Monday, April 25, 2016

Dancing, Sports, Art, Attitude. The common link

I was shown a great story a few days ago, on the subject of complaining, and why it is bad for you. This is of course an interesting subject to me. I have a fascination with the brain, how it works, and what shapes us. (one of my earleist posts, and favorite games to play is "String Button Mind Magic").

I went on a bit of a hunt for information on Neuroplasticity I found some interesting information, and research, including this tidbit from 2010 (an older one, yes), talking about a technological advancement allowing for more precises analysis of brain activity.

I had a couple of thoughts hit me:

I love watching videos of talented people demonstrating their talents. Many of the videos I linked in my r-positive posts were of this sort. Anything really, gymnastics, dancing, skiing, jump rope, soccer, painting, parkour... It is just amazing to watch talented people. Do you know how they become so talented?

Check out this 11 year old dub-stepper, and hear what she has to say.

You see - tying these thoughts together. That amazing ability comes through dedicated, focused practice. What happens when you repeat an action? or even visualize the action repeatedly?

Every time you think about something or due something, neural connections are created in your brain by electro-chemical signals traveling from neuron to another across synapses. When you continually repeat an action or thought, the synapses for those particular neural pathways are reduced, which makes them the easier path in the future, thus, what once required a focused effort on your behalf becomes second nature. an unconscious reaction.

That is what is going on in the brains of these great talents.

Now yes, genetics does play a part in this, perhaps even genetic memory. And upbringing plays a key role - your highest levels of neuroplasticity are in your younger years, up to age six is the highest level of brain growth, after which growth rates decline slowly until roughly age 30-40. After that, growth drops quite dramatically.

Environment plays a role as well, quality of food, quality of water, air... certain types of music have been shown to have effects on brain structure development.

And there are of course a number of diseases which effect the brain, from bacterial to viral, to chemical, including anxiety and depression, schizophrenia, meningitis...

But, While these things may set certain limits, or give certain advantages, it is still key to note that, particularly in our earlier years, it is our thoughts, action and dedication which bring to fruition those amazing skills.

This  idea isn't new of course. When I was a kid there were lots of book by "New age" psychologist on the subject of "think and grow rich", think yourself happy, think yourself successful... (There was an overabundance, in fact).

In early scriptures, prophets taught this idea as well. Proverbs 23:7 says "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he". There are a number of parables on sowing seed which allude to this idea as well. Mosiah 4:30 also warns of the consequences of not watching your "...thoughts, and your words and your deeds.

And now science is building a strong case to support that idea - not soft science, not studies which may or may not be replicable, but hard, physical science.

So then, I have to ask myself, what am I training to become? A world-class gymnast? runner? complainer? friend? victim? helper? jerk? A few videos to ponder...

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Asking Why?

So, I'm laying in bed last night, replaying the accident (oh, I was in a car accident yesterday, did I forget to mention that?) , events leading up to it, etc... over and over and over... Can shut my brain off.

It is so easy to find yourself asking "Why?", "Why me?"

This makes 6 automobile accidents for me (only one of which was my fault), one of which was me on a mountain bike vs a car. Why me?

I was diagnosed with meningitis when I was about a year old, I spent a lot of time being very sick as a little child, I remember missing quite a few days of school to abdominal cramping, nausea, etc...

I got sick and had to drop out of college one year from a degree (did finally get back and graduate a decade later).

I spent five years under a misdiagnosis of Crohn's disease.

Right before this accident, my wife had a premonition that I was going to be in an accident? Why didn't I get something?

I almost never turn left on main roads. I will typically drive a mile out of my way to avoid it. Why didn't I do that this time? Why did I miss seeing their care, or misjudge their speed so badly that this accident occurred?


There are rarely ever any satisfactory answers to that question, I have concluded. It is hard not to ask it, but it is't very productive. The better questions to ask are "What?" and "How?"

Specifically, "What can I learn from this experience?", and "How, can/will/did I react to this experience?"

