Nobody gets bulging 18'' biceps by just sitting around in a couch - everybody knows that. Sure, it takes a certain natural muscle/bone structure and then it is all pumping iron and eating protein. But when it comes to brains, people naively assume that the human brain is different in this matter. Sure nature does give a few people extra material to work with - but it is all upto nurture to direct, focus and in general develop the natural talent. But this is the most ignored fact in most educational institutions - if all you train a person is to study for exams, all he'll be good for is writing exams from rote memory.
Comfort addict: I don't know if you've read this article on Kuro5hin about Comfort Addicts - well I'm sort of a comfort loving person. I hate changes of scene, I hate travelling (too many variables and no debug mode). This kind of life style has a lot of intertia when it comes to simple changes. But these days, when I realize I'm being too comfortable - I do something to get myself out of the comfort zone and back into the real world.
Mental pushups: I do a lot of things because they are hard. In some small way, I like to know where my limits begin. I've perhaps hit my personal limitations a lot more frequently than most people I know. Maybe they are more talented, maybe they are not - I don't know, don't care. These mental (and sometimes physical) exertions are extremely gratifying when they work and if they don't, there's probably no next time to worry about. [imagine bungee-jumping from a bridge ].
Rubick's cube: I got a free rubick's cube from one of the stalls at the Yahoo! Showcase 2005. I think they were offering a free massage (*heh*) and a rubick's cube for anyone who'd care to comment on their technology showcase. The weekend immediately after the showcase, I spent over 5 hours learning how to solve the cube using the Layers algorithm. Solving a cube isn't very hard, it is just not intutive enough. Ever since we climbed down from the trees, we have been forced to think in X-Z plane. Unlike birds or fishes, our 3-D processing subsystem didn't need much fine-tuning for survival.
After 5 months, now I can solve a cube in around 40 minutes. Of course, this is me in deep hack mode. That's almost like junking up on the intellectual equivalent of adrenaline. It takes a lot out of you, but leaves you tired but happy (I bet you can think of something similar *wink* *wink*). So here's last night in a deep hack mode and running 100o F - in company of a rubick's cube, as documented with my new camera :)
02:25 AM: Starting off with the scrambled cube.
02:35 AM: One side properly solved
02:46 AM: Two edge colours match along with corners solved.
02:48 AM: Yellow is also solved.
Two sides done
02:51 AM: All sides are solved
In record-time too. But it is a humbling thought to know that there are people who can solve the cube about 100 times faster than I can - the world record is 15.11 seconds.
It is now 3 AM ... I'm still in that jumpy but absent minded frame of existence. My mind is still running overclocked (and a temperature) - but my body needs water cooling and some low load hibernation.--
To know a thing well, know its limits.
Only when pushed beyond its tolerances will true nature be seen.
-- The Amtal Rule of the Fremen