Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How To Be the Luckiest Guy on the Planet?

What is it that makes us "lucky"? According to Dictionary.com, luck is "the force that seems to operate for good or ill in a person's life, as in shaping circumstances, events, or opportunities." But is this force controllable? If so, how can we control it?

To be sure, there are many things in life that are outside of our control. We can't control the weather. Many times we can't control accidents or illnesses in our lives. We also can't control the actions of others. But we control almost everything else, and by controlling those "forces" in a positive direction, we can put fertile soil at our feet that will cultivate that luck.

Entrepreneur and investor James Altucher blogged recently about the steps he takes to become lucky. He points out that, "Each time there were four things, and only four things, that were always in place in order for me to bounce back." These things? Four areas of daily practice: Physical practice, emotional practice, mental practice, and spiritual practice. Follow this link to read more about it.

I've thought a lot about those four areas...and it makes sense. They're areas that everyone can implement in their own lives. Success, or "luck", as he puts it, is dependent on doing the small and simple daily tasks that we sometimes tend to overlook. If we keep plugging away, honestly striving to become better at the basics of life, we will look into the mirror years from now and barely recognize the person we've become. I look forward to that moment in my own life.

I try to do things similar to James' four areas. His four areas are worth considering. I don't always do those simple things I set for myself everyday. Nobody's perfect. But I have found that when I do them, things just seem to work out for the better.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Quotes from Albert Einstein

Here is a small collection of some of my favorite Albert Einstein quotes. Most of us know Einstein as one of the most brilliant minds and scientists. However, he had a unique grasp on philosophy as well. I enjoy reading his writings, as his mind certainly worked in a very unique way.

  1. "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction."

  2. "Imagination is more important than knowledge."

  3. ""A person starts to live when he can live outside himself."

  4. "Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character."

  5. "I never think of the future. It comes soon enough."

  6. "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."

  7. "Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds."

  8. "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."

  9. "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

  10. "Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school."

  11. "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."

  12. "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Revenge of the Introverts"

I read an insightful article yesterday on introversion. As an introvert in an extraverted world, this article connected with me the whole way through. I'm the type of person who could be perfectly content spending an entire weekend at home relaxing, watching sports, or reading a good book.

At times, in the quick-pace American world that we live, introverts can feel out of place. They overthink issues, they ramble, or they're not engaged with a conversation. Introverts are largely misunderstood throughout their interactions with others.

It's refreshing to read articles like this that reminds you, "Hey, half of the world is this way!"

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"The Devil is in the Details"

The devil is in the details. I've heard that phrase hundreds, maybe thousands, of times. I've used it before and not thought much of it. But last week, I finally decided to give it some thought. Here's a glimpse of what ran through my mind.

Oddly enough, while researching the origins of this idiom, I found out it was derived from an old German saying, "God is in the details". Somehow along the way, one person saw that the details were something worth giving serious attention. Somebody else determined that the details get in the way of our true happiness. Which is it?

In my opinion, it's both. Details are important. In order to succeed at anything in life, we must fine tune our approaches until we find what is most effective. To do this, we take note of the details. When looking at the success of marriages, businesses, individuals, and organizations, you see that the best of anything comes from those who put the most effort into focusing on the relevent details.

Where does the devil come into it, you might be thinking? I would suggest that the devil is in those details that arise before we've made our decision to act. Many times in life we have dreams that would be fulfilling, but as we start to look at what it might take to achieve those dreams, we become discouraged and put them on the shelf. How sad! Even in relationships, we might hesitate to cultivate a connection with someone we should because there are some details that keep us at a distance.

My verdict? Details are important. The details determine success or failure. The details are largely in our control. We can make them work to our advantage if we approach them in a responsible, diligent, and proactive manner. (The flipside is also applicable) It is through the details that we realize the dreams that bring us the greatest joy. We can't confuse the details of success with the details that derail dreams, though. When you know something is right in your heart, it's important to act on that knowledge, regardless of the challenges ahead.

The right choice is not always the easiest choice, but it still might be just the thing you need in your life.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Understanding Our Big History

David Christian and Bill Gates have started the "Big History Project". Its goal is to foster a greater love and capacity for learning among high school students. Why? Because "Everything has a history: each person, plant, animal and object, our planet, and the entire universe."

In the talk I've posted below, David Christian discussed the idea that while the universe on a whole trends towards simplicity, it can become more complex if the conditions are right. After a brief overview of the history of the universe, he connects this to ourselves.

Humans have the gift of collective learning, he says. We are the only species to have this skill, and the conditions are right for it to exist. It is why our human "universe" has become increasingly more complex at a faster rate as time moves forward. In short, we learn from those before us.

The concept is very simple - yet profound. It is not within ourselves that we will find knowledge, but through the experiences and knowledge of others. Breakthroughs are rarely, if ever, made by one person using solely their own knowledge. That concept can be inspirational in numerous different venues. It is fundamental for each of us to understand our history. We need to understand where we came from, what those before us had to do to get here, and as we do that, we will be better prepared to improve the conditions we live in.

I'm grateful for the vast treasures of knowledge that surround me. I try to learn something new every day. I want to slowly increase my capacity to understand our shared human history. As I do this, I believe I will put myself in a position to make a difference that will benefit those who succeed me.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

H.P. Lovecraft: A Lost Man Before His Time

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I just watched a documentary on the horror/sci-fi writer H.P. Lovecraft on SnagFilms. (Trailer can be seen above) He wrote in the early 20th century and essentially pioneered the genre of horror writing. Without an H.P. Lovecraft, there would be no Stephen King of Neil Gaiman.

