11 Jun 2017

The Big Picture


The world we live in today is progressing at a rate never before seen in the past. The pressures to progress yourself and contribute to society are at an all time high and can often times feel overwhelming. In juggling hundreds of activities on a daily basis, we often times loose track of the big picture; of where we came from and where we plan to go. 

I have many blog posts discussing how to improve your current situation as well as how to prepare for the future, but none on the past. With this post, I hope to shed some light on our shared history, on who we fundamentally are and the similarities and differences ingrained in us through generations. The majority of the dates are rounded to make them easier to remember but the chronology is not impacted.

The Beginning of the Universe

13,800,000,000 years ago - The Big Bang

As far as we know, this is the origin of everything that exists, the beginning of space-time. A lot of people ask the question "But what happened before the Big Bang?" and the answer is quite interesting. To answer this question, we need to understand the fact that "For something to occur before something else, time must already exist." Therefore it should be clear that "before the start of time" doesn't make sense because time didn't exist before time due to the fact that "For something to occur before something else, time must already exist." It is the same as asking the question "What is 2+Apple with a pinch of salt on a mountain in India from 0 to 5?" There is no answer because the question itself doesn't make sense. The question "What happened before the Big Bang?" sounds sensible but when we really analyze it, we see that it doesn't make sense.

So then what? Perhaps we can ask "What exists outside of space-time?". But analyzing this, we see it doesn't make sense because the notion of space must exist for something to be outside something else. As we are beginning to see, it's difficult to conceive of a reality that isn't space-time (excluding Mathematics)...let alone ask questions about this reality. A better question is to ask "How do we reconcile that which we cannot conceive of?", a question where many people tend to answer with God, however there have been formal attempts to ponder this question. Now this is getting quite philosophical, but if you are further interested in tackling these ideas, there is a branch of Philosophy called Metaphysics that investigates this topic extensively. 

13,200,000,000 years ago - Emergence of the Milky Way Galaxy

The universe is arranged into millions of clusters of around 100 galaxies held together by gravity, but each of the million clusters are drifting away from each other at extremely fast speeds. The way I visualize this is considering a big balloon that is constantly getting air pumped into it and expanding over time. Within this big balloon that is the universe, there are millions of smaller balloons - clusters of galaxies, that are getting air sucked out of them and contracting over time. Our galaxy is apart of the Virgo Cluster and is expected to collide with the Andromeda Galaxy in approximately 4 billion years from today (Don't worry, we'll all be long dead). Each galaxy within each cluster consists of millions of solar systems (stars and planets). 

At this point, all that exists in the universe is the four fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong and weak nuclear forces and the two most basic elements Hydrogen and Helium. If you're interested in knowing the details of how further complexity like stars and planets arose from this basic stuff, the study of Physics and Cosmology investigates this topic extensively. 

4,500,000,000 years ago - Emergence of our Solar System & Earth

Just like the sun is at the center of our solar system with 8 planets orbiting around it, each galaxy consists of a black hole at it's center with millions of solar systems orbiting around it. As you can see, it took the first 9.3 billion years for the universe to start creating stars from the four fundamental forces interacting with the two basic elements. But after stars were created, it didn't take much longer for planets and all sorts of complex life to evolve.

4,000,000,000 years ago - Emergence of Life

Shortly after the formation of Earth, we begin to see signs of life at the bottom of the ocean. Now we aren't talking about anything visible to the human eye, the life that existed during this time was in the cellular form. Billions of elements (mainly Carbon) arranged in complex structures called DNA and RNA surrounded by a cell membrane with the sole purpose of reproduction. If you're interested in knowing the details of how life arose, the study of Biology and Chemistry investigates this topic extensively.

500,000,000 years ago - Emergence of Recognizable Life

For 3.5 billion years, cells were replicating and reproducing with minor mutations occurring each time. Eventually single cellular life realized it was beneficial to share DNA with another cell resulting in multi-cellular life. Only 500 million years ago did we start to see signs of something that resembled a fish - billions of cells interacting with one another to reproduce on a larger scale.

400,000,000 years ago - Emergence of Land Life

After 100 million years of fish reproducing and evolving in the ocean, eventually competition for resources became so fierce that some fish attempted to journey to land to survive. Eventually learning to eat the grass on the land and evolving to have feet replace fins, we get the dawn of the era of dinosaurs. For the next several million years, there will be various forms of dinosaurs occupying the land and various forms of fish occupying the ocean. If you're interested in knowing the details of how life evolved, the study of Evolutionary biology investigates this topic extensively.

60,000,000 years ago - Emergence of Mammals

Until now, dinosaurs ten times the size of a tiger dominated the land competing with each other for resources. Any mammals that existed were food for dinosaurs so they hid away until an asteroid hit the planet and caused the dinosaurs to go extinct. At this point, mammals slowly started populating more areas of the land.

