0153 – I highly recommend watching Boyhood, the Richard Linklater movie

I was crushed when I first heard about the existence of Before Sunrise, the movie. It was what I thought nobody had done properly before. I had always had long, meandering conversations with my closest friends and they were my favorite things about life. And I always thought that if I ever made a movie, it would be about long conversations. [1] It seemed like something nobody had done before, at least to my ignorant non-movie-watching self.

And then I discovered that there was this guy Richard Linklater, and that he basically made the perfect movie that I always fantasized about making. And then he did it again, 9 years later, and 9 years again after that, and he did AGAIN with the same kid over a decade, year after year after year. What a cinematic treat. What a work of art. This is one for the ages, one that I think is worth watching and rewatching and rewatching over and over again. This is one that’s condensed with so much experience and so much insight and perspective, it’s like reading 20-30 good books all together.

Spoilers ahead, read this after watching.

I enjoyed the darkroom chat that Mason had with his photography teacher. (That’s the first thing that comes to my mind when I look back on the film. The second would be the supervisor he had at work.) You never see the guy ever again after that, but he’s such a full character. You don’t know very much about the rest of his life, but you know he cares. And you know that one of the most beautiful things about life is encountering strangers who give a damn, beyond what they’re obligated to. [2]

I like how Linklater included many such moments. All the different people in Mason’s life trying to tell him how it is, how things are, what you ought to worry about, what you ought to look out for, what you ought to do, etc. And how there are so many different perspectives and you can’t quite make all of them completely synchronous, but that’s okay. That’s just the way it is.

I enjoyed (uncomfortably) all the conflict, the breakdowns, the breakups. I feel like we never address those things enough in daily life. We pretend that families are somehow perfect and pretty when they’re not. They’re messy, ugly and things can go horribly wrong. People who are supposed to take care of you can be abusive and damaging. I like that Mason’s mum got all messed up and had to yell at her kids a couple of times.

I liked that there were people in the background, like that guy talking to himself about celestial bodies and 14,000 years, and that there were adults in the kitchen talking about housing and tax and the like, and bills.

I love all the little characters. I love that the septic pipe kid went on to get educated and do well in life, it’s a reminder that little things can go a long, long way. And make all the difference to somebody. I love that Ethan Hawke’s character grew up, matured and became a responsible good guy- while the psychology professor degenerated into an openly drinking waste of space. I wonder what happened to his kids.

I liked that sometimes I found Mason childish and annoying, like when he was upset about the car, and I liked that he interacted with other flawed, broken people. I cringed when the boys in the abandoned house were being blatantly sexist and spouting patriarchal bullshit. I liked that Mason was relatively decent to the girls in his life despite it. I like that all the characters were so beautiful and broken and human all at once. In this regard, it reminds of reading Balzac’s Lost Illusions, which is my favorite book so far. Even the good guys seem like the overdo things, everybody has their little odd quirks, you root for everyone and you find them annoying at some point… just like real life. It takes a lot of skill to capture all of this, and I admire Linklater a lot for that.

What a gift to give to the world. I think I’ll be making it a point to watch this movie again every other year or so. I’ve been doing that with Before Sunrise and it’s been enriching for me. [3]

Final note- anybody who enjoys Boyhood will almost definitely enjoy the Before Sunrise trilogy as well as the The Fosters, th

Notes:

[1] I’ve always been curious about at least three things- people’s sex lives, what they do when they’re alone, and what people’s extended conversations are like. And I don’t mean that in like a creepy pervert way, I think creepy perverts ruin curiosity for the rest of us by taking it to a really unhealthy, damaging extreme. What do Aragorn and Gandalf chat about when they’re taking a long horseride together?

[2] Jane Jacobs talked about this in The Death And Life Of Great American Cities. Public figures are very important in the education of a child, or of anybody, really. You know your parents care because they’re your parents, and your teachers care because it’s their job to, but it’s the caring from that people who don’t need to bother that really sticks with you for the rest of your life.

[3] I realize that I need/want/ought to watch stuff regularly, rather than partition it off to some distant future. I can’t do “bulk batches of work” without breaks to drink up all this art. My brain needs watering with stories and perspectives on a nearly daily basis, and I think I get rather messed up and dry when I’ve been deprived of it for some time. I think I should be reading and writing and consuming quality content like this on a very regular basis. I think that will make me a healthier, happier person and that will help me create better, do better, and just get more out of life.

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“Fuck you, brain cancer.”

Posted in Other People's Work | Leave a comment

PM Lee Hsien Loong, on the purpose of life

“The purpose of life is not assurance and security, the purpose of life is to use that security in order to go and achieve something new and different, and do better than the people who came before you.

“I mean, that’s why you go to business school. Because you think you can do better, and you can do the business better… and actually it’s not just that you will make more money in the business, but you believe that you will come up with a service or a product or an idea which will change the world.

“That’s what you dream of.” – Lee Hsien Loong [source]

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0152 – Letter To A Young Songwriter

When I was a teenager, I’d play bass in bands, sing horribly and toy with the idea of being a songwriter. This is a letter I wish somebody had written to me when I was 17.

Aim to be prolific.

Notice I didn’t say ‘aim to be great,’ or ‘just have fun’. Both of those are stupid directives, because they’re overly vague. And trust me, the two most frustrating things you can get caught up in are “Will I be great? Am I good enough?” and “Am I having fun?” You have a far greater shot at tasting greatness and fun if you simply write as much as you possibly can, and then some.

You might think that you ought to try to write the best song that you possibly can, but you’d be wrong. That’s actually a trap that you should try your hardest to avoid, especially when you’re just starting out.

Why? Because your concept of ‘best’ is a work-in-progress and a moving target. Why spend a year working on writing the best song you can, when you could instead spend a year improving your idea of what makes a song great?

You don’t actually know what makes a good song, you don’t actually know what matters to you, you don’t actually know what you ought to be writing about. (Some veterans will tell you that they don’t know either, but at least they know that they don’t know, and songwriting is their way of figuring that stuff out.)

So don’t worry about any of that.

Write the worst song you can.

Just write a song. Make it as stupid and silly as you can. Finish it. Allow it to be a little strange, weird and rough around the edges. In fact, go especially out of your way to try and write the worst song ever. Then try and top that with something even worse, if possible. It’s hard to find good ideas when you’re looking for good ideas, but you can sometimes find them just next door when you’re looking for bad ideas.

When you’ve written a hundred songs, you’ll look back and realize that you’ve learnt things that you couldn’t possibly have anticipated when you were starting out. I haven’t written a hundred songs, but this is my experience with writing blogposts, and I imagine songs are no different. Quantity has a quality all of its own.

Avoid trying to be original; learn other people’s songs instead.

Trying to be original is exhausting, and it is impossible. Give up the pursuit altogether. There’s no such thing as original, everything is derivative. Everything is a remix. The artists who are held up as ‘original’ are simply much better at remixing than everybody else. They make familiar remixes with elements people don’t quite expect, or they make unfamiliar mixes with familiar elements.

All great artists start out producing derivative work. There’s no other way to learn! You learned walking and talking through imitation, and you’ll learn to write by doing the same. ‘Originality’ or ‘personal style’ are things that emerge not from you trying to be creative or original, but from you trying to make things as well as you possibly can.

