2021 Yearly Review: Joining the Human Race

“Is it not possible (even though it may not always deliver us from the terrible situation that we find ourselves in) that we would all be more able to deal with uncertainty, the horrors of nature, the tyranny of culture, and the malevolence of ourselves and others if we were better and more courageous people?”

Jordan B. Peterson (Beyond Order)

Every year I try to track my life through monthly themes.

The process is relatively simple – I pick two weaknesses that I feel like need to work on and I give those two themes a little more attention each month.

At the beginning and end of the month, I write down my thoughts on the process.

I started doing this halfway through 2019.

I did it completely in 2020.

As much as I wanted to do an entire year, I missed two months simply because I forgot. In October, I had the wonderful privilege of welcoming my daughter into the world. (Easily, the best experience of my life.)

Unfortunately, I was already overloaded and reaching near my maximum capacity. I just started a job as a chemistry teacher in a pretty rough school and I was working on my Master’s and teaching credential at the same time.

As much as I wanted to keep up everything I was doing, the transition got the best of me and I missed two months of recording and reflecting on my themes. I ended up dropping a lot more than just recording and reflecting on my themes, but that’s for another post.

At first, I thought that because I missed the two months my entire yearly review tradition is ruined. But then I realized that I was making an excuse to relieve myself of the responsibility of admitting that I wasn’t able to achieve what I wanted, picking up the pieces, and continuing on.

So I asked myself – is there a way I can turn this loss into something beautiful?

The answer of course is yes. Dare I say that the answer to that question is always yes.

This year, I will reflect on my themes as usual, but for October and November I will reflect upon the events that created so much disarray, but much more fulfillment.

All journal entries are in italics and my comments from today follow CM:

🛠 January – Organization & Presentation

Beginning of the month: I ended last year trying to organize myself and my life so I can start this year extremely productive. Turns out that once I started to open that box, there was so much to unpack that I’m going to need another month. Organizing this way will help me stay on top of my current complexity and add more later. I also felt pretty guilty about spending so much time organizing so making it the theme for another month will (hopefully) let me off the hook and I can keep diving in. As far as presentation is concerned, I feel like I’ve spent enough time incubating and cultivating and I need to start sharing (or as Seth Godin says shipping) my work. Art isn’t art until it’s been shipping and I’ve been stopping myself bc nothing is in its final form, but I need to get over that. First, I need to prepare my work so it is functional, useful, and most importantly something I can look on with pride. I’ve met too many people who could benefit from the work I do and I’ve been selfishly keeping it to myself. The unveiling is near.

CM: Looking back, I can see that Chris before he was a parent, had a lax sense of time. That guilt I felt for wasting time was properly founded. Ever since becoming a parent, I see how much of a luxury time is. I did start showing my work to people this year, specifically my students. Things are moving, just much slower than anticipated.

End of the month: This month has been a fun one. I revived my interest in social media and I’ve taken a few more steps to focus on presentation. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but I’m much further. The progress this month in each of these domains has been measurable, at least I feel like I’ve made solid progress. I didn’t revamp my website like I wanted to, but I’ve been putting that on the back burner because I’m finding that I may need to put a similar kind of energy elsewhere. Focusing on organization again has helped me dive deeper into database creating. I’ve taken it much further than just with Notion. I’ve been able to tap into my engineering training and build spreadsheets for the new business I want to start. My ability to organize and present turned my failing business model into a profitable one and now all I need to do is execute. I know I’m usually pleasantly surprised by the improvements I make by doing these themes, but this one was insane. My new systems for journaling, creating, task managing, and now budget optimizing are so valuable to me and I’m so happy I focused on these two this month. Hands down the best call of the year so far. I want to continue organizing in a way that values presentation, it’s so important.

CM: Wow. Looking back at this, I can still agree. The time I spent organizing this month was pivotal to my survival later this year. That task manager I built helped me survive as a first-year teacher, dad, student, etc. Plus those builds I made for the business are now vital tools we use every day to make the process easy. I can see that organizing and having systems in place, help brace us for the intense winds of life.

🧭 February – Leadership & Persistence

Beginning of the month: This month I want to focus on my leadership abilities and boosting my persistence. I’m about to start a new company and I want to make sure this one runs well. No one is going to ensure that but me so I will need to tap into my leadership abilities and enhance them if I want things to work out. I’m starting to see that I need to have an extremely clear vision and I need to be able to enroll other people in that idea and that all comes with leadership. Like Elon Musk said, organizing people better gives you access to more spending power. That’s what I’m looking for. As for persistence, I know I’m going to be dealing with some intense days and I’m going to need to be able to persist through those rough conditions, but also I’m going to need more persistence if I want to sell lotion to an extremely complex society. I’m hoping this month will bring these traits out of me in a way that allows me to keep improving later.

CM: I was so unsuspecting.

End of the month: This month I was thrown for the biggest loop of my life and I lost sight of my themes for a while. Despite the turbulence, Leadership and Persistence have definitely been developed. The new information I got this month unlocked a new level of everything inside of me. While I was trying, half-assed I admit, to develop myself in leadership and persistence, this new jolt has given me everything I need to be an effective leader. Not just of a company, not just of my life, but of my family’s life as well. I’ve also learned how to push myself much further than my perceived capacities. I’ve accomplished things this month I never thought I could. Again I’ve been confronted with the impossible and again I contend with it. This time it is voluntary, and this time the stakes are high. In this case, I have accessed something much deeper than mere persistence. It’s like I have direct access to the fire of humanity inside myself. I am reborn. I was worried that I was going to lose my ability to write and be creative through the new changes, but now I see that staying connected to them in the midsts of the chaos is what will enrich life further. I can see I am even more capable of what I was capable of before. It is almost like constraints allow us to access more of our potential, but only after a certain time. I don’t want to be too specific in this entry in case I make it public, but I’m happy with the developments I’ve made over the years and I’m excited to see where this takes me.

CM: Reflection is so important. It keeps me on the path, and I need to stay on it more than ever because my daughter needs me. This is the month I found out I was going to be a father, and I learned that I have a hell of a lot more in me than I ever imagined. I didn’t mention the pregnancy directly because we weren’t telling anyone yet. But I’m very happy that I caught my feelings about the moment when I had them.

🐢 March – Stillness & Planning

Beginning of the month: This month I need to learn how to be still. I tend to spin out of control and I destroy the order I work too hard to create. When I come from a place of stillness, I obtain access to intentionality and I can craft the world in my image. This is more crucial than ever. More depends upon my ability to pay attention and sublimate, both of which are accomplished through accessing stillness, Internal stillness. On top of that, I need to develop my planning abilities. I have too much to get ready for and not a lot of time. This month I can spend working on how to plan, while developing a plan so I can keep my boat afloat, so to speak. I was worried that I would not be able to get everything done, but I can see that by using the practices I’ve been learning I can overcome anything. Take uncertainty and turn it into order through stillness and planning. Fear will shrink with understanding. I always have a moment to regroup.

CM: I still believe this is how I got myself from spinning out of control to actually designing my world. I remember a lady saying that my chances of teaching in a classroom this year a 0%. Hah. Turns out I was right – at least that is what it seems to me. Approaching the world from stillness helps to craft the world in my image.

End of the Month: This month has been a wild ride, but I feel like the stillness and planning have seeped in a little deeper. After spending almost $2,000 on Sione, I realized that I can create cheaper prototypes if I just took the time to plan every little detail. Everything can be thought of first before a single action is taken. It is not just with creating prototypes for business. It’s also the case with trading, packing, eating, everything. Taking the time to plan in stillness gives me an opportunity to properly use my prefrontal cortex. I’ve even been able to quell some of my anxiety. Maybe it’s because I went in on this whole job thing (getting a job with Nanobiologics, taking the CSETs and CBEST, and hitting Sione harder) might have helped, but I do believe part of it was because I was intentionally trying to plan in stillness. Practicing these themes helped me fine-tune more “rich life” stuff for my future as well – planning and stillness give me an opportunity to improve and reflect which allows me to improve current lifestyle choices. For example, Kyra and I took a vacation to Palm Springs and spent a significant amount of time preparing food, grocery shopping, etc. Since I was practicing these themes, I realized that I could make things better by planning. Lost resources are a result of poor planning. So next time, I want to schedule grocery pick-ups in the destination city where I am vacationing so I can just drive to the store, pick up exactly what I want, and move forward. Eventually, I want to have an assistant do that. These themes were fantastic and I’m definitely going to do it again in the future.

