“Dad said I would always be "high minded and low waged" from reading too much Ralph Waldo Emerson. Maybe he was right.”
“Every day I wonder how many things I am dead wrong about.”
― Jim Harrison
mind, focus, concentration, and learning
“I like grit, I like love and death, I'm tired of irony. ... A lot of good fiction is sentimental. ... The novelist who refuses sentiment refuses the full spectrum of human behavior, and then he just dries up. ... I would rather give full vent to all human loves and disappointments, and take a chance on being corny, than die a smartass.”
“Dad said I would always be "high minded and low waged" from reading too much Ralph Waldo Emerson. Maybe he was right.”
“Every day I wonder how many things I am dead wrong about.”
― Jim Harrison
Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer
I kept returning to something Ben Pridmore said in a newspaper interview, which made me ponder just how different his memory and my own might really be. “It’s all about technique and understanding how the memory works,” he told the reporter. “Anyone could do it, really.” “What you have to understand is that even average memories are remarkably powerful if used properly,” he said.
It was simply a matter of learning to “think in more memorable ways” using the “extraordinarily simple” 2,500-year-old mnemonic technique known as the “memory palace” that Simonides of Ceos had supposedly invented in the rubble of the great banquet hall collapse. The techniques of the memory palace—also known as the journey method or the method of loci, and more broadly as the ars memorativa, or “art of memory”—were refined and codified in an extensive set of rules and instruction manuals by Romans like Cicero and Quintilian, and flowered in the Middle Ages as a way for the pious to memorize everything from sermons and prayers to the punishments awaiting the wicked in hell. These were the same tricks that Roman senators had used to memorize their speeches, that the Athenian statesman Themistocles had supposedly used to memorize the names of twenty thousand Athenians, and that medieval scholars had used to memorize entire books.
A trained memory was not just a handy tool, but a fundamental facet of any worldly mind. What’s more, memory training was considered a form of character building, a way of developing the cardinal virtue of prudence and, by extension, ethics. Only through memorizing, the thinking went, could ideas truly be incorporated into one’s psyche and their values absorbed. The techniques existed not just to memorize useless information like decks of playing cards, but also to etch into the brain foundational texts and ideas.
If rote memorization is a way of scratching impressions onto our brains through the brute force of repetition—the old “drill and kill” method—then the art of memory is a more elegant way of remembering through technique.
“The brain is like a muscle,” he said, and memory training is a form of mental workout. Over time, like any form of exercise, it’ll make the brain fitter, quicker, and more nimble. It’s an idea that dates back to the very origins of memory training. Roman orators argued that the art of memory—the proper retention and ordering of knowledge—was a vital instrument for the invention of new ideas.
Buzan was eager to sell me on the idea that his own memory has been improving year after year, even as he ages. “People assume that memory decline is a function of being human, and therefore natural,” he said. “But that is a logical error, because normal is not necessarily natural. The reason for the monitored decline in human memory performance is because we actually do anti-Olympic training. What we do to the brain is the equivalent of sitting someone down to train for the Olympics and making sure he drinks ten cans of beer a day, smokes fifty cigarettes, drives to work, and maybe does some exercise once a month that’s violent and damaging, and spends the rest of the time watching television. And then we wonder why that person doesn’t do well in the Olympics. That’s what we’ve been doing with memory.”
Ed explained to me that he saw his participation in memory competitions as part of his attempt to unravel the secrets of human memory. “I figure that there are two ways of figuring out how the brain works,” he said. “The first is the way that empirical psychology does it, which is that you look from the outside and take a load of measurements on a load of different people. The other way follows from the logic that a system’s optimal performance can tell you something about its design. Perhaps the best way to understand human memory is to try very hard to optimize it—ideally with a load of bright people in conditions where they get rigorous and objective feedback. That’s what the memory circuit is.”
Those techniques have a surprisingly rich and important legacy. The role that they have played in the development of Western culture is one of the great themes in intellectual history whose story is not widely known outside of the rarefied academic corners in which it is studied. Mnemonic systems like Simonides’ memory palace profoundly shaped the way people approached the world from the time of antiquity through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. And then they all but disappeared.
