Hyperfocusing: A Self Analysis

The following link is the reason why I am writing this blog post.

Part 1: Harness My ADHD Mutant Powers

What is Hyperfocusing? Well, the way I understand it, people with ADHD have a dopamine deficiency in their brain. This causes them to constantly look for stimulation, anything that will cause their body to make more dopamine. I imagine this would make us extremely susceptible to addiction. (Hmm… maybe that’s why I’m overweight. I’ll have to keep an eye on that.) It also means that when we find something that gives us that stimulus, we latch onto it and won’t let go till it stops. This is sometimes called hyperfocusing, when a person with ADHD won’t break away from whatever they are concentrating on. The thing they are fixated on is all encompassing and the world around them drops away. Anyone can do this, and you’ve probably noticed it in your friends. Anytime you try to break their concentration from a project or activity they are passionate about it takes you a while to get their attention. Sometimes you have to kick them or something to get them to listen to you, and they get sad or mad if you pry them away. That is Hyperfocusing. With a person who has ADHD, this can be ridiculously more intense!

I need to start this project by listing all the times I can actively remember hyperfocusing, and then try listing all the reasons Why I was doing it, and all the reasons why I stopped.

The List:

  • Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
    • Explanation: I LOVED this game as a kid, and I love it now. I just played it and beat it again within the course of 3 days. It’s the game I can always come back to, like a good book.
    • Starters
      • I love puzzles
      • The game is designed to explain the rules without text within the first two dungeons.
      • The Characters are unforgettable, and play off of other Nintendo titles.
      • The game encourages experimentation through its design.
      • It pays fan service to its players by using elements from other Nintendo titles.
      • The game has a clear goal, almost always within view.
      • It has a very simple story.
      • It keeps a lot of it’s lore a mystery, making you want to dig deeper for information.
    • Stoppers
      • The surprise is gone. I’ve played the game so many times, that I’ve seen almost all there is to see.
      • I know the game so well, that there is hardly any challenge anymore
  • MineCraft
    • Explanation: I was addicted to this game for a long time. I was bored and decided to try it out after watching some Let’s Plays on Youtube. It consumed my life at home for a long time. I almost started a Youtube channel on it.
    • Starters
      • The game has a simple design
      • There is SO MUCH POTENTIAL. I can’t understate this. I watch for the updates, just because I know what they COULD do with it.
      • It’s a giant creative playground. You can create almost anything.
      • There is still a chance to discover new things in the world that other people haven’t built yet.
      • You can Build things on a MASSIVE scale.
      • Every new game is different, because the worlds are procedurally generated.
      • The online community is full of some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met online.
      • You can design and build entire cities if you want!
      • When I think of a project, I can clearly picture what I will need to do to accomplish it. It drives me to get it done!
    • Stoppers
      • I got impatient waiting for the creators to improve the game the way I felt it could improve. The game started to feel disappointing.
      • The only way to get appreciation for my projects was to build them huge, which took time laying block by block, and when I finally was finished, the appreciation wasn’t enough to warrant the cost of time and energy.
      • I basically ran out of ideas of things to create that sounded fun because of the previous bullet point.
      • The game has a limited amount of fun stuff to discover, and since it’s procedurally generated, once you discover one, you’ve discovered them all.
  • Programming
    • Explanation: I went to a Vocational School out of High School for two years. One year, I took Web Development. I LOVED that course. I have been wanting to get a job as a programmer ever since. So far, my first year training as an IT guy has taken over my career path, but I am working on adjusting it.
    • Starters
      • When you program (depending on the language) you usually get immediate results and can troubleshoot along the way. It’s extremely satisfying.
      • I got into a situation where I would think of a programming mechanism idea and immediately see how I might be able to accomplish it.
      • sometimes I would come up with an even weirder idea and think to myself “can I do that? will that work” and it would be like a little puzzle to solve.
      • Troubleshooting code, was like searching for a treasure. I know the answer is there, and it will give me instant gratification. All I have to do is find it.
      • Learning the code introduced me to new ways of thinking. The more I learned, the more I wanted to play with it.
    • Stoppers
      • my focus problems distract me from projects. It’s better if I have a teammate working with me on a project.
      • The time I have to allocate for projects is something that is hard to come by these days
      • Having to conform to Industry stupidity, like every browser not rendering CSS the same way, is a tedious pain in the ass.
      • All the syntax is very similar in each language so learning a new one can get boring.
  • Story Writing
    • Explanation: I have a lot of stories wandering around inside my head. When I get into the right groove, I love to write them out, but I have a hard time completing them
    • Starters
      • I can vividly see the concept of what I want to write in my head.
      • It’s pretty fun trying to piece the scenes together to make a good plot.
      • I type WAY more comfortably and faster than I write.
      • Writing is such a nice outlet for my brain. It’s why I have this blog.
      • It’s exciting to write what others might like.
    • Stoppers
      • I tend to drown the story in detail, and the plot moves too slowly to keep me interested in writing.
      • Starting a book at the beginning is a complete drag. It takes so long to get it out of the way.