CM: That prototype lesson was an expensive one, but an important one. Moving forward, I will be able to do proper product launches without spending insane amounts of money. So many little lessons came out of this year.

⭐️ April – Endurance & Faith

Beginning of the month: I’ve noticed that I can’t do anything for as long as I’d like, or as long as I used to. That needs to change. Especially now, when stakes are getting higher. I can’t afford slippage due to a small attention span or lack of endurance. I need to be able to do things for longer stints of time, not just so I can be more productive, but because I feel like it’s what’s necessary for success in the domains I’m in. The second theme isn’t so much a characteristic or quality that I have, but I do believe faith is something I need to pay more attention to. Faith is a necessary component when doing something difficult or different and often I feel as if I am not capable of doing those things. Faith is the necessary first step before anything else. It’s what fuels initial action and keeps me going during hardships. I feel as if I need to exercise more faith in myself and the things I’m pursuing. I need the faith to know that I’m not in over my head.

April 20th: I’m feeling like I always find myself on losing teams and I’ve spent this period of time trying to bet on myself. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like I have the time to do that anymore. I need to get on a winning team. I need to be a star player. One of the two. I only really feel like I have control over one, and it’s being a star player, but that’s exhausting.

CM: There was a lot of uncertainty during this time. I had no idea if my other ideas would be enough to sustain a family and it didn’t seem like I was going to find a teaching job. That faith was critical though. I see why faith is a pillar in all world religions. It is truly the first step in changing your life.

End of the month: This month was tough. I know for a fact that I just did some things just purely because I was trying to “prove to myself” that I have faith. My faith in things is constantly being testing and because I don’t have faith in many things, my endurance takes a hit. I never get a chance to develop my endurance because I don’t believe in anything enough to stick with it. This month I finally paid enough attention to realize how much energy I dedicate just to “keep the vision” alive within me. When I was younger, I used to think that was the challenge, but now I see that I just have a problem with having faith. This also makes sense, because I like to know things and to be able to predict and faith, by definition, means to hold a belief without knowing for sure. This did give me an interesting lens through to see the month. I noticed certain phrases and quotes would stick out to me, perhaps because my orienting reflex is attuned to “faith and endurance” or maybe it’s because of divine intervention. One quote was something like “It’s easier to say in motion than to start” and that is something that’s been buzzing in my head the entire month. Some crazy things did happen though – I ran my first 3-mile run and I PR’d again this month. I don’t know how much I can keep doing this, but I know it’s a direct result of me testing my faith in my physical abilities and my desire to develop my endurance. I also wanted to take down the Sioné website and I felt like the entire lotion idea was silly, but in time Uncle Jr ended up saying that he would be the biggest fan in the lotion works. He was the last person I’d expect to enjoy the lotion. He said he sees multi-millionaire potential in me. I’m glad he can see that too. I bring this up because it’s something I lost faith in. I actually felt on some level like my themes didn’t apply to that portion of my business. But, it does. I learned that faith is necessary and if I can’t keep it, there are more things it’s costing me like my endurance. A lot of what I believe makes me weak stems from my lack of faith. I’m happy to have learned this and I’m excited to see what happens moving forward.

CM: Thank God I didn’t. The things I staked my faith on this year, Sione and teaching, are the things that were foundational to my ark, so to speak. There were a lot of small events that gave me just enough juice to keep going. Crazy.

🔎 May – Awareness & Integrity

Beginning of the month: This month I’m going to focus on awareness and integrity. I want to tap into a deeper awareness of myself and my surroundings. I want to be able to pay attention in a higher capacity. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m not paying attention to the most important things, maybe it’s just hindsight haunting me. But regardless, I want to be able to pay attention and notice things better than I do now. I’m hoping it will help me unlock part of what’s keeping me down. Additionally, I want to work on my integrity this month. Integrity as defined as I would back in 2014. Being in integrity is a state of being whole and complete. It’s an intense state, but it’s also peaceful. It requires intense responsibility and….awareness!, but I know it would be nice to have things whole and complete before things get really crazy this year. I want to define some of the things I want to strive for this month, just so I know. All commitments to myself will be kept. All commitments to others will be kept. My workspaces will be orderly unless they are in the process of creating. My calendar will be respected and updated. My conscience will be obeyed. These are high ideals, but I think they are worth striving for.

CM: Little did I know that I would spend the next 5 months trying to do exactly this. haha! I wish I could tell myself that I make it out perfectly fine on the other side.

End of the month: This month, the themes weren’t as present and forefront as they have been in the other months. I’ve paid a little bit more attention to integrity and I might have been doing better in maintaining integrity with my things. I say might have because I haven’t been really been paying attention. That being said, I have been trying to maintain some of the entropy that builds in my environments and digital spaces. I think spending just a little time and making things nice so they can work FOR me later instead of AGAINST me. If I don’t keep up with the maintenance, the systems I have put in place become sources of stress. Keep thy house and thy house shall keep the becomes more and more relevant as I get older. I have been using my awareness to tap into more than what I normally pay attention to. I’m using my awareness to illuminate new pathways and the fire inside me from becoming a new parent helps me walk down these paths. Overall, this month wasn’t too crazy but I do think my themes helped keep things relatively organized.

CM: Still battling with this today. I am doing better though. My environment is slowly becoming more conducive to my life. Slowly.

🦄 June – Gratitude & Consistency

Beginning of the month: I want to practice gratitude and consistency because I’ve been terribly inconsistent. I’m worried that my inconsistency is ruining my life. My streaks app is becoming some of a hassle and it’s annoying resetting everything all the time. It’s also difficult to constantly make new rules so I’m “rigging the game to win.” I’ve taken this too far and now I don’t even know if I’m playing the same game anymore. My hypothesis is that I am not consistent because I am not grateful. Although I practice gratitude every morning, I believe I lose sight of it because I don’t act consistently. If I was truly grateful, I would see the moment in front of me as an opportunity to “get the bag” as Jordan would say. I’m hoping this consistency is good practice for fatherhood as well.

CM: The slippage was just beginning, consistency a common challenge for me this year. I’m just now grappling with this breakdown, 6 months later. haha!

End of the month: I did better with gratitude. I had some slip-ups, but the pressure is starting to really turn on. I feel like my age and my accomplishments aren’t matching up and it’s messing with my ability to stay consistent. I suppose I’ve been consistently procrastinating and avoiding making music, but I wanted to be consistent in the practices that I deemed positive and good. I don’t think my hypothesis is correct regarding consistency and gratitude. I suppose there is a connection, but what’s blocking my ability to be consistent is much deeper than that. I did spend some time trying to clean my space and optimize for consistency, but that’s taking longer than I expected and it’s starting to feel like another way of procrastination. This month was rough for my themes to be honest.

CM: I really started to lose my grip in June. The craziest part is that it was going to get much harder.

🌆 July – Patience & Faith

Beginning of the month: I’ve been having a tough time picking the themes this month. I sat on it for a few days and I’m settling on “Paciencia y Fe” from In The Heights. Love the music, hated the movie, to be honest. But Patience and faith are going to be the themes I’m going to call upon this month. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been patient enough and it’s been making me really upset. Things aren’t looking anyway that I’d hoped, but perhaps it’s not my time. Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions, looking at it from the wrong angle. Perhaps I still need patience and faith. Perhaps I’m not at the end, or even the middle, but still at the start. I need to believe in patience and I need to keep the faith so I can move forward at all. Admittedly, I’ve lost faith and it probably has been showing. Hopefully paying attention to this will give me that little push I’m looking for.

Side note: I’ve also been reading Kierkegaard and faith is a big theme that I noticed he liked to talk about too. Same with Jordan Peterson. They both talk about faith in the context of the Biblical Abrahamic stories and I feel like I could take a lesson or two (or three) from it.

CM: I usually try to not repeat themes, but I remember things were looking pretty bleak for a while. It’s just what I need though! I need to remember this time in my life in case I ever encounter another time I am feeling helpless and hopeless. “Perhaps I’m not at the end, or even the middle, but still at the start.” – a possibility that I intellectually knew could be true but I didn’t believe it could be.

End of the month: I was at the start. Talk about a miracle. I got a teaching job and it took all the patience and faith I had. I felt like I was cutting it so close this year, but I just needed to give it time. I had more interview offers than I expected. I even turned some down! Plus I’m at a school that I believe I fit pretty well in. Perhaps it’s luck, perhaps it isn’t. I learned that faith is a tricky beast. It’s so easy to not have it, but it’s so necessary for everything. If you want a better life, you need the faith to take the first steps of a long journey. Now that I’m at my “big boy” job, I can see a whole new future in front of me. It’s easy to lose faith when we’re in a tough. It’s easy to believe that life will always remain bleak. But if we can do the harder thing, if we can choose faith, we at least have a chance for something better. And if Fortune smiles upon us, then we may be able to move to where we intend. This month is proof that is true. This month has changed how I see faith forever. Paradigm shifting.

