Unlearn

Have you ever tried to unlearn something? Much of our knowledge, our way of seeing the world, we have collected haphazardly.

In order to grow and learn new things – we have to be able to change our minds. We must be aware of what we are assuming and be sure that we are not overlooking something true just because it does not align with our expectations.

Creativity stems from unlearning. A hammer is more than something that hits nails – it is whatever you can do with it.

Details and the Devil

Details are exhausting. What percentage of people who accept terms and conditions read them? How much attention do you pay to the oil with which you cook your food? What about the material of the frying pan? (hint: Teflon prior to 2013, not looking so good for the health) Maybe you pay attention to these things when cook at home, but what about when you go out to eat? Given that oils and pan materials vary greatly in health related studies, it would seem important – but how many details can we worry about?

I was thinking about this while studying the German language. In German, the cases are specific. The articles change depending on their role in the sentence. This allows you to say something like “Den Apfel hat das Madchen” which to an untrained eye looks like “The apple has the girl”, but the sentence actually says, “The girl has the apple.” One letter changes the entire sentence. Den Apfel versus Der Apfel and who owns who is completely changed.

This led me to thinking about the expression, “the devil is in the details”. It is a common expression. One that I use or hear when something goes wrong, or when someone does something “careless”. One is reminded that we should pay more attention. That the details matter. But to what extent or end? This can be exhausting. I am not a lawyer – so even if I read the terms and conditions, would I understand them? Should I understand all the details behind this website? Every line of code? What about the binary sequences that make it up? Its details all the way down.

This got me curious, where did this devil in the details phrase come from, and why inflict it on the population? Everyone can’t be expected to know everything. So I looked it up and to my surprise, it appears that it derives from an earlier phrase, “God is in the details”. What a different notion. In the details await opportunity. By looking closer, by learning a bit more you might unravel mysteries.

I find this thought invigorating. The terms and conditions are now not a legal trap waiting to catch me, they are an opportunity to learn. If you take a few extra minutes to learn about health studies about oil and cooking, you might improve your health and share with your family and improve their health. God is in the details. Delightful.

Hell Week – Round #1

One week a quarter, I will be conducting my own personal Hell Week. This is my first round.

Why would I do this? Despite my best intentions, I regress to comfort. I watch TV instead of working on a book. I run a mile less because I am not feeling it. I hit snooze because my first meeting is not until later.

Some argue that the main obstacle to our growth is our desire to stay inside our comfort zone. The goal of Hell Week is to shatter the comfort zone.

Rules for round 1 of Hell Week:

  • Hell Week will go from August 1st at 5:30am to August 8th at 5:30am
  • Must wake up (and not return to bed) by 5:30am
  • Must complete throughout the course of the day – 500 pushup, 500 squats, and 500 ab moves*
  • Must run 35 miles over the course of the week
  • Follow a 16:8 Intermittent Fast until the 36 hour fast
  • 36 hour fast starting Wednesday August 5th until the 7th
  • Must complete 5,000+ word article
  • No TV
  • No Instagram
  • No Twitter from 5:30am to 12pm
  • Cold shower every day
  • Meditate 20 minutes everyday
  • One 45 minute Meditation

I will track my fasts with the app zero. I will use the Waking Up App to track meditations. I will use Nike+ Running app to track runs.

The goal is to reach a point where I do not want to continue, and to push through that point. To realize that there was a reason I created the challenge in the first place and to trim a little fat off my soul.

Love, Hate and Chess.com

My relationship with the Chess.com puzzle feature is borderline masochistic. The premise is simple – you are presented with a chess game that has progressed to a certain point and it is up to you to make the next move. 

There is one correct move you can make. If you make that move, you may be prompted to make another move – of which there is only one correct move. Sometimes the puzzle can involve up to 4 or even 5 moves, I believe. If any one of those moves is not perfect, you lose points off your ranking.

I have completed over 2,400+ chess puzzles. I occasionally go through periods where I pay extra and can do 25 puzzles a day – but usually I am limited to the 5 free puzzles a day. I also go for months without any puzzles, but I always return.

My ranking is a miserable 713 currently. Here is my all time chart:


My ranking never really gets any better. And that is the point of this post. The source of the masochism. I desire to actually improve, rather than just play for fun.

My current plan is to keep a journal of mistakes and revisit them. Chess.com also now has a learning feature. I will work on those puzzles with the same focus. I will also document my thoughts upon looking at a difficult board and reflect on if there is a better chain of thoughts through which I can analyze the board.

My goal is to break 900 by August 31st.

This experiment has more to do with growth in learning than chess specifically. Chess is an arena that gives immediate feedback so it will be my current training ground. I am hoping the lessons learned in improving my chess puzzle score can be applied to any area I wish to improve.

How hard did you go?

At the end of a Nike+ training workout you are asked, “how hard was that for you?” Another way of asking the question might be – how much effort did you put in?

I was doing exercises measured in duration – so if I wanted to go harder, I simply needed to go faster. This is one of the ideas behind Crossfit. The exercise could be as simple as 300 pushups – not difficult for world’s most elite athletes. But competing against each other as fast as you can – it becomes more difficult.

So “how hard was that for you”? You get to slide a bar between 1-10. When I slide this bar, I often want to stop on 7. And then I hear the voice of our first realtor. When we would go visit homes, she would say “rate the house on a scale of 1-10 but you can’t use 7”. 

So I push the bar up to 8. And then I think – why is this not at a 10? Why am I not giving my max effort? 

The answer is ego. The answer to many problems is usually ego. We seek self-preservation over growth. We want to think, “that was easy and I could have gone way harder”. Even though we were just making strange noises a few seconds ago. 

I don’t think that putting 7 or 8 is wrong – I just wonder if it is right? What would happen if you had to slide a scale at the beginning of the workout that asked, how much effort are you about to put in? Would we say 8? Should we seek 10?