How A Contrarian Idea Gains Traction: The Incredible Story Of James Hutton

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It is 1785. A young man is hurrying on the streets of Edinburgh, a bit late for his work appointment. On his right-hand side, he has a magnificent view of Edinburgh Castle, perched high up on a rock.

He admires the view, but thinks nothing of how that rock atop which the Castle sits was created. As far as he is concerned, the Earth is 6 thousand years old. That is the common dogma of his age and not to be questioned.

Yet not far away, a slightly-built man close to entering his 6th decade of life, is working on a theory that contradicts all this “knowledge”. In time, it will change our whole understanding of this world and usher in a new era of science.

However in 1785, that new era is still far off.

The name of the slightly built old man is James Hutton. He was a polymath who tried his hand at many different things, but his life’s work was centered around rocks and geology. His passion was to go around and observe natural phenomenon, which led him to form some very original theories.

By 1785, he felt ready to share these theories with the world. Being a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a gathering of some of the finest minds of the 18th century, provided him with a natural place to do this.

On the 7th of March of that year, his friend Joseph Black read out a part of the theory and on the 7th of April, Hutton himself presented his theory. This was followed by another presentation on the 4th of July.

What he presented was met by utter disbelief and turned into hostile criticism. He was accused of going against the established order of things, of being an atheist, of lacking logic.

Hutton decided to go back and try to find further evidence for his assertions and to better defend his thesis. For the next few years, he travelled around Scotland, examining different rock formations, trying to find further proof for his theories.

In 1795, equipped with numerous examples to illustrate his points, Hutton published a huge book on geology. It met with little success.

Two years later, Hutton died without having his theory gain wider acceptance. In fact, it seemed that his opponents had won the day and his ideas were on their way to obscurity.

Yet today they form the fundamental basis of our own understanding of how our planet evolved. How is that possible? How did ideas that were almost stamped out, succeed in gaining dominance? And how come Hutton himself wasn’t able to do it?
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Beware Of Advice: What Can You Really Learn From Successful People?

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Successful people are often used as examples for others. The message that you often hear is that if you do things like them, you too can become successful. Follow what they do, act like them and riches beyond your wildest imagination will come knocking at your door.

However one of the things that I have been thinking about lately is what lessons can you really learn from these types of cases. Are there relevant things that you can pick out and use them as blueprints for your life or is this just a case of survivor bias coming into play?

This question goes to the heart of self-improvement and any type of advice, in different kinds of fields (business, life, fitness).

It’s very hard to differentiate sometimes. I too have often used examples of successful people in order to illustrate some point or lesson. On the other hand, I have also said that you need to take everything with a grain of salt and warned against taking any type of advice without thinking whether it applies to you and your circumstances.

There are many people who try to present themselves as gurus or authorities and convince people to do what they are saying. Many of these people don’t do it to help others, but instead just to line their own pockets or to increase their influence. Sometimes this advice can be downright dangerous.

Not everyone is out to get you though and some people do offer tips in order to genuinely help others. However even this has its own problems. Most successful people downplay the influence of luck and much of this advice does not take into account randomness, survivor bias or hindsight bias.

David McRaney (author of “You Are Not So Smart”) describes the magical, almost mystical pull of survivor bias in this way:

Survivorship bias pulls you toward bestselling diet gurus, celebrity CEOs, and superstar athletes. It’s an unavoidable tick, the desire to deconstruct success like a thieving magpie and pull away the shimmering bits. You look to the successful for clues about the hidden, about how to better live your life, about how you too can survive similar forces against which you too struggle.

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Hero’s Journey – The Quest To Become A Legend

When I was a kid, I was a big history buff. I read almost everything that I could find that had anything to do with history, especially ancient history. A big part of understanding a culture is through reading its myths and legends, and I devoured countless books describing the exploits of ancient heroes.

During those years, I read many stories and watched many movies, with some of my favorites usually being about an ordinary guy rising to greatness in a variety of ways. The ultimate story of this genre was Star Wars (the original trilogy), which I could watch over and over again, never getting enough. The films seemed like the modern version of an ancient tale.

Over time I began noticing patterns in all these different stories. These different tales of heroes seemed to have some common trends. Even stories coming from cultures separated by thousands of kilometers and thousands of years, still shared similar storylines and moral themes.