CM: I’ve been keen on keeping possibilities open after this month. Anything is possible. What I am convinced to be true, isn’t necessarily true. Beneficial or detrimental. I had to keep faith that my plan could work…and it has been. Incredible. For the first in my life, things were going exactly as I wanted them to. It’s given me the necessary confidence going into fatherhood.

🎒August – Prioritization & Balance

Beginning of the month: This month is crazy. My first year as a teacher has put me in a position where my work truly never ends and there are consistent deadlines. While I tried to adopt this lifestyle into my creative outlets and I’m familiar with how this does, I never felt the pressure like I do now. I can see that the only way I’ll make it through is clear prioritizing and execution. As long as I hit the priority tasks, I can keep my head above water. That being said, I need to have balance in my life too. I can tell the balance is starting to escape me, so I need to be a little more intentional with incorporating balance into my life.

CM: Adjusting to teaching was so hard. Everyone says being a first-year teacher is brutal, and they are 110% right. Teachers should get paid more, it’s not a job that anyone can do and it requires an extremely specific skill set. I can say now that those first few months gave me much-needed experience that is difficult to refute and fruitful to my creative projects.

End of the month: I’m learning to balance and prioritize better. I’m not sure if the school year just chilled out or if I’ve gotten better at these skills. I’ve learned to set hard time deadlines or hard accomplishment milestones to mark the end of the workday. Sometimes it’s tough and leaks into the weekend, but I supposed that’s the nature of the beast. I know for a fact that I need to keep practicing this skill and I can see my life getting better as a result of that. Prioritization and balance are two meta-skills worth exploring. I can tell that even just paying attention to these two skills I’ve elevated my performance by years. Psychologically it makes things easier too. I feel like running helped me get used to pushing through mental barriers to reach goals. There’s always a point when you want to quit and my relationship with running helps me choose to keep going at least a little bit further than I thought.

CM: I think it’s so cool that all the lessons I’ve learned in every part of my life help all the other parts. Looking back, I believe that I got better at the skills. The school year didn’t chill out, it just kept getting more and more intense.

🏗 September – Restructuring & Compassion

Beginning of the month: I feel like all the systems I’ve developed have been neglected and the only thing that’s been carrying me through the never-ending stream of chaos and novelty is my knowledge of how to develop systems to manage the chaos. As a result, there are insufficiencies in everything. I was planning on only dedicating a day or an afternoon to restructuring but I think it’s better to give it a month. Hopefully, I can get myself back to a place where I just need to “press play” so to speak. As for compassion, I feel like it’s easy for me to hold myself to tough standards and as a result hold others to tough standards as well. It’s easy to dismiss others’ shortcomings as either incompetence, ignorance, laziness, or malice, but I cannot so easily justify my own. It’s easy to accept that other people make those choices, but it’s not easy to accept that I make those choices because I don’t believe I do. I cannot say that about ignorance. And so I’m going to experiment with compassion and see if I can faster restructure my life having compassion for myself rather than contempt. I’ve found that holding contempt for my “lower” self sufficiently motivates me, but I do feel tired and I need to rest and stop thinking. Maybe these things are connected, maybe not. We will soon find out.

CM: I was stressed and overwhelmed this month. In some respects, I still feel like I’m picking up the pieces from earlier this year. I didn’t have an end-of-the-month reflection for September. This was the beginning of the “dark ages” I’ll call them. Even looking back on this journal entry, it was hard to identify exactly what I was saying but one thing is for certain: things were crazy for me.

A meditation on the major events of 2021

The original plan for this year included:

Finishing my book. Launching my courses. Launching my first physical product. Releasing original music.

Kyra was planning on starting medical school as well as her book.

Instead, Kyra got pregnant.

I’m hoping to capture my experience of becoming a parent in a future post.

This was the craziest and most productive year of my life. If you know me intimately, you would know that that’s really saying something.

When Kyra got pregnant, I had to stop and prioritize. All the plans I had were incongruent with becoming a father, mainly because they all take so much time, energy, and attention.

Admittedly, I was extremely stressed. I cried for 3 days straight and went through a transformative emotional experience, which was in part what motivated me to want to start writing my blog post on becoming a parent. Another motivation for that post was that I had no where to really look to explain what I was feeling. Part of that experience was captured in my monthly theme for February.

Despite the emotional experience, I also knew I needed to provide a level of stability that I have never been able to access before. I found myself completely in chaos. When I have too much chaos around me, I have a hard time creating and sticking to routines. I dedicated 150% of my attention and energy to finding a way to provide the kind of stability necessary for raising a child.

This led me to a bunch of crazy places – all dead ends. (day trading, e-commerce, consulting, etc.) All of these things could theoretically sustain a family, but not at the level that I was playing. However, I did learn that I can use all of these things over time to create serious wealth. I just need a solid foundation to build upon.

I reached out to a mentor who told me about schools in neighboring school districts have a science teacher shortage and there is no reason why anyone with a science degree shouldn’t have at least a 50k salary with full benefits. Some people see a salary as a death wish, but it has its uses – that is a post for another time.

I told him that I didn’t have a credential and the baby is due in November. Then he told me about the intern programs and that changed everything.

Turns out, you can work as a teacher with a full salary while getting your credential if you come in as an intern teacher. Now that I’ve completed about half of my program, I see that it’s actually a fairly common way for teachers to get in the classroom. At the time, I had never heard of anything like this.

This section isn’t going to be about all the steps of becoming an intern teacher, but I did have to jump through several hoops to get to where I am now. Maybe I’ll write a post on how I became a teacher, but I think it’s useful to reflect on the events here.

I had to take out student loans again…I really did not want to take out loans to pay for the program, but the ROI is hard to ignore. I took out 30k in loans to get access to a 56k salary plus benefits. It pays for itself.

Emotionally, it was difficult to pull the trigger on taking the loans but it’s what was able to kick off a wild adventure, to say the least.

However, there was more there for me than just a salary.

Getting a traditional job wasn’t ideal, but maybe I could turn this into something where I am still able to work on all the things I’ve been planning.

Working in a classroom gives me an opportunity to put my ideas in front of live students and get feedback. Plus, I can develop the muscle of writing lesson plans and planning curriculums. PLUS, I add to my education credibility as a teacher.

I immediately signed up for the CBEST and CSETs. At the time I didn’t know if I was going to get a math or science gig so I signed up for all of them. I spent about $400 in tests. I felt like I had no time to waste so I took them all within a 2 to 3 weeks with the exception of the CSET calc test which was taken a little later. I wanted to take them early, just in case I failed I had time to retake them…I later learned I didn’t need to take the tests, but they were an experience worth having.

I figured since I tutored all the time I would be able to take these tests no problem, that was true to an extent…a few days before each test, I took some practice tests and did some active recall just to make sure I was in good shape.

All of these tests turned out to be much more difficult than I anticipated…this was the first sign that being a teacher was going to be more difficult than I was expecting. The first practice test I took was for math and I got a 40% on the test. I was also shocked to see so many concepts that I never heard of.

This was my chance to use all of these study techniques and student success skills that I’ve been writing about for myself.

I studied and used every technique that I knew – I passed all of them super quickly and on the first try…reminds me of when I took the FE, but with a lot more pressure. Except for the calculus math test, that was surprising and humbling. All teachers are wicked smart and there is not enough credit given to our teachers, especially the ones who have passed the CSET in their respective subjects.

Next, I enrolled in an online credential/Masters of Arts in Education program. I found a school that gave me the flexibility I needed.

This was also humbling – I always saw myself as someone who was going to go to an Ivy League and do great things, but my life took very different turns.

This experience taught me that it’s much better to find the spaces and places in this world that align with my values and give me access to the life I want rather than picking some prestigious institution and forming my life to their standards.

I was able to do everything from my laptop and if things got too crazy then I could always take a leave of absence. I’m proud to say I didn’t need to do it, but it was nice knowing that I could. This was also a great opportunity to put on the student-hat one more time and battle test all of my study skills and student success strategies for myself. I learned from my experiences in high school and college, I’ve helped many students, and now I get to try it out for myself after doing relatively more intentional research.

