UAC 144 | Antifragility

 

Resilience is being able to adapt to existing conditions. Antifragility goes beyond resilience by getting better and better with each exposure to stressors. Joining Thane Marcus Ringler in this episode is Cody Burkhart, a human performance specialist and the PSION Lab Chief at NASA. Cody and Thane talk about antifragility and how it relates to teaching children. Drawing heavily from his experience as a father, Cody gives his take on the prevailing paradigm in education. He suggests a better model for learning that teaches children how to recognize patterns, attain situational awareness, and think efficiently – all geared at raising good humans who are antifragile and have the ability to thrive in an uncertain world.

Listen to the podcast here:

Cody Burkhart (Rd.2): Neuroscience And Behavior: A Conversation On Growing Good Humans, Patterns, Situational Awareness, Significance, And Antifragility

This is a podcast all about learning how to live a good life. We believe that it takes living with intention in the tension. Life is filled with tension. That is our catchy mantra, which means we believe intentionality and infusing that into everyday life is the best way to face the tensions that we all experience. That is our show and our mission and what we are about. We get to unpack that through solo episodes where I share some things and learning through fellowship episodes which are peer-to-peer conversations and through interviews. To find us more about us, you can go to TheUpAndComersShow.com or find us on the socials, @UpAndComersShow.

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In this episode, I’m excited to get into our interview. It is another round-two. There are very few people I’ve had round-twos with, but I knew from the get-go that this was a guy I’d want to have a round-two with. This is Cody Burkhart. He is a father, husband, reader, thinker, weaver, and nerd. He spends most of his time attempting to understand the nature of perception, our definitions of reality, the nature of the human condition, and the core duality of our immense significance and insignificance. That’s the important stuff. The rest to follow is nothing more than context. That context is he holds BS degrees in both Aerospace Engineering and Mechanical Engineering with a minor in the Art and Practice of Leadership from the University of Colorado Boulder. He is working to complete a Master’s in Neuroscience and Behavior from the University of Houston – Clear Lake. He also serves as the President of the Neuroscience Student Organization at the UHCL, University of Houston – Clear Lake.

Within NASA, Cody serves as a Lab Chief of the Physiology-Sensing Intelligent Optimization Nucleus or PSION Lab, developing advanced exercise and human performance systems for long-duration space travel with an end goal of being an immersive, biofeedback, resistive and assistive exosuit. He’s a Project Manager of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, ARED, the crew strength and conditioning asset aboard the International Space Station. He’s a Project Manager of the Knowledge Reaper Asset in a Kinetic Network, KRAKN is what that’s called. It’s a multi-modal data management system for the health and performance monitoring of the ISS crew. He’s a Head Mentor for the Flight Systems Branch interns and pathways programs. It includes up to eight interns, undergrad, graduate, and Doctoral. He’s the head of Strategic Partnerships and Collaborations for the Flight System Branch. He’s a grant development specialist.

Beyond this work, Cody has served numerous roles in diverse areas including the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle and the Active Response Gravity Offload System or ARGOS. He has also spent numerous years developing skillsets in high-performance athletic training. His work has included all levels of athletics from owning and operating a grassroots gym, servicing the general population through to high school, collegiate athletes, professional athletes, Olympic athletes, and special operators. While the process may have been shared though, the accolades remain entirely theirs, as he says. In the end, it’s less about the roles and the jobs and more about the meandering journey that compels us all forward. Stay safe, stay well. That is a piece of Cody Burkhart. That might have whetted your appetite a little bit as we are about to take a deep dive with my friend, Cody.

UAC 144 | Antifragility

We got connected through Unscared, Inc. back in the day when I was playing professionally. He was my trainer and developed a sweet friendship and relationship with him through that. He’s a wealth of knowledge, ideas, and an incredible thinker. I was so excited. We dive into many things in this interview. We talk about critique versus criticism, the misleading of intuition, patterns, and true learning. We explore some of the new theoretical models that he’s testing. We talk about curiosity versus control, process versus outcome, presence versus future-oriented. We also talk about specialization, generalization and so much more. If you want to find more about Cody, you can go to TheUpAndComersShow.com/cody/2. If you want to connect with him, shot him an email. He is always down to dialogue. Please enjoy this deep dive, wide-ranging interview conversation with my friend, Cody Burkhart.

Cody Burkhart, welcome back to the show.

How are you?

I’m doing well. It’s a pleasure to be back with you. It’s been a couple of years since the first installment, but I couldn’t be more excited about round-two. We don’t have too many repeat guests so far, but to have you back is definitely a privilege and honor. I am grateful for your friendship.

I appreciate you and thank you for inviting me. It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to do an interview. I’ve always appreciated the conversations we’ve had. People don’t get to have the early conversations that have happened beforehand but they’ve been nice. It’s been good to catch up with you. Congratulations to you and your wife and your bright new future.

Thanks, it’s been a sweet journey. It’s something we were chatting about before we hopped on here and we’re going to get to that. It’s how we change and progress as humans. Before we get there, I thought it would be fun to loosen things up with a couple of one-offs here, and these can be as long or short of answers as you’d like. The first one is less, more and none. What do you want to do less often, more often and not at all?

I would like to be angry less often. I would like to be patient more often. I would like to say stop wasting time being concerned with things that I cannot control. It seems generic but those are real struggles I face every day.

What would you say is the biggest time-waster of something that you can’t control?

The biggest time-waster in my life is my self-critique. The ways I try to analyze a plan or chop myself down is wasted space.

The better we think that we're predicting, the worse we are at it. Click To Tweet

Isn’t that funny how counterintuitive it is that we think it’s productive to critique ourselves incessantly in some shape or fashion? It’s almost like a default reality that we fall into. There is a half-truth in that because it is important to evaluate, critique, and analyze but to what end?

We’ve talked about it previously and my kids can attest. I’m an immediate feedback critique person, very blunt, and very critical. I think immediate reflection is necessary. The problem is when that perturbation spirals towards non-beneficial critiques. Also, the idea of critique versus criticism. People need to let go of the word criticism. Criticism is someone being rude and they’re trying to attack you. Critique is what we all get and if you don’t like it and you call it criticism, that’s not criticism. Take honest information and resolve that. It’s when you get stuck in some of those emotional flexes of a critique that allowed to feel like criticism and we make that criticism of ourselves and you can’t get out of it. My wife will show me an email and she was like, “I feel like I was offensive here.” My response is like, “I should start thinking about how I write my emails.” She’s over here losing it like, “I am in so much trouble. I can’t believe I wrote this.” I’m like, “That’s nice. That was really sweet. You were nice and that prompt is to the point. I don’t see what the problem is.” That critique is necessary. It’s required.

I love that distinction too. That’s one that’s not often understood or known that the negative critique is not a criticism. There’s a big difference between a critique and criticism like you said. My wife is like you to Logan in that sense. I don’t do a good job laying down the truth regardless of how it feels. I sugar coat things a little bit more. I’m a little bit more conflict-averse and my wife has helped me in a short time and says it how it is. Let the cards fall as they may but be honest about it. Critique can be helpful and that change of view is beautiful. As you said, the two results are beneficial and not beneficial critique. Understanding that can also be a helpful rubric for us.

I always lean back towards this general metaphor. It’s the Chinese farmer at the end of the day, good or bad, hard to say. The things that you do, you don’t know if it is going to be good or bad. You don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing that someone’s telling you. To give the value of that essential nature early in the process is dangerous. We want to try and assign a weight to say this is a plus or minus in my bin of life. I know I’m guilty of it. I say that if I don’t do something to the level of my expected outcomes, then I have failed. I’ve immediately given it a negative sign before whatever critique I have afterward. That’s hard because it limits you.

That speaks to what you mentioned a lot in the first installment a couple of years ago. People should go back and read that even though some of the material might be outdated as we’ll get to. That proverb of good or bad, hard to say. It’s something that I still use and my wife can attest to it. It is a helpful mantra to return just to reset our perspective. That judgment of good or bad is hard to say because it is a subjective judgment more times than not. There was another quote that I love about this. I can’t remember who said it. It was an ancient Buddhist who said, “When someone criticizes you or praises you, respond with, ‘You’re only partially right or that is only partially true or half correct.’” I thought that was a beautiful balancing weight because it is on both sides of the spectrum when it’s a praise or critique. Taking everything with a grain of salt is helpful for us to not internalize it too heavily in an unhelpful way at least.

The nature of rationality versus what we’ll call emotionality. When your limbic system kicks in, it’s very interesting because we as humans make decisions based on a lot more intuition than we think. That intuition is very wrong. One of the books that I finished is Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. With respect to that, he focuses on what he calls system one and system two operations. System two operations are these ultra-critical, cognitive, and rational choice truths where you have to have some thoughtful argument. Your system one is reactive and the piece that is extracted from that is a line that he talks about often which is that your brain likes to solve hard questions with simple answers to other questions.

Not simple answers to that question, but simple answers to other questions. If somebody asks you something technical like you asked me about fasting. I gave you a very not direct answer. That’s how your brain works. One of the examples he talks about is botulism versus car accidents. If you were to tell somebody, would you rather be in a car accident or have botulism? The comparison here is like, “Botulism is awful. I’ve heard about that. That will kill you.” Car accidents do too, did you forget about that? You did because anchoring says, “I’ve gotten in my car 100 times this year alone and I’m fine. I haven’t had botulism but I can tell you if I get botulism, I’m not going to be fine.” It’s a probability game. We still have a million-plus people that die in car accidents every year, whereas botulism doesn’t kill that number of people.

