Life is a lot like Jazz… it’s best when you improvise

“Life is a lot like Jazz… it’s best when you improvise.” George Gershwin

6924445131_4fbe8457df_z
Photo courtesy, Hailey E. Herrera, available on Flickr, under Creative Commons.

 

There comes a moment when you begin to grasp how to live your life. Maybe it is not so prevalent all the time, but you have got a glimpse.

You know.

You are present in the moment, totally aware of it and absorbed by it. You are in the unity of what is and what is going to be. This is the feeling of flow. There is the expression. And there is the sensation of an inner sound.

Your own voice.
Your own rhythm.
Your own music.

It dwells in you waiting to let it be free.

***

As a small girl I fell in love with rock music. It was easy, indeed. And the times of change made it all possible.

On the other hand, it took me years to appreciate jazz. This love was slowly born out of curiosity and built through experience.

The experience was not always easy. I remember a time when I sneaked out from a jazz performance on a big Jazz Festival, because the music was totally and utterly disturbing. It was horrible, to say at least. I couldn’t stomach it, so I had to escape. 

The music was totally awkward, impossible to listen to, blowing not only my mind but shattering my body, too. The main guy, the conductor, seemed in trance. He led the musicians to create sounds that were not only disharmonious to my ears, but making my body shake with disgust. Yet, to my shock, many people in the audience seemed to enjoy it. It was a perplexing experience.

But there were many good ones, such as listening to JazzyFatnastees.

***

It takes time to appreciate jazz, while rock music seems easily lovable.

The foundation of rock is security. There is the beat, the cyclical rhythm and the assurance. You know what is going to happen next. This feature has an attractive pull to the masses because rock offers stability. One can easily identify with the music to express the bottling emotions.

Rock music offers grounding. To hear it, listen to the piece below:

The foundation of jazz is uncertainty. This uncertainty permeates the music in all levels and forms.It creates tension. There is the surprise, the unknown behind the horizon and the unexpected. This feature is attractive only to the ones who are eager to wonder and wander. One can identify with the music when one is ready for an opening.

Jazz music offers exploration. To hear it, listen to the piece below:

Many can play and sing rock music but only some can play jazz.

Jazz is good when a musician who plays it, does with courage. He must flow with the music, so that at some point music is not being created any longer, but it is creating itself. Music is an elemental force, which searches expression. Jazz rides on exploration into the unknown.

***

Follow your own rhythm. Listen to your own music. Sing it.

If you can’t find it, start listening to jazz. It will lead you into exploration and encourage you to take a path of genuine curiosity. Listen to the piece of Możdzer, Danielson and Fresco:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kC5XhqUgY38

If you listen to jazz long enough, you will get comfortable in dealing with uncertainty. Even more, you will become curious and interested in all aspects of life. Once you welcome the unsettling, the unknown and the unpredicted, you will begin to appreciate the life for its richness of experience.

If you listen to jazz long enough, you will begin to realize that everything is interconnected. Any false tune, any off-sound or any lie will distort the whole piece. If you deceive in one area of life, it is going to permeate all your being. Your song is distorted.

If you listen to jazz long enough, you will be invited to play with uncertainty, summon your courage and become creative. You will learn to express your authentic self. You will learn to joyfully improvise.

Immerse in life. Feel it. Love it. Indulge in it.

Jazz in you searches an expression in the world.

 

“Jazz is one of the best things that you can find in your life, it can always be your friend.”  George Gershwin

 

The principles of Focus

principles of focus

Photo courtesy Fe Langdon, available on Flickr, under Creative Commons.

There are simple principles of Focus. Perhaps, I have heard of them, or perhaps I have re-invented them. They are in my head now.

The principles of Focus

1. Focus on what you want to create, not on what you want to avoid.

2. Focus on what brings the most value to your life, work or business, instead of keeping busy.

3. Focus on tasks in chunks of uninterrupted time, such as minimum of 90-120min.

4. Focus on what will produce the most value now and in the future, not in the past.

Helpful questions

Whom do you want to become? What do you want to achieve?