I’m hoping to get my grad school experience documented some how in the future, there’s been a lot that I’ve learned through this experience that didn’t necessarily get from the curriculum. [For example, it probably helped me be more compassionate towards my students this year because I’m also a student too.]

So far, I’m proud to say I have a 4.0 GPA in my graduate program and while I was expecting it to be easier than undergrad, it’s still been challenging.

I had to job hunt and interview with so many schools – I was nervous when it started getting closer and closer to the school year but eventually, I interviewed at a high school, was offered the job immediately after the interview, which I accepted.

Teaching is an entirely different blog post – life-changing for sure. It took a few months to get the hang of teaching there, and thankfully I was able to get my footing by the time my daughter was born.

This year was also filled with renovations and constantly working to get my house, and my life, in order for when the baby comes. We changed everything.

My daughter was born on October 28th, 2021. One of the best days of my life, probably the best day to date. When my daughter was born, I felt a rush of different feelings but one of the most memorable was the immense amounts of compassion that I had for all people. For the first time, I felt like I was part of the human race. I am connected to all people in a way that I never knew existed.

The newborn state was one of the most trying times of my life. 0-2 months was intense, mainly because I already felt maxed out from being a first-time teacher, working on my credential and master’s, and NO SLEEP. Sleeplessness made this time extremely hard, my decision-making was compromised and I couldn’t stick to my systems.

It was stressful, and like any stressful situation, I shorten my time horizon. I stopped looking at my life on a macro scale. I zoomed in and just focused on getting through the next hour.

I did this for 2 months.

Now, I’m trying to slowly introduce my routines back into my life. Things are still changing so quickly, I feel like the world that existed before working as a first-year teacher, grad student, and becoming a father is different than the world I’m in now. Maybe I’m just different, maybe it’s both.

🎄December – Vulnerability & Courage

Beginning of the month: I’ve missed the past two months. I was hoping that I could maintain everything while becoming a parent, but I could not keep it up. I’m learning that as a father, my actions matter more than ever so I’m getting back on the horse and paying attention to the systems I’ve developed to build myself into a better person. Starting with the themes – this month I’m trying out vulnerability and courage. One of the biggest realizations of becoming a parent is accepting the vulnerability that comes with having a child. After spending my whole life trying to make myself tougher, I discover that strength comes from accepting vulnerability and having the courage to not let it destroy you. Additionally, I need to have the courage to do a bunch of things to build a stable and fruitful world for Myla. I need the courage to start asking for what I need and relentlessly pursuing what I want. While those seem like simple things, I’ve had immense trouble being able to do those things and I see now that the price of omission is expensive and painful. Not being able to ask what I need and not being able to pursue what I want leaves me weak and I have to make up for the sins in payment that always resembles time away from my daughter.

CM: These are great lessons that I hope I can continue to call upon in 2022.

End of the month: Just like all the months before this one, I am happy to have taken the time to develop these themes. While I’m not as developed as I’d like to be, I’m in a better place than I was. Most of this year was spent running around frantically trying to find acceptance of myself so I can be a proper foundation for my daughter, and these two themes are at the heart of that. I’m learning to love my vulnerability and be unapologetic about my courage. This year was huge for me, and while I felt like there were times when all my creative pursuits were dead in the water, I learned that the human-animal loves a challenge. The human-animal needs challenge. And in those trials and tribulations, grows more to call upon when creating. So many times I felt like I was going off course, I was actually going deeper than I could fathom.

CM: Reflecting on this year showed me that reflecting on my year is crucial for my mental health, but also how I get most of my internal gains. All of the best lessons I’ve learned this year (and the ones that I attribute to my survival) have all come from serious reflection. This was a beautiful year, and I hope I can keep the growth going in 2022.

Origins and Influences of Western Education

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”

Aristotle (Greek Philosopher)

People who want to do well in school usually feel that way because they’ve been told that it’s the primary route to doing well in life.

Performance in school is usually measured by grades and those who get A’s are considered the cream of the crop. It’s no surprise that students tend to fall in love with A’s.

I know plenty of students who will do anything for the A. It’s so prevalent in society, I was able to make a profitable tutoring business based on this need with little business experience and marketing. Some students genuinely needed help, most just want the A. My tutoring is what helped me pay for college, as well as inspire my writing.

Those who are interested in a fancy career, a nice house, and respect from others are the most likely to fall in love with the A’s. Mainly because they believe that having the A’s will get them a fancy career, a nice house, and the respect they desire.

However, sometimes it doesn’t work out like that.

Sometimes people who succeed in school, fail at life.

And other times the people who failed in school, succeed in life.

The Issue with Curriculums

There are many reasons for this, but I’m going to start with the school curriculums.

Most curriculums were created for students to succeed in The World of Academics, not reversed engineered to help students succeed in The World Beyond.

The typical school curriculum is not tailored to The World Beyond and the skills needed to succeed within those curriculums are not necessarily the skills we need in everyday life.

Many students pick up on this well before they enter the job market, and educators have to dedicate a lot of energy to prove they’re teaching relevant information. Students are asking me at younger and younger ages why they have to learn what they’re being taught in school.

The worst part (in my opinion) is that as time goes on, more of the curriculums become harder to justify.

Origins and Influences of Western Education

To understand why this is the case, we’ll have to look into what influences these curriculums and why are they even being taught in the first place. After all, all institutions were brought about through tremendous effort and intentionality, and to carelessly denigrate an institution without understanding its purpose or origins increases our chances of undoing valuable work.

The education system has roots in the Industrial Revolution back in 1760. The West had a massive transformation turning their textiles, agriculture, and handcrafts into large-scale factories with machines ran by factory workers. Since there was a high demand for factory workers, the school systems were designed to educate as many people as possible with the goal of employing them at the factories.

At the time, this was a great thing. Factory jobs provided people with a higher quality of life (believe it or not) and were highly sought after. Nowadays, most people get higher education specifically to avoid those kinds of jobs.

We can still see echos of this influence just by looking at a typical school schedule:

  • Start in the AM.
  • Take your 10-minute break roughly 2-3 hours in
  • Back to work
  • Lunch around the 5th hour.
  • Work again
  • Go home.
  • Repeat.

It’s just like working at a 9-5. Just like working in the factories. (Except breaks and lunches were monitored in the factories.)

It’s not like this system wasn’t good. It was wonderful at the time. It was effective and helped launch the Western world into the marvel it is today. We would not be here without industrialization.

Without industrialization, we wouldn’t be in the Information Age – when not knowing something is a matter of choice.

Today we have the ability to learn anything at any moment and talk to anyone in the world at any time. We can know almost everything that everyone else knows in mere moments.

But the education system hasn’t been updated for this. There have been small improvements here and there, but not enough to address the issues that many students are dealing with today.

The same teaching methods are practiced year in and year out and are becoming exponentially irrelevant, especially with the growth of accessible technology and information.

There are almost no efforts to teach students more effectively and efficiently.

There have been some curriculums that are updated and more tailored to today’s dynamic and complex world, but traditions from the industrial revolution carry the most weight.

The industrial revolution wasn’t the only influence on our education system. The content which is taught has a long line of historical influence that worth’s paying attention to also.

Much of today’s school curriculums are based on the curriculums of medieval monasteries, the ideas of 19th-century German educationalists, and the concerns of aristocratic court societies.

This is why the underlying assumptions of most school curriculums are that:

1) The most important things are already known.

2) What currently is is all that could ever be.

3) Being original is dangerous.

Wrong Messages

Students are implicitly being taught that the only way to go about life is to ask permission and beg for acceptance.

Ask permission to use the restroom.

Ask permission to answer questions.

Ask permission to work at a job.

Ask permission to make money.

Ask permission to buy something.

Ask permission to make something.

Ask permission to live.

Too many people believe that you aren’t successful until someone else has given you permission to do something.

So many people believe that they’re limited by the income approved by their “boss.” Many people think their boss intrinsically knows their value and compensates them accordingly.

Too many people believe that we cannot create opportunities for ourselves.

We’re taught to deliver on expectations, not change them.

We’re taught to regurgitate ideas instead of originating them.

We’re taught to respect people in authority, rather than honestly contemplate the possibility that no one else really knows what’s going on.

There are liberating perspectives that can enrich the experience of our lives. If we search further than what our current systems are spoon-feeding us, then we will find a new and beautiful world where we can exercise our will to our fullest expression.

Critical Targets

Now, I’m not just bashing the education system with no respect or regard for its miraculous achievements. It’s incredible that we have an institution that educations its young so they can go out and be enriched and powerful.

