On Dreams And Dreaming

“Dreams are nature’s answering service – don’t forget to pick up your messages once in a while.” – Sarah Crestinn

Of all the things that affect humans on a near-daily basis, how many remain as mystical as dreaming? The nature and purpose of dreams have been debated since the beginning, and yet, we still have no conclusion or consensus.

In his published essay on Enron (and now in his book What The Dog Saw), Malcolm Gladwell makes reference to National Security expert Greg Treverton’s famous distinction between puzzles and mysteries. Mysteries do not have simple, factual answers. And although puzzles really don’t either, they are by process and intelligence, well, solvable. When the right amount information is found, puzzles can and will eventually be solved. Mysteries on the other hand, “require judgments and the assessment of uncertainty, and the hard part is not that we have too little information but that we have too much.”

Dreams are a mystery. Dreams are not a puzzle. We will not one day realize the complete physiology and meaning of dreams to its fullest extent so that we can close the text book on dreams. They are a mystery and will remain a mystery. Yes, we may continuously add new findings and hypotheses – either through scientific research or epiphanies, but I believe dreams are inherently a mystery. They are not meant to be fully discovered.

That being said, there are plenty of facts out that characterizing dreams and their nature. Here are some:

  • We dream on average of one or two hours every night. And we often even have 4-7 dreams in one night.
  • One third of our lives is spent sleeping. In our lifetime, we will have spent about 6 years of it dreaming. That is more than 2,100 days spent in a different world.
  • Five minutes after the end of the dream, half the content is forgotten. After ten minutes, 90% is lost.
  • Dreamers who are awakened right after REM sleep, are able to recall their dreams more vividly than those who slept through the night until morning.
  • Men tend to dream more about other men, while women dream equally about men and women.
  • Everybody dreams. Simply because you do not remember your dream does not mean that you did not dream.
  • If you are snoring, then you cannot be dreaming.
  • Studies have shown that our brain waves are more active when we are dreaming than when we are awake.
  • Blind people do dream. Whether visual images will appear in their dream depends on whether they where blind at birth or became blind later in life.
  • Back in the Roman Era, striking and significant dreams were submitted to the Senate for analysis and interpretation.
  • The word dream stems from the Middle English word, dreme which means “joy” and “music”.

References/Links

Boundaries Of The Human Condition

“That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.” – Thomas Jefferson

There exist many concepts and rules by which we are bound, some of which we may be aware and some of which we may not be aware. Those concepts and rules of which we are aware exist throughout nature and space because we can observe them and learn them, manipulate them and control them, and hear them and speak them. Those concepts and rules of which we are not aware exist because we cannot observe them and learn them, manipulate them and control them, and hear them and speak them. In a sense, we are bounded by that which we can know and cannot know – although those boundaries can and will change throughout the course of history.

It’s interesting to think about our intellectual boundaries, limits, and intersections because they can be sliced and diced a thousand and one different ways. To a chef, his or her capacity may be bound by a colander, letting some things in and others out, clogged and dirty at times and crystal clear at others. To a biologist or chemist, he or she may see it as some semi-permeable membrane that expands and contracts, filters substances based on the needs of the whole system. And to an astronomer, the boundaries may be the vast unknown of our universe: with new discovery always comes more knowns coupled with more unknowns.

Regardless of the profession, it’s valuable to think about. For me, I’ll gladly wear the shoes of a different scientist each waking day but to start, here are a couple different categorizations of our intellectual boundaries, just to jot some thought.

Spatial Dimensionality

Think of our intellectual capacity as bounded by one big room. This room can grow as it’s supported by more material, can shrink with the absence of structural connections, and can lose energy with a loss of insulation, cracks in the windows, etc. It can become more complex or simple in a hour’s time with the addition or removal of new features and can take on a new look and persona with the manipulation of a few simple characteristics such as paint and fixtures. You get the point.

Walls – The walls are the support and protection, and are the primary means by which we are bound. The walls are our rules of lateral movement, being, and knowing. In a room of infinitesimal walls, we’ll find just as many corners (getting us ever close to the perfect circle) but we’ll still be limited by a surrounding perimeters. In our room, the walls are our physical concepts, our school subjects, our theorems and laws, our rules of society.

Floors – The floors are our foundation. Without the floor we would not be able to maintain our position and as a result, move from one position to another. The floors are our foundation for thought – our family, our circumstance, our physicality – our reference point.

