Growth Mindset/Incremental Intelligence

Last night marked the end of my first semester of classes since December of 2014. I finished with a 4.0 in my graduate courses, and I am essentially halfway done with a teaching accreditation/Master’s degree. The weeks were long but the semester was short. I’m happy to have tied up the semester so nicely. 

It is incredible to see how differently I approach learning and education than I did in my past. I had certainly been an “entity” intelligence…meaning that I believed my intelligence was fixed, and that I was ‘good’ at some things or ‘bad’ at others. I have made the fundamental switch to becoming an “incremental” intelligence…meaning that I believe that with enough time and effort, I can master any task or material that I encounter. 

Does this method increase my intelligence? Not necessarily. But, it certainly helps with my perspective and process for learning and experience. It reminds me to constantly view all of my experiences (good and bad) as opportunities for learning and growth. Possessing a growth/incremental mindset is a vital component to success in any endeavor. Without it, we are sure to limit ourselves, crumble under pressure, and fail to reach our goals.

I think this fundamental shift in my approach has made a significant difference in my effectiveness as a student and teacher. Conveying this concept is easier said than done (especially to an entity intelligence). I truly believe that the sooner a person possesses a growth mindset, the further and faster they will go in life. With this approach, no time is wasted. Connections can be drawn from seemingly unrelated facets of life, relationships can be formed from an endless variety of information, and all events possess the potential for growth. 

Each and every second that we are consciously aware, is an opportunity to examine our surroundings. Take a closer look. Step back and observe the “big picture.” Philosophize on your existence and the existence of others. It is impossible to know everything. The best we can manage to do is to constantly explore, continually learn about, and routinely question our inner selves, the world around us, and the causes and effects of their constant interactions.  2019 is right around the corner, and I’m actually pleasantly pleased with how this past year has gone. I certainly have loftier goals for the upcoming year, and I’m excited to pursue them. 

Debating “Sobriety”

For the past year and a half, I have maintained relative sobriety. I rarely drink alcohol, but consume caffeine in large amounts on a daily basis. There are times when I will finish off a bottle of wine over the course of 6 or 7 hours, but I steer clear of hard alcohol. I haven’t touched nor considered touching any form of “hard drugs.” So, the question is, what has this relative sobriety brought to my life? Is it helping or hindering? 

In the past year, I’ve written a book, achieved a 4.0 in my first semester of graduate coursework, read over 55 books, coached, subbed, and started another part-time job. I see the world with objective clarity, and my dopamine levels are balanced for the most part (I don’t have cravings, can exercise discipline, and I’m okay with delayed gratification). I have a solid plan for the future, and am working on making it come to fruition. Overall, I think the relative sobriety has allowed me to be productive if nothing else. 

On the flip side of that, I haven’t made a ton of money, I have been semi-stagnant in my living situation, and I don’t feel as if I am as creative or as active as I could be. There are days where I completely lack motivation, and others that I am in the doldrums (fairly normal I suppose). My hope is that introducing another substance will assist with my creativity, motivation, and contentedness. My fear is that it will disrupt my brain chemistry, make me lose sight of my goals, and hinder the clarity and perspective with which I am now accustomed to seeing the world. 

In all honesty, what I am introducing isn’t a hard drug or pharmaceutical, and has relatively mild side effects. Humans have been using it for thousands of years, and highly successful people use it routinely. I truly think it will be beneficial as long as I use it as a tool, and not as a crutch. If I stay on track, perform well, maintain better moods, and set loftier goals, won’t that be a beneficial addition? If I find myself straying from my path, becoming anxious of grumpy, lacking punctuality, or performing poorly, I will most likely cut it out of my life…again. After reading this, I’m probably making this a much bigger deal than it actually is. I’ll see how it goes and report back. 

Misanthropic Distancing

Misanthropy- a dislike of humankind

Am I a misanthrope? For the most part, yes. I am fond of a few human beings, but overall I think our species is a failed experiment. Yes, I see the cooperation, structure, inventions, and organization…but I also see the war, crime, poverty, corruption, greed, and hate. That’s not to say that I believe that all people are evil, but I do think that we as a species are far-removed from the pedestal on which we place ourselves. 

