Tagged: How To

How To Be The Best Ever

(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)

Whoa there!  Slow down a minute.  Have you really considered what you’re doing?

You know who you are.  You’re the one believing that you really do excel at one particular skill.  You’re so confident that you could be the best ever at it, that you are on the verge of totally restructuring your life in order to prove it to the world.

If there’s not one confusing thing about life, there’s another.  Take definitions for a moment.  They can be descriptive or prescriptive.  If you’re like me and strive to always exist in the present, you likely find yourself drawn to descriptive definitions.  If you’re not like me and you prefer to live in a fantasy world, you’re likely drawn to prescriptive definitions.  For example, dictionary.com defines “peace” as “the normal, nonwarring condition of a nation, group of nations, or the world.”  That is a prescriptive definition.  Howard Bloom, crazy thinker that he is, suggests a more descriptive definition.  Starting as a Tabula Rasa, he writes “peace” usually means, “‘Since I’m on top, let’s keep the status quo;’ or ‘Now that I’ve managed to climb on your back, would you please be kind enough to sit still'” (Bloom 265).*

Reading over dictionary.com’s definition is quite comical if it is supposed to be descriptive.  The ‘normal’ condition of the world.  Right.

Back to you, though.  Here you are.  The best ever.   But no one knows it.  We don’t need sources to know what being the best is.  It is simply being better at something than everyone else.  With 20/20 hindsight, let’s see what we can learn by looking at how a couple of people who are arguably the best ever did it.

I’m thinking specifically of Michael Jordan and Lance Armstrong.  If you haven’t watched MJ’s Hall of Fame speech, what you need to know is that it disappointed most people.  Not me.  I took notes.  Here was someone who was the best ever.  How did he do it?  I wanted to know.

Next we have Lance Armstrong.  Even more than MJ, Lance Armstrong solidified his place in history as the best ever.

But we’re talking about you.  So without further ado, here are the instructions.

Instructions for How To Be The Best Ever:

Step 1 –  Forsake everything, literally every other thing in your life if it doesn’t help you become the best ever.

Step 2 –  Believe, really believe that when you finally get the recognition you so desire, it will have been worth it.

*Bloom, Howard K. The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History. New York: Atlantic Monthly, 1995. Print.

How To Use A White Board

(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)

According to Malcolm X’s autobiography, he constantly scribbled little idea-notes on any and everything all the time.  While I found that part of his personality fascinating, it wasn’t enough to convince me that I should follow suit.  Later, I watched Some Kind of Monster where I saw Metallica using a white board to capture creative impulses before they escape.  It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that a white board was hanging on my wall within days.

I immediately put it to good use.  Any idea accompanied by a, “This is brilliant!  I need to make sure I don’t forget it!” feeling was recorded on my white board.  I was rather vain about it.  Scratch that, I am rather vain about my white board.

Thinking about Malcolm X’s little notes and Metallica’s colorful white board is always inspiring to me.  Seeing my own white board covered in ideas makes me feel good about myself.  Over the last several years of recording my ideas, however, I’ve come to realize that I like something even more than looking at a white board teeming with my ideas.  Erasing those ideas.

Yes, erasing my ideas.  I would have never guessed this, but in retrospect it makes sense.  Reflect on this for a moment.  What is the point of capturing ideas in writing anyhow?  The point is not to simply write them down.  Nothing magical happens because a good idea is recorded.  Something magical happens, though, when a good idea is acted upon.  I’ll go further and also argue that the same magical something happens when what appeared to be a good idea is permanently discarded.

And whether you’ve acted on a good idea or decided it wasn’t that great, regarding the white board, the end result is the same.  It is erased.

Everything begins as an idea.  *Begins*  If you use a white board to record ideas for later use, when is the last time you erased it?  When is the last time you made decisions about the ideas?  If it’s been a while, you may be misunderstanding how to use a white board.  No worries, that’s why I’m here.  Simply follow the below instructions, and you’ll be in back on track in no time.

Instructions for How to Use a White Board:

Step 1 – Write possibly brilliant idea on it.

Step 2Act on idea or Discard idea.

Step 3 (Most Important) – Erase idea.

How To Live Uncensored

(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)

A professor of mine recently led a classroom discussion on censorship.  I am embarrassed, therefore compelled, to admit that this is a hot-button issue for me.  I cannot stand censorship.  Why should one human being have power over what another human being is exposed to?

