Monthly Archives: July 2014

Approaching the noble art (and sublime science) of communication

Apparently, this has become an “art of” blog. Perhaps soon, it will become a pure art blog!

Today, I want to talk about communication. What accounts for the often vast and perplexing discrepancies invisibly at play as (apparently goodhearted) individuals attempt to successfully communicate?

Broad question, Suraj! Yeah, yeah, I recognize that. Actually, a (very dear) reader of mine said so first. Perhaps she will grace us with her insightful perspectives and charmingly elegant presence in a follow-up comment here, sometime.  [ ūüôā ]

Right, then: let’s narrow this down. What variables are at play when it comes to the observable and commonplace nuances in human communication?

Here’s a piecemeal set to help get us started:

  • Personality— A favorite pastime of mine to study, and an endlessly fascinating subject in general. See here for more.
  •  Cognition— How do people think? For more on individual differences in this vein, consider the scientific (albeit simplistic) Cognitive-Experiential Self-Theory (CEST).

Naturally, there are plenty more factors to discuss than the mere two I’ve just listed. This is simply to get the slow ball rolling on my blog’s gently-sloping hill. Communication is important for obvious reasons, yet it’s frequently and inconveniently misconstrued at best, inexplicably and woefully understudied at worst.

Here’s a link to expand our current scope–one that I hope will provide worthwhile and interesting enough to flesh out accordingly in a future post.

Innovation, authentic entrepreneurship, and martyrdom

Today’s entry¬†will deal primarily with¬†the art of innovation.

Innovation is something of a buzzword among our generation–perhaps so much so that it’s no longer entirely clear what it means. Accordingly, it has become worthy of my more penetrating (and relatively practical!)¬†philosophical¬†attentions.

Here are a few of the things that genuine, true-to-heart and cutting-edge innovation entails:

  • An insatiable thirst¬†to succeed;
  • The correct resources/resource-gathering strategies (tricky, for the self-sacrificing¬†entrepreneur);
  • A clear¬†passion for what one does (much easier to identify, than to truly follow);
  • The ability to keenly foresee consumer needs that are mostly invisible to others (most people can’t do this well);
  • The will to follow up on a vision and successfully bring one’s ideas to fruition; and
  • The ability to persuade prospective partners and the masses that one’s product is truly worth investing in, and is far¬†more effective¬†than everything else out there (exactly¬†because¬†it’s so different from¬†everything else).

Not everyone has the resources,¬†willpower, psychological resilience, or even the innate creativity necessary to be an authentic innovator. There are many phases involved¬†the in process of innovating, and many personal traits required¬†by the visionary–self-sacrifice and the willingness to risk it ‘all’ (i.e. one’s own sanity) high up among them.

To be clear,¬†this¬†post is nothing very innovative. But I think it’s important to pause on¬†what makes something truly novel and worth its target market’s while. There’s a lot of talk about entrepreneurship and innovation in our generation, but not the appropriate¬†amalgamation of factors to turn¬†enough of our¬†ideas into longstanding realities¬†during our own lifetimes.

“During¬†our¬†own¬†lifetimes”–to the aspiring innovator, that “our” is relatively immaterial. Why? Because this type of person sees¬†past¬†the confines of their present time, the conventions that define their surrounding¬†society, the go-to methods¬†it deems “correct, respectable and reliable” in order to succeed. What’s familiar and “secure” is by no means the driver behind the unique innovator’s work-related impetus.

The successful pioneer commits unhesitatingly to the future worth of their investments, and plants the seeds necessary for their efforts to be of worth to the hearts and souls of a posterity that will benefit from (and henceforth reap the rewards of) their work.

The biggest problem, however–as I will discuss in the forthcoming days–is that the overwhelming¬†majority of¬†self-labeling entrepreneurs are far more attached to their own egos and material success, than to the thought of enhancing the future of their species’ hitherto undefined standards of life.

