The Irrationality of Emotion (#132)

Some stats… Between 33 and 40 per cent of all people experience some form of anxiety when it comes to flying. And between 2.5 per cent and 5 per cent of the population have crippling anxiety, a genuine fear of flying that needs to be classified as a clinical phobia. [1]

Some more stats… The odds of dying in a plane crash due to a fatal accident is about 1 in 200,000. An almost zero (0.000005) per cent chance. And in fact you’re about two thousand times more likely to meet with a threatening accident on the way to the airport than you are while in the air (provided you travel by car). You’re even more likely to die because of a crazy dog who bites you than you are in an airplane. And of course you’re even more likely to kill yourself than you are to die due to a plane crash. OK, enough stats. [2]

So why do so many people fear traveling in the air when it’s literally the safest form of travel?

Our innate irrationality of emotions seems to be at play here.

No matter how justified airplane travel will seem to you after reading all these statistics and perhaps having already been acquainted with knowledge that airplane travel is very safe and there’s nothing to fear about it; there still will be those 33-40 per cent of people reading feeling a little anxiety the next time they sit in an airplane (I’m not saying that’s going to be inevitable but it’s sadly the most likely case).

Psychologists call this tendency of emotions recalcitrant emotions.

recalcitrant
adjective
- Having an obstinately uncooperative attitude towards authority or discipline. [3]

Synonyms: uncooperative, obstinately disobedient, unmanageable.

In our case, the “authority or discipline” is the knowledge and awareness of how illogical it is to be afraid of flying. And emotion visibly tends to have an “obstinately uncooperative attitude” toward it.
That is, we get afraid in spite of the fact that there is nothing to be afraid of. And we know that there is nothing to be afraid of. But fear still dominates our thinking unyieldingly (that should hopefully make the use of the word recalcitrant clear).

Once we understand what this kind of pathological fear is, we start seeing examples of the similar kind everywhere.

More examples of irrational emotions in use

  • When we’re trying to lose weight; we know what not to eat. But still when we see a cupcake lying around, we grab it, part-consciously aware that we ought not to eat it, but still we devour it because the monkey part of our mind obstinately acts disobediently to the notion of losing weight. And all the calories and logic in the world cannot make that monkey stop when instant gratification really kicks in for:

“It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.”

Leonardo da Vinci
  • When someone tells us we’re wrong; say principally wrong about something, and provides us with rationally reasonable facts about the falsity of our opinion, we still pretty often fight or flight to the situation rather than accepting the literal truth. We feel threatened. And you know what we do when we feel threatened? We act impulsively. The facts are right in front of our eyes. But we shall defend our beliefs. For although they may not be true, we care more to be respected and of our self-respect than understanding the truth. This is why we even tend to remain with our beliefs instead of making something up to win the verbal battle. We care about self-respect. If we don’t believe our outlook on life is correct, we lose that pride. So we must instead use the false belief system.

Emotions are a tricky bit. When they act in a misleading way, they can mislead you a good deal. But without them, humanity would probably not exist right now. If we’d all be entirely analytical and rational all the time in the pre-historic days in the dense Savanna Plains environment; we wouldn’t have survived! For if we encountered a lion, emotions would either put us on guard (literally—with our stone tools) or we’d run away to safety. Thanks to fear we’d probably win the lion battle. But if we didn’t feel fear, we’d be analyzing the threat, taking our time, measuring and deducing “truths” about the circumstance; and… we’d all be eaten by the king of the jungle. Perhaps some early humans did not feel fear (I’m taking a wild guess here), but luckily or not for us natural selection optimized for the lions so we survived the jungle somehow and now we don’t need to worry about getting hit by cars on the road because of being too busy analyzing the velocity approach of the vehicle. Instead we’ve got fear (which can sometimes be completely irrational).

Footnotes

[1]- Fear of Flying Statistics, Trends & Facts (2021 Data) — Stratos Jet Charters
[2] – Odds of Dying — Injury Facts
[3] – Oxford Languages Dictionary: recalcitrant

Further reading:
Irrational Emotions and their Cognitive Impenetrability — Imperfect Cognitions

The Secrets of Life (#131)

Last week marked 15 years since the first time Steve Jobs showed the iPhone to the world. In honor of that here’s a short remark he made about the secrets of life in an interview done by the Santa Clara Valley Historical Association. [1]
This is one of the best secrets of life I’ve ever heard.