However, there are cracks and imperfections, and given the nature of a youth’s education, the consequences are not trivial. School teaches us so much, except for two critical subjects:

How to Work – how to choose the right job for us and work in a way that doesn’t take away from our lives.

How to Love – how to form satisfactory relationships with others and ourselves.

A great education trains us to:

read well – this way we can learn and expand our understanding

write well – so we can learn to think and communicate powerfully

think critically – to think about thinking and see past the obvious

develop our characters – which determines our opportunities

build our best selves – so life is worth the pain

There is a huge need for a reversed engineered curriculum that allows students to develop skills needed for The World Beyond. Something that shows students how to be outwardly obedient, but inwardly independent.

Categories
Education Productivity

Algorithms for Every Class (Part 1)

“If you find yourself in a fair fight, you didn’t plan your mission properly.”

Colonel David Hackworth (Former United States Army Colonel & Military Journalist)

Most of the educational content on my blog is pretty specific and I wanted to try something a little different.

This post is going to be a bunch of seemingly disjointed advice, but they are connected through the idea that they work for all kinds of classes.

Beware the Curse of Knowledge

The Curse of Knowledge is something I like to keep in mind when it comes to understanding our educators and ourselves. The Curse of Knowledge is the idea that — once we know something, it’s extremely difficult for us to imagine what it’s like not to know it.

This is why a lot of educators can skip over simple concepts when teaching complicated subjects. It’s easy to assume that our understanding is the same as everyone else’s, if fact that most people’s default way of communicating. Someone who’s blinded by the Curse of Knowledge would probably think something like “This made sense to me, so it must make sense to them.”

People around us don’t know what we know and we can’t assume they do. If we find ourselves in a position to teach, then we have to make a conscious effort not to “burn down the schoolhouse” after we learn something.

Everyone Has Something to Teach

We will never go far by pre-judging people – try to learn from everyone we can. A few years ago, I adopted the idea that everyone has something to teach me and because of that I’ve made more meaningful connections and learned so many fascinating things.

Self-education is a big value of mine and it’s something that I want my students to be able to effectively participate in. The key to self-education is being open to lessons from all around us and that starts by seeing everyone as a potential source of knowledge and wisdom.

Yes, sometimes people waste my time and don’t have something to teach me, but when they do it’s incredibly delightful.

Scheduling is Most Crucial at the Beginning

I’ve written a fair bit about time management and scheduling and I highly recommend checking those posts out here, but there are a few things about scheduling that I want to mention.

Take the time to make schedules for every class. Know when and where the exams are and any significant due dates. When I was in college, I even created a separate calendar for my professor’s office hours so I could easily find out when I could see them. It’s so worth it to have easy access to all the exams and due dates as well as office hours. It makes things so much easier later and we’ll have a lot fewer surprises to deal with.

Syllabus week is a perfect time for creating these schedules and getting situated. Most students treat syllabus week and an extra vacation week but take the 2-3 hours to calibrate yourself and your calendar. Future you will thank you so much when things start getting stressful.

Additionally, the brain is more receptive to changes in schedules and habits at the beginning of every semester. So syllabus week is the time to get adjusted to the changes. Make this tiny sacrifice and the semester will be at least 10x easier, I know this from experience.

Follow the path less travelled.

Playing Teacher’s Pet

This has a bad connotation, but if we want letters of recommendation, potential job hookups after college, or mentorships it’s in our best interest to have a few strategies for being buddy-buddy with our professors. This section is more applicable for college students.

Introduce yourself to the teacher/professor, take time to get to know them, and allow them to get to know you. Do this early on in the term, but don’t just walk up, say hi, and expect them to carry the conversation. We need to take responsibility for our presence and give them something to go off of. Maybe mention a question or a genuine compliment.

Speak up. Teachers like students who are actually people. Being another person floating around in their class is a perfect plan for being forgotten. I know this because I’ve taught many classes. This will also be important for getting letters of rec. Most of the time, letters of recommendation are on statements of character, and character is built through action. Teachers and professors can only speak on who we are and that is created from what we do.

Sit in the 2nd row. Sitting in the back is too secluded and sitting in the front draws too much attention. Let’s be honest, no one likes a try-hard. Plus, the teacher would be more inclined to call on us. Sitting in the second row is conducive to paying more attention, but gives us a little more anonymity.

Get to class early and sit in the same place. Studies show that this helps with retention, plus the professor will notice who cares enough to show up early.

Two Efficiency Tips

Here are two tips that I used to manage the student-work-life balance.

Chunking – breaking big tasks into smaller tasks. This is fantastic whenever I feel overwhelmed. I used this a ton when I was doing my senior design project for my bachelor’s degree. I had to design and project costs and profits for a liquid natural gas plant. The project took the entire semester and I only got through it because of chunking.

Batching – this involves doing similar types of activities at the same time. For example, I don’t wash my clothes every time I use them. I wait until I have a critical mass, then I wash it all at once. I do this to manage my youtube channel and tutoring sessions especially. I also try to batch tutoring sessions – knock out as many of them as I can in a short amount of time rather than scattering them all throughout the week.

Combat Procrastination

Procrastination is a huge topic, but I wanted to include a few tips to help with it. I have a few posts I’ve written that cover topics surrounding procrastination, but I haven’t written a focused post about combating procrastination yet. Here’s a list of the posts that, when read together, could give us an effective arsenal for combating procrastination:

The Myth of Motivation

Relationship with Ourselves (Part 2)

Our Proclivity for Comfort

The Art of Practice

Obviously, no one’s life is going to change off a quote or a few tips, but this could be a starting point.

Pre-screen/pre-read lectures to set up purpose for each class. I used to think that when teachers and professors stated “Objectives” for each lesson was bureaucratic bullshit, but in fact it’s rooted in an idea fundamental to human existence – we are purpose driven creatures. When we do something imbued with purpose, the chatter in our minds falls away, excuses disappear, and obstacles are inconsequential. Pre-reading/pre-screening exposes us to things we don’t know which naturally brings up questions in our minds like “what is that?”, “why did that happen?”, or “what does that phrase mean?” It doesn’t have to take long either, we just need to know what to keep an eye out for when the lesson actually begins.

Just start. It’s much harder to get started than to keep going. Friction is one of the biggest contributors to procrastination and if you’re familiar with physics you know that static friction is usually higher than kinetic friction. Make it a goal to just get started and let momentum take us. It’s surprising how far we can go.

For essays, just write 50 words. In the same vein as the last tip, just getting the first 50 words down is a solid goal. Once we’ve gotten over the activation energy, other sources of motivation can take the reins. Usually when I’m having a hard time writing, I just tell myself to write for 10 minutes or just write 50 words and believe it or not, sometimes I actually forget that original goal and my new source of motivation becomes finish my thought or capturing an idea.

For math problems, just do the first 3 steps. Just like essays, just doing the first few steps can get us going, but the desire to finish what we started can take over fairly easily. When my students have a hard time with complex math problems (problems that take 5-10 steps), I usually just ask them to focus in on the step in front of them. Taking things piece by piece is a great way to get started and make serious progress. Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of small incremental improvements. Which leads me into my next tip. –

Break it down and do the easiest thing – it’s surprising how far incremental progress and momentum can take us. When we’re up against complex tasks, it’s easy to put them off simply because we don’t know where to start or because it seems too big. Breaking them down makes them manageable and conquerable.

Extra Credit

Honestly, I stole this idea from Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, but the rationale is hard to argue with. Always look for extra credit, always do extra credit. Extra credit boosts your grade way more than normal assignments do. If you don’t believe me, review adding fractions – extra credit only adds to your numerator and not to the denominator.

For example, if I had a class where my grade was 70/100 (70% a C-) and I turned in an assignment for full credit that was worth 30/30 points my grade would be 100/130, which is roughly a 77% still a C. But let’s say that assignment was extra credit (just an additional 30 points) and not part of the graded course work, then our grade would be 100/100, an A+. Regular assignments add to the numerator and denominator, while extra credit just adds to the numerator, which means extra credit is inherently more valuable than regular assignments when it comes to our grades.

Doing extra credit is a better use of our time than doing regular assignments, unless the assignment is heavily weighted.

The Relationship with Ourselves

“How can a man come to know himself? Never by thinking, but by doing. Try to do your duty and you will know at once what you are worth.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Maxims on Life and Character)

I have spent many weeks putting off writing about this topic simply because it is so big and I didn’t know where to start. I kept scrapping intro after intro because I felt like none of them could accurately express the magnitude of importance that this idea holds. I was getting frustrated because I had this huge message inside me, but I had no way of getting it out! So rather than try to build up to the idea I’m just going to start from the point I want to make and work my way around it.

