Finding a Life Manual

Apr 10

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Dec 06

The Key to Happiness: A Taboo for Adults? -

Grownups aren’t supposed to play. We have problems. We’re too busy. We have important things to do. It turns out, though, that there are few things more important to your happiness than frequent doses of play. As a study led by Princeton researcher Alan Krueger found, of all the things on the planet, we’re at our happiest when we’re involved in engaging leisure activities. Why not do more of that?

When a 40-year-old goes headfirst down a water slide, that person is not 40 anymore. A few decades have been knocked off, because something inside has come alive again. It should be pretty obvious that the animating spark of play is the fast track to happiness. There is no quicker transport to the experiential realm and full engagement than through play, which brings together all the elements you want for the optimal moment.

Oct 25

“We all have a short period of time on this earth. We probably only have the opportunity to do a few things really great and do them well. None of us has any idea how long we’re going to be here nor do I, but my feeling is I’ve got to accomplish a lot of these things while I’m young. … Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.” — Steve Jobs Bio: Its 6 Most Surprising Reveals | Gadget Lab | Wired.com

Oct 21

Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction Is a Growing Problem -

 Here’s a simple test: Try to masturbate (alone) using no porn and no fantasy—only sensual touch. Use the same speed and pressure as you would during intercourse. How erect is your penis without porn? If your penis is not fully erect, or it takes effort to become erect, then the chances are that anxiety is not the source of your problems. 

Recent behavioral addiction research suggests that the loss of libido and performance occur because heavy users are numbing their brain’s normal response to pleasure. Years of overriding the natural limits of libido with intense stimulation desensitize the user’s response to a neurochemical called dopamine.

Dopamine is behind motivation, “wanting” and all addictions. It drives the search for rewards. We get little spurts of it every time we bump into anything potentially rewarding, novel, surprising, or even anxiety-producing.

In the last decade or so, addiction researchers have discovered that too much dopamine stimulation has a paradoxical effect. The brain decreases its ability to respond to dopamine signals (desensitization). This occurs with all addictions, both chemical and natural. In some porn users, the response to dopamine is dropping so low that they can’t achieve an erection without constant hits of dopamine via the Internet.

Erotic words, pictures, and videos have been around a long while, but the Internet makes possible a never-ending stream of dopamine spikes. Today’s users can force its release by watching porn in multiple windows, searching endlessly, fast-forwarding to the bits they find hottest, switching to live sex chat, viewing constant novelty, firing up their mirror neurons with video action and cam-2-cam, or escalating to extreme genres and anxiety-producing material. It’s all free, easy to access, available within seconds, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Overstimulation of the reward circuitry in the brain is a very real possibility today.

Oct 06

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Oct 04

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Oct 03

85 percent of the reason you get and keep a job is because of your people skills. …

The late Calvert Robert conducted a study at Stanford University that proved your people skills are more important to your career than any other skill. In fact, 85 percent of the reason you get and keep job is because of your people skills. (Assuming you are competent.) … We don’t have to be the smartest to be the most successful in what we do. We are only need to be smart enough. … INTELLIGENCE DOES NOT GUARANTEE SUCCESS, BUT PEOPLE SKILLS DO. ….

” — Matt McKinney

Oct 02

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Sep 30

Magic Mushrooms Can Change Personalities For The Better -

Under scientific controlled conditions, researchers gave 51 adults either psilocybin or a placebo in up to five eight-hour sessions. In almost 60 per cent of patients, Of the 51, 30 had a mystical experience, after which their ‘openness’ scores rose. The 21 who did not have a mystical experience showed no change.

"I say this because we think of personality as being cemented in your 20s, certainly by your 30s," he said. "So the fact that openness was increased, seemingly permanently, after a single experience of psilocybin is quite remarkable.

Sep 20

Do men generally grow grumpier with age? -

My impression from following science journalism for a decade or so, and just confirmed by a quick google search, is that:

1. As people grow older, they tend to be happier/more positive.
2. As people grow older, men to be happier than women.

See [1] and [2] for references for the first claim, and [2] and [3] for references for the second claim.