This finally clicked together when I ran across a book written by Joseph Campbell called “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.”

Having gone through countless myths and legends, Campbell realized that there is a certain pattern inherent in all of them. The hero of the story has to go through a series of steps in order to achieve whatever he set out to achieve and to accomplish his quest.

Campbell called this the monomyth or hero’s journey. This description served to inspire several authors and film-makers of modern times. The reason why Star Wars seems to follow the monomyth so closely is because George Lucas was one of the guys inspired by the book.

“The Hero with a Thousand Faces” is not the first work to come to these conclusions, but it has certainly proven to be the most influential in the United States. For example, in the former Soviet Union, this work was preceded by the ideas of Vladimir Propp, who studied Russian folktales and broke them down into several elements.

The hero’s journey is divided into several stages through which an ordinary man turns into a hero. Let this serve you as a manual for your journey, your own Hero’s Guide To Succeeding In Life:
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How To Get Lucky – A Step By Step Description Of How To Bring Luck To Your Side

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What if I told you that there is one secret trick that you can use in order to bring luck to your side. It’s not something too hard to do. In fact, anyone can do it.

Derren Brown, famous British mentalist, is a master at this type of stuff and in one of his shows, demonstrated how to create a system to get lucky. He said that he could flip a coin into a bowl and have it land heads 10 times in a row and then proceeded on to do it. Watch the video below:

Do you want to know the secret of how he did it?

Well, there is nothing challenging about it. Once you read the next sentence, you will have a huge epiphany.
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The Normal Person Guide To Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

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As I have written previously, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is one of the most rewarding experiences us average city slickers can do. However how do you go about it? What types of things do you need to do in order to make your expedition a success?

Luckily for the normal guys out there, this adventure is not out of reach of almost anyone. Unlike Mt. Everest or countless other mountains, you don’t have to be an advanced mountaineer to climb it.

In fact, Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in the world that you can reach without the need of any climbing equipment. Basically it’s one long hike, with only a few rocky patches that you have to climb over.

How should I prepare?

While going up Mt. Kilimanjaro is not something super, super hard, you do need to be fit in order to do it. There are two important things that you need to get ready for.

1) You need to be prepared for long hikes in challenging terrain

If you do a lot of hiking on your free time, then you are set to go. However if you are a sit-on-your ass desk jockey, then you will need to spend some time to get your ass up to speed.

The first thing you need to do is to work on your stamina. Get your ass to the gym and start doing some cardio, whether on the treadmill, on a stepper, or on one of those static ski machine thingies. Or better yet alternate all of them!

You can also join some group classes where they do endurance work. One of the things I did to prepare was join a group of people who were doing cardio circuits. It’s a fun way to get in shape, but also meet some new people in the process.

The best way to prepare is to start going on actual hikes though. Start off slow and then gradually keep on building up, increasing the distance, varying the terrain and going higher and higher in altitude.

2) You need to be prepared for the altitude

And this is the key part of the preparation. No matter how fit you are, the altitude can get you. That’s why you need special preparation to address this issue.

If you are like most people, then you probably live at lower altitudes. In higher altitudes, there is lower pressure and less oxygen, which could create adverse effects in people who are not used to this. In extreme cases, this can even result in death.

The good news is that your body gradually adapts to higher altitudes. That’s why during the trip to Kilimanjaro, you spend several days hiking around the mountain, hiking high and then sleeping in lower altitudes. This gives your body time to adapt.

However, if you want to significantly lower your chance of your body breaking down while at Kilimanjaro, you should spend some time in higher altitudes before going there. That way, your body is already prepared.
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Crazy Shit To Do: Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro

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If you have been reading my blog, you might have caught the fact that last summer (August 2015), I went on a crazy adventure to Tanzania. Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, camping out in the Serengeti and relaxing on the island paradise of Zanzibar are a combination that can create memories to last a lifetime.

I am not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the ultimate adventures that you can do. In two weeks, my entire worldview and beliefs about myself changed. I pushed myself to the limits and discovered what I am capable of, connected with nature and explored a set of whole new cultures up close and personal.

The most incredible part of this whole trip is that this is something that just a year before I would never have considered doing. I would never even have imagined myself being capable of doing this. Climbing a mountain was never something that I thought I would ever do, especially not one so tall.