What is the cornerstone, the single most essential activity, skill or task to concentrate on such that when it’s done, it will sky-rocket your improvement and progress? (hint: Look at the Parkinson law)

How can you guarantee the sacredness of focus? How can you organize your day so that you guard your time?

How can you summon courage in order to move outside your comfort zone? How can you work on the needed change or a change of direction?

How can you create a ritual to encourage your focus flow?

***

Focus is your personal power. Immerse in it.

 

Speed matters or the matter of speed

speed matters Photo courtesy Tea, Two Sugars,  available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

Speed matters

In the last few weeks my son was learning to ride a bike. Although he previously refused to use a balance bike, he suddenly got super interested in riding a chunky and heavy bike. He made a fast progress with stabilizers as he was willing to practice no matter the weather.

First, the stabilizers were perfectly aligned on both sides. After two days, they were moved upwards. As a result, riding became a wobbly experience for him, nevertheless enjoyable. I could see it from the happy face of my son. The support given by the stabilizers was pretty weak.

After a couple of days my son insisted to take the stabilizers off. I still made him practise a few more days and I saw that he was ready.

The day came when the stabilizers were removed.  My son sat on the saddle with a huge confidence. Totally, convinced that riding was going to be a smooth experience.

It wasn’t.

He attempted to take off. Yet, he fell off just a second later. He tried again and fell again. And again. And again. Many more times.

He got perplexed. He was crying in desperation. Nothing worked.

I decided to give him support. In the initial stage, I hold  the bike at the back in a balanced position. Then I run with him riding, while balancing the bike. He was OK, when I was behind him. Yet, the moment I left him on his own, he was again back on the pavement. Falling over and over again.

I gave him lots of encouragement. No matter my praise, however, he was falling.

I kept applauding his attempts. All in vain.

At the end, he stopped, totally devastated. Frustrated, angry and defeated. He decided to ride his scooter instead.

***

The following few days brought nothing new. He had refused to ride a bike for a couple of days. Then he asked for his stabilizers back.

I did so.

Stabilizers brought his comfort again. He felt at home again and easy at riding. This time however, his experience was richer. He knew how it was to ride with and without stabilizers.

While practicing with stabilizers,  I explained to my son that in order to succeed he had to ride fast. The bike was heavy for his age and when a certain speed was gained, balancing become easier. Otherwise, slow riding, made it nearly impossible.

In addition, to help with the initial momentum, we practiced fast rides on a small downhill road. Then, I removed the stabilizers. Now, he knew he had to ride fast. He had the experience and understanding.

We started from a downhill, and … voila… he was riding a bike. Not ideally, at first, but without falling. Two more attempts, and he was perfectly fine.

A major accomplishment.

What is the moral of the story?

Speed matters.

The story is a good metaphor for all the situations when we want to induce a change. Be it to introduce a new habit, move a house, re-formulate a company strategy, learn a skill, or change a carrier.

The moment in which we want to start a transformation, the speed of implementation really matters. This speed, in analogy to bike riding, is important to gain the momentum. It is important to overcome the initial inertia and get things going. The speed of implementation is meant to push things forward. There is no time to dwell in fears or insecurities.

The speed forces you to stay focused. And the focus and dedication will help you to find the right way, the middle way, while balancing the in-s and out’s of the situation.

In order to do that, your initial preparations and strategy are essential, similarly as practicing with my son was. Deciding what you want and knowing what needs to be done to achieve that is the preparation. Then you just dive in and implement it as fast as you can.

Next time, when you are about to make a change in your life, choose to implement your strategy fast. No procrastination. Take one step after another. Until you reach your destination.

Speed of implementation matters, indeed, if you want to succeed.

 

 

Make delicious chocolate in 10 minutes

homemade_chocolate2

As I child I loved milk chocolate but with years I have started to appreciate the bitter version too.

I like homemade stuff and I like easy recipes. Real chocolate ticks both boxes 😉

The beauty of real chocolate is that, firstly, it is super healthy and, secondly, it needs only three ingredients. These are cacao (also called cocoa) butter, cacao powder and honey (or any other sweetener to your liking). Of course, you can add any other flavors, such as vanilla, but it is optional.

Are you ready?

Here goes the recipe.