“At an art school where I once studied, the students wanted most of all to develop a personal style. But if you just try to make good things, you’ll inevitably do it in a distinctive way, just as each person walks in a distinctive way. Michelangelo was not trying to paint like Michelangelo. He was just trying to paint well; he couldn’t help painting like Michelangelo.” – Paul Graham, Taste for Makers

The Beatles and Bob Dylan and many, many others all started out by imitating the work of others. Even Mozart, I believe. You’re no better than them, and you’re no different, either. So just make stuff. Make and make and make and make.

Smartness is overrated, think less and write more.

When I look back on my life and my work, I find that I greatly overvalued ‘smartness’. On hindsight, I would happily trade quite a chunk of ‘intelligence’ for ‘more data points’. Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have interesting things to say about this. Let me quickly paraphrase both of them:

Gates: Intelligence is the ability to enter a new field and to ask thoughtful questions- Well, what about this? What about that? What if we reversed it? To get good at this, you just need to turn things around and over in your head as much as you can. Take things apart, put them back together. Over time you’ll notice that things aren’t as opaque as they seem. Really, everything is made up of other things, and it’s not too difficult to start seeing patterns in the way they work.

Jobs: Creativity is just connecting things, and to connect things you need two things- a bunch of dots to connect, and the habit of attempting connections. You won’t get them right all the time right from the beginning. Nobody does, and there’s reason to believe that you’ll never quite improve your batting average. You can only just step up to the plate more often. So collect as many dots as you can, and mess around with connections as much as you can. Tinker. Make a mess. Clean it up and start over.

Play scales. It’s like walking through the ‘underlying fundamental code’ of music itself.

I never bothered with these early on. They both bored and intimidated me. Why would anybody learn to play scales, when they’re both boring and difficult? The guy in the video above gives a GREAT explanation that I wish I had when I was a kid. (YouTube is such an INCREDIBLE resource.) I finally picked them up out of boredom and curiosity when I had a guitar and a lot of free time during my mandatory military conscription. I practiced the major and minor scales up and down the fretboard. I did it because I was curious about the differences between the major and minor scales, and I vaguely sort-of wanted to explore the differences.

Awaken to the world you already inhibit.

I didn’t know what to expect, but here’s what happened. I developed a bit of a sense of it, and it felt like a whole new world in the space I already inhabited. Each note has a certain flavor, and the different notes have different relationships with each other, just as words do. After a while you develop a certain “rhythm” or “prosody” for notes. It gives you the vocabulary and ability you sort of need to better process what you hear.

Playing scales trains and improves your ear, and I personally found them very transformative as a musician. This is coming from a person who absolutely hated music theory when I first encountered it, and hates practicing. It also gave me a sense of possibility– I started to understand how professional musicians are just more in tune with their ears and their instruments than I am, rather than mystical alien creatures.

Deliberate practice is the smart, lazy thing to do. It requires the least effort for the greatest output in the long run. It’s the fastest way to get better. It just requires you to pay careful attention, and to focus on your weaknesses. That can be a little counter-intuitive, but it’s so incredibly powerful I wish somebody taught it to me when I was younger.

Play slow. Don’t rush the music, immerse yourself in it.

Man, it took me years to do this. When I was starting out, I was so edgy, anxious and excitable that I tried to go as loud and as fast as I could with everything I played. That was the only way I knew how to be intense. But that gets old and tiring really, really fast. It wears you down.

The joy of music is in timing, in placement, in tastefulness. You need to be relaxed and learn to feel the groove, feel the beat. Lots of practice will help with this. And lots of listening. Listen to yourself when you play. Listen to the rest of the band that you’re playing it. Music isn’t about proving yourself, it isn’t about showing off, it’s about appreciation. Kind of like sex.

Consume content extensively and thoughtfully.

This goes back to connecting the dots. Watch lots of movies. Read lots of books. And this is maybe the most important part- write down your thoughts about them. Try to capture them in song, if you like.

Have some records of what you thought about things at a certain time in your life. The main reason for this is so that you can look back at them years later and see how much you’ve grown and changed as a person. I think that’s very fundamental to appreciating life, and music, and expression of any kind. A blog is a great way to do this. Notebooks and recordings are fine, if you’re shy. (Nothing beats publishing stuff in the public domain, though, because you get real feedback from real people.)

I especially recommend reading biographies, and reading about how your favorite artists talk about their creative processes, but always make sure you spend more time creating than reading about creating.

If all else fails, remember this: Always Be Creating (…or listening).

If you’re not creating, you’re decaying, you’re dying, and you’re going to start feeling sorry for yourself. You’re going to start being miserable, you’re going to start getting into boring conversations and arguments with other people who’re procrastinating and distracting themselves from their work.

If you feel like you have nothing to say, then take a long walk. Listen to some strange and unfamiliar music. Or listen to some really familiar music from your childhood. Think of it as a pilgrimage, or a declutter, whatever you like. Your cup is empty, so go fill it.

A quick recap/rewrite of this post:

  1. Aim to be prolific, rather than “to be great” or “to have fun”. We can have much more interesting conversations once you have a body of work.
  2. Screw ‘best’. Avoid trying to write the best possible song. Your definition of ‘best’ will be a moving target.
  3. Write badly. Deliberately try to write bad songs, rough songs, strange and awkward songs. They’ll teach you more than you’ll learn from writing what you think is “okay”.
  4. Screw originality. Forsake the quest for originality, it’s a mirage. Learn other people’s songs as much as you can. Learn songs from genres you don’t really care for.
  5. Think less, write more. Don’t try to be smarter by thinking harder. Be smarter by processing more, recursively. Write new songs. Learn songs you didn’t know. Learn new chord progressions. Take long walks through unfamiliar territories.
  6. Play scales. It’s like learning to play with the underlying code of music itself. It’ll improve your appreciation of music that you listen to, and it’ll improve your ability to navigate the music you play.
  7. Play slow. Don’t rush after music. Immerse yourself in it. Imagine really bad sex, and then imagine really good sex. What’s the difference? Good music is like good sex.
  8. Always Be Creating (Or Listening). If you’re not doing one of the two, you’re probably procrastinating. Ask yourself which of the two states you’re closer to, and dive into that.
Posted in What I Learnt, Word Vomit, Writing | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The problem with “6 in 10 Singaporeans think media regulations are balanced”

EDIT: I overgeneralized and misrepresented the out-group earlier by saying “they said they don’t care”. Technically, they didn’t say they care. Minor but significant distinction. It makes the whole thing a little bit murkier.

Here’s the article you’re most likely to encounter:
6 in 10 Singapore residents find film and arts content regulations ‘appropriate’: Reach

First, let’s dig up the actual press release. Straits Times isn’t the most reliable of sources. Google for Reach Singapore, and you land on their site. To their credit, the press release is right there (which I suppose is how/where the Straits Times got their information?)

Here’s a pdf of the press release. Here’s what popped out to me:

1: A significant group of the people polled don’t really care about the regulations.

[1] 33% of people didn’t say that the regulations didn’t matter to them, so I think can make some reasonable assumptions about how they might’ve voted. It’s pretty unlikely that they’d think “I don’t care about X regulation, but I think it’s too harsh.”

Frankly, if a person says that X regulation doesn’t matter to them, I wouldn’t be giving much (or any!) weight to their opinion. The information is useful, “Oh, roughly 33% of Singaporeans don’t really care about regulations”, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have anything meaningful to say about media policy. Quite the opposite, I think.

