Deep-listening and service to others

In perceiving the world around you, you should always listen to people. No-brainer, right? But listening to people is actually quite difficult and I’m going to differentiate between listening and deep-listening (with such a cool name, it’s obviously the thing you want to do).

When you really listen to people, you understand what they’re saying, you understand their emotional states, you can be compassionate about their problems and so on. True listening is needed in order to deep-listen.

Even when people listen to others, which is outrageously rare, at least in my life, where it seems that almost everybody wants to talk and get heard, but nobody is prepared to be silent and hear others – even when it happens, there is still one step more where you get a better picture of the persons mind.

What I label deep-listening might as well be labeled „discourse analysis“ (see also). There are many things that are unsaid when a person talks, but are still „said“, in a way. And I’m not even talking about non-verbals, even though they are a very important part of deep-listening. When you deep-listen to other people, you actively analyze what they are saying, real-time. You ask yourself questions about what they say (analysis of consistency, coherence and meaning), you ask yourself about them (their emotional state, and what they want), you monitor changes on their body and discourse after your responses. Shortly, you listen smarter. It is very difficult for me to instruct anybody about this because I’m far from mastering it, but I’ve seen a glimpse of it and I share what I have realized.

With that in mind…

I have come to realize that service to others is an integral part of becoming overhuman. It never really dawned upon me that I don’t do much for others while I focus on myself and my development. What good is it all if it’s only self-serving?

When learning new things, I always ask myself this question: „How can I exploit this? How can I use it in my favor?“ This exploitation is, naturally, always benevolent. But it is necessary to ask this question too: „How can this be useful to other people?“ Nothing obliges you to devote yourself to absolute altruism and stop caring about yourself so that other people are satisfied. There is a difference between sacrificing your own well-being for others and serving others. Everyone always starts from herself – you change yourself, and then change the world, right? But there comes a time when you CAN actually change the world, and many people forget about this.

So go wash the dishes. Repair your family member’s bike. Fix the TV for them. Clean the toilet. Do people favors, unasked. Don’t look for anything in return. The first step was starting to listen to other people, and the next step is doing things for them. So go do them. Don’t think about doing them, don’t plan doing them – do them.

Self-inflicted brainwash + multiprocess thinking

Self-inflicted brainwash

Everybody gets side-winded. Sickness, lack of willpower, other people’s influence – there are many things that can get us off tracks. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new dietary regime, fitness challenge or a wish to grow – sooner or later, everyone is going to lose momentum and stop.

The only thing that’s important is this: are you going to stop completely, never to return, rationalizing about why you can’t continue OR are you going to start again, build up momentum anew and get back into your game?

There is a trick for getting back. I call it “self-inflicted brainwash” and it’s exactly that. What made you do the thing you stopped doing in the first place? What inspired you to do any of it? Identify the things that motivate(d) you. And then – just use it. If you read a book that made you want to become smart (e.g. Dune and Sherlock Holmes) – read it again! If you saw a show or a movie that inspired you to work out hard (e.g. Dragon Ball) – see it again! If a real living person made you laugh and made you more positive and thrill-seeking, then go talk and socialize with that person! Drown yourself in the stuff that motivated you to move forward and you will reemerge – stronger.

Multiprocess thinking

Multiprocess thinking is for me a new thing. It’s basically thinking about more than one thing at the same time. It sounds pretty impossible but I suppose there are individuals out there that can do that. I, for one, am not one of them. If I think, I can have only one thought process, one “line” at a time. I can interchange, but it’s always only one at a time. The key here is this interchange: if you interchange between two thinking streams fast enough, it basically becomes dual process thinking (i.e. thinking about two different things at the same time).

I came up with an exercise for this: thinking about something and counting 100 seconds. It’s important not to count at any speed because that allows for inconsistencies. You want to count exactly 100 seconds, mentally pronouncing every number, while thinking about something else.

It’s a fairly boring exercise, but if multiprocess thinking is possible (for humans), I’d say it’s the way to go.

There is no difference between armed and unarmed combat

When you fight somebody, you use your body as a weapon. Why is it that we differentiate our bodies so much from the objects outside of our bodies? Armed and unarmed fighting are essentially the same thing. If you train only one at a time, you could (and probably will) fall into one of the two categories – thereby limiting yourself in real confrontations.

It’s basically the same problem as being “fair“ in a fight. No eye-gauges, no groin strikes, no biting – that’s fair, right? But if you don’t recognize the potential of these weapons and if you never train them, you limit yourself severely in a true conflict. Granted, they are pretty hard to train. I mean, who wants to get kicked in the nuts? But you can always go for it and stop at the last moment, or strike nearby to the target. You can, at least, become aware of the fact that this exists and that real fights include such stuff.

It’s the same thing with weapons. What’s stopping anybody to take a knife out during your supposedly unarmed fight? Just because you started with fists, doesn’t mean that it’ll end only with that. The same thing goes in the other direction: if you’re sword fighting or doing Escrima or whatever, what is stopping you from kicking your opponent? While his attention is occupied by the weapons in your hands, a fast side-kick is a perfect thing to do to open him up.

In practical terms, I would advise to include weapons in standard sparring sessions. Why not take out a plastic blunted knife when you have the opportunity? It’ll make you much more aware of your environment during training which will translate into a greater fighting capacity in real life. Why not grab a chair and use it to keep a distance? Why not throw sand at somebody? Why not roll a magazine and use it for hitting? The options are plentiful, yet we all train either armed or unarmed, unaware of the fact that this distinction doesn’t exist in real life.