Ceilings – The ceiling is our limit. The ceiling provides cover and security, shape and reflection, and a foundation for belief and new thought. The ceilings are our hypotheses and conjectures, our gateway to the unknown as much as it they’re the gateway for belief and clarity of vision.

Corners – The corners are the intersections of life, the crossroads of knowledge and new thought. Every corner is formed by the other structures mentioned above. The corners are the relationships, the interdisciplinary nature of life, the idea that everything is connected.

Existential Dimensionality

Now think a bit differently. Think that our intellectual capacity is bounded by core concepts which, when intersected, form feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and understanding. The core concepts are the things we should study – the basics of existence from which we should gain our foundations. I spoke about studying people earlier, with an overview of Archimedes. For the places, I’ll talk about some of my 2010 visits in the near future. And for time, we’ll it’s the scale by which we can make sense of history, and the perception and reasoning that comes with it. The triangulation of these three things gives an enclosure of feelings, thoughts, and beliefs that form the boundaries of our intellectual capacity.

People – We are who we are as much as we are who we’re with (and who used to be with us). To feel, learn, and think, we must understand how other people feel, learn, and think (or felt, learned, and thought). This is core to society, law, science, religion, and everything else.

Places – We are who we are in the place that we are. If I were in a different place right now, my actions, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs may be different as a result. Place is a part of circumstance which most certainly contributes to our thoughts and beliefs.

Time – We are who we are because of the historical context in which we live. Time forms this context and provides structure to the way we think, how we can act, and as a result, what we might think and believe.

Feelings, Thoughts, & Beliefs – Our coordinates at any one time (say, x=people, y=place, z=time) describe who we are. The result of who we are is an output of feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. These form the boundaries, limits, and intersections of our intellectual capacity. Change coordinates, and we’ll find new outputs. And the most important thing to note: as with mathematical coordinate systems, there’s no limit to our coordinate system space, only to a local solid surrounding a group of coordinates. Limits may exist on my axes, by not on the coordinate system as a whole.

Links

The Secret Sauce

Everyone needs a secret sauce, a blend of ingredients that when experienced, defeats all stress and evokes bliss.

Every palate is unique. The perfect combination of flavors is different for every person. The feelings evoked by a single bite may be bliss or miss, depending on a multitude of factors. As a result, every palate has its own “secret sauce”. This is that perfect combo that trumps everything.

For me, my secret sauce is exactly that – a sauce. My Nono (grandfather) has made hundreds of pans of his sauce over the years, filling his house with the smell of awesome and the aura of glee. It’s a perfect blend of vegetable and meat, spice and heat, tang and sweet. I, like so many, have taken his recipe to try and duplicate it, but to no avail. That’s a distinguishing characteristic of the secret sauce – it’s part sauce and part human. What makes it so great is that my Nono makes it and nobody else. The flavor can be closely duplicated, but the feelings and the experience as a whole cannot. I love the fact that it is made by him, he has been making it for so long, and it has made so many people full and happy over the years. That combination, with the flavor, makes me as happy as can be.

And so there’s a secret sauce of life; a secret sauce for personal delight. For each and every individual there is a unique combination of feeling and experience, not to be duplicated by any other individual, that defeats stress and evokes pure, inner bliss. Surely it could require some physical component such as a a place or a meal or a friend or a game, but it’s not about the food but the mood. The feeling and experience, like that which I own when having my Nono’s pasta sauce, is unique to me and is all I need. For you, maybe it’s Ragu. But it doesn’t matter. We need to know what our secret sauces are and how we can find them. Only then are the ingredients of the world used for the most genuine condition, the most fundamental of purposes, the being of happy.

Links

People Studying People

Society is people. Whether it’s business growth, intellectual advancement, government, mass media, artistic culture, knowledge transfer, sports successes, health care, economic development, or charity, it all starts with people. Therefore, in order to learn about how society is shaped and how it can change, it’s imperative that we learn as much as we can about the people who have come before us.

One purpose of my blog is to organize information about influential people of the past and present to try and pass this information on to others. Adsideology very much follows this notion – that life is about people, and we should study people to become people. I do recognize that the more diverse the people, the more wholesome the information gained. However, I’ll probably start with some mathematicians as I’ve recently bought a few books on the great ones in history.