Homemade chocolate in 10 minutes
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A healthy and energy-giving chocolate on-the-go or as a treat.
Author:
Recipe type: Homemade dark chocolate
Serves: Friends and Family
Ingredients
  • 1 Cup Cacao butter
  • 1 Cup Cacao powder
  • 0.5 - 1 Cup of Honey (the amount to your liking)
  • Vanilla / orange / mint / raspberry flavor (optional).
Instructions
  1. Melt cocoa butter in a water bath. To do that, add the cocoa butter to a glass bowl. Set the bowl over a pan with an inch or two of water (3-5cm). Use medium heat. Take care that the bowl does not touch the water.
  2. When the butter is melted, add the honey and whisk it thoroughly into the mixture. Add vanilla / orange flavor if you want to.
  3. Either take the pan off heat or use a very small heat. Add cacao powder in small amounts and incorporate it well into a smooth mixture.
  4. Use a small ladle or a scoop to pour the chocolate into silicone molds, a glass bowl, or a parchment paper.
  5. Sprinkle lightly with fleur de sal (light salt) or a bit of sugar on the top, if you like.
  6. Leave it to harden. It may take a few hours depending on the room temperature.
  7. Take the chocolate out of molds and store them in a glass container or in the fridge. It may stay for a couple of weeks.
  8. Enjoy!
Notes
Note that a water bath is not strictly necessary. Once you get the experience, you can just melt the cacao butter in a pan, add honey and whisk in the cacao powder. You need to be just skillful at cooking/baking.

You can also speed the hardening by putting the chocolate into the fridge, but you need to wait when it is cool. Otherwise, it may create a dusty-looking surface (not beautiful) if the chocolate was too warm.

Fleur de sal is a special, very fine and mineral rich salt. It can be used on chocolate to give it a more sophisticated taste.

The ingredients: cacao powder, cacao butter and honey.

cacao_butter

honey

 

 

 

 

 

 

The process: butter and honey melting and incorporating cacao powder:

cocoa_butter_melting 

chocolate_1 

The result:

chocolate_2

In the batch presented on the top photo, I added a drop of a raspberry thick syrup on the surface of the chocolate molds, hence the glossy appearance. It was not a good idea though, as the chocolate stayed too sticky.

Instead, I am now adding a spoon of the raspberry/strawberry syrup into the melted cocoa butter. It gives a sweet after-taste that my kids like and doesn’t disturb the hardening too much.

***

You can buy high quality cacao butter and cacao powder online. For instance, Indigo herbs and BuyWholeFoodsOnline sell them. I am personally very happy with the Nukraft’s quality of the organic cacao butter and cacao powder. They can be ordered here at a very reasonable price.

Enjoy a piece of chocolate. It is really good.

 

Everything is a test

everything_is_a_test

Photo credit Fe Langdon, available on Flicker under Creative Commons.

 

Today I want to write about a specific mindset. This mindset, once adopted, can help you grow effectively. Let me first tell you how I discovered it.

The importance of a test

I have been a researcher in pattern recognition, which learns from data in an intelligent way. There are many tools available for a successful data analysis. All of them rely on certain assumptions about the data. Each assumption leads to a specific model. In the majority of the cases, however, the validity of the assumptions cannot be checked for complex data (which is often the case for real data).

I know it’s surprising, but it is true.

There are three reasons behind this. These are:

1) Too little data.

There is way too little data available for the number of unknowns in the model to be estimated

2) Algorithmic efficiency.

Even when huge data collections are at hand, a small sample of the data is used to make all the algorithms both fast and feasible for the task.

3) The lack of mathematical approaches.

No models available for in multivariate representations to check whether the given assumption holds or not.

In theory, when the assumptions about the data are true, then the best model (or one of the best) is exactly the one based on the same assumptions.

How do do you think this translates to practice?

Well …

The practice is a different story. There is usually a gap between theory and practice. You have already guessed it, right? 😉

A complex model theoretically tailored to the data distribution may loose with a seemingly irrelevant simple model. Even if this simple model is derived from a completely different assumption, it may still win with the theoretically the best model possible. It doesn’t have to be like that, of course, but it is often the case.