Of course, for 1 it might be that the unhappy ones dies first.

“As a group, older adults are less likely to be depressed and less
affected by negative or unpleasant information,” said Stacey Wood, a
neuropsychologist from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif. who headed up the study.

[1]: http://www.livescience.com/4324-older-people-optimistic.html for the press coverage, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17760782 for the actual result.

The increase in happiness with age is consistent with the “age
as maturity hypothesis,” Yang said. With age comes positive
psychosocial traits, such as self-integration and self-esteem; these
signs of maturity could contribute to a better sense of overall
well-being

[2]: http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2008/04/16/age-comes-happiness-university-chicago-study-shows for the press release, http://asr.sagepub.com/content/73/2/204.abstract for the study

In later life these gender differences turn around. Men come closer than women to fulfilling their material goods and family life aspirations, are more satisfied with their financial situation and family life, and are the happier of the two genders.

[3]: http://psychcentral.com/news/2008/07/30/happiness-wanes-as-women-age/2668.html for the press release, http://www.springerlink.com/content/4j11681jx415315k/ for the study.

Papers might be behind paywall.

Sep 10

Valedictorian Speaks Out Against Schooling In Graduation Speech->Implications -

Comment: The following speech was delivered by top of the class student Erica Goldson during the graduation ceremony at Coxsackie-Athens High School on June 25, 2010

"Here I stand

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, “If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years . .” 
The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then?” Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.” “But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?” asked the student. “Thirty years,” replied the Master. “But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?” 
Replied the Master, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.” 

This is the dilemma I’ve faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective. 

Some of you may be thinking, “Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn’t you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.

I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer - not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition - a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.

John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, “We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness - curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don’t do that.” Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt. 

H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not “to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. … Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim … is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States.” 

Comment: The full passage reads: “The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever pretensions of politicians, pedagogues other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.” 

"To illustrate this idea, doesn’t it perturb you to learn about the idea of "critical thinking." Is there really such a thing as "uncritically thinking?" To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth? 

This was happening to me, and if it wasn’t for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed. I am now enlightened, but my mind still feels disabled. I must retrain myself and constantly remember how insane this ostensibly sane place really is. 

And now here I am in a world guided by fear, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us. 

We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren’t we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still. 

The saddest part is that the majority of students don’t have the opportunity to reflect as I did. The majority of students are put through the same brainwashing techniques in order to create a complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can’t run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be - but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation. 

For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse, “You have to learn this for the test” is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades. 

For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake. 

For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, I say, do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you. We are the new future and we are not going to let tradition stand. We will break down the walls of corruption to let a garden of knowledge grow throughout America. Once educated properly, we will have the power to do anything, and best of all, we will only use that power for good, for we will be cultivated and wise. We will not accept anything at face value. We will ask questions, and we will demand truth. 

So, here I stand. I am not standing here as valedictorian by myself. I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn’t have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, we are all valedictorians. 

I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is more of a “see you later” when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. But first, let’s go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we’re smart enough to do so!”

Brilliant and true. Wise words for a life.

I agree with the idea that school and work can be a form of unconscious slavery. Like this valediction, I was guilty of excelling, and like her I felt somewhat empty after I had achieved this or that. 

It’s unfortunate that the structure of school is almost like a cattle feedlot, in the sense that as students we are pressured to memorize concepts and learn various things, rather than follow interests that may individualize us - things we actually we to learn. We are taught that learning is a task - for which we should be rewarded. We are taught to accomplish and to make money - for the sake of making money.

It’s sad. It’s sad, because as a culture we continue to pass down these values. We object, yet it’s self-perpetuating.

Sep 09

What are some ways people integrate humor into their life philosophy, and what are the costs and benefits? -

Humor is extremely individualized, and its implications can be far reaching.

You use it to express how you feel, but in a creative way.

Feeling + creative expression = the best use of humor in life.

