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Ian O'Byrne

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. - Aristotle In issue of my newsletter. Subscribe at http #education


Ian O'Byrne

The job of a citizen is to keep his mouth open. - Gunter Grass #freedom

Ian O'Byrne

The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion. - Albert Camus In issue of TL;DR - #identity


Ian O'Byrne

The words you say never live up to the words in your head. - Chris Cornell In this week's issue of TL;DR - #voice

Ian O'Byrne

Epictetus on what we can control in our own lives

3 min read

On the second day of Stoic Week 2016, we were asked to identify what is in our control. The handbook and daily prompts is available here

The morning reflection for today is as follows from Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.1

Early in the morning, when you are finding it hard to wake up, hold this thought in your mind: ‘I am getting up to do the work of a human being. Do I still resent it, if I am going out to do what I was born for and for which I was brought into the world? Or was I framed for this, to lie under the bedclothes and keep myself warm?’ ‘But this is more pleasant’. So were you born for pleasure: in general were you born for feeling or for affection? Don’t you see the plants, the little sparrows, the ants, the spiders, the bees doing their own work, and playing their part in making up an ordered world. And then are you unwilling to do the work of a human being? Won’t you run to do what is in line with your nature? 

In this reflection, we are asked to identify our locus of control. That is, what things can we effect change, and what elements are out of our purview.

In working with teachers, I often refer to this as "parking lot problems." Whne you try to help students, but start discussing the challenges with homelife, upbringing, or other issues that you really cannot "change"...I see these as things that should be left aside in the parking lot when you come in to work each day.

Epictetus makes this much easier to consider as he writes about the proper things for us to be concerned with. 

Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions. 

Epictetus is making it clear for us what is in our control, and what should not be included in our locus of control. In short, things that we control through our own actions, are in our control. I believe this is a good starting point to think about voice and choice in our own lives. 


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Ian O'Byrne

Stoic reflections on life as a project and role models

3 min read

Thank you to friends Doug Belshaw and Eylan Ezekiel for pointing me to the events for Stoic Week 2016. This year's theme is on "stoicism and love." You can review the handbook for the week's materials here. 

The website is full of materials if you're interested in exporing stoicism and possible impacts on your life. I was most intrigued by the self-assessment they provide as you begin this journey. I'll share more on this later.

I start my day with a period of meditation, exercise, and then some reading and journaling. The events of stoic week 2016 will consist of a daily meditation and some written reflections throughout the day.

The iniitial prompt for today is the following:

From Maximus [I have learnt the importance of these things]: to be master of oneself and not carried this way and that; to be cheerful under all circumstances, including illness; a character with a harmonious blend of gentleness and dignity; readiness to tackle the task in hand without complaint; the confidence everyone had that whatever he said he meant and whatever he did was not done with bad intent; never to be astonished or panic-stricken, and never to be hurried or to hang back or be at a loss or downcast or cringing or on the other hand angry or suspicious; to be ready to help or forgive, and to be truthful; to give the impression of someone whose character is naturally upright rather than having undergone correction; the fact that no-one could have thought that Maximus looked down on him, or could have presumed to suppose that he was better than Maximus; and to have great personal charm. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 1.14

The intent of this prompt from the organizers of Stoic Week is to have us consider our life as an ongoing project, and the journey of ethical self-development. 

For me this is an important element of my life as I try to understand, or at least make room for the thoughts and habits that make me who I am. Meditation has helped me to quiet (at times) much of the noise of self-doubt and anxiety. By resetting each morning through meditation and reflection, I try to learn more about myself and who I would like to be.

Learning is a fundamental part of my philosophy and action. Through the aquistion of new knowledge I believe that we can understand and hopefully "change" most anything in our lives. 


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Ian O'Byrne

Is Yahoo really advising me to secure my account?!?!

1 min read

In issue #66 of the TL;DR Newsletter, I discussed the recent security breaches and lack of transparency coming out of Yahoo. First there was the report that millions of Yahoo accounts and passwords were stolen and the company did nothing to alert users. This week was the even more chilling Reuters report that suggests that Yahoo has been scanning user emails and communications. This information is being handed over to U.S. intelligence officials.

In the newsletter I discussed that I need to finally start using my own email server.

At this point, I mostly use Yahoo services for Flickr and fantasy football. While signing in this past weekend, I thought it was funny that Yahoo is asking me to update my info so I can secure my account. :)

I needed to get a screengrab to capture the moment.

Ian O'Byrne

The Organized Mind: How to better structure our time in the age of social media and constant distraction

The debate about attention and the pelthora of online and digital media ranges on as these Internet technologies become even more ubiquitous in our lives. 