UAC 144 | Antifragility

 

Our brains still solve the question faster and it goes, “I don’t want the terrible thing I’ve never had and I don’t understand.” That’s what it answered. It says botulism is worse, but that wasn’t the answer he was providing. That’s an interesting concept when you consider that that’s how your body chooses to decide its reality and perception. It’s answering some questions very rationally with very high detail. Other ones it’s like, “I don’t care.” Your whole psyche is built on a bunch of mess versus some hards. You run into a bunch of people who have varying mess and hard and then suddenly it’s where the puzzle pieces line up. When you have a bunch of mess where someone’s hard knowledge, you lose that argument. The question is do you or do you continue to hammer until you find some way around? It’s an interesting dynamic.

That’s the world we live in. It will be fun to get to some of even the current events we’re facing with that and how we approach or handle that. Before we get there, as a segue, one thing we talked about and prepping a little bit was a book that I’m about to finish by Nassim Taleb on antifragility. It’s been a concept that I’ve enjoyed and been captivated by. The Power of Persuasion by Robert Levine talks about some of this as well. They all are pointing out to what you’re saying that we don’t have that much conscious understanding of our subconscious behaviors. Taleb makes a point that we are horrible at predicting. The better we think that we’re predicting, the worst we are at it. His whole point of the book is you are horrible at predicting. You won’t get any better at it because impossible to, so get better at your resiliency which is we often think what antifragile means is resilient.

What he points out is that resilience is only halfway from fragile. The full-stop opposite of fragile which is antifragile is something that benefits from the chaos that grows from when that fragile box has shaken, the thing inside grows or benefits from it. That’s what he’s trying to foster within himself and propagate that idea so that we can also flourish in the disruption. The first question I have is, why is this idea often missing in preparation for being good humans? One of the ways in society that we prepare the next generation is to be good humans, to know the right answer, be informed, be prepared, be able to predict or forecast outcomes. It’s almost the opposite. I’m curious what your perspective is on that?

First and foremost, you mentioned the iconic classic image that it gives. For those reading, the idea of a fragile thing, a robust thing, and an antifragile thing are if I were to put china inside of a box and shake it up, it breaks, therefore it’s fragile. If I put hammers and I shake them up, they’re metal, they’re not going to break. They’re robust. The idea of antifragile is whatever I put into this unknown box if I were to shake it and then an example would be diamonds. The more destruction and pressure I put on a diamond, that carbon turns into that diamond so it is antifragile. The piece of the fact is that I haven’t read this book. I do follow Nassim. He is one of those people that I mentioned to you previously from a Twitter standpoint. The intellectuals they follow just to see the ideas. When I look through what I’ve looked through about antifragility, it is what we know about from training. We’ve already seen this ecosystem which is your work out, you hurt your muscles, they figure out that they need to get better. They then develop themselves to be better so that next time they don’t face the same problems that they faced before. They become antifragile from the standpoint of that definition.

A lot of it is the definition of the word. We have concepts for it and I love the person he works. As the first segue like my children’s names. The middle name for my newest one is essentially this awesomeness and amazing relationship with the power and depth of the universe. That is a word that is five letters long but it has so much meaning. Nassim lays out a name for it to start packaging a lot of these things that we’ve known, these tools, mechanisms, strategies, paradigms, and puts them into what seems to be a single word. He gives five letters, in this case, more than five letters. He gives that statement to give you an idea. It is the opposite of fragile in a sense that it is not damaged but grows so you get a clear image of it. I would say we needed to be teaching kids this. We do, it’s just now there’s a term for it. If you want to be able to say you’re teaching your kids to be antifragile, but as you mentioned, it’s patterns and a lot of other things.

Segue number two, when we started talking about patterns is a conversation that we had. I was wearing a shirt that was what I called dark aqua green and she’s like, “Your shirt is blue.” I was like, “It’s dark aqua green.” She was like, “He doesn’t know what dark aqua green is yet. He’s still working on blues and greens. This is close enough to blue. When he says it’s blue, it’s right.” I go, “No.” The reason I say no is because I then say, “If I only gave you eight basic emotions for you to measure your world by, is that enough?” I can mix R, G, and B together and make infinite combinations, so I only need these three things, but I still have this infinite possibility. There’s this essential knowledge of teaching something how broad something is and how complex it is. Even with that broad nature and complexity, there’s still some core simple nature to it. That’s what I take from this antifragility piece.

At the end of the day, there are still these core parameters that help control a system. It seems a good mathematician. It’s a math equation. This is not just a philosophy for the sake of philosophy. It has a mathematical bias. If I were to look at perturbations of systems, I am going to see systems that increase in response rates “to my values” of saying success based on what I’m looking at. That’s where we sew these two parts together. There’s an interesting dynamic with antifragility that’s already wouldn’t seem as identified that you can’t predict. I find that to be interesting. Are you saying that you can’t predict yet you’re trying to convince people to become antifragile with a list of metrics that you’re defining our success? You don’t know what success is. You’re predicting success to something else. This is where I’ll say that you hinted at opinions and feelings changing. This is my antifragility, I think.

Increasing in the way that I want to see the world has not caused me necessarily to hone in and dive in on the things that I knew were effective or that were working. It’s more so trying to assess and say, “Where do I think the trajectory of society and culture are going? That way, I understand the technology needs that are meeting the personal developments and stresses of the world so that I can start to change myself to respond well in that ecosystem. We have to remember that one of the coolest parts about being human is that you can put us anywhere including in space. We could figure out a way to survive the tools and means that we have by working together. If you can adapt to that kind of crazy environment, you’ve attested to the fact that your success criteria can change. What I’ve caught out of the antifragility is that two things matter. One, your metrics of success. Two is the timeline within which you look at it.

If I’m looking at muscle growth and I look at a day, it doesn’t look good. It looks really bad but if I look at a week, it looks better. If I look at months, it looks better. Whereas other systems don’t behave that way. I see initial responses at your eyes adjusting to the dark. When they come back out of it, I can light a match. Once your eyes are adjusted to the dark, all of your night vision goes away instantaneously, it’s that quick. It takes another 20 to 30 minutes depending on who you are to get back to the night vision again. If your phone pops up a text message, that’s enough to make you “blind” in the dark again. That’s crazy. That system could be defined as not necessarily being antifragile but it all depends on what its goal is. If your goal is to immediately switch to a vibrant, highly technical background, sensitive, cone-based argument, which is what your retina wants to do for high acuity, that was great.

You spread some things around but I feel that the hit that you make is on patterns. Identifying patterns, teaching children to identify those patterns and everything. What we have is a family and we’ll get into a conversation. Our goal is that we strip it down to the logical conversation. That’s at least what I aggressively try to push. As an example, our son runs every day and he’s been doing Run Club for school. Now that we’re home with COVID, every morning we wake up and he still has to do his run and get his run time in. He’s got to run for 25 to 30 minutes at the beginning of the day. He’s tired. He’s been doing it every day for years. He doesn’t want to do it anymore. We’re like, “This is life. Sometimes you don’t want to do it but you do it because even in hard times, it’s still healthy for you.” It is a stressful time. The parameters have changed. If we’re having this conversation about running and how we believe the health of running is, we’re going to have a various certain opinion. If we strip it to the logic and we say that Nox has done activity A every day for a year, Nox no longer wants to do activity A. What do you suggest Nox do?

That logic is to do activity B or not do activity A for a day. It’s small but when you examine that logic then you start to understand it from Nox’s point of view. Logan and I are looking at it from the years that we’ve had at fitness and health, all the research papers that we’ve read, and all that we know. We know that it’s important for Nox to continue on a schedule, to get up every day, to get his butt out of bed, to get himself warmed up, to get himself on the shoes, get himself down the road and get himself back into the house. He doesn’t know that. Right now, he knows that “I don’t want to run every morning. I want to go on a walk with you and the dogs because that looks a lot more fun for me.” It’s this nature of, can we get Nox to recognize patterns?

Can we then say, “Your argument is right? Activity B could replace activity A.” In the case of our conversation, we want you to recognize that let’s assume that activity A is beneficial to your health and requires consistency. Activity B is not necessarily good for your health and can be erratic. When you have that conversation, I give some new terms to my topics and that logic, but now we’re getting better at having that conversation where we can fairly have it as a general statement as opposed to a case-by-case basis. There’s going to be some that you can’t attend to like candy and ice cream. You’re not going to logically work that one out but if you work out things that you like, things that you appreciate and things that make you happy. That’s a term that kids can understand and that pattern is more successful like math. That’s why Nassim’s antifragility has more strength. It’s because there is the math behind it. There is a logical argument that people can then apply to other systems.

What you mentioned there with patterns is sweet because at its core, teaching children to identify patterns is teaching them how to learn. Education isn’t teaching us necessarily how to learn, it’s teaching us how to remember facts, data, and things that are told to be important. If we’re handicapping ourselves by getting good at the regurgitation versus the actual acquisition by ourselves then we’re never going to learn. In society now, with information being a few clicks away on anything, then learning becomes that much more important as a useful skill for being a good human, but also a separating skill for those who can adapt and thrive in any environment, but also make their way especially in a new environment which is going to be unfolding in the years to come always.

I have a very particular opinion on what you mentioned about education. Have you seen the lecture I gave to the university students?

I still haven’t watched that one.

It’s all about my opinions on education. It’s focused on mastery, but I also then take the stabs. The stab here is that it’s like a straight hallway. School is designed to show you the way to the door. The problem is that when you open that door, it’s like a forest with a bunch of trees, no pathways and light shining through everywhere. You’re like, “What?” You’re looking for another doorway. You’re looking for somebody to give you another hallway to get into which prevents you from seeing an awful lot of life in reality. To me, there are definitions of education and there are two of them. One of them is a systematic application and the other one is an enlightening experience. I always ask the question of do you think your education is a systematic approach or an enlightening experience?

