The Sunday Monday Post | I Can Swim

I thought I’d start the Sunday Monday Post so I can to talk more loosely about the things I’ve enjoyed within the self-improvement sphere and how I think I’ve improved in the past week (or since the time of the last edition).

It won’t be a very structured article and will probably involve more jokes than  are necessary. However, you probably won’t notice them because I’m not very funny. If I say I’ve told a joke then you need to laugh to make sure I don’t cry.

Thanks.

Nonetheless, let me think about what’s happened to me this week

I have great amazing unbelievable news.

I can swim.

As in, when I go into the water and try to move forward I don’t begin to drown straight away or wonder why I decided to ever even think about getting wet with chlorine in the first place. I actually move forward (or backwards because I can do the backstroke too. Just saying.) It’s fascinating.

When I first moved through the water without touching the floor, I nearly punched the pool wall because I was so excited that it happened. I’ve only had four lessons so I didn’t expect it to happen as quickly as it did.  Then I tried again but drank far too much pool water. Then I tried again, made a few changes, then I stopped drinking an excessive amount of pool water. But then I might make a different mistake like not actually kicking my legs. Then I’d go again.

But at least I’d be making small changes every time I came to stop. It made the whole swimming thing much easier to manage than trying to complete everything at once. Nonetheless, at the end of the session, I was swimming a decent amount. I can’t do it very far or for very long but it’s much better than the way I was like 15 years ago.

Any time I’d try to get into the water, I’d just flail around, it’d take me forever to progress onto the floats but as soon as I had to support the majority of my body weight, it’d be like my body mass tripled and rather than moving forward through the water, I’d just move down.

Let’s forget the general idea that humans actually float in the water or the fact that you can stand up in training pools. I couldn’t do either. I’d just be dead for the most part.

But now, I don’t die. I just swim for a bit and die a bit later.

To commemorate this moment, I drew a bunch of pictures: Screenshot (20)Screenshot (21)Screenshot (23)Screenshot (24)

Before my swimming lessons, I found a few different swimming tutorials which gave a few pointers on how to get over the fear of water.

Screenshot (25)

I started to break down the different parts of swimming practiced them individually (though, I always tried to breathe). It made swimming much more manageable.

Screenshot (26)

I’ve conquered years and years of fears by learning how to swim. I’m not very good but that’s OK. I’ve taken the first step. Now I can continue working on swimming and improving slowly in the process.

And dammit I’m proud.


As always, thanks for reading :)

I have facebook and twitter. Check them out @improvingslowly

Yes this is on a Tuesday. No, I don’t know why. 

twitter and facebook mascots :D

 

July Reading List

Suddenly, two months turns into eight. I don’t know how it happened but it did. I promise I’ve been reading though. Here are the previous reading lists:

October reading list

August reading list

Onto the current books…

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Cal writes a blog over called Study Hacks over at calnewport.com and I’ve been following his work for a few years. Over the past year or so, he’s become really interested in learning how we can focus more by employing what he calls “deep work”. He defines it as:

Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capacities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill and are hard to replicate.

The alternative, shallow work, is the opposite. Non-demanding tasks which are often performed while distracted and easy to replicate. The plight of every student around – writing an essay with Facebook in the background.

Originally, I thought that there cannot be much to say about concentrating really hard on really tough work for a really long time. After all, the crux of the book might be seen as ‘get rid of distractions and get to work’ but there’s much more to it. He goes through multiple tactics to increasing the amount of “deep work” you can get out of the day (it’s very limited since it’s quite tough. So don’t expect eight hours straight away) and why “deep work” is valuable both in a professional and personal sense.

After spending some time with the book and trying to increase my deep work (so I have to work less during the day), I found that it became much easier to do and resulted in a decent dissertation effort towards the end of my degree. More importantly, I found that this sort of stuff can be improved through training (and lost through the lack of it). Much like meditation.

I hope to share some of the things I’ve learned about working more efficiently but here’s one huge take away he loves to talk about – email is not important. Stop checking it so often.

If you do any kind of academic or creative work, you’ll benefit greatly from Deep Work. 

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

Chris Hadfield is my Canadian dad.

I’m not sure how that’s possible but I want it to be, so it is.