      • The longer it takes to write, the more my ideas start to sound outdated.
  • Designing a game I call DeathMatch
    • Explanation: I came up with a great concept for a card game called DeathMatch. It was going to be fun to develop with my buddy and hopefully make us some money.
    • Starters
      • There was a “click moment” where the idea came together and I saw everything I needed to do.
      • I was really excited to show my buddy
      • I even saw the designs and the art in my head.
    • Stoppers
      • No art done yet
      • Gotta go through the tedious process of creating test cards to test out the game.
  • Learning/Research
    • Explanation: I get lost in learning new things and doing research on concepts I’m interested. That’s 90% of why I’m on the internet all the time.
    • Starters
      • It’s super easy to google or Youtube a subject to learn more about it.
      • The idea that it could somehow solve all of my life’s problems by learning one simple thing is a huge driver for me.
      • I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time because I’m improving myself.
    • Stoppers
      • Other responsibilities weigh on me and eventually interrupt my flow.
      • sometimes boredom sets in and I go looking for other distractions because I haven’t made enough progress, or the lesson becomes tedious.
      • When I’m reading, the author can be very dry and not entertaining, or go off on a subject I either already know or care nothing about.
  • Mysterious problems at work
    • Explanation: Sometimes problems pop up at work that should be really simple fixes. When they turn out more complicated or the simple fix doesn’t work, it can send me on a drive to fix it that I have a hard time breaking away from.
    • Starters
      • It’s like I have to prove myself by solving it, otherwise my cocky attitude that said “oh this will be easy” will be thrown in my face.
      • There is a sense of urgency because this was supposed to be a quick fix and now it’s interrupting the flow of my day along with the person who’s computer I’m fixing.
      • I don’t wanna look like I actually don’t know what I’m doing. and I want to make the customer happy.
    • Stoppers
      • Time runs out
      • I realize I have spent too much time on the project and I need to get my scheduled work done.
      • I lose interest in the subject.
      • I get too frustrated and have to pull myself away before I look too bad in front of other employees.
  • Movies, TV, and youtube gaming channels
    • Explanation: I find binge watching movies, TV, and Youtube, like everyone else in the world, is extremely addicting. I will constantly go back and rewatch things I have already seen, just because I’m bored or I want entertainment in the background while I do something mundain and/or tedious.
    • Starters
      • I picture a moment from the show in my head and I think to myself “I’d love to watch that again”
      • The premise will intrigue me. I like intelligent movies that I can learn from or that get me thinking.
    • Stoppers
      • Anxiety kicks in when I start thinking about all the things I could be doing instead of sitting in one place staring at a screen.
      • There are too many things my friends want me to watch. Being a geek is exhausting sometimes.
  • Getting High on Weed
    • Explanation: I used to smoke weed a lot. I no longer do and the reasons are in a previous post.
    • Starters
      • Peer pressure from my friends
      • Made me feel good
      • made me laugh
      • focused my thoughts and let them play in my head
    • Stoppers
      • Started scaring me
      • The effects lasted way longer than I wanted them to.
      • See previous blog post
  • Calculating Pi
    • Explanation: A while back, after high school, I found out that Pi is not an exact calculated value. I have heard that if you can calculate it exactly, you will be advancing mathematics and some colleges will offer you a cash prize.
    • Starters
      • It’s a giant puzzle
      • All that I need to do is find a relationship between pi, and the radius or diameter of a circle with diameter 1.
      • If I run through enough numbers, I’m sure to find a correlation.
    • Stoppers
      • I run out of ideas to try
      • Other stuff distracts me
      • I get too tired.
      • I run into a problem about not knowing enough math.
  • Crunch Time
    • Explanation: In true procrastination fashion, I am able to superhumanly focus and get whatever task I need done when I’m super close to a deadline. I don’t understand why I don’t have the “get up and go” any other time!
    • Starters
      • A person is coming over to my house “CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN”
      • That Thing needs to be done now or consequences “DO IT!”
      • The fear of failure
      • The fear of letting someone down
      • I don’t want to be someone you can’t count on. Even though I feel like I am.
    • Stoppers
      • The Deadline arrives
  • Starting Strength
    • Explanation: At one point in December, one or two years ago, I started strength training with a buddy of mine. I started using an app called Starting Strength 5×5. I loved it.
    • Starters
      • The workouts were super simple
      • The workouts were super quick
      • the app did almost all the brain work for me.
      • All the equipment for the workouts were in the same place in the gym.
    • Stoppers
      • Life fucked up my rhythm.
      • my buddy stopped working out around the same time.
      • Gym was too far away.
      • Took a Crossfit class and it was highly unpleasant because it kicked my ass.
  • Juicing
    • Explanation: A few years ago, I went through a two month juice fast. I took the challenge based on my watching of the movie Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. I lost 57 pounds and began running.
    • Starters
      • The movie was incredibly inspiring.
      • I kept learning more and more about juicing and it was getting me pumped
      • I felt unhealthy and wanted to stop feeling that way.
      • During the fast it gave me amazing energy
      • I was seeing quick results
    • Stoppers
      • The two months was up
      • I REEEEEEAAAAAALLLYY wanted to eat solid foods again.
      • It was a long process to make the juice and it required clean up.

