Are you clear on what nutrition to take? Are you clear on which exercises to do to strengthen the core? Are you clear on how long or how many reps to do? Are you aware of which workouts are not recommended? Diagnose and get to the nitty gritty of the identified problems.
Once the problems are well understood, design a plan to get around them. May be it is the late night craving for an ice cream or skipping the hard workout routine. Design a plan to work around late night snacking. Keep healthy snacks at hand in case the craving kicks in. Avoid buying cakes, ice creams and other sugary snacks. Cut it at the source, once it is in the pantry it is harder to resist. Keep it away from sight, out of sight out mind can help. Skipped a training day, get back on track immediately. Don’t expect six-packs abs by walking 5 miles every day. If you want six-pack abs, you need to follow the recommended routines very strictly.
If you are not seeing the results, go back to Step 1 and rinse and repeat until you get the results. Don’t give up, don’t get distracted, don’t imagine progress, don’t be tempted, keep the focus or give up and go home, it’s better than pretending.
“It’s not that we don’t know what to do, it’s that we don’t do what we know”
* I had originally published this on Sep 24, 2014 on Linkedin Articles
I used to work 100 hours a week in a game company a few years ago. I used to sleep under the table at the office, some times my nose was bleeding with all the stress I suppose. Then one day I came home to have dinner and planned to head back to work after dinner. My then 3 year old daughter asked me “Why did you come home, why didn’t you stay back at work?”. It hit me in the head like a thunderbolt! I decided to spend more time with her, whatever time I could make by cutting out TV or cutting out playing cricket with friends or whatever it takes.
Do you know your kid’s favorite color? How about his favorite dish? Do you know what she does when she is sad and down? Can you tell how often he talks about something he loves, a game, a book, a sport, a car, a movie whatever? When was the last time you went on a date with your daughter, just you and her and the nature. No hustle bustle, simple noise of the chatter between you and her. Do you know what her marks were in the most recent Math Assessment? How about her favorite song? Do you have a clue when she wakes up and when she goes to bed? Did you try to play with him? When was the last time you both had a misunderstanding and you made it up by being the Dad or the Mom?
We should try not to take things for granted and spend time away in meaningless activities while the kids are ignored to boredom or worse yet to bad influence in some random daycare centers or to a nanny. Spend the time with the kids, it’s a simple fact that “We get what we put in”, Garbage in Garbage out, have you ever heard of that term? We shouldn’t expect children to be all affectionate and understanding if we don’t spend the time to be affectionate and understanding in the first place.
Many parents are clueless, they don’t know exactly why they have children? Some even behave as if they are products of a random act of inebriety or carelessness. If you wanted children so badly, why do you plan on putting them away at their Grandma’s house for months together? If you love your children how come you have no clue what they love? If you love your children how come they don’t have your consistent attention when they need it the most, between 0 – 5 years!
Many friends have given me wonderful explanations to why they put their children away in a far off country at the Gramps house, or stash them away in a cubby at a random daycare center for hours on while they are busy helping the world with its problems!
I am sure you know my position on this one by now, sorry to be blunt but that’s the way I was taught to spend time with my daughter. I am sure most of you don’t need to be rudely awakened like I was!
“When it’s over, I want to say all my life, I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.” __Mary Oliver
I was caught by this one line in The Atlantic article, by poet and writer Mary Oliver, “Attention is the Beginning of Devotion“. In this world of myriad sensory inputs, attention to any particular thing is becoming nearly impossible. Apps, gadgets, screens, shows to binge and more; is there scope for attention, is there scope for devotion?.
If everything and everyone is calling out for our attention, then where should we expend our power of carefully thinking about, listening to or watching? Deciding where we spend our attention is the number one problem in this new world.
Attention: power of carefully thinking about, listening to, or watching someone or something __Merriam Webster Dictionary
Could we be turning into a species that will destroy itself because of attention deficit, one human at a time? How can we not have regrets at the end of our life if we never pursued anything all the way through, spreading our attention to a million things but not going in depth on any one thing, was this any different hundreds of years ago when there were fewer gadgets, screens and apps? I believe so. For example, in the 1400s people seem to have pursued one kind of work most of their life.
