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The 10,000 Hour Rule, Video Games, Entertainment, and Opportunity

Yes, this article is going to cover a lot of ground and probably not very thoroughly.

The 10,000 hour rule is a concept that Malcom Gladwell came up with to explain the amount of time necessary to attain mastery of a sport, subject, or art. 10,000 hours of practice would, in theory, allow anyone to reach a near professional level. This translates to a little over 3 years  practicing 8 hours per day.

This seems like a lot now, now consider this – the average American adult spends 5 and a half hours watching video content per day. That is, the average adult lets 1/5 of their day, and a large percentage of their waking day, goes to complete waste. With three years of watching the Simpsons, Seinfeld, or playing League of Legends you could have mastered an ancient language, become a painter, or, if you split up your time, you could have become proficient in several languages or other skills.

Maybe you are starting to see what I’m getting at – entertainment is taking up more and more of or time but it is getting simpler and simpler (and, admittedly, more realistic looking in some cases). Look at Candy Crush, Angry Birds, Pokemon Go, really any Nintendo game, the majority of modern blockbusters (I mean we remake the same super hero movies over and over and over).

We no longer read, go to the theater, or do any number of things that might have passed as entertainment and but were also intellectually stimulating. This kind of degeneration can even be seen in music. In point of fact, it is probably most obvious in music. Much of modern art and literature fits the bill as well – I mean Young Adult literature as a genre is a joke.

All this time wasted on episodes forgotten and video games quit after 40 hours of play (and let’s not forget the 60 dollars to be spent on the next 40 hours), it’s all absurd. Think of all the opportunities lost, the things that could have been learned, how much more intelligent each of us could be in three years time if only we didn’t sit around as endless consumers of media. Media for which we are paying!

Twice!

You pay first with money, then with time. And what do you have to show for it? In this age of pornography and video games one can sit around and feel as through he is some kind of sex king and next an undefeatable magician? These are things that people are extremely unlikely achieve in the real world. So why even try?

But they could achieve incredible skill that, while perhaps not so impressive as conjuring fire, are still extremely awe inspiring. Perhaps the worst part is that these people spend their lost time doing these thing in their youth! At least go outside, good Lord. What will they have to show when they are 30, work 9 hours per day, and have a kid? They will have far less time to study, learn, and practice… but even then I’d hazard most will spend that time in a similar manner. Less hours but a greater percentage of free time donated to this onanism.

As VR becomes more mainstream, even greater numbers of people are going to drop out of society to live out their fantasies. It lines up well with our current culture – personal happiness is the ultimate good, why not take the easy route there?

If the 10,000 hour rule is to be believed – one could become a near master artist in several mediums, a writer, and a polyglot over the course of a lifetime. A true renaissance man.

Everyone has the potential and the opportunity – information is more widespread, accessible, and user-friendly than ever. It’s just a matter of will.

 

 

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English, Mathematics

The Importance of Math for a Writer

STEM and the Humanities can get along once in a while. And this is one of those time – I believe frequent math problem solving can help a writer become more methodical (and math is also just good for your mental ‘strength’ in general).

There are browser tabs that I have open at all times – Duolingo, Lingq, and KhanAcademy. They all serve the same purpose in different way: to help me continue to learn now that I am out of college and to prevent the atrophy of what I spent the last two decades learning.

The first two are language learning tools – I have to maintain and improve my three modern languages and two ancient. This is not an easy task and sometimes I can go weeks without improving, but merely maintaining. But that is far better than regressing over those weeks.

The second service, however, I use almost exclusively for improving. I’m fully willing to admit that I not only paid little attention in high school and college math, but that what I learned then, I have now forgotten. At this rate I cannot imagine the state my mathematics education would be in in a decade or two of negligence.

However, this degradation is insidious. It’s like rust. Perhaps you see a small spot on the door of your car, but it’s hard to see so who cares? Well two winters later the inside of your door has rusted out and you need to get a whole new one. It is the same with mathematics for me; one day I realized I didn’t know an obscure integration rule, the next I forgot the lion’s share of my calculus!

Calculus is one of the crucial discoveries in the history of man. Knowing it is something to be proud of even if it is not particularly useful in day to day life. Further, once your calculus has rotted out, the rust proceeds to even more basic maths like trigonometry and geometry. At this point it can actually start to affect you.

This is a realization that I had all at once, I had completely ignored the rot of my mathematical learning for several years in university. I was focused on the humanities and my geology research required comparatively little math outside of a few specialized formulas. But when I was preparing to apply to business school, the curtains were thrown wide open and the view was ugly.

I aced the written and verbal sections of the GMAT, almost perfects scores. My math scores, however, left a lot to be desired. And when I say a lot to be desired, I mean basically everything was left to be desired. I was in the 34th percentile.

The disparity between the two was huge and I knew I had to close it before I could start applying to schools. So I laid those plans aside and decided to move abroad to work, study, and gain experience.

And to study math.

Starting from the ground up (as I don’t know what I don’t know) I am rebuilding my mathematical skills. Perhaps building would be more apt as every day I realize just how little attention I paid in math class.

Having always preferred reading, writing, and language (you know, the things that can’t help you get employed!) I massively neglected my math learning. And now that I am righting this wrong, I see how much I missed out on. And I’m not talking about grades.

Routine math practice has made me more methodical and driven to solve problems. With a math problem you know that there is a solution, but you might have no clue how to get to it. But you know there is a solution. It’s not much different than writing in that regard, you might know what you are trying to say or have a blurry outline of the direction you want to go in, but you don’t know what tools will get you there (or even if you have those tools).

Large math problems also cement the idea of small steps toward a far away destination. you can’t rush math (usually) the way that you can rush writing. If you want to get the correct answer to a complicated problem you can’t skip steps or hurry through them and still succeed. It’s impossible. Math makes you slow down.

With writing, one could in his excitement run through an entire scene or even story in a very short period of time. But with horrid description, poor character development, low style, etc. You might get to the end, but the end result is worthless. Solving long math problems forces you to take your time because there is no there is no other option.

If you develop this mentality and take it to your writing, the results are going to be much, much better.

So do your daily math even if you’d rather be reading. At the very least you’ll never have to embarrassingly admit you forgot how to do long division. Everything else is icing.

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music

Music Notes: Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slave

Music Notes is an idea I’ve had for a while where I will take a relatively famous classical music piece and quickly run through the history of it. These articles should be short and to the point so, I hope, you will be able to get through them quickly. And, perhaps, discover something new!

One of the first ones that I have been meaning to do is Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slave.

The Marche Slave (B-flat minor, op. 31) is a symphonic poem written in 1876. A symphonic poem is a short, one movement orchestral piece that is written to evoke the feeling of, well, a poem. Just using music instead of words. A common accessory to Tchikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Marche Slave is something many people could recognize but few could name upon hearing.

The piece was written just at the beginning of the Serbo-Turkish War. The Russians, as was their habit, supported the Serbians in their cause (due to shared ethnic background an religion). The Russian populace was so supportive of the Serbian cause that many Russians ran to go join the war to aid the Serbs. As an aside, this phenomenon is mentioned in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina when several characters go off to join the war.

The concert was actually commissioned for the war itself (well, the Red Cross Society), it was not written out of a fit of patriotic glee; glee such as that which drew Russia’s young men into a foreign war.

The piece itself draws heavily from Serbian folk songs and the Russian national anthem of the time (God Save the Tsar). Giving it strong patriotic and nationalist tones that would have been instantly recognizable to Russians and Serbians of the time.

The piece opened in Moscow in 1876 and was conducted by Nikolai Rubinstein.

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