How has therapy changed my personality?

Last year I took a personality test called the IPIP-NEO test. It’s like the “Big-5” but with lots of subcategories. For example, you might have average “openness to experience” by having low imagination, emotionality, and artistic interests, but high adventurousness, intellect, and liberalism. The breakdown seems more interesting than the average. Importantly, this test gives meaningful numbers. A 58 means that they estimate that 58% of the population is less extroverted than I am.

Changes to my Big-5 score

Overall, my extroversion increased from low to moderate, my agreeableness and Openness increased from high to extremely high, my neuroticism began average and fell below average, and conscientiousness remained average.

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Exercise you need

If you want to get fit, try to find exercise that will blend into the background.

For me it’s my morning commute. My bike is faster than the bus and doesn’t only go every now and then. My bike is an easy hour of exercise, that doesn’t take willpower because it’s genuinely the best option.

This was a bit tricky to set up, but worth it.

Start slow. I originally only rode to something much closer to my house than uni. Then I rode to uni only once a week. Now I usually take a break if I’ve ridden 3-4 days in a row.

Reset your habit. Every Monday is a new week, time to ride again (even if only once). I have a reminder on my phone for this.

Make it easy. I had to buy a nice bike before I would ride every day. The $50 one was just too annoying to ride. I had to tell myself consciously to slow down a bit, so it was more enjoyable. I had to find a nice route through the suburbs and along the river, avoiding the busy roads.

Make other options less convenient. I don’t have a car, so it was easier. If I needed one, I’d consider leaving it at work and cycling home and then back to work.

Try a bunch of experiments like this, see what makes you choose the exercise option. Be curious.

Part 2 of 2. The first part was about exercise you love.

Exercise you love

If you want to get fit, try to find exercise that is fun. For me, it’s climbing. I want to go because I love it.

If you don’t have something that is fun, be a scientist. Try things until you find something you love. Each experiment will teach you something (even if it’s just what you don’t like).

Don’t be disciplined. Don’t go unless you love it.

Don’t worry about working hard. When I’m on a stationary exercise bike I think “when can I stop”. It takes mental effort to keep going. When I ride a bike outside, I want to go fast. I push my limits because it’s fun. (If you love stationary bikes do what you love too!)

See what happens when you ignore the resistance. Sometimes you won’t feel like it, even though you love it in general. See what happens if you go in that state. Our bodies try to conserve energy, so I often find it a blast even when I don’t feel like it today.

Get your friends involved or find new ones. A community will help keep you doing what you love.

But look for something else if you fall out of love. You’ll come back one day.

Part 1 of 2, the second part is about exercise you need.

A Call to Arms

See the enemy. Anxious thoughts, deep depressions, and other enemies of the mind can ruin anything that could have been good. We think a better situation will feel better, but the enemy turns any riches to dust.

Remember hope. Even when you feel nothing could work, fight anyway. Even when it feels hopeless, something might just work. It was the enemy that said you didn’t stand a chance.

Be resourceful. Therapy, medication, meditation, blood tests, light exposure, exercise, sleep, psychedelics, and anything else you can think of. Try any thing that might work.

Ignore those who fail to understand. Some think you should exercise for a year, to show off your dedication and commitment. Avoid medication until you’ve tried all the honourable paths. This is bad advice. It’s life and death, fight with whatever you have now, and win at all costs.

Attack on multiple fronts at once. Try a few things that might work. Make this a priority, even if it means dropping some other balls. Eventually, try everything that might work.

Communication is Unbalanced

If you get a message, it’s just one of the crowd jostling for your limited attention. Not responding is easy and understandable. Imagine you were in a real crowd of people talking at you at once, at all hours of the day. You might miss a thing or two, you’re only human.

But when you send a message it feels like the two of you are alone in a room. A lack of response is personal. Imagine someone sitting across from you, pretending they don’t hear or see you. What an asshole! 

It’s one situation. Both perspectives are true.

Trial by fire: My mission to prove every real analysis theorem from scratch

Proving stuff yourself is hard, and my initial attempts were catastrophic. I wrote one proof that began with a stronger statement than the conclusion I was attempting to draw, rendering the proof useless even in the unlikely case it was otherwise successful. It was not otherwise successful. Jumping through several dodgy implications and logical errors, it eventually arrived at a conclusion that was substantially weaker than what I was attempting to prove. The worst part? I couldn’t even spot my own mistakes, and I thought the proof was probably quite good.

This post is about my approach to real analysis. In many areas of theoretical research, proving things is of paramount importance.  Sadly, I didn’t have the foresight to take a heavy math curriculum as an undergrad, and like many, my skills were lackluster at best. My solution? Prove every theorem in an intermediate analysis course.

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Two Approaches to Learning

Josh Kaufman argues you can learn anything in less than 20 Hours. This seems to contradict research that says it takes (on average) 10,000 hours to master a skill. Josh Kaufman doesn’t mean it takes you 20 hours to master a skill, it just takes that long to get “good enough”. This article explains two approaches and how to apply them effectively.

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Don’t Learn Latin, Don’t Use Translations, Don’t Be a Hack.

I recently read my first book in Spanish. To celebrate, I’m reflecting on how I got here. It was an arduous journey and there are many pitfalls to avoid. Three principles guided my way:

  • Don’t be led astray
  • Eliminate the unimportant
  • Go slow to go fast
Continue reading Don’t Learn Latin, Don’t Use Translations, Don’t Be a Hack.

Attracting Exceptionally Famous Speakers to Your Events

I was so excited by our event with Peter Singer last year. My small team of core student organizers managed to book a sought-after public figure with almost no money or experience. Hundreds found our Facebook event with no advertising, and about 50 people rocked up to ask the renowned philosopher questions. How did we do it? 

I hope people will find this a useful blueprint for how to run cheap, easy events that attract brilliant speakers. And for those with an idea worth sharing, I hope it provides you with a way of getting through to broader audiences from the comfort of your own home (or a tropical island!).

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