Market of Ideas

I'm throwing up some pictures from Bali.
Too many to only use on the days I was there.
These statues are everywhere, btw.
I've noticed that some of my post get derailed by meandering ideas, derailing the flow of them. Beign that as it is, I've decided to dedicate some posts exclusively to ideas that don't fit by making them into their own standalone posts. This particular post will focus on a collection of ideas that have been bouncing around in my head but I’ve not put down yet. Some of you may wonder what ideas I could possibly be holding back, given that I don't say more of them than is sometimes relevant. They’ve been building up for a while, so feel free to scroll through the titles. Modular! 

This is something I think about often. I took a course called “personality theory” back in fourth year of university. Going into it, I remember thinking “personality is a thing. It’s a concrete, easily definable thing.” After that course, I was left thinking “does personality even exist?! What is personality!?” in the good sort of way that broadening your knowledge-base will inevitably do. I’ve come to see personality as the sort of in-between of what we formally define personality as. It is the spaces between the words - between the notes - that defines us. So much of who we are is based around context and what is socially appropriate at the time. Social pressure, ettiquette, situation (stress, sleep, hunger, thirst). There are two broad categories of people: High self-monitorers (HSM), and low self-monitorers (LSM). HSM people will adapt to the situation, and act accordingly. Is it a formal occasion? They’ll cut down on the swearing, while the LSM might rip a huge fart or tell a crass joke. The thing about them is that society - and people in general - seem to applaud the LSM people in concept. “They’re being their real selves!” That is something to aim for… if your “real self” is someone who is respectful, compassionate, and polite, then that works perfectly. HSM people have a bad rep, being seen as manipulative or fake. Honestly, I view them as  adapting to situations as is appropriate. Buckling down when it is required, and letting it all hang out when it’s appropriate. You can probably tell from the counter-argument that I lean toward a HSM position, though I aim to be a LSM. The less I judge others, the less I judge myself, and it becomes easier and easier. Funny how it works that way. I also have another relevant couple of biases that I wrote about here on Actor-Observer Bias and the Fundamental Attribution Error.

I’ve also been thinking about who we are to the people around us. Yes, I remember that I touched on this before when talking with Ricardo, but there is another facet to it. Our personality is constantly being strained through a sieve of not only time, but also of our ability to communicate and cultural context. Spending time with Yuzu made me wonder what people in Japan thought of her. To me, she’s very feminine, kind, soft spoken, and curious. Is this how her countrymen, or people who also speak Japanese fluently, see her? Apparently in the context of her culture, they tell her she’s like a guy. This blows my mind. It also makes me want to study Japanese to the point of fluency just to see how she, as a person, will appear different. This idea has definitely enhanced my desire to learn foreign languages.  Not only do they help you understand the culture (language shapes who we are and how we think), but they also come with tons of proverbs that bear greater meaning when you understand the first-hand version. I always dreamed of being a polyglot (depends where you look, but defined as knowing more than 5 or 6 languages, I believe). The travesty was that I was never good with languages. Part of this trip is throwing myself in the deep end and sink-or-swimming it. Burn the boats! Also, Tim Ferriss has some interesting theories around quick language acquisition. He claims conversational fluency within 3-6 months. Perfect timing.

Petrol, I think
On the topic of psychedelics, the more I learn about them, the more I want to give them a try. They’re not dangerous (aside from doing something stupid while on them), not addictive, and have been said to bring you one of two paths: heaven or hell. Either you feel the brief graze of enlightenment, or the terror that is insanity. It’s said to give the user more appreciation for reality, how tenuous sanity is, and raises compassion for those who suffer from mental illness. No, I don’t want to become a hippy, but the research on it has brought it to my attention for more consideration. Believe it or not, I was super anti-drugs only a few years back - no exception. Well, except for the substances that no one counts as drugs - caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. The latter 2 are actually far more dangerous than LSD or Magic Mushrooms. In fact, one exposure to magic mushrooms has been shown to make participants “permanently more creative.” Just once. I don’t know if I want to test the limits of my sanity any more than they’ve been tested in the past, but dipping the toe couldn’t hurt. Anyone reading this, I have no plans to take either in the near future, and won’t even entertain the idea while outside of my own country. Chinese prison? No, thank you.

An article by Sam Harris (Read by Tim Ferriss) is very interesting on the subject. If you think drugs are only for hippies, then you - especially you - should listen to the essay and make an informed decision.

Blog Metathoughts
On Idea Generation
One aspect of the creative process that has always seemed difficult in concept was idea generation. There are only so many ideas or things to say, right? RIGHT?! Wrong. Well, maybe. I don’t know, I’m not an expert on this. My point is that I was often afraid to write because I didn’t want to become one of those people who kept writing the same idea over and over again - the same skeleton with different skin - without realizing it. To be that hack. I mean, sure, I repeat myself sometimes with certain ideas, but I’m pretty sure that hasn’t been too often. If you notice, tell me and I’ll try to differentiate or expand the idea in a different way. Back on point: the first blog I had was only birthed because Steve had started his own blog. He suggested I do it, but “I don’t have anything to say,” I thought. But, I did it anyway. Just started, wrote two or three, threw them out there. I would find myself thinking about things while driving around. Then I'd realize "hey, that might be interesting to write about” and went with it. Right now, the same sort of thing happens, but often it doesn’t fit into the vague narrative or flow of my thoughts, and gets set aside. And that's how these posts are born.

