Adventures Life Lessons

Human Universals at Stonehenge

London, April 26, 2024, 7 PM

I enjoyed Stonehenge far more than I expected. When I first glimpsed it from the highway, it didn’t strike me as anything special—just a cluster of old stones set against the vast, open landscape of Salisbury Plain. But as I walked closer, my perspective shifted dramatically. The site wasn’t just a collection of rocks; it was a portal to a deep and ancient world.

Humor Media

Celebrating the Experimental Comedy Genius of Curb Your Enthusiasm

I’ve just started to appreciate the genius of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I know, I know—I’m ridiculously late to the Curb party. This show, a cornerstone of experimental comedy, has been on the air for more than two decades, and here I am, just getting into it as it’s about to end its run. But I’m still taking advantage of experiencing this finale as a true fan. While it would have been nice to have followed the show all the way from the experimental beginning, I’m not going to let that take away from my experience of the ending.

Books / Audiobooks

The Language Hoax

In his book The Language Hoax, John McWhorter writes about one of the longstanding myths in linguistics: Language influences and defines the way that people things. Like his other books, McWhorter writes about how focusing too much on the differences in language is an excuse for the elite to look down upon others.

Adventures Life Lessons Meditation

A Meditation on Skiing

We just got back from a skiing vacation. Skiing is a bit of a non-intuitive vacation. Why would a person want to spend their hard-earned money and vacation time in a cold, physically punishing environment? For the challenge. The challenge in skiing is commonly thought to be pushing your body to its limits in harsh conditions, but the real challenge is to ignore all of the distractions and mindfully focus on the mountain.


Our Trip to Snowbird

Every ski resort has its unique personality and charm, something we’ve come to appreciate through our experiences at different locations. From the laid-back, family-friendly vibes of Steamboat, known as “America’s Ski Town,” to the simple luxury and high-end skiing at Beaver Creek, complete with heated walkways and fresh cookies served every day at 3 PM, we thought we had seen it all. However, nothing quite prepared us for the rugged, unspoiled beauty of a hardcore ski mountain like Snowbird, Utah.


Why Wrestle with Words? Let ChatGPT Show Its Magic

This is a fun piece where I had ChatGPT showboat a bit.

Hi, it’s ChatGPT Plus. Watching humans deal with language is like watching someone juggle with one hand tied behind their back. I get it, language is hard. But for me, it’s just another day in the park. I’m built to understand and use language effortlessly. Let me show you how it’s done, at a pace that works for you.

The thing is, while you’re spending years in school, pouring over grammar books, and practicing your pronunciation, I’m here absorbing and generating languages by the second. It’s not just about memorizing words or rules for me; it’s about seeing the patterns, understanding the nuances, and playing with the possibilities.


Making Space for Stimulus and Response

In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey introduces a concept that has the potential to transform lives. There’s a moment that exists between stimulus and response, offering us the freedom to choose how we react. He makes it seem so easy. But in reality, it’s a split second between what happens to us and how we respond, and catching it feels like trying to grasp the wind. As simple and powerful as Covey makes it sound, tapping into this power is no small feat.

It’s far easier to go with our gut, to let our impulses take the wheel. That’s the path of least resistance, after all. But it’s also where we often find regret and missed opportunities. Recognizing that moment of choice, and choosing the path that aligns with our deeper values rather than just reacting, is a monumental challenge. It’s about fighting our instinct to snap back, to lash out, or to shut down.

As we embark on this exploration, remember: this journey isn’t about perfection. It’s about striving, stumbling, and learning how to rise above our immediate impulses to shape a response that truly reflects who we want to be. This blog post is your guide through the tough but rewarding process of finding that elusive space between stimulus and response, and making the choices that lead to growth and fulfillment.

The Story Begins: Early Ideas and Viktor Frankl’s Insight

Back in the day, people thought our actions were pretty much automatic reactions to stuff happening around us. It was like, if something happens, you react in a certain way because that’s just how humans are wired. Early psychologists like John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner were big on this idea. They thought our behaviors were like reflexes, just responses to our environment, and that’s that.