The main idea is that people are relational creatures and we do not pay enough attention to our most important relationship, the relationship with ourselves.

We see it everyday, so much energy, attention, and money are dedicated to our relationships. In fact, we have entire industries built on this phenomena – therapy, self-help, sports, the arts, the list can go on forever.

We put so much care and attention into how we relate to our work or our loved ones, but rarely think about how we relate to ourselves. This is peculiar because how we relate to ourselves impacts us far greater than how we relate to anything external of ourselves. I’ve read so many different books written by people from all different time periods, and it seems like the biggest influence on our experience of reality, life satisfaction, and peace of mind is ourselves.

People are constantly looking outward to change their lives or find happiness. The inconvenient truth, is that everything we desire is within.

They tell themselves “Once I get _____” or “Once ____ is over” or “When I’m finally ____” then I can be happy.

Most of us intellectually know that this isn’t true, but to internalize it is a different story.

Our life satisfaction, our abilities to take on new things, and potential opportunities are all dictated by how we know ourselves.

We all have feelings and thoughts about ourselves that we do not share with other people and these patterns control our orienting reflexes. People are purpose driven creatures and I talk a little bit about how we need to track things in order to succeed, but the relationship with ourselves decides what we believe we can even keep track of at all.

The relationship with ourselves is the sum total of all our achievements and failures that we observe in ourselves. We subconsciously keep score of everything. Every time we said we were going to do something but didn’t creates a relationship with ourselves that suggests we aren’t reliable. Every time we’ve done the impossible and surprised ourselves with our abilities creates a relationship with ourselves that proves we can do amazing things in the face of adversity.

Everything we do is kept record.

Christians believe that God is watching them always. I believe that we were made in God’s image and it is not only God always watching but it is the god within ourselves that is always watching. Regardless of religious affiliation, we are the only ones who have been with us since the beginning.

No one understands the experiences and situations we have been in better than ourselves and it is through this understanding which we develop the relationship with ourselves.

Who we know ourselves to be is not based in what we say to other people, but how we feel about ourselves. Our perspectives of ourselves is the only thing that has truly been with us through all of our situations. This part of ourselves keeps score, it pays attention to what we have and haven’t done and casts projects of what we can and cannot do. How we relate to ourselves dictates our orienting reflexing and ultimately our lives.

Imagine that you’re planning to meet a friend for dinner. You plan to meet them at the restaurant, but they don’t show up. You try getting in touch with them, but they’re dodging your calls. Eventually, you get a hold of them and they give some weak excuse that barely explains why they couldn’t show up. You just got let down. Your friend did not fulfil what they committed to you. Naturally, we’d feel disappointed and upset, but the real truth is we will forever see that friend as less reliable and accountable. Their word has taken a slight dip in believability and the person can no longer be counted on as much as they were before. It can seem harsh, but it’s the truth. Now, the real kicker is that we can replace that unreliable friend with ourselves.

We rarely pay attention to the expectations and commitments we put onto ourselves. Partly because we like to think as long as only I know, then it didn’t really happen. However, the feelings associated with that unreliable friend can easily be put onto ourselves if we pull the same stunt. Our self-esteem, self-efficacy, confidence, ambition, life satisfaction is a direct result of this. It’s easy to put things onto others and it’s even easier to put things on ourselves, but sometimes we tend not to notice the relationship with ourselves.

In a world of legally mandated education, I’ve noticed a lot of students wondering why they’re forced to learn and work on countless “pointless” concepts and it’s a fair argument. Most of the concepts and “education” people recieve is only useful in an academic setting and rarely applicable in The World Beyond. Admittedly the education system, at least in the United States, needs a ton of rework. However, there is something invaluable we can get from our education.

Our current education system provides students with an opportunity for them to prove to themselves what kind of person they are.

Are you the kind of person who gets things done when the going gets tough or do you quit the first chance you get?

The relationship with ourselves is always transforming and refining with every situation we encounter. Since most kids spend most of their time at school or working on their education, a large portion of the relationship with themselves is rooted in how they handled their academic responsibilities.

We can choose who we are, but first we need to discover what our relationship with ourselves is like. We can ask ourselves the follow questions to get a quick snapshot of what our relationship might look like:

What degree is it damaged?

What can we do to make it better?

Do we trust ourselves?

Do we believe we are capable of helping ourselves?

What kind of person do we think we are?

What kind of person are we actually?

The good news is we can build the relationship with ourselves no matter where we are. First we have to know what our relationship is like for ourselves, then work on ways to prove to ourselves that we are the kind of person that we want to be.

This starts with our integrity and identity.

Integrity

A common definition of integrity is what you do when no one is looking. People who having integrity are typically considered moral and trustworthy because we know that even behind closed doors they will still make the right choices. This definition of integrity is fantastic and if we see it through the lense of the relationship with ourselves, we will see that integrity is important because we, us, ourselves, are always looking. We constantly are watching us and we know how we would act behind closed doors. People with integrity have a healthy and strong relationship with themselves because they know exactly what kind of choices they will make.

There’s another definition that I believe is much more useful and powerful. Integrity is also known as a state of being whole or undivided. Every commitment we break, to others or ourselves, puts a little crack in our integrity. Every aspect of our lives that is not aligned with our chosen commitments also puts a little crack in our integrity.

When our integrity is not perfectly whole, we are prone to negative emotion and lose the ability to live in the present. This creates intense dissatisfaction with our lives.

Living with perfect integrity is better than anything we can ever experiences. It’s comparable to true peace of mind and contentment. It is our goal to seek out what does not make us whole and undivided and reorient that part of our lives so it serves us, or at least does not hold back. When we have perfect integrity, the relationship with ourselves is pristine. We get out of our own way and become our biggest ally.

When we have a commitment, or vision for our lives, we create a value structure which deams certain actions as “good” (they bring us closer to our goals) or “bad” (they bring us away from our goals). When we stay on the path, so to speak, we are operating with perfect integrity and are creating a positive and powerful relationship with ourselves. If we were to stray off the path, make a “bad” decision, we won’t be able to have perfect integrity until we make up for the damage done. In a Judeo-Christian context, this can be seen as atonement – at one, at return to a state of wholeness.

States of Moral Trajectory

I believe this is why the world religions have this mechanism built into their structure. Human beings must stay on a path towards something they find valuble. This is clear when we have a goal or a commitment. However, sometimes we may choose to act in a way that does not align with that path.

In archery, they call missing the mark a sin. In a religious context, they say not staying on the path is a sin. I’m saying that from the perspective of developing a relationship with ourselves, not saying on the path is a sin, in the technical sense of the word.

When we sin, we must correct our trajectory in order to return to the path. The world religions have their own ways for doing this, but I believe they all contain the same basic mental exercises.

In order to restore integrity we must:

  1. Admit that we have missed the mark
  2. Understand the impact of our sin to the highest degree that we are capable
  3. Discover methods to make up for the sin
  4. Implement those methods in the real world

This can look an infinite amount of ways. In the future, I’ll write more about integrity because I feel like it is one of those HUUUGE ideas that could make a significant positive impact in many people’s lives.

Kintsugi – Japanese Art of Scars & Repair

Living with perfect integrity requires us to clearly understand what our values, goals, and commitments are. This is not an easy task, and many people love to not clearly articulate themselves so they can escape the responsibility of paying attention to their actions. I talk about this idea in a few of my posts, but it first came up in The Reality-Possibility Exchange.

If we could be honest with ourselves and understand our commitments, we know when we’re doing something right and when we’re doing something wrong. If we pay enough attention, there is a specific moment when we decide to do the wrong thing. There is an actual second that we can point to on a clock when we decide to not follow through on our commitment. Pay attention and you will notice it when it comes. What we decide to do in that moment determines the relationship with ourselves.

Identity

I talk more about identity in my posts, Utilizing Our Identities and The Brain vs. The Mind (Part 2). In these posts, I talk about the utility in understanding our identities and how we can use that knowledge to design and build the lives we desire.

Our identity, in terms of the relationship to ourselves, is how we understand ourselves to be. We know what we like or don’t like. We understand what we are skilled in and what we are ignorant of. We know ourselves as a certain kind of person.

Our identity is one of the strongest motivational forces and determines what our goals and aims are. Our identity shapes our ideals and the paths we walk towards them.

No matter what we declare our identity to be, we can act out of line and define ourselves whenever we want. This is a turbulent process which comes with its own set of stages, but it can be done. Our identities aren’t permanent, not until we’re dead.

