Sunday, 21 January 2018

UNLOAD week 3: Jan 15-21

Pre-race Coaching
What should be said?
I’l discuss this in the upcoming weeks

"Hard-work is overrated, Judgement is underrated. Which direction you go is more important than the force you apply." - Naval Ravikant

Random crappy read:

Ian Leslie

From Brad Stulberg’s twitter feed:
“Unconscious competence comes only after years of conscious effort. But once it’s there, thinking too much can be a bigger risk than thinking too little.“ - Brad Stulberg

This almost lost me right out of the gate when the author went after Federer, ‘accusing’ him of folding under pressure.  This article was written in 2012; I woudl say that Federer’s career speaks for itself.

From the article:

The higher the stakes, the more overthinking is a problem. Ed Smith, a cricketer and author of “Luck”, uses the analogy of walking along a kerbstone: easy enough, but what if there was a hundred-foot drop to the street—every step would be a trial. In high-performance fields it’s the older and more successful performers who are most prone to choke, because expectation is piled upon them. An opera singer launching into an aria at La Scala cannot afford to think how her technique might be improved. When Federer plays a match point these days, he may feel as if he’s standing on the cliff edge of his reputation.

The only reliable cure for overthinking seems to be enjoyment, something that both success and analysis can dull. Experienced athletes and artists often complain that they have lost touch with what made them love what they do in the first place. Thinking about it is a poor substitute.

We live in age of self-reflection, analysing every aspect of our work, micro-commentating on our own lives online, reading articles urging us to ponder what makes us happy. Much of this may be worthwhile, but we also need to put thinking in its place.

I thought this was pretty much straight reductionist bollocks written by someone with no insight into sport, and therefore no ability to accurately make generalizations based upon it.

Random useful reads:

Gorman, et. al

- Henk Kraaijenhof

- Alexandra Schwartz

This was an interesting read.  A couple of highlights:

In our current era of non-stop technological innovation, fuzzy wishful thinking has yielded to the hard doctrine of personal optimization. Self-help gurus need not be charlatans peddling snake oil. Many are psychologists with impressive academic pedigrees and a commitment to scientific methodologies, or tech entrepreneurs with enviable records of success in life and business. What they’re selling is metrics. It’s no longer enough to imagine our way to a better state of body or mind. We must now chart our progress, count our steps, log our sleep rhythms, tweak our diets, record our negative thoughts—then analyze the data, recalibrate, and repeat.

“In a consumerist society, we are not meant to buy one pair of jeans and then be satisfied,” Cederström and Spicer write, and the same, they think, is true of self-improvement. We are being sold on the need to upgrade all parts of ourselves, all at once, including parts that we did not previously know needed upgrading. (This may explain Yoni eggs, stone vaginal inserts that purport to strengthen women’s pelvic-floor muscles and take away “negative energy.” Gwyneth Paltrow’s Web site, Goop, offers them in both jade and rose quartz.) There is a great deal of money to be made by those who diagnose and treat our fears of inadequacy; Cederström and Spicer estimate that the self-improvement industry takes in ten billion dollars a year. (They report that they each spent more than ten thousand dollars, not to mention thousands of hours, on their own quests.) The good life may have sufficed for Plato and Aristotle, but it is no longer enough. “We are under pressure to show that we know how to lead the perfect life,” Cederström and Spicer write.

All told, this is a bleak picture. If the ideal of the optimized self isn’t simply a fad, or even a preference, but an economic necessity, how can any of us choose to live otherwise? Storr insists that there is a way. “This isn’t a message of hopelessness,” he writes. “On the contrary, what it actually leads us towards is a better way of finding happiness. Once you realize that it’s all just an act of coercion, that it’s your culture trying to turn you into someone you can’t really be, you can begin to free yourself from your demands.”

We succumb to fleeting trends in food, fashion, and health. Technology has eroded the boundary between work and private life; we are expected to be constantly on call, to do more, “do it better and do it for longer, with scant regard for the content or the meaning of what we are doing.” Like Storr, Brinkmann condemns self-improvement as both a symptom and a tool of a relentless economy. But where Storr sees a health crisis, Brinkmann sees a spiritual one. His rhetoric is that of a prophet counselling against false idols. “In our secular world, we no longer see eternal paradise as a carrot at the end of the stick of life, but try to cram as much as possible into our relatively short time on the planet instead,” he writes. “If you stand still while everyone else is moving forwards, you fall behind. Doing so these days is tantamount to going backwards.”