“So, the thing I would say is, when you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. But that’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is, everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing – is to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

Footnotes

Steve Jobs said this in an interview done in 1994 by the Santa Clara Valley Historical Association. To hear these lines in his own voice, check out this part of the interview here.

History of Racism (#130)

This post was originally created for the newsletter subscribers. You can subscribe or learn more here.


This is a theory of how discrimination against African Americans came to be what it is today.

It began with the Europeans. They had to bring in African slaves to work in the sugar plantation fields. Why did they bring in African slaves? (this is a very important question)
– Europeans could have brought slaves from anywhere, from Europe or America itself, or parts of Central Asia like China, Vietnam or India. Why did they choose Africa? There are three reasons. [1]

  1. Europeans brought many diseases like smallpox, malaria and the bubonic plague with them which caused the death of a huge number of Americans. So the Red Indians were ruled out of the slave game.
  2. Asia is farther from America than is Africa. So it was obviously cheaper and more efficient to import slaves from Africa. Also Africa already had a well-developed slave trade.
  3. Most important perhaps, American sugar plantations being in the tropical region were plagued by tropical diseases like malaria and yellow fever. These diseases originated in Africa. So, most Africans had an immune response against them. Europeans didn’t and they would die from these diseases. Therefore if you were a plantation owner, it was much more productive to buy African slaves rather than European ones who would probably die in six months from yellow fever.

Paradoxically, biological superiority of Africans, made Africans socially inferior. Because they were more fit to live in tropical climates, they were more fit to be slaves and this is what started discrimination against African Americans.

Due to these set of completely accidental factors, racism against Africans originated in America.

People needed to justify their wrongdoings unto the slaves back then. Biologists made claims that Africans are less intelligent than Whites. And they also spread diseases and live in unhygienic conditions, they deduced.
Biologists were right. Because their data was flawed. Of course it seemed Africans were less intelligent than Whites. Slaves who had no education opportunities and had to work in the fields all day could not have a high IQ and get jobs. This made them score less in the intellectual game. And obviously they lived in unhygienic conditions, slave owners didn’t care about how clean they were. In this way there was now “scientific evidence” for racism to continue against African Americans. This was their justification to enslave Blacks.
Even after slavery was abolished discrimination continued. Africans would not get jobs because the employers were aware of the biological evidence suggesting Africans were less intelligent and less hard-working. This turned into an evil circle. because now since no one would hire Africans for jobs, there was more data that Africans were less intelligent and hard-working because they don’t get jobs. But no one knew the Black job applicant who was more qualified than the contemporary being rejected only to fill in with a lesser qualified White candidate.

This is why racism is what it is today.

In a study done in 2020 Steven O. Roberts and Michael T. Rizzo discuss the psychology of racism in America. [2]
They explain factors that contribute to racism. Some of the factors include:

  1. Categories: We learn to categorize people from a young age. This promotes stereotypes. When you learn about one person or a small number of a group being bad, for instance, you naturally assume their entire category is bad.
  2. Factions: Categories lead to creating our own factions. We get assigned to a racial group and strongly identify with it. Beyond loyalty to our own group, we can also show hostility toward other groups which threaten or seem to threaten our beliefs.
  3. Segregation: Being only among your own faction, segregated from other groups can highly influence one’s perspective on the segregated race. Lack of contact with other racial groups hardens racist perceptions, preferences, and beliefs through the denial of intergroup contact.
  4. Hierarchy: A hierarchical system of divisions only further emboldens people to think, feel, and behave in discriminatory ways.

We see that as humans we need a group to assign ourselves to. We create stories and imagined hierarchies to create these segregations among people who don’t look, talk or think like us. But beyond our emotional instincts, we need to realize humanity as the only race. Racism is dumb. Let’s just get over with it.


Footnotes

[1] Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Chapter 8 – There is No Justice in History)
[2] Steven O. Roberts and Michael T. Rizzo, The psychology of American racism

Why We Are All So Different (#129)

The world is so diverse.

