Elgan: How to become an iPhone Vulcan

Elgan: How to become an iPhone Vulcan

Want to be just like Mr. Spock? Yeah, there's an app for that.

Star Trek's Mr. Spock is one of the most compelling characters in all of science fiction. The attributes that made him indispensible to the captain and crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise (not to mention to the lucrative Star Trek franchise) -- his stoic attitude, mastery of logic, accelerated education and physical fitness -- also happen to be key ingredients of success right here on Earth.

Beyond Spock's pointy ears, pneumatic eyebrow and green blood, nearly all Spock's best characteristics were acquired through training and practice. Vulcans are made, not born. And self-made Vulcans walk among us.

Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who crash-landed a U.S. Airways Flight 1549 into the Hudson river in January, is clearly a Vulcan. A bird strike at low altitude over a densely populated area of New York shut down both engines of his jetliner. Sullenberger used his " Vulcan mind powers" to compartmentalize his emotional response to the event, and pushed aside all thoughts other than those necessary to safely land the airplane.

Sports legend Tiger Woods has spent his entire life systematically mastering golf and the psychological techniques to concentrate under the pressure of the media's glare and world-class competition. Woods uses his extraterrestrial powers of concentration, and ultra-repetitive training, to make himself the best golfer in the world.

Whether you support or oppose him, you have to admit that Barack Obama won the presidency using Vulcan skills. His preparation, ability to quickly master complex topics, logical argumentation and debate skills and calm under pressure were all key factors in winning the election.

Like Mr. Spock himself, these and other self-made Vulcans acquired a set of attributes through training and hard work. You can, too, with a little help from your iPhone.

Here are the Vulcan skills you can acquire to be more successful in your life and career, and the iPhone features, apps and content that can help you acquire them.

Stoic attitude

Early in the Star Trek TV series, Spock was presented as a member of a people devoid of emotion. We learned later, however, that the Vulcan people were highly emotional, but trained themselves to suppress emotional responses in favor of logical ones.

Stoic philosophers like Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus advocated the cultivation of self control, and the control and suppression of emotions. Mr. Spock was clearly a student of Stoicism, and you can be, too.

Need to master the three great Stoic philosophers? There's an app for that -- three, actually. You can buy The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius ($.99), On the Shortness of Life by Seneca (free) and The Enchiridion by Epictetus ($1.99) on the App Store.

A podcast series available on iTunes called Audiostoa explores the writings of Epictetus and other Stoic philosophers.

Mastery of logic

Logic is the art and science of reasoning that forms the basis of mathematics, computer science, philosophy, law and many other professions. By mastering logic, you can think much more clearly, win arguments and generally figure things out.

The iTunes Store is packed with logic instruction in the form of podcasts. One of the best is The Princeton Review's LSAT Logic In Everyday Life.

A company called PunkStar Studios sells a $1.99 app on the App Store called Logic Puzzles, which offers 25 puzzles that test your ability to spot logical consistency and inconsistency.

Accelerated education

Mr. Spock was highly educated in a wide range of subjects, especially science and mathematics, but also history, biology and more. Vulcans used computers to drill students at high speed, constantly testing their knowledge. Your iPhone can do that for you as well.

The iPhone has several features that enable you to learn twice as fast as humans do.

Of course, podcasts are the greatest learning tool ever because you can study any subject while you're walking or driving, doing household chores or at other random times. (And, of course, iTunes U, which consists of audio and video lectures from some of the world's top universities, is also extremely good.)

Here's how to devour podcasts the Vulcan way. First, visit the iTunes Store and subscribe to a large number of podcasts (you can later unsubscribe from the ones you don't like). Click "Podcasts" on the left navigation bar of iTunes. Select "As a List" from the View menu. Choose "New Playlist" from the File menu, and give your new playlist a name, such as "Podcasts" or "Vulcan Learning System." Select all podcasts and drag them into the new playlist.

With your iPhone connected to the computer, click on the iPhone in the iTunes left navigation bar and choose the "Music" tab. Make sure "Sync music" is checked, and also that your new playlist is selected. On the "Podcasts" tab, make sure "Sync" is selected (along with your preferences on how many episodes to sync). Synchronize your iPhone.

Open "iPod" on your iPhone and click the "Playlists" button on the bottom left. Choose your playlist, then "Shuffle."

As you're listening to the first podcast, click on a tiny button near the upper right corner that says "1x" until it says "2x." What this does is double the speed that podcasts are played. The iPhone speeds it up without raising the pitch, so it doesn't sound like you're getting a lecture from the Chipmunks.

Now, as you're doing random tasks, play your podcasts and pause when you need to. You'll acquire a huge amount of knowledge in half the time it would take at normal speed. And subscribing to podcasts and listening to them serially in a playlist eliminates wasted time fumbling around for content.

Physical fitness

The best way to get into great shape is to eat right and exercise. Unfortunately, most of us don't have the time or knowledge required to do it on our own. Your iPhone can help.

Of course, there are literally hundreds of podcasts and iTunes U courses you can listen to that will teach you all you need to know about eating well and maintaining great health. The App store is packed with great apps that can replace a personal trainer at the gym. Just search the iTunes Store for "health" and "fitness," respectively.

One of the best personal training programs is called iFitness, which costs $1.99. The app will show you all the major exercises for each muscle group, and you can track how much weight you lift, how many repetitions you do and other data that monitors progress.

One reason people don't exercise enough is lack of time. But listening to podcasts during exercise combines learning with fitness, which is much less time consuming than reading and working out separately.

By using your iPhone to develop a Vulcan-like Stoic attitude, mastery of logic, accelerated learning and physical fitness, you can enhance both your career and your life.

These skills helped Spock, and they can help you live long and prosper, too.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and global tech culture. He blogs about the technology needs, desires and successes of mobile warriors in his Computerworld blog, The World Is My Office. Contact Mike at, follow him on Twitter or his blog, The Raw Feed.

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