15,000,000 years ago - Emergence of Apes

Just like fish evolved into more complex life forms in the ocean over millions of years, it took mammals almost 50 million years to get complex life forms as diverse as tigers, zebras and apes. As you can imagine, we share more similarities with gorillas than we do with tigers and more similarities with tigers than we do with sharks due to the fact that sharks diverged from us further ago than tigers did on the evolutionary tree, and tigers diverged from us further ago than gorillas did.

2,500,000 years ago - Emergence of Abstract Thought

Until 2.5 million years ago, apes weren't much different than other mammals, they followed a standard daily routine and the better the mammal performed the routine, the greater the chances of survival and reproduction. Only at this point do we start to see signs of abstract thought. An ape would see his dad banging a rock on another rock in hopes to accomplish some task, and only 2.5 million years ago did the child consider that maybe...just maybe...sharpening one of these rocks would yield a better outcome. Fast forward 100 generations and you get a hammer and a nail, another 100 and you get a spear...you get the idea. This marks the dawn of apes having rapid brain development known as the Expensive Tissue Hypothesis

The Beginning Of Humans

200,000 years ago - Emergence of Homo Sapiens

The first signs of apes that had the exact same body structure as people today. Although their cognitive abilities would still be significantly behind ours for the next 150,000 years, dressing one of these apes up in clothes and taking a picture of them would make them indistinguishable from a modern day human. These humans originated in Ethiopia, Africa but would very soon make their way across the planet to dominate all life forms.

50,000 years ago - Cognitively Modern Humans

For the past 150,000 years, Humans were continually developing their brains generation after generation. Prior to 50,000 years ago, if you tried to raise a baby in modern society - they would have extreme difficulty interacting with others and behaving normally. Approximately 50,000 years ago was when humans could behave as we do today, they simply lacked the social structures to do so. 

20,000 years ago - Humans Populate All of Earth

For the past 60 million years, species of all kind were competing with each other to survive. Due to humans primarily developing cognitively as opposed to physically - with the help of abstract thought, communication and cooperation - humans were able to dominate all other species within only 200,000 years. Even though other species evolved to be much larger, stronger or faster - rapid brain development proved to be the key to dominate all other species.

10,000 years ago - Emergence of Agriculture

Until now, humans hunted animals and gathered fruits from the environment. Animals generally eat the land or each other, therefore when an area of land was harvested - the animals must move to new land that has the resources that they want to consume. Due to this nature of how animals consumed resources to survive, humans naturally moved from place to place...following the animals wherever they went.

Only 10,000 years ago did we learn that we could build a fence around the animals and make them reproduce at a rate that feeds us indefinitely, provided there is enough land for the animals to eat (after grass is eaten, it takes a long time to regrow!). This gave rise to agriculture in what is called the Neolithic Revolution which meant humans no longer needed to live in the lifestyle of "hunters and gathers" and could stay in one place.  Agriculture could only occur in very specific environments where the lands were fertile (where the grass regrew rapidly) therefore we see independent civilizations arise in various locations around the globe.

The Beginning of Society

3000 BCE - 1500 CE - Emergence of Civilization

Now that we have a group of humans living together in a similar location, there naturally arose rules and cultures for different regions of humans, this gives rise to civilization. The first civilization emerged in 3000 BCE near Pakistan and India called the Indus Valley Civilization. Civilizations kept emerging through this period and since 3000 BCE to 1500 CE, the main goal of a civilization is to sustain it's people which inevitability leads to connecting and/or conquering other civilizations, similar to how humans compete and/or cooperate on an individual level. Around this time was when we first created a formal language of writing which marks the dawn of documented history. Below is a list of all major events occurring during this time period, but if you are interested in knowing a more comprehensive list, the study of History investigates this topic extensively.
  • 1000 BCE - 4 major civilizations are Romans, Arabs, Indians and Chinese. Although these 4 labels didn't exist yet, they are geographically semblance.
    • These 4 civilizations are the origins of the major countries that exist today
    • Roman civilization eventually split into the various countries of Europe and North America
    • Arab civilization eventually split into the various countries of the middle east today
    • Indian civilization continued to thrive in the area we know today to be India
    • Chinese civilization eventually split into the various countries in Asia
    • All other countries  (like Russia and countries in Africa) are mixtures of the nearby civilizations above
  • 800 BCE - Hinduism originates near India - largest impact on Indian culture
  • 500 BCE - Buddhism is founded by the Buddha - largest impact on Asian culture
  • 300 BCE - Birth of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle in Rome - founders of logic and reason which had the largest impact on global culture
  • 1 CE - Jesus crucified leading to widespread Christianity - largest impact on Roman culture
  • 600 CE - Islam is founded by Mohammed - largest impact on Arabian culture
  • 1250 CE - Genghis Khan (Mongol leader) closest in history to world domination
  • 1500 CE - Discovered North America leading to civilization of entire planet

1500 CE - Present - Modern History

In 1500 CE, we attempted to sail from Europe to India but discovered North America on the way. There is an ongoing debate on whether the people living there were civilized or not, but either way - we killed the majority of people living there (by spreading disease) and colonized/civilized the Americas leading to human society dominating the entire planet. This marks the dawn of humans being a major influence on the global issues like animal extension and global warming. 

