Rewire Your Brain!

Neuroplasticity is kind of a difficult word to write. It’s also kind of difficult to actually speak it out loud. But it’s one of my favorite words in the last few years. And that because it confirms one of the most important things about a human being: the fact that your brain can actually be modified by your consciousness. Your biological tissues will follow your immaterial thoughts and desires. If you think bad, you will develop and grow bad connections in your brain, in your cells, to be more precise, and you will also obfuscate the growth of other zones or tissues that could help you overcome the difficulties.

I knew about that for some time, as a personal assumption, and, one or two years ago, I had – let’s call it like this – a confirmation, after watching a Discovery documentary. It was about the taxi drivers in London, and what they have to do in order to receive their license. London is one of the most difficult cities for a taxi driver, because their street numbering and naming is quite insane. They even have a street that is called one name on one sidewalk, and another name on the other sidewalk? And, of course, with all that confusion and constant modifications of the street names (GPS doesn’t really help here) getting a taxi license is extremely difficult.

The documentary, besides the normal spectacular part, when the apprentices were awaken in the middle of the night, and imposed quizzes about some strange street names and addresses, was focused on a collateral experiment too: at the beginning of the observation of the first group of apprentices, they measured, using ultrasounds, their memory center, in the brain: dimension and weight. After two years – yes, it takes that long to get a taxi license in London – after an intense training and exercises sessions, they did the measurement again. Surprise! The center was completely modified: increased in size, and also weight. It’s like taking your brain to the gym. You exercise your brains muscles and grow them.

Last week I read a very interesting article on Time. It basically stated the same, but in a more formalized and verified form. I encourage you the read the article, won’t take you more than 5-7 minutes, and it will give you a very interesting, if not revolutionary, perspective on your own capabilities.

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Astrology And Getting Things Done

Astrology is a system that tries to explain how our existence is influenced by the whole cosmos, especially by the planets in our solar system. Each planet represents several key symbols or actions: the Sun represents our general characteristics, Venus represents relationships, Mars our energy, Jupiter our sense of expansion, and so on. There are several branches of astrology, most known being natal astrology, karmic astrology and previsional astrology. Wether you believe or not in the astrology is not the point of this. Wether it is working or not for you, is a matter of how much do you actually believe in it. If you don’t, it probably doesn’t mean a thing. If you do, then chances are that your experience and vision are much broader now. If you want a quick grasp of how you can use astrology for personal development, you can start here.

Getting Things Done, or GTD, is a methodology created by David Allen which, by applying some sort of actions to our day to day activities, helps us to enjoy life more. The traditional viewpoint about GTD is that is a technique for enhancing productivity, and, at its basics, it can be considered like this. But the real outcome of GTD is that it helps you to enjoy life more, wether you are a manager or not, wether you want to enhance your productivity or not. There are several key concepts in GTD, like: emptying the RAM, daily and weekly review, processing actions and so on. GTD is very popular among computer oriented people.

What can be the connection between such different approaches? The first one is that both are trying to enhance our general life meaning. Both are free to try by everyone. Both have a rather coach-centric approach: they are better taught, understand and applied if there is a much experienced tutor, or coach, around you to guide.

But if you are a practitioner of both, like me, there are many more connections between those techniques. I will try to outline some of the few tips that I learned by applying some astrological approaches to the GTD methodology.

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Early success – is that bad?

Success is a key concept in our world. It’s a key concept in our life, to be more precise. It’s the measure of all our actions, attitudes and thoughts. Each and every second in our life is dedicated to success, in one of its forms: from having a succesful relationship, to obtaining a success in a business contract, or to finish a personal task exactly as planned. Everything we do is planned with a positive scenario in mind, meaning we always intend to do only the best for us. And success is the most important fuel for our future actions: if we do have a high quality fuel, we will tend to have more and more successful actions. If our fuel decrease in quality, we will act in a more and more confused an ineffective way.

But what is early success? Is the retirement at the age of 30, after exploding with a dot com venture? Is the rock star that shined for one year and then sinked in the sea of depression? Is the young CEO that in the last 5 years of his thirties had never had a day of relaxation? And instead he has to manage 24 hours a day a huge multi-national company with more employees that he’ll be able to meet in this life?

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Digital Cults: Reboot Your Epiphanies

In the 19th century, the populations from Melanesia saw a bunch of ships, with white people on board, carrying a lot of goods, called, generically, cargos. In their culture, white was also the colour of the dead people, so they assumed that those ships were the ships of the dead, returning their deserved goods. So the colonists quickly realised that they were treated like mithological characters. And so was born one of the most recent religions, called cargo-cult. A religious movement doesn't necessarily have to be old. It can be as effective as an old one, if it correctly replaces and enhances (sometimes) the need for catharsis. An epiphany can be a momentarily lost of conscience at a rock concert, or even a happiness boost from a family reunion. As long as it touches your inner chords and make them sing, it does the job. In a world where the actual spiritual connection has lost its privileged space - the church - the epiphanies are held in a digital space and form. On the internet, at the computer, by holding your BlackBerry or Palm. As long as it touches your inner chords and make them sing. I am not talking about those well-known cults that are using the digital media to gather sustainers, featuring tv shows of priests and so on. They are traditionals religions. I am talking about movements or so-called organisations that most of the time doesn't even know that they are acting on a religious field. The Open Source fans. The Linux movement. The Apple fans. The GTD followers. To name only a few.
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Personal and Software development: Paid model vs Open Source model

My last try to write about something related to OS’s was somehow a flamer on digg. Myabe I haven’t stated enough during the article that I was only interested in listening to opinions from the guys that actually switched from one OS to another, and that I didn’t try make any comparison between those two OS’s. So, if I would like to talk about something far more inflamable thant that, meaning paid model development vs open source model development, I thought I’d better put up first a

Disclaimer

This article represents my personal opinions only and is not endorsed by any company or foundation. Also, my intentions is, foremost, to just express my ideas about the values that each model could have, and not to accuse, adhere to or specifically endorse any of them.