The Lessons

As I was writing out this list I came across some similar traits that appear a lot in the starters of each of these hyperfocus moments.

  1. Clear visualization of the goal and the steps to accomplish it.
  2. Searching for the answer to a puzzle
  3. Stimulation from learning new ways of thinking
  4. Simple steps
  5. Quick first results
  6. a challenge to prove myself
  7. fear of letting people down.

And for the stoppers, here is a list of brick walls I have to climb over, break down, or go around.

  1. Complicated steps
  2. long winded steps between accomplishments
  3. Old information
  4. Tedium
  5. Low priorities, there has to be a need.
  6. Interruptions
  7. too much reliance on another person

It looks like I have some new things to analyze. You will be seeing these next steps in the next few blog posts:

  • How to overcome my stoppers
  • What prevents me from starting good habits again?
  • What makes my day happy?

Next, We’ll take a look at all the things that prevent me from starting. And after that, we’ll look at the things that make my day happy.

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Fixing the Education of America

Picture from publicagenda.org

Picture from publicagenda.org

I am not a Teacher. I am not a PHD in anything. I am not a professor and I am certainly not Valedictorian. I am, however, a student of my past. I think a lot about what I have done in order to fully understand the reasons I did them. My past experience with education systems has lead me to an amazing truth that must be told to the world.

We are teaching our kids the wrong way.

You have heard it all before. You have heard how the school systems are shutting down health classes to give kids more time in the classes that only work their brains. You have heard how the schools have been have a hard time with their funding because the kids can’t pass the tests. There is a reason all of this is happening. There is a reason that kids have a bad attitude in public school. There is a reason why the majority doesn’t pass the tests and why we are now offering High School Equivalencies instead of Diplomas. The answer lies within the kids attitudes.

I remember back in my days of middle school. I would go through school just like the rest of the kids. Answering questions, talking in groups, making the most of my time their. The problem came when math class rolled around. Do not get the assumption that I am going to tell you that I was horrible at math until a teacher showed me a teaching method that turned my life around. No, I was very good at math. Not that you could tell though, my grades always began to plummet after the middle of the semester. I would stop bringing my homework in get zeros and have to make up the grades later. My teacher was always baffled by this. Why? because no matter how low my daily grades got, my test scores were always immaculate.

This always happened in all of my classes all throughout high school. My daily grades would suffer and yet all my tests had good scores. In fact I made it to pre-calculus until I opened up the chapter on “imaginary numbers” and said “That’s enough for me!” After that, I only ever did enough to pass.