It took over 100,000 years for hunter-gatherer humans to dominate the planet, but within a mere 4,500 years of civilization developing, civilized humans were able to dominate all other forms of human lifestyles.

Major events since 1500 CE are as the following:
  • 1700 CE - The Scientific Revolution - Attempt to understand the world through math and science as opposed to religion 
  • 1800 CE - The Industrial Revolution - Attempt to use technology to replace human physical work 
  • World War I(1914), World War II(1939), the first global identity established - the UN (1945) 
  • Advent of the World Wide Web (1991), cell phone popularized (1998) 
  • Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, Skype, Twitter become popular marking the dawn of an "Online Profile", "Smart Phones" and "Social Media" (2004)
  • 2005 - The Digital Revolution - Connect the world as opposed to having isolated cultures and attempt to use technology (Artificial Intelligence) to replace human mental work 
  • ISIS and Refugee Crisis (2015), Donald Trump becomes president (2016)


If there is one overarching theme throughout all this, it is rising complexity. Whether it's star formation through forces interacting with elements, humans dominating the planet through complex brains or the development of civilization, the universe shows time and time again - complexity keeps rising and occasionally there are events like the ones above that cause an explosion in complexity. 

With the recent connectivity of the world occurring only this generation, rising complexity has once again broken another barrier and as we are the first generation to deal with this change. It only makes sense that we occasionally feel overwhelmed with all the challenges of life. The universe is once again moving extremely rapidly to embrace the explosion in complexity that is robots, and as we are apart of the universe; it can often times feel difficult to keep up. 

So the next time you feel overwhelmed with the hundreds of activities you need to do today, just take a deep breath and think about the big picture.

19 Jun 2016

Graduating...What's Next?

Excitement or anxiety

So you've finally thrown the funky hat up in the air (apparently it's called a mortarboard) and screamed "I'M FINALLY DONE". Or perhaps you're like me and just took the hat off and said shit...what now?

Graduating can be a very nervous time. For the past 4 years we live in a bubble with our friends, largely forsaking the real world in order to find ourselves and develop a sense for what we like and dislike. Now that we're graduating, it feels like society is telling us "fun time is over, now go be an adult and make a contribution".

This seems like a fair expectation...I mean we've been spending other peoples money in order to live, learn and have fun...it's our time to give something back. But what if we don't know what we like yet? What if we haven't found ourselves yet? I certainly don't want to be working 8 hours/day doing something I dislike...and now with the added pressure of this being what I do for the rest of my life!

But I need to make money!

No one can deny money is important. But let's take a step back and briefly look at the role of money, and in doing so - hope to find the answer to why we may like some jobs more than others.

The purpose of money (in this context) is to reward an individual for the invaluable time they spent to make this world a better place. When you clean a toilet as a janitor, you are making life much better for the subsequent people using the bathroom. Similarly when you invent a communication channel for over a billion people to instantly communicate with each other, you are making life much better for the people using that technology. Supply and demand govern how much we want certain things and therefore the money associated with certain jobs, (people surely want Facebook more than they want a clean toilet at a restaurant) so that's why Mark Zuckerberg makes more money than a janitor. It's critical to note that money per se (though the things it can buy may) has absolutely no relation to how interesting a job is to us, only how in demand the job is to society.

Don't get me wrong, it is very sensible to pay people relative to how much others want what they create. But money is the unit of exchange for the value we produce, it is not valuable itself. This is why many people in the chase for money find themselves empty on the inside, left with a deep craving to have purpose.

When you help your grandma open the jar, a child cross the road or help anything at all  - you undoubtedly feel happy. This is because we feel good for doing things we deem worthwhile and are met with an understanding from others that 'yes indeed, I also think what you are doing is worthwhile'. A salary or money earned is simply our confirmation from society that 'yes indeed, people as a whole think what you are doing is worthwhile'. And you are compensated according to how many people agree. But what about you deeming it worthwhile?! This is the part that's left out...the part that we're suppose to find while in university. 

Rushing into a job simply because it pays well is failing to understand that we must deem the job a worthwhile way to spend our time. Allow me to use myself as an example. I recently graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelors of Computer Science. There are fields within CS such as data mining, machine learning, application and web development all of which pay very well...but I am simply not that interested in them. I took a look at my past and noticed teaching was a very common ground that I gravitated towards regardless of the activity. Therefore I'm looking to apply my software skills in education related fields. And this feels very rewarding to me, I understand that I can make more money elsewhere but I simply have no desire to do that work. 