Why?

Because simpler assumptions lead to a few parameters. And fewer parameters can be better estimated (than the many) when there is little data.

It means that a simple model can often provide a better (though rough) fit, then a complex (hence flexible) model whose parameters are poorly estimated. This inadequate estimation often makes the complex model bad for the task.

This is a controversial point so let me paraphrase it as follows.

Imagine that a simple outline of your silhouette (aka, data) is given to a tailor (which is an algorithm). He hasn’t seen you, but he has some data about you – a rough outline of your body.

A simple model would then translate to a basic and plain dress suited around a few measurements. These may be the neck-line, the waist-line, and the chest. The dress, even though not special, will likely fit you as the basic measurements are sufficiently estimated.

A complex model would correspond to a fancy dress with layers, frills and pockets, and an asymmetric line. Many measurements are now required to have it designed well. Since they are based on your outline only, guesses have to be made. The resulting dress may look stunning, but unwearable because it would not fit. Even if beautiful, the dress may either be too narrow or too wide in wrong parts of the body, so that there is no way for you to squeeze in. 

But… If the tailor is well experienced, he is capable on choosing the right complexity based on a few measurements. He will make the right design that would be perfect for you.

The only way to know it, is to test it.

Everything is a test

In practice, when you want to guarantee the best solution for the given data you will do two things. First, you will consider a number of different models, including a variety of data transformation as well. Secondly, you will train and test them extensively on the new data. This is the data which was unused for the parameter estimation (i.e. the unknown parameters of the model) and kept aside for an evaluation.

It is a necessary step.

Without a well-designed testing stage, the primary results are often too optimistic. Moreover, your initial guesses may be totally wrong. Without rigorous testing, no intelligent solution is found. With the extensive testing and adaptation, the solution will work for new data. This is what you want.

This is a powerful learning point which easily applies to my life and your life. Namely,

What I am talking about here is the mindset, not the literal approach to test every single thing in your life. The mindset will have paramount consequences for your conscious growth.

Let me explain why.

First of all, when you approach a new idea or a habit to your life as a test, it is easy to commit when you know it is meant for your first-hand learning experience. Your goal is to see how this idea (say, a specific time management approach, weight loss program or a nutritional protocol) applies to your personal circumstances in a limited time frame. After a specified time period, you are going to evaluate how well this idea works for you.

The mindset of a tester is a mindset of a person who likes to have fun and see what happens without any specific attachment to the results. Why? Because a test is meant to provide you with feedback. When you accept that you have been just testing, it is easy to modify the approach accordingly or truly abandon it if necessary.

Secondly, if you like the newly tested idea, you choose to adopt it as your long-term habit. Even though it is now ingrained in you, after a year or two, you know you are still in a testing stage, though it is now an advanced test ;). The testing never ends. As a result, you are open to either modify it or leave it when the idea stops serving you.

Test everything

The “test everything” mindset is to enjoy running the tests, while being open to adjust them when needed. This mindset will prevent you from blindly following the gurus or getting into dogmatic thinking. A test is always subjected for an evaluation. You simply allow yourself to question both the assumptions and the results.

This mindset keeps you open for new ideas. It makes you conscious to observe when the ideas you practice have stopped serving you. It usually starts with an insight that something is a bit off track or awkward. You will notice that when your mind is set to the testing stage.

If you, however, accept the idea as an absolute truth because it comes from gurus (advanced research, your beloved one or any other authority – you name it), you may easily continue the practice it until things become so bad for you that you have no other way than connect the dots. A bit too late….

***

A tester’s mind is a versatile and flexible mind. It is a fresh mind, indeed.

As a tester, you give yourself permission to run trials of all kinds, even the ones which lead to negative results. These results are your feedback, which will be intelligently analyzed to tailor the tested approach to your specific condition. 

Choose to be a tester. You will learn a lot, adjust ideas and develop your independent thinking. Such a conscious process will teach you how to make smarter and more effective decisions.

On the top, you will get more fun!

***

 What you are going to test today?

***

 

 Page 5 of 29  « First  ... « 3  4  5  6  7 » ...  Last »