Once upon a time, memory was at the root of all culture, but over the last thirty millennia since humans began painting their memories on cave walls, we’ve gradually supplanted our own natural memory with a vast superstructure of external memory aids—a process that has sped up exponentially in recent years. Imagine waking up tomorrow and discovering that all the world’s ink had become invisible and all our bytes had disappeared. Our world would immediately crumble. Literature, music, law, politics, science, math: Our culture is an edifice built of externalized memories.
When we die, our memories die with us. In a sense, the elaborate system of externalized memory we’ve created is a way of fending off mortality. It allows ideas to be efficiently passed across time and space, and for one idea to build on another to a degree not possible when a thought has to be passed from brain to brain in order to be sustained.
Somewhere in your mind there’s a trace from everything you’ve ever seen.
All of our memories are, like S’s, bound together in a web of associations. This is not merely a metaphor, but a reflection of the brain’s physical structure. The three-pound mass balanced atop our spines is made up of somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 billion neurons, each of which can make upwards of five to ten thousand synaptic connections with other neurons. A memory, at the most fundamental physiological level, is a pattern of connections between those neurons. Every sensation that we remember, every thought that we think, transforms our brains by altering the connections within that vast network. By the time you get to the end of this sentence, your brain will have physically changed.
One thing is clear, however: The nonlinear associative nature of our brains makes it impossible for us to consciously search our memories in an orderly way. A memory only pops directly into consciousness if it is cued by some other thought or perception—some other node in the nearly limitless interconnected web.
In his short story “Funes the Memorious,” Jorge Luis Borges describes a fictional version of S, a man with an infallible memory who is crippled by an inability to forget. He can’t distinguish between the trivial and the important. Borges’s character Funes can’t prioritize, can’t generalize. He is “virtually incapable of general, platonic ideas.” Like S, his memory was too good. Perhaps, as Borges concludes in his story, it is forgetting, not remembering, that is the essence of what makes us human. To make sense of the world, we must filter it. “To think,” Borges writes, “is to forget.”
The brain is a mutable organ, capable—within limits—of reorganizing itself and readapting to new kinds of sensory input, a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity. It had long been thought that the adult brain was incapable of spawning new neurons—that while learning caused synapses to rearrange themselves and new links between brain cells to form, the brain’s basic anatomical structure was more or less static. Maguire’s study suggested the old inherited wisdom was simply not true.
Surprisingly, when the mental athletes were learning new information, they were engaging several regions of the brain known to be involved in two specific tasks: visual memory and spatial navigation, including the same right posterior hippocampal region that the London cabbies had enlarged with all their daily way-finding.
It was a technique he promised I could use to remember people’s names at parties and meetings. “The trick is actually deceptively simple,” he said. “It is always to associate the sound of a person’s name with something you can clearly imagine. It’s all about creating a vivid image in your mind that anchors your visual memory of the person’s face to a visual memory connected to the person’s name. When you need to reach back and remember the person’s name at some later date, the image you created will simply pop back into your mind ... So, hmm, you said your name was Josh Foer, eh?” He raised an eyebrow and gave his chin a melodramatic stroke. “Well, I’d imagine you joshing me where we first met, outside the competition hall, and I’d imagine myself breaking into four pieces in response. Four/Foer, get it? That little image is more entertaining—to me, at least—than your mere name, and should stick nicely in the mind.” It occurred to me that this was a kind of manufactured synesthesia.
The science of martial arts should be no different. For Bruce Lee all knowledge led to self-knowledge
Bruce Lee's philosophy was predicated on a sense of individuality. It was a philosophy preserved in the catacombs of one man's mind, full of twists and turns and dead ends.
Said Bruce Lee: "The great mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement; you ought not to be thinking of whether it ends in victory or in defeat. Let nature take its course, and your tools will strike at the right moment."