The story of his life is engaging - he grew up in a troubled home and had many doubts and uncertainties regarding himself - but he found an outlet for expression through writing after growing up reading ghost stories. His writings mirrored his thoughts and sometimes perverse views of the world and himself. At the time he was writing, the genre was not accepted as true "literature". (Even today, it's commonly looked down upon compared to traditional genres) However, this was his passion and he pressed on doing what he loved through years of poverty and eventually was able to sustain himself with his art. Even through the successful years of his life, he was never a best-selling author and only got his books truly published on their own merits after his death.

Those individuals who pioneer new techniques or arts aren't usually understood in their times. This is a wonderful example of that. Lovecraft had many areas in his life that were troublesome. Some were self-inflicted and others were due to his upbringing. In short, he was a man who felt he did not belong with the greater world and struggled to be understood throughout his life.

I've never read any of H.P. Lovecraft's writings, but after watching this documentary he's going right to the top of my to-read list!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Let's Develop Nuclear Energy

This is a very interesting article regarding the safety of nuclear power.

There is a fear of nuclear power that is based on emotional concerns rather than fact. According to this study, gathering power from nuclear sources would be dramatically less dangerous, even in the event of a catastrophe such as Japan, than energy from coal or natural gas sources.

Not only that, but nuclear energy pollutes the environment much less than carbon-based sources. Many European countries have tried this and it has worked fantastically. In the 50+ year history of nuclear research, there have been three major accidents. While major catastrophes garner media attention, there are daily deaths that go unreported with the mining and transport of other types of energy.

In the United States, one of the best things we could do is continue to develop our resources with nuclear energy. We should not solely rely on nuclear energy, but it would be a giant improvement from our largely coal dominated energy system.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Southeast Division Champions - Now The Second Season

The Washington Capitals are the Southeast Division Champions for the fourth straight season! This is the culmination of a long, tumultuous, exciting season. Yet, it's only the beginning of the real journey - the journey to the Stanley Cup.

I love hockey. Really, I love all sports, but hockey provides a different element. The game is played at a frenetic pace, with unbridled intensity. There are 82 games in a season - which causes for many highs and lows between October and April. The skill shown on the ice, along with the passion, is unmatched in any other sport.

This season was the most tumultuous for the Capitals. We came into the season after a disappointing early exit from the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We got off to a strong October but fell flat through November and December. Those months saw us implement a completely new system, transitioning from offense-focused to defense-focused. We continued to struggle finding a groove, but improved through January and February. In March, we hit our stride, moving from 5th place in the Eastern Conference to 1st place today. Now, we're positioned well for a strong playoff run. Looking back, there were a lot of points where I didn't think we'd be where we are. And that's what makes it so exciting!

Now...the playoffs. If you don't understand why I'm so passionate about hockey, just watch the playoffs. The crowd will be electric, the players will be playing at a tempo unseen in the regular season, and over the course of seven games a competitive hatred grows between teams. The physicality of the sport coupled with the nature of a seven game series provides some of the most incredible athletic moments in the world. Plays will be made that will be remembered for decades. I vividly remember the great moments that took place in previous playoff matchups. Some are fond memories, other bitter ones. (Don't ask me about whether goalie interference applies to the Flyers, I'll get upset)

Anyways, the playoffs are coming. The Capitals are division champions. And while an 82-game season is almost at an end, these guys are only warming up for the 16 wins that hopefully come next. Let my two-month withdrawal from the real world begin.

Let's Go Caps!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

General Conference - With a Bang!

Sometimes life leaves you with question marks. Other times life meets you head on with a giant exclamation point that serves as a confirmation. After one session of General Conference, I received that big ole' exclamation mark!

Over the past few months, I've given the idea of "going and doing" a lot of thought. Here's the cliffnotes version of it: Life is short. Too often we worry about failing, worry about not being good enough, and it ends up becoming self-fulfilling. I've been excited about the idea of jumping into something big and running with it. I've also been fascinated in how the most successful people in the world didn't hedge their bets, they jumped into what they believed in.

Well, General Conference. I worked at KD today so I was unable to watch any sessions live. This evening I tuned into the archive of the Saturday Afternoon session. I also took notes of impressions during the session. In the past, I've separated them by speaker. This time, I decided to leave them all together and see how that worked.

Here's a summary of what I compiled (excluding irrelevant or personal entries):
  • We will only see change by living as examples.

  • Struggles bring opportunities to grow.

  • Don't wait to act in important matters. Be diligent after acting.

  • Aim your life towards what you want to become. That desire brings focus and strength.

  • It is a responsibility to seek those things that we righteously desire.

  • Stay on the course. You won't see it at first, but blessings accumulate over time.

Each of these ideas alone are great principles. Together - it began to meld a bigger picture. Here's my rough sketch: "You must aim your life towards the righteous goals you desire. In order to aim your life towards those goals, you must act on those goals. Don't wait until tomorrow to do that, because the struggles you will encounter today will allow you to grow. Be diligent through those struggles, because as you stay on the course you will be rewarded. The rewards will come. Really. Keep going. Have faith in the goals you desired in the beginning. Your life will change - you'll change the lives of others - just see it through to the end."

I wasn't going into the session looking for anything. I was just writing down memorable ideas and thoughts that came from them. As a result of those actions, many months of personal reflection crystallized over the course of two hours on a Saturday evening.

There's no way we will ever realize our potential if we wait for the perfect opportunity. Our best laid plans will mean nothing without action, diligence, and patience.

Man, I love General Conference!