Why did I do things that way? Was I not absorbing the information? If that were true wouldn’t my test scores have been low? I pondered this for a long time after graduation. I finally figured out what it was. It was staring me right in the face the entire time. The answer: I was Bored!

image from backstoryradio.org

image from backstoryradio.org

That’s right, I was bored! I was bored because we would spend an hour and a half on a single topic (I know, my school system has wierd schedules), and then the teacher would say “Well that’s enough of that topic for today! Your homework today is the 50 problems on page Twenty!” I would, of course, not do the work because life got in the way. You know, video games, chores, TV, going outside, hanging with friends. That was the kind of life that got in the way. I would say to myself “We went over it in class. I know how the thing works. I don’t need to do 50 problems more. It’s boring and won’t help me understand it more than I already do!” The next morning, I would march into class with no homework and get a zero for the day. I would also have to face the embarrassment of not handing in my homework in front of my fellow students.

I think this boredom problem affects all students and we are approaching the method of teaching wrong. There should be no reason that a kid should be sent home to do a huge number of problems from a text book. THAT IS WHAT SCHOOL IS FOR! The learning needs to be done in a classroom and it needs to be done differently to save time. Maybe that way we can pass the tests and cram some physical education in there too!

What is the solution? I do not have all the answers, but I can put us a step in the right direction. Imagine a class full of kids. The teacher is standing at the front of the class and the lesson is on the board. Today’s lesson: Multiplication. The teacher should spend the first few minutes of the class explaining what it is and how to do it and even giving some helpful tips (like holding up your fingers when multiplying by nines). After s/he is done with the lesson, The students should be asked to create and solve at least ten of their own problems. Then the students will be asked one by one to come up to the board to make an example question and answer it in front of the class. During this time the teacher can check his work on the paper handed in. An assesment will be made if the student understands the subject. If he doesn’t the teacher will help him. If he does, he will help any student’s after him who don’t understand along with the teacher. By the end, everyone should know the subject so well that they can answer any problems that come at them no problem and now we can move on to the next lesson.

This method of teaching will also help develop social skills. Kids will be braver about talking in front of a crowd. They will learn to work together to understand the problems and no one will be left in the back of the class because everyone will have their time at the front. They will also have more time at home for whatever they need because no homework should be neccesary.

image from anarkismo.net

image from anarkismo.net

The only other solution I have is to stop wasting time teaching our kids things that they don’t really need to learn. I spent an entire semester with the rest of my school learning the 50 states and their respective capitol’s by heart. I still know most of the Wakko’s America song by heart. I have never used that information since middle school except to prove that I knew the material to my friends. Kids need to know useful things. They need to know how to survive in the world and solve real world problems. The 50 states don’t come in handy when your tire goes flat on your car. I don’t need to know all of the presidents, just the ones that are important, maybe then I can have room for information on eating right for my health. I don’t need to know that Steinbeck was making a reference to the bible when he wrote the last scene of “Of Mice and Men”. I could, however, use the information of how to fill out those long forms at the hospital! Give our kids information they are going to use.

Even if you give kids information that is useless, try to give it in a more tempting way. I was fed the word “pi” in just about every math class I can remember. I always new it was never ending and I always new its relationship to circles, but did you know “the why of pi”? Pi is a never ending number because the only way we have been able to get it is through measurment. If you give a man a ruler and a string and a circle and tell him to find the exact number of pi and then compare his answer to the man sitting next to him, they will not have the exact same answer. Why? because measuring is not an exact science. You can’t see molecules with your naked eye, and string can stretch and the width of the line on the ruler comes into play as well. The only way we have been able to get pi to the (i don’t remember what it is now, billionth?) decimal point is because we use things like electron microscopes. If you want to get an exact number for pi and make all of our circular objects perfectly round from now on, you need to calculate it. Do not measure, calculate. You need to make an equasion. Did you also know that if you are successful in making that equasion, there are several universities that are ready to drop $1 Million dollars in your lap? How is that for incentive?

After learning all this I spent a month straight with a notebook and calculator in my hand trying desprately to come up with the answer. If I had known abou this in school I would have become an expert in geometry. I would have been obsessed with my school work. Alas, they did not tell me any of this, so here I sit. I am not rich and every circle in the world is flawed.

These are the things that need to change. If the education system is not working, then it needs to be fixed. Kids are smarter these days then they used to be. The education system needs to evolve with them or, God forbid, it will become extinct.