Some people we like, some we dislike, some we find cool, some are weird. And the people we have feelings toward similarly have feelings toward the rest of the world (just like we do).

Why is it that the same event can cause so different reactions between two human beings? Why does one justify something that is downright wrong to another? Why do we think some people are weird? Why are some beliefs irrational and why are our beliefs rational?

We are all exposed to a series of stuff that affects what we think about something. This stuff is a collection of our personal experiences, observations (which are really just a part of our experiences) and our influences. These are extremely broad. Our influences comprise of a lot of things. People around us (friends, authority, random guy on the street), the information reaching us through our senses (books, TV, news), the cultures and stories we create—all these influence us. And when we look at it, even these things are quite dense and go deeper.
And then experiences are of course something that happens to you all the time. Every moment is a new experience. Good or bad does not matter. Each equally affects us; in the long run, the way we think is a collection of personal experiences.
This stuff shapes our worldview. We have a way of looking at things through the lens of all these past experiences and influences. This makes our mental character. Our long-term perspective. It certainly changes as time passes. But for the moment whatever we think about and do is thought of and performed through what this broad lens justifies.

Since everyone has different experiences, everyone has a different perspective. And that perspective shapes our minute-to-minute actions and thoughts. That’s why two people are found to have opposing views on the same subject.
That’s why when two similar people (in physique) share the same experience, for example both fall from a tree and fracture their leg. Same place, same type of fracture, same intensity. But one recovers faster, and one shows a different mental response that has an effect on the physical healing. And maybe one develops a strong phobia against trees and is scared of trees even when he doesn’t need to climb them. While we see the other one on top of another, this time taller tree just three months after his fracture.

Our fears, desires, reactions—all these are shaped by our perspective. They are different as they ought to be. It’d be quite boring to live in a world where everyone goes through the same life. But when this comes in the way of reality and truth, stuff matters.

How we always keep our prides high (#128)

Sports fans that root for their hometown team unconsciously use a subtle way to always keep their identity high regarded. This is how we they do it:

When their home team wins, they say, “We beat them 3-0!”.

When their hometown/favorite team loses, they say, “They [speaker’s hometown team] lost 2-0 that night.”
Or, “Yeah, [hometown team name] lost that match pretty bad.”

Do you notice the subtle change in language proud fans or hometown members use?

Yes, it’s the pronoun.

This ingenious way often comes unconsciously to the one making it. It’s just the way that person behaves because he or she keeps their pride high.

Sure, there are exceptions, for example maybe those who may pride themselves as true supporters. They will equally take their part in the team’s losses. But for the majority of other supporters who are not really true in a way but only support the team because they are associated with the team, their hometown perhaps, they will happily call the team on their own accord (“we”) when they win. But will probably assign the team unrelated to them (“They” or “[Hometown] lost”) when the hometown loses.

This does not stop on sports, I’m afraid.

This same mentality can creep up into our social circle. We don’t hang out with people who may have been perfectly good friends but are not our rank now. So as to indicate if we interact with them we assume that others will assume we are like them (at their level). So we stay away, interacting with people who will make ourselves be seen in similar good light and high regard.

This constant desire for high regard of ourselves in our fellow society’s eyes also is the cause for most blame. We are widely susceptible to be on the lookout for false ways to put off the blame away from us when we or our team messes up. But when we pull something off, we jump to show everyone that we were the ones behind the success (although we certainly may not be at most times).

In this way, separating ourselves from those who are looked down upon (example: those who are to blame for a fault—however falsely at times) and keeping close contact with high regard individuals or just staying away from low regard individuals so as to maintain not a downtrodden perception of others; we subtly always are on the quest of keeping our prides high (especially in the eyes of others).


Credit to Robert Cialdini for some of the information behind this article.

Abundance (#127)

Teenagers today often hear from last generation people that back in those days, we didn’t stare at screens all day, we went outside and did stuff.

But if only there were something known as the Internet back in those days, I can assure you that the teenage situation would be pretty much the same as it is today.