Don’t sacrifice who you could be for who you are now.

Our identity is closely related to our integrity. We see all of our own actions and know all of our own thoughts. Our identity is built from our integrity. If we aren’t following through on our commitments and projects, then we are supplying proof to ourselves that we aren’t trustworthy and reliable. Creating an identity of being unreliable prevents us from creating an identity of someone admirable or virtuous.

The game is pretty rough, but it’s what we all have to play. It’s play the game (whatever game you choose) and play it well, or know yourself as a loser.

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones Season 1 Episode 7)

We try hard to stick to the identity we give ourselves simply because we hate being wrong and what’s worse than being wrong about who we are? Additionally, our identities are usually justified by the people around us. Our friends and family members will consistently remind us of how we are this kind of person or that kind of person. Their perceptions of your identity are just as malleable as our own. Our identities are never permanent in our minds or in the minds of others.

Consistency & Toughness

Life is hard, but we’re tougher than we think, the only issue is that we have to prove it to ourselves. How do we prove it to ourselves? Through consistent action.

Consistency is key to building a relationship with ourselves and it’s also key to building a lasting and formidable identity. Developing a relationship with ourselves is much like developing a relationship with another person, it takes a lot of time. So we need to create consistent action to create ample proof that we are who we think we are. However, unlike relationships with other people, the relationship with ourselves is 20% discovery and 80% creation. Relationships with other people tend to be 80% discovery, and 20% creation.

We need toughness because relationships are hard work and working over the long term will require us to be tough. A lot of early life relationships end because people don’t have the toughness to deal with the challenges of intertwining the life of another. The unique part about this relationship is we can never leave it! We are always going to be in a relationship with ourselves and it’s damn hard to craft it into something steadfast and powerful.

Lev Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development

A couple tips for developing toughness – do not say things that make you weak. You are listening to yourself when you speak, and if you say you’re weak then you’ll listen and internalize it. Be mindful of the comments we make about ourselves. Also, try operating in your Zone of Proximal Development. It’s an excellent way to grow yourself in any domain of life you choose.

Grit

This is the difference between success and failure in terms of someone reaching their full potential. The “talentless” can surpass the naturally gifted individuals and reach unimaginable heights as long as they cultivate the grit within them.

According to wikipedia – grit is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s perseverance of effort combined with the passion for a particular long-term goal or end state (a powerful motivation to achieve an objective). It is the key to stellar performance in any field and the best part is anyone can create it within themselves. The simplest way I think about grit is as passionate persistence.

Renowned scholar and author, Angela Duckworth wrote a book appropriately titled “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” and has a TedTalk which has over 6 million views on YouTube in which she gives a fantastic overview of grit and how we can use it be reach out full potential.

The reason why I bring up grit now is because the key to understanding grit and using it to our advantage is to know ourselves as someone with high levels of grit.

Developing a relationship with ourselves where we are full of grit and cultivating an identity that matches can give us full proof armor when we encounter difficulties such as The Attack, or what Steven Pressfield describes as Resistance in his book, The War of Art.

Grit can be thought of as having 5 characteristics. Focusing on developing each of these characteristics in ourselves will help us cultivate grit as a whole.

The 5 Characteristics of Grit

Courage – developing courage does not mean ridding ourselves of fear, it means to accept the fear within us and act anyway. In order to create a relationship with myself in which I know myself to be courageous, then I have to pay attention during the times when I’m more afraid, decide what they best course of action is, and take it. No withdrawing or freezing in hopes that things will go away on their own.

Conscientiousness: Achievement Oriented vs. Dependable – being conscientious a useful trait to develop within ourselves because conscientious people work like mad. Knowing ourselves as someone who is focused on achievement and dependable makes us invaluable in any industry at any level. Conscientious people tend to rise to the level of expectation, but only because they prove to themselves that they can over and over. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they laid bricks every hour.

Long-Term Goals and Endurance: Follow Through – nothing is worthwhile without follow through in the long term. Things that take longer are usually better and designing our lives is a long game. We need to be able to know ourselves as people who can follow through even if they goal is years down the line. We need to know that we can maintain vision over the long term. Sometimes I think that the true test of success is just maintaining the vision over the trials and tribulations.

Resilience: Optimism, Confidence, and Creativity – we will encounter hardship and challenges that rival our wildest dreams. The only way through it is knowing ourselves as resilient. If we know we have what it takes to get through it, then we will. The only thing is that we’ll need to know how to get through most challenges. Knowing ourselves as optimistic will help us keep faith and push forward. Knowing ourselves as confident will give us the willingness to push the boundaries into unexplored territory. Dragons lay in the unknown, but so does treasure! Knowing ourselves as creative will give us the means to solve some of life’s toughest puzzles – the challenges which impede us from obtaining the life of our own design.

Excellence vs. Perfection – excellence is a difficult idea to wrap our head around without tangling it up with perfection. If we know ourselves as perfectionists, or someone who produces perfect work, then we are frozen forever. Our super egos would be too strict and that would leave no room for any kind of action. However, if we know ourselves as excellent, or someone who produces excellent work, then we will inevitably put our best effort into everything we do. Going the extra mile is only tough if you don’t normally do it.

Self-Efficacy

The relationship we have with ourselves can be reflected in our self-efficacy. Selfefficacy refers to an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments (Bandura, 1977, 1986, 1997). It reflects confidence in the ability to exert control over one’s own motivation, behavior, and social environment.

If we have a powerful relationship with ourselves and know ourselves to follow through on our commitments, then we will have high self-efficacy.

If we have an unstable relationship with ourselves and we know ourselves as wishy-washy, then we’ll have a low self efficacy.

Components of Self-Efficacy

Remember, part of us is always keeping score and self-efficacy is the part that controls our confidence and willingness to try new and difficult things.

Now, this is not the same as self-esteem. Self-esteem is more like the amount of self-respect we have rather than confidence in our ability to perform. Self-esteem is important too, but self-efficacy is what I believe really controls the trajectory of our lives.


There is more I’d like to go over when it comes to the relationship with ourselves, but I’m going to cut it off here for now. How we treat ourselves and how we act affects us. All. The. Time. The relationship with ourselves is a part of our lives that doesn’t get as much attention as it should, especially considering that it determines the majority of our life outcome.

Love yourself. Trust yourself. Push yourself. Earn yourself.

Our Unconscious Filters

“If you judge a man, do you judge him when he is wrapped in a disguise?”

Seneca (4 BC – 65 AD)

The mind has a few habits that we should pay attention to when we are trying to maximize our learning. Everyone is susceptible to these thought patterns and it would be advantageous to find where these patterns occur within our own lives. Without understanding these habits we could subconsciously close ourselves off to information that could be important to our education. I like to refer to these habits of the mind as Cognitive Biases. Officially, they can be thought of as systematic errors in thinking as a result of subjective perception. Cognitive Biases act as filters between us and the outside world. We view the world through whichever lense our minds naturally applies to a situation. If we don’t see the world objectively, then we see the world through our biases and that can prevent us from learning information that we don’t know we need. Understanding our cognitive biases, or unconscious filters, is our best shot at keeping them at bay so we can be best prepared for the worst that Fortuna has to throw at us. (I’ve been reading a lot of stoic philosophers recently)

Understanding these biases helps with critical thinking development. We all have biases and it’s difficult, maybe impossible, to remove them completely, but we can develop more reliable ways of learning through our bias. This could be achieved through seeking out people who will challenge and critique our ideas. Not learning about our own biases will keep us in a bubble. Our minds will filter out important information because we believe it to be useless. Through understanding our biases of the world and ourselves, our education falls into our control rather than having our minds unconsciously run the show.

Cognitive Bias (2020) – Christopher S. Mukiibi

Types of Cognitive Bias

Below are a few examples of cognitive biases that, if understood well, could help us maximize our learning and make our minds an ally rather than an enemy:

Disconfirmation Principle

This principle describe the phenomena where people tend to accept new information that support their already held beliefs, and are more likely to refuse new information that challenge their beliefs.

I try to pay attention to any current beliefs that I have now and what new information I quickly reject because it doesn’t align with my beliefs. Just because something supports what we already believe doesn’t mean it’s true or that it will help us. It’s important for us to do a detached analysis of all the information we are presented with. Its healthy to keep a small degree of skepticism, but it’s useful to consider that we may just be dismissing something simply because we don’t agree.

Confirmation Bias

This describes the tendency to interpret new information as evidence to support your already existing beliefs.