Need for scientific statistical research

This whole Sherlockian concept of perception and induction (Sherlock Holmes didn’t deduce but induce. Going from specific to general is induction) is highly subjective and that’s its major drawback. It’s limited insofar that it operates on small variables – details – that should enable us to induce the “larger picture”. Our perception of details is relatively objective: we can say that most people perceive the same thing in a pretty similar manner, but interpret it differently.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

If a person does not have any animal hairs on their pants, it would be a very long shot to conclude that the person in question doesn’t have an animal. If, however, a person has animal hairs on their pants, we conclude that the person either has or has been in a contact with an animal. By analogy, if a person wears a wedding ring, we conclude the person is married, and if there is no ring, we shouldn’t conclude that the person is not married. Or?

Need for statistical knowledge

What if the number of people not wearing wedding rings corresponds highly to the number of people not married? From a purely subjective perspective, I think that most people that don’t wear wedding rings really aren’t married. But that’s just my interpretation and that’s the drawback. It would be best to have a statistical research giving us the percentages so that we know for sure. There are many other specific areas that should be investigated (scientifically) in a similar manner. For example, left-handed and right-handed people wearing bags – what would be the statistical percentage of left-handed people wearing their bags on their left side? Of those wearing them on their right side? Of right-handed people wearing them on the left and on the right?

These are some of the questions that beg a specific statistical answer so that one may get a much more precise theory when inducing. I have recently read about the Bayes theorem. It seems to me that its application in induction has a great potential.



Always finish your theories

The other day, I was walking down the street and I saw a guy take out something out of his garage. I wasn’t sure what it was, but it looked like one of those carpet things you put on the floor of your car. It looked a bit too big for a car and too small for a truck. And there I stopped thinking.

All of the sudden, it struck me: this is a big mistake. I shouldn’t be content with ending a reasoning line with “I don’t know”. I should try to understand what it is, to create a theory that suits data (i.e. that it was too big for a car and too small for a truck), not to just give up and say that I don’t know.

I concluded that it was probably one of those things you have in the trunk of your car, not on the floor. Of course, I could have just walked over to the guy and asked him, but that isn’t really the point here. The point is to always offer SOME solution to a question and to never say that you don’t know. It doesn’t matter if it’s the wrong solution – this depends largely on (perceived) data. What matters is that you always create a theory that fits the given data and that is probable. Never let your reasoning chain just “hang” there. Always finish it.

That being said, it is equally, if not more important to avoid confirmation bias that all humans are prone to. Confirmation bias means that you give more significance to your explanation than to other explanations, even though other explanations work better with given data. This phenomenon occurs mostly when you create your theory before the arrival of new data. Even though you would have created theory no. 2 if you had had this new data beforehand, you might stick to your original theory now just because it’s “yours”. There is a lot of psychological literature out there about confirmation bias and I encourage the reader to educate himself/herself in this field as I certainly will.

To summarize:

Always finish your explanations. Your explanations must be probable and have to fit the data. When acquainted with new data, rearrange, fix or discard your original explanation. Repeat.

Update my mind

A friend of mine had a great idea: how awesome would it be to go through all the branches of knowledge you have or you should have and construct a mind palace specifically for these branches with memory techniques helping you remember them?

My personal example is this: I’m irritated by the number of hours spent in high school learning about chemistry, physics, math and other stuff (which now actually seems very cool and worthy of knowing) and the subsequent lack of knowledge. I know some biology, less physics and even less chemistry. There are many things I should know, but for the love of me, it’s just not in my brain – or it’s just not accessible.

So my plan is to go branch by branch, subject by subject, beginning with the really elementary stuff and unpacking my mind’s database, updating it with books, articles and videos, and then packing them smartly and in a fashion which will allow better recall.

The great thing about memory techniques is that they allow you to remember longer and better by using metaphors, visuals and humor. It seems to me however that if you have a large mind palace filled with specific knowledge, you have at least some maintenance to do. That means that you probably have to walk through it, once a day for example, just to keep things in order. This is, of course, my presumption which by no means has to be correct. But, such a process would be similar to physical cultivation – if you do not use your strength (or any other attribute), it most certainly starts to drop. However, resilient (even antifragile) systems which we try to build – like our bodies and mind palaces – shouldn’t be destroyed after a small time of disuse. Find out the right amount of maintenance and do it regularly.

Learn to love the fight

Throw away your ego, don’t try to prove you’re better or stronger or more capable or right. When you encounter an aggressive person in the street, do not become as aggressive as that person. You have nothing to prove. The only acceptable option that includes physical contact is when you have no other choice, when it’s fight or die (or get hurt).

But when that moment arrives… You need to be a beast. You need to be aggressive and ruthless and brutal. Don’t spar with your attacker, destroy him! All the more if there are more of them and only one you.

Not only you need to become very aggressive when it truly comes to a fight, you need to change your perspective before the fight. Learn to love the fight. It’s a bloody chaos, but it’s a blessing because it’s so rare.

So, avoid the conflict, but when it’s inevitable, learn to recognize that it truly is inevitable. Do not twist reality so that the conflict seems inevitable, while it really is avoidable. Be realistic. When it’s inevitable, recognize it, and learn to love it. Cherish the moment when everything falls and you need to defend yourself. You will be surprised as to your own reactions. The complete lack of conscious control over what you do. Everything happening so fast. You can’t even think. After the fight you shake. You maybe start to laugh hysterically or cry. Observe how your body reacts to true stressors, because that will show you what you need to work on to improve.