As a start, let’s think of some numbers. Solely focusing on Earth, how many people have ever lived? Most estimates fall around 100 billion total. The interesting note about this number is that with a current population of over 6.7 billion, this means that almost 7% of people ever born in the history of Earth are living today. In other words, only 93% of people ever born have ever died! Pretty wild to think about, right?

On Knowledge Innovation

I want to quickly mention a correlating note regarding knowledge innovation for the future – how new thought can best be stimulated given the current state of society. It is clear that one pillar of innovation will always be people – the human component. Even in a world growing in reliance on information services, the human component will always remain. I’ve posted previously on the need for the human component in future mathematics initiatives as well as the need for expanded human intervention for optimized search technologies. The fact is, the human component will always be there. Common sense, yes, but commonly understood, maybe not.

Links

the mind as a map

The human mind should work much like modern mapping and camera technology – zoom, pan, adjust, layer, interact – and export too.

At any moment, the majority of minds fall into one of two categories: big and strategic, or focused and tactical. But as changing times require changing minds, the third category has emerged: the dynamic and balanced. This category can be seen as a mix of the first two, instantaneously being able to function based on the attributes of the surrounding medium.

These minds are very much like new cameras, mapping applications, GPS tools, and related emerging technologies. They build a informative picture for a user, based off organized databases and knowledge bases, and allow a level of functional interaction to continuously feed new information to that user. These functionalities, when applied to the human mind, are all essential for continued growth in a rapidly changing (and unpredictable) society.

Zoom

  • Act as a lens. Be able to zoom in and out from a single focal point. For any given topic, the mind must be able to pay attention to the smallest of details while still being able to see the big picture. Understand the color and shape of the individual puzzle pieces while at the same time seeing where that piece fits into the full picture on the puzzle box.
  • Re-focus instantaneously at every level of zoom. Purposely making pictures blurry can provide useful in some instances, but the act of focusing should be natural and automatic. 
  • Like looking at a Magic Eye or a lovely Seurat, be able to find the right level of zoom where the picture is most clear.
  • “Zoom Analytics” as I’ll call it, should be embraced as a common analytical method. It’s always been a mathematical problem solving technique, but not universally taught.

Pan

  • Need to be able to swiftly move from topic to topic, and connect those that are related.
  • Moving back to a previously-visited topic should bring quicker loading of that memory.

Adjust

  • The mind must continuously grow in dimension and adjust for core characteristics. Recognize patterns and contrasts, shapes and sizes, color and form and adjust the view and output accordingly.
  • Toggle perspective and angle to see the infinite sides of any one picture. Perspective is everything.

Layer

  • If the brain consisted of data and memory silos, the main interface should be able to integrate any combination of data and memory into a single comprehensive picture.
  • It should be able to see localized data as well as aggregate data for larger constructs. Filter data and memory based off a set of parameters, re-organize it, and feed it into the common operating picture.

Interact

  • The picture is not static. The brain must by dynamic in nature, allowing a constant influx of new information and updating of old information. 
  • Re-organization of data and memory should be consistent with the changing society in which we live. When a scientific/technological revolution occurs, the way in which our information is processed and stored must be compatible with the changes in society.

Export

  • Not every tool can do every task. That’s why exporting is good. Create a new data set from which you, or someone else, can work. Export a map or a picture that can be analyzed by another set of eyes. For the human, you must be able to transfer stored information to others, and most importantly, communicate it effectively. English is English, math is math, kml is kml.
  • Language is good because it is a standard by which we can effectively communicate. Choosing words wisely is something that should be practiced on top of a common linguistic standard. It’s one thing to speak the same language, but another to foster understanding.

And so, truly finding a balance between big and small perspectives is important. It’s important for making wise decisions, being a team player, being an effective manager, giving valuable advice, and finding optimal direction in life. So as much as you make sure you can get deep in the weeds, make sure you can easily get out.

“It’s not what you’re looking at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

cents and sensibility

The negative mentality around nickels and dimes needs to “change”.

Today at Starbucks I ordered a grande regular coffee which came out to $2.01. As I reached for my cash, the barista quickly said, “Don’t worry, I’ve got a penny. You don’t want 99 cents and I don’t want to count it.” My immediate reply was, “Well thanks, but it’s all the same.”

