The Guide of Useful Thoughts
The Guide of Thoughts I wish I had
This week, I shared my reflections over the past few weeks with my mentor, and we ended up talking a lot about self-development. I took a good amount of time to prepare a few questions, to which, I got some incredibly deep responses. So, I thought that I’ll share these key insights here, as they’ve helped me plan for the next quadrimester.
This is the ‘Guide of Thoughts’ I wish I had a year ago.
Here we go.
When your gyroscope loses a sense of direction and fingerspitzengefühl (German for finger-tip feeling), focus on 'marginal gains,' the 1% improvements that you can make in areas related (or unrelated) to your craft. These marginal gains will eventually add up to be more than the sum of their parts. As James Clear quotes in his article here, "Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day."
When burned out or being unproductive, it's useful to understand that quality alway wins over quantity. You can do more work by switching between the contents of your work. Think like an athlete who needs to work on his core skill along with other compensatory pieces of workout as well. Rest, then, becomes an important factor of not burning out.
The frame of working from a place of joy and love is incredibly powerful. You should have a good time with the things you're doing, or else, people around you will feel heavier due to your presence.
To achieve greatness, the main idea to master is the 'ability to build for the greater good and for a large group of people.' How you take this idea and implement it is a functional decision, guided by context and other decision-factors.
The second way to achieve "greatness", however you define it, is by having an ability to learn no matter what it takes. Nobody saw COVID. For all we know, it's also possible that, in the next 10 - 15 years, big-tech companies could transform into studying infectious diseases and their cure. In which case, knowledge of medicine would be most valuable. But just because this can happen does not mean it will happen. And just because it will not happen does not mean that it won't happen. Long story short, you can't optimize for 5 years or 10 years, when the objective function itself is likely to be marred with unpredictable scenarios. Therefore, you need to optimize for the one thing that allows you to optimize for the future, and that is having this ability to learn + adapt, rapidly.
Finally, it's important that, functionally, regardless of what you choose to do, it should given you a little bit of inspiration every day, because inspiration gives you the wind in your sails. Inspiration is the tailwind you never knew you needed, and so, your functional decision should be guided by what inspires you, what makes you feel light, what drives you.
‘Communication' is an evergreen skill. Writing and its counterpart ie 'oral communication' is important because it allows you to galvanize a large number of people to achieve an outcome, which itself is a timeless skill.
Communication becomes important because when you practice communication, you practice clarity of thinking, which allows you to effectively frame problems that exist in front of you. This is timeless.
Even though the brain does like change, anything that forces the brain to stay on one problem is a timeless skill. Which is why engineers are always considered smart. Engineering is one proxy to force you to stay on one problem for a long time. If you can develop that muscle, you're unstoppable.
When you’re inspired by greatness, don’t seek an individual’s end-state. Use your inspiration, instead, to continue with your practice.
The specific manifestation of evergreen skills is a red-herring in identifying what you like.
To identify your ‘success metric,’ it’s best to experiment with things. Experimenting continuously will slowly reveal your original success metrics.
The wrong metric to gauge your passion by is whether you get bored by an activity or not. The right metric is to identify the ‘percentage of time for which you enjoy an activity.’ For example, if you code for 3 days and you enjoyed all the days, that’s 100% of the time enjoyed… Chances are, you like coding. But if you code for 3 days, and you didn’t like 1 of the 3 days, that’s still a 67% proportion of the time you enjoyed. This doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t like coding; it’s just that you’d prefer doing it 67% of the times.
When you want to start with a new thing / activity, always ask yourself: Why am I doing this? (As obvious as this is, we tend to intuitively miss out on asking this question.)
John Maxwell said: “Once you taste significance, success will never satisfy you again. That's a fact”.
Whenever you’re constantly looking for knowledge without, you’ll always be very impressionable.
Identify the three things you’re unbeatable at, for which you will get an Olympics medal. The idea is to focus enough and diversify enough, but not beyond a point.
If you want to explore new things, take time out for your ‘random fad of the week’. Unless you have a deeper reason, let most things remain fads.
Finally, “action” is not progress. Reading a lot of articles, flooding yourself with a lot of information, and being knowledgeable about everything is a lot of action, but it’ll not result in meaningful progress. My take on this: Deliberate practice should not feel deliberate. If something continues to feel deliberate for a while, chances are it’s forced (and therefore, unnatural).
Until next time,