We know that systematic approaches aren’t bad. These are things where if you asked me this question a while back, I’m always going to get you enlightened. It always is an enlightening experience but I’m not going to say I haven’t learned. What I’ve learned for instance is like psychomotor skills. When we start talking about motor skill learning, it is one of those things that you subjectively can apply the pattern from base-level skills, not high-performance skills. I can tell you to squat again and again and correct, and you will get better. I don’t need it to be enlightening to teach you that skill. That being said, when we talk about education, we’re not talking about, can I teach my kid how to squat? I do want them to learn things like how to write well or how to do arithmetic.

UAC 144 | Antifragility

 

The problem that we have in the design that we use and arguably this is an American system issue, and I say that there are other countries that have it, but we are stuck in an outcome-oriented policy. You need to score well on the test and to do that, you help them procedurally learn how to successfully apply those skills that are going to be seen in that test. It’s like you learn the pattern for being able to recognize that five plus three equals eight. It’s not because you know how to add three things to five things necessarily. Because you know that when you see the number five plus three, that pattern looks like eight in your head because your body has seen it many times. It just says eight. If you’re reading a piece of paper and it said you have seven times fourteen people, what did you do? You made it 28 people and you moved on because you didn’t need to think about that.

That procedural is good for certain aspects but if you look at the Japanese system, they let every kid solve the answer on the board and put all their answers, right or wrong, or different. They let them defend them as they work through why those thoughts were wrong. What they’re asking is not why is your process wrong, but what were the initial thoughts that put you down this pathway that caused you to use these tools that were ineffective. Let’s all get on a conversational tone as to which kinds of parameters and initial conditions we have to have in our logic to solve it and use the right tools.

That’s what you need because that’s what happens in real life and this hits back to the antifragility point. According to Nassim’s push is that you should be able to be in a position in those environments where you can face an unknown. That’s the difference between resiliency and antifragility. I’m assuming from what I’ve read, please correct me if I’m wrong. What he’s hammering is that antifragility is the unknown whereas resiliency is previously known conditions. If we’re trying to make our kids capable of the unknown, which is the majority of what they see, you have to think about it differently. As an example with my son, COVID changed schools. The teachers give certain assignments, but they can’t give high-level assignments. They’ll ask things like, “Read this paper.” In this case, he read the paper on the Statue of Liberty and he had to answer three questions. The three questions were like, “Why could you see the Statue of Liberty from far away? Was it a gift or a birthday present?” The other one was, “Why was it important to the people that run it?”

He said, “It was a gift from France and it’s a symbol of independence.” That’s when I realized he doesn’t understand. He read a book that talked about this cool little thing that’s inside of New York, but when he thinks about travel, this is where you have to start asking yourself, who is the person? What does my son think about travel? He thinks about travel on planes. He doesn’t think about the idea of being on a boat for that long with nothing, hoping, and praying that you’re going to survive with your family to get to the other side for a chance of freedom because you’re oppressed and being killed from where you came from. You finally get around the corner after that long ride and you see this thing standing there as a symbol of you’ve made it and you’ve done it. He doesn’t have that context. The answer to the question is this, can you contextually find information and apply it and put it down here?

We’re talking about important things. How do you get somebody to ask what’s happening? How do I get him to move in a timeline back into the past and into the future? Those are the necessities of dealing with someone that you’re dealing with. Just like we talked about in our conversations. You’re talking to me knowing who I was in the past. You have to have some room of error bar flexibility as to who I might have become since our last conversation so that you understand how to work with me. If you get into a situation where I may have faced trauma or an issue between now and then, I may be dynamically different. Your ability to assess that has to be in real-time. You have to be able to put me back where I was before where I am now and still be able to have conversations with both of those people to have a conversation with the person you’re now talking to. You have to be able to go back to timelines where they were that person without offending the person they are now.

There is a mandatory assessment but we as humans suck at that. Instead, the world has seen it right now. We apply whatever rules we have to everything and every timeline forward and backward. That’s wrong. The reason that we do that is that it’s what we’re taught to do. We’re taught to use the tool in front of us to answer the question and get it done, not think about a better way to answer the question, is there another way to answer the question, or is there enough information? I’ll summarize this as to what I tell my interns and what I believe. Einstein’s quote is, “If you give me an hour to save the world, I’ll spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes solving it.” How do we get kids to spend 55 minutes thinking about problems and five minutes solving instead of jumping straight into “I need a solution?” That’s why they do the things that you mentioned. My son’s going, “Alexa, what’s five plus three?”

There’s so much here that I want to hear more on. I love this line of thinking. A lot of what you brought up there is a difference in outcome-oriented versus process-oriented. It’s not that they are mutually exclusive and they’re both important and needed. You can’t do away with outcomes as a measure of improving both the process and steering in the right direction. If all the emphasis is on outcome-oriented, then we’re not teaching kids or grownups alike how to improve. A lot of that is the questions like you said in the 55 minutes on the problems. I’m curious even your own life now, for you, where do you get in trouble with the outcome-oriented side? Is there a place where you find yourself airing too far on outcome-oriented thinking?

It’s a very advanced policy to apply this to simple things. When your wife gives you a look and you’re like, “Is everything okay?” She’s like, “I’m fine.” Suddenly, you’re running through the entire day trying to create this ecosystem of what might have bifurcated her to this moment where she might be thinking or what she might be postulating. You’re starting to run it more than likely as to all the things that you could have done that made “fine” be the answer and it could be something entirely different. That’s a super simple example of it. If you’re thinking about the outcomes and you’re thinking about the response trees, you can be missing the simple fact like, “She’s bummed because you once again left your shoes to where they should not be. It’s something silly. It’s a thing you could have checked off instead of trying to think about her deeper feelings and emotions. You just needed to listen to the simple things and follow the process.

Even so much as your daily job. I’m not asking you to reinvent your workday. For a lot of people, that’s impossible. You need to have like, “At 9:00 to 9:30, I do this. From 9:30 to 10:30, I do this. From 11:00 to 12:00, I do this.” That’s not how my day works. I can’t have that conversation. I wouldn’t survive if I had to live that way. However, I raised my son that way. I teach him how to create that discipline because Jocko Willink’s Discipline Equals Freedom does it. If you’re structured and rigid in some of those things that don’t need to be flexible, that doesn’t need to be outcomes-oriented, that is a process deliverable, “Work requires you to finish this form, do it.” Most of the time, that’s the way to do it. What happens by doing it that way is you end up at the end of the day with some extra time. The question is how are you going to take that time that you’ve now created? That’s where you can then start to apply outcomes more intelligently.

You’ve finished the process pieces that you need to do and you can start to think a little bit more high level. As you get comfortable with that process, you start injecting that into the flow. You think about outcomes when you can because you know you have a general time. Instead of being multi-tasking, it’s multi-procrastinating. It’s the idea of saying, “I’m going to do something that I know I can do at this moment well because that’s where my brain is right now. I’m going to follow the process of my brain and then I’m going to inject in high levels of outcomes based on the fact that that’s where I’m at.” It’s hard because if you have 50 things that are due, I could grab the thing that’s at the furthest end of priority. It might be the thing that I’m jazzed to do, so I insert my time in there which can be very disorienting.

You’re everywhere all at once and it takes time to get good at it. However, when you think about the way our world is built, it’s almost designing it for you. The number of times that you randomly break thought process to pick up Instagram to check a few swipes, you’re already getting good at being able to shift your attention and resources. Attention is one of those mechanisms that help control the general flow of your ability to do something right, which is your bandwidth. If you give something and focus attention, it’s going to take extra resources. If you let it be an automatic process like when you’re driving a car, if you think about every turn, it can be emotional. If you don’t, you can text. It’s not a good thing, but people do it.

I want to come back to some of the COVID and the parenting stuff. Before the segue, one other caveat is with what you mentioned earlier in learning their systematic application in line with experience, a lot of times we’re outcome-oriented. If we approach every situation like a nail and we got a hammer then we miss the point and we don’t learn from it. I heard this metaphor for it in a book by Andy Crouch, Culture Making. He talked about postures and gestures. I thought it was a cool picture of we can easily confuse gestures with postures by saying, “If my posture is good, then the gestures can be good from that.”

If we start thinking these gestures that are situational for this moment or this person or this idea that gesture and how you respond to that like shaking someone’s hand, that shouldn’t be a posture. Once we assume that to be our posture then we’re going to be off-balance with our gestures. I’m not sure if I’m explaining as eloquently as I’d like. How do you think that applies to what we’re talking about with postures and gestures and how we approach situations, especially in that dynamic environment as you’re teaching your kids? You can’t go into this by saying, “The gesture to take a break may not be a bad gesture, but to have the posture of a functioning healthy child that needs consistency, we’re going to make this gesture instead.” Talk to me a little bit about what you think about that.

I’ll try to at least put it in some different terms and maybe that will help me have my layover. If I were to take what you say about postures and gestures, I would try and say that postures feel like the initial conditions. I would consider the posture of you walk into a room and it’s on fire. That’s the posture of the room versus you walk into a room and it’s empty and dark. The gesture I will say is with perturbations or the functional movements. It almost seems like we’re talking about your structural and you’re functional. That speaks well when we started talking about the brain because we know there are structural tendencies of your brain that are based on genetics and epigenetics, things that can physically change. We know there are functional changes or changes that are based on those structural modifications as well as paradigm-based changes.

In comparing those, we’re talking very similar concepts. I’m saying that you, for instance, with saying kids, if we keep it on that note. You’re trying to teach a kid to be able to assess the room before they execute it. There is a key thing that has been thought about 1,000 times for most people, but few people have spent the time reading deeply into it but situational awareness. Situational awareness breaks this into three phases. The first phase is let’s say this is my desk. I walk in and phase one is a coffee mug, microphone, laptop, and water. The second phase is you go, “What is all this? This is my desk. We’re sitting at the desk.” The third phase is what are we doing with it? Part of that information was the things in front of me. I’m projecting that in the future that I’m going to be talking to him.

