Video: Tenacity in Pursuit of Goals

Jan 102012

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed tenacity in pursuit of goals. The question was:

How can I become more tenacious in pursuit of my goals? I find that I give up too easily on some of my goals, particularly when success is far away and much effort is required now. What can I do to make myself more tenacious?

My answer, in brief:

Tenacity is an important quality of character to cultivate, but it must be used selectively. If tenacity is a problem for you, don’t wallow in guilt: find creative ways to motivate yourself.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

If you enjoy the video, please “like” it on YouTube and share it with friends in e-mail and social media! You can also throw a bit of extra love in our tip jar.

All posted webcast videos can be found in the Webcast Archives and on my YouTube channel.

Video: Rationality in Face of Overwhelming Emotions

Dec 212011

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed rationality in face of overwhelming emotions. The question was:

How can a person regain his rationality in the face of overwhelming emotions? On occasion, I find my rational judgment swamped by strong emotions like anger and anxiety. In such cases, my thinking seems distorted by my emotions. While in the grip of such emotions, what can I do to re-establish my powers of rational thought? Also, how can I prevent myself from saying or doing things that I’ll later regret?

My answer, in brief:

You need not be at the mercy of your emotions: you can take charge of own mind in friendly way. So when your emotions rage out of control, you should (1) notice them, (2) analyze them, (3) work to defuse them, and (4) later, prevent the same from happening again.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

If you enjoy the video, please “like” it on YouTube and share it with friends in e-mail and social media! You can also throw a bit of extra love in our tip jar.

All posted webcast videos can be found in the Webcast Archives and on my YouTube channel.

Video: Feeling Guilty for Emotions

Sep 222011

In Sunday’s Rationally Selfish Webcast, I discussed guilt over emotions. The question was:

Should a person feel guilty about his emotions? Sometimes I feel emotions that I know are misplaced, such as envy at a co-worker’s promotion or anger at a friend’s mistake. What should my response be to these emotions? Should I feel guilty about them? Should I change them — and if so, how?

Here’s the video of my answer:

If you like it, please share it! Also, all my webcast and other videos can be found on my YouTube channel.

Video: The What, How, and Why of Introspection

Aug 112011

In Sunday’s Rationally Selfish Webcast, I discussed introspection — particularly focused on these questions:

  • What is introspection?
  • Why should a person introspect?
  • What should a person introspect about — or not?
  • How can a person introspect effectively?

Here’s the 20-minute video, now posted to YouTube:

Police Interrogations

Jul 292011

In preparation for Sunday’s Rationally Selfish Webcast question on whether police should be allowed to lie to suspects in the course of a criminal investigation, I’ve been researching the standard practices and legal limits of police interrogation. I’ve found that extremely interesting, so I thought I’d share some links before the webcast itself.

First, How Police Interrogation Works from “How Stuff Works.” Basically, police interrogations are designed to exert as much psychological pressure on the victim as the courts allow. This article explains those techniques.

Second, What can the police lie about while conducting an interrogation? from “The Straight Dope.” This article is a fascinating summary of what kind of facts the police are permitted to misrepresent in dealings with suspects — because some and only some kinds of lies violate the suspect’s rights. The basic distinction is between “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” falsehoods. The article says:

Attempting to reconcile [various] rulings [by the Supreme Court], state courts and lower federal courts have come to draw a distinction between two kinds of lying to suspects: intrinsic misrepresentations, or those lies that relate to a suspect’s connection to the crime; and extrinsic misrepresentations, or those that have nothing to do with the suspect’s connection to the crime but attempt to distort his ability to make a rational choice about confessing.

That’s the critical issue here, I think. Police should be able to lie to suspects, but some kinds of lies — such as “you don’t have the right to an attorney” or “we can hold you indefinitely” constitute a kind of fraud, whereas others like “your fingerprints were found at the scene of the murder” and “a witness saw you enter the store” don’t. However, I’m not yet fully clear on the distinction, and I need to do more reading, this time from genuine law sources.