Now I was fortunate enough to be in a field with plenty of diverse opportunities to find my interest. More often than not, upon graduating you will have to take a job that's not directly related to what your interested in. That is OK, we live in a world with unimaginable job opportunities in pretty much any field. Just remain open minded towards opportunities ...and more importantly interests. So often we tell ourselves "I won't like that" without ever giving it a try.

9 Jul 2015

Managing Money Made Simple


I think we can all agree that time is the most precious and valuable resource to us. It would be very difficult for someone to offer you a trade where you gain something at the cost of spending 10 years in jail. If they offered something that would take 50 years to earn, such as millions of dollars, you may consider it, though even then most of us wouldn't take it due to the awareness of the missed experiences we would have; something money cannot buy.

We must accept the hard truth that we live in a world where our time has a value on it. The saying "time is money" is very true in most peoples lives. To simply be able to provide the basic necessities for survival, a person needs food and shelter - things which cannot be attained without money. 

We get paid a certain amount of money per hour/month/year we work, therefore it should be easy to see that the amount of money we have/make is directly correlated with the degree to which we have control of our time. What I mean by this is that rather than spending 10 years in jail - we are forced into a mandatory trade of spending X years at work and in return we get the quality of life we desire. Though for most people, this is not the case as they manage money poorly and are frustrated with the mismatch in effort spent and output achieved - getting ripped off in the trade but to nobody's fault except their own.

The next few sections will be specific and easy guidelines to follow to help manage your money. Time is our most valuable resource, it makes sense to allocate a small portion of it to manage the rest.


Here is my finance sheet to manage money.
I have 2 sources of income, my job and I tutor on the side. On the right side, I have a list of all my expenses averaged out on a monthly basis. Like most people, I get paid biweekly and so I divide my monthly expenses into 2 portions, what I spend my first paycheck of the month on, and what I spend my second one on. Some subtle allocations to note are: 
  • Money for fun is in my first paycheck so I have some for the entire month
  • Money for rent is in my second paycheck so I can always have it ready for the next month
  • Money for groceries is split evenly among both paychecks

Your income

This is the power you have to work with. This is your weapon. Your shotgun or your dagger, whatever it may be - this is what you have. If you want to earn more, make it happen - but DO NOT spend more than what you earn. The long term result of this is loans with interest accumulated so high that you are only motivated to make minimum payments. In my eyes, working to pay off interest is negligibly different than spending the same time in jail. 

Your expenses

Making a list of expenses isn't actually that hard. You simply have to review your past months spending. Most people can think of the majority of expenses off the top of their head, but for accurate results - simply go to your banking website and they'll have all your transactions. Here is a minimal list to start you off.
  • Rent
  • Groceries
  • Maintenance 
    • Physical: haircut, shampoo, soap, a billion accessories for girls that I have no idea about
    • Environmental: toilet paper, hand soap, garbage bags, other things you spend money on to keep clean
  • Bills
    • Internet, hydro and other monthly subscriptions to whatever you subscribe to such as Netflix or a gym membership
  • Fun
    Know how much money you spend on entertainment and allocate a certain amount to that
  • Miscellaneous
    Things often times come up that cannot be accounted for. I recommend allocating a small portion of money to miscellaneous expenses. Keep in mind the more money allocated to this section is directly related to the lack of knowledge of your spending. 
  • Invest
    Without investing, we will be unable to make any large purchases such as a desirable mortgage or car. Allocate a certain amount of money to be put to a TFSA or any form of investment you prefer. As much as life is able right now, you can make your future "right now" a whole lot better. This also gives us the freedom to leave an unpleasant reality and start something new, a very important asset to have as life is unpredictable.

What to do

All you need to do is keep a note on your phone with all your expenses and how much money you have allocated to each one. When you spend money, go to your phone and subtract how much you have for that category. You already get your wallet out to pay, it's very easy to also get out your phone and make a quick edit to a note. Reset the values to the monthly allocation every month. If any of these go negative go back and redo your allocations. If you are missing a category, add the category and redo your allocations.


Needless to say, having money is awesome. Most of us wish we had more, but the truth is - that is completely in our power. The first step is to manage what we currently have.

7 May 2015



Consider all the major time consuming activities you did today. Do the same for every day this past week, or month for more accurate results. Similarly, consider the major positive and negative interactions you had over this time. Modern psychology suggests humans, like many other animals are creatures of habit. As habitual creatures, all of us will have activities and more importantly - attitudes that are common throughout the past month.

There will be many activities we share such as eating and sleeping. Depending on what stage in life you are at, a daily activity may include school or work. On a deeper level we possess degrees of habits such as procrastination, selfishness or any of the seven deadly sins - all of which are detrimental to human happiness. For example, I've noticed throughout the past few years, I have a difficult time accepting other peoples ideas..I'm not sure why this is...but I am aware that stubbornness is a major flaw of my character and has led to several experiences where I mumbled to myself "If only I listened to them earlier".