This is different than disconfirmation principle. Confirmation bias is saying that we will look at information and try to make it support our already held beliefs. This is dangerous because it can lead to overconfidence and overconfidence can tank our test scores and lead us to make terrible decisions. The overconfidence comes from seeing constant validations everywhere we go. Thinking that everything supports our ideas can delude us into thinking that we always come to correct conclusions. It is important to be aware of this “mind habit” and remain objective, as we can be, when obtaining new knowledge.

Belief Preservation

The tendency to keep believing an initial belief even after receiving new information that contradicts or disproves the initial belief.

This reminds me of a mentally ill patient I once had who honestly thought the sky was green. When we took her outside, she saw that the sky was grey (it was raining that day) and refused to believe that the sky wasn’t green. Now it’s easy to think that since she’s not completely alert and oriented, she’s not going to follow the same conventions as everyone else but even if we are open minded, we have a natural tendency to keep holding on to our beliefs even if everything around us tells us were wrong. The best way to prevent belief preservation from hindering our growth is to recognize it’s there when it comes up and try to look at new information regardless of your personal feelings.

Conviction Bias

This bias is best summed up with the statement “I believe it strongly, so it must be true.”

We are so strongly captured by some of our beliefs that we mistake them to be truth. In order to remain open, we must constantly question the beliefs we tend to hold as truths. (I do think a little too often sometimes and wonder if I’m crazy but there is an optimal balance to be achieved) We cannot become too attached to our beliefs. Who we are and what we believe do not have to be the same thing. Learning something to be false that we believe so strongly has a punishing feel and has consequences deeper than we can see. It’s totally possible to be so rooted in our ways that we sacrifice who we could be for who we are.

Appearance Bias

This has less to do with incoming information and more to do with people that we encounter. This bias describes the assumption that we know and understand the people that we deal with and that we see them for who we are.

It is important to understand that we do not see people for who there are, but we see them as they appear to us. It’s a great piece of knowledge to bring with you throughout life but can also bring us success in the academic world. Do not think that you know a teacher, or a professor, or a student based on what you can see. Everyone is just as, or even more, complicated as you. Keep an open mind and notice when you start to think that you have someone figured out. They may know something you don’t and that knowledge may bring you incredible insights into the world. In order to maintain a grip on my appearance bias, I try to listen to people as if they always have something they can teach me.

Group Bias

This is regarding the lie we tell ourselves when we are in groups; we have our own ideas and don’t listen to the opinions of a group. Within a group, our thoughts are rarely our own, but are of the group and its very likely that the group will come to a conclusion that is incorrect. We are social creature and NEED to conform. This is the basis for groupthink and group polarization and can lead to dangerous outcomes. This is not to say that group work isn’t great. We can get far more done as a group than as an individual, but that trade isn’t for free. We sacrifice a bit of autonomy and individualized thinking.

Group bias is something we should look out for when we are group studying or working on group projects. Make sure that the group does not lead you astray by learning incorrect information. Its very easy to think that you understand a concept because you understand how the group looks at it, but it’s very possible that everyone in the group is incorrect. Group bias and confirmation bias can be a deadly combination, I learned this lesson the hard way when I took Physical Chemistry at Cal State Long Beach. I studied with a group and we all thought we understood what was going on, but we all ended up failing the test.

Blame Bias

The idea that we pretend that we learn from our mistakes but actually hate to look at our imperfections closely, which limits our ability for introspection and reflection.

Learning from our mistakes is usually the best way to learn anything but keep in mind that we cannot learn from our mistakes all on our own. It’s best to look to someone who knows more about your endeavor so they can help you explore why you made those mistakes in the first place. We all have blind spots and we need others to help us see them. We are a social creature after all! Additionally, being aware of this bias allows you to have a slightly deeper insight into your errors than you naturally would have.

Superiority Bias

The idea that we believe that we are different, more rational, and more ethical than other people.

Most people probably wouldn’t say this out loud but deep down we believe it. This is why we get so upset when we see other people make dumb mistakes or think “everyone else” is so terrible. It is important to keep in mind that we are more similar to other people than different and pitfalls that most people can fall into are probably a danger to us as well. Everyone believes that they are smart, capable, independent, and good. Keep in mind that you are not as superior as you might think and you will go very far in life and in learning. Humility removes a lot of unnecessary friction and coming to terms with our own delusions of grandiosity helps with our progress.

Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE)

When we attribute other people’s errors to internal factors, and our own errors to external factors.

An example of this would be when someone cuts you off while driving. It’s easy to think that they cut you off because they are a terrible person. But if you were the one who would have cut them off, it would have been because “you had to” or “you were in a rush” and it’s not because you are bad person. FAE is a type of Self-Serving Bias, which are a set of biases that protect our self esteem or where we see ourselves in an overly favorable manner. Knowing this can help you be more patient with others and you can catch yourself when you start to think that one of your mistakes may be due to outside circumstances.

Neglect of Probability

The tendency to disregard probability when making a decision under uncertainty.

During my time in school I’ve always wondered why I had to learn something and didn’t bother learning a lot of it because I figured that most of that information would never come up. Turns out, I used more of it than I expected, like all the advanced math I use daily because I’m a math tutor. When we’re presented with new information we make a choice to learn it based on if we think it will be useful to us in the future, but this bias demonstrates that we naturally disregard actual the probability that it can come up again. It’s difficult to predict if it will come up at all and if we knew the probability, chances are we’d ignore the raw data and believe what makes feel good. This is true not just with learning but with many of the decisions of our lives. We should try to think about how often we may need the information we may learn and not be satisfied with a surface level analysis or even with what other people will tell us. Academic topics taught earlier on are taught for a reason and topics later will very likely build upon the assumption that you proficiently learned all of the topics prior, and the answers to the problems of life require a sophisticated synthesis of all the information you’ve been exposed to and internalized.

Availability Heuristic

We determine how likely something is by how easily we can recall events of it happening in our brain.

An example of this would be a medical assistant who is working in a stroke center believes that strokes occur more often than they actually do because they can remember many instances when someone had a stroke. Another could be a psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD can easily view a patient’s pathologies and conclude ADHD because they believe it is highly probable that the patient has ADHD, but the psychiatrist only believes that ADHD is highly probable because he can recall many events of people having ADHD. Just because we can recall an event easily, doesn’t mean it has a high probability of occuring often.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

This is a theory that suggests people tend to believe their cognitive ability is higher than it actually is.

My explanation above suggests the relationship between knowledge and perceived ability is linear but it’s more nuanced. As we learn more about a subject, our perceptions adjust from the initial ignorant and confident position following the graph below. I love graphs because they explain concepts better than I can with words.

Confidence vs. Knowledge of Field based on Dunning-Kruger

Priming Bias

Our tendency to be included by what someone else as said or made to create a preconceived idea.

This happens to me all the time with meal ideas. Someone will mention an In-N-Out double double in a conversation and a few hours later if someone else asks me what I want to eat, I’ll say I want a double double from In-N-Out and I will have completely believed this was my own idea. This is a big reason why I try to limit my social media use, I don’t like the idea that my thoughts could be decided by someone else’s poorly thought-through comment or that the standards for my life and myself could be created by other people’s standards. Our ideas aren’t always our own, and it’s useful to recognize that.

Hindsight Bias

Also known as the “I-knew-it-all-along” effect which is our tendency to see events in the past as highly predictable.

Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s easy to wonder why we didn’t act differently when we were younger. “Last year, I couldn’t have even fathom the depths of my ignorance” is the phrase I’m telling myself every year and I tend to be a harsh judge of younger Chris’ choices. The truth is, in the present moment it’s difficult to know which is the path most aligned with our Jungian Self. When we reflect back on our decisions, it’s important to keep that in mind that our past selves were trying to make the best choices they could at the time, unless you know they weren’t. Hindsight bias makes the past make sense and with the knowledge comes a harsh judgment on our past selves. Hindsight bias gets in the way of compassion for yourself and can distort your narrative. Watch it closely, we never really knew it all along.


A big part of managing cognitive biases is taking a little extra time to recognize the patterns and reevaluating what we really think about something. Cognitive biases are strong forces in the mind, but we can overcome them by taking a little time and slowing down.

There are a huge number of cognitive biases that can help you with your learning and life in general and I recommend taking time to learn more of them. These were just a few of the biases that I have found relevant to student success and my own life. Understanding these biases, or “mind habits,” will give us power over our natural tendencies to filter information. Be aware of them when they come up and approach all new knowledge with an open mindset and healthy skepticism.