THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING

This-Changes-Everything-1080One of the best compliments I ever received was from a student and colleague who noted, “When you get a new piece of information, you get excited. You’ll say, ‘Don’t you understand…this changes everything?!!!” I think what he meant was that when I get a new piece of information, it changes everything for me….eventually.

While I periodically get enthusiastic about change, my disorder makes change very challenging. Times change, and I’m left behind. This means if I’m going to keep up with the times, I have to be ahead of them.

But I can only be ahead of them in spirit, the body changes too slowly…at least for now. But the prediction of where things will likely go helps those of us who are little slower catch up. And this all leaves me with a very important question, “Where are things going?” (More importantly – to me- where am I going?)

When I can make a somewhat educated guess as to where things are going, I can start work on moving in that direction. Since I move a bit slower than most (both literally and metaphorically), I need a head start. I usually need that head start in any direction.

An example direction is Martial Arts. There have been three trends that have emerged since I’ve been practicing BJJ. I’ve tried to stay ahead of all three.

The first was the movement away from the Gi. It’s only now with the popularity of EBI, 10PJJ, and the DDS (these acronyms mean something to BJJ players) that No Gi is emerging as a distinct practice. I saw it early (Marcelo @ ADCC and at my home Dojo) and 2.5 years after I started (over 10 years ago), I took off the Gi and haven’t consistently put it back on since.

The next trend that emerged in BJJ (which is in full force now) is the practice of leg locks. While I have never been interested in becoming a leg lock specialist, I did start becoming more versed in their use. I watched videos, bought books, and started rolling with leg lockers.

The final trend that has yet to surface in BJJ but I believe ultimately will is wrestling. Fundamental wrestling shuts down many submissions. And wrestling wins nearly every position.

No Gi, Leg Locks, and Wrestling has and will change everything in BJJ. But what clued me in to that? Why did I think that those things changed everything?

I thought No Gi, Leglocks, and Wrestling changed BJJ because I saw how their players fared against traditional BJJ players. I saw how the practice of each of those demonstrated dominance. While I only saw No Gi players, leg lockers, and wrestlers show up occasionally, the effect was undeniable.

Others saw the same thing I did…but where I saw the future, they saw an anomaly. You have to understand the scope of this, though. These were just a few data points.

These three trends were previously only personified. They were three solitary datums. But I knew that they wouldn’t be solitary for long.

When I saw the three trends first emerge, there was resistance to their practice. They weren’t looked at as trends. They were looked at as trendy, a novelty.

Each time the trend reappeared, it became easier for people to accept that this new thing was here to stay. And the new somehow subsumed the old. Those people who wouldn’t accept the new either left or became a relic of the past.

While we don’t identify as such, we’re all more naturally conservative than progressive. We want to conserve what was before more so than we want to progress past it. While some things are timeless and remain, those things are in the minority.

The natural order is change. In order to orient towards the future, we have to be on the constant lookout for what will change everything. Most things that are new won’t be catalysts.

But when we see something new that puts a chink in the armor of the old, we have to pay attention – very close attention – to understand the scope of that change. For every bit of change we see, we get more insight into what actually works. And we better understand what changes everything…and the personal work it takes to change.

WHY FEDERER?

federer-australian-open-2017-sunday-1I think it’s undebatable that Roger Federer has proven himself to the be the best (male) tennis player of all time. Why is he the best? What is it about him (physically) that has allowed him to amass the most grand slams wins of all time?

We could (and should) look at athletic attributes like accuracy. He is among the most accurate (1st & 2nd serve %s, unforced errors, etc) of all male tennis players. And accuracy is of prime import in all sports.

Federer is fairly fast. While he is fast, he’s certainly not at the top tier of speed. He has good foot work, though…and we’ll see this technical expertise across all aspects of his game.

Why is Federer the best of all time? Is it his: forehand, backhand, serve, return of serve, lack of unforced errors, or his footwork? I don’t believe it’s any of those things.

I look at athletes through a Biomechanic’s and Anatomist’s eyes. And Federer looks very different than other tennis players. The easy comparison is Rafael Nadal.

Half of Rafa’s body – even his face – is “muscular-ized.” Federer almost looks devoid of muscle. He is muscularly unbound.

So how did someone so un-muscular as Federer become the best tennis player of all time? Whenever you think of tennis, you may not think of muscle, but what about Serena Williams?

Or from an earlier era, Andre Agassi, or even earlier Martina Navratilova? Pete Sampras had quite a bit more muscle than Roger, too.