Wow, it’s cool to be relaxed, so let’s start our little walk on the park of the personal and software development.

First of all, yest, it’s an odd pair: personal and software development. But I told you from the beginning: you wouldn’t find usual stuff here. Not because usual is not good, but because new connections and standpoints can always shed some new light and reveal new thinking paths on any topic you can imagine.

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When and why I broke up with… linux

Linux is a great thing. It had one of the longest hype period on the digital media, and still gather evangelists all over the world. It was the beginning of a new era. It was the sign of the liberty of software rising against the chains of proprieatry model and corporate giants. It was a chance for millions of programmers to make a decent living.

But all of that doesn’t necessarily make Linux a great choice for desktop productivity. Also, for the middle to top managers, I don’t really think it will make his entry. In my series of “When and why I broke up with…” posts, I will try to outline below my reasons for switching from Linux to Mac OS on my day to day work.

First of all, for all of you that are asking: “but why Mac OS, and not Windows?”, I will simply answer: because I needed something that actually works. Period.

Second, I will tell you what I think about Linux as a day to day OS from a manager standpoint:

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MAC OS X – Quicksilver: instantly create text files and prepend or append text to them

Suppose you are in the middle of something, reading a post on a blog, or writing a fine article in your editor of choice, or even writing some code for your ground breaking web 2.0 application. And ka-boum: you have an idea! Something so interesting, so juicy and fun to think about crosses your mind, than you feel you can’t live anymore until you actually write down that piece of thought. Somewhere, somehow. So there you go:

  1. leave your current activity/application
  2. open Finder (or some other program menu containing an outliner application shortcut, for instance)
  3. open that outliner application
  4. open a new file in it
  5. start writing the marvelous idea
  6. hit save as menu item
  7. chose location and save
  8. close the outliner application
  9. return to your current activity/application

But here’s how it would look like, if you would use Quicksilver:

  1. type CTRL + spacebar to invoke Quicksilver window (while having the current activity/application still in front of you)
  2. type “.” and start writing your marvelous idea
  3. hit TAB and type “cre..” meaning the first letters of your “Create file” action of Quicksilver, and then enter (this really counts like a single action)
  4. chose location and save
  5. hit escape to hide Quicksilver window

Huh! We are four steps shorter than the original approach. That counts for less physical work, and less time, almost half, right? Nice, isn’t it? But that’s not the only advantage: you actually remain in the flow, while your thoughts are free to fly. Isn’t that really nice?

So, how we actually do that?

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Astrology and personal development

Admit it: you are intrigued. You’re not using it, nor give any credit to it at all, and still some strange voices are telling you from time to time to take astrology seriously. You don’t take it, to be honest, and this is more than OK. After all, everything in our lives it’s a matter of choice. But that doesn’t necessarily means that astrology is useless. My own experience with astrology proved even the opposite, as a matter of fact.

Yes, good idea, let’s talk about the facts. I used astrology in its lowest form and level of perception, in the form of daily horoscopes, when I worked in the FM radio stations as a fulltime DJ. I had to fill my program with some informations, and horoscopes were – and still are – one of the most used. And abused, I will say, because there is nothing more wrong about the astrology than the daily horoscopes.

But I found out that the hard way, years later. When I engaged a more conscious way of living my life, I decided to try it out for real. It must be something beyond daily horoscopes and stupid predictions, I said at some point. So I started to study by myself. I read several books and subscribed to several popular astrology websites. I learned to use astrology software and use it on a daily basis. I studied the planet movements, the transgressions, the planetary hours and the cycles of days, weeks, months and astrological signs. Things has started to progress nicely. Not only I began to realise that my image about astrology was completely wrong, but I also learned to use it in a systematic way. I even followed the official course from an astrology school in Romania, called Fidelia.

To make a long story short, after two years of constantly experiencing it I becomed an intermediate to advanced astrologer. Now I master enough of that science for actually getting something out of it. And the term “science” is a little bit exagerated, I admit. Astrology is not a science in “normal” way. It involves a lot of emotional and spiritual participation, things that traditional science has avoided constantly. But I was not interested in its legitimity – I can make my own decision about things and not wait for others to tell me if this thing is legit or not – what I was really interested in, was its use. How can I use astrology for personal development?

And, first of all, why use it?

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When and why I broke up with… smoking

Yes, you broke up with something too. Broke up with your drinking coffee habit, with your operating system or your old computer. Broke up with an old friend of partner…I think about making this like a serie of posts, all related to the interruption of something I used for a long time. A habit, a software application, a person. It’s very interesting to see when you actually stopped to do something, and why.
It will be pretty interesting also to see how others have broke up with the same pattern or habit.

I will start this serie with an easy one: when and why I broke up with smoking. It was on 17h November 2005. After a party at my company, Mirabilis Media, I felt so miserably the next day, that I instantly decided to quit smoking. And I did. It was an instant decision, fueled by the insanely bad consequences this habit has generated.

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What Is Procrastination?

I'm sure everybody has its own definition on that. My MAC OS Dictionary tells me this: "procrastination: delay or postpone action; put off doing something : it won't be this price for long, so don't procrastinate.". You certainly have a different definition, I'm sure. This diversitiy comes from a wide spread of the activity itself: everybody procrastinates, this is why a name had to be found for this activity, a name that each would define differently, but everybody would understand the same. For me, procrastinations is the ability of someone to change his attitude and perception about what he wants to do.
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