So how exactly do you use creative expression, together with humor? Did you watch Borat? There was actually a humor instructor in Borat, and that instructor would teach Borat things like “Say something you don’t believe and then say “not” afterwards. It’s really funny.” Of course Borat would try to do that, and it would be all awkward. Why was it awkward? Simply because he was trying to be successful.

If you’re serious, ask yourself if you actually want to be funny.

Being funny is one way that people are judged in life : “Is he funny or not?” But who cares? First of all, no one really cares whether you’re that funny, if you don’t. People who are pretty serious can get along fine in life, provided they hang out with other people who are serious. Just find your niche.

Ask yourself if you get bored of yourself.

The thing about humor is … it’s not just about making others laugh. That’s too servant-ly.

Ask yourself if you get bored of the way you express things. Find more creative ways to say things.

I would get bored if I didn’t express my feelings in different ways. I don’t actively try to do this. It just happens. If I want to say something in a funky way, I do it. If I want to do what’s unexpected, I do it. It’s not so much about trying to make others laugh - it’s more something just happens because it has to. My own life and the way I express myself has to be interesting - to me.

Let me give you some humor examples from my six year old nephew, because he’s an incipient pro. Look at how the humor delivers feeling in a creative way. Here are some things he’s said to me recently:

Here are some that don’t involve my nephew:
Every single example I used here I either was there at the exact moment when someone close to me said it or I said it myself.

There are a few major theories of humor. I studied them at Stanford when I took courses on humor theory and comedy writing. I’ve written research papers using these theories to dissect comedic writing. Anyway, briefly, here are some prominent theories on why some humor is successful:
There are plenty of others. Theories of humor are interesting, but I don’t think they should be viewed as guideposts. As I see it, it’s really better in life to be free.


So back to your question. What is the benefit of all this?

The benefit of using humor is that your life can be more fun. Additionally you can use humor to say things and imply things that you might otherwise have trouble saying. Hopefully I’ve given enough examples of that sort of thing above.

Ideally, as I said, humor goes deeper than simply watching a sitcom or joking around with friends, because it involves the expression of an underlying feeling. In other words, with a sitcom, the situation is often funny. That’s why it’s called a situation comedy. Sometimes with friends, situations can be funny, and you can have sort of surface level silliness - which can be great, but the more satisfying type of humor is the type that can go deeper.

Let me give you an example.

So yes, humor can be used superficially and on a deeper level.

So yes, humor is integral to most people’s life philosophy on an unconscious level. It just squirts out on a regular basis in conversation and it can deliver emotion with depth. It’s one of the best things about life.

The costs are pretty much nil - unless you’re the type who prefers seriousness and the benefits are that life is more fun.

In your question you mention the use of irony, satire, slapstick and absurdity. These are more ways to categorize humor, but really any categorization can be confining except for the idea that the best humor is creative in some ways. Irony is that which is exactly counter to expectations. Some humor thrives that way, but rather than attempt to learn ironic humor or one of the other schools of humor, I actually think it’s more productive and original to just be creative in your own life.

It’s not that you should try to be funny. Simply be aware of your desire to be funny and just think about that a lot. Gradually your priorities will shape you.

You ask about the costs of humor on a deeper level. You mention the idea of never taking anything seriously enough to succeed. That’s not what humor is about. Humor is about having feelings, having goals, wanting success, but expressing those desires in a creative original way. So that’s actually not a potential cost. Yes, humor does make it easier to walk away from failures in that if you’re a fundamentally happy, funny person, it becomes easier to find fun in anything in life and in any life story.

I get that you’re asking a bit of philosophical question. To what extent should you integrate humor into the depths of your personality? To what extent should you simply think everything in life is funny? To what extent should you take nothing seriously? I think the answer to that is simply - no. Humor should not replace the fundamental core of feelings, the cluster of emotions that create desires and underpin personality. It’s not that everything is funny - your emotions have more validity and are more important to your happiness than any drive you might have towards humor. They are serious, and yet you can still enjoy life and humor and creative expression that helps make life the amazing, enjoyable experience that it is.