Just the same, I can surely see the other side of the story.  Wait, no I can’t.  What is the problem again?  Has there ever been any data to support that uncensored living is problematic?  Sure, there seems to be well established correlations between those who watch violence and those who perpetrate it, and the like.  But causal?

There has to be an identifiable problem before we can start solving it!  What is the problem?!

So this got me thinking.  What, even, is censorship?

Censorship definitions refer us back to the word ‘censor’, which is a noun.  By noun, we mean a person, place or thing.  In this case, a censor is clearly a person.  This is extremely important to the following philosophizing or interpretation of life.  (Why is it important to spell out that a censor is a person?  Because as free and alive men and women, we should want to live uncensored.  Since we don’t right now, we need to know what that would even look like.)  So a censor is another person.  This makes sense because fundamentally censorship really can’t be imposed on oneself.  By definition, a censor is someone who views/hears/reads something, deems it objectionable and then suppresses it.  If I view/hear/read something, I can’t reverse that.  I can’t censor myself.  So we’ve learned something:  The minimum number of humans required to bring forth the concept of censorship is two.

Why is this important?  Because now we’re getting to the heart of the concept.  There must be two people in order for one person to act as a censor.

Furthermore, it seems to me that censorship deals exclusively in the realm of surprise.  As in, people clamor for censorship when they’ve been surprised.  Or the well-intended censor believes if he doesn’t act, the audience will be unpleasantly surprised.  Are you with me?  Taking a page out of history, picture this: a well-tailored family sits down to watch the Ed Sullivan show.  Everything is as it should be.  Then, surprise!  A man humps the air!  This isn’t what they were expecting at all.  Oh, boy.  What are they ever to do?

Well, what did happen?  What did they do?  Maybe some turned off the TV.  Maybe others wrote letters.  Maybe others discussed it.  Maybe others ignored it.

Could the surprise have been avoided?  YES!  Most definitely.  When in history did adult men and women give other adult men and women control over their life in the way that those parents did with TV?  As if there was something inherently congenial about what was broadcast on TV?  “There was up until that point…”, you say?  Well then, lesson learned.

What lesson?  Don’t believe there is another living person worthy of control over your life.

The good news is, the information age is here.  Not a single human being alive should be surprised by what they see or hear.  If you value the freedom you have, and want even more of it, you’ll recognize this as a good thing.  If censorship is inherently about limiting surprise, and surprise is coming to an end, the end of censorship is therefore near.  Without the ability to be surprised, individuals have regained some of the control they gave up with the advent of TV and other forms of mass communication.  And anytime we as individuals gain back control, it is a victory for freedom.

Censorship is about controlling life in the present to promote a desired future.  Am I being clear?  The thing being censored must really exist in order to be censored.  Something not yet real cannot be censored.   For example, whether fiction or non-fiction, censored violence is still violence.  It still was brought forth into reality.  How foolish are we to expect that life, inherently full of unknowns, should have a moment where we can for sure know the future?  How did people ever make it to this, “Alright children…  For the next short while, we are all going to stare at this optical illusion.  Unlike the rest of the day, we should be totally safe from surprises.  You see, there are men and women behind the scenes making sure that nothing we don’t expect will happen.”  Are you kidding me?

For me, the burden of proof is on the censor.   What is he trying to protect?  I hope to have shown his answer is irrelevant.  It isn’t about protecting.  It is about control.  Why does he want control?  Because ‘he’-the censor and ‘he’-the individual calling for censorship don’t know how to live in the present.  They are captivated by the notion of the future.  They only know how to live in such a way that demonstrates their denial of the present.  They simply put up with the present, in hopes for a better future.  If they’re children, we need to teach them.  If they are adults, they should be embarrassed.

Ask yourself, “Do I want a better future?” or “Do I want to live life?”  They are not the same thing.

Instructions for How To Live Uncensored:

Step 1– Stop believing you can influence the future.

Step 2- Understand that there is only one step.


How To Do The Inconceivable.

(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)

Because it is time, that’s why.  Someone needs to grab the bull by the horns and reveal the secret to accomplishing anything.  The following few paragraphs are going to give you the tips you need to do anything you can conceive.

