On “A Guide to the Good Life” by William Irvine

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As the week comes to a close, I finished up the last few chapters of “A Guide to the Good Life” by William Irvine. Irvine gives a broad introduction to Stoicism, and walks us through the basic

Negative Visualization

Negative Visualization is an easy way to get acquainted with the rules of Stoicism. It’s easy to incorporate into one’s daily life, as it is a common philosophy that many people hold today. Instead of visualizing the things we want, we are instructed as Stoics to imagine losing what we already have. This is supposed to help us practice gratefulness, and reduce the amount that we cling to desires and wants without truly appreciating what we have. This can easily be summed up in the common phrase “Well, it could be worse!” If we learn to practice the art of imagining that we could have less than what we have, Irvine argues that we will eventually restructure our brain to focus on what we have rather than what we do not have, and it will give us fortitude if we lose anything. It teaches us not to take anything for granted, and to be comfortable with the idea that we can lose anything at any given moment in time so that we are not as shocked or discouraged if we do lose something we value.

Trichotomy of Control

Marcus Aurelius initially created a dichotomy of control, but upon further interpretation, there seems to be another layer of control beneath the initial two. The original dichotomy of control as indicated by Aurelius is the things that we have the power to control and the things we do not have the power to control. Aurelius argues that we should not pursue things that we do not have the power to control, and only pursue things that we know we can control. However, there is a third element to this initial assessment – we find that in life there are things that we have some control, but not all. The idea is that we should pursue things we have some control over, so long as we ensure that our values are in the right place. For example, in a tennis match, I do not know what the outcome will be, but I have some control over whether I win or lose. The virtuous path is to be sure that my goal in playing the tennis match is not to win (which I cannot control) but to try my best (which I do have control over). This will ensure that we do not muddy up our thoughts with things that are up to fate to decide and will ensure that we keep a clear head as to the things we try to pursue.

Fatalism

Fatalism is the concept that we should regularly check in with ourselves to remind ourselves that we will one day be dead. This “stepped-back” approach allows us to truly evaluate our virtues at any given moment, and decide for ourselves whether any of this will matter to us in the long run, with the longest run being one in which we do not complete – we will be a mere memory in the near future, and we cannot do anything about it.

The art of Stoicism results in the attainment of genuine joy. We can choose to live with our grief, anger, and anxiety, or we can choose to take the necessary steps to overcome such feelings. In doing so, we will only have room for happiness.

 

 

How to Start Programming in C++ in Visual Studio

Blog, Coding Tutorials

As you start getting familiar with programming in C++, you may find yourself wanting a more robust environment where you can play with code and run programs. Some programmers prefer using a text editor like Brackets or Atom to develop, testing their code through the command prompt. However, you may be looking for something a little more user-friendly, with enhanced features like a debugger, and an ability to see your file hierarchy – which is especially useful for larger projects. For many, this results in using an IDE (Integrated Development Environment). What’s cool about IDE’s is that you can run, compile, execute, and debug code all from one piece of software. If you have decided to look for an IDE, you may be astonished at just how many IDE’s there are. Which one should you pick?

The truth is, it’s all up to your preference. Personally, I really like using Visual Studio. I like that it comes with a compiler, which can eliminate a lot of issues, especially when you’re first getting started. Not only that, Visual Studio is extremely versatile, with support ranging from Virtual Reality development with C#, to having C++ and Python support, to app development. It’s a great one-stop-shop for your development needs, and although it’s bulky, it can be a great place to get started.

To follow along with me, I’ll be assuming you’ve already installed Visual Studio with all the default settings. I’m working with the 2017 version.

Create a New Project

The first thing you’ll want to do is create a new project, which can be found under File > New > Project. This will open up a new window where you can choose what kind of project you’d like to create.

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When you click on Project, a new window will open up. In the sidebar, click on C++. Choose Windows Console Application, and name your project. You can also create a git repository from here, but more on that later. Click Ok.

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Start Coding!

You’ll notice a default C++ file already has been created for you. Here, you can start editing! I inserted a basic C++ program to get us started.

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Run your Program

After you’ve finished editing, you simply go to Debug > Start without Debugging. Another window will open up with your creation.

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And that’s all there is to it! What are you still reading this for? Go try it out!

 

How to Remove a Background in Photoshop

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Removing a background in Photoshop is actually surprisingly easy, and is a common task when modifying images. In order to do this, we simply need to access the polygonal lasso tool.

Capture

The default tool will usually be the regular lasso tool, but if you hold down the lasso, a few more options will appear. Choose the one that looks like the image above.