An astronaut with decades of life experience writes about how to live on earth. One hugely desirable virtue of Chris’s writing style is that he gives advice without sounding patronising and without the slightest hint of superiority over the reader. What you see is a character who is confident in his skills and abilities because of his experience in space.

Each chapter goes through a lesson he’s learned from his hours in space and showing us a moment in time where it applies. The great thing about these ‘lessons’ is how applicable they are to a multitude of problems we have in every day scenarios. He might say “prepare for the worst” in the context of crying in space (without gravity, tears don’t fall to the ground – they just ball up at the front of your eyes) or falling down a flight of stairs in front of loads of people where everyone is too far away to help but close enough to see (my tears fell to the ground perfectly. Thanks for asking).

Despite being an astronaut and being closer to the stars than most of us ever will, he seems to be very well grounded. The advice he offers is enclosed in funny and interesting stories that can entertain even the most apathetic about space.

He’s achieved a lot in his life but despite the magnitude of what he’s done, it isn’t discouraging. He inspires others to do the same.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

When I moved home, I started using the library more and came across a book called Jimmy Coates: Killer by Joe Craig. I fell in love with that book and the whole series. I’d stay up reading it and be too tired for school. When I’d write a story in class, I’d steal half my themes from the books and brand myself a literary genius.

I even emailed Joe saying that he’s awesome and can’t wait for his next book to come out. (I’m so glad I’ve stopped ending emails with “please reply, bye (a great fan)”.)

Ready Player One is probably the closest I’ve come to feeling that way again. The content isn’t similar but the pace and overall feel is just fantastic. I always wanted to know what happened next but also caught myself wanting to slow down and appreciate feeling so excited about a story again.

“Oh this chapter isn’t too short, you can read until the end. It’ll be the last one.”

The last time I lied to myself that much, I said I’d start my dissertation “today”.

Honourable mentions:

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh – This book feels so nice. Seriously, go touch this book, you’ll understand what I mean. It feels brilliant. The stuff inside is also hilarious.

Empathy by Roman Krznaric

Better by Atul Gawande

Do you have any book recommendations? Share them below! 


 

I’ve remembered I have a ill-used twitter account (@improvingslowly go follow it because it’s probably great).

As always, thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

How to become a Famous Philosopher

So you’ve stumbled upon this post in the hopes of becoming a famous philosopher. I’ll teach you how to reach that goal.

If you don’t want to become a famous philosopher then carry on reading anyway. You’re here, so why not. You should because the philosopher God says so and he exists because he says he does. Now we have that logical correction out of the way, we’ll continue.

Things you’ll need to improve your chances: 

  • Notable facial hair (e.g. moustache, eyebrows)
  • A beard is even better
  • Good arguments (less important)

Ok, let’s begin. If you want to be a famous philosopher, you just need to follow some steps. None of which are too difficult. Just follow the examples of others!

Neitzsche’s father died before he was ten and his brother died at the age of two

Sartre suffered the same fate too

Before he could talk, he had to say to his father ‘adieu’

Pascal’s father died when was seven

Hegel’s mother died when he was eleven

But at least they could change your world view

Here’s a new philosopher in the mix

Spinoza’s mother died when he was six

And his big book called Ethics was a bag of confusing tricks

This poem has no regular rhyme scheme

But J S Mill must have wanted to scream!

He went through severe depression due to an unhealthy obsession

from the father who wanted Mill to continue his greatest passion

Instead of living the philosopher’s dream

But here’s something that isn’t out of fashion

Erasmus’ parents died when he was seventeen

Good thing Nozick hadn’t created the ultimate utility machine

Bertrand Russell was an Earl

But Wittgenstein gave away his right to a servant girl

Kierkegaard was wealthy

But his siblings were very unhealthy

This is all very sad

But surely it can’t be all bad?

What about Rousseau, Descartes and Hume ?

Descartes was friends with the evil demon of doom

Rousseau lost his mother when he was only 9 days out of the womb

At two, David Hume saw his dad enter the tomb

If you don’t have all of this on your side

But still want to become a philosopher full of pride

There’s one thing they all had in common without fail

They are all white, dead middle-aged males!

***

I’m not trying to become a poet laureate. I just read too much about philosophers. If you really want to become a famous philosopher, ask Plato.