Without an all-encompassing yardstick, or other civilizations with which to compare and measure ourselves, we are free to look with extreme bias through rose-colored lenses at our place in the cosmos. We are the at the top of the food chain on this planet, yet we have essentially destroyed our global ecosystem in the process. What initially started as a mission to overcome scarcity, ended with the utter annihilation of the natural world as we know it. 

Humans have not only convinced themselves that they are not animals, but they do so with elaborate and far-fetched myths and legends. This speaks volumes of our inability to accept our true position, while distancing ourselves from our animal cousins in the process. If you are reading this, and you believe that we are not animals, do yourself and everyone else a favor….reach back and touch your tailbone, and then stroke your body hair. That should be enough evidence in and of itself. 

Yet, despite the obvious biological answers, people continue to delineate from their natural heritage with socially constructed collective beliefs to convince themselves of their otherworldly divinity. There is zero basis to support this other than blind, subjective belief. It honestly makes me depressed to think about it. If we are truly spiritual beings, why do people place so much emphasis on their physical composition. Why must we separate ourselves with all things that share our DNA. All organic matter on this planet shares the cornerstones of life with one another. Why must we deny our basic structure? 

Is it because we romanticize ourselves as being outside the laws of nature because our intelligence has allowed us to bypass the basic rules of evolution for the time being? I’m not sure. But, I do know that we have convinced ourselves to be divine at the very least, purely because of our possession of a neocortex… or complex societies… or advanced languages…or technology? Yes, we have outperformed every living thing on this planet in terms of “advancement” and “progress.” Yet we use it to distance ourselves from other human beings as well. Who is to say which group of people lives in the most “advanced” society? Do we base it on our ability to dominate others? History says we do, and this is why the eternal arms race continues. 

I think our species lost track of its origins and its purpose on this planet a long time ago. So we wander and search for the holy grail of meaning and purpose in fruitless efforts rooted in the physical, that fail time and time again. The scariest part is that may be the only true aspect of our existence…that there is no meaning. Maybe that’s why we have placed ourselves on a pedestal, distanced ourselves from other lifeforms, and continue to kill one another…to provide meaning. Which is why I dislike human kind. I look around and think…is this really the best we can do? Are we really advanced? Or are we just intelligent primates that have convinced ourselves that we are not? Oh, what a beautiful illusion…what a perfect myth.

Winter’s Official Arrival

A dense cloud of snow is covering the landscape. Countless crystalline water droplets are meeting their demise in the relatively warm waters of the Patuxent River, but a ceaseless deluge of windswept snowflakes continues its assault on other available surfaces. They stack and merge with an unrelenting pace. Leaf tips wave their goodbye’s as they near complete submergence. Patches of green and brown poke through holes in the white sheet that is smoothing itself with each passing second. Winter has officially arrived in Southern Maryland. 

The warm days of late summer melted seamlessly into crisp fall weather. Without warning, the treetops exploded into brilliant arrays of yellow, red, and orange. This brief and beautiful exposure gave way to brittle browns and tans. These leaves were finally shaken from their fingerholds and carpeted the ground. Now, barren branches whistle in the cold wind. Though the stifling heat of summer seems to be within a backward glance, winter’s icy grip has a stranglehold on the flora and fauna. The wait for spring’s green awakening has begun. 

Wildlife tracks appear, only to be covered again- their crime scenes continually wiped clean by mother nature. Old man Winter has emerged from his hiatus in foreign climes and is seeking vengeance on those who have become too comfortable and complacent in the hazy peace of summer. The awakening is far ruder to those who have ignored the tell-tale signs of fall’s warnings.

A few days ago I awoke to a red dawn which has been the early warning system for seafarers for millennia…”red in morn’, sailors be warned.” It was blatantly obvious that something big was coming. I expected rain and a chill. Instead, I am being met with 3-5 inches of windswept powder, and temperatures plunging into the twenties. Extreme winter weather? Not by any means. For the area? More than I was expecting at the very least. One of the many instances in which I am grateful for the predictable, modest changes in a moderate climate-the enjoyment of unique seasons without the overbearing attributes of one or another for an unendurable timeframe. 

Well. might as well accept the reality of the situation. Winter is here. There will be brief periods of reprieve with temperatures in the fifties, but for now I am getting mentally prepared for the majority of the coming days to be cold, dark, windy, and precipitous. Spring will come again, and I look forward to fresh air, warm sunshine, and a cacophony of new life emerging once again. Stay warm, my friends.