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MIT: PE.910 Physical Intelligence

Time to go to school:

Take MIT’s course PE.910 Physical Intelligence online, FOR FREE!!!!!!

Course Description

“For all of the bodies attached to the many great minds that walk the Institute’s halls, in the work that goes on at MIT the body is present as an object of study, but is all but unrecognized as an important dimension of our intelligence and experience. Yet the body is the basis of our experience in the world; it is the very foundation on which cognitive intelligence is built. Using the MIT gymnastics gym as our laboratory, the Physical Intelligence activity will take an innovative, hands-on approach to explore the kinesthetic intelligence of the body as applicable to a wide range of disciplines. Via exercises, activities, readings and discussions designed to excavate our physical experience, we will not only develop balance, agility, flexibility and strength, but a deep appreciation for the inherent unity of mind and body that suggests physical intelligence as a powerful complement to cognitive intelligence.”

Christopher McDougall: Are we born to run?

The TED talk.

“Christopher McDougall explores the mysteries of the human desire to run. How did running help early humans survive — and what urges from our ancient ancestors spur us on today? At TEDxPennQuarter, McDougall tells the story of the marathoner with a heart of gold, the unlikely ultra-runner, and the hidden tribe in Mexico that runs to live.”

By Just About 180 Degrees

Got turned on to Hara Estroff Maranoa’s article, A Nation Of Wimps by a friend and colleague. Its an old piece, but has a lot of insightful bits about how damaging the micro-management of every aspect of a kids life during their developmental years can be.

I particularly like the section on how play – unstructured play – is crucial to the intellectual and emotional development of a healthy adult (Keep scrolling for more articles on the importance of play):

“In the hothouse that child raising has become, play is all but dead. Over 40,000 U.S. schools no longer have recess. And what play there is has been corrupted. The organized sports many kids participate in are managed by adults; difficulties that arise are not worked out by kids but adjudicated by adult referees.

Kids are having a hard time even playing neighborhood pick-up games because they’ve never done it, observes Barbara Carlson, president and cofounder of Putting Families First. ‘They’ve been told by their coaches where on the field to stand, told by their parents what color socks to wear, told by the referees who’s won and what’s fair. Kids are losing leadership skills.’

A lot has been written about the commercialization of children’s play, but not the side effects, says Elkind. ‘Children aren’t getting any benefits out of play as they once did.’ From the beginning play helps children learn how to control themselves, how to interact with others. Contrary to the widely held belief that only intellectual activities build a sharp brain, it’s in play that cognitive agility really develops. Studies of children and adults around the world demonstrate that social engagement actually improves intellectual skills. It fosters decision-making, memory and thinking, speed of mental processing. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, the human mind is believed to have evolved to deal with social problems.”

I think this paragraph captures the issue quite succinctly:

“No one doubts that there are significant economic forces pushing parents to invest so heavily in their children’s outcome from an early age. But taking all the discomfort, disappointment and even the play out of development, especially while increasing pressure for success, turns out to be misguided by just about 180 degrees. With few challenges all their own, kids are unable to forge their creative adaptations to the normal vicissitudes of life. That not only makes them risk-averse, it makes them psychologically fragile, riddled with anxiety. In the process they’re robbed of identity, meaning and a sense of accomplishment, to say nothing of a shot at real happiness. Forget, too, about perseverance, not simply a moral virtue but a necessary life skill. These turn out to be the spreading psychic fault lines of 21st-century youth. Whether we want to or not, we’re on our way to creating a nation of wimps.”

It’s time to do a 180. You can’t keep them safe from harm forever.

Safe From Harm – Massive Attack

Passion Bookends

Great short interview with Simon Sinek – “Passion is like bookends to process.”

The 18th Camel

A wise man rode into a desert village one evening as the sun was setting. Dismounting from his camel, he asked one of the villagers for a drink of water.

‘Of course,’ said the villager and gave him a cup of water. The traveller drank the whole cupful. ‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘Can I help you at all before I travel on?’

