Acceptance of Death

Of what purpose is higher education?

Why do we push the bounds of our knowledge, and attempt so hard to increase our technological edges?

Do we, as a human race, have a goal that we collectively strive for? Perhaps immortality? Is limitless life not what most people strive for, in one form or another?

We feel proud eating the cleanest food, and guilty eating the junk. We declare smoking, alcohol, and drugs as the quickeners of death, and thus intrinsically bad.

But truly and honestly, of what does this matter? Death or life? Is death not really the truest part of our self? From a mathematical sense, are we not infinitely dead and negligibly alive? Perhaps this is the true reason we make every attempt to extend our life. But perhaps this is the reason we attempt to escape the acceptance of death.

Is this not a reason why so many turn to booze and to drugs in the first place? As a numbing agent for the difficult thoughts? This is the great irony of our lives – we shape our lives to avoid death as best as possible, but escape our thoughts by quickening our death.

As for death itself, why do we choose to let it sadden us and scare us?

It is inevitable.

Should our lives not be dedicated to the development of an acceptance of our own death?

Perhaps this acceptance is the true key to happiness.

Acceptance of Death

Take the Plow

As humans, we are programmed to store our new thoughts and actions into different compartments. We change these compartments through new experiences – a sort of eureka moment for the brain. We repeat our existing information, consciously or not, over and over, strengthening the myelin that speeds up and solidifies our memories. We draw from these memories and figure out what to do next, which way to flow in a difficult situation.

But can these old experiences, old memories, old paths, really be purely beneficial? Or do they act as a crutch when times get tough, and when situations become scary?

We go back to what we draw comfort from – the safety of sameness. We avoid discomfort by avoiding change. Yet in the back of our mind, who hasn’t wanted to just start over – a la Tabula Rasa?. We find this cathartic release when we purge our unnecessary, and cluttering items, even when we swipe away that last email in our inbox. Suddenly, this cleanse becomes an opportunity to start over. The what ifs come to life. The different paths begin to appear, and all we want to do is explore them.

But at the end of the day, do we follow this tempting newness? Or do we fall back to the same routine? Do we clear a million different new paths just to crawl back to the start of our old one? And when we get back to the start of our old path, do we follow it back to the point that made us so eager to cleanse it all in the first place? We feel bound to this same path because so far it has “worked” for us. Maybe we can take one of those other paths next time, right?

But maybe we should stop and just think. Just about the why. Why are we moving backward? Why are we starting over? Are we really following our own path, or did someone create this path for us to follow? To keep us bound to a single, controllable road that stops us from overthinking? Maybe we need to create a new path. Take our metaphorical plow and start a new fork in the road. There is no innovation following someone else’s trail – they’ve already reached the end of it. But think of all of the new paths that you could create if you just took that plow and turned left, or turned right in the road.

Create your own road. Create a road others can take as well, until they create their own fork too. The perfect mentor does not teach you how to walk his path – he is the ox that helps you plow a new one.

And does it not feel fulfilling to guide another? Do we not feel happiness when our disciple, or our student, or our child succeeds?

We leave a legacy – a mark on the world that will pass through generations.

What of the size of this path? Do we not thrive to create the biggest path possible? To leave the largest legacy? Do we not delight when we see more and more people follow in our footsteps?

Which path are you traveling on right now? Do you get to the end only to realize you were going in a circle? Or do you take the plow and create a new path- for yourself, and for your legacy?

Take the Plow

Entitlement

Entitlement is a weird concept in that it flat out says one person deserves what another does not. Plus, these rules of entitlement are completely man-made.

You may not typically think that entitlement is intrinsically a harmful societal construct, though I would argue that it systemically belittles, both emotionally and financially, the impoverished and the lower class.

Let us take, as an example, Mark – someone who has grown up in an upper-middle-class and relatively well-off family. They were never afraid of living on the street or not having enough food on the table at the end of the day. They never needed Mark to work to help pay off the bills nor to support himself through college.

With the support of his family, Mark can focus on his studies, or on his interests, and perhaps attend events where he makes important career connections.

If we take, on the other hand, someone who had to work since they were fourteen to help support their family, and can’t even dream of affording college, they are going to be much less able to form connections, or excel in their high-school studies. They won’t be able to get those scholarships that could have potentially helped them in the end.

