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The art of solitude

The art of solitude | Cultural Trendz |

A man can be himself only so long as he is alone; and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free. ~ A. Schopenhauer

There are supposedly two main characteristics that have helped us stand out in our evolutionary journey; our unique 3D vision and our ability to work in groups.

Many people attribute our social instinct as one of the main reasons for our survival in an environment full of dangerous threats. Of course, there were a few lone wolves here and there who managed to survive on their own, but the majority felt comfort in being part of a larger social structure.

Within the last century or so, with the discoveries of science and the development of technology, something unique has begun to occur. Mass fabrication has become possible, and due to the massive developments in media advertising and the discovery of our sense of identity (also known as the Ego), mass consumerism has been born.

Suddenly we’re informed that we all have the opportunity to be unique, to stand out from everyone else in the way we dress, the cars we drive and the houses we live in. Consumerism has provided a way of expressing our individuality, with more and more inventions coming out that promise us a happier life and lifestyle.

As a stronger sense of self has emerged within us, so too has a greater desire for self-fulfillment. We live in a time where we crave self-fulfillment as unique individuals. This is evident from the large numbers of psychologists, gurus and life coaches readily available to us at a click of a button. However, the more we adopt the solutions provided to us by society of consumption and ambition, the further away we find ourselves from inner-fulfillment at all.

Often we get lost in our search for answers in the external world and we forget that most of the answers can be found internally – if we provide the space for them to manifest themselves.

Now that our sense of self has become so strong, it has made itself more available to allow for its own evolution, or Involution, and personal growth. I believe we are at the beginning of an evolution of the self that will require immense Solitude to aid it.

It’s a great time for us to live in, and to begin our acceptance of Solitude now will make it a lot easier to be who we are destined to become in the future.

These are seven lessons you can learn when you find the space for Solitude.

1. Solitude Centers You
How often do you feel that life is living you, rather than you are living life? In the fast paced society that we live in, we often feel that our lives are controlled by the schedules, commitments and demands in our daily routines.

In conversations with others we touch on the surface of many different topics without allowing ourselves to be completely absorbed by any single one of them. Solitude provides a strong center, an inner core, that makes your attention feel centered rather than dragged around by different social or environmental stimulations.

2. Solitude Connects You With Yourself
Stimulation in our technological age is everywhere, and it’s all too easy to spend a few hours drifting from page to page on Reddit or YouTube, playing games on your phone or watching endless amount of television. The truth is: technology disconnect you from yourself.

However, technology is not to blame, but rather our poor use of it. It captures our short attention spans and distracts us from true deep effort and work within ourselves. Social media also gives us a superficial sense of socializing, which is the true deep and mulch-dimensional friendship equivalent to masturbation, compared with sex.

3. Solitude Makes You Authentic
It’s surprising and shocking when you become aware of all the ways in which other people influence the person you are. I have asked many people why they chose the jobs they did, or the places they live in and many told me they did so because of their friends or family.

It’s easy to get a job in a place where your friends work or go live where your family members live, but sometimes those decisions aren’t authentic to who you’re meant to be. The easily available options in our lives are not necessarily the truest to ourselves. We often get so consumed by listening to and watching others, that we forget to listen to ourselves.

How many people live in the city they were born in, work in the first field they decided to study, and have the same friends that they had in high school? I’m certain that these decisions we made because they were easy, or obvious at some point in life. Solitude helps you to listen to yourself, and your own needs.

4. Solitude Creates Space To Grow
We are all interconnected in many ways, but sometimes we need to find the space to allow ourselves to grow. Many of us have responsibilities as friends, partners, parents or sons and daughters, but these responsibilities can limit you.

Fitting into the expectations that the people around you have makes you less capable of truly finding out where your limits are. Social dynamics require a lot of energy and focus, and to truly grow and evolve you will need to use that intensity of energy and focus to push yourself towards new boundaries.

5. Solitude Inspires Creativity
Most of the greatest artistic works and inspired inventions have come in the midst of solitude. Solitude works as a catalyst providing the necessary time, space, intensity of focus and energy that is required to bring anything to life.

Without any external distractions, Solitude allows you to dig deep into your thoughts, your sense of beauty, and observe that which is true within you.

6. Solitude Makes You Better Company
As you begin to discover more about yourself in Solitude, you begin to find new interests and passions. It is through the cultivation of these interests that you become an interesting person.

When you spend time alone you find the passion and space to pursue unusual fields of knowledge and in doing so you accumulate information that is worth sharing.

I’ve observed that in some circles of friends, they repeat the same facts or jokes because they all spend so much time around each other. Nobody goes out of their way to seek interesting hobbies or knowledge and so they have a limited circular library of information they share repeatedly.

7. Solitude Teaches You To Be Alone
Many people associate being alone with feelings of loneliness, but this is far from the truth. Whereas loneliness de-energizes you and is a burden to experience, loneliness re-energizes your body and mind.

