Dan Gardner’s Risk—The Science and Politics of Fear

Fear has grown a lot in our society. There are no snakes around us and no giant dinosaurs that would eat us for supper yet the bombarding and ear-piercing news of climate change, terrorism, crime news, nuclear apocalypse constantly make us bite our nails.

Very handful of books actually look at this problem and the growing fear society we are collectively creating today. This is one of them. We need to read this book because we are in the 21st century and fear shouldn’t be an emotion that chases us in reality and dreams. Instead, we should feel more grateful, thankful and positive. So, let’s dive in ASAP

  • Risk Society. Ulrich beck talks about this risk society with cancers, nuclear disasters, famines, and all horrors we could imagine. Sure, risks are there and have been throughout history. Beck opines that as technology advances we spread more risk and cause eventually a steep fall of civilization. But do we?

    Modern society cures cancer and many nations already abandoned nuclear power programs. In other words, technology is making our lives better and safer. All these stupid fears media pump into our brains rarely happen and even if they happen we know how to tackle them.

    “Put all these numbers together and what do they add up to? In a sentence: We are the healthiest, wealthiest, and longest-lived people in history. And we are increasingly afraid. This is one of the great paradoxes of our time.” —Gardner.
  • Ignore the old software. Dan says that brains haven’t changed a lot. Hence we fear more of lizards than car accidents. We entered the modern age and the brave new worlds, but brain primal fears still are hanging out in neurons. Since Stone Age, our brain has just increased by 200 cubic centimetres. Old fears had a purpose and were useful but now discard them. They are built into our software even though we don’t need them. For instance, monkeys raised in laboratories which never saw a snake backs away.
  • Use system 1 less. Daniel Kahneman in his Thinking fast and slow describes two brain systems. System 1 is largely driven by gut and intuition which passes out judgement without thinking much. System 2 uses the conscious part and is slow and deliberate which makes it less prone to miscalculation. So the logic is to use more of System 2. As Pascal says—“The heart has its reasons for which reason knows nothing of.”
  • Availability heuristic. When you are exposed a lot of times to a particular piece of information then you are influenced by it easily without thinking. More bad weather news makes you consider the possibility of dying in the next hurricane or being killed by an earthquake. But less available news like flu, sugars though very dangerous are less frightening for you.
  • Prefer data over stories. People want stories and anecdotes than hard data. Hence people still believe that mobile phones cause cancer, we have flat earth, angels exist. The author gives an example. In the 1990s rumours without scientific evidence and temper began to spread that breast implants cause cancer and were termed as toxic breasts and ticking bombs. The result was—the company was wiped out in lawsuits and no evidence ever came to light proving its correctness.

    Next time, a panic strikes, you better get your numbers right.
  • Politicians and Pharmaceutical companies have something in common. Yes, both breed fear in their farms. Former to get power and latter to get money. Politicians fake a danger and go to war. Pharmaceutical companies use fear and convince that you need nasty pills and manipulate data about the efficacy of a drug. And politicians are ready to target minorities.

    And now they have a powerful friend—The fourth estate in the name of media.

So always remember this quote that the author puts in the very beginning which I leave at the very end—

“Fear is implanted in us as a preservative from evil; but its duty, like that of the other passions, is not to overbear reason, but to assist it.”

3 Ideas from Brendon Burchard To consider Now

Brendon Burchard is regarded as the world’s leading high-performance coach and an excellent writer who topped the New York Times list of best-selling books 3 times. He is often quoted, googled, watched, and googled on the internet by productive bees who want the best in their life.

His online courses, videos crossed millions and Oprah Winfrey considers him as one of the most influential personal growth gurus of all time. Most people know him through the Brendon show, a wonderful podcast if you want to listen.