I laughed to myself as I left and thought about this some more. Why do people truly hate getting change? If you think about it, 99 cents is just a penny less than a dollar bill. And what do you do with the change you get? Don’t most people collect it in a secure place (jar, jug, can, pouch, piggy bank, etc.) to grow and cash it in later? It’s a nice, indirect way to save money (see Bank of America’s “Keep the Change” program).

I started to really embrace coins about five years ago when i began putting every penny from my pocket, the floor, the couch, or the street, in an empty Carlo Rossi jug. I’d save up change from the entire year and put it toward groceries used for that year’s St. Calzone’s Day celebration (it’s averaged $50-250 per year).

And to this day, I still enjoy getting change. I like not only the compact weight, circular shape, grooved edges, pressed terrain, and aging color, but also the curiosity around a coin’s travels. Dollar bills seem to always be accounted for whereas it seems as though 10% of coins are lost at any moment in time.

I think that negativity around change exists mostly due to disorganization (people feel they will forget where they put it, will lose it in a couch, or are not good at collecting it) as well as due to psychological effects (people think that collectively it’s less valuable than any dollar bill equivalents). I wonder if people, when estimating the total value of coins in a jar/bottle, commonly undershoot the actual value?

There have been some interesting economical studies that suggest (and support) a related theory – that people are more inclined to spend coins rather than dollar bills. Called “The Denomination Effect”, it supports the idea that maybe people want a dollar bill because they’ll be more inclined to save it rather than immediately spend four quarters on some Fun Dip at the gas station. Interesting studies.

Regardless, my point is that we should all learn to love change. The concept itself is a universal framework for brewing mathematical juices and collecting change can provide both a direct and indirect mechanism for saving money.

thick skin

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We’ve all heard that one before and it’s just not true. We are humans – words can hurt us and will hurt us at times. But in order to learn as an individual, to grow as an organization, and to advance as a society, it’s imperative that we know how to properly deal with criticism.

Criticism will come at us from every dimension of life, for the rest of our lives. Sports, school, work, writing, speaking, conversing, cooking, dreaming, loving, running, designing, singing, drawing… well, you get the point. Recognizing the many faces of criticism is the first step in developing thick skin.

Once you’ve recognized it, how can you analyze it? Well to start, there are some simple questions to ask:

  • Who is giving the criticism?
  • What is the nature of and motivation behind the criticism?
  • It the criticism valid?
  • How can I benefit from the criticism?
  • What is the optimal response to the criticism?

The goal is to maintain composure and to address criticism properly. Thick skin still let’s you sweat. Always keep your cool and address criticism with your mind, not with your emotions. Creating anger from internalization of critiques will never be beneficial.

A technique I use for many problems I face is a mathematical construct that involves breaking the problem into its simplest components and then strategically attacking each one. The same construct applies to any type of critique whether personal or professional. Break it down to its underlying motives, objectives, validity, and logic, and derive the proper response and lessons learned.

Lastly, learn to think about others. Don’t be quick to blame someone or to simply deflect criticism because that’s the easy thing to do. Don’t be quick to retaliate with criticism of your own. Think about who is giving the criticism, who the other players are, and how you can optimize your own self without being selfish.

So to summarize, what does having thick skin entail?

  • You need to be able to take shots.
  • Stay on your feet and stay balanced.
  • Do not internalize rejection.
  • Understand the genetic makeup of criticism.
  • Think about others.

Grow thick skin. It will make you a great leader, a great colleague, and a great friend.

Quotes

  • “Taking shots builds stronger armor.” – Me
  • “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” – Harry S. Truman
  • “Living well is the best revenge.” – George Herbert
  • “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
  • “Inner strength shows itself not when the world is praising you but when others are critical.” – Gabriela Cora

Links

Learning to Develop a Thick Skin: Don’t take things personally, don’t let others get to you, remember that everyone gets rejected sometimes, learn to counterpropose when things don’t go your way, learn to meet in the middle, don’t hesitate to unstick sticky situations, don’t be self focused, stop the self-talk, don’t worry about looking stupid, learn to be patient, don’t be quick to blame, think about others

Developing a Thick Skin (from a writer)

Developing a Thick Skin (in IT)

How to Develop a Thick Skin (eHow): Face your fears, never let them see you sweat, continue to improve, stay busy, stay positive and surround yourself with positive people

on creativity

Overview


It’s imperative that curriculums (especially for early education) are built on more than just core subject matter. They also need to be strongly founded upon core ideals, values, and principles. The teaching of such values (although much harder to guide, manage, and track) is absolutely essential to the intellectual growth and prosperity of emerging generations.
What values are most important to push early in a child’s development? Honesty & trust. Altruism & empathy. Individuality & originality. Happiness & humor. Confidence & faith. Creativity & innovation. Innovation & creativity. Creativity!