But yet 95% of those upper-middle-class Marks will feel as though they deserve the amazing career that they have or the education that they got. Why shouldn’t they? They studied hard in high school to get the grades that got them into college. They studied hard in college to get them their high-paying position in a top company in their field. Don’t they naturally deserve all of this? Shouldn’t they naturally be in a better position than someone who didn’t study as hard in high school? Someone who had to sacrifice their studying in order to work at a low-paying job to make sure their little brother and little sister had something other than oatmeal for dinner like they did the last three days?

Maybe we should be less self-absorbed and realize we are all human. That each of us does the best we can with the cards we were given.

Take advantage of your privileges, but don’t forget that they are privileges. Use them to help the underprivileged.

Humble yourself and respect everyone else. You, nor anyone else, are entitled to anything.

Entitlement

Copying Success

From every successful (whatever that word means) person I read about, I realize more and more that success doesn’t come from following the footsteps of others. Sure you can see patterns, and try to mimic them, but in the end what makes someone successful is their differences. It’s the change they make in the world. The change that only comes about from their unique mindset.

It’s great reading Tim Ferriss’ Tools for Titansas it gives amazing insight into the lives of people who thrive in their field. Within the book, he compiles quotes, routines, quirks, and favorites from each of his podcast guests, along with a few random pages of his own remarks (most of which I have found very insightful).

I find it great because it’s very motivational. It makes me want to get up every morning, have my little morning routine, then conquer the world.

However, it makes me afraid that people are going to take the book too literally.

I found it ironic because many of these guests in his book tell Tim that following patterns of successful people is essentially useless. As I mentioned earlier, success comes from the outliers in the field. You aren’t going to change the world by copying someone else. It’s ironic because he wrote this book specifically to find the patterns of successful people, and telling his readers to pick up on them.

Maybe it’s cliche, but it seems as though thinking outside the box really is the way to success.

Copying Success

2016 in Review

Today, I spent a good portion of my day reviewing my past year in depth.

I did an 80/20 analysis of 2016, figuring out what 20% of people, what 20% of tasks I took on, what 20% of my hobbies, and what 20% of my money-related activities brought me at least 80% of my general good feelings. In contrast, I examined what 20% of things in those same categories brought me 80% of my general bad feelings.

This post is dedicated to this 2016 review and will be a guideline for me to look back on throughout the year.

Essentially, it is an introspective and in-depth resolutions list.

I began by spending roughly 5 minutes writing down all of the best and worst things I could think of revolving around my 2016 year. Next to each item, I put a plus or a minus sign, respectively. I then spent another 20 or 30 minutes going through my calendar, starting from January of 2016, all the way to December, and figuring out what appointments, events, meetings, friends, clubs, or whatever else, had a positive or negative impact on my life.

I then put each of these items into 4 distinct categories and found trends within each category to create an overall summary of what to improve in 2017 and beyond.

Academic and Career:

  • Take on less at the same time.
    • This was because I joined many various clubs, all while studying for the MCAT/GRE, writing grants, and working more than 15 hours a week in my research lab, all with a full course load. I felt that I wasn’t able to form connections with anyone in the organizations that I joined, or really have a meaningful impact on anything I did.
  • Dedicate more time to my senior design team.
    • I kind of pushed this one aside for a while, especially the development side of my senior design project. Although I worked on a lot of the actual in-class assignments, I feel as though knowledge-wise, I am quite a bit behind on the topic and on the software usage.
    • I also want to get closer to my actual team members. Not just laugh/drink close, but deep meaningful relationships close.
  • Dedicate more time to my research lab.
    • This is potentially my future career, which means I should not be half-assing any of this. Already I have gotten criticism from my mentor about not meeting his expectations throughout this quarter. I felt as though I made a great impact over the summer when I dedicated 40 hours a week to my research, but ever since starting up classes again, and applying for graduate schools and grant, I have really fallen behind.
  • Start important things earlier.
    • Many of the things I did over 2016 were very last minute, and I was ill prepared for most of them. This was mostly big, important things like the MCAT, the GRE, the NSF grant, and my graduate applications. I should plan things further in advance, and break each task into steps that I can complete over time.
  • Summary: Give real dedication to the tasks that I choose, or otherwise need to take on. No commitments should be half-assed, they should be full-assed, both in terms of actual work, and making the connections in those areas. Deep work is key to make the most of my time and feel fully immersed in my work.

