Orli from Neurontic tagged me with a new meme –writing about 8 Random Personal Facts- that is circulating among science bloggers. Ã‚Â Well, I will happily write about 8 facts that appeared in unexpected ways yet, seen with perspective, seem to be a type of non-random randomness, if that makes sense… Ã‚Â
- As the oldest child, I was the most responsible/ serious/ with best grades…you get the picture. One of my youngest siblings specialized in teasing me and making my life difficult (from my perspective then). At some point, I realized that my automatic mental reaction to anything suspicious that happened in my life (my bike is not where I left it, there are 2 books missing…) was an angry “this must have been my brother!” followed by intra-family conflict and the need for UN peacekeepers. Let’s say he was responsible for only 40% of such events…so I realized my attitude made no sense and it was something I needed to control. So, at some point, I developed the mental habit of making fun of my own stupidity whenever that automatic reaction appeared, and protecting a more rational approach to solving the problem.
- Around the same time, at a routine meeting between my mother, school staff and myself, someone made a comment along “Alvaro has spectacular grades, but he must understand that success in life does not depend on grades alone”. Fascinating, I remember thinking, how can that be possible? What may that mean? Is it not “fair” and self-evident that if I have great grades everything good will follow in life? Maybe this opened my mind to understanding that “intelligence” goes well beyond IQ…
- For many years I kept a journal-like document with brief “lessons learned” and “concepts/ sayings / realities I don’t understand yet”. Something like a “diary of learning and things to be learned”. I don’t keep such a document anymore…and certainly not because now I understand everything.
- My last 2 years in high school were extremely social, having relocated to a different school and forming a wholly new group of friends (probably trying to explore what Point #2 could mean…). Ã‚Â I remember meeting dozens of new people, relating to them, creating friendships…yet struggling to process all the information I was gathering. Many times I would be completely absorbed talking to someone, unable to add much value to the conversation, simply fascinated by listening and trying to remember things. Often, 10–20 minutes after something had been said would I think-too late to actually say it- “hey, there is a funny remark I can make about the previous point”, or “interesting, the thing before links to newspaper story XYZ”, and many other comments that, fortunately, today I can mostly make on the fly. I remember thinking often “ok, what could I have said in that situation” and mentally rehearse my remarks. Imagine my surprise, and self-confidence build-up, when in a few months I could see a marked improvement in this ability of “online thinking and commenting”. It was one of the many examples I experienced of a temporary struggle and frustration with the demands of a new situation/ environment that, with attention and practice, led to learning and, now I know, neuroplasticity.
- I loved math and formal logic in school and undergrad, which may explain why even today I tend to enjoy andÃ‚Â remember concepts in formula-like expression, such as Learning = Challenge x Feedback, Happiness = Reality – Expectations, Consciousness = Attention x Working Memory.
- LifeÃ‚Â often feels likeÃ‚Â playing ‘real-life experiments”. For example, right after I read Elkhonon Goldberg’s The Wisdom Paradox, I FedExed him a letter asking for some clarifications and inviting him to open a dialogue to see how to build a company based on some of the concepts he discussed in the book. Fortunately, he responded. When Andreas, our new summer intern, wrote to me a similar email last month proposing a summer project, I knew I wanted to help in his own experiment.
- In a Stanford class I defined myself as a “learning micro-organism”. The professor said something like “that sounds a bit excessive”. Well, I meant it, and I still mean it. Maybe now I would simply say the “micro-organism” part, given both that learning is implicit and a new emphasis on contributing to society and creating change in other micro-organisms. Or maybe not, given that learning is core.
- In another class, on Creativity, I learned some basic concepts and practices that my most “analytical” mind hadn’t appreciated until then. Breathing, meditation, mindful practice…are extremely powerful techniques for creativity, emotional self-regulation and happiness, that I discovered quite by chance at a Stanford Business School class on creativity. Random? I’d guess only up to a point.
In short: Ã‚Â “what is random”? what is “not random”?
Btw, now I know that I was changing my brain all along…who would have known?
Finally: this meme also asks me to now tag 8 other bloggers. But I prefer not to impose this on other people: if you have a blog, and want to consider yourself tagged with this “8 Random Personal Facts” by me, simply do so and write about it!