1) Mamba Mentality
Randomness dictates the shape of the world so deeply and in such imperceptible ways that sometimes it’s hard to believe anything happens on purpose. Perhaps that’s why rolling with the punches and making the best of any situation is essential to a satisfying life.
The risk that accompanies this acknowledgment of randomness, though, is akin to hypnosis; we begin dreaming in fear and apathy, thus preventing any action at all. To combat this, the focus must be on the viable middle ground between cognizance and ignorance, where we maintain a healthy respect for what’s out of our control. Fortunately for us, this can be practiced regularly by simply basking in gratitude for our good health each morning.
Los Angeles Laker legend Kobe Bryant died a few weeks ago in a freak helicopter accident that took the lives of eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter. The impromptu memorial held outside of Staples Center the evening of the crash was filled with an atmosphere that was palpable with powerlessness. Kobe was indestructible in the way only a living legend can be, and when the gathered mourners locked their helpless eyes, sympathy for him developed into empathy for each other. Our lives conclude in our deaths, and it’s rarely ours to know when we’ll move on.
The concept of randomness is not a feasible opponent to vilify though, because it doesn’t play favorites or pick sides. In any given moment we’re exposing ourselves to an indeterminate amount of volatility, and oftentimes all we can do is manage the aftermath.
For relief from the anxiousness this might cause, we can look to the most well-known doctrine of Kobe Bryant himself: Mamba Mentality. Mamba Mentality doesn’t concentrate on what outside forces are doing, rather it’s a total focus on the self, building and re-building a better version of the inner structure, day-in and day-out.
With three games remaining in the 2013 NBA season and a playoff berth on the horizon, the ball was in Kobe’s hands as he pivoted around his defender to drive to the basket. It was a move he’d executed thousands of times in his career, but on this occasion it resulted in a torn Achilles tendon, and his season was finished. On his Facebook page that same night, Kobe wrote a post about how upset he was that all of his hard work from the last year would ostensibly amount to nothing. Near the end of the post though, Kobe’s self-made nurture kicked in, and he wrote:
Kobe Bryant’s mythos will live on as a dynamic example that if we put in maximum effort, we’ll be best positioned for maximum results (and minimum remorse.)
An attentiveness toward the fickle nature of the world isn’t an excuse to halt our passions, it’s an argument to push harder than ever toward them. The results may be out of our hands, but showing up each day to put in the work rests entirely on our shoulders. Best of all, it’s through this doorway that we expose ourselves to the optimal type of randomness — good luck.
2) Eliminating Passive Scrolling
It’s no secret that cyberspace is built like a labyrinth, designed to keep our brains trapped inside the dopamine walls with which it’s constructed. Unlike the standard model though, this type of labyrinth contains many frightening minotaurs, with a new one lurking around every corner. Another dissimilarity is these beasts aren’t carrying sharpened axes, rather they’re using their bulk to block the exit, preferring simply to guide us deeper into the maze and killing nothing but our time.
So why interact with the Internet when it can so easily go awry? Well, if we’re prepared enough to have a plan before logging on, there’s not a more capable tool that humans can wield. Nearly limitless information is only a keystroke away, and with that the power of the universe sits at our fingertips. The Internet is a crowning achievement for our species, and in the long-run the world is better for its existence.
Unfortunately the Internet is also very capable of catering to our whims and impulses. When we open a web page in pursuit of a quick dopamine hit (or worse, merely as an afterthought), distraction slinks behind every tap of the screen.
Making it worse is living in a world where smart phones are glued to our hands, and with that the ability to passively scroll the web is ever-present. This lack of mindfulness is like a prison we don’t know we’re held captive within.
Being active inside the Internet-prison does make us familiar with the daily fights that go on behind the virtual bars though, and it’s difficult not to feel like we’re being caught in a new riot every time we log-on. We may escape to a different web page or social media, but the turbulence follows us around like a lost puppy; it’s not until we look down at our hands that we become aware that we’re actually holding the dog by its leash.
Lifeless motion on the Internet puts us at the mercy of the loudest voices yelling the most contentious things. We come across a controversial study or story, and in a flash allow ourselves to become riled up by a system modeled to elicit that exact response in us. At some point we’re no longer lost in the noise, because we are the noise.
The first and most important step to regaining self-control is to become vigilant and purposeful with use of electronic devices. When we have an idea of what we’re looking for online, we give ourselves a tangible finish line to cross and make it easier to log off afterward. Meaningful change rarely happens overnight, but shining a consistent spotlight on the issue can eventually shift this self-awareness into an impulse all its own.
The minotaurs of the Internet aren’t programmed to quit, so the only way to defeat them is to methodically trace an escape route using a proverbially ball of thread.
That, or have the presence of mind to refuse to enter the Labyrinth at all.
3) The Art Of Learning
If someone were to alphabetically compile a master list of genuinely remarkable people walking the Earth today, Josh Waitzkin’s name could be found near the top of the W’s. Josh’s story is better told by him, so seek out his guest appearances on podcasts like The Tim Ferriss Show or search his video appearances on YouTube.
To pick up Josh’s book, The Art Of Learning (2008), is to follow along as he teaches math without the use of numbers, turning the process into something more akin to ballet. To attempt to deliver the major points of the book in a limited amount of space would either miss the point or defeat it, but broadly speaking it suggests taking a quiet look inward and using what’s there to shape the brain’s decisions and the body’s movements (ideally resulting in positive feelings for the soul.)
The Art Of Learning is a book that sticks in the brain and is felt deeply by readers because Josh doesn’t shy away from speaking about his vulnerabilities and the specific failures he’s encountered in life. It’s due to this type of honesty that the convictions that Josh posits become more accessible to the amateur mind, and his leading by example opens the door for following suit.
In particular, the details of the book are great for discovering and expanding hands-on awareness, because nothing beats the depth of knowledge created from carved neural pathways and strong muscle memory. Certainly then, active engagement is the surest bet for the lessons to become second nature, so learning the tools while simultaneously using them to build a preferred life skill or accomplish a concrete goal is a worthwhile concept for deep study.
If nothing else, The Art Of Learning introduces a fresh blueprint for examining our inner fortitude, helping us sense where upgrades could be implemented. A life spent mastering what’s in front of us is a life spent in the present tense.
It’s never too late to start, and it’s never too late to finish. Make today Day 1.