And Brinkmann does offer some advice that seems immediately worth taking. Go for a walk in the woods, he says, and think about the vastness of the cosmos. Go to a museum and look at art, secure in the knowledge that it will not improve you in any measurable way. Things don’t need to be of concrete use in order to have value. 

Put away your self-help guides, and read a novel instead.


Getting in the Groove, by philosopher and musician, Jenny Judge, was sent to me by Andreas Behm.  We talk a lot about the importance of rhythm in sprinting and hurdling.  I think, more than that, it is a key limiting factor in all sports.  This article - while long - is fascinating.  ‘Entrainment’ is something I will be researching over the next little while.  I truly believe that rhythm-coordination factors are far more important than we realize.  

I highly recommend reading the entire article, but if you don’t have time - here are my highlights:

I think that the lived reality of music puts pressure on philosophers to broaden their conception of what the mind is, how it works, and to embrace the diversity of ways in which we can begin to grapple with the world around us.

Musical rhythms call for conscious (as opposed to unconscious) movement in a way that visual, tactile and even spoken rhythms do not: we seem not only to hear musical beats, but to feel them, too. So just how is it possible to feel a sound in the first place?

On 22 February, Huygens writes to R F de Sluse to tell him about a curious phenomenon he has observed in his workshop. Having hung two of his clocks from a common wooden beam placed across the backs of two chairs, Huygens had gone about his business before returning to find the clocks showing an ‘odd sympathy’. The pendula had synchronised. Initially baffled, Huygens eventually realised that each clock was producing small vibrations in the wooden beam, and that it was the interaction of these two patterns of vibration that was responsible for the sympathetic movement.

The spontaneous synchronisation of oscillating systems has since become known as ‘entrainment’, and it has been observed in a vast array of physical and biological systems

… psychologists have begun to model rhythmic musical movement as a process of entrainment, whereby oscillations inside the listener become synchronised with rhythmic cues in the environment in a relatively automatic, spontaneous way. No intervening computations are required: the existence of natural resonances between brain, body and world is enough.

It seems that moving in response to temporal structure is not something we have to ‘work out’ how to do. Detecting and responding to temporal patterns, in music and elsewhere, is more likely a matter of allowing oneself to be borne along by the natural, spontaneous resonances that already exist between our bodies, our brains and the temporal contours of the sounding world.

Entrainment provides a powerful theoretical tool for exploring how we manage to resonate with the world, and each other, in real time. It offers an embryonic account of how we can act astutely even when there’s no time for conscious thought. And while many of the entrainment processes that regulate the functioning of our brains and bodies never make it into awareness, some of them – like viscerally ‘getting’ a guitar solo – arguably do.

Our conscious experience of time is philosophically puzzling. On the one hand, it’s intuitive to suppose that we perceive only what’s happening right now. But on the other, we seem to have immediate perceptual experiences of motion and change: I don’t need to infer from a series of ‘still’ impressions of your hand that it is waving, or work out a connection between isolated tones in order to hear a melody. These intuitions seem to contradict each other: how can I perceive motion and change if I am only really conscious of what’s occurring now? We face a choice: either we don’t really perceive motion and change, or the now of our perception encompasses more than the present instant – each of which seems problematic in its own way. Philosophers such as Franz Brentano and Edmund Husserl, as well as a host of more recent commentators, have debated how best to solve the dilemma.

But the experience of time involves more than just the perception of events occurring at a distance from us. We also experience time by instigating events through our actions, as well as encountering the actions of others. To relish the flow of a chat with a friend, or to feel the groove of a beat, is to have a distinctive kind of temporal experience where the observation of time becomes entwined with how one inhabits it – but in each case, the experience is less a matter of representing temporal structure than of entraining to it, resonating with it.

Is resonance without representation always a mindless affair? Not necessarily. Reason wasn’t always thought of in terms of representation, for one thing. In 1769, the French philosopher Denis Diderot offered the following characterisation of the thinker, in his dialogue with his friend Jean Le Rond d’Alembert:

“The sensitive vibrating string oscillates and results for a long time after one has plucked it. It’s this oscillation, this sort of inevitable resonance, that holds the present object, while our understanding is busy with the quality which is appropriate to it. But vibrating strings have yet another property – to make other strings quiver. And thus the first idea recalls a second, and those two a third, then all three a fourth, and so it goes, without our being able to set a limit to the ideas that are aroused and linked in a philosopher who meditates or who listens to himself in silence and darkness.”