And what about Solitude? Well, Solitude teaches you to be alone and enjoy your own presence without feeling lonely. If you’re capable of being comfortable with your own company, this can also greatly benefit your social life, helping you to stop leeching off company and depending on other people to banish your feelings of loneliness.

Instead, Solitude allows you to enjoy their company unconditionally, being unattached, centered and with no hidden agendas.

Cultivating The Art Of Solitude
Depending on our temperament, we all need different amounts of solitude. But solitude these days is absolutely essential.

Solitude creates the space to explore yourself and the opportunity to become intimate with who you really are. Solitude allows you to become centered and in control of your life again.

You don’t have to become a hermit to enjoy Solitude – even small moments of Solitude are often enough. Ways you can incorporate Solitude into your life include reading a book, going on solitary walks, picking one day a week to go without technology, taking a relaxing bath, or even spending a few moments in the garden just contemplating the beauty of nature. Whatever works for you!


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When parents are the ones too distracted by devices

When parents are the ones too distracted by devices | Cultural Trendz |

Having a teenager lost in his or her cellphone — texting friends and communicating with parents in monosyllabic grunts — has become a trope of the Internet age. But teens are not the only ones distracted by their devices.

Many parents have the same problem. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm one of them.

A couple weeks ago, my 12-year-daughter, Ella, staged an intervention. She and my wife basically threatened to take my phone and break it.

"Sometimes at night you'll just stand around and ... you'll have your phone out and you'll just type and you'll just stand there," Ella says.

Ella can be a brutal mimic. And as she describes my distraction, she strikes up my smartphone pose: the phone balanced against my belly — thumbs madly typing away — (as if by holding the phone that way no one will notice that I'm on it).

"Lila's ready to go to bed, everybody's trying to get people to read to them and you're just standing there in the middle of the hallway reading your texts and texting other people," she adds.

Hearing from my oldest that I'm ignoring her little sister stings.

"Has that gotten worse?" I ask.

"It hasn't really changed; it got worse when we moved to California," Ella says.

That was when I started covering technology.

"Do you feel jealous of my cellphone? Do you get mad at it?" I ask.

That earns an eye roll and a laugh.

"No, why would I get jealous of a cellphone?"

"I don't know," I say. "Do you feel like you are competing for attention?"


With that she wins the argument.

And Ella isn't the only kid who feels this way about her parent's relationship with devices.

Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical and consulting psychologist at Harvard, recently wrote . For her book, Steiner-Adair interviewed more than 1,000 kids from the ages of 4 to 18. She talked to hundreds of teachers and parents.

"One of the many things that absolutely knocked my socks off," she says, "was the consistency with which children — whether they were 4 or 8 or 18 or 24 — talked about feeling exhausted and frustrated and sad or mad trying to get their parents' attention, competing with computer screens or iPhone screens or any kind of technology, much like in therapy you hear kids talk about sibling rivalry."

Steiner-Adair says one of the challenges we all face is that these devices are wired to grab our attention and keep it. She says the most successful apps are popular, even addictive, because they in our brains.

"Yes, when you are plugged into your screen the part of your brain that lights up is the to-do list," Steiner-Adair says. "Everything feels urgent — everything feels a little exciting. We get a little dopamine hit when we accomplish another email — check this, check that. And when a child is waiting by or comes into your room and it's one of those mini-moments and you don't know — that's the hard thing about parenting — you don't know if this is the ordinary question or they're coming with something really important. It's very hard as a grown-up to disengage and give them your attention with the [same] warmth that you give them, the same tone of voice that you greet them if they interrupt you when you're scrambling eggs."

A couple of years ago, my daughter got a laptop for school. And because she was becoming more independent, we got her a phone. We set up rules for when she could use this stuff and when she'd need to put it away. We created a charging station, outside her bedroom, where she had to plug in these devices every night. Basically — except for homework — she has to put it all away when she comes home.

Steiner-Adair says most adults don't set up similar limits in their own lives.

"We've lost the boundaries that protect work and family life," she says. "So it is very hard to manage yourself and be as present to your children in the moments they need you."

Steiner-Adair says that whether you are a parent or not, carving out time to turn off your devices — to disconnect from the wired world and engage with the real people who are all around you — is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and the people your love.

After my daughter's little intervention, I made myself a promise to create my own charging station. To plug my phone in — somewhere far away — when I am done working for the day. I've been trying to leave it there untouched for most of the weekend.

And while I still find myself reaching for it — or checking my pocket — leaving my phone behind is also kind of freeing. Last weekend, instead of checking Twitter and reading tech blogs I built a treehouse.

Vilma Bonilla's insight:

The importance of disengagement and setting up boundaries. - "Parents often complain that smartphones keep their kids distracted from conversation. What happens when it's the other way around, when kids can't get their smartphone-glued parents' attention?"

Ivon Prefontaine's curator insight, April 17, 7:43 PM

Adults face tech challenges. I know school managers who cannot greet someone properly due to their inability to look away from their PDA. Is that example we want for children?