One of Lee's favorite parables was the story of the western scholar who came to Japan to learn about Zen from an old Zen master. As the story goes, the two sat down to introductory tea, and it became evident after a few minutes that the western scholar was more interested in telling the Zen master what he knew than learning anything from him. As the Zen master poured the tea for his guest, the scholar continued to ramble on. The tea began to spill over the edges of the cup; the Zen master continued pouring. "Sir!" said the western scholar. "The cup is over-full!" "Yes," replied the Zen master, "and like this cup you too are over-filled with your own ideas and opinions. How do you expect to learn if you are not willing to empty your cup?"
Lee believed that you should not dismiss something out of hand without first investigating it for yourself. Bruce Lee also believed in Goethe's dictum: "Knowing is not enough; you must apply." It was his opinion that knowledge is useless if it is not put to good use. More importantly, one can never determine the value of knowledge if it is not tested. To quote Lao Tzu: "Tao people never try. They do."
As the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates first explained, the best way to knowledge and wisdom is through the dialectic, or the process of placing ideas in open discussion so that the inherent weaknesses of the ideas can be discovered. This Socratic Method is now used, not only in philosophy, but also in the scientific method of examination, wherein a researcher will first formulate a hypothesis and then try to prove or disprove it. The science of martial arts should be no different.
For Bruce Lee all knowledge led to self-knowledge
Bruce Lee: Dynamic Becoming by James Bishop
FAQ ME by James Altucher
Sometimes things get worse and worse. The important thing is that right around the middle of all of this, I started planting seeds. The abominable pressure of being forced to live, forced me to plant tiny seeds. Life goes on, the future is a joke, but we can never forget it exists and its hungry and it’s waiting to eat and destroy us so we must have food to give it. I was planting a garden. You pull up weeds. You dig out the dirt. You put seeds in, you lay excrement over it. Some plants get eaten up by ravenous birds. But some seeds are left alone and, if cared for, are allowed to blossom. That’s why I’m still alive. Because of the seeds planted. In retrospect I wish I had planted more of them but it’s ok. I planted new seeds every day. I still do.
Maybe I can also lie to myself and say I am a better person for having been through things. Maybe I came through the other side and there was more light on this side than the side I started on. I don’t know. I hope so. Some seeds I planted ten years ago are still growing. Still need to be harvested. The key is to plant the seeds. And never stop, even if weather, even if animals, even if mutations, look as if they are going to damage the garden and destroy it. Seeds take time to grow. A long time. And they need to be loved with patience, just like children. And there are seeds designed for every season. The key is to go out there, dig up dirt, and plant. Every day.
FAQ ME - James Altucher
Ask your brain to do math every day, and it gets better at math. Ask your brain to worry, and it gets better at worrying. Ask your brain to concentrate, and it gets better at concentrating. Not only does your brain find these things easier, but it actually remodels itself based on what you ask it to do. Some parts of the brain grow denser, packing in more and more gray matter like a muscle bulking up from exercise. For example, adults who learn how to juggle develop more gray matter in regions of the brain that track moving objects. Areas of the brain can also grow more connected to each other, so they can share information more quickly. For example, adults who play memory games for twenty-five minutes a day develop greater connectivity between brain regions important for attention and memory.
The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It
We live in a world of circles.
Every person we know expects us to be a certain person. They assign expectations for us and to our actions. They see us in a certain way, and they see us as a certain person. These people in our life have a concept of who they expect us to be, and of who we are allowed to be, and exactly what they expect us to do and say and believe. Each person defines a circle of behavior for us based on who they think we are.
These expectations are circles that limit our world. We cannot do anything, if we have to adhere to certain expectations. When we walk out a door, any door, we then can go in any direction, there are no real rules, but we often go the way we do, based on expectations.
Every person assigns us a list of acceptable and expected actions that we can do, and we cannot break that circle without causing disruption in to other people's lives. People love consistency, and do not like us to act inconsistent or different than their perception.
It makes people very nervous to truly know the world is not consistent.
As the number of people we know expands, and the number of circles we are given and bound grows, the number of circles we become locked in grows also. Sometimes the beliefs and circles overlap, but sometimes they do not, and there is conflict.
If we try and please everyone, and meet all the expectations of all the circles, we find ourselves unable to move, or to be ourselves, and we are then locked in a myriad of rings of expectations of others.