He doesn’t have much muscle, but what about height? There are people with greater height (Federer is only 6’1”). Surely reach plays a factor. Nope, nothing special about his wingspan.

The fact that Federer isn’t heavily muscled, particularly tall, and not the best in any one area tells us a few things about why he’s the GOAT in tennis. What if not being the best at any one thing…is the key to being the best? From a BioMechanical POV, I think that’s exactly right.

Whenever we’re the best at any one thing, we favor that one thing. We do it more. And whatever we do the most, changes us the most.

Our body’s tissues adapt to make the movements we make easier and the rest of the movements harder. To have an incredible serve requires us to siphon motion from other parts of our game. A well rounded game leads to a well balanced body.

And a well balanced body allows for longevity. And that’s what really makes Federer the GOAT. He’s had more opportunities to win because he’s been injured less while playing much more. The lesson is this: Aim towards being better at everything not just the being best at any one thing…and you’re one step closer to being the GOAT.

A.I. & BioFeedback

AI

Artificial Intelligence has a long (fictional) history of being something to fear. The machines will rise up, take over, and our place at the top of the food chain will be over.

But is that the trajectory of AI? Being that we don’t have much of a mind for math, statistics, or the future, it’s hard to predict. I like all of those things so I’m going to make a prediction of the trend of AI.

That trend is based on the history of not just artificial intelligence, but intelligence itself. We’ll start with defining our terms. We need a better understanding of artificial and intelligence…and we can’t forget BioFeedback.

Artificial refers to something man made, not nature made. Intelligence is a little more difficult to define. But we’re going to use a familiar set of terms to aid our definition.

BioFeedback refers to how sensation and motion feed back into each other and affect each other. We define how intelligent someone is (there are multiple intelligences as Gardner delineates) by how much someone can sense and/or how much someone can act. Common sense (intelligence) refers to how many average functions one can do or sense.

Many of us wouldn’t think of a high level athlete as intelligent, we may describe them as physically gifted, but there is such as thing as physical or motor intelligence with many different physical subdomains, as well. But we do think of someone who is a whiz with numbers or language as intelligent. But being numerate or literate are just types of intelligence…not the whole of it.

Whenever we broaden our definition of intelligence, it allows us to further simplify it. Intelligence isn’t just about knowing, it’s also about doing. That’s where BioFeedback comes in.

BioFeedback is about how sensation and action affect each other in a biological system. They inform each other. When I do this, it feels this way. When I feel this way, I should do this thing.

But to classify AI, we need to brake this model apart into sensation or knowing, and action or doing. There are some AI that focus on knowing. There are some that focus on doing…and they’re both intelligent.

Whenever we see an AI who can do more than us in a particular area, we get scared. This computer can beat our best chess player.  Scary.

But we often forget that is what technology is all about. Technology is about building levers to help us do what we already do…better. A screwdriver can turn a screw better than we can with just our hands.

In much the same way, Google can compile and search through data much faster (and more often than not accurately) than we can. It’s another example of technology doing what we do…only better. Is this really what we’re scared of?

We’re scared of being totally dominated by one entity. We’re scared that there is going to be one technological super organism that can do more and know more than us. There is a risk of that.

But we haven’t built AI to be centralized. In Kevin Kelly’s book, THE INEVITABLE, he makes note that AI is decentralized. We’re making individual devices smarter.

And we’re making them smarter for a simple reason – to better suit us. Machines are extensions of us, not entirely separate. We’re worried about machines connecting to each other, yet that is not AI’s trajectory.

AI’s trajectory is to better connect to us. And if we can better connect to AI, we can better connect to ourselves. AI isn’t going to take us over, it’s going to help us get over.

With AI, our NI (natural intelligence) will grow allowing us to do more and know more than ever before. How can I make that prediction? Because that what’s always happened.

A FORMULA REFORMULATED

slide_5When I was in a high school physics class, I was introduced to GFS. That acronym stood for Given, Find, Solution. Our teacher added to it.

He changed it to GFAS. The A stood for Approach. I’d like to build and add to that.

I’d like the A to actually stand for Approaches. And I’d like to add another letter, R, which stands for “Results.” But we need to add one more letter, as well.

The last letter I want to add is P. P stands for Problem. A problem is what we start with.

PGFARS unpacks to Problem, Given, Find, Approaches, Results, Solution. The reason why we have a formula is that we have a problem. Whenever we have problem, we start with what we know.