If you ever looked at the layout or name of this blog and thought “my God, that is trulyawful,” then you are not alone. I had to start or else I knew I probably wouldn’t. 3 days into the trip, I hadn't written a word and was starting to forget, so.. Do The Work, as Steven Pressfield would say. I picked a decent background, and a mediocre title. Boom, I'm up and running. Only one person criticized it (to my face), but haters gon' hate. As Ferriss has said: “An OK plan that you stick to is better than a perfect plan that you don’t.”

On Feedback
Lembongan Island (great snorkeling)
To be honest, I don’t really get feedback. I have about 35-60 people a day reading for a few minutes a piece. I’m actually impressed I have that, and would sincerely like to hear any feedback any of you have. I’ve pressed some of my closer friends for answers, but people seem hesitant to say negative things. Unfortunate, as this is the only way to improve it. Then again, maybe I'm perfect!

Joking aside, there’s the question alluded to in the personality section: is changing based on what the audience says a good move or a bad one? What is the line between speaking to your audience and pandering? Should I consciously change, or let it grow organically? I don’t know. Right now I’m forced to do the organic process, as I don’t really know who my audience is, nor what they like. Either way, I’m grateful for all of you. Here's a book I have on my reading list that involves this topic.

On Writing
To me, and as has been reflected by other writers, writing is like conjuring liquid marble that requires time to set. You make enough to fit whatever project you need, step away for a short period (not long if it took a long time to make), then start chipping away at it. As Neil Strauss (best known for “The Game,” but also has several other NYT best sellers) said: Your book is in there somewhere. All your ideas are there, it just takes the time to whittle it down and put a final product out there.

His advice for editing: First draft is for you and no one else to read. Second draft is what you can show others, gather opinions on, and take a more objective perspective with the question “Is this entertaining or boring?” in mind. The third is to see where is weak, needs to be reinforced, and take the perspective of a hater. How can you be misquoted? How will people decide to misinterpret this? He likened it to Eminem, where he will quote his critics and address them in his work itself instead of letting the criticism hang there, unanswered. This is also good advice for arguments or speeches - address and legitimize (if worthy of it) criticisms.

On Fitness
Lately I felt like I was probably plateauing a little bit. Who knows if I was, but it’s good to switch things up to keep your body stimulated. These days, I dropped the amount of weight, and slowed everything down. Nice, slow, controlled movements. Still doing 3 sets of 8-12 reps for size. It’s actually allowed me to get sore in areas that I normally have a difficult time fatiguing properly, like my shoulders. 

Gotta slow down and smell the plates. Enjoy the little things.

Also on Lembongan
Stages of Morality
You may have read my moral dilemma from yesterday. I’m poor and really need the money now, more than ever, but noticed a discrepancy: I was paid twice. Some of you may say “it’s only $166 dollars, who cares? It won’t kill them to lose that.” Some of you may see it as stealing, while others may think I shouldn’t take it because God will know. This led me to think about the stages of Morality and why it’s important to know them.

Let’s first visit Kohlberg and his theory of Morality. I believe there are 6 steps in it, but they’re grouped together into 3 main categories: Pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional.

Pre-conventional: It’s right or wrong because we are rewarded or punished accordingly. This stage is most common with children, and, sadly, a large chunk of the population never moves past it. This may be why religions often focus on the whole “eternal reward/punishment” end of why it’s right to do certain things, and not others.

Conventional: What’s right or wrong is defined by what your social group tells you. If you’re wondering a moral dilemma, you would ask your friends, family, colleagues what the right thing was, and follow their consensus. They think it’s alright for various reasons, so it must be ok. Right?

Post-conventional: You do what your own personal compass says. You’re not condemning others, necessarily, for having differing moral views. You measure things with your own moral compass, and won’t deviate, even if your family/friends or the law outline otherwise. You do you.

It’s important to be aware of these and to not make excuses for yourself because it’s easy to fall into the conventional moral stance. Back to my situation: I want to keep that money, but I know it’s the wrong thing to do. I’ve had friends already tell me to just keep it, not to bother, and they’re seductive. It’s easy to rationalize a way to get what I want. It won’t hurt them! But it will degrade me.

Rice Paddys that we were driving past
We’re creatures of habit. As much as we like to think we’ll do the right thing when it comes to a consequential moral fork, that’s not how we’re wired. If we keep sneaking little, inconsequential things, rationalizing that it’s OK to do so, then we will find ways for bigger, more attractive things. Remember, moral choices are never made in a vacuum. The situation, as people often seem to forget, usually has a very attractive, tempting choice on the side of moral lapse. A beautiful woman who is engaged to your best friend tries seducing you. A large bank is offering a politician money to sign a bill. The big choices are no easier than the smaller ones, and are often even harder. If we won’t stick to our guns on the small things, then we can't stick to them on the big things. These are my thoughts, and I apologize if they come off as preachy. More than anything, I’m working to reinforce them in myself.

Word Games
Here are some word games I came up with to help with creativity and wit:

Politician’s Answer: Already outlined in yesterday’s post. Came up with it to sharpen wit.
3-Noun Story: Pick three nouns (person, place, or thing) to give to your friend. They now have to make up a short story based around this. Focus first on making them string together, learning the basics of a story, work them in creatively, and try to work on your intonation while speaking. I’m notoriously bad for speaking monotone, which makes my stories sound boring. This is why I came up with this game. The end goal was to make up a good story while sounding natural.
Speed Speeches: Pick one thing, anything. Spring it on your friend with a stopwatch set to 1 minute. They must now speak on that topic until the timer goes off. This can help with acting, random association, and small talk. I came up with it to get better at carrying conversations, and sharpening my wit.

Final Thought
Everyone should have to work in the service industry for their first job, and stay for at least 3 months.

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