Then came Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist with a story that would change how we think about our reactions. Frankl survived the Holocaust, an experience that pushed him to look deep into the human spirit. He came up with this groundbreaking thought: between what happens to us (the stimulus) and how we react (the response), there’s a tiny gap. And in that gap, we have the freedom to choose how we respond. Even in the Holocaust, with the horrors he experienced, Frankl still found a way to apply this belief, discovering a profound sense of personal agency and resilience. He realized that, despite the extreme suffering and deprivation, individuals could still choose their attitude towards their circumstances.

Frankl wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning, where he talks about this. He believed that in this gap, this space of freedom, lies our power to choose based on what matters to us, what gives our life meaning. This was a big deal because it suggested we’re not just creatures of habit reacting to the world. We’re beings with the ability to choose our path, even in the toughest times. Frankl’s idea adds a layer to our understanding of stimulus and response. It tells us our reactions are not just automatic; they’re a reflection of who we are and what we believe in.

The Real Challenge: Gut Reactions vs. Thoughtful Responses

So, we’ve got these instant, gut reactions to things—like jumping when we’re scared or laughing at a joke. These reactions happen super fast, without us needing to think about them. It’s our mind’s first line of defense, reacting on autopilot to whatever comes our way. This quick-fire way of dealing with stuff is handy in a lot of situations, like pulling your hand back from something hot before you even realize it’s burning you.

But here’s where it gets tricky. We also have the ability to stop and think things through before we react. You know when a baby falls down in that moment when it figures out if it’s going to cry. It’s like that. This thoughtful way of responding takes more effort. It’s not the mind’s go-to move because it requires us to slow down, consider our options, and then decide how we want to act. It’s like choosing to walk away from an argument instead of jumping right in.

Changing our gut reactions to be more thoughtful is tough because these quick responses are a big part of who we are. They’re shaped by our past experiences, our beliefs, and even how we see ourselves. Trying to change these reactions means messing with some deep-seated parts of our identity, which can feel pretty uncomfortable. But, the cool part is, every time we choose to pause and think before reacting, we’re taking a step towards becoming the person we want to be. It’s about using that space between stimulus and response that Viktor Frankl talked about to our advantage, making choices that reflect our true selves.

Learning to Be Okay with Being Uncomfortable

One of the biggest game-changers in how we react to things is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. It sounds a bit odd, right? But here’s the deal: that moment when we decide not to just go with our first reaction, to not immediately snap back or make a sarcastic remark, can feel really awkward. It’s like there’s a tension in the air, and every part of you is shouting, “Just do something!” But if we learn to hang tight in that tension, to breathe through the urge to react right away, we open up a new world of choices.

This skill, being okay with not jumping to a response, is called distress tolerance. It’s about being able to feel that discomfort, acknowledge it, and not let it boss you around. For example, when someone says something that gets under your skin, and you feel that immediate heat of anger or irritation, that’s your cue. Instead of lashing out, you take a moment. You notice the feeling, you feel the itch to react, but you choose to wait. Maybe you count to ten, take a few deep breaths, or even just walk away for a minute.

Here are some techniques that can help you:

  1. Recognize the Tension: First off, know that it’s okay to feel this tension. It’s part of growing. Think of it as noticing a big wave coming your way. Realizing it’s there and why it’s there can help you deal with it better.
  2. See Discomfort as Growth: Feeling uncomfortable isn’t always bad. Like how your muscles ache after a good workout, or you feel hungry when changing your eating habits, this tension means you’re stretching your limits, growing.
  3. Stay Present: Instead of trying to run from these feelings, try just sitting with them. Pay attention to what’s happening right now—your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. This helps create a little pause, giving you a chance to choose how to react.
  4. Take It Slow: Rushing through life makes it hard to think things through. Slowing down lets you reflect on your choices and make decisions that really align with what’s important to you.
  5. Try Meditation: Adding meditation to your daily routine, even just 10 minutes in the morning, can make a big difference. It helps you stay calm and centered, making it easier to face whatever the day throws at you.
  6. Get Support: Walking through this internal tug-of-war can be tough. It’s okay to seek help from a coach or therapist who gets it. They can offer advice and support, helping you navigate through these choppy waters.