From the above drawings I observe a couple of things, people were doing things manually, there was little automation if any and hence working on one thing took a long time and needed manual attention. Second, people employed dedicated people for a job e.g. servants to test food. Imagine spending time to watch someone test your food before eating it and doing it for every meal. It tells me that there was a lot of time spent preparing and eating food just to stay alive, how much time would one have left to engage in other activities, not much.
Perhaps the question is not “Is it bad to be a polymath?”, in other words, is it wrong to try to do many things, but perhaps the real question is, would you be able to do many things and do them really well. If the answer is yes, by all means go ahead and do them. If not, stop everything but the most important one or two activities and follow them until done really well, then follow the next one or two.
Wasn’t Leonardo da Vinci a polymath? He studied art, architecture, science and technology in depth. I don’t know the answer to this question? Should one pursue one path all their life or explore many paths? May be it depends on what makes one happy when they look back at their life. That’s easy to say but hard in reality as one needs to either project themselves into their old age and do the things today that “might” make them happy later or simply look back at whatever they did and be happy without judgment.
Mary Oliver’s poem, When Death Comes, seems to suggest that it’s only in embracing everything that comes along in life with curiosity and amazement and not being set in becoming any one thing in particular, is the way to live life
“When death comes like the hungry bear in autumn; when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut; when death comes like the measle-pox
when death comes like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything as a brotherhood and a sisterhood, and I look upon time as no more than an idea, and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth, tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
Decisiveness is crucial to moving forward with action whilst time shall pass and we will have nothing done when we look back. Even to take in everything with amazement as Mary Oliver calls out, one needs to make the decision to do so.
I am reminded of the “Don’t be a donkey” story that I heard Derek Sivers narrate. The story goes, a donkey is stuck in the middle of the road trying to decide to go left and drink water from a bucket or go right and eat the pile of hay. In trying to decide, the donkey wastes all his time and dies with hunger and thirst. If only he realized that he could have very well first had the hay and then drank the water or vice-versa, he would be alive and kicking!
“The painter is the rival of nature” __Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo Da Vinci spent many a day watching the water flow, hitting rocks and other obstacles along the way. He made a binder of his notes on water, popularly known as the Leicester Codex.
In his observations of nature, he is said to have remarked “The painter is the rival of nature”. Leonardo compiled the Leicester Codex while in Milan during the years 1508 and 1510.
“He wrote on 18 double-sided sheets of loose-leaf, linen paper, each one folded to make a total of 72 pages. The notebooks are distinctive for two reasons: his use of ‘mirror writing’—writing from right to left—and the links he created between image and text. He recognized the power of combining words and images to develop and communicate ideas.” –Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Bill Gates now owns the Leicester Codex now, he won the bid at an auction conducted by Christies on 11th November 1994 for $30,502,800 dollars (~$31 million). That price makes it the most expensive book ever to be sold on this planet.
“Leonardo documents his observations of water currents, whirlpools, waves, heads, canals, banks, locks, dams, tunnels, projects for docks, for land reclamation, lists of machines for making use of the energy supplied by water and projects for the use of water for military purposes, accompanied by texts dense with theories.” –Hammercodex.com
Furthermore, he captures how mountains arose from the sea, how fossils formed over the mountains of Parma and Piacenza, erosion due to water currents, ideas for constructing bridges over water, the great landslide of Monte-Garnier and the origin of spring waters at the top of mountains.
Leonardo was fascinated by Ptolemy’s Cosmographic studies and seems to have used Ptolemy’s maps, rivers, lands, mountains in his exploration of water flow.
Interesting thing about Leicester Codex is not only the power of observation Leonardo demonstrated but also it is a study of how to study something. Leonardo leaves spaces on one or both sides of each page to make room for pictures and notes. On the Leicester Codes, he starts the page numbers from the middle and goes out to sides, what could be the reason for that?. He uses mirror writing that can be read easily in a mirror but harder to read as a normal book. Why did he do that, people say that’s to make it harder for others to understand, really, this great genius could be so selfish and conceited? How silly! It appears that the reason for his mirror writing is because writing right to left would not smudge the ink as he wrote (I learnt that from Bill Gates in this video on the Codex), could that be the real reason? What do you think?