2: The people who actually care about the problem felt that the regulations were restrictive.

[2] “Respondents who were frequent patrons of film and arts performances and who also saw the issue as an important one, were more likely to feel that current regulations were somewhat restrictive.”

This reminds me of the NLB saga, where the people who were most eager to pulp the books used the worst grammar, while authors and book lovers responded with tremendous emotion.

So we have a conclusion that implies everything is okay:

In summary, the study found that the majority of respondents felt that current film and arts regulations are balanced.

My question to you is, does the majority necessarily have a thoughtful, constructive perspective about media regulations?

6 in 10 Singaporeans think media regulations are okay, but 3-5 of them don’t really care! Meanwhile, the artists, filmmakers, playwrights, etc. are the ones who suffer. Or are unfortunately underrepresented, at least.

“As values and norms evolve with time, the challenge will be to gradually calibrate film and arts regulation in a manner that the majority in society finds to be balanced.”

Not all opinions are equal. My worry is that when we try to appease the crowd, we do so at the cost of our best and brightest talents. And we can’t afford to do that.

EDIT: On hindsight and after some discussion with friends, I think the most conclusive thing we can really say about the study is that it’s difficult if not impossible to draw any real conclusions from such a study. Everybody will just continue with however they felt about things prior.

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TEDtalks I want to watch or rewatch

