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But What For?

Writing about anything, as long as it’s interesting.

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A Few Popular Posts

We Only Ever Talk About the Third Attack on Pearl Harbor

As darkness fell the night before, his fleet began its approach, charging full speed towards the unaware island, running with lights off and in radio silence amongst rain squalls, low clouds, and strong wind. Pitching in the heavy seas, the admiral held his planes until just before dawn when they were 60 miles offshore. Then, while still in complete darkness, 152 planes took off.

Just as the new day’s sunlight was finally hitting the island, the planes emerged from the clouds to find the world’s greatest naval base helplessly asleep beneath them.

Fighters led the charge, strafing across the airfield, knocking out the planes on the ground before any aerial defense could lift off. With air domination achieved, dive bombers and torpedo planes freely followed, raining down on the vessels in the harbor. Not a single one was left unscathed.

Richard Feynman & The Feynman Learning Technique

While not stated explicitly by the man himself, the Feynman Learning Technique finds its inspiration in the life of Richard Feynman. He was constantly learning, teaching, tearing apart, and then reorganizing the various things he found interesting.

Because of this and his good-hearted, tireless sharing of the outcomes with others, Feynman is remembered not only for his work in physics but even more so for the beautiful mind and quirky personality that made him who he was…

A Stoic Philosopher in a Hanoi Prison

Stockdale had no reason to think that the day’s mission was to be anything unique.

The flight in September 1965 was part of his third combat tour of North Vietnam, serving as Wing Commander of the aircraft carrier Oriskany. Despite his misgivings about the purpose of him being in Vietnam, he was a competent and skilled career fighter pilot. Nothing suggested he shouldn’t expect to make it back home that day - let alone that decade.

But sometimes life deals you a lousy hand, and it dealt Stockdale quite an unhappy one.

While trying to aid trapped American soldiers on the ground, he was suddenly falling out of the sky and hurtling towards a small Vietnamese village. His plane was on fire, the control system shot out by North Vietnamese who had used the grounded soldiers as bait, and he didn’t have much choice beyond punching out of the plane.

After ejection, I had about 30 seconds to make my last statement in freedom before I landed in the main street of a little village right ahead. And, so help me, I whispered to myself: "Five years down there, at least. I'm leaving the world of technology and entering the world of Epictetus."

Just like that, Stockdale’s day had gone from routine to disastrous - but why was the first thing to jump into his mind the ancient philosopher, Epictetus?…

Perseverance is Great, But Don’t Forget to Prepare

And as you think through how impossible these challenges sound, you are met with the realization of how quickly you would fail participating in the same. But then you have to be honest with yourself - you wouldn't just fail, you would, in fact, die. You would get lost in the mountains. You would fall off a cliff. You would try to make the 40-miles and breakdown before you ever got to the end. 

And this highlights another useful takeaway - unending resolve is not enough to ensure success. You must also be competent. All the perseverance you can muster today won't do anything for you if you haven't lived a life up to today that has prepared you for the task at hand - who you are today is a lagging indicator of who you have been.

This means that success can only come after persistent preparation. The 163 men selected for the tryouts had lived lives that prepared them to take the unique, once-in-a-lifetime Delta Force opportunity and try. Without preparation, they could not even hope to try…

Habits Maketh the Man (and Un-Maketh Him, Too)

Life is complex. Chaotic. Surprising. Uncertain. It is full of new things — many of which can kill us. And that’s a problem, because we humans tend to prefer not dying. Fortunately, we have been practicing surviving for quite some time and have developed a way to cut down on that chaos with a bit of order: the ability to form habits. However, and unfortunately for those humans looking for more in life than just survival, these habits often have more control over us than we have control over them.

So what are habits and why do they control us? Jason Hreha, a behavioral scientist who writes about life and business, summarizes that “habits are, simply, reliable solutions to recurring problems in our environment.” They are unconscious programs that free up our conscious mind to solve those non-recurring new problems that are constantly thrown our way. It’s too mentally expensive to try to figure out what you should do every day when you get home from work — it’s much easier to have a program that loads without you knowing and tells you to change clothes. Putting on running shoes loads the running program. Smelling alcohol loads the drinking program. The important takeaway is that whether you notice them or not, the habits are running. This means that, for better or for worse, your habits are in charge of who you are in the future…


But What For? Writing about anything, as long as it’s interesting


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