Third, “Don’t Talk to the Police” by Professor James Duane:

Greg blogged about this video back in 2008, but I didn’t watch it at the time. Now that I have, I can agree with Greg’s summary and conclusions:

[James Duane] is speaking to law students, explaining why he uniformly advises his clients (and everyone) that they should they never, ever, under any circumstances, talk with the police — guilty or innocent, a suspect or not, even if they are smarter than Aristotle and Newton combined, articulate as all get out, an expert in the law, and pure as the wind-driven snow. Never. …

He explains how talking to the police can’t ever help, and will in all likelihood hurt even innocents. This last is the part that really stood out: even the most innocuous statements by the most innocent of people could put them in jeopardy — it depends on context they don’t control. An officer misremembering an answer could bring a conviction; so could misremembering the question. Taping interviews is no guarantee, either: even some fuzziness in the contextual information that floated by before the interview could be disastrous!

Fourth, “Don’t Talk to the Police” by Officer George Bruch

In this follow-up lecture, George Bruch completely agreed with James Duane: a person should not speak to the police without his lawyer present.

The Mind of the Plagiarist

Jul 202011

Here’s a fascinating article on the psychology of plagiarism, particularly how the plagiarist’s ignorance of his own ignorance is often his undoing: The Mind of the Plagiarist:

It never occurs to the plagiarist, therefore, whether panic-stricken or calculating, that submitting someone else’s prose under his own name might alert a wary reader that shenanigans are in play. It never occurs to him that a vapid three-sentence paragraph of his prose, with simplistic sentences, bad grammar, and misspellings, when followed by a paragraph in a competent writer’s professional prose will create a sense of disjunction in the very party whom the gesture aims at defrauding.

If there were such a thing as an intelligent or well-educated plagiarist, the idea of a careful patchwork of paragraphs, culled from various websites and rewritten to make the style homogeneous and framed within original prose that endowed on the whole something like a convincing structure — that, I say, might occur to him. But if the plagiarist were intelligent and well educated, if he were that capable, he would probably not be a plagiarist; he would be an honest student who acquits himself in courses.

Go read the whole thing!

NoodleCast #86: Interview with Ari Armstrong about Harry Potter

Jul 132011

Yesterday, I sat down with Ari Armstrong to discuss the Harry Potter novels, given that the final movie will be released this week. As you might already know, Ari is the author of the excellent (and recently expanded) book Values of Harry Potter.

Here are the questions that we discussed:

  • How good can we expect the final movie to be, given the franchise’s history?
  • Why do so many people love Harry Potter?
  • What are the basic values promoted by the novels?
  • Are the Potter books religious?
  • What are the psychological themes of the Potter books?
  • What are the political themes?

Then, on a more personal note:

  • What character do you most identify with? Why?
  • What characters do you most admire? Why?
  • What scene from the books most captures your imagination? Why?
  • What do you say to someone reluctant to read the books?

Beware: The interview contains some major spoilers, so don’t listen to it unless you’ve read all the books.

Listen Now

40:37 minutes

Download This Episode

Subscribe to the Feed

What’s Your CrossFit Style?

Feb 052011

This post by Kelly and Jenn on the very different things they enjoy about CrossFit — CrossFit Is Fun For All Personality Types — nearly killed me with its sheer funny awesomeness.

As many of you know, I’ve been training at CIA FIT Gym in south Denver since mid-May. My appoach to training seems to be somewhere between Jenn and Kelly on many of the dimensions that they list, although definitely tilting toward Kelly. (I have a sneaking suspicion that they might have exaggerated a wee bit for dramatic effect!) So… what do I do?

I keep some records, but very few. I like to know my limits for a power snatch, for example, so I try to write down those weights. It’s motivating to see my progress in objective terms. Plus, it’s convenient to know about what weight to rack on any given day. I keep track of the medicine ball I use for wall balls, what bands I use for pull-ups, etc. — but only in my head.

That’s as much as I track my workouts. I often like good records of my doings, but sheesh, the workouts seem dang hard enough to do on their own! I don’t need the added task of trying to remember or write down what I did, as that would only distract me from the workout itself. Seriously, I often have trouble counting to ten or twenty while doing burpees or ball slams. So the idea of trying to rigorously track everything about my workouts seems like more than I could manage.