That’s the situational awareness aspect. If I consider that, then in the case of walking into a room or a situation or a relationship, be able to quickly diagnose those initial conditions, be able to ask the questions, and be able to recognize the postures. When you start even talking about postures from a standpoint of physical representation, if I think about somebody who has MS, that general posture structure of their overall body might be different than mine, whereas their gesture of excitation may look less excited than mine but might require more work to produce that gesture of excitation. Suddenly, the elements of that initial condition, the posture that you’re recognizing is super important to understand the value of the functional application or the gesture. How hard was it for that outcome to exist? That’s important because that is you.

One of the coolest parts about being human is that you can put us anywhere and we could figure out a way to survive by working together. Click To Tweet

If you and I walk into a golf tournament, you’re kicking my ass. That’s it. There isn’t a hope in the world. The only hope is I catch you when someone’s not looking with a nine-iron on the back of your hamstrings. My ability to succeed may be the best game that I have ever played. It may be my peak performance but that critical measure of success that the global reference this is giving identifies as a failure. Our initial conditions don’t just become important for determining how we’re going to operate, but they also become important for how we’re going to choose to compare our reference frame to the global reference frame. That’s the part that people miss.

That’s the question I have next. Looking at modern society, it feels like situational awareness is on a decline. I’m curious if you had any thoughts on what posture to come into situations with that would unlock people’s abilities. If we made it simple and practical, is there any posture of approaching situational awareness to where we can be more aware or attuned to the environment so that we can respond in a helpful versus hurtful way? With the rise of the social interconnectedness and the global world we live in, this has become a growing problem that creates a massive division that’s unhelpful. I’m not saying that division can’t be helpful in the sense of finding who you’re of like mind with, but the lack of ability to be around anyone that’s not like you is also unhelpful. Is there any posture or approach that we as functioning humans and adults can even grow in if we had to simplify it down into its core? What is that essence that helps us have greater situational awareness?

To begin with the situational awareness, I agree that there have been fewer discussion points on it. Arguably that has a lot to do with the general research dynamics around where we’re focusing on trying to create new models. I only say that because sitting behind me in this whiteboard is the thing I’ve been trying to pour myself into, which tries to look at some of these things. What I would say from considering that model that I’m working on and answering your question is, if you are to consider how something responds as a system, I can visualize a system and watch it over time spontaneously. Imagine that I have a building and I want to see how strong this building is. I can watch it for 1,000 years to see how it behaves and where things degrade. I can perturb that system and see how it responds based on the models that I’ve visualized it. I created this visualization of building and how it will respond when I hit it with a hammer at this place and with all the sensors that I have throughout it. What do I see?

In a building, we don’t have as many sensors oftentimes as we would like to have. Luckily, you as a human have a crap ton. You are this bubbled object that’s trying to keep alive all of your sensing tools so that they can feed your brain to give it an idea of your experience of reality. When you consider this nature of you being a sensing tool, I’m less concerned with how that person at that moment is going to respond because I can’t control that. What I mean in that sense is to say if I’m mostly for sense, then everything that I’m doing, saying, and feeling is being communicated in some way. I can’t help it because the other thing across from me is a sensing object. Its job is to sense. When you start asking the question of, what do you do to be able to be most approachable on those postures? Imagine that the thing across from you is like you. It is sensing everything in you. It is looking at little adjustments to your hips at how your Duchenne marks on your eyes move if you’re faking a smile or not like the ones that we’re all used to hearing. How much your pupils dilate?

Some of the stuff we’re doing is sampling eye frequencies over 200 Hertz, which is above the Nyquist frequency for saccades which is your rapid eyeball shaking movements. We can see new parameters of your eye and how it reacts. Even on this small level, your body is echoing all of these responses. If you take that and ask yourself that question then your solution becomes either you’re entirely there to serve, to provide stimulus to those sensing pieces for the sake of applying it, or you’re entirely there to absorb, to allow them to use you as a reverberation. What people do when they come to talk to you is they’ve decided that they’re looking for some information and this is my opinion. Even if you don’t say anything, they’re going to get information. It’s all over you. Oftentimes, the best thing that you can do is truly allow them to get everything out of them so that they can see all of the things that you respond with. They have a clearer picture of the general tone of how you’re giving them an identification.

If you go to a therapist, they’re not going to ask you two questions and then try and give you an opinion. They’re going to ask you more and more. They’re also looking to see how those questions cause you to react. That person is probably doing that to you. They’re trying to see that conversation. When you consider that way, the posture has to be that you’re not coming in it with the desire to fix it. You’re not coming into it with the desire to change it. You’re not coming into it with any desire because if you don’t want to make a change to the system, your existence already negated that presence. You’ve already changed it by existing. You exist in their life to a point where they think that they can reach out and talk to you, which means you have enough value in this situation to matter. You can’t entirely remove yourself but you can at least try and remove your inability to ask the full story first before you start preparing those counter-arguments.

In the simplest layman’s term, it’s curiosity versus control. If we approach a situation with curiosity versus control, those two are diametrically opposed to each other in the sense that by coming in with curiosity, we’re opening ourselves up to being sensing beings. By coming with control, we’re closing ourselves to only sense one thing. Are we in control? Are we winning? Are we right or whatever that case may be? The other thing you said that was beautiful too is that one of the most helpful things is to imagine others just like you. They’re sensing beings like you. They’re human beings. Meaning, they have worth and value like you do in this situation because you are inevitably changing each other by your presence and what comes from that interaction.

Those two things are worth its weighting gold by saying, “Others are like you so you’re on the same playing field.” Second, the only way you can understand something is by being curious about it versus trying to control it. Those two things could unlock so much within us especially as a species. I wonder what it’d be like to adopt more of that. It’s hard for all of us to say that too. Without the intention to do those things, we’ll default into not doing those things. Would you agree with that? 

Humans are weird. To say that X, Y, or Z is going to happen about the general populace. It’s proven hard. It is an excruciatingly difficult interrelationship. We’ll say COVID here. Take COVID for the standpoint of looking at what happens to the earth as a much larger unified living organism. When we stop even what would seem like insignificant parts. For example, stopping illegal drug trafficking, guns, materials, property, and we’ll say Foakleys or your fake Oakleys. I remember these from spring break Cancun. Those Foakleys are important oddly enough to the entire dynamic of the successful system. It’s creepy to look at that, but when you start looking at some of the breaks in supply chain dynamics, there are illegal activities that are broken that are now reducing the effectivities of good activities. Because now there are resources and personnel and people that aren’t affecting those places and stimulating those economies to create those environments.

That’s an important recognition because when we start talking about control and curiosity as you’ve mentioned if you’re controlling certain facets of it, you have to recognize that curiosity still has its inevitable want and needs. You may be controlling certain facets but the world is curious and so environments become curious within each other. It’s almost a personification of nature but when you stack people together. Stacking people together into a subgroup oftentimes makes it feel like a larger organism. This is precursor hive mind argument stuff. As I started to operate more in those natures, I will arguably push or pull people into or out of my circle or push and pull into other areas that I don’t necessarily belong in. I don’t necessarily think that you can say that everyone’s going to follow one path or the other if you let it go. We’ve let it go in many different ways.

A lot of us try and say that we’re going to find new ways to control this, or my other new method is going to be the best, and it’s going to arguably change the world. Mindfulness, sleep or breathing are the way. These are all great things. I believe in all of them. I don’t sleep wonderfully but I do believe in its effectiveness. The global issue becomes if you recognize that everything is naturally a part of this flowing ecosystem. It’s less about how your method works and more about trying to understand how relationship and communication dynamics work. How does energy flow? How does mass transfer? It’s my opinion that everyone should have a strong background training in chemistry, physics, math, history, and art. The first four years of college should be more of what high school was but deeper level stuff. Not because I’m saying that’s a failing process but I’m trying to say get a good understanding of all this stuff so that when you have to answer a question or when you have to participate with somebody, you’re able to understand the dynamics of that engagement.

You know the depth of the responsibility of the choices that you’re making. It will prevent you from making the shortcut thought of saying X, Y, or Z is mandatory. This is how the world has to be and how the world is unpredictable. For instance, the way that I’m trying to examine with my model that I’m working on is imperceptible. I want to ask general questions. I don’t want to force a metric. I want to watch it like a human. How can we sincerely watch and this is what’s going on in the world? Your browser, your search history, the words that you stay in front of your phone, the patterns of where you walk to, the restaurants that you go to, and the things that you buy. All of these things are being tracked and they’re creating a version of you because imperceptibly you are who you are.

One last little piece on this is Instagram as an example. They’ve discussed taking away likes. I find this interesting. We are concerned saying society feels bad because of likes and people have found themselves sticking to those likes. Is that the case or is it that Facebook has a lot of data now that they can get other ways and they recognize that you don’t like everything that you like? Liking is in and of itself an interesting relationship with what you want to tell people about yourself so that they can see. Likes aren’t a valuable piece of information to Instagram.

When it tries to operate with society once and society says, “We don’t want to have likes anymore because it’s damaging,” Instagram/Facebook goes, “We’re paying attention to where you stare now more often than anything else because we can record that metric and that’s more important to us.” That’s a conversation that people have to have. When you start recognizing that the company’s looking at all the imperceptible features of you, care less about what your opinion is and more about what your general nature of tones and responses are or where you frequent yourself, it’s information you should recognize and apply.