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Spotify just dropped two hints that it’s about to go public

Spotify just dropped two hints that it’s about to go public | Cultural Trendz |
The music-streaming service Spotify is doing what looks like some pre-IPO spring cleaning.
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Canada, Israel and Switzerland are America's top innovation partners

Canada, Israel and Switzerland are America's top innovation partners | Cultural Trendz |

Despite the perennial myth of the lone genius, the fact remains that innovation depends on cooperation. And as technology becomes ever more complicated, improving that research requires larger and larger groups working together – including groups working across national borders.

In an attempt to quantify that transnational cooperation, the US-Israel Science & Technology Foundation (USISTF) has created a “U.S.-Israel Innovation Index” to measure bilateral research and development between the U.S. and other countries.

“We picked 16 countries that were geographically diverse, had links to US, and had strong innovative tech companies,” USISTF Executive Director Ann Liebschutz told me. “The Index measures cooperation between US and Israel as well as other countries.”

The Index measures cooperation in several different areas of research and development, including government-to-government linkages, human capital, R&D spending and private industry. In measuring across these categories, the USISTF found that Switzerland is the U.S.’s biggest innovation partner, followed by Canada and then Israel.

“The Switzerland and Canada results showed that Israel was in good company,” said Liebschutz. “Switzerland isn’t a surprise because of the pharmaceutical industry.

One of the reasons for Israel’s strong showing, Liebschutz told me, is the strength of its population’s technical training.

“The technical training that every Israeli receives in the army produces a country of capable engineers,” she said.

One of the reasons that the USISTF created this index in the first place, Liebschutz added, was to demonstrate the value of research investments in an era of slashing budgets.

“In a time when budgets are lean, you hear a lot about cuts and priorities in terms of where the government should put its resources,” she said. “International cooperation, when done correctly, is a way to leverage those resources. Israel is good at creating international cooperation for funding in the R&D programs they establish. And they provide a great ROI when done correctly.”

“We felt this bilateral innovation index serves not just US-Israel relationship,” she added. “But the scientific community as a whole where it shows a good ROI on international cooperation.”

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Four factors weighing on labor markets—and implications for Fed policy

Four factors weighing on labor markets—and implications for Fed policy | Cultural Trendz |

Labor markets are weaker than they appear, leading the Fed toward continued stimulus. Still, the central bank may find that weakness difficult to overcome, as much of it stems from serious long-term issues and not merely short-term lack of demand.

In recent posts, my colleague Russ Koesterich outlined why the U.S. labor market recovery will continue to frustrate the Fed, and Jeff Rosenberg examined one key reason why the central bank is set to keep rates low for some time. I agree with these points, and want to step back and talk about some of the long-term structural headwinds that labor markets face today.

First, let’s take a look at the official statistics. While headline unemployment has been declining for the last couple of years, looking at the official unemployment rate as a signpost for the overall health of labor markets is highly misleading. Indeed, both investors and the Fed itself are increasingly focusing on a broader array of labor market metrics. Chiefly, and unfortunately, much of the decline in the unemployment rate can be attributed to the fact that more and more people are dropping out of the labor force (shown in the chart below via the decline in the participation rate).

That is hardly the sign of a thriving employment environment.

To complicate matters, the labor market is struggling with some serious long-term issues that can’t be easily helped by conventional or unconventional monetary policy fixes. I would point to four factors:

1. Transition to Temporary Hiring: For many businesses today, hiring full-time workers (with the added benefits costs they bring) is simply too expensive. Indeed, for some time the growth in benefit costs has outstripped that of wages and salaries, so it is not surprising that we have seen an increased use of temporary workers throughout the recovery.

2. Demographic Challenges: Many members of the Baby Boom generation (roughly those 48 to 65 years old) are staying in the workforce longer. They are healthy, experienced, and in need of greater retirement funds. That has the effect of crowding out younger people from the workforce.

3. Technological Disruption: Prior to the Internet-era (pre-1990s), there was a positive correlation between productivity growth and hiring. Today, however, that relationship is negative, as web-based distribution models have tended to crush the margins and profitability of localized (people-heavy) companies. Simply put, greater productivity now tends to result in less, not more, job creation.

4. Skills/Jobs Mismatches: The pace of recovery in the jobs market has been highly uneven among sectors and in different demographic groups. Specifically, sectors such as financial, real-estate-related and state and local government have seen anemic jobs growth, while others have experienced better conditions. At the same time, there has been a sharp distinction between those with college degrees and those without, with the former group finding new employment much more quickly. It is extremely difficult to shift large numbers of workers from one industry to another, or to quickly retrain or educate those who are out of work—factors that are holding back the pace of job creation.

The upshot for investors? Regardless of who next heads the Fed’s monetary policy committee, or precisely when the tapering of quantitative easing begins, we think the Fed is likely to keep policy rates low and forward guidance dovish for a long time.

Rick Rieder, Managing Director, is BlackRock’s Chief Investment Officer of Fundamental Fixed Income, Co-head of Americas Fixed Income, and a regular contributor to The Blog.  You can find more of his posts here
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Full Frontal Banking

Full Frontal Banking | Cultural Trendz |