For my overall strength, my standard measure comes outside the gym: it’s my time for a one-mile sprint on our home rower. I do that about three times per week, so I can see the trends clearly. And I’ve been doing it for years, so it’s a good long-range benchmark. Recently, I did an 8:00 mile for the first time ever, shaving about 45 seconds off my time in just a few weeks. That was pretty damn awesome, I must admit. Those gains are mostly due to the fact that we’re doing more strength training at the gym. (Yay o-lifts!)

Also, I love the never knowing what we’ll be doing in class. Usually, I don’t know what we’re doing until owner/trainer Kelli gives us our instructions. The workouts on the board are often so abbreviated that we can’t do more than guess beforehand. (We don’t follow the CrossFit WOD because Kelli trains us more broadly than just CrossFit. We do more kettlebells, more core work, less rushing for sheer time, etc.)

As for my goals in the gym, I must admit that I’m pretty lax about those too. I’ve got some goals, but not too many. Right now, I’m very consciously working on my form: with certain movements, I’m pulling up from my shoulders rather than using the upward thrust from my hips. So we’re deliberately tweaking my movements to try to get the right effect. For example, I’m not doing kettlebell swings to vertical, but rather only as high as my hips will take me (now, to about 135 degrees), so that I use and feel my hips without pulling from my shoulders at all.

With a few movements, I have clear goals. I can do 27″ box jumps, but I want to get up to the seemingly impossibly high 30″ box. I was downright horrible at box jumps when I started, so I really like that. I like the fact that I’m scared to jump that high, but then I do them anyway and I don’t crash! Yay me! Also, I want to be able to do unassisted pullups, but that’s merely a wish right now, since I’m not doing anything special to work on them.

Of course, I have my global goal of being capable of doing all the things required for my life (e.g. farm chores) and happiness (e.g. crazy vacations like this snowshoeing hut trek). And for that, my time in the gym is exactly what I need.

For the other CrossFitters, what’s your approach? Are you more like Kelly or Jenn?

Rationally Selfish Q&A: Sexual Jobs

Aug 252010

Is it immoral to have a sexually-oriented job, such as stripper or pornography actress/actor? Is it wrong of me to enjoy having a sexually-oriented job?

Imagine giving a person the key to your home because you found him/her pretty interesting after an evening of casual chat.

Imagine allowing your co-workers to read you personal journal, including your doubts about your upcoming wedding, if willing to pay a few dollars.

Imagine posting your financial records on the internet for anyone to see — or exploit.

Imagine asking perfect strangers on the subway to inspect the infected wound on your shoulder.

Should that seem like revealing too much of yourself? Yes!

Would that invite nasty people to abuse and exploit you? Yes!

Would that be a massive failure to recognize that different relationships warrant different degrees and kinds of intimacy? Yes!

Unfortunately, many people don’t apply these basic lessons about intimacy to their sex lives.

By its very nature, sex is an intimate act, not merely physically but spiritually too. It requires exposing one’s most delicate parts to handling by another person, in pursuit of the most exquisite pleasure the human body has to offer. Sex can be an exaltation and celebration of life.

Yet sex can also be deeply degrading too, precisely due to its inherent intimacy. For example, the intimacy of sex is degrading when done with an unworthy person, e.g. someone abusive, callous, brutish, or even just dreary. It’s not enough for a sexual partner to be merely tolerable, however. The inherent intimacy of sex demands a serious bond and well-earned trust between two people. It requires a deep and mutual interest in the well-being of the other person. Without that foundation for intimacy, you might as well stay home and play with your own sex toys.

Obviously, such selectivity is precisely what sex workers — strippers, prostitutes, pornographers, etc — cannot exercise. Even if able to refuse the worst of the lot as clients, he/she engages in the most intimate of acts with merely tolerable partners. And to do that well enough to earn money, he/she must create the illusion of intimacy — meaning the pretense of concern for and trust in the other.