In small sections, go over the subject and outline them as close as possible. You can use Ctrl + to zoom in and Ctrl – to zoom out, which will give you more control over the smaller details of the image. When you’re done, go to Select > Modify > Smooth. I usually use 3 pixels. Once you’ve done this, you can use the Eraser tool to get rid of the background. After you’ve removed the entire background, you can fill it with whatever color you choose. I will sometimes use a gradient in order to get a more dynamic look from the background.

cirque de kalise (1)cirque de kalise (modified)

Breaking Habits.

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I mentioned in a previous post how I’ve started using HabitBull to track my progress towards the goals I have. For the past 5 days, I’ve been killing it. 

But something happened yesterday.

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Do you see it glaring back at you?

I missed a blog post yesterday. And I cannot go back and fill that darn circle in.

I woke up with an immediate sense of guilt, and a desire to “double up” posts and fill the circle in today. I went back to the subreddit, and found that when you miss a day, you miss a day, and to make sure to complete the task the next day and start up the chain.

I didn’t expect the feeling of missing a circle to seem like such a failure. But it is. And I have to accept it and let it go. I do feel a sense of urgency now, so I believe this method is working out for me. I think that having specific times to do all these tasks will probably make the process easier since I hadn’t been assigning times for each task.

Wish me luck!

Captain Fantastic and Ego Death.

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Last night, a close friend of mine recommended that I watch “Captain Fantastic.” I’m not a big movie buff (I have an incredibly short attention span and if I don’t find a movie incredibly engaging, I will fall asleep within the first fifteen minutes – thanks, ADHD) but I spent the whole hour and fifty-eight minutes glued to the screen in a hyperfocused trance, and this movie has been the only thing on my mind since watching it.

The film, directed by Matt Ross, follows the life of a man named Ben Cash (played by Viggo Mortensen) who left society with his wife, Leslie, and raised six children in the backwoods of the Pacific Northwest. We never get to meet Cash’s beloved wife, though. We learn that she committed suicide after three months of staying in a mental institution for treatment of severe Bipolar Affective Disorder. The movie unpacks the lives of the family in a way that gives us hints and clues into Ben and Leslie’s relationship as we follow their grieving process of losing Leslie. The kids are rigorously trained with intensive physical exercise, highly advanced readings, and mature philosophical discussions from a young age. Each child takes turns listening and taking charge of certain situations, and every child’s views and unique characteristics are celebrated and accepted by the whole family. They depend on one another, fight for each other, and are bound by a closeness that is incredibly refreshing.

However, this movie isn’t about the benefits of rejecting society. In fact, the movie does an incredible job of questioning the beliefs of everyone. Ben’s overtly self-assured view of the world results in some condescending and dangerous choices, hinting at the idea that Ben’s abhorrence of capitalist society played a factor in Leslie’s suicide. The kids struggle when they interact with the “real world,” with the eldest son finding himself unable to connect with women his age and hiding his acceptance letters to Ivy League schools and desire to attend college from his organized-society rejecting father, and with the children finding themselves unable to coexist with their suburbanized cousins. The youngest son, Rellian, finds himself rebelling against his father and arguing that they should be able to just celebrate Christmas, finding himself unable to argue his stance to his family.

The family isn’t entirely “leftist,” as we come to find that all the children are well-equipped with weapons, utilizing impressive knives and combat skills to hunt game.

There isn’t an underlying “message” to the whole movie, as we can never pinpoint characters who are inherently right or wrong in their views. Every character has their own strengths and flaws, and every ideological view is represented in a way is both supportive and ridiculing.

This movie led me to question my views on many things. Though I find myself to be incredibly leftist in terms of my political views, this movie offered me a sober view of the strengths and weaknesses of each ideology. In the end, I felt as though I had relaxed my hard views significantly, in a way that reminded me that nothing is ever black and white, and that every decision and choice we make should be rigorously challenged before we can settle into a particular view of life.

 

The X Effect

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Recently, I came across the subreddit “The X Effect” which is a community of people who have discovered a simple habit accountability method. This method involves creating a 50 square grid, with a title of a habit you’d like to implement. This can be any kind of habit you’d like to implement. One of the habits I chose to implement was writing a blog post every single day, regardless of how I felt about writing or if I had any sort of creative genius in me at the moment.

Mel Robbins talks about the importance of getting out of your “feelings” about doing a certain task. She has done extensive research on productivity and found that everything we do can be traced back to a “feedback loop” in the brain.

The X Effect is a great way to start implementing habits, because there is something about the human psyche that dislikes breaking streaks. And how can you implement a habit without tracking how long you’ve been working on it?

I downloaded the HabitBull so that I could easily track my progress in a few areas – writing, working out, and meditating. So far, it’s been working great for me.

Try it out, and let me know how you do. There’s a whole subreddit for “X-effect” grads, and having a community is a great way to stay motivated.

