all posts tagged 'inspiration'

What I Do When I Can’t Sleep

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Listening to him name exactly what he liked about the wine turned up the hairs on the back of my neck. Suddenly, my own experience of the wine felt deeper and more satisfying. I wanted to know: How was he able to identify these flavors?

He told me the secret was to blindly smell things and try to label them. You see, the part of your brain that’s responsible for smells is naturally mute. It’s called the olfactory bulb, and it’s an ancient fist of neurons just behind your eyes. It has only indirect backroad connections to the parts of the brain that control language, like Broca’s area. So, even though you might have an easy time knowing whether or not you like a scent, it’s not easy to label that scent with a word. It’ll feel like groping through a dark closet for something you know is there, but can’t quite find.

I did not know this, and now I will be nerding out on ways to train my taste buds.

But this article isn’t just about developing your sense of taste. It’s also about defining your style.

In much the same way the author describes how he is, for the first time in his life, articulating what he likes as a writer, I am starting to do the same with several areas of my life.

Case in point: I have a huge collection of quotes that you can see on the main page of this site.

I just fed all of them through ChatGPT with this prompt:

I’ve attached a series of quotes which are meaningful to me. First off, tell me the consistent themes you recognize across all of the quotes. Then, tell me what this says about the things that inspire me.

Here is the result:

Across all the quotes, several consistent themes emerge:

  1. Growth and Self-improvement: Many quotes focus on the importance of personal growth, overcoming challenges, and continuous improvement.
  2. Perseverance and Resilience: There's a strong theme of enduring hardship, staying strong in the face of adversity, and the importance of perseverance.
  3. Wisdom and Perspective: The quotes often reflect on acquiring wisdom, gaining perspective, and understanding life's deeper meanings and truths.
  4. Happiness and Contentment: There's an emphasis on finding happiness, being content with what one has, and the pursuit of joy in life.
  5. Community and Relationships: Several quotes highlight the value of community, the importance of relationships, and the strength that comes from vulnerability and connection with others.

These themes suggest that you are inspired by ideas related to personal growth, resilience in the face of adversity, the pursuit of wisdom and understanding, the importance of happiness and contentment, and the value of community and relationships. It paints a picture of someone who values both internal development and external connections, seeking both personal fulfillment and meaningful interactions with others.

:extremely Marge Simpson voice: “Well, duh.

(For real though, pretty awesome that we have a tool that is exceptionally good at summarizing large amounts of data and picking out patterns throughout the dataset.)

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Inside the Pain Cave With Ultrarunning GOAT Courtney Dauwalter

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When she feels as if she is running on shards of glass, when her legs feel like they are about to split open, when she thinks she can’t possibly run one more mile, Courtney Dauwalter starts visualizing the pain cave. It’s a place she constructs in her mind with elaborate detail. She conjures every crevice of the cave’s architecture: a large space with different tunnels inside. The cavernous paths in her mind can be wide or narrow, depending on the length and duration of the race. But with Courtney, they’re usually impossibly long.

Dauwalter, 37, is considered the world’s best female ultramarathon runner. She might just be the greatest ultrarunner of all time, period. She races astonishing distances of 100- and 200-plus miles, even once attempting a 486-mile course. She is often on her feet for a mind-bending 24 or 48 straight hours, in the harshest environments imaginable, from steep terrain and high elevation to extreme weather.

Each race, she intends to go into the pain cave. She almost craves it. She warns herself, standing at the start line right before the gun goes off, that she is about to embark on another uncomfortable journey to the cave. “It’s not always going to feel great,” she tells herself. “But that’s going to make us better. We’re going to get better from visiting it.”

I got to meet Courtney while recording an episode of C Tolle Run, and I can confirm that she is incredibly nice and wonderful to be around.

Her attitude here towards approaching uncomfortable situations is the one I want to have when I grow up.

This whole article is insanely inspiring. Courtney serves as one of those people who seem to understand how to live your best life: push yourself to do your best, explore the world around you, appreciate every little thing, and use all your tools to help you get better (even tools like negative thoughts and pain).

There is nothing quite like running super long distances, and reading this article makes me think I need to set myself up with another challenge.

(Not running-related, though. I think I’ve gone as far as I can realistically go with that sport. Tomorrow morning, I’m gonna pick up my bike and start building there.)

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June Huh, High School Dropout, Wins Fields Medal

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To hear him tell it, he doesn’t usually have much control over what he decides to focus on in those three hours. For a few months in the spring of 2019, all he did was read.

“Which means I didn’t do any work,” Huh said. “So that’s kind of a problem.” (He’s since made peace with this constraint, though. “I used to try to resist … but I finally learned to give up to those temptations.” As a consequence, “I became better and better at ignoring deadlines.”)

He finds that forcing himself to do something or defining a specific goal — even for something he enjoys — never works. It’s particularly difficult for him to move his attention from one thing to another. “I think intention and willpower … are highly overrated,” he said. “You rarely achieve anything with those things.”

This was a great biography about one person’s path towards discovering what they are passionate about.

I find a lot of parallels in my work. Agency life can be a grind, and it’s tough to say “deliver this work by this date” and feel motivated to deliver on it, especially when that work is not particularly novel or challenging.