If you participated in this exercise then you may have shed some clarity on what you're doing with your time and character. You may have encountered many qualities and habits you are grateful to have. You may have also encountered qualities and habits you deem negative. In my experience these negative qualities are often times the root of most our problems; and the hard truth is no one but you can change them.

Out with the bad

"Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny". Just like starting an essay, the beginning is always the hardest. Whether it's trying to study on a daily basis, working out regularly or not getting angry as often...you will be met with extreme resistance from yourself to develop these habits. 

We must be motivated with the idea that we can change ourselves into whatever we like. At first it is near impossible to think like this, but after starting the chain of breaking/developing habits, it is extremely motivating knowing that if you ever feel any sort of discomfort, whether that be in relationships, health, finances, respect from others, global crisis...you have the power to relieve that discomfort.

Unfortunately most of us only fix the negativity once we hit a brick wall. Whether that is having unbearable credit card payments, a breakup, obesity issues...we often only change things when we realize we're deeply unhappy.

In with the good

There are some basic activities we must all do, but an increasing number of people neglect one or more of the regular mandatory activities. 

Human nature has four dimensions, the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual dimension. Neglecting any one dimension will surely cause long term harm and unhappiness. 

The Physical Dimension
This refers to caring effectively for our body. Eating the right kinds food, getting sufficient rest, relaxation and exercise on a regular basis. There is enough evidence out there to suggest that some form of exercise is required for every individual. 

Lacking physical exercise or a poor diet results in ineffective physical capabilities to tackle other areas of life. The implicit effect of this leads to insecurities and on worse cases, physical or social difficulties.

The Mental Dimension
This refers to caring effectively for our minds. Constantly exercising our brains keeps them from becoming lethargic. If you are in school, then this is done by developing a genuine interest to learn the subjects you take...irrespective of grades and the curriculum. Specializing in our field of employment allows financial benefits and greater overall materialistic wealth. Understanding the world allows us to appreciate the vast beauty and synergy in the world and in humans. 

Lacking mental exercise leads to dullness. Often times people are stuck at jobs they hate in fear of unemployment due to being completely outdated in their industry. Newly grads find themselves unable to find jobs due to not having the genuine interest mentioned above. 

The Emotional Dimension
Imagine living in a world where you were the only person. You wouldn't aspire to be an engineer, a doctor, or be kind and generous, you're only goal would be to find someone to connect with. We must understand that the entirety of our happiness comes from our interactions with other humans. Besides food and shelter, there aren't really any desires that exceed our desire to be understood. Connecting with others fulfills this desire all the while enhancing our communication skills and empathy.

Lacking meaningful connections with people leads to a lack of empathy and degrades our communication skills. The lack of empathy combined with ineffective communication makes it difficult to understand others, and be understood by them. Since we have an inherent desire to connect, if we cannot find that connection in other people - we often turn to drugs, porn, gambling or other pleasure inducing activities. There has been growing evidence to suggest that lacking in the emotional dimension is the direct cause of addiction.

The Spiritual Dimension
This does not refer to our religious beliefs. This refers to regularly refreshing the values we hold dear to ourselves. If one does not spend time refreshing the values they hold to, then one negative incident after a next will eat away at their character base and cause one to be selfish, arrogant, angry, deceptive, among other negative traits.

If you find yourself having a difficult time being happy for friends successes, feel the need to compare and be better than others, find yourself lying to others and yourself...you may be lacking sound values. 

I wake up every morning and the first thing I do is take ten deep breaths, then remind myself to be honest to myself and others, kind, sensitive and happy, then continue with my day. Meditation, yoga and similar mind-body experiences are useful activities to help strengthen the spiritual dimension.


"I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor". You are not your environment or your lifestyle if you choose not to be. 

9 Feb 2015

How To Make Real Life Decisions Using Game Theory


In a previous blog I mention that our greatest power lies between stimulus and response...in the freedom to choose. This means that our life is primarily, though not exclusively; a sum of all the decisions we make.

We make hundreds of decisions every day. From what we should do upon waking up all the way through to when we go to bed. Wouldn't it be nice to know what the best decision to make is? Thankfully there is an area of study that looks into how to make good decisions. This study is called Game Theory, my area of interest.

I am a fourth year computer science student in my final term of university. I am specializing in artificial intelligence; specifically game theory, social choice and mechanism design. With this blog, I hope to explain how we can use concepts in game theory and apply them to our lives to make better, more informed decision.