Formatting is a bit messed up but that’s not the thing so

  1. Robert Neuwirth: The hidden world of shadow cities
  2. Kevin Kelly: How technology evolves 
  3. Ray Kurzweil: The accelerating power of technology 
  4. Ashraf Ghani: How to rebuild a broken state
  5. Sasa Vucinic: Why we should invest in a free press
  6. Iqbal Quadir: How mobile phones can fight poverty
  7. Jacqueline Novogratz: Invest in Africa’s own solutions
  8. Malcolm Gladwell: Choice, happiness and spaghetti sauce
  9. Helen Fisher: Why we love, why we cheat
  10. Richard Dawkins: Why the universe seems so strange
  11. Steven Levitt: The freakonomics of crack dealing
  12. Eve Ensler: Happiness in body and soul
  13. Mena Trott: Meet the founder of the blog revolution
  14. Ze Frank: Nerdcore comedy
  15. Jimmy Wales: The birth of Wikipedia
  16. Ross Lovegrove: Organic design, inspired by nature
  17. Dan Dennett: Let’s teach religion — all religion — in schools
  18. Rick Warren: A life of purpose
  19. Julia Sweeney: Letting go of God
  20. Hans Rosling: The best stats you’ve ever seen
  21. David Pogue: Simplicity sells
  22. Al Gore: Averting the climate crisis
  23. Majora Carter: Greening the ghetto
  24. Dan Dennett: The illusion of consciousness
  25. Jane Goodall: What separates us from chimpanzees? 
  26. Seth Godin: How to get your ideas to spread 
  27. James Watson: How we discovered DNA 
  28. Nick Bostrom: A philosophical quest for our biggest problems 
  29. Stefan Sagmeister: Happiness by design
  30. E.O. Wilson: My wish: Build the Encyclopedia of Life 
  31. James Nachtwey: My wish: Let my photographs bear witness
  32. Bill Clinton: My wish: Rebuilding Rwanda
  33. Carl Honoré: In praise of slowness
  34. Charles Leadbeater: The era of open innovation
  35. Martin Rees: Is this our final century?
  36. Robert Wright: Progress is not a zero-sum game
  37. Rives: The 4 a.m. mystery
  38. David Bolinsky: Visualizing the wonder of a living cell
  39. Will Wright: Spore, birth of a game
  40. Jonathan Harris: The Web’s secret stories
  41. Hans Rosling: New insights on poverty
  42. Bill Stone: I’m going to the moon. Who’s with me?
  43. Dan Dennett: Dangerous memes
  44. Thomas Barnett: Let’s rethink America’s military strategy
  45. David Rockwell: A memorial at Ground Zero
  46. Robert Thurman: We can be Buddhas
  47. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: Want to help Africa? Do business here
  48. Stewart Brand: What squatter cities can teach us | Talk Video | TED.com 
  49. David Kelley: Human-centered design | Talk Video | TED.com 
  50. Sergey Brin + Larry Page: The genesis of Google | Talk Video | TED.com 
  51. Chris Anderson: Technology’s long tail | Talk Video | TED.com 
  52. Richard Dawkins: Militant atheism | Talk Video | TED.com 
  53. Tom Honey: Why would God create a tsunami? | Talk Video | TED.com 
  54. Jeff Bezos: The electricity metaphor for the web’s future | Talk Video | TED.com 
  55. Evelyn Glennie: How to truly listen | Talk Video | TED.com 
  56. Lawrence Lessig: Laws that choke creativity | Talk Video | TED.com 
  57. Larry Brilliant: The case for optimism | Talk Video | TED.com 
  58. Maira Kalman: The illustrated woman | Talk Video | TED.com 
  59. Richard Branson: Life at 30,000 feet | Talk Video | TED.com 
  60. Stephen Petranek: 10 ways the world could end | Talk Video | TED.com 
  61. John Maeda: Designing for simplicity | Talk Video | TED.com 
  62. Zeresenay Alemseged: The search for humanity’s roots | Talk Video | TED.com 
  63. Deborah Scranton: An Iraq war movie crowd-sourced from soldiers | Talk Video | TED.com
  64. Steven Pinker: The surprising decline in violence | Talk Video | TED.com 
  65. Steven Pinker: What our language habits reveal | Talk Video | TED.com 
  66. Andrew Mwenda: Aid for Africa? No thanks. | Talk Video | TED.com 
  67. Jeff Skoll: My journey into movies that matter | Talk Video | TED.com 
  68. Jacqueline Novogratz: Patient capitalism | Talk Video | TED.com 
  69. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: Aid versus trade | Talk Video | TED.com 
  70. William Kamkwamba: How I built a windmill | Talk Video | TED.com 
  71. Patrick Awuah: How to educate leaders? Liberal arts | Talk Video | TED.com 
  72. Alan Kay: A powerful idea about ideas | Talk Video | TED.com 
  73. David Macaulay: An illustrated journey through Rome
  74. Jaime Lerner: A song of the city
  75. Robin Chase: The idea behind Zipcar (and what comes next)
  76. Chris Anderson: TED’s nonprofit transition
  77. Bill Strickland: Rebuilding a neighborhood with beauty, dignity, hope
  78. Deborah Gordon: The emergent genius of ant colonies
  79. Gever Tulley: 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do
  80. Lakshmi Pratury: The lost art of letter-writing | Talk Video | TED.com 
  81. Daniel Goleman: Why aren’t we more compassionate? | Talk Video | TED.com 
  82. Amory Lovins: Winning the oil endgame | Talk Video | TED.com 
  83. Ron Eglash: The fractals at the heart of African designs | Talk Video | TED.com 
  84. https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_full_on_animal_movement 
  85. Paul Collier: The “bottom billion” | Talk Video | TED.com 
  86. Yves Behar: Designing objects that tell stories | Talk Video | TED.com 
  87. Mark Bittman: What’s wrong with what we eat | Talk Video | TED.com 
  88. Alisa Miller: The news about the news | Talk Video | TED.com 
  89. Joshua Klein: A thought experiment on the intelligence of crows 
  90. Paul Ewald: Can we domesticate germs? | Talk Video | TED.com 
  91. Amy Tan: Where does creativity hide? | Talk Video | TED.com 
  92. Al Gore: New thinking on the climate crisis | Talk Video | TED.com 
  93. Stephen Hawking: Questioning the universe | Talk Video | TED.com 
  94. Neil Turok: My wish: Find the next Einstein in Africa | Talk Video | TED.com 
  95. Nicholas Negroponte: 5 predictions, from 1984 | Talk Video | TED.com 
  96. Dave Eggers: My wish: Once Upon a School | Talk Video | TED.com
  97. Kevin Kelly: The next 5,000 days of the web | Talk Video | TED.com 
  98. Kwabena Boahen: A computer that works like the brain | Talk Video | TED.com 
  99. Martin Seligman: The new era of positive psychology | Talk Video | TED.com 
  100. Helen Fisher: The brain in love | Talk Video | TED.com 
  101. AJ Jacobs: My year of living biblically | Talk Video | TED.com 
  102. Freeman Dyson: Let’s look for life in the outer solar system | Talk Video | TED.com
  103. Clay Shirky: Institutions vs. collaboration | Talk Video | TED.com 
  104. Peter Diamandis: Stephen Hawking’s zero g flight | Talk Video | TED.com 
  105. Nicholas Negroponte: One Laptop per Child, two years on | Talk Video | TED.com 
  106. Robert Full: Robots inspired by cockroach ingenuity | Talk Video | TED.com 
  107. Dean Ornish: Your genes are not your fate | Talk Video | TED.com 
  108. Chris Jordan: Turning powerful stats into art | Talk Video | TED.com 
  109. Murray Gell-Mann: The ancestor of language | Talk Video | TED.com 
  110. Wade Davis: The worldwide web of belief and ritual | Talk Video | TED.com 
  111. David Perry: Are games better than life? | Talk Video | TED.com 
  112. Steven Johnson: The Web as a city | Talk Video | TED.com 
  113. Stefan Sagmeister: Designing with slogans | Talk Video | TED.com 
  114. Steven Pinker: Human nature and the blank slate | Talk Video | TED.com 
  115. Philip Zimbardo: The psychology of evil | Talk Video | TED.com 
  116. David S. Rose: How to pitch to a VC | Talk Video | TED.com 
  117. Eve Ensler: What security means to me | Talk Video | TED.com 
  118. Ann Cooper: What’s wrong with school lunches | Talk Video | TED.com 
  119. Irwin Redlener: How to survive a nuclear attack | Talk Video | TED.com 
  120. Peter Hirshberg: The web is more than “better TV” | Talk Video | TED.com 
  121. Sugata Mitra: Kids can teach themselves | Talk Video | TED.com 
  122. Spencer Wells: A family tree for humanity | Talk Video | TED.com 
  123. Bill Joy: What I’m worried about, what I’m excited about | Talk Video | TED.com 
  124. George Smoot: The design of the universe | Talk Video | TED.com 
  125. Franco Sacchi: A tour of Nollywood, Nigeria’s booming film industry | Talk Video | TED.com
  126. Isaac Mizrahi: Fashion and creativity | Talk Video | TED.com 
  127. Stewart Brand: The Long Now | Talk Video | TED.com 
  128. John Francis: Walk the earth … my 17-year vow of silence | Talk Video | TED.com 
  129. Robert Wright: The evolution of compassion | Talk Video | TED.com 
  130. Robert Thurman: Expanding your circle of compassion | Talk Video | TED.com 
  131. Feisal Abdul Rauf: Lose your ego, find your compassion | Talk Video | TED.com 
  132. James Forbes: Compassion at the dinner table | Talk Video | TED.com 
  133. Dayananda Saraswati: The profound journey of compassion | Talk Video | TED.com
  134. Jackie Tabick: The balancing act of compassion | Talk Video | TED.com 
  135. Rives: A story of mixed emoticons | Talk Video | TED.com 
  136. Paola Antonelli: Design and the Elastic Mind | Talk Video | TED.com 
  137. Virginia Postrel: On glamour | Talk Video | TED.com 
  138. Jared Diamond: Why do societies collapse? | Talk Video | TED.com 
  139. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Flow, the secret to happiness | Talk Video | TED.com 
  140. Paul MacCready: Nature vs. humans | Talk Video | TED.com 
  141. Aimee Mullins: Changing my legs – and my mindset | Talk Video | TED.com 
  142. Bill Gates: Mosquitos, malaria and education | Talk Video | TED.com 
  143. Peter Ward: A theory of Earth’s mass extinctions | Talk Video | TED.com 
  144. Sherwin Nuland: The extraordinary power of ordinary people
  145. Paula Scher: Great design is serious, not solemn | Talk Video | TED.com 
  146. Joseph Pine: What consumers want | Talk Video | TED.com 
  147. Rob Forbes: Ways of seeing | Talk Video | TED.com 
