2016, unlike roughly 20 years I consciously experienced before that, feels different.
The scale of global events has changed. It feels like there are things happening now that have a new kind of magnitude.
The last generation that experienced a world war, has mostly died. Their lessons are no longer remembered by decision makers all over the world.
Now’s the time where this generation will make the same mistakes again. And pay them in blood and tears—again.
Thirty years ago, almost no-one used computers, and these select few learned very specific skills to do so. Now, everyone uses computers and almost nobody learns how – which often makes these interactions fail. In another thirty years, we’ll be able to seamlessly talk to AIs. Then, nobody needs to learn anything about computers any more.
When those AIs are built, everyone can do anything with computers. Imagine that! Until then, the coding elite holds a lot of power and responsibility. Software developers like myself try their best to simplify user interfaces in order to empower more people to use computers. But we won’t change much until users can ask an AI to do anything for them.
We live in this uncanny valley, with bad and broken user interfaces scattered all over the place. It’ll be over soon.
It’s become a ritual in my Dojo to completely empty yourself in order to get ready for training. This includes three things:
- Empty your mind: Only an unoccupied mind like water trains well. In order to learn, we need to first remove all other thoughts. This usually happens during warm-up, when the exercises are so demanding that we don’t have time to think about anything else.
- Empty your appearance: We remove all jewelry and put on the Keikogi, the traditional training clothes. This removes all items from our bodies that could be distracting. It also removes the individualized outward appearance that we are used to. We all look almost the same in the Dojo.
- Empty your body: Before starting to train, we make sure to satisfy all basic human necessities like having to pee or being thirsty. They’d only distract from learning, they’d partially close our open minds.
After you empty yourself, you are completely ready for something new — your mind is open. It’s one of those things that help to make a Karateka a better person, inside and outside the Dojo.
Whenever you say one of the following, you’re communicating the opposite:
- I have everything under control.
- It’s not what it looks like.
- To tell you the truth …
- I’m an expert on …
- I’m not racist, but …
- Trust me.
- I know what I’m talking about.
- That wasn’t my fault.
Do you ever feel bored while waiting for someone or something? What do you do while commuting? Do you feel this is worthless, lost time?
Why didn’t you bring a book? Or a problem to think about?
Make the lost time your time. Fill it with books, knowledge or challenges. Do thought experiments. Introspect. Use this time, then you can never lose it.
I’ve encountered many people that behaved confrontationally towards me. They tried to make me lose my cool, to get me to do something I’d later regret. I’ve also been personally attacked by people trying to hurt my ego.
They’ve never succeeded to hurt my ego in any way, because — somehow — I managed to silence it. I never take anything personally. Instead, I’m looking to understand my counterpart, trying to figure out what made her behave in that way.
In hindsight, I think this behavior of mine has saved and improved countless interactions with fellow students, colleagues, clients or employees. Whenever my first reaction is how dare you say that to me, I pause and think. I silence my ego. Then, I can react in a calm and thoughtful way.
I’m a sucker for cooking equipment. I habitually buy more than I use. By doing that, I surround myself with more and more stuff. I increase clutter.
Clutter is the bad stuff that stops me from getting to the good stuff.
It’s the pressure cooker I never use or the imported Mexican tortilla press I use once a year. By merely existing, by sitting there, on the kitchen shelf, they beg me to use them. They clutter my mind, which is already cluttered by thoughts of unfinished tasks or wishes of having behaved differently in a situation today.
Breathe. That helps clearing the mind. But having all that stuff around me all the time makes the clutter creep back into my mind way too quickly.
I might need to do something about that.
Three years ago, I was embarrassed that we don’t have world government yet. Now, I’m not so certain any more that it would be a good thing. Let me elaborate.
Having a world government would mean a lot of central control, judiciary system and institutions. It would be a great equalizer, making rights and duties equal across the globe.
Maybe having a variety of societal configurations would be better for everyone, though. Our current countries provide us with different kinds of societies, different judiciary systems, different freedoms, rights and duties.
This creates a landscape of sorts, where each person can find her own perfect place. Of course, some of the places on this landscape are the worst in every aspect. What’s required, then, is the absolute freedom to move around. That’s why I think it is paramount that every person is granted the freedom to move into the country they deem best, and move again if they don’t like it there.
When everyone can pick the place that fits them best, happiness is maximized and suffering minimized. I’m not sure how we could achieve the same thing with a central world government.
“Can you summarize that for me?” — “Give me the management summary.” I hear something that much more often than I would like. When you heard the summary of something, what have you got? Almost nothing, I think.
Think of what it means to watch a good movie compared to reading its plot summary. For a good book, the difference is even starker. Reading a book like Willpower teaches you something important and makes you a better person. Summaries almost never do. Summaries don’t engage. Summaries don’t convince — they’re bare information without context.
When managing a project, I often have to give management summaries to decision makers. By providing proper context and bringing additional information if questions arise, I try to make them more meaningful than bare information.
At its best, a summary can guide a decision the way the summarizer wants it. But a summary can never replace the real thing. It can’t replace researching yourself and it can’t ever replace the experience you get by reading a book.
It’s only a faint shadow.