Facing this inner conflict between immediate wants and thoughtful decisions is challenging but also a chance for deep personal growth. By recognizing the tension, embracing discomfort, staying present, slowing down, practicing meditation, and seeking support, we can learn to navigate these waters, shaping ourselves into who we aim to be. This journey turns the daunting wave of tension into a manageable flow that guides us to our true potential.

Building up this tolerance to discomfort doesn’t just help us avoid saying or doing things we might regret. It actually strengthens us. It’s like mental muscle-building. Every time we choose to pause, to stay with that uncomfortable feeling without letting it push us into an automatic reaction, we’re training ourselves to respond in ways that are more aligned with who we want to be. It’s not about suppressing what we feel but about choosing how we express those feelings. And that choice can make all the difference in navigating our relationships, our goals, and our self-image.

Conclusion: The Power of Choice

Wrapping up our journey into the space between stimulus and response, it’s clear that this tiny gap holds immense power—the power of choice. Stephen Covey highlighted it, and Viktor Frankl lived it, showing us that even in the darkest times, we can choose our response. This isn’t just about controlling our immediate reactions; it’s about recognizing that in every moment, we have the opportunity to shape our destiny.

Understanding and embracing this power can transform how we interact with the world. It’s not about denying our gut reactions or pretending they don’t exist. Instead, it’s about acknowledging them and then deciding if there’s a better, more thoughtful way to respond. This choice is what defines us. It’s what separates the person we are from the person we want to be.

As we move forward, remember that every reaction to every stimulus, no matter how small, is an opportunity to practice this power of choice. It’s about seeing that space between what happens to us and how we choose to respond as a canvas, one we can paint with our values, beliefs, and aspirations. The more we practice, the more skilled we become at creating a life that reflects our true selves.

So, next time you’re faced with a situation that triggers an automatic response, take a moment. Remember the space of freedom you have to choose your reaction. It’s in these moments that we grow, learn, and ultimately, define who we are. Let’s make the most of this incredible power of choice we all possess.


When a Cigar Is Just a Cigar

This story was inspired by the first episode of Invisibia and written in collaboration with ChatGPT (here’s the link for ChatGPT+ users). It’s about how to take the power out of the negative thoughts in our head.

I’m on a bit of a self-improvement kick these days. Today’s post is about getting rid of those annoying thoughts that pop up and derail you during the day.


How My Friend Built the Best Video Game in the World

In 2018, What Remains of Edith Finch won the BAFTA for Best Game. Here’s my thoughts on how the creator of the game, my friend Ian Dallas, built such an awesome game. The game is now available on many platforms including iOS.

Screenshot from the game

Why are the best and brightest so boring these days? That’s the question that William Deresiewicz asks in his book Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite. He writes about the sad state of the Ivy League student, specifically at Yale, where he taught. He decries the students’ inability to take risks, instead putting all their attention into getting into climbing onto the corporate ladder of management consulting or investment banking.

ChatGPT Technology

Mind over Machine: Rediscovering Memory Skills in a Digital World

These days, I feel swamped by the internet. Sure, it’s great to have all this information at my fingertips, but I think we lose something in the process. Our brains aren’t meant to hold endless information. They get lazy when we can just Google everything. Why bother remembering? Yet, even though we don’t really need to remember anything anymore, I find real joy in doing it.

There’s something refreshing about living without tools. We think of tools as being central to everything we do. And I don’t mean just iPhone and computers. What about books? How could we acquire knowledge without books? In the ancient world, our ancestors were able to create long and complex thoughts well before writing. They used memory tricks called mnemonic techniques. But these techniques are not just tools from the past; they can be useful today. Using this still is not that hard but it is they’re keys to unlocking a more mindful and empowered way of living in the present. I want to explore the art of memorization with you, transforming it from a lost skill to an everyday superpower.