‘Yes,’ said the young man. ‘We have a dispute in our family. I am the youngest of three brothers. Our father died recently, God rest his soul, and all he possessed was a small herd of camels. Seventeen, to be exact. He decreed in his will that one half of the herd was to go to my oldest brother, one third to the middle brother and one ninth to me. But how can we divide a herd of 17? We do not want to chop up any camels, they are worth far more alive.’

‘Take me to your house,’ said the sage.

When he entered the house he saw the other two brothers and the man’s widow sitting around the fire arguing. The youngest brother interrupted them and introduced the traveller.

‘Wait,’ said the wise man, ‘I think I can help you. Here, I give you my camel as a gift. Now you have 18 camels. One half goes to the eldest, that’s nine camels. One third goes to the middle son, that’s six camels. And one ninth goes to my friend here, the youngest son. That’s two.’

‘That’s only 17 altogether,’ said the youngest son.

‘Yes. By a happy coincidence, the camel left over is the one I gave to you. If you could possibly give it back to me I will continue on my journey.’

And he did.

10,000 Hours: Gennadi Touretski

Ian Thorpe announced today that he would be training under Alexander Popov’s former coach Gennadi Touretski. With just a little Googling, I found an excellent interview of Touretski discussing all aspects of not only swimming but improvement in athletics from his perspective.

At the 8:27 mark, Touretski is asked if he can predict world-class success from watching an athlete at a young age. It is here that he begins talking about the time – 10,000 hours – required to develop an athlete’s ability to world-class levels. He brings up musicians and how many hours per year he has built in to his program (1000 hours per/365 days = 2.7 hours each day).

It is excellent.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time at all, you will have heard about the 10,000 hour rule. That is what it takes.

Interview with Gennadi Touretski from Jernej Burkeljca on Vimeo.

Mindful Movement

A good post on Mindful Movement by Terry Laughlin discussing “physical intelligence which is less widely recognized and far less understood than the intellectual variety.”

Laughlin conitnues, “physical intelligence clearly exists and is invaluable in helping us navigate the physical world with more awareness, grace and joy. The key to connecting with, and developing, your physical intelligence is Mindful Movement – a conscious effort to merge thought and action.”

There are three components to Mindful Movement. They are:

“1) Move as a Practice. Any form of movement, even something we consider the ultimate ‘no brainer’ like walking can be transformed into a practice.

2) Move with Intention. Choosing to move with full awareness is your first intention. Once you do, the opportunity for many further intentions will become clear, as you become acutely aware of how your body interacts with the earth, with water, and with natural forces like gravity. A simple example is to sense how each foot bears and distributes the load of your body’s weight and how that load is communicated through the bones of your leg and hip.

3) Move to Improve. Believe that any movement you make is improvable once you pay attention to its details, and experiment with tweaks.”

Mind your movements.

Friday Night Video: Paul Westerberg – I Will Dare

Play Again

The folks at Ground Productions have made a documentary entitled PlayAgain which seeks to answer the question, “What are the consequences of a childhood removed from nature?” The film looks interesting, timely, and important.


For more on folks who are in the front lines regarding the importance of play, check out some other [iX3] posts – On Play;
Play For Your Life;
Play: A Glimpse Of The Divine.

Excellent Sheep

In a lecture titled Solitude and Leadership delived to Plebes at West Point, Yale University professor, William Deresiewicz discusses what he believes leadership is and then goes on to describe how one aquires that ability. In the first part of the lecture Deresiewicz says leadership, “true leadership,” is the “ability to think for yourself, and act on your convictions.”