  148. Greg Lynn: Organic algorithms in architecture | Talk Video | TED.com 
  149. Scott McCloud: The visual magic of comics | Talk Video | TED.com 
  150. John Maeda: My journey in design | Talk Video | TED.com 
  151. Kary Mullis: Play! Experiment! Discover! | Talk Video | TED.com 
  152. Jennifer 8. Lee: The hunt for General Tso | Talk Video | TED.com 
  153. Nicholas Negroponte: Taking OLPC to Colombia | Talk Video | TED.com 
  154. Steven Strogatz: The science of sync | Talk Video | TED.com 
  155. Dan Gilbert: Why we make bad decisions | Talk Video | TED.com 
  156. Philip Rosedale: Life in Second Life | Talk Video | TED.com 
  157. C.K. Williams: Poetry of youth and age | Talk Video | TED.com 
  158. Jacqueline Novogratz: An escape from poverty | Talk Video | TED.com 
  159. Bruce McCall: What is faux nostalgia? | Talk Video | TED.com 
  160. Dan Dennett: Cute, sexy, sweet, funny | Talk Video | TED.com 
  161. Tim Berners-Lee: The next web | Talk Video | TED.com 
  162. Stuart Brown: Play is more than just fun | Talk Video | TED.com 
  163. Aimee Mullins: My 12 pairs of legs | Talk Video | TED.com 
  164. Dan Ariely: Our buggy moral code | Talk Video | TED.com 
  165. Mike Rowe: Learning from dirty jobs | Talk Video | TED.com 
  166. Brenda Laurel: Games for girls | Talk Video | TED.com 
  167. Evan Williams: The voices of Twitter users | Talk Video | TED.com 
  168. Juan Enriquez: The next species of human | Talk Video | TED.com 
  169. Barry Schwartz: Our loss of wisdom | Talk Video | TED.com 
  170. Milton Glaser: Using design to make ideas new | Talk Video | TED.com 
  171. Mary Roach: 10 things you didn’t know about orgasm | Talk Video | TED.com 
  172. Dan Ariely: Are we in control of our own decisions? | Talk Video | TED.com 
  173. Joachim de Posada: Don’t eat the marshmallow! | Talk Video | TED.com 
  174. Seth Godin: The tribes we lead | Talk Video | TED.com 
  175. Al Gore: What comes after An Inconvenient Truth? | Talk Video | TED.com 
  176. Sean Gourley: The mathematics of war | Talk Video | TED.com 
  177. Nate Silver: Does racism affect how you vote? | Talk Video | TED.com 
  178. Tim Ferriss: Smash fear, learn anything | Talk Video | TED.com 
  179. Renny Gleeson: Our antisocial phone tricks | Talk Video | TED.com 
  180. Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success | Talk Video | TED.com 
  181. Jim Fallon: Exploring the mind of a killer | Talk Video | TED.com 
  182. Sophal Ear: Escaping the Khmer Rouge | Talk Video | TED.com 
  183. Tom Wujec: 3 ways the brain creates meaning | Talk Video | TED.com 
  184. Eames Demetrios: The design genius of Charles + Ray Eames 
  185. Arthur Benjamin: Teach statistics before calculus! | Talk Video | TED.com 
  186. Gever Tulley: Life lessons through tinkering | Talk Video | TED.com 
  187. Diane Benscoter: How cults rewire the brain | Talk Video | TED.com 
  188. Clay Shirky: How social media can make history | Talk Video | TED.com 
  189. Liz Coleman: A call to reinvent liberal arts education | Talk Video | TED.com 
  190. Ray Kurzweil: A university for the coming singularity | Talk Video | TED.com 
  191. Michelle Obama: A plea for education | Talk Video | TED.com 
  192. Stefan Sagmeister: The power of time off | Talk Video | TED.com 
  193. David Logan: Tribal leadership | Talk Video | TED.com 
  194. Jacqueline Novogratz: A third way to think about aid | Talk Video | TED.com 
  195. Taryn Simon: Photographs of secret sites | Talk Video | TED.com 
  196. William Kamkwamba: How I harnessed the wind | Talk Video | TED.com 
  197. Karen Armstrong: Let’s revive the Golden Rule | Talk Video | TED.com 
  198. Tim Brown: Designers — think big! | Talk Video | TED.com 
  199. Misha Glenny: How global crime networks work | Talk Video | TED.com 
  200. Rebecca Saxe: How we read each other’s minds | Talk Video | TED.com 
  201. Steve Truglia: A leap from the edge of space | Talk Video | TED.com 
  202. Joshua Silver: Adjustable liquid-filled eyeglasses | Talk Video | TED.com 
  203. Hans Rosling: Let my dataset change your mindset | Talk Video | TED.com 
  204. Janine Benyus: Biomimicry in action | Talk Video | TED.com 
  205. Shashi Tharoor: Why nations should pursue soft power | Talk Video | TED.com 
  206. Hans Rosling: Asia’s rise — how and when | Talk Video | TED.com 
  207. Stefana Broadbent: How the Internet enables intimacy | Talk Video | TED.com 
  208. David Deutsch: A new way to explain explanation | Talk Video | TED.com 
  209. Julian Treasure: The 4 ways sound affects us | Talk Video | TED.com 
  210. Sam Martin: Claim your “manspace” | Talk Video | TED.com 
  211. Marc Pachter: The art of the interview | Talk Video | TED.com 
  212. Ryan Lobo: Photographing the hidden story | Talk Video | TED.com 
  213. Sunitha Krishnan: The fight against sex slavery | Talk Video | TED.com 
  214. Loretta Napoleoni: The intricate economics of terrorism | Talk Video | TED.com 
  215. Shereen El Feki: Pop culture in the Arab world | Talk Video | TED.com 
  216. Shaffi Mather: A new way to fight corruption | Talk Video | TED.com 
  217. Sendhil Mullainathan: Solving social problems with a nudge | Talk Video | TED.com
  218. Derek Sivers: Weird, or just different? | Talk Video | TED.com 
  219. Dan Buettner: How to live to be 100+ | Talk Video | TED.com 
  220. Vilayanur Ramachandran: The neurons that shaped civilization 
  221. James Geary: Metaphorically speaking | Talk Video | TED.com 
  222. David Cameron: The next age of government | Talk Video | TED.com 
  223. Blaise Agüera y Arcas: Augmented-reality maps | Talk Video | TED.com 
  224. Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! | Talk Video | TED.com 
  225. Johanna Blakley: Lessons from fashion’s free culture | Talk Video | TED.com 
  226. Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover | Talk Video | TED.com 
  227. Nicholas Christakis: The hidden influence of social networks | Talk Video | TED.com 
  228. Stephen Wolfram: Computing a theory of all knowledge | Talk Video | TED.com 
  229. Jonathan Klein: Photos that changed the world | Talk Video | TED.com 
  230. Natalie Merchant: Singing old poems to life | Talk Video | TED.com 
  231. Adora Svitak: What adults can learn from kids | Talk Video | TED.com 
  232. Alan Siegel: Let’s simplify legal jargon! | Talk Video | TED.com 
  233. Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions | Talk Video | TED.com 
  234. Shekhar Kapur: We are the stories we tell ourselves | Talk Video | TED.com 
  235. Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world | Talk Video | TED.com 
  236. Eric Mead: The magic of the placebo | Talk Video | TED.com 
  237. Tim Berners-Lee: The year open data went worldwide | Talk Video | TED.com 
  238. James Cameron: Before Avatar … a curious boy | Talk Video | TED.com 
  239. Daniel Kahneman: The riddle of experience vs. memory | Talk Video | TED.com 
  240. Kevin Kelly: Technology’s epic story | Talk Video | TED.com 
  241. Aimee Mullins: The opportunity of adversity | Talk Video | TED.com 
  242. Hans Rosling: Global population growth, box by box | Talk Video | TED.com 
  243. Nalini Nadkarni: Life science in prison | Talk Video | TED.com 
  244. Clay Shirky: How cognitive surplus will change the world | Talk Video | TED.com 
  245. Charles Leadbeater: Education innovation in the slums | Talk Video | TED.com 
  246. Michael Shermer: The pattern behind self-deception | Talk Video | TED.com 
  247. Michael Sandel: The lost art of democratic debate | Talk Video | TED.com 
  248. John Kasaona: How poachers became caretakers | Talk Video | TED.com 
  249. Rory Sutherland: Sweat the small stuff | Talk Video | TED.com 
  250. Brian Cox: Why we need the explorers | Talk Video | TED.com
  251. Christopher “moot” Poole”: The case for anonymity online | Talk Video | TED.com 
  252. John Underkoffler: Pointing to the future of UI | Talk Video | TED.com 
  253. Lawrence Lessig: Re-examining the remix | Talk Video | TED.com 
  254. Sharmeen Obaid-ChinoyInside a school for suicide bombers
  255. Matt Ridley: When ideas have sex | Talk Video | TED.com 
  256. Elif Shafak: The politics of fiction | Talk Video | TED.com 
  257. Benoit Mandelbrot: Fractals and the art of roughness | Talk Video | TED.com 
  258. Maz Jobrani: Did you hear the one about the Iranian-American? | Talk Video | TED.com 
  259. Laurie Santos: A monkey economy as irrational as ours | Talk Video | TED.com 
  260. Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks | Talk Video | TED.com 
  261. Sheena Iyengar: The art of choosing | Talk Video | TED.com 
  262. Nicholas Christakis: How social networks predict epidemics | Talk Video | TED.co
  263. Stacey Kramer: The best gift I ever survived | Talk Video | TED.com 
  264. Hans Rosling: The good news of the decade? | Talk Video | TED.com 
  265. Sebastian Seung: I am my connectome | Talk Video | TED.com 
  266. Thomas Goetz: It’s time to redesign medical data | Talk Video | TED.com 
  267. Martin Jacques: Understanding the rise of China | Talk Video | TED.com 
  268. Naomi Klein: Addicted to risk | Talk Video | TED.com 
  269. Ali Carr-Chellman: Gaming to re-engage boys in learning | Talk Video | TED.com 
  270. Elizabeth Lesser: Take “the Other” to lunch | Talk Video | TED.com 
  271. Thomas Thwaites: How I built a toaster — from scratch | Talk Video | TED.com 
  272. Charles Limb: Your brain on improv | Talk Video | TED.com 
  273. Arianna Huffington: How to succeed? Get more sleep | Talk Video | TED.com 
  274. Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders | Talk Video | TED.com 
  275. Rufus Griscom + Alisa Volkman: Let’s talk parenting taboos | Talk Video | TED.com
  276. Eric Berlow: Simplifying complexity | Talk Video | TED.com 
  277. Tom Chatfield: 7 ways games reward the brain | Talk Video | TED.com 