On the surface, it seems like a daunting task. Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and rises up to 5,895 meters above sea level. It is located close to the equator, but due to its height, its top is constantly bathed in snow.

The peak of the mountain is covered by glaciers, although ones that are shrinking fast due to global warming. They have shrunk by 85% in the past 100 years and unfortunately most predictions say that they might disappear completely in a very short while.

Standing at the top is an amazing experience. Looking around, you see a desolate landscape and huge swathes of snow and ice. You are in Africa, but there is snow!

The rugged beauty that is in front of you has a special effect on all that experience it. It is as if you were suddenly transported to another world.

You are overwhelmed by the entire magic of it all. You have spent days circling this monster, getting closer and closer to its peak, to be foiled day after day. However on this final day, you have made it.

By standing on the top, you get a sense of something more powerful than yourself. It makes you reflect on the world and your place in it. What you are experiencing is awe and it can really change your entire world view, not only of yourself, but others. This has actually been proven by scientific studies:

New research from UC Berkeley and UC Irvine suggests that experiencing awe can actually prompt us to act more benevolently toward others. In other words, awe can help make the world a better place.

You literally come back a changed person. The top of Mt. Kilimanjaro is something only a select few get to experience and you are lucky to be one of them.
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Operation Anthropoid: The Story Of The Most Daring Secret Mission Of World War 2

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If you had seen the movie “Casablanca”, you might remember the scene in the cafe where the German officers start singing a German song. To hush them down, the brave Czechoslovak resistance leader, husband of the Scandinavian bombshell Ilsa (played by Ingrid Bergman) starts singing the Marsellaise. Right after that, everyone else joins in.

The film was made in 1942 and one of the most heroic characters there, is a Czechoslovak resistance fighter who is trying to smuggle himself out of Nazi-controlled territories in order to continue his struggle. This guy was a fictional character, however the year 1942 was also the setting of probably the most daring act of resistance during the entire war. And this was real!

The act was codenamed Operation Anthropoid and resulted in the assassination of one of the most-feared Nazi leaders, Reinhard Heydrich. This was the guy who organized the Final Solution and planned the extermination of all the Jews from Europe.

Just like the movie, the heroes of this story were Czechoslovak resistance fighters.

The scene is this: Hitler is on a roll. His armies have crushed all opposition and control most of continental Europe. The German armies are going from one victory to another in the East against the Soviets and an invasion of Britain is imminent.

In the middle of the continent lies the city of Prague, formerly the capital of the Czechoslovak Republic, the only democracy in Central Europe before the war, and now the seat of the government of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, completely controlled by the Nazis.

Before the War, Czechoslovakia was one of the continent’s economic powerhouses and had a very strong military industry, especially producing heavy machinery and tanks. It was sacrificed by the UK and France in order to appease Hitler, but that just made him even stronger.

By occupying the country, he took over its military equipment and added it to his own army (almost half the German tanks that attacked France in 1940 were formerly from the Czechoslovak army).

Many Czechoslovak military personnel escaped the country and installed themselves in places like the UK, France or the Soviet Union, in order to fight the Nazis and free their country. The Czechoslovak government-in-exile was located in London and so were much of the forces of the Czechoslovak army-in-exile.

However the situation in their homeland was dire. The country was occupied by the Nazis, who were crushing any forms of opposition. The exile authorities were determined to shake things up.

Striking at the heart of the Nazi machine, at one of its leaders, could galvanize the population and wake up the resistance, which was losing any hope of success at this point. After a long discussion, it was decided that the target of this operation would be Heydrich, one of the most feared men in the Nazi Reich.

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Your Simple Guide To Being Funny 6: Even More On Joke Forms

The forms that we have described in the previous post are the basic ways of structuring humor. However they can be enhanced with special helpers to make the jokes even more funny.

Good tellers of jokes and humorous stories tell them in such a way as for the audience to be able to visualize all the little adventures in their heads. Visualization can be done through very detailed and vivid descriptions, but also through the use of metaphors and similes.

In order to create a picture in someone head’s, you need to be as descriptive as possible. Be detailed and specific and use as many adjectives as you can. Instead of saying it was a small car, say it was a diminutive, red Honda Civic that was nearing its expiration date. See how that second description creates a better picture than the first?

Sometimes being detailed and descriptive doesn’t create the image that you want and you need some other way to create the desired effect.