Focus, mindfulness and meditation

Focus - img

This post¬†will begin exploring¬†the practical benefits of mindfulness.¬†Today’s focus will be focus.

There are a few ways to achieve mindfulness. One method that’s gained¬†recent attention in the Western world is mindfulness meditation, which I will discuss below. I will then connect meditation to how we can improve our focus.

In our rapidly industrializing world,¬†with continually proliferating¬†distractions competing for our precious attentions, the exact opposite of mindfulness–or mind-wandering–is especially easy to let happen. Mind-wandering¬†involves losing sight of why we’re involved in what we’re doing, and subsequently losing the ability to keep our attention fixed on that thing.

Let’s go against the grain a little here¬†and slow down on meditation. Learning how to slow down is crucial:¬†it allows us to detach from the ever-expanding chaos of our¬†outer world, and zone back in on what’s truly important and relevant to what we would ultimately like to achieve.

Which brings us to this post’s scope: What meditation is, and how it can be done.

The first question is answered simply enough. Though¬†there are a few distinct¬†ways of defining it, one way particularly relevant to improving focus involves closing one’s eyes and shifting attention away from the outer world (or one’s distracting thoughts–whatever the element of unwanted distraction is), and in toward one’s own bodily functioning. This could take the form of focusing on the steady rhythm¬†of one’s breath (possibly counting as each goes by¬†to shift attention away from worrisome¬†thoughts), or simply thinking about parts of the body and calmly noting how one¬†feels. The latter method is especially helpful¬†for improving our emotional awareness, a very valuable trait to develop for our overall fulfillment. (Stay tuned!)

Exercises like meditation exemplify¬†our¬†ability to shift attention with intention. Why is this important for focus? Because the opposite of focus is distractibility,¬†and distractibility results¬†when one’s attention is strained for too long on a task, event, or particular state¬†of affairs. Meditation allows us¬†to detach from such sources of¬†mental burden and center back in to rediscover ourselves.

In short, then, mindful meditation helps us put¬†things back into clearer perspective. This enables¬†us to achieve our goals with¬†renewed senses of purpose and self-acceptance; thus granting us access not only to why we do what we’re doing, but also what we would like to achieve by doing it over the long haul.

Mindfulness, etc.

Mindfulness Post (3) - img.

The topic of today’s entry¬†is¬†mindfulness. This concept has gained considerable popularity¬†in¬†recent years, particularly from psychologists. Such psychologists are generally interested in one essential question: assuming¬†happiness and¬†well-being are desirable goals for any living creature (including humans), how do we go about reaching them?

Now, obviously, happiness is a very abstract notion. There are many paths to it, though the destination has clear commonalities across individuals that are worth noting. One such pattern psychologists take note of is that the happy person does not dwell excessively on the past or future: rather, they are firmly rooted in the present moment, open to the natural progression of whatever situation they currently find themselves in.

In an age where speed seems to have become more important than ever to keep up with the breakneck paces of the Joneses, and where the dissemination of¬†new (mostly digital) information has accelerated as rapidly as it has, such a ‘mindful’ mindset is crucial. In order to be happy, we must come to terms both with our worldly situation¬†and¬†who we are: the latter is what really leads to our contentment in the long run.

It’s easy to get swept up in thoughts along the lines of¬†“the more things I do now, and the quicker I do them,¬†the better off my future-self will be”. And there is wisdom to that approach. But on the flip-side–especially for the young, who see so many opportunities¬†in the world that slowing down simply¬†isn’t an option containing¬†any pragmatic or reasonable bearing–it can lead to unwisely neglecting the present in favor of what’s yet to come, or (for all we know) might¬†never¬†come. And that’s where long-term disillusionment¬†and discontentment¬†begin seeping into life and taking their ugly form.

There’s a lot that’s worthwhile¬†about¬†the ‘go with the flow’ route most¬†mindfulness theorists advocate for, and I’ll touch more on it–specifically, on how to practice and benefit from it–in the next¬†post.