It’s fascinating because that’s the subconscious that takes the action that we aren’t even aware of sometimes. If we can’t see it but they can see it, then we can be manipulated in a negative sense, but strategically use in the positive sense to purchase their items and that’s the point. It is interesting. That’s a great perspective on that. You’ve mentioned a couple of times so I want to get to it which is that whiteboard behind you. It’s beautiful. It’s got every color in the rainbow, arrows pointing everywhere, we’ve got clouds, we’ve got nice drawings and we’ve got stars. It’s got everything you’d want in a crazy scientist whiteboard or a normal person. This is early on in your pursuit of this new model that’s in tropic design is what we talked about as the working title. I’d love for you to take a stab at communicating the early stages of what led to it and what it is in this working nature. I love what you already mentioned about general questions and not necessarily focusing on a metric or outcome but looking at reality and asking general questions. This would be a good exercise too. How would you package this new model?

The one I’m talking about has come from a lot of other conversations previously. I’m a firm believer that none of this is necessarily my thought. Ideas are rarely brand new. It’s trying to collect all of the brilliant thoughts that are around and trying to distill them into something that might help move something forward like wiggle the needle a little bit. I created a process. We’re trying to package this. I call it a narrative which is the network, aptitude, resiliency, and adaptation as transient vectors. It’s a mouthful, but what I’m trying to say is an aptitude, what is your come-in role? If we were starting to talk about this whole conversation of antifragility, resiliency being the true resiliency. How robust is your system to respond? I’m using adaptation as not necessarily in the sense that it’s being used for the antifragile examination where adaptation is a small change to known circumstances. This is saying adaptation, you’re changing in general. Good, bad or otherwise, you’re modifying yourself.

In considering those, I have broken down we’ll say, “How do I think about you as a precursor? How do I think about you as initial conditions to use the conversation we had before? What is your structure and then what is your function?” In the case of the easiest way to try and assess these relationships. What I mean by these relationships is your brain versus your body versus what we’ll call the consciousness or your emotionality, that psychological wrapper. There are parts of you when you start, that matter compared to the environment that you’re in and then working on a task.

If I can see how you do on a task, something that I know has a specific output. I can compare you to me to somebody else, I can get an idea of how your general composure works. Where do you verify yourself? When I start to think about how I would do that, I imagine a three-dimensional space. I said if I define each axis as a part of that functional conversation, and I draw a vector based on the score that you perform in that step or that measuring point, I can draw a line. This line would have a direction in existence. At the end of that vector, I’d have the next one, then the next step of the test, and so on.

Theoretically, when I start thinking about a task, I could wrap almost a spheroid like a balloon or an egg around that location. In my case, I’m now discretizing it to the positive quadrant. For the sake of conversation, let’s say you’ve got this giant sphere and you’ve got this line that’s moving inside the sphere, the idea of that sphere would be whenever you breach the sphere, you would have finished the task. The model is trying to adjust itself to know where that breach point is and it’s trying to understand how long it took you to get there. It’s doing what’s called a path analysis. The reason that that’s important is to say what did you end up doing? If I think about a point mass moving through space. Space has no friction. It has no other forces that are going to apply onto it besides these gravitational forces, at least in the example that I’m giving. If gravity is pulling these forces one way or another, what I’m learning then is that there’s something that’s pulling you in this direction. Making you stronger in this way.

Can we start to understand some of these densities of yourself? Some of these response features of yourself so that we know, “Thane, you’re a more of a cognitive performer. We see these kinds of natures of you.” The way I’m trying to break that down is to say things like, where is situational awareness effective? I referred to it as a situational presence. I’m not saying that situational awareness is not what I’m using. I’m using situational awareness but rather than confuse what I’m trying to use it with other features, I’m calling it something new. At the same time, I’m still trying to use these core principles that we know. Things like situational awareness replace the idea of your mental workload. The reason I did so is that your workload is based on your opinion situation. You opinionatedly decide if you were good or bad. That’s hard to understand your workload if I am only trusting your opinion rather than looking at purely how did you function.

The things that I’m now trying to assess are neurological, what are your eyes saying? What is your brain saying? How do those perturbations respond? How much motor control do you have? How accurate are you with that choice tree? If we were to then package all this down into a quick summary, the narrative model is designed trying to say, “If I know a lot about who you are, your personality type, your span test, how good you are at memorizing numbers, what your genes are like literally know everything I can about your initial condition and I insert that into a testable place. How do you respond?” Trending that response not by saying, “I want you to be put into a little box that allows me to give you a one score answer that says, ‘You did a 99.’” What is a 99? How do you determine a 90 versus a 99? What happened? Was that your failure? Was it the environment’s failure? Was it the task failure? Was it a team failure or other organizations? Being able to assess that one metric isn’t good enough. It tries to give you a multidimensional look at how your performance changed.

With this approach and this pursuit, what would be the hope that it would produce? If you get to outcome-oriented, what is your hope that this model will help the show and lead to as a result of?

I don’t have necessarily a goal to say I want to do X as far as an effect. I want it to be that sponge. I want it to be capable of understanding how you respond as an individual like a purely unbiased observer. Someone who’s trying to check the model based on the parameters that are there. There’s a lot of imperceptible information as to how we attack the world. I think that some of the information that’s being collected is being collected with a lot of thought as to how it’s going to be used less than with how it is just you. It is not X, Y, or Z. It’s the responses that you have.

The reason that I want to have that is that the stuff that I’m trying to do at work is we’re trying to make Ironman, that’s the best way to describe it. We’re trying to take what we know about advanced exercise for space and mount that into what we know about telerobotics and merge that into this new world of telesensing, which is the idea of being able to sense at a distance. If I’m going to create a program that allows you to train in deep space without a trainer, I don’t get to bring the internet. I don’t get to bring your medical records attached to the cloud. They need to be there, which means my system has to be able to access all of them.

It has to be able to glean through them what is important and what is necessary to make the best choices for recommendations on your training. It’s going to need to be smart enough that it goes, “You need a break based on your responses. We’re going to change this from an output of 400 watts to an output of 200 watts. Take a break.” It needs to be that smart because we can’t make mistakes. We don’t have the flexibility of wanting to feel like this is the right choice. To do that, the only way that that’s going to be trusted is in a model that truly goes unbiasedly towards determining who you are as an individual. That’s hard. I’m not saying that this model that I’m going to work on is going to be finished at the end of my Master’s, and the praise. Everything is wonderful and that’s the success. I’m not saying that it’s going to solve everything. I’m not trying to argue that, but what I am saying is that it’s a conversation starter. It’s the nature of saying, “Can we be a little bit more thoughtful with how we choose to grab this data to allow ourselves to recognize some more basic features of human performance instead of trying to sell more, be more and drive more?”

UAC 144 | Antifragility

 

Correct me if I’m wrong but as I hear it, it makes me think that it’s trying to understand the range of individual humans, not so much with the goal of proving or un-proving predictability in any way. More so understanding the differences in ranges or even the breadth of the range of a human in different environments, situations, and reactions just to better understand. It’s like what we were talking about earlier. The more broadly you learn, the more you can get to the core of what it is or the base principles that are matter or are important without getting lost in the weeds as much. Would that be a decent stab at it?

Something that you brought up that works out well is you talked about this variance of the person. I used to think that people were a lot tighter to who they were because we always say like, “Don’t anticipate somebody to change.” That’s true but when you think about it, the world has a high propensity to provide you with what I will call an ambiguous trauma, a blow to the head, a breakup, a loss of a family member, a tough day at the job. At the same time, trauma is also beneficial. A comedian who leads you down a path and then suddenly bifurcates to another direction, you laugh but that’s trauma. Your whole paradigm was broken at that moment. You’re like, “I can’t believe I let that happen.” There are all these traumas, micro-traumas, and macro-traumas that occur to you, but we don’t know how massive that impact is and that’s interesting because it, therefore, starts to make me recognize it. As I was talking to my wife, as we’re raising our sons, we want to do well. We want to prepare them.

We want them to have this beneficial life. However, there’s so much that’s going to happen that their error bars are humongous. Meaning that if after twenty years of being with us, Nox was drilled down to be this perfect machine of a human being. That sounds ridiculous about the way we’re raising him, but if he was dialed. Everything about him was on point. He’s being raised at nine years old while two parents are going through Masters in Psychology. It’s an emotional moment for him. If he survives that and he’s this resilient, antifragile, dominant creature and someone breaks up with him that he loves, he could be an entirely different person. I wouldn’t even be able to recognize him. It wouldn’t matter what I would say or do. Suddenly, this becomes an impactful conversation. How do I figure that out? That bothers me because as a parent, I look at my life and there are times when I’m afraid that I’m crazy, that I’ve lost connection with reality because the places that I’m going with my thoughts are so deep that they result in the detachment from reality.

Therefore, I know that my sons are going to face those moments. While there are times that I sit in the shower and weep to myself while I’m trying to get through it, I’ve learned to handle rejection and those traumas. What if they’re not ready? It doesn’t absolve me as a parent, not at all. It doesn’t tell me that I should not care. It says to me as a human being if I’m going to have the greatest effect size for my children, the way that I raised them may not necessarily be my best use case. What could be my best use case is trying to ask deeper questions as to how I might be able to create resources that help them understand themselves in the future so they can use those to more effectively handle life. Most of their life is outside of here. By the time they’re 18, 19, 20, bye, peace, adios, let’s go. How did my work, life, and value to them have substance if I’m not thinking longer than eighteen years?

In being a father in parenting and in trying to grow boys into men as the journey you’re on, how has it grown you as a human or changed you as a person?

Infinitely. I’ve had this conversation with my wife. When I had the first one, it was one of the biggest changes in my life. It brought me from an unguided sense of chaos to a directed sense of chaos. That was more than likely the most impactful thing that ever happened in my life. It wasn’t like I was 30 before I had a kid. It caused me early in my life to say that everything that I’m going to do is not about me. You have to be unselfish almost instantaneously and if you can’t, you don’t survive. I’ve seen the other side of that and what it looks like. When I got number two here, he brought with him a reminder that intense chaos that I was directed out into the universe that I forgot that it was supposed to be here. It aimed at the universe but that ray of its lift should come through my family first. They’re very different. Nox is very in-tune with his emotions. He’s very sensitive, caring, and compassionate. Ever is a behemoth. He’s a juggernaut. He will climb to anything, smashed anything, and beats you randomly in the middle of the night.