They now define you more than you define you.
Be open about what you do, who you are, your inconsistencies, as it makes the expectations of others match what you want to do.
Be aware of the circles, and do not lock yourself in them if they do not match who you are.
I read somewhere that the more you let people know about you, then the more they can control you. This is true in some ways, but actually it is the unreal expectations that try and pin you down. Pick carefully which circles matter to you, and be transparent in your actions.
The fewer circles you are locked in, the better. Freedom of action is critical to living.
The goal is to remember you have your own set of expectations, and your own personal circle of choice.
You want to pick those other circles that matter to you, that match your circle of belief or actions, that complement your actions, add to them, and that will make them better.
Concentration - Train every day because the refined skill of concentration is built gradually on previous days’ progress
It is therefore paramount to have a specific training plan in place and basic rules to enforce compliance with the training. Most importantly it is necessary to have a tool to measure progress in order to verify whether the approach taken is effective.
With concentration, measuring of progress is challenging since it is highly dependent on the environment, external factors, general mood of the day, worries/concerns recently experienced, as well as due to the difficulty in defining the unit of measurement. To achieve the task of measurement, we will use the countdown technique to plot how far down the countdown the practitioner was able to descend. This should not be done daily since such a period does not allow sufficient time for improvement; doing so fortnightly and plotting the results may be a reasonable time period.
Rules 1. Train every day- the refined skill of concentration is built gradually on previous days’ progress. Missing a day can take you a several steps back and cause frustration due to apparent lack of progress. It is therefore paramount that the training is completed every day without fail; if urgent circumstances present themselves then the training can be reduced to just one 10 minute session.
2. Do not try to catch up- do not try to make up for a missed day by doing double the next day; this may overload your system and cause frustration and perhaps even make you feel as though this is a chore. It is certainly not a chore; these are relaxation exercises and should be viewed with anticipation just as much as one would anticipate a tasty meal or a good movie or finishing work on Friday. Regular practise is the key, do not overdo for the wrong reasons.
3. Measure your progress every two weeks using the countdown technique- As discussed above, progress can be measured using the countdown technique, i.e. by recording the lowest number the practitioner arrived at during the session once 10mins have elapsed. The training schedules below only include the countdown technique from week 5 onwards because it is advisable to have a month of training that does not involve any pressure of achievement. For some, this is a crucial component in gaining confidence with the ideas being taught.
4. Follow the training schedules and continue your practise even after mastery- below are simple training schedules that focus the first few months on the core techniques, those that are simplest to perform and most effective. Once mastery has been achieved you can design your own schedule or continue with the one suggested. The important point here is that training should not be stopped after the 12th week; to maintain the skill gained would require regular practise, and, with concentration, the level of mastery is never finite- there is always a deeper experience that one can strive towards.
5. Do not compare your progress with others- concentration and relaxation are not competitive sports, once ego begins to interfere with the training, all effort would have been wasted. Concentration is a means to an end; it is there to improve your ability to learn as well as to relax. Comparing progress is fraught with dangers since the person you are discussing with may have different views, may not be honest with his views or may discourage you altogether by suggesting something else to try.
Schedule The schedule below requires the user to set aside 20 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at lunch and 10 minutes in the evening. This may not be possible for all readers but it is encouraged for optimal results. If these three daily sessions cannot be completed on a regular basis then at the very least, practise once a day for 20 minutes. It should be noted that practising only once a day would result in a longer period before measurable progress takes place. This is not a bad situation if it is the only available choice, but the key is to be realistic with what is possible within one’s schedule and execute regularly on that basis without fail.
The Manual- A guide to the Ultimate Study Method (USM); covering Speed Reading, Super Memory, Laser Concentration, Rapid Mental Arithmetic and the Ultimate Study Method (USM) by Rod Bremer
“We all are learning, modifying, or destroying ideas all the time. Rapid destruction of your ideas when the time is right is one of the most valuable qualities you can acquire. You must force yourself to consider arguments on the other side.
— Charles T. Munger”
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