With metaphors and similes you describe an abstract concept by comparing it to something more familiar. These are often added by comedians in order to create funny pictures in your head.

Your brain often thinks through analogies, basically by using familiar concepts to try to picture and find relationships between objects that are a bit more fuzzy or unknown. These types of comparisons are often done using metaphors or similes.

That’s why putting in metaphors and similes can have such a powerful effect.

With a metaphor you are saying that one thing is another thing in a figurative way. This is the highest level of comparison. With a simile you are saying one thing is like another thing.

Examples:

My friend is LIKE a baby.
– simile

My friend IS a baby.
– metaphor

Notice how each of them has a slight difference in meaning. A metaphor is usually a much stronger way of putting that comparison.

The choice of metaphors and similes gives the joke a special meaning and often reveals hidden aspects of the opinion you hold about the subject of your joke.

An organization is like a tree full of monkeys, all on different limbs at different levels. The monkeys on top look down and see a tree full of smiling faces. The monkeys on the bottom look up and see nothing but assholes.

The author of the above joke uses a mix of similes and metaphors in order to paint a picture in your head. This then brings out the point of the joke in a much better way than if a different technique was used.
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Your Simple Guide To Being Funny 5: More Joke Forms

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There are two basic types of humor: verbal-based humor and content-based humor. With verbal-based humor you play around with the meanings of words and if you use different words than the ones initially used in the joke, then you will lose the humor.

We have looked at verbal-based humor or play on words in the last post. In this post, we will focus on content-based humor or what I like to call play on things.

Play On Things

With content-based humor, the humor is not in the words used themselves, but in the entire idea that is being conveyed. As such, a play on things passes the translation test. You can retell the joke in different words and the humor is still there.

Let’s have a look at some of the main types of content-based humor.

5) Using exaggeration or understatement

Exaggerations and understatements are one of the most effective ways to create humor. They create a mismatch between the actual situation and the words being said, which then produces the laughter.

Exaggeration by itself does not create humor and is in fact often used in normal non-funny ways. To make things funnier you have to exaggerate so much that it is obvious that you are exaggerating. That’s the key to exaggeration in comedy.

If you want to put an emphasis on someone being fat, then make the comparison as unrealistic as possible. This unrealistic comparison is what makes it funny. Say the guy weighted more than a pick-up truck or that he weighted two tons.

There are several ways of creating funny exaggerations, for example through the use of hyperboles, metaphors or analogies.

Hyperboles are extreme exaggerations in order to make a point. They are comparisons just like similes and metaphors, but very extravagant and over the top. They amplify what you are trying to say.

For example if you are trying to make the point that something is too expensive and unaffordable, you can say that it costs a gazillion dollars. Or when someone says that they are buried under a ton of paperwork, they don’t mean that the ceiling suddenly opened up and inundated the room with a bunch of paper. Instead what the person means is that they have to fill out a lot of boring forms.

I knew a girl so ugly, I took her to the top of the Empire State building and planes started to attack her.” Rodney Dangerfield

If it weren’t for pick-pocketers, I’d have no sex life at all.” Rodney Dangerfield

All my wife does is shop – once she was sick for a week, and three stores went under.” Henry Youngman

I have been a gigantic Rolling Stones fan since approximately the Spanish-American War.” Dave Barry

Went to the paper shop – it had blown away.” Tommy Cooper

Metaphors, similes and analogies are also good ways to exaggerate the description of a particular scene or situation. These types of comparisons often paint vivid pictures in your head.

Our primary living-room sofa looks like a buffalo that has been dead for some time.” Dave Barry

In the example above, in order to illustrate the point of how decrepit his sofa is, Dave Barry compares it to a dead rotting buffalo. Can you picture the dead buffalo and can you imagine how the sofa must have looked like? 🙂

Jokes also often rely on the use of stereotypes (about blondes, Scots, hillbillies…etc.). Stereotypes are a type of exaggeration.

They say that a “True Scot” in North America is one whose ancestors came from Scotland – but who were born in North America to save the fare.

The above joke uses the common stereotype that Scottish people are cheap, which is the premise of many ethnic jokes.

Understatements are the opposite of exaggerations in that they downplay the situation instead. They are correct in a literal sense, but fail to convey the magnitude or graveness of a particular event.
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