Defining a game

A game is defined by:
  1. Finite set of agents (or players) N
  2. Each agent i has an action space Ai
    Ai is non-empty and finite
  3. Each agent has a utility function ui: ( A1 x ... x An ) -> R (real numbers)
If you didn't understand the math above, I will explain it in context of real life
  1. In any given scenario, there are some number of participants. Let's call that number n. Now if n=1, we are in a scenario where it's only us. We have to make a decision with things and ourselves.
  2. Every participant involved has a finite number of options to make a decision from. We will call this their action space, a set of possible options that an individual has to chose from. It is important to note that very rarely does a person know their entire action space in interdependent situations. That is to say, there is almost always 'another alternative' that was there, but we simply didn't have knowledge about at the time.
  3. Every participant has some degree of knowledge to how favorable different outcomes will be, given all users taking actions in their action space.
It is crucial to note that the 'size of our action space' and 'estimates of utility' are based on our maturity and preferences. This will be made more clear once we look an example.

Making decisions

In the individual setting, n=1. We are the only participant. One major difference in the individual setting is that our utility function is U(a)->R and we are concerned with finding the action to take that gives us the maximum utility.

The best way to demonstrate how to optimize decisions is through an example.
  • It's 11pm and we just finished an episode of our favorite show.
    Our potential action space could be A={ watch another episode, go to bed, study }
    We could estimate U(watch another episode) = 1
                                   U(go to bed) = 5
                                   U(study) = 4
    From this, we could make the decision to go to bed.
Action space
The above could be the action space of a high school student.
  • A person suffering from a drug addiction may include using again after the episode.
  • An older person may also include activities such as reading, stretching and other preferred activities with high utility.
  • A parent may also make sure to include checking well-being of children.
  • If we have a test the following day, the utility to study may be higher and to watch TV lower.
  • If we are experiencing a breakup, the utility for all our actions may be slightly biased.
  • The drug addict may have an extremely flawed estimate of the utility of using again.
There are 3 factors that influence our action space and utility, and how much they influence our utility can be caught in the 3 sequentially arranged Greek words ethos, pathos, logos.
  1. Ethos - Character The drug addict may have a flawed view on drugs heavily impacting the utility of that action leading to poor decisions, regardless of many other factors.
    On the contrary, a parent may have a very accurate view on child upbringing and highly prioritize the care of the children, regardless of many other factors.
  2. Pathos - Emotion After ethos comes pathos. A breakup will be influencing our actions, but not nearly to the degree that a drug addiction or a child may. 
  3. Logos - Logic Time management influences our actions as do other logical realities, but do so far less than our character or our emotion.

Increasing action space and utility estimates

  • Our action space is directly influenced by our wisdom. Wisdom is your perspective on life, your understanding of how the various parts and principles apply and relate to each other.
    In independent situations, we can seek to know who we are to increase our action space.
    In interdependent situations, we can seek to understand others to increase our perspective and hence increase our action space.
  • Our utility estimates are directly influenced by our guidance. Guidance is your source of direction in life. Encompassed by your internal frame of reference that interprets for you what is happening out there. The standards or principles or implicit criteria that govern utility estimates.
    Having more accurate utility estimates requires learning from others and our own successes and shortcomings. Utilities should increase or decrease after evaluating results of important decisions.

Think before you decide!

What is the point of this blog? To simply understand that we must consider all our options and pick the best one.

3 Feb 2015

The Benefits Of Exercise Made Simple


If you ask someone why they don't exercise, they will almost always have an excuse. "Exams are approaching", "the job has me occupied", "I'm mentally/emotionally stressed" and the most common and detrimental excuse "I don't have enough time".

One of the biggest lies we can ever tell ourselves is that we don't have enough time. This is an excuse for a more fundamental problem "I am inadequate at managing my time". But many of us don't want to admit core mistakes so we relieve ourselves of the problem and blame it on the stresses of life. 

I don't have enough time

Most of us think we don't have enough time to exercise. What a distorted paradigm! We don't have time not to. We're talking about 3-6 hours/week, this hardly seems like an inordinate amount of time considering the tremendous benefits in terms of the impact on the other 162-165 hours of the week.

Mathematically speaking, we only need to spend ~3% of our time to make the biggest invest in the most important asset we have, ourselves.

The obvious benefits

Exercising on a regular basis will not only preserve but also enhance our capacity to work, adapt and enjoy all aspects of life.
  • Increased strength
    As you increase your body's ability to do more demanding things, you'll find your normal activities much more comfortable and pleasant. You'll have more afternoon energy, and the fatigue you've felt that made you "too tired" to exercise in the past will be replaced by an energy that will invigorate everything you do.
  • Decreased resting pulse rate
    Little by little, your resting pulse rate will go down as your heart and oxygen processing system become more efficient.
  • Flexibility to occasionally eat unhealthy
    We all know partying after an exam is a lot more fun than partying before an exam. A big reason is because we feel guilty that we should be studying prior to the exam.
    Similarly, the occasional unhealthy meal will feel a lot more satisfying and enjoyable once your mind processes the food as an occasional break as opposed to something that's contributing to an obesity problem.