In so doing, the sex worker is deeply warping his/her own view of sexuality — such that the reality of sex is smutty and bestial, and the spiritual meaning of sex is mere pretense. A person who develops that view of sex closes off his/her capacity for truly deep and meaningful sexual relationships. Given the value of such relationships, I can’t but regard that as self-destructive.

That being said, I don’t condemn all sexual commerce. Instead, I celebrate what aims to enhance the experience of people seeking genuine pleasure and intimacy in sex, such as sex toys, lingerie, and erotica.

I’m sure that makes me a prude by some people’s standards, and a libertine by others. So be it!

Update: I’m now answering questions on practical ethics and the principles of living well in my weekly Rationally Selfish Webcast. It happens every Sunday morning at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET. Each week, I select the most popular and interesting questions from the ongoing queue of questions. Please submit your questions, as well as vote and comment on questions that you find interesting!

If you’re unable to attend the live webcast, you can listen to these webcasts later as NoodleCast podcasts by subscribing in iTunes to either the enhanced M4A format or the standard MP3 format.

Three Questions: Meditation and Religion

May 032010

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to make my many FormSpring Questions and Answers into blog posts. You’ll be seeing them over the next few weeks. They’re a bit less formal than my ordinary blogging, but still interesting, I hope! I’ve answered 138 questions so far, so that will make quite a few posts.

Here’s one on meditation, then two on religion.

Have you ever practiced meditation? Supposedly, it makes it easier for your mind to concentrate. It also supposed to make it easier to relax, which would be useful for falling asleep.

Yes, my friend Joshua Zader introduced me to the basics of meditation many years ago. The practice helped him a great deal, and I was curious.

Meditation didn’t do much for my capacity to concentrate beyond what a deep breath and asking “Diana, what the heck are you doing?” does though. Nor does it help me much with sleep, although some of the techniques I use are similar to meditation techniques.

Overall though, I’d say that a person needs to know how to sit quietly with himself and allow his mind to be still — rather than frantically racing from one thought to the next or being swamped with overwhelming emotion. A person needs to be able to quiet and direct his mind according to his own will, even when difficult. Some forms of meditation offer practice in creating that state of rational mental calm.

Without that kind of control over his own mind, a person will be unable to cope with overwhelming situations — particularly emotionally stressful ones — in a rational and purposeful way. He’ll melt down in an emergency rather than acting as needed to overcome it. He’ll be unable to think through a conflict in a relationship due to raw feelings. He’ll not want to confront some unpleasant facts because he knows he’ll be unhinged by them. And so on. His life will be worse — perhaps far worse — for being unable to quiet and direct his mind.

Of course, a person doesn’t need to engage in formal meditation to achieve that kind of rational control over his mind. However, the techniques of meditation are highly effective for learning and practicing that control. So they’re be a good place to start, at least.

There does not seem to be a “bridge” between reason and faith, so if someone was religious for their whole life, how does one ditch the supernatural and become an atheist?

Adopt and practice two rules:

  • Steadfastly refuse to think about what does not exist.
  • Think lots about what does exist.

    It’s no small task to overhaul one’s mental habits, but it can be done, if a person is willing to exert the mental effort to direct his thinking according to what he knows to be right.

    As for why someone rejects the supernatural after a lifetime of faith, that’s a different matter. That’s exceedingly rare, I think. Most atheists become atheists while they’re young, while they’re questioning and forming their personal philosophy. If an older person rejects his faith, that’s usually due to some personal crisis, e.g. How could a loving, benevolent God give my sweet daughter this awful terminal disease? However, such crises seem just as likely to strengthen faith. That’s often deeply illogical, but the person of faith is not committed to logic.

    Why do so many people have a problem with argumentum ad ignorantiam? I’ve noticed this with the God concept, aliens, ghosts, Bigfoot, Santa Claus, you name it.

    You could say that about most fallacies. The reason that they’re identified as fallacies is that people accept them as if they’re good arguments.

    Still, appeal to ignorance is particularly common… probably due to the fact that our educational system doesn’t teach our young’uns what constitutes proof.

Home | Live Webcast | Archives | Blog | Question Queue | Connect | Support Us | About Us
Copyright 2012 Diana Hsieh | Email | Twitter | Facebook | Blog
Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha