Self Improvement


Arthur C Clarke arguably did more than any other author since HG Wells and Jules Verne to catapult his mind into the future, taking a vast global readership along with him for the invariably wild ride. 

As a science writer, he conjured up the idea of a ‘personal transceiver’ small enough to be carried about, enabling contact with anyone in the world and also featuring global positioning, making getting lost a thing of the past. That essay was written back in 1959, and what he was essentially describing was the mobile phone. 

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Self Improvement

Arthur C Clarke

Trying to predict the future is a discouraging and hazardous occupation.

2001: A Space Odyssey

It's a 1968 epic science fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick. The screenplay was written by Kubrick and Arthur C Clarke.

The idea sprang from The Sentinel (Clarke’s story) , a short story written for a BBC competition in 1948. It didn’t win, but in 1964, he and Stanley Kubrick decided to develop it simultaneously into a novel and a screenplay. It remains the definitive space film. It also happened to forecast the iPad, computer software that is able to read lips, and space stations.

The foundation legends of Rome
  • One legend is that Ancient Rome was founded on 21 April 753 BCE by two brothers and demigods, Romulus and Remus. But Romulus killed Remus in an argument of who should rule and then named the city after himself.
  • Another legend is that the city was named after Roma, a woman. The fall of Troy caused the survivors to move on. When they landed on the banks of the Tiber River, Roma and other women objected to moving on.
  • Others think the city came from Rumon, the name for the Tiber River.
  • Roman warfare made the ancient city a powerful force. The Punic Wars (wars with the North African city of Carthage) helped the city to grow. With Carthage defeated, Rome dominated the region.
  • But with growth, the city of Rome started to suffer from the effects of greed and corruption. Unemployed Romans hired themselves out as thugs to whatever wealthy senator would pay them.
  • In the 2nd century BCE, Tiberius and Gaius, the Gracchi brothers, led a land and political reform movement.
  • Julius Caesar ended the period of the Republic by having the Senate proclaim him dictator. He was popular among the people and created a strong and secure central government that increased prosperity for Rome.
  • He was assassinated by a group of Roman senators in 44 BCE. They feared that he was becoming too powerful and might abolish the Senate.
  • Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony), Gaius Octavius Thurinus and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus joined forces and defeated the senators in 42 BCE.

Rome was a small town on the banks of the Tiber and developed through trade. Seven kings ruled the city as it grew. Greek culture and civilization came to Rome from Greek colonies and gave the Romans a model on which to build their own culture.

From early on, the Romans improved upon the skills and concepts of other cultures. When Lucius Junius Brutus overthrew the last of the seven kings in 509 BCE, Brutus reformed the system of government and established the Roman Republic.

Rome was divided across the class line. The ruling class called themselves optimates (the best men). They favoured the power of the Senate of Rome and the superiority of the ruling class.

The lower classes were known as the populares (the people). They favoured reform and democratisation of the Roman Republic.

Three men with opposing ideologies unwittingly brought an end to the Roman Republic.

  • Marcus Licinius Crassus was the richest man in Rome but also corrupt. Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Gaius Julius Ceasar were great generals who made Rome wealthy.
  • The three, vying for power, could keep each other in check, but Crassus was killed in battle. With Crassus gone, the First Triumvirate disintegrated, and Pompey and Caesar met each other in battle where Caesar's forces defeated Pompey's.
  • Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus formed the Second Triumvirate of Rome. They were all very ambitious.
  • It was agreed that Lepidus should rule over Hispania and Africa, Octavian should rule the Roman lands in the West and Antony the lands in the East.
  • Antony was involved with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra VII and caused a war with Octavian. Octavian emerged as the victor and sole power in Rome. In 27 BCE, he was granted extraordinary powers by the Senate and took on the name of Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome.
The 3-Zone Diagram
  • The Comfort Zone - this is where you do things where you feel 100% confident in yourself.
  • The Growth Zone - you will be challenged in this area, attain new skills, or use the current skills you have in new contexts. It's easier to face the risk of failure in this zone especially if you have a strong support system.
  • The Panic Zone - in this zone your body's fight or flight response becomes triggered and this zone may cause chronic stress, paralysis, and burnout.

If you're overly stressed out and just unhappy with your work situation then you need to face your fear of failure head on and just walk away.

Sometimes a bad situation is just a bad situation and no amount of resiliency or strength is going to change the fact that you have to remove yourself from that situation. There is no shame in quitting.

  1. Everyone is just winging it. Even the people you see in social media don't have it altogether and are just building their narratives as they go on.
  2. Be wary of analysis paralysis. There will always be books, podcasts, and articles that will change your perspective but keep in mind to only choose the ones that have the most impact.
  3. Focus on one step at a time. It's overwhelming when we think about the enormity of a new challenge, so it's okay to take things slow until you get the hang of it.

The Big 5 model group characteristics into five basic categories. Extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism and openness to experience.

  • It doesn't sort anybody into a "type," just informs where a person will fall on a continuum.
  • You won't uncover anything surprising about yourself.
  • At best, you could use it as a comparative tool to tell you how your rank on extroversion compared with others who have taken the test.
Most personality tests are invalid

Personality tests have been formulated to find the real you, but many of these tests are not tested scientifically and are more a pseudoscience.

One famous example of a commercial personality test is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator that divides people into 16 different "types". The assessment will suggest certain career or romantic pairings. Psychologists say the questionnaire is one of the worst personality tests because a person's type may change from day-to-day.

Personality assessments targeted toward hiring recruiters and managers assume there is a hidden truth about you that can match you up to a job. But there isn't any hidden truth that a personality test can uncover.

Personality is not that mysterious. If the assessment process seems confusing or if questions deviate into the abstract, that's a red flag.

Personality questionnaires started about a century ago.

  • The questions during WWI were geared to study personality and mental health problems to weed out soldiers who weren't fit to fly military aircraft.
  • Academics created different personality scales on what personality is like. The problem with the majority of the assessments at the time was they were built on the creator's subjective feelings about personality.

One personality model survived the 20th century. It's called the Big 5 Personality Traits (5-Factor Model). It was developed in 1961 and since have been developed into its modern form.

The Big 5 model takes a holistic approach by compiling every word that could be considered a personality trait and creating simple questions about them. Based on how people answered initial surveys, researchers used statistical methods to group traits that seemed to go together.

The ‘Blah’ Feeling: A Dip In Motivation

The Self-Determination Theory states that a person has three main psychological needs to feel motivated: Autonomy, competence and healthy relationships.

The pandemic has hit all these three needs, resulting in a huge dip in motivation, especially the intrinsic kind, which comes from doing meaningful and kind activities.

False and overly optimistic attitude about things turning normal quickly can set us up for disappointment, when things don’t go our way. There has to be a mindset shift where we focus on things we can control.

Small wins, where we do tiny things that help us lead a better life or jazzes up our routine can amplify our motivation levels.

We can go for a planned approach to achieve a goal, however small.

  • Wish: First, wish for what we want to achieve.
  • Outcome: Imagine what the outcome will be.
  • Obstacle: Identify what the obstacles will be.
  • Plan: Take into account the information gathered and come up with a plan.

Focusing on others more instead of just ourselves (the default, selfish behaviour) creates a sense of community and increases social support, helping a person cope and heal.

Doing good to others, acting in a social cause and supporting our family, friends and neighbours has a reciprocative effect that miraculously draws people together.

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