I’ve posted about holistic education before and creativity is one of the three main pillars of such education – It’s seen in the SunWALK model of holistic education as “one of the three intrapersonal ‘primary colours’ or modes of engagement, of the human spirit, that are utilized in facing, individually and interpersonally, progressively more challenging tasks to nurture the development of abilities.”

Creativity is essential to the development of other abilities and the fundamental ability to engage/interact with people, nature, and the world in which we live. It’s from creativity that the purest dreams and ideas are born.

Definitions


So how is creativity defined? Let’s look…

Wikipedia: “Creativity is a mental and social process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the creative mind between existing ideas or concepts. Creativity is fueled by the process of either conscious or unconscious insight.”

Children’s Health Encyclopedia: “Creativity is the ability to think up and design new inventions, produce works of art, solve problems in new ways, or develop an idea based on an original, novel, or unconventional approach.”

Some more definitions can be found at a great post by Dr. Leslie Owen Wilson of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point “On Defining Creativity”.

It’s important to note that creativity and intelligence are not synonymous. There are plenty of studies addressing possible correlation between IQ and creativity, but the main point is that with a positive surrounding environment and culture, we must believe creativity can exist in any individual of any level of intelligence.

Qualities

  • Impulsivity and spontaneity – Just do it! / Just think it!
  • Nonconformity (not going with the majority) – Stray from the beaten path.
  • Courage – Naturally be unafraid of trying new things.
  • Self-Confidence – Have no susceptibility to peer pressure.
  • Persistence – Learn when to maintain thoughts or set thoughts aside.
  • Balance – Convergent / divergent thinking – Learn to hypothesize, speculate, and evaluate multiple conclusions while reserving the ability to logically find and support a single conclusion.
  • The “One Brain” Concept – Right brain thinking and left brain thinking together are the best engine of creativity.
Some Take-Aways

  • Need to create good inner resources in children. Multi-dimensionality is key.
  • Give children an active role in their own learning.
  • Educators need to be aware of the “blocks to creativity” or things that can interfere with it. SunWALK says there are two types of blocks: Environmental (the lack of a motivating physical surrounding, trustworthy acquaintances, or positive leadership) and Cultural (the fear of making bad choices, lack of an appetite for chaos, and the general lack of enthusiasm). It should be noted that the positive case of “blocks” would be that Environment and Culture become “enablers” of creativity.
  • In order to foster creativity in schools, education should be based on the discovery of knowledge and the development of critical attitudes, rather than on the passive absorption of knowledge.

Simple Creativity Exercises

  1. Spell all the letters of the alphabet using letters other than the one you are spelling. Now try it without using any vowels. CAY-YII-FEE-EYE-EHDT (that ‘N’ was very hard)
  2. Draw an adjective, act a noun, describe a verb.
  3. Create an equation that has never before been created. Describe its elements, fundamentals, and purpose.
  4. Contemplate a newly-shaped earth. What would a cubed earth be like? What if the world really was flat? How would business, transportation, politics, weather, etc change?

Quotes

  • “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” – Erich Fromm
  • “The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau
  • “Creativity is the ability to see relationships where none exist.” — Thomas Disch
  • “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” — Mary Lou Cook
  • “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou
  • “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” — Joseph Chilton Pierce
  • “Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.” — Goethe
  • “To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” –Osho
  • “We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own and other’s people’s models, learn to be ourselves and allow our natural channel to open.” — Shakti Gawain
  • “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” – Einstein
  • “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” – George Bernard Shaw

better sleep

Sleep does wonders. It’s the rejuvenator everyone requires. But it shouldn’t be a burdensome requirement. It should be a good, positive experience that charges you with the convertible potential energy for tomorrow.
Now this is not going to be rocket science but in the process of trying to improve my own sleep, I figured I’d post on my approach to do exactly that. I’m giving it a three-prong structure:

Chemically
Fruit – I enjoy McIntosh apples (PLU #4019, not #4152), soft Bartlett pears, peaches, clementines, or any type of berries. Save the bananas for the morning.
A Good Drink – Milk, VitaminWater, big glass of regular water, orange juice, apple juice, or cranberry juice. Refreshing, nutritious, and calming.
Daily Vitamin(s) – Not to take before bed, but taken each morning it maintains chemical balance and the healthy diet needed for good rest.
NO Drugs – No sleep aids ever. No smoking ever either. People shouldn’t drink alcohol before bed either, but a glass or two or three of wine during/after dinner every once in a while is good for sure.