The not-so-obvious benefits

If you haven't been exercising, your body will undoubtedly protest this change in its comfortable downhill direction. These are where the not-so-obvious benefits come into play.
  • Increased proactive nature
    Probably the greatest benefit you will experience from exercise will be the development of your muscles of proactivity. You will be less concerned with the environment and outside forces of life, and more concerned with staying true to a value and goal you set for yourself.
    This will motivate you to set other long-term goals to regularly tackle. These other long term goals will seem less daunting and easier to face now that we have experienced positive results from decisions made within as opposed to from the outside.
  • Increased intrinsic security
    As you act on the value of physical well-being instead of reacting to all the forces that keep you from exercising, your paradigm of yourself, your self-esteem, your self-confidence, and your integrity will be profoundly affected.
    For many people, exercise is the first time they are truly honest with themselves. Honesty with self is very difficult as there is no accountability. No one to hold you responsible. Exercise gives you a daily decision to make that only involves you. Over a period of time, this honesty and integrity with self expands to other areas of life.
Over a long enough period of time, our proactive nature will be strong enough that we will be able to set goals for ourselves and due to our increased intrinsic security, we can hold ourselves accountable to them which will unleash layers of potential within us.

Where do I start?

This schedule is a simple starting schedule and is geared towards enhancing aesthetics for both men and women.

Begin each day with cardio (treadmill) for 20 mins.
All the exercises mentioned below should be done in 3 sets of 12/10/8 repetitions with a 30 second-1 minute break between sets.
I highly recommend searching Google for the correct form to do each exercise. Even as an experienced fitness enthusiast, I still find myself learning minor improvements in my form from Google.
  • Day 1:
  • Day 2:
  • Day 3:
    Bench Press
    Plank (3 sets of 1 min/45 seconds/30 seconds or as long as you can)
If you manage to do this without a day off, then take a day break after the 3 days of exercise.

Food is important!

Eating healthy is a very simple concept that people unnecessarily complicate to avoid worrying about the problem. However we must understand that what we eat is MORE important than the time we spend at the gym.

We do NOT eat for enjoyment!! Despite what the media and western culture may convey, eating, per se is not for enjoyment. We eat to provide the necessary nutrients to our body to continue functioning. Lacking nutrients in any category will cause problems; problems that may only surface when its too late.

Again, the majority of knowledge can be accessed through Google; however a basic suggestion is to reduce/monitor your intake of (in priority order):
  1. Saturated fats
  2. Sugars
  3. Carbohydrates
These 3 sources of energy tend to be what the western world consumes in excess. Excess in any sort of energy will be stored as fat; generally in the stomach for men and butt & thighs for women.


Just like waking up, starting an essay, entering university; the beginning is always the hardest. You won't like exercising at first. You may even hate it. But be proactive, do it anyway. Even if it's raining, do it anyways. "Oh it's raining! I get to develop my proactive nature as well as my body" should be the outlook.

I will finish with a powerful questions to ask you.
Have you ever met someone who regretted exercising for years?

Start exercising, you will not regret it.

19 Jan 2015

How To Get Over A Breakup


Before we venture into this topic, I would like to mention that the tools mentioned here are meant to help anyone in an emotionally tough situation. They do not pertain to breakups, however I feel we can use breakups as our example to demonstrate how to become emotionally stronger.

To start I would like to share an emotional experience I went through during a phase of my life. With this story, I hope to highlight some of the feelings I'm targeting so you can pick an experience in your life where you felt similarly and try applying the tools to see if it helps.

Situations with Melissa were quite complicated and things ended with me unexpectedly having to cut her out of my life. I was devastated. For weeks afterwards all I could do was think about what happened, figure out what went wrong and try to fix it. My thoughts was consumed with what happened, my heart was filled with sorrow and my attitudes and behaviours were negatively influenced as a result.

Let's go through each of the following tools and understand how we can turn ourselves around emotionally and mentally.

Between stimulus and response...

After cutting Melissa out, I found that the majority of my free time was spent thinking about what happened. What I didn't realize at the time was that I could decide within myself how all of this was going to affect me. Between stimulus and response lies our greatest power, the freedom to choose.

Once we accept the fact that we are able to choose our responses to events, we can figure out what governs our decision making. 4 uniquely human endowments that govern our decision making are:

  • Self-awareness: The ability to recognize the fundamental principle about the nature of humans as described above in bold. This can be as small as choosing what to do given our ex breaks up with us. Or as big as what to do with our lives given the one opportunity to live.
  • Imagination: The ability to create in our minds beyond our present reality.
  • Conscience: A deep inner awareness of right and wrong, and a sense of the degree to which our thoughts and actions are in harmony with them.
  • Independent-will: The ability to act based on our self-awareness, free of all other influences.
Animals and computers are programmed by instinct and/or training. They can be trained to be responsible, but they can't take responsibility for that training; in other words, they can't direct it. They can't change the programming. They're not even aware of it. We can be responsible; in other words, able to choose our response.