The reason we crave for sugar goes back to our evolutionary past. Back in the really old days when we were hunter-gatherers we foraged for food. Sweet foods were quite rare in the jungle. When you got it, it was only apt to jump and eat all (or as much as you could) of it. You couldn’t say, “Okay, I’ll eat a little today and save for tomorrow.” because when you would be back tomorrow you’d find it all gone, eaten by some other tribe.
Another thing is that sugar is healthy in small amounts in it’s natural form (through fruits or dates) and contains a lot of energy. The energy from sugar attracted hunter-gatherers more so. Ones who consumed sugar had greater survival chances from starvation, and hence passed on their genes to produce offspring that craved sugar.

Now, thanks to our great-great-great-great-great-great… grandparents, their forager circumstances led us to crave sugar. And now it’s become a huge obesity problem.

For modern technology has made use of our cravings against us. Now, we can easily find food that contains sugar whereas back in the old days you were lucky to find one fruit on the rare fruit tree.
Now entire industries are based on the raw material of sugar. And although, sugar has increased, our craving for it has not gone any lower.

We weren’t evolved for all this abundance in the world. We evolved for a scarce world.

You may ask why haven’t we evolved as sugar has multiplied and we know that sugar is not healthy? Where’s evolution stopping us from excess sugar now?
Well, evolution takes a long time. The first sugar plantation was planted in 1518, some 500 years ago. In evolutionary perspective, that is a very narrow range of time. It takes countless generations for evolution to happen. So humans are still evolving, and maybe way ahead in the future we develop an instinct against excess sugar. Who knows.

Like we started this article, humans have certain desires created by evolution for its survival traits. And we want to fulfill those desires rooted into our DNA. So, if you were to go back in time to the 20th century and magically give everyone access to Facebook, there would be teenagers in homes on Facebook for the majority of the day, wasting their time watching other people show off their fake lives. Same with dopamine inducing video-games and all the stuff teenagers today are exposed to.

It’s just a matter of having it. Kids these days are no worse than the last generation. We have the same instincts as those before us. But now we have devices to manipulate those instincts.

Anger & The Hulk (#126)

The Hulk teaches us a lot about anger. He’s good at destroying the enemy when he’s angry, but sometimes that irrational mind goes down the wrong path.

The Hulk.

When Bruce Banner is subjected to a certain level of emotional stress (at or against his will) he turns into the Hulk.

The Hulk can smash. And that’s a good trait to have as an Avenger who faces lots of bad guys very commonly. But the Hulk doesn’t just smash the bad guys. When he’s really angry, he becomes unpredictable and can basically smash anyone and anything in his way. Like this, the Hulk’s anger is like a double-edged sword. He can use it to beat the enemies, but it can cost unpredictable actions and losing consciousness; such as punching his friends.

Why does this matter?

Because although when we get angry, we don’t turn into the Hulk, we still use our anger quite destructively, rather than the constructive way in which it could be used.

Anger seldom does harm to the person or thing it is caused for. But it destroys the angry person itself. (Just like Hulk sometimes smashing his own friends).

But anger is a powerful emotion. It can be used as fuel to propel oneself. Maybe you don’t like the way certain laws are—they feel wrong and it makes you angry. Good. You can use that anger as motivation to do something about it. When you’re angry and seek revenge, you fight harder.

The things that make you angry can also stimulate you to do something.

Anger is a blessing in this way. (Everything can be a blessing if looked at in a certain way).

Use anger not to tear yourself down, but to build yourself up and fight harder.
Be the Sensible Hulk. Not as in Bruce Banner-kind-sensible, who’s weak. But Sensible Hulk, the Hulk that knows how to use his anger.

How to Make 2022 The Year For You (#125)

The New Year is the perfect excuse to start working out, read books, keep a journal, learn a new skill, and stuff like that.

Although, if only we were as pumped up and in a celebratory mood for each new day as we are for every new year on New Year’s Eve… the world would be so radically different.
(By “pumped up and in a celebratory mood”, I don’t mean partying madly. Rather, the sense of optimism for a new beginning, new promises made, and general glee that comes with the New Year.)
But hey, at least New Years are something, right?

Whatever you wish to do in 2022 or whoever you wish to become, I really wish that you make your wish happen.

