Like almost everyone else, I make New Year’s resolutions.
Like almost everyone else, I break them.
Not this year.
When I came to China the first time, back in 2006, I became obsessed with human potential. Not the woo-woo stuff about telepathy and astral projections, but something more like the Mentats or the Bene Gesserit of my beloved Dune, a kind of ultimate flowering of human powers. I explored strange alleys of the internet and obscure sects of Chinese religion and practice, made a couple of hacking attempts at practicing what I’d found. I learned names like Kahne, and Weed, and Lorayne and LeShan, names you’ll soon be familiar with.
This year, I put it into practice.
I’ve collected all my old notes, and sorted them out. Of the wishful fantasy of becoming a Bene Gesserit, I’ve harrowed four abilities that I believe are skills, and which, like any skill, can be learned by dint of practice. These four I call simulflow, mnemonics, meditation, and petit perception.
Simulflow is similar to, but distinct from, multitasking. Multitasking involves giving partial (mental) attention to many things at once. Simulflow is the art of giving your full (mental) attention to several things at once.
Mnemonics is the ars memorativa, the Art of Memory. It involves training oneself in a few brain hacks or mental cheats to assist natural memory in normal tasks, like remembering where you set your glasses.
Meditation, as I’m doing it, is mindfulness meditation, paying attention to one thing at a time. This is harder than it sounds.
Petit perception is clocking the details. You would be amazed at the things you miss. Try closing your eyes and naming the objects on your desk. Then open your eyes and see how much you missed.
I’ve put together a plan that lasts twelve weeks, or three months. I call it Roscoe Learns to Think, and I’m starting on January 1st. By April 1st, I will have concluded this experiment, one way or the other. Either I’ll have finished, and accomplished what I set out to do, or I’ll have finished, and fallen short, or I’ll have given up. Only the latter is failure, as far as I’m concerned.
But this is only partly about me. Mostly, this is about you.
I’m including all this detail as an invitation. You can come along, if you like, and take part in the experiment, see if this stuff really works. If it does, you’ll be able to remember everything at a glance, and rattle it off casually a week later while you’re composing an email and reading one of my stories. And you’ll know where your keys are. If it doesn’t work, and this is the awesome bit, you’ll still be ahead of where you are now.
It’s gonna be tough going. We’re going to need practice, and discipline, and mastery(1) to get to April. I’m going to note my progress, and add snarky commentary, and put up suggestions for application (I’m pretty sure “How to have better sex by sitting around and doing nothing” is going to be fairly popular), and I suggest you do, too. Join me, and we’re in for the long haul. But we’re gonna Learn to Think.
Sign up here in the comments, and I’ll put your name up to the right. Yeah, right there at the top. A long list of men and women, willing to work for their bread and pay their dues, and willing to participate in a grand experiment, to find out what a human mind can do.
This year, I’m going to the stars. I’m going to Learn to Think.
Who’s with me?
1 – George Leonard’s Mastery is going to come up a lot, and it’s a great book anyway. You should read it.