This is a far cry from the modern characterisation of the philosopher as one who contemplates propositions from a position of detachment, in order to reflect on the world without being moved by it. For Diderot, at least, the philosopher must listen keenly, and attune himself to the patterns that he seeks to understand. But even cursory introspection reveals that the processes of reason themselves are saturated with resonance. Reasoning is often a matter of being ‘struck’ by a thought, of having one’s intellect set in motion by ideas. We say that a speaker’s message ‘resonated’ with us when we not only comprehend it, but find it compelling. Far from being at odds with reflection, then, resonance might be its close companion.

Music is a reminder to philosophers of mind that perceptual experience isn’t exhausted by vision. It prompts the recognition that conscious experience is dynamic, encompassing motion and change. But music also nudges philosophers toward a conception of the mind as more than just a very sophisticated calculator. If humans are representing machines, we are resonant bodies, too.

Königsee Bobsleigh World Cup silver medal for Kaillie and Phylicia

Stephen Cave

Thinking about free-will can be pretty uncomfortable, and to be honest, I haven’t spend a lot of time with it, other than listening-reading Sam Harris.  Harris was on the Very Bad Wizards podcast a couple years ago discussing free will.  I thought it was interesting, and came upon this review of it, that may have been more interesting than the podcast itself (and definitely more interesting than this article below).

Anyway - I thought the following seemed like an interesting article, with a slightly different take; but it held my attention only for a few paragraph, before it became clear that the author seemed a little too devoted to his thesis.  From early in the article:

It is often thought that science has shown that there is no such thing as free will. If all things are bound by the same impersonal cosmic laws, then (the story goes) our paths are no freer than those of rocks tumbling down a hill. But this is wrong. 

We are complex organisms actively pursuing our interests in a changing environment.
And we are starting to understand the cognitive abilities that underpin this behavioural freedom. Like most evolved capacities, they are a matter of degree. 

… all around us, every day, we see a very natural kind of freedom – one that is completely compatible with determinism. It is the kind that living things need to pursue their goals in a world that continually presents them with multiple possibilities. Our intuitive sense that we have free will is based upon this behavioural freedom. 

… when we join the available dots we get a fairly clear sketch of what FQ might aspire to measure. And it is simply this: the ability to generate options for oneself, to choose, and then to pursue one or more of those options.

I stayed on Aeon, and read The lost hope of self-help, by Jennifer Rather-Rosenhagen, which discussed the rise of the American ‘habit’ industry.

In his Autobiography, the 79-year-old Benjamin Franklin recalled his youth when church services seemed to hold no promise for his moral perfection. So he took matters into his own hands. He developed a hierarchy of 12 virtues he wanted to become second nature: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquillity, chastity. When a Quaker friend gently reminded him that he had left out one virtue he could use a little more of – humility – Franklin conceded and added it to the list to bring it up to 13.

He then figured out the habits that would help ingrain these virtues. For temperance: ‘Eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation.’ For tranquillity: ‘Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.’ And for the elusive humility he pulled out the big guns: ‘Imitate Jesus and Socrates.’ Franklin invented what he described as a ‘method’, and what the French philosopher Michel Foucault two centuries later would characterise as a ‘technology of the self’, to track his habits. Today’s habits writers would simply call it a chart. He put the days of the week along the X-axis, the virtues he sought to habituate on the Y-axis; a black dot meant he had slipped up on that day in that virtue, while a column of clear blocks meant a virtuous day – a clear conscience. He included mottos from Cato, Cicero, and the Proverbs of Solomon to inspire him and encourage his practice of particular virtues.

He had, in short, a virtual staff of loved ones and subordinates to help him cultivate his self-reliance. Today’s habit industry is similarly blinkered about the social and economic architecture which for many makes cultivating personally-rewarding habits possible. 

“habit is a violent and treacherous schoolmistress. She establishes in us, little by little, stealthily, the foothold of her authority… with the help of time, she soon uncovers to us a furious and tyrannical face against which we no longer have the liberty of even raising our eyes.” 
- Michel de Montaigne

Brad Stulberg sent me the following article:

- Nathaniel Comfort

A review of Social by Nature: The Promise and Peril of Sociogenomics by Catherine Bliss

The latest turn of the helix is ‘sociogenomics’. This uses genome-wide association studies, high-speed sequencing, gene-editing tools such as CRISPR–Cas9 and baroquely calculated risk scores — often combined with social-science methods — to ‘understand’ the ‘roots’ of complex behaviour. In Social by Nature, sociologist Catherine Bliss anatomizes the field.