But wishing and making it happen are two different things.

Here are a few ways to make it happen and make 2022 the year for you:

Progressive routines

Whatever your goal or resolution or promise you made to yourself is, the most efficient way to transform aspects of your life is to create progressive routines. Or What’s that?
They are essentially escalating habits. You start from zero, then as time passes every day and you keep up at the routine daily, you get to increase the difficulty level.
The start is slow. Objects at rest tend to remain at rest unless given a good force. But once they pick up motion, it’s easier to go faster and stronger.
Start slow, but keep up at the routine. Don’t miss a single day. You won’t see the results fast, but they will become exponential in time. Keep increasing, keep growing, keep improving, one small step at a time. Every rep pays off. Understand the power of habits. They go a long, long way.

Replicate Identity

Fake it until you make it.
You know who you want to become, so act like that person. The entire while.
Merely thinking about or like the person you want to become isn’t enough. Act.
Ask yourself if that is your goal, “What would a healthy person say to an offering for a doughnut?”
Think it over and act in the way of the person you want to become.
At first, again, it’s going to be hard. Nobody said following your goals were easy. And definitely achieving them, is not easy.
Your older identity will prohibit you from your new venture. But you need to have that much of will to override your own self for your own self sake.

Plans & Execution

If you don’t have a plan for your goal, it’s not a goal. And it’s far from being reality.
A goal must be something you can take “Next Steps” for right this moment.
And we must be willing to take those steps. Now.
A goal needs a plan, and it needs work.
Without those two, a goal is incomplete. You can call it just a wish.
Your plan doesn’t have to be point to point. It can be far from that.
But it needs to be something that can happen if you’re willing to do certain things.
And you must be willing to do certain things now.

Opportunity

There are opportunities everywhere. But we are blinded to them, it seems, due to the rough and tumbles of routine life. The only thing required to do is to be more aware and conscious of chances coming your way. And using them.

“How much I missed, simply because I was afraid of missing it.”

Paulo Coelho

Every day is a new year

We began this article with this thought in mind:
If people celebrated each new day as they do every new year, life would be so different.
Most people, don’t do this.
“Happy New Year!” wishes sound way more meaningfully given than the routinely “Good morning” every day.
Don’t be like most people. Be the exception when you know what’s right and good for everyone in your mind. Treat every day as the mainstream treats the new year. Stay motivated to act the entire while.


You know enough. The only task remaining to realizing your beyond expectation potential is to act NOW. And be the one you want to be.

Oh, and Happy New Year.

The Compound Effect Book Summary (#124)

Notes from Darren Hardy’s book The Compound Effect.
This is a combination of quotes directly from the book with certain adjustments for context, as well as my personal thoughts.