By having the two of them, I can now understand and appreciate that. I used to think that there was a lot more involved in what a parent did and how your children turn out based on how you parent and it’s not. I got to precursor this with athletes like when you deal with an athlete. It’s not you and you can say things and you’re trying to find a way to communicate them the way that you think so they can process that but it’s still them. It’s still their journey. It’s still my son’s journey and that’s part of what I have now recognized that we are trying to do. A lot of people look at the COVID situation and I’ll say that it’s damaging. I’m not going to sugar coat that at all. There are a few people who think about how the fact that when you close these schools, you’ve sent kids home with families that they shouldn’t be with. You go, “That’s so terrible.”

You have people who, you can say it’s through the audacity but however they choose, they remind you that Steve Jobs was an orphan. They remind you about all of these people. Einstein had left home at 15 or 16. They remind you of these things. What I’ve noticed is that you don’t do that much to change who they are as much as you give your children as many opportunities to explore who they are. It’s hard because you’re like, “This is the thing that you should do.” You think that because you’re an adult and to survive in our society, you must do X. That’s the last piece that being a parent has forced me to think about better is the future. I haven’t become a better futurist because of my children because now I’m having to assess the questions of saying, “What is my nine-year-old interested in? What are the technologies? What are the things that draw his attention and his friends?” That’s going to matter with where they exist as a society by the time, he’s old enough to mature into adulthood.

As a general problem from all previous generations, everyone tries to advise parents for the generation that they’re in. Those society has changed considerably between those generations and so the outcome is a group trained for the wrong circumstances. It would be like training a bunch of seals to climb a tree. That’s not what they’re built for. When you end up giving them water, these seals that are built for swimming have no idea what to do because they’ve been told that seals climb up trees. That’s what’s happening for all of us. We are born with these changes, these “evolutions,” these improvements that our genetics has decided, this is a good combination to take because we think it’s going to be successful with what you’re about to face based on the stresses we anticipate. It’s a good strategy.

We train it with the software on top of hardware that’s not meant to match it. That’s the last piece is that by asking that question and saying, “What are my children going to face?” I suddenly go like, “What am I going to face?” When my son turns twenty, I’m now going to say, “I’ll only have one kid in the house.” In a few more years, I’m alone. All these patterns have to engage with the world that I’m going to be running into. Do I seclude myself? Do I do what we see from a lot of high-end leaders who bury their heads in the sand and say that they’re going to attack it from the way they’ve always seen it? This is hierarchical institutions at its finest where you don’t necessarily know how to handle a brand-new situation like COVID that you’ve never seen before because we don’t entirely understand it. Not enough people were playing the futuristic game of saying what if. That’s the final part that parenting garnishes.

When some of these people say like, “Parenting limits your ability to think and be creative.” You have no idea. When you’re thinking about how to survive for your family, it’s something different than how to survive for yourself. When you’re thinking about the mandatory nature of how those people reflect to you and will need you, and you start doing the diagnostic views of saying like, “Look at my father. My father is in his 60s. He adopted with my mom too, my sister’s three kids. Levi, my now brother is twelve. My dad’s going to be almost 70 by the time he gets out of school. By the time he’s 30, he’s 80. By the time he’s 40, he’s 90. That 30 to 40, I’m sitting in the middle of it and I need help. I’m looking at my dad asking questions about things that I’ve never faced before trying to get information who’s Levi going to turn to?” You get this diagnostic of thinking more globally forward instead of just in the moment.

I’ll say that there’s a long conversation that we can have about the moment versus thinking in the future that is a poignancy but ignoring that for the moment. It truly is this conversation of, if I have kids, what are all the various dynamics that are going to impact them along the stretch of time that is their life? Sometimes we don’t give ourselves that individually. We don’t think across the general cross-sectional view of our life, we instead think to the next major goal. We only think that far ahead. We fret, worry, and compel ourselves towards that goal and then we try and throw another tether. The better strategy to go back to what you had said at the beginning, how do you approach that posture? What is your go in? That antifragility statement is, “Am I walking into this environment willing to let the patterns give me information first? Am I willing to anticipate, predict, understand, and contemplate before I ever act?” We always hear it.

I hate it because you hear from people like, “This is the lesson I’ve learned as a parent. This is the lesson you’re going to learn.” Don’t do this and you do it anyway because you think that you can figure out the problem in a different way. It is about your ability to control your reactions because your reactions are pattern responses. They are automatic processes that you have trained. The last example of this would be if you find somebody that every time that you talk to them, you get upset. I have somebody at work. I sent her a message apologizing to her. The reason that I’m upset with her isn’t that I’m upset with her. It’s because every time that we engage, it’s because there is a priority effort. There is something due, behind, or over cost. Our typical engagement strategy is one of contention. It has nothing to do with our personalities not clashing right now.

Teaching children to identify patterns is ultimately teaching them how to learn. Click To Tweet

It’s stressful and there are a lot of new changes but it’s coming down to the fact of that very nature. I feel like we don’t do enough of that. We don’t do enough when we’re individuals of understanding how the patterns of responses changed the dynamics of the relationships around us because we don’t get to see this almost instantaneous reminder of as your child slowly picks up new skills that you don’t like, where do you think they got them? When my son is like, “Just saying, dad” or “I’m just saying,” I’m like, “Excuse me, that’s me.” I’m the one that says that. I’m mad at my damn self. It happens all the time. They say things and they do things and you’re like, “That’s me.”

Speaking to that, one of the things that I’ve been most convicted about is that common truism that which you get most upset with others is most present in yourself. Kids are the daily visual experiential reminder of that.

They are and it’s hard for whatever damn reason for almost every single human being to turn it around and say, “What do I need to do?” It’s always this reverberating, “I’m rubber and you’re glue thing that I’m going to deflect.” Most of the time we have every reason to feel fault in the things that upset us because there are choices that we’ve made that have created those faults. Another example is Skype, so using teams. One of the things that people forget is that when you share your screen, it shares everything if you don’t pick a window to share. When I’m having a dialogue with my team and one of my team members sends a message privately to somebody else, it pops up on their screen. When they’re irritated with what I have to say, it pops up on their screen. Why should I be upset? If they’re irritated as this individual mentioned, I would have shown you with body language when I said, “By the way, I’m not upset because I know our relationship. As a reminder, not everyone will be as flexible, careful when you send a message because this person doesn’t hide their message tree when they’re showing screen.”

The response from the gentleman was like, “Crap,” but that’s okay because I don’t have a problem with it. I recognize why he was upset with me. I was asking, “Are there things that we can do to get around it is the very inflexible process?” He was saying, “No, there’s not.” I was like, “I bet there is.” He’s going to be annoyed with me. I can’t be upset with that. When he finally says like, “Will he just shut up?” If something like that were to come out of his mouth, I shouldn’t get offended. I should be like, “You’re right. I get it.” We don’t do it. Even as parents, you get these kids, they’re reminding you of all these bad things and you stare at them and you still go, “Why don’t you change?”

I’ve only gotten half that dose in stepping into marriage now. The first step before kids is with a partner and a spouse. That’s been a fun, humbling exercise for me and I love it. It’s so great. I want to underscore what you said about parenting. You don’t change who your kids are, rather you give them opportunities to explore who they are. That’s something that I would love to adopt in the future if I’m blessed with children. That perspective alone, that approach would unlock some sweet opportunities for parents out there. I applaud you for that. There are a couple of things I’d be remiss if we didn’t touch on.

The two things, one you mentioned from your end and one that I’ve thought a lot on my end. They’re two different tensions between what seems to be opposing forces. First, what you brought up which is thinking at the moment versus thinking in the future. The other one that I’ve been thinking a lot about is being a generalist versus being a specialist. I don’t know how you want to talk about these. We can start with what you brought thinking in the moment versus thinking in the future. When you said that initially, my first question was if you had to assign weight or percentages to one or the other, both are necessary for many ways. There are many situations that will shift and change. There is a lot of variance in that. The better question is, how do you think about assigning weight to that first situation? This is a massive topic, so I’m curious about your thoughts.

I have been arguably one of the largest forward planner type people. I have always been that way. This idea of living moment to moment has bothered me. How can you live from moment to moment? It’s so ridiculous. At the same time, when we started talking about let’s say Buddhism and a lot of these conversations with reaching this state of Nirvana. These ideas of the enlightenment. They always talk about this process at the moment. It’s becoming realized. I interestingly watched one of those Explained things on Netflix and they’re talking about meditation. They bring on this Buddhist monk and they prove it with what they register in the brain. He’s saying that he has a relationship with pain such that he experiences and they experience pain at a higher level for a shorter period of time and then have less afterward.

Whereas we would experience the pain having a longer reach. At the same time, hold that in your mind. Someone who’s meditating on pain, who wants to have a relationship with pain, who’s good at controlling pain, the people who can get to a point where they can be on fire and still have a calm disposition. They’re experiencing extremely high levels of pain, but they’re honest with that. They’re having an honest instantaneous relationship with it. You look at colonoscopies, it’s a weird one. These colonoscopy tests where they measured how painful you thought it was going to be. At every so many minute along the process asking you how painful it was until you were done. What they found was that the score of pain wasn’t even the most painful thing.