Bliss looks at the science, the professional social structures and the social context of these new developments. She seeks social explanations of why the nature–nurture binary persists in the face of DNA-sequence data that once promised to erase it.

What Bliss does brilliantly is analyse the mechanisms by which genetic determinism is an outcome of the research endeavour itself. Her most searing conclusion is that scientists and journalists can understand that nature and nurture are not zero-sum, can even strive to strike essentialist language from their work, and yet can still serve the god of genetic determinism. Driven by capital, individualism and the lure of interdisciplinarity, we may be opposed to the ideology and yet willingly participate in its prosecution. In historical context, that is a haunting thought.

Give Up The Short-term Mindset
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” — Mae West

Give Up Your Perfectionism
“Shipping beats perfection.” — Khan Academy’s Development Mantra

Give Up Multi-tasking
“Most of the time multitasking is an illusion. You think you are multitasking, but in reality, you are actually wasting time switching from one task to another “
— Bosco Tjan

Give Up The Toxic People
“Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.”
— Albert Einstein

Give Up Your Need To Be Liked
“You can be the juiciest, ripest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be people who hate peaches.”
— Dita Von Teese

Give Up Wasting Time
“The trouble is, you think you have time”
— Jack Kornfield

both of us clearly working hard


JRE MMA Show # 11
w/ John Danaher

Danaher has a Master’s degree in philosophy from Columbia University.  Grew up in New Zealand.  If you’re a coach, I highly suggest following him on Instagram.  He’s clearly a deep thinker, and I have enjoyed reading his thoughts on coaching, skill, and especially how they relate to a sport I am not familiar with. 

A couple of quotes from the podcast:

Social media shows what people are like when there are no social cues - when they’re not in front of you and don’t have to look you in the eye - Joe Rogan

99% of human goodness and politeness comes out of fear of consequences - John Danaher

There’s a distinction between recruiters and coaches. There are many who are good at recruiting people who were already good, and can help them get slightly better. The world is full of recruiters, but there’s not many coaches out there. - Danaher

Danaher was recently interviewed by FloGrappling to talk about Gordon Ryan’s physical transformation. Danaher made a statement which might have come as a surprise for several people in the Jiu Jitsu community saying that: “I have always believed that strength in Jiu Jitsu, is an advantage“. He went further by saying that “I do believe that when two athletes have matched skill levels, the stronger athlete will generally win“. 

Sorry - but that statement is a surprise to people?!?

All other things being equal, the strongest will always win out.

Back to writing:

The following article reminded me of an excellent Very Bad Wizards podcast, but I can’t for the life of me remember which one.  I’ve done some digging, and can’t find it.  I will keep searching.  

More than just simply the plasticity of personality over time (check out this study that assessed individual’s personalities over 50 years apart), who we are, and who we become - our identity - the ‘self’  - speaks to the origins of philosophy.   

… some profound changes actually seem to make us become really or truly ourselves. Consider finding one’s true self through romantic love; discovering a hidden life passion; committing to radically improving one’s health; or experiencing a religious or spiritual conversion. The same effect might arise from harder experiences, such as surviving a period of wartime or incarceration. All of these result in tremendous transformations, but they don’t threaten identity. Instead, these changes seem to unearth our core selves, making us become who we really are. This allows for a seemingly paradoxical statement: paradigm cases of continuing to be the same person involve becoming radically different.

Philosophy often emphasises the significance of being the same person despite change. It asks how various changes – such as total memory loss or a brain transplant – might create a different person. This helps to clarify aspects of personal identity and the self, but it also overshadows intuitions about the significance of change itself. The ideal or model way to persist through time is not to stay exactly the same. Instead, it is to change.

The history of philosophy evokes purposeful change as central to the self. The ancient Greek philosopher Plotinus invoked the image of self-sculpture. He encourages us to ‘cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labour to make all one radiance of beauty. Never cease “working at the statue” until there shines out upon you from it the divine sheen of virtue.’ Purposeful self-modification does not problematise personal identity. Instead, it reveals facets of one’s true self.

Centuries earlier, the Chinese philosopher Mencius described people as cultivators of seeds of virtue. If we grow into good persons, it seems that we have grown in just the right way, cultivating our seeds of virtue. Importantly, we are born like seeds – not full-grown trees – of virtue. We are not born perfectly good and developed, persisting by maintaining that exact goodness. Instead, we are born with mere seeds of virtue that flower through development.

The core insight is that, in contrast to a view that identity is really about static persistence or similarity, the self is organic and dynamic. Being the same person over time is not about trying to hold on to every aspect of our current selves; instead, it is about changing purposefully.

