Someone took issue with my TEDx talk (again).
Specifically where I make this heretical assertion:
“It’s a faulty metaphor, that the brain is a computer. It’s not.”
So he or she commented:
“This guy (me) needs to look into the definitions of some words, e.g. ‘computer’.”
And so I did.
And every definition I’ve found makes use of these words:
Machine, device, electronic, program, operations, mathematical, logical.
Nowhere did I come across animal, biological, impulsive, emotional, stories, illogical.
Am I missing something?
I don’t think so.
Last week, I was walking down the street with my philosophical attorney friend.
(Rare, I know).
It was a beautiful day and we had just finished a wonderfully rich conversation over lunch.
As our gazes wandered ahead of us, I called attention to the not-so-obvious.
“You know, you and I are not seeing the same thing right now.”
He didn’t bite.
“Of course we’re not. Perception is selective, subjective.”
“And,” he added, “You’re not seeing the same thing you were seeing the last time we met.
And I’m not referring to the blossoming flowers and trees.”
(Turnabout’s fair play).
“How’s that?” I bit.
“You were quite concerned about the future, and it was coloring your perceptions.
You seem more alive today, brimming with possibility.”
He was absolutely right.
The “data” being “input” into my mind was not only selective and subjective, but highly dependent.
On my mood, my present interests, my focus and desires.
As John Milton so dramatically expressed in Paradise Lost:
“The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven…”
Doesn’t sound much like a computer to me.
Have you heard of SmartPlate?
It’s a high tech dish that “tells” you what you’re eating.
It can “detect the difference between a fried drumstick and a grilled one.”
(In case you can’t).
I guess it’s suppose to be a sort of brain aid.
To help us achieve our goals.
Because willpower alone may not be enough.
Our cognitive powers may be insufficient.
But is that true?
I don’t think so.
What is willpower?
People think it’s an invisible mental muscle.
A mysterious inner strength that we can exercise.
And which becomes depleted.
Quite simply, it’s a battle.
And not between emotion and reason.
Impulsive temptation vs. thoughtful aspiration.
That’s where the confusion lies.
Your thinking mind will never control your feeling mind.
At least not for long.
Rather it’s a clash of conflicting desires.
Between tangible happiness now.
A big slice of chocolate cake.
And conditional happiness later.
A more attractive physique.
Willpower is simply a choice.
Now or later.
Reality or possibility.
Are people who lack willpower lazy?
Do they lack the cognitive power known as self-control?
Their desire for now is simply greater than their desire for later.
Do you want to achieve your goals?
Then don’t fight your feeling mind (desire) with your thinking mind (reasoning).
Your sensory perceptions will eventually overwhelm you.
They’ll fuel your short-term desires.
At the expense of your longer-term aspirations.
Instead, suffocate those impulses.
By changing your environment and eliminating enticing perceptions.
Willpower is not a cognitive battle against your desires.
It’s an ongoing struggle between them.
Give your dreams a fighting chance.
Immerse yourself in the surroundings of possibility.
And replace the tedious nagging of your thinking mind.
“Don’t do that.”
With the impassioned desires of your feeling mind.
“Yes, do that!
I wanted to open one of my books with “Memento mori.”
“Remember that you must die.”
But my publisher didn’t like it.
They didn’t think it was “positive” enough.
So they convinced me to change it.
To “Carpe diem.”
“Seize the day.”
And since then, I’ve wondered.
Why should anyone “seize the day?”
Why “pluck the day as it is ripe?”
Why not simply suck it up?
Patiently wait for better times.
The answer has become very clear to me.
As I watch people I know leave this Earth.
Those better times may never come.
Because your time must end.
And you have no idea when.
So must mine.
So did Steve Jobs’ who said:
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know
to avoid the trap of thinking that you have something to lose.”
Yet we seem to remember everything but that reality.
We remember the emails we have to answer.
We remember the bills we need to pay.
We remember that our car is due for an oil change.
We remember because we take comfort in those predictable and manageable activities.
We remember because we don’t want to lose anything.
We remember because we want to avoid unhappiness.
But avoiding unhappiness is not the road to happiness.
It’s the road to ennui.
And while we unthinkingly attend to it, our life, our story, suffers.
We forget that we’re not here to manage affairs.
To unthinkingly fit in, play small and feel secure.
We’re here to stand up and to stand out.
To create a story.
The self-healing acceptance of our uniqueness.
And a soulful lesson to others.
It’s the essential gift we provide to our children.
A real-life account of how to live.
Decisively and with full intensity.
Remember, so that you live mindfully.
Remember, so that you live with heightened awareness.
Remember, so that you don’t shrink from being fully alive.
What do you have to lose?
Opportunity is fleeting.
Favorable circumstances arise and fade away.
Like the evanescence of a rainbow in the sky.
But unlike beauty, the longer we contemplate an opportunity.
The more likely we’ll be to reject it.
Even if we are correct in our initial assessment.
Because the passage of time darkens our perception.
A team of NYU neuroscientists demonstrated this in a recent study.
Participants were asked to decide on the direction of moving dots on a display.
They signalled their choice of direction and their confidence level with eye movements.
As the experiment went on, the researchers made the choice of direction more or less challenging.
By manipulating the evidence.
And what they found was no surprise.
More evidence increased the participants’ confidence level.
And that confidence level correlated highly with decision time.
The less time it took to make a decision, the more confident they felt.
In a second experiment the researchers manipulated the movement of the dots.
Creating brief periods with no real evidence of their direction.
As expected, the time it took for participants to make a decision increased.
But the accuracy remained the same.
What didn’t remain the same was the participants’ level of confidence.
It went down.
Decisions which took longer to make were perceived by the participants as less confident ones.
Even though they were just as accurate.
We crave certainty in our decision-making.
We want to feel confident in our choices.
And increased decision time diminishes that feeling.
Victor Kiam, the guy who “liked the shaver so much, he bought the company,” was absolutely right.
“Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.”
It chips away at belief and kills our confidence.
So don’t let it happen to you.
When you encounter an opportunity that feels right, take it!
It may give rise to a personal rainbow.