These 4 uniquely human qualities are the gap between stimulus and response. We can use them to help us respond in ways that are in harmony with the 4 qualities we possess.

The two circles

An excellent way to become more self-aware is to examine where we focus our time and energy.

We each have a wide range of concerns - our health, problems at school, the national debt, nuclear war. We can separate things in which we have no particular mental or emotional involvement by creating a "Circle of Concern". As we look at things within our Circle of Concern, it becomes apparent that there are some things over which we have no real control (nuclear war, how our ex is feeling) and others that we can do something about(school, focus on improving ourselves). We could identify those concerns in the latter group by circumscribing them within a smaller "Circle of Influence".

A responsible, proactive person focuses their energies in their circle of influence. They work on things they can do something about. The nature of this positive energy expands the circle of influence causing it to grow, the inside-out approach described in the second last section.
Irresponsible, reactive people focus their energies in the circle of concern. They empower the things within it to control them, effectively further limiting their influence and causing that circle to shrink, the outside-in approach.

Now that we're aware of where we should be spending our time and energy, let's look more carefully at how much control we have over situations in our circle of influence.

How much control do you have

The problems we face fall in one of three areas.
  1. Direct control - problems involving our own behaviour.
    These problems are solved by working on our own habits. To work on our own behaviours and outlook on life. Examine this carefully! It is very common for people to assume a direct problem is an indirect problem to relieve them of responsibility.
    For example, just because your girlfriend gets angry because you did X. This doesn't necessarily mean the problem is she gets angry, the problem very well could be you did X.
  2. Indirect control - problems involving other people's behaviour.
    These problems are solved by working on our human influence strategies. Strategies such as confrontation, persuasion and many others; all of which have their roots in the principles of kindness, fairness, mutual-respect and human dignity. 
  3. No control - problems we can do nothing about such as the past or situational realities.
    These problems involve taking the responsibility to change the line on the bottom of our face - to smile, to genuinely and peacefully accept these problems and learn to live with them, even though we don't like them. We have no control over them, it simply is not an effective use of our time and energy to think about, outside of learning experiences. 
We have now covered 3 powerful tools you can examine to help yourself. Now let's look the key to a successful relationship and in doing so, hopefully you can identify where your relationship fell short.

Ethos, pathos, logos

The Greeks had a philosophy which is embodied in 3 sequentially arranged words. Ethos, pathos, logos. I suggest that this is the fundamental root of any successful relationship. The closer a relationship is in harmony with this philosophy, the better it will prosper.
  • Ethos is your credibility, your character, or in the context of a relationship - the extent of similarities in views of the world and the bigger questions in life
  • Pathos is your emphatic side, or the extent of similarities in views of love, care and fairness
  • Logos is your logical side, or the extent of similarities in interests
Notice the sequence: ethos, pathos, logos. Your character and compatibility on the deeper, more fundamental questions is the most important aspect, compatibility in the soul. Following this comes your compatibility in the heart, and lastly your compatibility in the brain.

We are strong

Inside each and every one of us lies great strength of character. Inside all of us lies timeless truths and principles that; if we chose to disciple to, we can unleash our greatest human potential.

Our current social paradigm is an "outside-in" approach to life. We are defined by what's on the outside. We're told to go into a certain discipline, to make a certain amount of money, to support a family, and to ultimately be happy. If someone insults us, we tend to get defensive or angry. If we experience a breakup, we tend to be filled with sorrow and insecurities.

However what the "outside-in" approach of today that the majority of people fall under fails to acknowledge is the fact that primary happiness is defined from the inside-out. We must look within ourselves to determine what makes us happy, and live in accordance with rules and goals we set for ourselves, not what others tell us.

Here is a summary of everything mentioned:
  • We can recognize the 4 endowments unique to humans is the gap between stimulus and response
  • We can focus on our circle of influence
  • We can analyze how much control we have and act accordingly
  • We can reflect on the fundamental truth of relationships to learn and apply
  • We can focus on the "inside-out" approach
This takes a lot of personal strength and security, but will solve chronic problems that have their root at the most fragile parts of your heart.

Lonely Conclusion

The feeling of loneliness sucks. Only the basic needs for survival exceed the need for us to feel understood. But we must understand the solution is not to jump into another relationship; rather to have great intrinsic security and focus on finding ourselves more.

Love will come. The key is to know what to look for; and you can only do that if you know who you are and understand the key to successful relationships.

It's also worth the wait! We always hurry and fall into the wrong relationship because we are lonely- but this is a self destructive procedure as until we are truly happy with ourselves, we won't be looking for a relationship from the standpoint of meeting a compatible mate, rather just something to fill that empty void.

Be a function of your values, not of your feelings or desires; however strong the cravings may be.

A lot of what was mentioned here is taken from the book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". A great read for anyone looking for self-improvement.