What does it mean to develop purposefully? Human purposes are complex, so first consider the purpose of something simpler. Take an acorn. The purpose of an acorn is to develop into an oak tree. We might attribute this purpose to a particular acorn in various ways. For example, because we know that acorns typically grow into oak trees, one specific acorn might appear to have that purpose. But we also attribute purposes retrospectively. Upon seeing an unknown object grow into an oak tree, we might reflect back and attribute growing into an oak as one purpose of that object.

A person’s apparent purposes are broader, including developing language and values, becoming a social and moral being. But there are some similarities to the acorn.

Perhaps upon learning that a particular child grew into a great athlete, we might even reflect back and think that such a specific purpose was discernible even in the younger child – even one who had not yet displayed such features. Core aspects of a person’s identity often appear traceable to seeds in their youth.

This dynamic and purposeful view of the self is at odds with the focus of some personal-identity discussions. Those debates focus on persistence despite change, taking for granted that persistence involves similarity of something. In a broad sense, this purposeful view involves similarity – similarity of purpose across a life – but, as Nietzsche notes, one’s purpose is often hidden. Often we do not have the slightest idea what we are – until we become it.

… humans differ in important ways from plants and other animals. Our apparent purposes are broader than those given by nature or even culture. While the singular purpose of an acorn is to grow into an oak, humans are creatures of multifaceted and diverse potentiality. This implies an exciting – but dangerous – aspect of the purposeful self. Often, who we seem to be now becomes more lucid over time.

Our conceptions of identity and the self are enmeshed in a web of beliefs about purpose. To be sure, understanding the self as dynamic and purposeful provides clarity and insight. In contrast to the static view of identity, we should endorse some developmental model and criteria of identity, at least ones acknowledging our moral and social development. Not all changes are threatening to our identity, and we should embrace the significance of purposeful change to our selves. But we should also be cautious of unreflective teleological reasoning.


This reminded me of this paragraph from Gary Cox’ biography on Sartre, Existentialism and Excess:

His achievements, he insisted, were entirely the product of a supreme conjuring trick, a lifelong mission to create himself, the Sartre brand, out of nothing. He did not write because he was special; he was special because he wrote. ‘I have never seen myself as the happy owner of a “talent”: my one concern was to save myself – nothing in my hands, nothing in my pockets – through work and faith’ (Words, p. 158).

Where does the truth of a person lie? Does it lie anywhere? As Sartre argues, we constantly invent, interpret and reinterpret ourselves as we live.

Also from Cox - which I highly recommend - on Sartre’s assertion that existentialism belonging at the heart of Marxism:

The historical dialectic, the development of matter through man and man through matter that results from human activity and productivity, cannot be explained, as some Marxists of Sartre’s time supposed, in terms of blind, mechanical processes that do not involve human consciousness and freedom. Sartre accuses some of his Marxist contemporaries of proposing a simplistic ‘dialectic without men’ (Search for a Method, p. xiii). Man is made by history, but it is also man that makes history by responding practically to his present historically derived situation. Through his activity man projects himself beyond his present situation towards his future situation, towards future possibilities that will be realized when a future state of matter is produced. When Marx argues that men make their history upon the basis of prior conditions, he does not mean, as some Marxists take him to mean, that men are mechanisms conditioned by circumstances to act in certain determined ways. Rather, men make their history by choosing their response to their conditions. Man is the product of his own productive activity but he is never just a product among products because he is the only product capable of realizing he is a product. Sartre argues that Marxism is not only a theory of history that requires a notion of human consciousness and therefore freedom, Marxism is history itself become conscious of itself.

Finally - again from Cox discussing themes from Sartre’s play Nekrassov, A Farce in Eight Scenes, as it relates to the role of the media:

For Sartre, as for Marx, it is simply a part of the ideology of the popular press that its primary function is to tell the truth. In reality, its primary function, apart from maximizing circulation, is to preserve the political and economic order that most benefits the kind of wealthy, powerful people who own newspapers. Exaggeration and lies further this end at least as much as telling the truth. Stripped of the ideology it perpetuates, that truth telling and reasoned argument are sacrosanct, the popular press is revealed as shaping the opinions of the masses through its relentless appeal to their fear, hatred, lust, envy and conceit. The popular press enables the ruling class to shape and define the social and political values of the masses to such an extent that the masses become incapable of distinguishing truth from lies, reality from appearance.

As it was in the past, so it is in the present. 

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