The Iron mind triathlon

One of my cousins is considering training for the Iron Man triathlon.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed a lot of people taking their physical exercise very seriously. For many of them, that means eating slightly healthier and maybe enrolling in a gym, but there are also a large number of people who are looking to physical fitness to give them a sense of accomplishment – and that translates into running marathons, and doing Iron Man triathlons.

It’s surprising that while there are so many people who have realized they’re in terrible shape physically, the realization does not seem to have dawned on them that they’re probably in poor shape mentally too. And for some reason, no one seems to consider that doing the equivalent of a marathon of the mind would probably give them an equal sense of accomplishment.

So I’m interested in designing, and doing, an equivalent of the Iron Man triathlon of the mind.

A few criteria that govern this design: the different contests should be based on endurance and perseverance, and not on innate or inborn ability. For example, it would not be fine if a challenge was to solve an unsolved mathematical problem. That’s a matter of chance and specialized knowledge. On the other hand, it’s fine to aim to read the complete works of Shakespeare, since that’s a matter of perseverance. Also, the contest would need to have a timeline. And while it would be good to have something that is competitive, it’s not absolutely necessary to have a metric to compare two people who are participating.

The aim of the challenge is to feel the high of finishing something very different, and of experiencing the joy of becoming gradually better and better at something that you didn’t really have a knack for when you started.

As a starting point for the challenge, I’m aiming to use Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences model, a model which has been called into question by many educators but nonetheless remains intriguing to me. So to finish the ‘triathlon’, you would have to do a challenge related to all 9 of Howard Gardner’s intelligences:

1. Logical-mathematical: I was thinking, programming, maybe? Specifically, to release an app on the iOS or Android marketplaces.

2. Linguistic: Learn a new language?

3. Spatial: No idea. Maybe make a detailed map of the 5 square kilometers in your neighborhood?

4. Kinesthetic/physical: Exercise for an hour every day seems too easy. Learn to juggle up to 5 balls?

5. Musical: Learn a new musical instrument.

6. Interpersonal: Lead a group of 100 people? Is that too vague?

7. Intrapersonal: Maintain an introspective blog, writing every day? Meditation?

8. Naturalistic: I was thinking something related to birding or tree identification, or maybe just hanging out in nature for a certain number of days.

9. Existential: Be able to meditate continuously for 8 hours in one day?

All the above challenges to be completed over a period of 1 year.

What do you think? Too easy? Too difficult? Or too vague?

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2 thoughts on “The Iron mind triathlon

  1. Too difficult.

    I also think you could be more liberal with the timeline – this is all too much to do within a year! Learn a language within a year? And I studied Sanskrit formally for 5 years without getting far. 🙂

  2. Training a body is simpler. Not the mind. And I think you can “teach” these subjects as our schools do (fill the mind up with facts), but cannot “teach” the ability to “think”

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