whiplash (intro)

I just finished reading Whiplash by Joi Ito and Jeff Howe. I loved it… it’s especially pertinent to the technological change in my industry and the role I hope to play in it. Here are my notes from the intro. More to come.

The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed.

William Gibson

Technology has exceeded our capacity, as individuals and as a society, to understand it. This book offers the operating guidelines for survival in the future.

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why we disagree with scientists

There’s a reason scientists are marching on Washington on April 22nd. They’re sick of us. We aren’t listening to them – our opinions still differ from theirs and the politicians we elect don’t make policies based on their recommendations.

No issue is more significant of this struggle than climate change. According to many polls, including a Pew poll from 2016, only 48% of the American public believe climate change is due to human activity despite consensus among climate scientists. When asked about the findings of these scientists, only 27% of the public acknowledges the consensus.

The gap is huge between what we believe and what the scientific method as shown to be true.

Why?

As it turns out, many reasons…

  1. First, this shit is complex
  2. We have a faulty view of science
  3. Our brains can’t handle a problem like climate change
  4. So believe what our tribes believe
  5. Most influentially, what our political tribe believes
  6. Some of our tribes have a negative stereotype of environmentalists, and we don’t want to be one

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the positive focus

The antidote to finding yourself in the gap is to focus on your achievements.

Strategic Coach calls this The Positive Focus, and they’re all in on this concept. They even have an app, Win Streak, designed to help you with this by counting your daily wins.

Rather than daily, I’ve found myself using this idea for looking back on the past week, which went a little something like this:

List out your top 5 wins. Why were they wins? What’s the next piece of progress you can make?

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free days

I’ve written previously about what I perceive to be a bad habit of mine: instead of undulating between periods of stress and recovery, I tend to float along on an even keel. Jim Loehr calls this bad habit linearity in his book The Power of Full Engagement. I basically float along in three ways:

  • I tend to not take breaks throughout the workday
  • I string together 3-4 nights of bad sleep throughout the workweek
  • I tend to do some sort of work or thinking about work on the weekends

…until I hit the wall, of course.

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the gap between the ideal and now

One of my goals this year is presence. Focus on the here and now. A concept I recently discovered that can surely help maintain presence is “the gap”, a concept from Dan Sullivan and Strategic Coach.

What is The Gap?

We call the distance between the ideal result that you’re aiming for and your present point of progress “The Gap” and liken it to the horizon—no matter how far we go, the “ideal,” like the horizon, is still always in the distance. Much wiser to look back and compare your progress with the point you started from. The ideal is a great motivator to get started, but using it to measure progress is debilitating.

So you can see why it’s important to have strategies, or mind “tricks,” that keep us taking charge and moving forward—mind tricks that keep us winning and celebrating those wins.

Much of Strategic Coach is comprised of the aforementioned mind tricks . Dan also calls them “thinking tools” – I would call them mental models. Semantics aside, Dan provides tools to help with the negative feeling of being in the the gap, like win streak and the four Cs.

Meta Learning

It is possible to become world-class in just about anything in six months or less. Armed with the right framework, you can seemingly perform miracles, whether with Spanish, swimming, or anything in between.

– Tim Ferriss

Last year I wrote about a learning framework I discovered in David Brooks’ A Social Animal. I think it allows you to get the most out of a book or multiple books on a single topic and it’s why I take the time to put my book notes on this site.

I think that framework falls short when learning new skills, which leaves me curious about other methods for learning and has led me to Tim Ferriss’ method of Meta Learning. Tim’s Framework is called the DiSSS method and I’ve summarized each component of the acronym below. But first, it starts with two guiding principles: Failure Points and Margin of Safety.

Failure Points

What are the primary, but often ignored, tripping points that cause people to stop or give up?

Margin of Safety

How badly can you mangle this and still get something great out of it?

DiSSS Method

Deconstruction

What are the minimal learnable units, the LEGO blocks, I should be starting with?

Break the skill down into bite-sized pieces & identify all failure points and all fundamental principles. Find and interview the pros (especially the unconventional pros) in the field, and find out what they do in common, what trips beginners up, how they would teach you, their favorite learning resources, other unconventional pros, etc.

Selection

Which 20% of the blocks should I focus on for 80% or more of the outcome I want?

Find the MED (Minimum Effective Dose) you need to learn this skill. What teaches overall principles well? What micro-skills are used throughout the skill?

Sequencing

In what order should I learn the blocks?

What is the best order in which to learn? How can you avoid all the tripping points and learn all the fundamental principles and micro-skills? How can you make sure you’ll stick with it?

Stakes

How do I set up stakes to create real consequences and guarantee I follow the program?

What rewards or punishments can you put in place that will ensure you will follow through? People counting on you? Money on the line?

 

the status quo

The vis insita, or innate force of matter, is a power of resisting by which every body, as much as in it lies, endeavours to preserve its present state, whether it be of rest or of moving uniformly forward in a straight line.

– Isaac Newton

Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it. The more inertia objects have, the greater their resistance this external force.

Here’s an example: When you’re riding in a car that makes a left turn, your body feels like it’s being pushed to the right side of the car. It’s resisting the left turn – it would rather keep going the direction it was going.

This basic concept of physics, cemented forever in my mind in engineering school, is a very powerful mental model for explaining how the world works. If we look around, the concept of inertia is everywhere. I’ve listed some out below, although it feels like I’ve only scratched the surface.

Continue reading the status quo

The Lake Wobegon Effect

In the fictional town of Lake Wobegon, “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

There is a cognitive bias (called self-enhancement bias) named after this fictional town:

The Lake Wobegon effect is a natural tendency to overestimate one’s capabilities and see oneself as better than others. Research psychologists refer to this tendency as self-enhancement bias and have found evidence for its existence in many domains. Most of us think we’re funnier, smarter, warmer, more honest, or more conscientious than we really are. (via Psychology Today)

In Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling On Happiness, we’re introduced to how this bias can affect our happiness (beyond the obvious self-delusion).

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