Physically
Exercise – The best way to be tired is to get tired. Nothing like a good early evening workout followed by a good shower. Good health is directly proportional to good sleep. Just leave some post-shower cool-down time to get your heart rate back to normal.
Stretching – Probably one of the most important things to do before bed. Even if it’s just hamstrings and quads, relaxed muscles correspond to relaxed sleep.
Deep Breaths – Sit and take 5 deep breaths. It’s soothing and creates a relaxed rhythm.
Pillows / Blanket – Build a good nest! Get the right blankets there.
Environment – Turn on a fan, open a window, close the blinds, etc. Getting a good temperature, lighting, and sound (or lack thereof) are especially important for sustained rest.
Psychologically
Write – Write off all your worries for another day. Sometimes actually writing things down you need to take care of – at work and at home – helps rid your mind of those thoughts and temporarily relieves stress and burdens.
Read – A routine of ten pages a night does the job. It will make you look forward to reading and falling asleep at the end of that session, and also will break you cleanly away from the rest of the day.
Observe – Go look at the sky. It is different every night and can be a good way to clear your mind of any earthly pains.
Convert – Turn daydreaming into night dreaming. Think of a good memory, dream vacation, or happy feeling. Or make some original thoughts and ideas and take them to bed with you. New thoughts can be very enlightening and comforting before bed.
Hopefully a combination of even a few of these things (e.g. fruit + stretch + good temp + reading) is all you need. The good thing if you don’t like the routine, there are plenty of combinations to make from the above lists.
Image 1: From GraphJam
Image 2: From JeromeProphet

gaining strength from weakness

One of my favorite exercises is to take a quote, phrase, idiom, or saying and digest it in every way possible. It’s an exercise that builds upon existing cognition to create new ideas and thoughts. The internal lines of thought leave the individual with a new network of philosophical pathways from which some amazing self-realizations can be gleaned. From a quote comes a new concept, from that concept comes a good memory, from that memory a connection is made, and from that connection an appreciation is built. That’s the breadcrumb trail of thought.

“Our strength grows out of our weakness.” – Emerson

Although not complex in structure, vocabulary, or tone, I enjoy this quote because its simplicity allows diverse interpretation. Emerson connects two antonyms as if they were a pair, complements to each other, one needing the other. And so it goes…

Immediate questions: What are my weaknesses? When did I realize they were weaknesses? Am I weak compared to others or compared to my own understanding of standards? How does one define standards in relation to characteristics? Have my standards changed with my changing abilities or with my realization of new weaknesses? What is my most recent weakness? What is my biggest weakness? Are all weaknesses able to be improved upon? Are there universal weaknesses or only individual ones? What is the most common weakness?
Let’s integrate: If I can somehow build upon the set of all my weaknesses from the time I was born until yesterday (or up to a second ago for purposes of true continuity), with what would I be left at this exact moment? Emerson says it’s strength, and I wholeheartedly agree, simply because I know we all have the capacity to learn. Our greatest trait is our capacity to learn. Learning gives us reason to try again. Learning gives us reason to move on. Learning gives us reason to find possibility. Learning gives us hope for tomorrow. Learning trumps failure.

Here’s a scenario: Consider a set of X functions, abilities, processes, and tactics with which we are all equally born. On day 1, they all exist as unrealized weaknesses. With each experience had and the capacity to learn, an individual has two possibilities: turn an unrealized weakness to a realized strength, or realize weakness and create a new realized strength. Over time, the original set of X expands as new strengths are added and the overall dynamic changes as weaknesses grow into strengths. The result is that from day 1, the number of realized strengths will always equal or exceed the number of realized weaknesses. In other words, as a result of their complementary nature, the proportion of strength to weakness almost always increases.

Wow – what a great realization that is! Rather than despise that which we cannot achieve, instead we must harness our weaknesses, grow to accept them and adapt to them, and find ways to learn from them. With that alone we’ll grow stronger every day.

Image 1: Chet Phillips – “Thought Process”