It’s possible to take humor further.

If you get bored of your typical pattern of actions that humor could allow to be more creative about the actions you take in life, and that’s one way in which humor could add additional value.

So if you’re tired of doing things in one life, or that bothers, try a different way.

That’s actually a recipe for increased creativity, at least according to some of the creativity books I’ve read, one example there being Roger von Oech’s A Whack on the Side of the Head. The idea is that if you use humor to vary your routine in life, you will get in a pattern of thinking more creatively in general which could lead to breakthroughs in your career and other aspects of your life.

The downside might be that you might get a bit distracted if you a have a serious, methodical task to complete.

The other benefit of this would be that you would likely have more experiences and more interesting experiences in life as well. Broadly, it’s way to have a better, fun, memorable life.

[1] http://science.jrank.org/pages/9715/Humor-Superiority-Theory.html
[2] http://science.jrank.org/pages/9716/Humor-Incongruity-Theory.html
[3] http://science.jrank.org/pages/9714/Humor-Release-or-Relief-Theory.html

Sep 08

How can you maximize your happiness in life? -

Have positive relationships with supportive people.

Sep 01

Web Surfing Makes You Work Better, Study Says -

they assigned 96 undergraduate management students into one of three groups—a control group, a “rest-break” group and a Web-surfing group. All subjects spent 20 minutes highlighting as many letter e’s as they could find in a sample text. For the next 10 minutes, the control group was assigned another simple task; members of the rest-break group could do whatever they pleased, except surf the Internet; and the third group could browse the Web. Afterward, all of the subjects spent another 10 minutes highlighting more letters. The researchers found that the Web-surfers were significantly more productive and effective at the tasks than those in the other two groups and reported lower levels of mental exhaustion, boredom and higher levels of engagement.

Why is Web-surfing more restorative than, say, responding to a friend’s email? When browsing the Internet, people “usually choose to visit only the sites that they like—it’s like going for a coffee or snack break. Breaks of such nature are pleasurable, rejuvenating the Web surfer,” wrote Dr. Lim, in an email. By contrast, workers can’t control the kinds of email they receive, and reading and replying to each message is “cognitively more demanding, relative to Web surfing, as you need to pay attention to what is said on the email,” she added.

Aug 24

Guys are "over-aroused" by video games&porn... and that's connected to why they're 30% more likely to drop out of school. -

 

Boys are 30 percent more likely than girls to drop out of school. In Canada, five boys drop out for every three girls. Girls outperform boys now at every level, from elementary school to graduate school. There’s a 10 percent differential between getting BA’s and all graduate programs, with guys falling behind girls. Two-thirds of students in special ed remedial programs are guys. And as you all know, boys are five times more likely than girls to be labeled as having attention deficit disorder — and therefore we drug them with Ritalin.

What are the causes? Well, it’s an unintended consequence. I think it’s excessive Internet use in general, excessive video gaming, excessive new access to pornography. The problem is these are arousal addictions. Drug addiction, you simply want more. Arousal addiction, you want different. Drugs, you want more of the same — different. So you need the novelty in order for the arousal to be sustained.

And the problem is the industry is supplying it. Jane McGonigal told us last year that by the time a boy is 21, he’s played 10,000 hours of video games, most of that in isolation. As you remember, Cindy Gallop said men don’t know the difference between making love and doing porn. The average boy now watches 50 porn video clips a week. And there’s some guy watching a hundred, obviously. And the porn industry is the fastest growing industry in America — 15 billion annually. For every 400 movies made in Hollywood, there are 11,000 now made porn videos.

So the effect, very quickly, is it’s a new kind of arousal. Boys’ brains are being digitally rewired in a totally new way for change, novelty, excitement and constant arousal. That means they’re totally out of sync in traditional classes, which are analog, static, interactively passive. They’re also totally out of syncin romantic relationships, which build gradually and subtly.

 

This is a great talk. 

The idea that men are prone to “arousal addictions” is something worth thinking about as you come across various sorts of behavior in life.