It wasn’t about how long it took or how bad it was, it was the difference between the highest-paid and the last pain that they felt. The resultant now is this average performance. That doesn’t meet well with the other one. If I look at pain as a summary of my process but then I put it back to my monks and I go, “That makes sense. The pain isn’t so bad because by the time they’re done with it, the pain is zero because they had an entire relationship with it.” The best that it could be is half as painful as whatever you’re giving it. Most of the time, half as painful is bearable. What I now consider this from a standpoint of the moment to planning. I have a moment that is important. Everything around me, all the things I’m sensing, all of the necessary architecture and framework that resolved to produce this instant are still here. I’m then trying to use those to intelligently make choices into the future. That’s where this honest relationship of significance versus insignificance stems from.

You start to recognize that you are both entirely significant and entirely insignificant to the general flow of things. If you’re trying to predict into the future, you recognize that if you disappeared now, it doesn’t matter. You can be replaced as easily as you existed. It will cause damage but you can be replaced. The general earth will continue. However, at the moment when you’re not present, you give away everything. Your significance at that moment is the most important because that is the moment when your child is asking you for their love or time. If you give that to them, you’re being a significant matter because your perturbation can change all of their outcomes in the future. Every single situation that you get into, every good and bad one will and should haunt you because you should be able to use those. That’s where I get mathematically. It is less than they are 50/50 and more that they are quantum. When you measure one, you’ve impacted your ability to measure the other like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

The relationship is like yin and yang. They need to be pure. You need to be both thoughtful of exactly everything that you’re taking from this moment, collecting, and listening to it. I ask people all the time, “When was the last time that you felt the wind?” Not felt the wind intentionally but you were so aware of the general nature that you pause to reflect on the wind because that small perturbation was enough to get you out of your system. That’s an important reflection point because if you can’t feel the wind, if it never disturbs you unless it’s aggressive, and you can’t enjoy the gentle breezes and what those mean, then you’re so bolted into this either futuristic or past tense mantra of yourself that you aren’t living in the moment. Therefore, you can’t be changing based on the new information you’re given. You’re reassessing old information with plausible intuitions and projections of the future, which are still based on information that’s not new. The only way to get new and better information is to constantly allow yourself to live in those moments while remaining tethered to this nature that there is a progressional significance to what you’re doing. That real draw of significance and insignificance is hard for most people.

UAC 144 | Antifragility

 

For each person, it’s different which end that is too in their demeanor or personality. I even think about correlating it to giving an interview like this, I need to be fully present with what you’re saying so I can try and keep up but I also need to be able to steer well so it’s going in some logical flow so people aren’t like, “It’s a circus.” It brings up the metaphor I like using is it’s a dance between the present and the future. The only way you get good at dancing is by dancing and recognizing that you’re dancing. If you don’t recognize that you’re dancing, you’re not going to dance very well but it’s a beautiful dance.

There’s a book and if you haven’t read it, I would recommend it. It’s called Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality by Anthony De Mello. He’s a Franciscan priest but something along that line. He worked in India for most of his life. His whole premise is you need to wake up because most of us aren’t awake and unpacks the logic behind that. It’s a beautiful flow to and he’s shouting at you the whole time, which is fun. It is this awareness that allows us to value and be shocked out of our system that there’s some wind blowing and then we can get curious about that and stop trying to control it. We get to enjoy the dance for what it is. That also leads to us being more antifragile, which connects the whole piece together which is cool.

You’re talking about the dance-like what you’re trying to do with this and back into antifragility. That’s the nature of what that relationship is. What you’re having to do to stay active with this conversation to provide value to the people that are reading should be the way that you try to provide value to yourself. You shouldn’t be having a scattershot with no cohesion necessarily. You should be trying to find ways to re-implement and re-provide. That’s like going through school. What I recognize is the difference between myself and a lot of other people. My immediate goal is whatever I have heard, I will take things from this conversation and immediately apply them into things that I do. The entire point is treating each day like you’re trying to stay prepared for the conversation. You’re trying to stay attended to those conversations. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you will stay attended to everything but you must be able to allow yourself to recognize inflections and perturbations that are not characteristic.

The only way that you do those, this is taking advantage of the instinctual system, are you don’t smell your house. When you walk into somebody else’s house, you smell it. The reason you do that is that it’s not advantageous to smell your crap, but it’s advantageous to smell someone else’s crap because it’s in your turf and it’s in your place. You should be at a level of yourself where you’ve asked enough of those questions. This is where the groundwork takes place. This is why it’s not easy to wake up one day and be like, “I’m going to change it.” You have to go into this groundwork of saying, “Who am I at a core sense?” With my example, it takes a person to do that. I had a mentor who broke me. You find something, some way to get that dosage, but that dosage has to identify with you that your version of reality is skewed. It is always capable of lying to you and for you to lie to yourself and willingly accept it without care. If that’s capable of being done and you don’t understand who that person is that’s lying to you, from a standpoint of the movie Split. That’s given Patricia a lot of the ownership of the flow and that’s scary.

That mindset and approach of each day staying prepared for the conversation is another beautiful approach. We’d do well to embrace that. To end with this idea of specializing versus generalizing, arguably when people hear what you’re involved within the introduction and all of the things that are currently on your plate. The case for being a generalist is valid and can be made but it’s also specialized in a certain field. It’s a little bit of both ends especially for my outlook on your life. I’m curious to hear, I know this has been something that I’ve thought of a lot in my own life, where I’m at in my career, and what I’m working towards and on. I’ve gotten advice primarily from older people that air on specializing, picking a very small niche, and burrowing deep.

That’s something that I did do with golf. I spent my whole life playing golf and burrowed deep. From that deep burrowing, I’ve spread the net wider and had more of a broad generalized approach. I’ve done a dance between the two. Now, I’m generalized but in a specialized way. Some of it could be true for where you’re at even though further down the road. One thing that you did mention to tie in earlier too is that our world is arguably geared towards the generalist approach more so than the specialized approach because of how we act on a daily basis with what information we’re receiving. With all that being said, how do you view the modern world and even using you and I as specific examples of this specialized versus generalized approach? What path is maybe more advantageous to walk down?

One of the things that if you’re looking for a book, for anyone who likes reading on a general notion of application of generalism in our society, it’s Range. That book expresses what else are the general tendencies of society now. Let’s take some chunks. The first chunk is when we started talking about the advancement of the state-of-the-art technology and science, we are at the greatest time ever. Ninety-five percent of our science has happened in the last 100 years or something like that. We are crushing it and our ability to keep up with all of the brand-new information that’s coming out is impossible. There is way too much going on from too many places instantaneously. The only way to grip that information is going to be some hive mind relationship.

From that hive mind relationship, you started to ask, why do we need generalization now? There is a lot of stimulus. There’s a lot of available information and one of the things that it’s created as a part of that state of the art is the existence of the internet. As it has been said for many people, one thing that we know about human species is that when we started technology, we don’t stop it, no matter how terrible it is. The internet is going to be here which means that we have decentralized the notion of where you get your facts. They are not in your library down the street. They are not in the books on your shelf. They are anywhere you can pick up service. That means where you used to have to wait all day long to be able to answer something, you can now answer it immediately. This is where the application changes. We make fun of this movie that we saw where one of the characters goes like, “Let’s not know.”

To answer your questions. I was like, “What’s the answer?” He was like, “Let’s just not know.” I was like, “Hell no. We are going to know.” What that means is that you could do that. You can know and you can know the right answer for a lot of things. You can get a lot of bias and a lot of opinions, but having that access to information now says that you don’t have to have many years of significance in an area that prevents you from having to go look for information on how to get better and faster quickly. You don’t have to spend another twenty years trying to learn this new technique. You can watch a couple of YouTube videos and start practicing them immediately. That’s important because it changes the evolution speed of your ability to bifurcate the environment. Arguably, it starts to justify why specialization becomes less sensible.

If you are already the best at that thing and you find your flow, you’re in it, and you want to spend every single waking moment from twelve-hour days, every single day of your life sitting inside the lab and specializing the activity, by all means, do it. I’m not saying don’t, but if you’re trying to ask yourself where is the general investment? It’s in between buckets because you have these curves that are so high that if you want to touch the tip of them, you have to be a brilliant individual, highly specialized and trained by the best in the world to succeed there. Whereas if you understand the general logic of how things relate together, you can find those individuals who are specialists and you can interpolate between them. The issue that you see resultants of this is that each of those is important. Catching where I was versus where I am. I’ll tell you that generalist all the way, a specialist is a terrible person, don’t do that.

I tell all of my students like interns or stuff that like, “If you’re going to get a graduate degree, wait and make sure. I don’t think getting out of Master’s programs means that you are a master. I have very discrete criteria that define a master and it’s a very long process.” From that conversation then it says that what you had mentioned when you talked about using us as examples, we have established a general flow. You find something that you’re interested in after you’ve sampled for a while and you invest yourself into that thing and you use it. Here’s the important part. The differential is that if you can use your specialization, the thing that you get into to help teach you about life, use it as your metaphor. That is something I’m trying to become more attuned with. The things that we like to do and the things that we’re interested in, the art that we produce, the way that we communicate, and the job that you do, those are your ways of communicating your relationship with the logic of the human condition.

This is what I know to be how I think life is. If that’s what you’re trying to do with it, and you ask those questions along the way, you’re able to say, “What am I learning from failure at golf and how does that apply to failure in life?” If you focused on golf and say, “I’m a crap golfer.” That doesn’t help you because you’re not a crap golfer. You know you’re not. More so, you’ve learned again that resiliency, that antifragility of handling those abuses and moments where they don’t go well. When you’re sitting there and somebody hits you with something random and bad, you don’t break because you’ve seen it.

This notion of the specialist has helped you create an earnest relationship rather than trying to bounce around in the sample. Even bouncing around in sampling can allow you to sample life. It’s just, do you ask yourself still, is this how I want to communicate with reality? Is this how I feel that reality anticipates communication? The second part is important because this will get really theoretical. We zoom in far enough your energy and that’s why when I talk about the model I’ve been building, I am also trying to say, “Can I build it with the thought towards energy as a system going to that entropic piece?”