  278. Joseph Nye: Global power shifts | Talk Video | TED.com 
  279. Patrick Chappatte: The power of cartoons | Talk Video | TED.com 
  280. Heribert Watzke: The brain in your gut | Talk Video | TED.com 
  281. Noreena Hertz: How to use experts — and when not to | Talk Video | TED.com 
  282. Madeleine Albright: On being a woman and a diplomat | Talk Video | TED.com 
  283. Jacqueline Novogratz: Inspiring a life of immersion | Talk Video | TED.com 
  284. Dale Dougherty: We are makers | Talk Video | TED.com 
  285. Stanley McChrystal: Listen, learn … then lead | Talk Video | TED.com 
  286. Chade-Meng Tan: Everyday compassion at Google | Talk Video | TED.com 
  287. Eythor Bender: Human exoskeletons — for war and healing | Talk Video | TED.com
  288. Isabel Behncke: Evolution’s gift of play, from bonobo apes to humans
  289. Mark Bezos: A life lesson from a volunteer firefighter | Talk Video | TED.com 
  290. Deb Roy: The birth of a word | Talk Video | TED.com 
  291. Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days | Talk Video | TED.com 
  292. Emiliano Salinas: A civil response to violence | Talk Video | TED.com 
  293. Daniel Tammet: Different ways of knowing | Talk Video | TED.com 
  294. Bill Ford: A future beyond traffic gridlock | Talk Video | TED.com 
  295. Shea Hembrey: How I became 100 artists | Talk Video | TED.com 
  296. Rory Stewart: Time to end the war in Afghanistan | Talk Video | TED.com 
  297. Josette Sheeran: Ending hunger now | Talk Video | TED.com 
  298. Paul Bloom: The origins of pleasure | Talk Video | TED.com 
  299. Damon Horowitz: We need a “moral operating system” | Talk Video | TED.com 
  300. Stefan Sagmeister: 7 rules for making more happiness | Talk Video | TED.com 
  301. Leonard Susskind: My friend Richard Feynman | Talk Video | TED.com 
  302. Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles” | Talk Video | TED.com 
  303. Harvey Fineberg: Are we ready for neo-evolution? | Talk Video | TED.com 
  304. Sam Richards: A radical experiment in empathy | Talk Video | TED.com 
  305. Marcin Jakubowski: Open-sourced blueprints for civilization 
  306. Caroline Casey: Looking past limits | Talk Video | TED.com 
  307. Dave Meslin: The antidote to apathy | Talk Video | TED.com 
  308. Geoffrey West: The surprising math of cities and corporations 
  309. Brian Goldman: Doctors make mistakes. Can we talk about that? 
  310. Gayle Tzemach Lemmon: Women entrepreneurs, example not exception 
  311. Sheena Iyengar: How to make choosing easier | Talk Video | TED.com 
  312. Alain de Botton: Atheism 2.0 | Talk Video | TED.com 
  313. Jonas Gahr Støre: In defense of dialogue | Talk Video | TED.com 
  314. Jane Fonda: Life’s third act | Talk Video | TED.com 
  315. AJ Jacobs: How healthy living nearly killed me | Talk Video | TED.com 
  316. Daniel Goldstein: The battle between your present and future self 
  317. Stefon Harris: There are no mistakes on the bandstand | Talk Video | TED.com 
  318. Cheryl Hayashi: The magnificence of spider silk | Talk Video | TED.com 
  319. Srdja Popovic: How to topple a dictator | Talk Video | TED.com 
  320. Luis von Ahn: Massive-scale online collaboration | Talk Video | TED.com 
  321. Annie Murphy Paul: What we learn before we’re born | Talk Video | TED.com 
  322. Kathryn Schulz: Don’t regret regret | Talk Video | TED.com 
  323. Charles Limb: Building the musical muscle | Talk Video | TED.com 
  324. Charlie Todd: The shared experience of absurdity | Talk Video | TED.com 
  325. Allan Jones: A map of the brain | Talk Video | TED.com 
  326. Paul Zak: Trust, morality — and oxytocin? | Talk Video | TED.com 
  327. Richard Wilkinson: How economic inequality harms societies
  328. Pamela Meyer: How to spot a liar | Talk Video | TED.com 
  329. Richard Seymour: How beauty feels | Talk Video | TED.com 
  330. Graham Hill: Less stuff, more happiness | Talk Video | TED.com 
  331. Jarreth Merz: Filming democracy in Ghana | Talk Video | TED.com 
  332. Amy Lockwood: Selling condoms in the Congo | Talk Video | TED.com 
  333. Jean-Baptiste Michel + Erez Lieberman Aiden: What we learned from 5 million books 
  334. Joan Halifax: Compassion and the true meaning of empathy
  335. Dan Ariely: Beware conflicts of interest | Talk Video | TED.com 
  336. Alex Steffen: The shareable future of cities | Talk Video | TED.com 
  337. Eve Ensler: Suddenly, my body | Talk Video | TED.com 
  338. Philip Zimbardo: The demise of guys? | Talk Video | TED.com 
  339. Joe Smith: How to use a paper towel | Talk Video | TED.com 
  340. Eduardo Paes: The 4 commandments of cities | Talk Video | TED.com 
  341. Brené Brown: Listening to shame | Talk Video | TED.com 
  342. Jonathan Haidt: Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence 
  343. Larry Smith: Why you will fail to have a great career | Talk Video | TED.com 
  344. Jennifer Pahlka: Coding a better government | Talk Video | TED.com 
  345. Bryan Stevenson: We need to talk about an injustice | Talk Video | TED.com 
  346. Susan Cain: The power of introverts | Talk Video | TED.com 
  347. Chris Bliss: Comedy is translation | Talk Video | TED.com 
  348. Jenna McCarthy: What you don’t know about marriage | Talk Video | TED.com 
  349. Drew Dudley: Everyday leadership | Talk Video | TED.com 
  350. Peter van Uhm: Why I chose a gun | Talk Video | TED.com 
  351. Jane McGonigal: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life
  352. Diane Kelly: What we didn’t know about penis anatomy | Talk Video | TED.com 
  353. Juan Enriquez: Will our kids be a different species? | Talk Video | TED.com 
  354. Sebastian Deterding: What your designs say about you | Talk Video | TED.com 
  355. Dalia Mogahed: The attitudes that sparked Arab Spring | Talk Video | TED.com 
  356. JR: One year of turning the world inside out | Talk Video | TED.com 
  357. Jean-Baptiste Michel: The mathematics of history | Talk Video | TED.com 
  358. Renny Gleeson: 404, the story of a page not found | Talk Video | TED.com 
  359. Rory Sutherland: Perspective is everything | Talk Video | TED.com 
  360. Doris Kim Sung: Metal that breathes | Talk Video | TED.com 
  361. David Pizarro: The strange politics of disgust | Talk Video | TED.com 
  362. Ryan Merkley: Online video — annotated, remixed and popped
  363. Heather Brooke: My battle to expose government corruption | Talk Video | TED.com 
  364. Melissa Marshall: Talk nerdy to me | Talk Video | TED.com 
  365. Jason McCue: Terrorism is a failed brand | Talk Video | TED.com 
  366. Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are | Talk Video | TED.com 
  367. Clay Shirky: How the Internet will (one day) transform government 
  368. Rachel Botsman: The currency of the new economy is trust | Talk Video | TED.com
  369. Leslie T. Chang: The voices of China’s workers | Talk Video | TED.com 
  370. Robert Neuwirth: The power of the informal economy | Talk Video | TED.com 
  371. Kirby Ferguson: Embrace the remix | Talk Video | TED.com 
  372. Daphne Koller: What we’re learning from online education
  373. James Stavridis: A Navy Admiral’s thoughts on global security
  374. Daphne Bavelier: Your brain on video games | Talk Video | TED.com 
  375. Arunachalam Muruganantham: How I started a sanitary napkin revolution! 
  376. Gary Greenberg: The beautiful nano details of our world | Talk Video 
  377. Maz Jobrani: A Saudi, an Indian and an Iranian walk into a Qatari bar 
  378. Markham Nolan: How to separate fact and fiction online | Talk Video | TED.com 
  379. Paolo Cardini: Forget multitasking, try monotasking | Talk Video | TED.com 
  380. Michael Dickinson: How a fly flies | Talk Video | TED.com 
  381. Afra Raymond: Three myths about corruption | Talk Video | TED.com
  382. Andreas Schleicher: Use data to build better schools | Talk Video | TED.com 
  383. Keith Chen: Could your language affect your ability to save money? 
  384. Young-ha Kim: Be an artist, right now! | Talk Video | TED.com 
  385. James B. Glattfelder: Who controls the world? | Talk Video | TED.com 
  386. Shabana Basij-Rasikh: Dare to educate Afghan girls | Talk Video | TED.com 
  387. Edi Rama: Take back your city with paint | Talk Video | TED.com 
  388. Cesar Kuriyama: One second every day
  389. Tyler DeWitt: Hey science teachers — make it fun
  390. Leslie Morgan Steiner: Why domestic violence victims don’t leave 
  391. Colin Powell: Kids need structure
  392. Andy Puddicombe: All it takes is 10 mindful minutes
  393. Angela Patton: A father-daughter dance … in prison
  394. Cameron Russell: Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model. 
  395. Maria Bezaitis: The surprising need for strangeness
  396. Meg Jay: Why 30 is not the new 20
  397. Angela Lee Duckworth: The key to success? Grit
  398. Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley
  399. Geoffrey Canada: Our failing schools. Enough is enough!
  400. Pearl Arredondo: My story, from gangland daughter to star teacher 
  401. Rita Pierson: Every kid needs a champion
  402. Nilofer Merchant: Got a meeting? Take a walk
  403. John McWhorter: Txtng is killing language. JK!!!
  404. Rose George: Let’s talk crap. Seriously.
  405. Dan Ariely: What makes us feel good about our work?
  406. Jessica Green: We’re covered in germs. Let’s design for that.
  407. Hyeonseo Lee: My escape from North Korea
  408. Elon Musk: The mind behind Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity … (rewatch)
  409. David Anderson: Your brain is more than a bag of chemicals
  410. Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong (rewatch)
  411. Amanda Palmer: The art of asking (rewatch)
  412. Bruce Feiler: Agile programming — for your family
  413. Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud
  414. Lisa Bu: How books can open your mind (rewatch)
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0150 + 0151 – Restatement of Purpose