What we know is what’s “Given.” Find doesn’t refer to just finding the ultimate solution, it refers to finding what we’re solving for, the unknown variable, often referred to as “x.” My teacher’s inclusion was Approach…which is refined to Approaches.

When we’re trying to solve for the unknown variable, we hopefully have multiple approaches we can take. We need to enumerate them. And we also need to record the results.

One of the reasons why we need to record our results, or show our results, is to show our work. We need to see if we’ve made an error in our calculations. And once we see we didn’t, we can move on to the next approach.

One of those approaches will result in a solution. And I’ve found it’s easiest to find a solution when we define our problem, note what’s given, or what we know, about the problem, and show our work through multiple approaches. A good result is often the result of a good formula, like PGFARS.  Solve away!

THE BIGGEST LEVER

archimedes-300x224At our BioChemistry course, one of the highlights was the delineation of bodily functions. One more of the macro end, certain functions were enumerated. Included in that list were functions such as breathing, hydrating, sleeping, and eating.

These were ordered in terms of how long you could go without them. Breathing was numbered first, of course. But this wasn’t the only way they were classified.

Another way to look at functions is through the lens of leverage. Which functions have more leverage over the others? Which functions change others the most?

In his book, OUTLIERS, Malcolm Gladwell highlights the unusual degree of health of the members of a community. Researchers tried to ascertain what was behind their robust health. They started with the usual suspects.

It wasn’t what they ate or didn’t eat. It wasn’t what they drank or didn’t drink. It wasn’t their work or the work they didn’t do.

It all came down to one term in the first sentence. Community. The social function was the lever behind the extraordinary health of this community…and we explain why this is the case.

There aren’t that many ways to breathe, or to meet your necessity for atmosphere, especially oxygen. There are a few more ways to drink, or to deliver water into your system. While there are phases for sleep, and all are necessary, there aren’t many variations to meet that necessity.

And when it comes to eating, in the microscopic way, you need the macronutrients of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. You also require a host of micronutrients which are usually present in nutrient rich foods. And while there are many ways to move, each musculoskeletal movement is easily enumerated and measured.

But when we look at the magnitude of social relationships, and the fact that a functional social group can number up to 150 people, and all the numerous 1 on 1 relationships as well as smaller group relationships that can form, it’s no wonder that socialization is such a protective factor…compared to the rest of our functions. In number, social functions dwarf all other functions.

It’s for that reason that our social competence and practice should be just as important if not more important than diet, exercise, and sleep. Being social is not only what keeps us alive, being social is what makes a life. A life shared with others is a life lived best.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

what does it all mean - spiritual and philosophical question in vintage wooden letterpress prinitng blocks isolated on white

I have heard brains referred to as meaning making machines. They are…at least part of them. While there are redundancies across the hemispheres, there are also specializations.

One of the things the right side specializes in is forming a narrative, or making meaning out of an experience. This is what makes life worth living to many of us, the meaning of it all. Some will say that life has no meaning other than what we give it. I disagree.

In EVOLUTION, A NEW TESTAMENT, I argue that what makes life worth living are the forces that shaped us. And if you look at things that make your life worth living, it’s likely to be one, if not all of those forces. We often review these when we go through big life events.

When you’re in the midst of a big life change, it can be hard to make sense of it, much less take meaning from it. And often that change comes along with a commensurate degree of the negative. And it’s easy to become focused on what’s negative.

As an autistic, I’m particularly good at seeing what’s bad and getting looped into it. That loop leads to a spiral. That spiral is often downwards in direction.

To switch directions requires us to switch perspectives. When change comes along, it’s impossible for it to be all bad. While we lose the ability to do what we did before, it leads us to a new question.

“What can I do?” That’s the question that I advocate we ask the most often. But when we have life upending events, it calls for a refinement if that question.

“What can I do now?” Or even better, “What can I do now…that I couldn’t do before?” The answer to this questions offers us a way out.

It offers us a way out of thinking about what we can’t do. And it offers us a way out of feeling the pain of that functional loss. It not only offers us a way out, it offers us a way forward.

Life events change us, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse…but no change leaves us entirely less than before. Life changes aren’t just external changes, they’re internal, as well. That’s why it is imperative to ask, “What can I do now that I couldn’t before?”

That may require to look back at things you couldn’t do before…but wanted to. Or the answer may be things you wanted for your future. Or the answer may be something you haven’t considered yet.

What you can no longer do is no longer your direction, your way out. But what you can do that you couldn’t do before is your new direction. Do the new and you displace the pain of past loss and future lost…with the joy of the future gained.