Sides/Hobbies:

  • Go rock climbing more, and schedule it in advance. If it’s not on the calendar, it will never happen.
  • Keep meditating twice daily, the benefits are huge, and the peace of mind is needed.
  • Get really into making my own beer, like from the full on hops, not the pellets. And from full grains too, not the kits.
  • Go camping more, especially when my mind begins to clutter, and I am in need of some serious introspection. The stars and nature are unbeatable for peace of mind.
  • Keep going to the gym, and go alone.
  • The frat isn’t worth it. I don’t feel close, nor do I feel like I could get close to many of the guys in there. The ones that I am already close to won’t suddenly stop being my friend. No more of this just because stuff. (Plus it’s $300 a quarter).
  • Read more fiction/fantasy books, and stop reading it if I don’t like it.
    • Although non-fiction and self-help books are great and motivational, I need a bit of fiction and story-telling in my life.
  • Summary: Schedule the good stuff, or they won’t ever happen. Deep work on my academics so that I can make more time for the fun stuff.

Friends:

  • Figure out the best way to hang out with each friend.
    • I have a friend whom I cannot stand hanging out with when we’re around other people, but the minute we’re alone, we have great conversation and we are the best of friends. Thus, I should only hang out with him alone.
  • Be a better friend to those who make me feel happiest, or whom I feel closest to.
    • This means sacrifice time to go out of my way and do the things that are most meaningful to them, even if it doesn’t sound that great. I know they would do it for me.
  • Schedule more stuff with those who are closest to me. I hardly have time even for myself, but I need to make time for the important things in my life, and friends are one of the top priorities.
  • Call my long-distance friends more often. I always have trouble talking on the phone, or over skype, but I need to make the effort.
  • Summary: Focus more time on good friends, and be the friend that I would want them to be for me.

Money:

  • Spend less money going out for food and coffee.
    • I will try to cut it down to at most once a week, both for coffee and for food.
  • Meal prep more often, and plan it better (i.e. plan next Sunday’s meal prep on the previous Sunday).
    • Not only is it healthier, but way cheaper, too.
  • Cook more often with Stephanie. Again, cheaper, and it’s fun.
  • Don’t spend any money (besides Uber) going out to Pacific Beach.
    • Drinks downtown are extortion, especially when I can have a fun pregame with friends beforehand.
    • Also, the pregame is usually the most fun part of the night, which brings me to my next point.
  • Have more hangouts at my place with close friends.
    • Just invite them over for drinks sometimes.
    • It’s fun, and it’s a great way to connect. Going to clubs hardly allows any actual time to talk.
  • Summary: Be conscious of the spending. Stop spending on the things I can make myself at home, and stop spending on extortionary nights out.

There’s the entirety of my list thus far. If I think of more points, I will likely append them to the post. In fact, I will probably make a page on this blog specifically for this post, and update that page instead.

I highly suggest everyone make a similar introspective post of their year (and yes, you can make it even after the 1st of January). It will keep you accountable, and it will be much more of a motivation to yourself if you give the “why’s” of your resolutions.

I look forward to applying these resolutions to my life, and improving myself in 2017 and beyond. I am curious to see what kinds of points will be on my list a year from now.

2016 in Review

The Good and Bad of Military Funding

I tend to question the ethics of military advancements. Not only the ethics honestly, sometimes I question the point of even having wars and hostility between nations. Obviously it’s not so much a choice as it is a by-product of many other factors leading to war, but I guess my main question is whether the conflicts between nation, and the arms races (even the unofficial ones) that are constantly ongoing between our nations is more destructive or more beneficial. 

If you think about, so much money is funneled into the military, especially their research and development teams. Of course a lot of it is spent on developing new weapons or vehicles, but much of it is also spent developing health related technologies that eventually get applied to the general public. 

There is of course the argument that the military funds could go directly to academic and industrial research and development, advancing our technology that way, but it seems that the there is more of a panic and rush to get out advancing technologies when it comes to the military.

The only downside is the devastation that comes out of wars. So the underlying question is: do the amazing medical and beneficial technologies being developed due to military pressure out weigh the atrocities arising from wars? If we take a humanist approach to this question, it becomes a little more simple: are more people being saved by military funding than are being killed? If yes, then it is ethically good. But I don’t believe this question stops at this humanist approach. I have no idea where it stops, but it just doesn’t feel right to stop there. I’m not sure why.

The Good and Bad of Military Funding