May, 2010

May 10

The Data-Driven Life

Gary Wolf (of The Quantified Self blog) wrote an article for The New York Times magazine last month about how people are introducing quantification into their personal lives.  I have talked about this practice before.

You can find the article here.

It has great examples of how people have been changed when they put numbers on different aspects of their life.  Does coffee give you more focus?  Do you really spend an hour a day cleaning up after someone? All kinds of questions can be answered when your behavior is quantified.

Wolf also talks about the technology that has enabled us to become quantifiable selves.  Mobile phones, social media, etc.  have setup an environment where more and more people are becoming more comfortable tracking everything they do (and publicly sharing it, too).

All throughout the article, Gary Wolf hints at (but does not explicitly state) that one of the fundamental benefits of quantifying your behavior is forcing an objective perspective on your life.  That objectivity helps you break out of patterns of thought, and bring you to a better understanding of yourself.

May 10

Visual Guide to Cognitive Biases

Cognitive Biases – A Visual Study Guide

I have embedded a document that lists out a number of cognitive biases that effect our thoughts.  Take a look and see if you identify with any of the biases listed (I suggest you view it in full screen to read the text clearly).

The author’s stated purpose for the document is to create a fun introduction to cognitive biases that would make the different types easier to memorize.  I think he succeeded on the fun introduction part, but I would not suggest trying to memorize the list.

It is just too disorganized.

Continue reading →

May 10

Stepping out of the Patterns

I seem to write about what I need to do more often than what I have accomplished. So, in an effort to balance that out, I want to write about a successful moment in my mindfulness endeavors.

A few days after I wrote my last post, I sat outside at the same spot for lunch. I was lost in thought again. Thinking about something related to work. This time my thoughts were on something that had not happened yet. I was thinking about a future event in an effort to prepare myself for it.

I looked at the trees and immediately realized what I was doing. I fell into the thinking trap again. But the trees brought me out of it. I was reminded of my previous post and how I wanted to be mindful of my surroundings.

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May 10

Counting Trees

Building and TreeHow much do I miss because my focus is not on understanding?

If one was to ask me how many trees there were next to the building at lunch today, would I be able to answer that accurately? No.

Why not? I did not count the number of trees when I was at lunch.

Why not? It did not occur to me to do that.

Why not? I was busy thinking about something that happened at work that morning.

What is more important: the knowledge that came from thinking about what happened earlier, or the knowledge of the number of trees next to the building? My initial response is that they are both equally useless. But utility does not necessarily make something important.

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May 10

Action as Understanding

LatchThe act of understanding kept me motivated while completing the gate installation project. At the same time, I was also reminded of a post that I made, a while back, about the scientific method.  

In it, I quoted Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’s passage about a mechanic going through the scientific method:

“An untrained observer will see only physical labor and often get the idea that physical labor is mainly what the mechanic does. Actually the physical labor is the smallest and easiest part of what the mechanic does. By far the greatest part of his work is careful observation and precise thinking. That is why mechanics sometimes seem so taciturn and withdrawn when performing tests. They don’t like it when you talk to them because they are concentrating on mental images, hierarchies, and not really looking at you or the physical motorcycle at all. They are using the experiment as part of a program to expand their hierarchy of knowledge of the faulty motorcycle and compare it to the correct hierarchy in their mind. They are looking at underlying form.” – Robert Pirsig, ZMM

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