With this there is a concern that this level of attention is making our thinking process function at a more superficial level. This argument takes many forms...from the "Google is making us dumber" discussion, to the "all kids will have/get ADHD when they're adults" framing.

I think there is a possible balance in these perspectives, and an opportunity to think about the natural state of the mind. Furthermore, I don't believe that there is anything substantially new or different from the texts and tools and the adoption we've had in the past.

In examining this argument, the bookmarked site came across my newsfeed. Several quotes jumped out to me.

We can’t truly think about or attend to all these things at once, so our brains flit from one to the other, each time with a neurobiological cost. Once on a task, our brains function best if we stick to it. To pay attention to one thing means that we don’t pay attention to something else. Attention is a limited-capacity resource.

This sense of attention provides opportunities to think, debrief, and focus on one element at a time. Attention is a valuable commodity in pedagogy. Whether the classroom is online or face-to-face, there is a need to focus on the learner, motivation, and garnered attention.

This daydreaming mode constitutes a distinctive and special brain state of great creativity. It exerts a pull on consciousness; it eagerly shifts the brain into mind-wandering when you’re not engaged in a task, and it hijacks your consciousness if the task you’re doing gets boring.

As I get busier, and busier, I've lost the time needed for just daydreaming, or goofing off. I found the pleasure for this recently as I was drawing illustrations for a block post on blockchain. These opportunities to let the brain rest, and regain creativity may come in these new opportunities to rest, and let the brain regain stasis. The brain needs to wander.

Daydreaming or mind-wandering, we now know, is a natural state of the brain. This accounts for why we feel so refreshed after it, and why vacations and naps can be so restorative. The tendency for this system to take over is so powerful that its called the default mode. This mode is a resting brain state, when your brain is not engaged in a purposeful task, when you’re sitting on a sandy beach or relaxing in your easy chair with a single malt Scotch (Glenfarclas, neat, please), and your mind wanders fluidly from topic to topic. It’s not just that you can’t hold on to any one thought from the rolling stream, it’s that no single thought is demanding a response.

As I stated earlier, there is a need to focus on attention as a commodity, and allow the brain to wander. In this we're possibly identifying opportunities to bring the brain back to stasis. There are opportunities in surfing the web, listening to music. Build and creating in digital spaces. I'm recently finding opportunities for this in daily meditation. 

Ian O'Byrne

March 15, 2016

2 min read

I came across this post by Tom Stafford that discusses "forgetfulness", or at least what I thought was forgetfulness. :)

The post discusses the "doorway effect", or at least the challenge that happens when you run into a room looking to do one thing, or grab one thing and you get lost or forget the one thing you were there for.

He provides a helpful analogy to explain what is happening.

These features of our minds are perhaps best illustrated by a story about a woman who meets three builders on their lunch break. “What are you doing today?” she asks the first. “I’m putting brick after sodding brick on top of another,” sighs the first. “What are you doing today?” she asks the second. “I’m building a wall,” is the simple reply. But the third builder swells with pride when asked, and replies: “I’m building a cathedral!”

This resonates with me as my mind is often lost in (what I believe are) the more pressing concerns or things I'm working on. As an example, I'm very aware of the two deadlines that I have today that I need to get done right after this post.

This also makes me think about professional development and working with learners. They might come at the problem from each of these three mindsets. Some need to see and understand the whole picture before getting started. Some need to start at point one and move on. It's important to remain considerate of each and identify their entry points as they get started.

Ian O'Byrne

February 16, 2016

2 min read

When you delegate work to the member of your team, your job is to clearly frame success and describe the objectives. - Steven Sinofsky

One of the key challenges that I have is delegation. I haven't really noticed it as a problem until having a graduate assistant...someone that is paid to work with/for me for 8 hours per week. 

I don't know how to delegate, and how to make someone accountable for their actions...if they don't work. I feel bad, and get to the point where I'd rather do it myself than spend the time training them. 

This year I wanted to spend more time focusing, and working to delegate, but I'm in the same rut. I thought I was spending time to make my assistant a bit more empowered, and delegating. I don't think I was as granular in framing success and describing objectives. I once again rely on the old habits that get me frustrated, and back to this point.

I won't waste time here indicating the future...

Instead, I'll consider what I lose when I don't use this person effecitvely. I lose more time in the week that I could be prepping, planning, thinking, writing. I try to integrate the person into daily events and work...when I should save them for "low level" activities...automating of things.

The first step is to remain granular, identify success, and describe objectives.