I much prefer being still for a little bit, finding something to be curious about, and working towards discovering everything I can about that thing.

On a related note: I recently had a great talk with a coworker about the game I want to build. Our talk transformed that idea into one that now is making me motivated to learn more about AIs that generate visual components and how one could incorporate them into a dynamically-built world.

Kinda cool stuff, no?

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Math Makes Life Beautiful

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I’ve been quite fascinated with math lately (see my video recommendation below about Bézier curves), but one concept in general that is very intriguing is the overall language of math.

For decades now, I’ve been looking at math as more of a “how can I use this tool” mindset. Pythagorean theorem? Fibonacci sequences? Euclidean coordinates? Sure, whatever, I’ll learn that stuff and use it in order to get something done that matters.

But something that has occurred to me only recently is that some of the bigger concepts that connect us to the universe, like how to travel throughout our solar system and how to capture and sequester carbon, are only possible to understand when you can speak the math.

It’s a damn shame how many people don’t consider themselves “a math person” because they didn’t have someone explain this to them at some point early in their life.

Hannah Fry explains the Gale-Shapley matching algorithm, which essentially proves that “If you put yourself out there, start at the top of the list, and work your way down, you’ll always end up with the best possible person who’ll have you. If you sit around and wait for people to talk to you, you’ll end up with the least bad person who approaches you. Regardless of the type of relationship you’re after, it pays to take the initiative.”

The math may be complicated, but the principle isn’t. Your chances of ending up with what you want — say, the guy with the amazing smile or that lab director job in California — dramatically increase if you make the first move. Fry says, “aim high, and aim frequently. The math says so.” Why argue with that?

This is a really cool concept. I’m gonna start taking more shots in life because, hey, why argue with the math?

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Kunal Shah - Why choosing your friends matters

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When he said “I do businesses to hunt more insights”, I really felt that. Great little snippet from the great Knowledge Project podcast.

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There is a kind of brain fog that feels unique to early parenthood, and yet I know it isn’t. It’s the same sort of disorienting haze that envelopes anyone who finds their time is not really their own, but rather has been sacrificed to another purpose, voluntarily or otherwise. You lose pieces of yourself, little by little, often unnoticed, until one day you begin to emerge from your experience without the faintest idea of who you are, or even who you used to be.

I had this realization when I first got Covid last year, and it’s been gnawing at me a ton lately.

Ever since having knee surgery, I’ve gained weight to the point where I’m almost the biggest I’ve ever been.

My daily routine is just not at all what I want to do. What’s a day in my life, you asked?

I wake up around 6a and immediately grab my phone and doom scroll. Then I wake up and get breakfast prepped for my wife and kids, then I work.

I work from 6:30a until 5p, only taking occasional breaks to interact gruffly with my family and coworkers and stuff unhealthy junk into my body.

The unhealthy stuff has gotten worse over the last few months. I hadn’t had pop in nearly 2 decades. Now I find myself grabbing a Sprite from time to time. I also eat as much sugar as I can bear in as many forms as I can.

After work, I come home and if I’m lucky, I chat with my wife and eat some dinner, then I play with the kids. If I’m not luck and had a particularly tough day (which is the norm as of late), I come home and sit on my phone until it’s time to put the kids to bed.

I do like getting the kids down, it’s a routine I rather enjoy. Vitamins, pajamas, an episode of something, a few books, then tucked in.

After that, I sit on my phone while the tv blares something I’m only half paying attention to in the background. I eat more sugar. Eventually, I move to bed where I continue on my phone until pass out from exhaustion.

A night filled with awkward dreams and uncomfortable sleep greets me at this point (try sleeping with a heavy brace that keeps your knee locked straight). Then, I get to wake up and do it all again.

That routine sucks. It’s no wonder I’m itching for a change. I want to spend meaningful time with my kids and wife. I want to get involved with activities that bring me joy, like working out, tinkering with hardware, or programming new websites. I want to spend time hanging out with friends and folks who give me energy.

I’m heading out of town for an extended business trip here soon. I think I’m gonna budget my life a bit better while I’m there, and when I return, I’m gonna make some changes.

Because life has a way of making you forget who you are.

And when I start to remember the things that used to make me happy, it can only make life better for me and those who have to put up with me.

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I’ll Tell You the Secret of Cancer

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Coscarelli told me that, over the years, many wonderful and generous women had come to her clinic, and some of them had died very quickly. Yikes. I had to come clean: Not only was I un-wonderful. I was also kind of a bitch.

God love her, she came through with exactly what I needed to hear: “I’ve seen some of the biggest bitches come in, and they’re still alive.”

And that, my friends, was when I had my very first positive thought. I imagined all those bitches getting healthy, and I said to myself, I think I’m going to beat this thing.

This whole article is good advice for those of us who have never had cancer.

Hell, this is good advice for life in general. Everyone deals with different situations in life, and how they persevere is just as unique.

It’s more important to learn how to show up for those you care about than it is to push your opinions on them.

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Leave It Better | Pack It Out

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Who couldn’t love a story like this? Two people biked across America with a mission to pack out as much trash as they could.

A beautifully told story that compels one to really take stock on what matters in life.