The point of that analysis is to say, “If I am moving energy and I am contributing to this idea of spreading chaos, which means the Second Law of Thermodynamics, trying to expand the universe. If I’m investing myself in those things, how does that system respond?” Does it respond better when I do so with a very precise knife to areas of my particular interest? Do I find that I get more effective when I look in between the gray spots when I am less focused and more open? Those are questions for a human to answer to themselves, to be flexible and allow it to change based on where they are in life.

The only way you can really understand something is by being curious about it rather than trying to control it. Click To Tweet

I happen to lean towards the way that society is right now. Knowing the kind of information that we can offload to a small and very limited set of specialists means that for all of us to be more effective, if we can be generally better and capable of seeing between the lines, then we are aiming towards what is the evolved form of intelligence. Either you mount yourself to a computer or you mount yourself to all the other humans. You can’t necessarily completely over tap the brain. I can give you Adderall and I can get you to zone in. I can give you alcohol and start to depress your system. I can change it with drugs but I can’t continue to do that long-term without abusing it and breaking it because it wasn’t meant to do that.

The notion of offloading, that is family. That is the budget that you’re sharing with other people. You are offloading responsibilities onto them and to everyone. When we look at this world as it becomes more interconnected, it starts to tell you. Reality looks less like a bunch of few isolated groups creating massive growth and then suddenly realizing that they also exist with other groups across the country. Instead, everyone is growing together. If we’re growing together, I would assume then that reality is asking for us to have toolkits and methods to engage with it that lean towards that general nature so that we can be more effective as a group at handling that responsibility. Do you want somebody who knows everything in the world about an electron but has no ability to have a conversation with you about life or someone who can talk to you all about life but can’t do math?

The math is important. Don’t get me wrong. Everything about the electron is important. I’m most certainly not saying that physicist is a bad example. Most physicists who get deep into the weeds also have a good understanding of life because there is a lot of philosophy in that edge of physics. You get what I’m saying. The world is anticipating that you’re going to be trying to find connectivity immediately or find information quickly. It’s creating systems that are designed to work like that. If you can work the way those systems are designed, then you can operate most effectively within there.

It almost speaks to the growing importance of EQ over IQ because that’s what brings the glue to IQ. The reality that knowing information isn’t what changes, it’s the experience of that information that changes you as a person or grows you as a human. I’ve been thinking a lot about that too because it’s so addicting to want to learn, gain as much information as possible, and have this amazing conception of an idea or area of study. What is that without the experience of living? What is that without the day-to-day reality of being human that connects you to every other human? It loses its value quickly, which speaks to both ends. We need both and there are varying degrees but you bring up a good point with the nature of our world. It makes a lot of sense for being the glue between the specialized masters that are the tip of the iceberg.

There’s so much of them. We’ve seen these gigantic growths. While they’re into the motif, those people are dialed in and they’re creating this amazing stuff. They don’t have the bandwidth to see outside those horse blinders. They need to be in the zone. That’s where they are best and where they execute. You have to start getting good at being able to see all of these wonderful things that are being created around you and how you can use them to help improve your life because there are things designed for you. It will require you to be uncomfortable to figure that out. You have to recognize that even some of the things that you start with, you may not like them. You may think they’re stupid. They’re called scaffolding. I don’t build the pyramid without something to help me move things up and down. Maxwell was popular for this. Maxwell’s equations which give us all the background of electrical and magnetic fields from a very basic arithmetic background. He had no skills and he generalized these things with scaffolding first before finalizing these bigger and bolder equations. That’s where we have to be. We’ve got to put some scaffolding in to get yourself moving, and then you can figure out where to go from there.

It’s a great mental concept too. The view of what those preparing phases wherever we’re at in life as providing scaffolding for the overarching building that you are building metaphorically within yourself, which is a great tool for helping us embrace each season as important. Cody, it never fails. A conversation with you always stimulates so much thought and humbles me in what I aspire to know. Thank you. I want to end with three more one-off questions to end with before we’re done. The first one is speaking of the future versus the moment, imagining your 50-year-old self, what advice do you think you’d give your current self?

Less of it matters than you think. If I can look back, there are a few things.

This one’s always an interesting question and very challenging. Which of your current views or beliefs are most likely to be wrong?

Arguably, all of them. Every last thing that you have read could all be just crap. I could have been misinterpreted. Somebody else could give me new opinions and new pieces of information that changed the way that I’m willing to look at it. I would be lying from the standpoint of the way that I’m saying to live life if I don’t agree to that functional capability of change. If anything were to be the most wrong, it’s at least been showing how much I think you have to. What does hard work mean? Hard is a weird concept and it doesn’t look an awful lot the way I used to think it. I don’t disagree that you shouldn’t have a time in your life where you sleep very little and it feels overwhelming and everything feels it’s going to fall on top of you to shake you out of some of those moments. I don’t think you should be living in that. That’s one thing that I still do. I don’t get enough sleep. I live at 900 miles an hour and I think that I can overwork and I will, but at what cost?

UAC 144 | Antifragility

 

Finally, what we ask every guest if you could send a morning text reminder to every Up and Comer out there, what short message or reminder would you send as a daily morning text?

I’ll say what I end my emails with which is, “Stay safe, stay well.” There are a lot of things that we could try and save people to get them to shake out these moments but right now, a lot of it is, what is safety? How do you feel safe? How do you define that? We are in a position of asking a lot of those questions moving forward and staying well. Not just well physically and healthy but stay and be well. Try and find yourself in these times when it feels like your being perturbed because this is the system check that’s going to give you an idea of your resiliency and antifragility.

It’s going to give you those tools to define where you should take those next steps unless you are entirely focused on the overwhelming nature of it. It’s overwhelming. I’m not going to sit here and come to you as one of the people sitting in the high castle who doesn’t do everything. We have two boys at home that we have to teach every day. We have two people going through a Master’s school and we both have work. Every day looks like this constant combination of organizing times, schedules, blocking things off, you put the kids down, and then you work some more. It’s hard. If you can remember to stay safe and stay well, that gets you going.

I appreciate your generously giving time for us.

That’s not what that meant at all.

I wanted to make sure and say that because I genuinely do appreciate it. Life is full and that’s such a great reminder to stay safe and stay well and a great focus for us. Cody, thanks again. Where can people find more about you, your work, and say hi or connect?

First and foremost, thank you as well for the time. It’s always a good time and I have lots of notes for myself and things to go take a peek at and books to read which is great. As far as getting ahold on me, I’m poor at social media. You can google my name. There are some videos, some podcasts and things like that in case you’re interested. My Instagram has a lot of the things I’ve written. I haven’t done a lot because life has been extremely busy. I don’t do the joke of the shirtless pics of all my fitness routines. That’s not what you’re going to find on my page. You’re going to find kids making robots out of boxes and weird things like that. You can also email me by all means. I’d love to have conversations. If you’re looking for some scientific, technical, or any of those things related to some of the work that I do for NASA, hit me up on LinkedIn. My email is Cody.Burkhart@Gmail.com. It’s the easiest one to give you out and shoot me a message.

Thanks again. This has been a pleasure and a joy. I’m excited to see what comes from your projects, your models, your work. I can’t wait for the next installment. 

Thanks for the time too.

For our audience, we hope you have an up and coming week because of we’re out.

Following up with one last thing to note. If you would like to get a curated list of all the content I’m learning from, whether that be books I’m reading, podcasts I’m listening to, quotes I’m pondering or even some sermons I’m enjoying, In-Thane is a monthly newsletter that brings vetted content that I know you’ll enjoy. Just go to ThaneMarcus.com/InThane to sign up. You’ll be sure to receive the very next one. Each edition of In-Thane is released on the first Sunday of the month. This is a once a month newsletter that I hope you enjoy and benefit from as much as I have. Here’s to learning and growing one day at a time.

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About Cody Burkhart

UAC 144 | Antifragility

Cody Burkhart is a father, husband, reader, thinker, weaver, and nerd… and he spends most of his time attempting to understand the nature of perception, our definitions of reality, the nature of the human condition, and the core duality of our immense significance and insignificance. That’s the important stuff, the rest, to follow, is nothing more than context.

He holds BS degrees in both Aerospace Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, with a Minor in the Art & Practice of Leadership, from the University of Colorado – Boulder (UCB) and is, currently, working to complete a Masters in Neuroscience & Behavior from the University of Houston – Clear Lake (UHCL). Cody also serves as the President of the Neuroscience Student Organization at UHCL.

Within NASA(Johnson Space Center; Houston, TX), Cody serves as the: Lab Chief of the Physiology-Sensing, Intelligent, Optimization Nucleus (PSION) Lab, developing advanced exercise and human performances systems for long-duration space travel (end-goal is an immersive, biofeedback, resistive & assistive, exosuit); Project Manager of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED), the crew strength and conditioning asset aboard the International Space Station (ISS); Project Manager of the Knowledge Reaper Asset in a Kinetic Network (KRAKN) multi-modal data management system for health and performance monitoring of ISS crew; Head Mentor for the Flight Systems Branch interns and pathways programs, includes up to eight interns (undergrad, graduate, and doctoral); the head of Strategic Partnerships and Collaborations for the Flight System Branch; Grant development specialist. Beyond this work, Cody has served numerous roles in diverse arenas including the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV) and the Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS).

Cody has also spent numerous years developing skillsets in high-performance athletic training. His work has included all levels of athletics from owning and operating a grassroots gym, servicing the general population, through to high school / collegiate athletes, professional athletes, Olympic athletes, and special operators. (While the process may have been shared, though, the accolades remain, entirely, theirs.)

In the end, though, it’s less about the roles, the jobs, and more about the meandering journey that compels us all forward. Stay safe; stay well.

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