I have often felt purposeless, for the most part. Sometimes I get caught up in something and get all excited, but it usually ends up being temporary, illusory. It goes away. It doesn’t map meaningfully onto reality, so it becomes a flight of fancy that becomes more trouble than it’s worth.

We’re all going to die. And eventually everything will become nothing. So that makes a lot of seemingly meaningful things become really pointless. The idea of becoming some authority figure for the sake of it doesn’t gel with me. I’ve tried to buy into that, but it never lasts because it ultimately strikes me as a little silly. I’ve run through a lot of that. The problem is, just coasting through life strikes me as a little silly, too. You end up getting into problems that you don’t have enough energy, resources or know-how to solve, and the whole “The Universe Will Provide” idea strikes me as myopic, privileged and powerless. I’m sure I’m interpreting that a little too narrowly, but there’s no avoiding that.

LifeGame

So. We have this LifeGame, and we ought to make the most of it. We don’t have to, but I’ve kind of played around in the “I decide not to decide” space for long enough, and I find that suboptimal. That’s Mixed Feelings Park. And I don’t want to spend life in Mixed Feelings Park, I want to spend it in Flow, and in the Good/Light Playground. I want to be happy, full of joy. No anxiety. This means developing skills, abilities. This means some degree of will-to-power, not for its own sake but so that you can navigate LifeGame with more finesse. You don’t want to get stuck here and there, you don’t want to mope and be miserable because some random small monster takes you down. I want to be strong so I can protect and help others.

Okay? So I think I’ve resolved that. LifeGame, to play or not to play? I choose play. Since you’re going to play, you have to take it seriously (while acknowledging that it’s ultimately a game). I mean serious here in the sense of “earnest” rather than “grave”. Poker can provide a useful analogy. Taking poker seriously means learning how the game works, learning the odds, learning the hands, learning to read people. It also means not getting overly attached to the outcome. You can have fun with it. You can play with it like an artist, rather than get bludgeoned by it. You know you might lose everything, but at least you did the best you could and you had fun. You played your cards right.

Choosing an overall strategy

So. I choose to acknowledge LifeGame, and I choose to play it, and I choose to play it well. Choosing to play it well means figuring out what your personal utility functions are. What gets you off, sustainably over the context of your LifeGame? So a cigarette gives me utility over 5 minutes. Heroin might do the same. I think if you have 5 minutes left to live, heroin is a great idea.

The problem is that you seldom knowingly know that you have 5 minutes to live. I can reasonably assume that I have at least 10-20 years left, and at best I might have a 100 years left. Cigarettes greatly diminish the quality of that life. So they’re a detrimental choice in LifeGame. When you start thinking in terms of such broader contexts, things like eating and living healthily, exercising, etc make more sense. Getting into petty disagreements and arguments on Facebook and the Internet make less sense. They might be fun in the short term, they might feel meaningful in the short term, but they’re really just distractions.