What is the compound effect?
  • The Compound Effect is the principle of reaping huge rewards from a series of small, smart choices.
  • The compound effect is the operating system that has been running your life, for better or worse.
  • Small, Smart Choices + Consistency + Time = RADICAL DIFFERENCE
  • The Compound Effect is always working. You can choose to make it work for you, or you can ignore it and experience the negative effects of this powerful principle.
Information and knowledge
  • New or more information is not what you need. A new plan of action is.
  • Knowledge is not power. It’s potential power. It’s like energy in a light switch, until you turn it on (taking action) power is useless. Knowledge uninvested is wasted.
  • “Ideas without action leads to disillusion.” — Jim Rohn
Choices
  • Our choices can be our best friend or worst enemy. Choice is at the center of all success and failure. It is what we choose that makes the biggest difference. Too often we sleepwalk through our choices. We default to choices that our society and culture tells us we should do.
  • It’s not big choices, but ones that you think don’t matter or count for much that derail us. You don’t consciously think about it, but these small decisions can really change things.
  • Don’t get stuck in the no man’s land in complacency and the status quo.
  • Preparation (personal growth) + Attitude (belief/mindset) + Opportunity (a good thing coming your way) + Action (doing something about it) = Luck
  • Start tracking.
Habits
  • “We are what we repeatedly do.” — Aristotle
  • You can condition your automatic and unconscious responses (habits) to be those of a developed champion.
  • The first step toward change is awareness. The best way to become aware is to measure. Writing it all down is key.
  • Merely becoming conscious of your actions begins to change them.
  • You must know your why.
  • If I were to put a ten-inch-wide, thirty-foot-long plank on the ground and say, “If you walk the length of the plank, I’ll give you twenty dollars,” would you do it? Of course, it’s an easy twenty bucks.
    But what if I took that same plank and made a roof-top “bridge” between two 100-story buildings? That same twenty dollars for walking the thirty-foot plank no longer looks desirable or even possible, does it? You’d look at me and say, “Not on your life.”
    However, if your child was on the opposite building, and that building was on fire, would you walk the length of the plank to save him or her? Without question and immediately—you’d do it, twenty dollars or not.
    What changed? Your why.
  • The most motivating choices are ones that align with your “why” and your purpose.
  • You (your choices) + Your Behavior (your actions)+ Your Habits (your repeated actions) [compounded] = Your Life.
  • 5 steps to eliminate bad habits:
    1. Identify your triggers: who, what, why, and when?
    2. Clean house: remove triggers
    3. Swap it: replace triggers
    4. Ease in: start slow with small steps
    5. Jump in: and you’ll eventually adapt
  • What is your E:E – Entertainment to Education ratio? The top 20% of people spend their time focused on education.
Momentum
  • Momentum is huge. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.
  • The hardest part of momentum is the beginning. But like pushing the merry-go-round on the playground… Once you get moving you can keep going very easily.
  • When you lose two weeks of work, you don’t just lose the work you would have done. You also lose momentum and that is the bigger problem.
  • Consistency is the key to achieving and maintaining momentum.
Influences
  • Everyone is affected by three kinds of influences: input (what you feed your mind), associations (the people you spend time with), and environment (your surroundings).
  • Craft how you get influenced wisely.
  • Your brain was not made to be happy. It was made for survival.
Do Better Than Expected
  • Go above and beyond when you hit the wall.
Conclusion

Learning without execution is useless.
Motivation without action leads to self-delusion.


All merit of this article is to The Compound Effect, an amazingly actionable book by Darren Hardy.
If you haven’t read the book yet, check it out here.

NO PARALYSIS THROUGH ANALYSIS! (#123)

Oftentimes I get an incredible idea, but send it to waste only because I think about it too much.

And sometimes I begin doing something new but get so worked up in the superfluous details that I never really get anything done.

Sound relatable?


We are guided by two main internal factors:
Logic and Emotion.

Logic serves you to analyze information and things. A system of reasoning.
While emotion is essentially feeling, a conscious feeling due to ones’ environment.

They both have their disadvantages to them.

In our case, both are at play.
I use logic to analyze because I’m afraid of the consequences of my actions.

In other words, I delay my immediate action because I think about all the things that could go wrong and its consequences. I feel fear, and try to suppress that fear through my power of reason to come to safety.
This leads to me overthinking everything. I then start to wish for maximum “safety” and the perfect conditions.
But things are never perfect. And simply analyzing can never help make it even closer to perfect.
Overthinking leads to paralysis. I then essentially get nothing done.

So, I waste my incredible idea based on some fear-based logic.

It’s very much plausible for logic to be illogical. This kind of fear-based logic can be an example.

Don’t get me wrong. Rationality is important. You can’t look at the world through a lens of “positivity only” delusion. That has an equally, if not more of a misleading potential. Facts are facts. There’s no going around a bad idea. You accept it and move on. But, and this is a big but, it isn’t okay to falsely justify.
It’s not okay to be misled by rationality.
Since, as we now know logic can be very illogical at times, we need to be aware when that happens.

NO PARALYSIS THROUGH ANALYSIS! is a maxim to keep in mind the evil power of logic.

You can’t and shouldn’t dismiss facts. But, you need not also dismiss what feels like a great idea, but due to fear-based rationality sounds bad to act upon.

Apologies if this sounds a bit cliché but if you really feel it, act fast, don’t let analysis turn into paralysis, listen to your heart and get it done.


I discovered the phrase NO PARALYSIS THROUGH ANALYSIS! in Will Smith’s memoir WILL. It’s an amazing book! Check it out here.