“That’s the first half of the lecture: the idea that true leadership means being able to think for yourself and act on your convictions. But how do you learn to do that? How do you learn to think? Let’s start with how you don’t learn to think. A study by a team of researchers at Stanford came out a couple of months ago. The investigators wanted to figure out how today’s college students were able to multitask so much more effectively than adults. How do they manage to do it, the researchers asked? The answer, they discovered—and this is by no means what they expected—is that they don’t. The enhanced cognitive abilities the investigators expected to find, the mental faculties that enable people to multitask effectively, were simply not there. In other words, people do not multitask effectively. And here’s the really surprising finding: the more people multitask, the worse they are, not just at other mental abilities, but at multitasking itself.

One thing that made the study different from others is that the researchers didn’t test people’s cognitive functions while they were multitasking. They separated the subject group into high multitaskers and low multitaskers and used a different set of tests to measure the kinds of cognitive abilities involved in multitasking. They found that in every case the high multitaskers scored worse. They were worse at distinguishing between relevant and irrelevant information and ignoring the latter. In other words, they were more distractible. They were worse at what you might call “mental filing”: keeping information in the right conceptual boxes and being able to retrieve it quickly. In other words, their minds were more disorganized. And they were even worse at the very thing that defines multitasking itself: switching between tasks.

Multitasking, in short, is not only not thinking, it impairs your ability to think. Thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it. Not learning other people’s ideas, or memorizing a body of information, however much those may sometimes be useful. Developing your own ideas. In short, thinking for yourself. You simply cannot do that in bursts of 20 seconds at a time, constantly interrupted by Facebook messages or Twitter tweets, or fiddling with your iPod, or watching something on YouTube.”

Being immersed himself in a device driven, multitasking environment which actually impedes your ability to think, be creative, and have strong convictions according to Deresiewicz.

Deresiewicz continues on to say that we are losing a vital skill, the ability to concentrate:

“Now that’s the third time I’ve used that word, concentrating. Concentrating, focusing. You can just as easily consider this lecture to be about concentration as about solitude. Think about what the word means. It means gathering yourself together into a single point rather than letting yourself be dispersed everywhere into a cloud of electronic and social input. It seems to me that Facebook and Twitter and YouTube—and just so you don’t think this is a generational thing, TV and radio and magazines and even newspapers, too—are all ultimately just an elaborate excuse to run away from yourself. To avoid the difficult and troubling questions that being human throws in your way. Am I doing the right thing with my life? Do I believe the things I was taught as a child? What do the words I live by—words like duty, honor, and country—really mean? Am I happy?”

This is an important point. By becoming consumed in all of these distrations, many of us are really running away from ourselves. We “avoid the difficult and troubling questions that being human throws in your way.”

More from Deresiewicz:

“So it’s perfectly natural to have doubts, or questions, or even just difficulties. The question is, what do you do with them? Do you suppress them, do you distract yourself from them, do you pretend they don’t exist? Or do you confront them directly, honestly, courageously? If you decide to do so, you will find that the answers to these dilemmas are not to be found on Twitter or Comedy Central or even in The New York Times. They can only be found within—without distractions, without peer pressure, in solitude.”

This is where the illusion can become dangerous to self – how you see yourself, how you value yourself, your confidence in your ability to not only lead others, but to think for yourself:

“Thinking for yourself means finding yourself, finding your own reality. Here’s the other problem with Facebook and Twitter and even The New York Times. When you expose yourself to those things, especially in the constant way that people do now—older people as well as younger people—you are continuously bombarding yourself with a stream of other people’s thoughts. You are marinating yourself in the conventional wisdom. In other people’s reality: for others, not for yourself. You are creating a cacophony in which it is impossible to hear your own voice, whether it’s yourself you’re thinking about or anything else. That’s what Emerson meant when he said that “he who should inspire and lead his race must be defended from travelling with the souls of other men, from living, breathing, reading, and writing in the daily, time-worn yoke of their opinions.” Notice that he uses the word lead. Leadership means finding a new direction, not simply putting yourself at the front of the herd that’s heading toward the cliff.”

Excellent sheep. Following along. Just like the rest. Without an original thought. Waiting to be lead. Not able to lead.