If you’re not building assets that compound over time, you’re wasting your time- at least, again, assuming that you have at least 10 years to live. If you have an hour left to live, shoot up all you like. Ignore me. These are thoughts for optimizing a good 40-80 years of LifeGame.

What to do?

Okay. So what do I do, then? What do I want to create? What do I want to experience? My wife was asking me about this.  What am I excited about? I did some pretty dramatic things by getting married and buying a house and getting a job. I got a couple of cats. I have a job with awesome colleagues. But things have been fairly stagnant since then. Or at least, they’ve been progressing steadily, but it feels a little “boring” in its steadiness. My daily routine is a little boring. This is my own problem, not anybody else’s. I should figure out how to get more out of my own life, I should figure out how to be at peace with myself if I die tomorrow.

Anyway, I realize that I’ve been carrying tonnes and tonnes of thoughts in my head for over a year, maybe. And it takes a bit of shaking around, a bit of colliding with other ideas, a bit of video-watching, people-talking, all of that stuff… before it starts to coalesce into something meaningful. And I feel like I’m on to something here, by taking what I’ve learnt over the past 1.5 years, by taking these new ideas and perspectives and lens and applying them to older, more fundamental pursuits.

Legion Of Heroes -> The Pipeline

I went through a phase where I was very obsessed with the idea of becoming a hero. I’d use “visaisahero” (Visa Is A Hero) as a username on multiple places. It was my MSN name. I was obsessed with this idea of becoming a hero- somebody who rose above herself and her circumstances to achieve great things for others. But somehow that never really took off the way I wanted it to. It was a vague, naive, narcissistic and fantastic ideal. It wasn’t actionable enough. The fundamental dream was real inside my head, but I hadn’t figured out what I was going to do about it. I had this vague idea that I’d just write about heroism, write blogposts about how to be heroic, and that I’d fake it until I made it.

That sort of died-ish. In the meantime, I had been writing about Singaporean politics and media news and stuff, and that got me a bunch of attention. But I never quite managed to let go of my original Heroes idea. I always felt that life could be much more interesting than as determined by happenstance. There had to be other people like me out there, people who were working on interesting things, tackling interesting problems, and there had to be a way to reach out to them and help them achieve great things. I created a community on Facebook called \(n_n)/ for friends to invite other thoughtful friends, so we could have nice conversations. These were really pleasant and thoughtful, but the nature of the medium made it more of a relationship/friendship building space rather than a vehicle for any serious change or construction. The only place I can actually imagine that actually happening is on an independent site or forum of some sort.

I knew that I wanted something. I knew I wanted more than what I was, what I had. But I didn’t know how to make it any more precise than I already had so far. I wanted to be more, to be better. But in what sense?

Creative Collision (synaptic stimuli!)

I was watching a couple of TED talks earlier when I was having lunch. First I re-watched Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk about genius and creativity. Then I watched Bill Gates talk about Innovating to Zero. And something stirred in me. As I watched these, I re-thought about other things that I’ve enjoyed watching, and how they cause certain conceptual collisions inside my head that trigger off a chain reaction. I realize that I ought to have a better formula for getting unstuck when I get stuck. I realize that I ought to share that formula with others who might be in the same boat as I was. And then things start getting clearer.

I don’t need to try and achieve something lofty. Rather, I need to try to achieve something highly specific and localized, that only I can do. And it can (even should?) start with something almost ridiculously hyper-precise, and hyper-unique to my own condition. Let me attempt to phrase it.

I personally want to see a slight shift in the world, where people celebrate scientific achievement and throw themselves at achieving the goals that improve the lot of our species. Specifically, the work of people like Elon Musk and Bill Gates come to mind, but really, anybody who’s doing basic research, anybody who’s improving science and technology, anybody who’s helping to lift people out of poverty, solve our energy problems, so on and so forth. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel there, I am willing to follow the visions of people who are smart and have put in the work already.

I am tired and underwhelmed of spectator sports and the path-of-least-resistance that “the media” often takes. I find it almost sad and ridiculous that people worry about celebrities and about sports when there are things happening at much larger scales. I suppose those things might seem more scary because they’re so consequential, but the idea of living life while caring about artificially created meaning scares me. I don’t mean to insult people who do that. I’m almost kind of jealous of people who can pick a sports team and be loyal to it for life and decide that that’s somehow a meaningful thing to do. For me it feels too artificial and constructed. And yes I know that all meaning is ultimately constructed, but shouldn’t we be working on things that have real and positive repercussions on other people?

Not necessarily. It’s all arbitrary. There is no single right way of doing things. Just ways of doing things that might be us amusing ourselves into the abyss, or us trying to build something and help people… also in the face of the abyss. I personally find that there’s something really exciting about the work that really smart people are doing, and it excites me more than sports or celebrities. If you disagree, then this isn’t the place for you. I’m still happy to share this precious planet with you, but you should probably go hang out somewhere else.

Paul Graham describes essays as cleaned-up trains of thought. My vomits aren’t cleaned up at all. They’re fully messy, fully random, fully chaotic. Everything just gets spilled out, and it probably makes little to no sense to anybody other than myself. But that’s okay, I can clean them up later. I’m just dumping out the lego bucket.

I think there must be kids out there in the world right now who are going through what I went through 10 years ago, 5 years ago. And I think back to how lost and confused I was at those points in time. I wonder what I would do if I encountered my younger self right now. What questions would I ask him? What advice would I give him? How would I help him make better decisions, without exactly telling him what to do, or asking him to do my bidding? That’s the blog that I need to have. I need to clean up the messy path that led me from there to here, so that others can skip the mistakes that I made en-route. So I need to be highly specific.

I’m going to write a bunch of blogposts that detail the biggest mistakes I made. The biggest lessons I learned. The things that I wasted my time with. The things I wish I did earlier. The videos, movies and books that made the biggest difference to me.

The people I will be writing for? ENTPs. Geminis. People with ADHD. People who did well in school early on, but became underachievers afterwards. People who were told they were smart, but weren’t taught to work hard. People with horrible time management skills. People who are flighty, unreliable, untrustworthy. People who used to read books under their desks at school. People who are addicted to Facebook or Reddit instead of building things in their spare time that might have lasting value. People who have always felt like they ought to be building something, but suspect that they’re not good enough, or that they might embarrass themselves by failing, or that the world doesn’t quite need what they have to say, do, or offer.

One of the most important things I’m realizing right now as I write this is how much of this stems from all of the things that seemed so silly and foolish when I were younger. Everything great seems really naive, stupid and ignorant when it’s still a fragile, vulnerable seed. You shouldn’t shut people out or down when they start on these paths. Rather, you should help them refine their thoughts. You should ask probing questions that will clear their heads.

I was hoping that this vomit or post was going to be really simple and straightforward, really succinct and fast. But instead I meandered through the whole thing. That’s okay. I’m getting it out. I have a lot more stuff to get out. And then I will sort it all. Then I will look at the streams, and I will tidy them up. And it will be useful to at least one other person out there. And it will remind me of my own journey, and it will give me a sense of how I’m going to move forward. We ARE going to innovate to zero. We ARE going to lift billions of people out of poverty. And I’m going to try and figure out how I can participate in that, get involved. And it’ll be really fun, exciting and meaningful. And we can go out with a smile on our faces, that our LifeGames were well-played.

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