It interesting to observe how people react in those abrupt, unexpected situations that life throws at us. I still recall with amusement the behavior of the passengers On a plane from Brussells, Belgium to Cramlington, UK, which was diverted to Loughbrough, Scotland (Longer runway), when the flaps failed, forcing an emergency landing, firetrucks racing alongside. As we came finally to a safe stop, the sweet stewardess with a smile on her face announced "Welcome to Loughbrough!". People freaked out! I'm supposed to be in Newcastle!!! I have a meeting!!! Etc... The poor little stewardess, a bit frazzled by everyone yelling at her, mutters under her breath as she passes my seat "Fine! Not welcome to Loughbrough!", My traveling companion looks at the other passengers in disbelief and says (loud enough for me to hear) "You're alive!".

So, how did I do? At the moment of impact... I said a bad word. Not proud of that. I suppose that is a fairly common response, have been exposed to such language to much in my younger days, and int TV, movies, etc... over the years (String Button Mind Magic.).

Then minutes after that, I was asking the other Driver if she was LDS and did anyone need a priesthood blessing. I think mostly I behaved myself in a manner that the Savior would Condone.

What can I learn? Well, I need to be more diligent in policing the media I consume. I also learned what wonderful people I am surrounded by and acquainted with. So many prayers and well wishes from friends new and past. So many people offered aide at the crash site. The police officer was so very kind and compassionate (especially impressive where he was simply too young to have much life experience to draw from!) .

I think I can also learn to be more patient and understanding when I am passing an accident in the future. Yes, I am, one of those people who often feels inconvenienced by an accident.  While waiting to get through the resulting traffic bottleneck, am often silently berating the victims for not being more careful, thous avoiding the accident which is now inconveniencing me for a few minutes. Now, I have experienced the other side of it. I thought I was being careful. I looked both ways, I thought I had a sufficient opening in traffic. Perhaps I will remember this in the future, and be more compassionate, more understanding, less judgmental.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Regrets 6: I regret 'saving a buck'

In my first apartment I purchased a shop vac - The tiniest, least expensive one they make. I was poor and didn't have very much space. It worked well enough, but I often found myself wishing I would have gone just one size larger, to handle larger areas more effectively.

Nearly a decade later I bought the next size up, and experienced the same emotion. A little over a decade ago, I found myself buying a new shop vac, the next size up. Same thing. When I bought it, I really waffled over the size I purchased versus going at least one size larger (which would have put me in the larger nozzle size and the attachment that is long enough to use while standing upright).

Not a month later a neighbor had a pipe burst in their basement. That larger shop vac would have been SO much better for helping with clean-up.

Around that same time, I purchased an air compressor- the smallest one I could find (again, to save money). It was for keeping car and bike tires properly filled. It served (and still serves) that purpose well. But since then I have found myself wishing I would have gone bigger, in order to run a nail gun, staple gun, and paint sprayer, as well as one with sufficient power to use to blow out dirty vacuum filters, air conditioner compressors, etc...

Fortunately a neighbor had an extra one of sufficient size and I was the lucky beneficiary. It has been so nice!

I also bought a cheap reciprocating saw somewhere back then, and I cheap mitre saw. The mitre saw has been very sturdy, and I am very happy with it, however it is small, and I have found myself wishing on many occasions that I had one capable of cutting boards larger than 2x6.

The reciprocating saw, I really didn't expect to use much - I really purchased it for one project. I have since discovered a number of other projects, but having only used it maybe a dozen times, it is already threatening to break. It is extremely difficult to seat and remove blades.

There are two lessons learned:

1. Pay a little extra for better quality on tools, even if you don't think you are going to use it all that much. You will likely save yourself money in the long run.

2. Strongly consider buying tools that are more/bigger than you currently need. You again may save yourself money in the long run, and you may find future projects for yourself, or freinds/neighbors which will benefit.

PS. Note - I am not saying go into debt, I am saying wait a little longer and save up for better (refer to my first "regrets" post).