“You must go it alone.” – Alan Watts

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A month ago, I graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a B.S. in Computer Science. On paper, that may seem like I have everything under control. To be honest, I couldn’t be more disoriented or confused coming out of college than I am at the moment.

A funny thing happens when you graduate college. Throughout your whole life, up until this point, you had a timeline that you followed. You went to elementary school because you were told to, you went to high school because you had to, you attended university because that’s what everyone else does. But you quickly learn that “what everyone else does” after college is an absolute free-for-all.

Some people choose to find a job close to home. Some find a job elsewhere. Some decide to make a start-up. Some decide to get married. And some decide to make a run for it, ditching society and cultural norms to become a forest hippie (my preferred plan of action).

And whatever you choose is okay.

I recently read the book “The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson. This is arguably the best and worst choice I’ve made since graduation. Manson does a great job of reminding us that we are not special, and that we’re all inevitably going to die. This means giving up the idea of chasing success, because the idea of success doesn’t accurately represent the suffering it takes to get there. We need to get over the idea that we’re inadequate. Not because we’re amazing, but because we actually ARE inadequate, and the only way to ever improve is to accept that we suck. Instead of visualizing the pleasures we want (since most people want the same thing) we need to visualize the problems we want to deal with. For Manson, that meant becoming a broke blog writer after college, because to him, writing was worth the pain of not being financially secure.

As I’ve now made the blasphemous choice to start a T-shirt company, program for fun, photograph everything, write like hell as I’ve wanted to do since I was a child, and take my first real steps to figuring out the problems I want to have, I feel a sense of freedom that I’ve never felt before – the freedom to fail, and the marvelous ability to not give a fuck.

Thanks for the inspiration, Mark. You’re a lovely disappointment panda.

Why Certainty is Wrong

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Recently, I’ve experienced conflict with different people in my life. In the past, when I have experienced conflict, I’ve held grudges and looked for all the ways that proved I was right, and I used to surround myself only with people that agreed with me.

This time around (and I seldom experience conflict because I have a tendency to avoid confrontation – an issue in and of itself) I took the time to reflect. What resulted was a series of ego-shattering realizations that allowed me to have true clarity.

I was wrong.

It’s easy to get caught up in emotions during conflict. What you feel can have a heavy impact on how you perceive a situation, which is why it’s so difficult to get to the root of problems sometimes.

The Crash Course Philosophy series on Youtube has undoubtedly been one of the best resources I’ve come across when it comes to critical thinking and seeking truth. The course walks you through some very tough topics in an environment where you’re forced to set all of your biases aside. This series helped me reach a few truths in my life while I was watching the videos, but it also taught me how to ask the questions that lead a person closer to the truth.

The problem with being “right” or being “certain” is that we really can’t be certain of anything. When we are certain about something, the progress of that thing must end because there is no reason to doubt a certainty. In other words, we can never progress if we never question what we already believe to be true. Because of that, progress must always be made in a state of uncertainty. Because of that, every belief we hold in our heads must be ingrained with a bit of uncertainty, because uncertainty is the key to truth.

So what did that mean for me?

It means I had to take a good, hard look at myself. It means I had to re-evaluate my actions, my values, my perception of reality, and it meant I had to swallow my pride and apologize. The result was a sense of undeniable calm, a sober view of life, and a motivation to better myself rather than shift blame. I spent less energy focusing on who was right and who was wrong and who should apologize to who, and I channeled my energy towards studying more, improving my mental and physical health, and becoming a more virtuous person. And I think it was the best decision I’ve made in a long time.

How to Eat a Plane

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I recently watched the Ted talk by Stephen Duneier called “How to Achieve Your Most Ambitious Goals.” Stephen Duneier has literally cracked the code to achieving goals – he has completed marathons, learned German in a short amount of time, holds a Guinness record for crocheting the largest granny square, learned how to fly a plane, among other insanely ambitious feats. However, he brings his successes back to who he is as a person – someone who cannot focus on anything for more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time, and someone who was a C student throughout his life.

When I was taking Data Structures during my undergraduate career, my professor made a point of showing us a video on Youtube of a man who has literally eaten a plane.

The thing is, anyone can do any of these things. (Though I cant conceive of a reason that would justify eating a plane). The trick is to approach each and every problem in life with small, broken down steps in order to achieve a greater goal.

Whether you want to run a marathon, finish a degree with all A’s, or even practice your writing skills, the key is to break the steps down into the tiniest steps you can conceive of – getting off the couch, closing the Facebook app, opening up your laptop, opening up your word processing app, and just. writing. one. word.

That’s it. That’s the key. Work for a few minutes,  and then go do whatever you want. But come back to the goals you’re trying to accomplish by going back to the smallest step necessary to keep moving forward.