There’s a ton to learn from him and here are a few of my favorites—

  • 1)Owning Ambitions 100%

Brendon says that most people never own their ambitions 100%. This is a powerful idea and a truth. We usually own it a 50-60-70%. For instance, you want to write a book, run a blog, make YouTube videos and inspire millions of people online and you invest your resources and time on it but we do it half-heartedly. We don’t accept it but deep down you know it in your bones. I failed many times to do hard things like building a rock-solid body, write a novel. Sure, there are many reasons why I failed but after a lot of reflection, I think Brendon is right.

With just 60% ownership and liking, dreams are hard to come by. So never do this mistake. Chase your dreams only if can own them 100%. Here’s a nugget for you—
“personal power is directly tied to personal responsibility, which most people avoid.”(Brendon Burchard)

  • 2)Guilt is good

Brendon comments that guilt is a sign of learning and the first indication that you have a growth mindset. Trust me if you don’t feel guilty after binge-watching that Tv series all night, there’s something seriously wrong with you. Or you failed to make that blog post deadline possible, you should think and feel about it. That’s how you realize what your next baby steps are.

I always feel bad when I procrastinate on my Wednesday essay day. But guilt makes sure that I write the next day itself. Own guilt and achieve your dreams by course correction.

  • 3)Teach to generate positivity

“You have a clean slate every day you wake up. You have a chance every single morning to make that change and be the person you want to be. You just have to decide to do it. Decide today’s the day. Say it: this is going to be my day.”—Brendon Burchard.

Every morning is a choice to bring positivity to your life. No one can come inside your head and clean it. And positive thoughts won’t come unintentionally. You have to do it deliberately. That’s because the human brain is hardwired to create fear and anxiety. So the machine’s job is to constantly chase you down with 0% probability issues.

This man is worthy to be followed and take note of him. Go ahead. Great ideas can move you, only if you let them.


A Ring(Poem)

Long ago
there was a ring
that changed many hands.

Rumors came in
that the ring healed
the hearts of men and women
who puts it on index finger.

Then the fights came in
all died except one.

That single man on the earth
wore it
and healed his heart in all happiness.

—Drunken Monk.


Painted Faces(Poem)

The canvas
god gave
was empty.

But the colors,
themes, brushes
I chose were not pretty.

The strokes pained the soul
and the paper didn’t dry fast.

I mixed the colors
wanted something
,
Got something.

The palette knife
was blunt and the
final artwork was
like an old umbrella
feared of smooth rains
and metallic winds.

—Drunken Monk.


The Aristotle code in 3 sayings.

Aristotle, the greatest student of Plato and the man who tutored the famous Alexander can teach us a lot. He is the father of many disciplines—Logic, Political Science, Zoology, Rhetoric and a whole bunch of others.

And Aristotle is probably the greatest philosopher of all time and a polymath who surpasses all and hence a worthy man to look into. Let’s dive in—

  • 1)Golden Mean in life

“Monks, these two extremes ought not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the household life. There is an addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is low, coarse, the way of ordinary people, unworthy, and unprofitable; and there is an addiction to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy, and unprofitable.
Avoiding both these extremes, the Perfect One has realized the Middle Path; it gives vision, gives knowledge, and leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment.”—Buddha.

Aristotle and Buddha have something in common. That is the Middle way or the Golden mean. It is a powerful spiritual tool and a practical way to live life.
The mean path says to avoid extremities in life. Not to be a Hippie avoiding life nor a Materialist who’s sucked into life. Not to be a Moralist who doesn’t care about money nor a Capitalist whose life is run by dollars.

In life, not to show cowardice nor rashness but a sign of reasonable courage, And balancing passions and reality. The idea is neither to be in excess nor deficiency but moderation.

Next time, someone snaps at you, don’t be silent nor dynamite exploding on him/her but deal it with reasonable disapproval.

  • 2)What is good parenting?

“Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.”—Aristotle.

The Greek thinker opines that good parents educate children and that’s the only property that they can give which is worthwhile. A good inheritance is worthless unless your daughter is a woman of character and has prudence and probity.

