These are 5 random, tiny things I’ve learnt in life. Something to bring a smile to your face, or something to read about & maybe think: “Why don’t I try that out?”.

You don’t have to finish every book.

I think the secret to being a voracious reader is this: don’t force yourself to finish every book. I first heard this on a Naval Ravikant podcast, and it immediately felt the right thing to do. There have been several books I’ve abandoned halfway, or even quarter-way, always with a tinge of regret or guilt. But then for every book I’ve thrown away, there is one that I’ve felt an immediate resonance with: savour those books, recommend them to friends, and remember them in your dreams.

I also think you can substitute book for almost anything else you love doing. Even if you are totally into something, there will always be elements of that hobby or that calling that you don’t like. That’s ok! Forgive yourself for those missed pages, and move on.

The body makes the mind.

In the tiniest of ways, even. Try an experiment (this will sound silly): stand up, spread your arms wide, take a stance like the Vitruvian Man, tilt your head up, close your eyes, and imagine you are one of those star athletes who have placed #1 on the podium after a long, gruelling race. 

How do you feel? I think it’s intuitive to us that the body can make the mind feel bad, the most common example is when we’re ill. But the body (even a change of stance), can make you feel different things. I’m still exploring what this means, but it’s part of what makes somebody who has an active life feel full of energy & life too. Or why things like yoga have an impact. We’re all at the end of the day, mammals, rooted in the physical self (even if we spend all of our time up in the clouds), so it’s good to take care of your body.

Meet every Small Negative with a Positive

If you play cricket, and a friend bowled you out, you still get back on the pitch to field. If it’s basketball, and somebody stole the ball away from you, you still run after them, hoping for a counter. Life throws you curveballs as well, some small and some big. The big ones loom large in our memories, bringing in so much angst, worry, and fear. But it’s the innocuous looking small ones that you should take care of.

Let’s say you have decided to go to the gym every other day. You’re all pumped up for it—the gym bag packed, the protein shake ready—but your boss calls you up for a meeting right as you are leaving the office. The meeting drags on for like 2 hours. You hope you’ll make the gym timings until it becomes obvious you wouldn’t. What do you do? I used to go home, say FML, have a drink, and go off to sleep. I think it’s obvious to everybody who has tried to start a good habit, that every time you fall off the wagon, it’s harder to get back on it. Enough of these days, and you skip gym even when you are feeling tired, or even when you are having a bad day.

Instead, meet a negative with a positive. If you skipped gym a day, that’s ok. Turn up the next day. Shit happens. And the day after that, until you have a good habit that sticks.

The Magic of Compound Interest

Imagine you invest money that grows at 8% every year. At the end of Year 10, your money would have more than doubled.

> a = 100
100
> a = a * 108/100
108
> a = a * 108/100
116.64
> a = a * 108/100
125.97120000000001
> a = a * 108/100
136.048896
> a = a * 108/100
146.93280768
> a = a * 108/100
158.6874322944
> a = a * 108/100
171.38242687795199
> a = a * 108/100
185.09302102818816
> a = a * 108/100
199.9004627104432
> a = a * 108/100
215.89249972727868

I think it’s something we learn in school that seems like mathematics, and not something that’ll ever see use in real life. But it’s the secret behind good & healthy finances: start saving money early (as soon as you start earning!) & do regular monthly savings. You will have a decent kitty when you finally start to retire. I’ve used & recommended Scripbox, but there are so many options now to start.

The magic of compound interest also works with things other than money. Let’s say you were 0.5x of the person you wanted to be right now. And you know you can try to improve at least 1% every day. How much improvement will you have in a year?

> 0.5 * ((101/100) ** 365)
18.89171716644364

Yup! 18 times the man you were before. Of course, this is a silly example. But do become aware that small improvements add up quickly.

Science and Belief

This is probably gonna be the most controversial one, so bear with me. The scientific method where everything in the world is a hypothesis until enough experiments prove it to be fact, and these facts advances the state of human knowledge is a wonderful, wonderful thing. I think we disregard how much science has contributed to human society. It’s a fun activity now to disregard science, and turn to abstract concepts like spirituality & philosophy to try to find answers to our problems. I think that is the wrong thing to do. We should always ground our truths in science, and say no to the growing mysticism around us.

But maybe there is something flawed with the scientific method. If the scientific quest is the search for fundamental truths, then, what if there are truths that depend on someone to believe them first for them to be true?

I turn to fantasy tropes because those are always so accessible. Let’s say magic exists. Like the one in Harry Potter. But it requires somebody to really, really believe that it does for it to work. A scientist, being a skeptic at heart, will never get his experiments to succeed. A witch, living somewhere remote, her heart filled with wonder, will spark a glow in her wand.

Now, this is a contrived example, just to expound on the premise. But a more concrete, real example is when we think of how little science understands the mind, and how to mould and discipline it. Let’s say, these spiritual gurus of old Hindu yore have a point, and they’ve discovered a way to calm the mind, build a more successful life, make us a 100% more productive as a society. But it requires you to believe some things first. Some things that might even sound mystical. Should a good scientist pursue this path or not?

I’m of half minds about this, a part of me feels that this frustration is because of course there are things science can’t answer yet—there always will be—even when we think there are no more fundamental discoveries to be made. There have been 15 year gaps in the Wikipedia scientific timeline for example. What if we are going to a 15 year slump? What if good, rigorous science can explain the mind better than these weird theories of belief?

Maybe the middle ground here is to explore what these old philosophers had to teach about the mind. Maybe with a skeptic’s eye, but faithfully following their set discipline, even if they sound mystical and ridiculous. Wake up in the morning and do yoga after bowing down to the sun? What difference is that going to make? Well, a good scientist won’t know until he tries it out.


PS. I talk about feelings and emotions here, this might sound sappy to a few of you macho folks. I have just one advice for you in that case: grow up.

Published by vishnugopal

Vishnu Gopal is an Anime fanatic, World of Warcraft player, SciFi nut, hopeless romantic & an engineer at Lucideus.

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