In the recent Tom Cruise movie Oblivion, T.C. and his female counterpart are two-weeks away from completing their mission on the ‘remote site’ that is Planet Earth.  After the two weeks, they will return to the new human settlement with those who survived the war.  Granted, the work they were doing was not in itself particularly difficult or boring.  Loneliness seemed to be the biggest negative.  And the dream of how life would be like in two weeks’ time kept them going.

How many of us ever thought we’d spend as much time and energy as we have to accomplish so little?  How did we do it?  Where did we get the strength from?  Were we born with it?  Even if we were born with it, we must fight the desire to victimize ourselves.  Instead, as a group we need to accept total responsibility for our lives.

Where did the strength to put up with a life we never conceived come from?  The strength came from believing a lie.  The lie that there will be more time in the future.  Break down the concept of the future a little and you’ll see why this is a lie.  The future has not happened.  The present is happening.  The future “is not”.  The present “is”.  What do you gain if when you trade what “is” for what “is not”?

The future will never be.  Can you understand this?  The future will never “exist.”  It will never “be.”  That’s it’s definition.  If you believe that the future is something that “will be”, then you’re no longer describing the same abstract idea that’s being discussed here, and is commonly labeled “the future.”  There is no catching-up.  There is no getting ahead.  These are impossibilities.

I have been nearly exclusively reading the classics for almost a decade now, and a common theme is best summed up by Jon J. Muth in his children’s book, “The Three Questions”, based on Leo Tolstoy’s ideas.  “Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now.  The most important one is always the one you are with.  And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side.  For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world.”

The choice is always yours.  If you want to do the inconceivable follow the instructions below.  If you want to exist in reality, stick with living in the present.

Instructions for How to Do The Inconceivable:

Step 1 – Believe that after you’ve accomplished it, you’ll have time to do what you really want.

Step 2 – Understand that there is only one step.

How To Philosophize

I recently took an undergraduate philosophy course for pay.  (Highly recommended if you get the chance.)  Martin Heidegger was the thinker we studied the most.  That man knew how to philosophize.  The professor had us read Heidegger’s, “Phenomenological Interpretations with Respect to Aristotle: Indication of the Hermeneutical Situation.”  Quite the title, no?  Apparently, this paper put him on the map.

It is extremely difficult to read.  Supposedly this was purposeful.  It seems Heidegger’s intent in everything he did was to get people to live in the moment.  He wrote with such depth and complexity that his readers can’t be thinking about something else and understand what he was trying to communicate.

So what made this paper so important?  In it, Heidegger argues that the time has come for someone (himself in this case) to remind humanity that no matter how smart we think we are, we don’t actually want to find answers to our questions.  We don’t actually want the ‘seeking for truth’ to conclude.  As in, we think we do, but that’s only because we have a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be human.

That might not sound radical upon first reading.  Think about it this way.  There are several problem-solving techniques.  One in particular has six steps.  1.  Recognize the problem.  2. Gather the data.  3. List the possible solutions.  4. Test the possible solutions.  5.  Select a solution.  6.  Implement the solution.  Heidegger was given a place at the table because he convincingly argued that life is always and only about step one, or recognizing the problem.  He wrote this while other great thinkers of his day (and today) made arguments regarding how to perform step six, the final step.  “Implement the solution.”

There are some thinkers today who concern themselves with prescriptive philosophy.  They recommend things like censoring children from religion because research shows that once people internalize the scientific method they don’t return to their childhood faith.  In his paper, Heidegger questions this whole concept.  He basically argues that the idea of doing everything according to a logical system which centers around adding longevity to our lives is an escape.  We shouldn’t be trying to build Utopia.  I take his writing to argue that this Utopia some seem to be striving to create would rob life of meaning.  What is more important, more difficult, and more worthy is continually defining our existence.  Why do we want to live forever?  What is appealing about world peace?  What does a world of well-fed people actually look like?  This is because no matter what answers the past has given us, the very nature of the questions demand continual asking.  For all I know, the Greek philosophers didn’t even exist.  What do I care what their answers were?

Thousands of years into our existence one man was still able to gain notoriety by simply reminding us that the fun part of living, or what might be more easily understood as the ‘being’ part of human being, is step one.  That is, recognizing the problem.  And that’s how to philosophize.