Parents should teach what a good life is and how to be more empathetic and avoid being envious of others. And how to be more courageous, intelligent and compassionate.

A good education imparts humility and many virtues that act as a shield to evil vices around us. It shows how big a responsibility being a parent is and what matters to a child’s good governance of his life.

  • 3)Intellectual Humility

“The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” —Aristotle.
Bertrand Russel, who’s another giant head, wittily said that stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.

Once you have a cultured tongue and a reasonable amount of ideas in your head, that should not make you arrogant. We mortals can never knowledge that is full and complete. The more we empty the cup, the more we can fill as Bruce Lee would say. Despite so much advancement in science, we could not even unravel the nature of any single atom!

We are still 90% blind to reality and could just figure out some basic things to live.

Another part is to admit we are wrong. Graciously admit where you went wrong and how miscalculated the estimates and move on. Only cowards never accept the mistake. The brave and the wise know that out of 10 things we do, rarely the number crosses 1.

Still, doesn’t have the guts? No problem, at least be the criminal in your court of conscience and do the inner sentence.


My Brother’s Gift changed My Life—It’s a book.

My brother gave me “On the shortness of life” book to read a while ago. This book though a short one changed the course of my river. Seneca’s brilliant words pierced like a thunderbolt though I’m not a stoic as such.

I never knew that there’s such thing called as the “Art of living” until I met this great thinker. It inspired me, it brought an existential crisis to me, and in a way crucified and resurrected me.

And it also brought a sense of urgency to my hibernated-slumber life. And every page of the book washed my soul and put me in deep meditation and contemplation. Here are a few of them for you to burn the flame—

  • 1)Life is not short.

This sounds contradictory to the title of the book but this is the first truth that Seneca hammers on your head. He says—

“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.”

We waste so much time on things that don’t matter or on things that don’t matter now. We feed on Insta posts, drink YouTube scrolls, and sleep on Netflix-ing. If that’s not enough, we binge-envy on others and reflect for far too long on why life sucks though we exactly know why it does.

In fact, we tik tok our lives and finally think on the death bed—How has life gone by?

That’s why Lucius Annaeus Seneca pushes you to grab hold of your time and act like a mortal who is a simple slave to the silly fates.

  • 2)What is the proof for a long life?

“Often a very old man has no other proof of his long life than his age.”—Seneca.

This is a saintly saying if you think about it. Long-life doesn’t mean we add more numbers to our life but add more meaning to them. Consider Indian freedom fighter Bhagat Singh who was hanged at 23 or Bruce Lee who died due to Cerebral edema(That’s what Wikipedia says) at 32, they didn’t become oxygenarians or nonagenarians but their life was well spent.

Both changed the world in ways we cannot. And that matters a lot. Mere existence and sleepwalking to our tombs won’t do any good either to us or anybody.

Every living minute of our life should have some wonder and awe like a shining star.

  • 3)Choose your parents

I’m talking about intellectual parents, not birth-parents. Seneca says that we can choose to be educated by brilliant minds and great thinkers of history.

History is full of philosopher kings and queens, realists and stellar rebels who can teach us a lot. In other words, you can choose your mentor and be a mentee by sitting in libraries or swimming in the pools of wisdom.

Pick the classics and have talks with Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir and forge yourself under their guidance and light.

“You should rather suppose that those are involved in worthwhile duties who wish to have daily as their closest friends Zeno, Pythagoras, Democritus and all the other high priests of liberal studies, and Aristotle and Theophrastus. None of these will be too busy to see you, none of these will not send his visitor away happier and more devoted to himself, none of these will allow anyone to depart empty-handed. They are at home to all mortals by night and by day.”—Seneca.

This is the true “Walking with the dead,” we all should do.


The God’s Ideology(Poem on Capitalism)

The Invisible hand
made the weaklings invisible
and called it brute luck.

