Ask Vinni

Longer, well researched posts primarily focused on philosophy, psychology and self improvement. Topics I've mulled over for weeks. Irregularly updated.

 

Essays and other writings

Shorter, weekly articles on principles and thoughts that have been in my mind for a couple of days. Contradictory and rough, evolving as I do.

Sharpness of Mind

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Recent research for my “The Way of the Warrior” series has led me to, among many things, intensify my training routine and dedicate myself more and more to my workouts.

In reading more deeply about the history of warriors—from rise to fall—I’ve realized that, although there are many things that contributed to their failures, the biggest one in almost every single instance was when they stopped fighting.

What? So you’re saying that war is actually good?

Mastery by Robert Greene

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Having started this book right after finishing So Good They Can’t Ignore You, I thought this book would be a wonderful way to put that knowledge to use. Oh how I was wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, this book is very good in its own right, but while Newport’s book focuses on the everyday guy like me and you, Greene writes about the outliers. He starts off by explaining that we should find our “life’s task,” that which we were born to do. Instead of thinking that it stands at odds with the principles outlined in Newport’s book, I chose to see it as if one book complemented the other. It’s not realistic to expect that everyone of us will find that one thing that we were meant to do our whole lives (as “nice” as that might sound), but it’s always worth studying the lives of those who do.

And that this book does. It’s nothing but case studies and (very short) biographies of people like Goethe, da Vinci, and Mozart. Greene does a majestic job at showing the reader how they went about living their lives and pursuing their passions to become the people they did. Lessons that the reader can easily apply to his life, even without necessarily following his “life’s task.” By living like one of the “Masters,” we can surely achieve this mastery the book talks about.

The Way of the Warrior – The Vikings

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Weren’t they just mindless killers?

Most people probably feel like the vikings don’t belong to this series. Departing from the Bhagavad Gita, a text about the internal battles we go through in a quest for self-mastery, passing through the samurais and their discipline and philosophy, reading time and time again in each of the articles that killing and fighting is discouraged and should only be the very last option, it’s strange that we would end up on people known for nothing but killing, pillaging and raping.

Open your Curtains

 

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I still remember when I was a kid, I would often spend an entire afternoon inside playing video games. I don’t think that’s unusual for someone who went through his teens during the 21st century. Of course the light from the sun would make it difficult to see the screen properly, so almost every day I would close all the curtains and blinds in the apartment when getting home from school. I didn’t want anything getting in the way of me beating that Age of Empires campaign.

(Un-)Defining Culture

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How do you define something that is undefinable?

In my volunteer work as an intercultural trainer, which revolves primarily around planning and facilitating workshops on, among other things, culture and multiculturalism, we often try to define what culture really is.

It’s not hard to identify elements that make up this word. Anything from the fine arts to how people behave in social interactions, the amount of eye contact they hold and how direct they are in everyday interactions. We can write all of those things in a flipchart, but if we were to define how far in the spectrum each “culture” falls, we would fail miserably.

Hofstede dedicated a significant amount of time to separate culture into six distinct indexes and then rate countries based on it. For his research he sent forms to IBM that distributed them to their workers in every country the company is active.

But what if when explaining those indexes and giving people the data that Hofstede compiled, someone raises they hand and say they don’t agree with the rating attributed to the index by the research? What if they say that they’re from the country itself and that’s the complete opposite of the truth?

I’ve always believed that stereotypes only exist because they apply to a good amount of people. It’s said that Brazilians are lazy, and I wouldn’t completely disagree with that, but if I were to look at myself, my family and (Brazilian) friends, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. To which point is it even smart to try and define culture like that? Stereotypes apply sometimes, but sometimes they also don’t. Countries are huge land masses, is it even reasonable to expect that they all share a similar culture?

The place I come from is a separatist state in Brazil, most people hold a fair amount of prejudice toward other Brazilians, often saying that they’re lazy and don’t work, yet I’ve met gaúchos (like me) who are lazier than northern Brazilians.  The level of education is all over the board for the entirety of the country, who can argue that they’re smarter, more educated, or harder working?

I’ve met Bavarians who don’t drink beer, I’ve met Germans who are constantly late and disorganized. I’ve met Northern Europeans who party harder and are more open than any Latino I’ve ever come across.

Our brains need to generalize things, to find patterns; and that’s why stereotypes come in handy. It might be easy to throw people into a group because they look similar or come from similar places (even when their backgrounds and heritages might be completely different), but the more I travel and meet different people, the more I see that our “cultural indexes” are either outdated, or are not being applied correctly.

A lot of self improvement is about fighting the default configuration of our brains, and this might be one more of those cases.


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