Privatization pilfered
the pockets
and called it competition.

State gave away the baton
to the markets
which made terrors
and fault lines
and called it incentive.

Wealth favored few faces
and the gaps grew
on X-Y axis.

More industrial revolutions
on the way
but the common rebels are
still waiting at the dockyards for a signal.

Workers wanted to
break the chains
but the cries of belly
Are hard to ignore.

Meanwhile, Proletariats lost in
the pandemics of pain.












4 Things Bruce Lee wanted you to know.

Bruce Lee, the name that needs no introduction. A world-class martial artist and surprisingly a world-class philosopher too. Time magazine named lee one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century.
We still binge-watch his movies and get dazzled by his cool moves.

But it’s time to dive into his enigmatic, jaw-dropping philosophy that can change our lives.

  • 1)Emptiness, the starting point.

“In order to taste my cup of water you must first empty your cup. My friend, drop all of your preconceived fixed ideas and be neutral. Do you know why this cup is so useful? Because it is empty.”—Bruce lee.

Bruce Lee is famous for this empty cup analogy that he picked up from zen philosophy. This one is a stunner concept to adopt in our life. With a fixed and overflowing mind, all you have are preconceptions, prejudices, and stereotypes. You are never in student mode and this stops learning and growing.

With a full cup, people are not ready to learn but only want to defend their ideas and position. This rigid mindset will limit us and confine us to the cup, like a frog in a well.

  • 2)Flow is the way of life.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” —Heraclitus.
Heraclitus also says that change is the only constant thing in our lives.

This was well adapted by Bruce lee in his life. Like water, he asks us to be in a flow, ready to accept the object that gives it the shape and form.

Everything passes away or as Shakespeare puts it in Hamlet—This too shall pass. That sad breakup hangover is not going to last forever and that happy feeling of job promotion also will not last either.

Stay with the change and you shall grow. If you obstruct the water, you become rusty and polluted.

  • 3)Concentration is the root.

“Concentration is the secret of strength.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Bruce Lee sees concentration as the root of all the higher abilities in man. As technology is growing at an alarming pace, our concentration abilities are falling off the cliff.

As the famous study points out we have an attention span less than the goldfish. After just 8 seconds, we are distracted away. That’s why it has become hard to do meditation even for 5 minutes regardless of the app we use or the program we enrol into.

Humans have built civilizations and now are venturing into space to colonize them. But if we cannot compete even with a goldfish, then the problem is too serious to ignore.

Master the combative arts of Lee but first, be attentive.

  • 4)The point is doing.

“The doer alone learns.”—Bruce Lee.

The only thing that matters is action and nothing else. The mere talk will not bring accomplishments and lee says that the surest way to learn something truly, that is, to get master knowledge not chauffeur knowledge, as Charlie Munger says, is to get some real action.

This is also supported by science—the way of kinesthetic learning. Hands-on learning by action helps a lot more than you assume.

Moreover, action can be meditative and acts as a medicine and antidote to our thought paralysis. Action liberates the soul and gives you strength which the thoughts cannot, no matter how noble they are.

welcome the way of the dragon.


Revenge

In revenge it appears as though you are fighting an enemy but you’re not.
In the anime series—Afro samurai, The number 1 samurai gets killed and his kid witnesses it. Before leaving the final breath, he says not to avenge him.
The kid doesn’t listen and finally kills him off after a while.
The problem is with this whole process of revenge. The kid is filled with hate, never having to taste love or friendship in his life.
Never tries to create family or a bond and worst, kills his own master who raises him as his own.
even after his revenge, there’s no sense of accomplishment and simply sits on the mountain waiting for a glorious battle that the future number 2 might bring on.
He neither made himself happy nor the world. The legendary warrior tag and the headband could not give the sword a decent rest and peace.

This cloud of revenge could never let him stomach the basic truth that his blood and bleak bones told—the end has no end, the beginning has no beginning.