It’s been a while since my last post. Packed workdays leave little space for rumination. In the last few weeks, following ideas and practices have energized me.
The value of marginal gains: The turnaround of British cycling team from not having won a single championship in 110 years to a prolific period between 2007 to 2017 where they won 178 world championships and 66 Olympic or Paralympic gold medals and captured 5 Tour de France victories is attributed to the aggregation of marginal gains. You can read more about the story in the excellent post by James Clear. The insight is that relentless pursuit of small improvements make a huge difference. I have been applying this practice to my well being by relentlessly pursuing small things that help with the video conference and email fatigue. For example, walking 1:1s, a few meetings outdoors under the sun, constant changes to the work setup to fix anything that is suboptimal. I posit the path towards well being, in the post pandemic world, is a personal journey, one in which relentless focus on marginal gains will be an essential habit.
Sudoku: In pursuit of some lightweight brain exercise, I recently started solving sudoku puzzles for a few minutes each day. This habit has a valuable second order effect, namely an increase in stamina to stay with a problem, a skill that I think is central to doing great work. As there are no dearth of problems to solve, the easy way out when stuck on a problem is to abandon it and pick the next one. Problem shifting when things get hard gives you relief. Solving shallowly many problems, rewards you with the sense of task accomplishment. However, great things happen when you go deep, when you wrestle with the discomfort of not having a solution, when you don’t give up easily. Humans are wired to be discomfort minimizers and need practices to increase the ability to stay with discomfort.
Few online gems
Ah the value of a good user interface! Matt Levin writes an in depth analysis on how poor UI design caused Citigroup to loose $900M
The opposite of distraction is not focus, it is traction. Nir Eyal who has been researching on “how to be indistractable” shares this and many other insights in his podcast with Shane Parrish. It is a must listen. If you like ideas here, pick up his book on this topic for further immersion into this subject.
The wonders of nature never cease to amaze. This tweet is another example
Notes to my younger self
Series of notes on multiple topics that if I go back in time, I will share with my 20 year old self. A snippet below.
Peter Thiel famously remarked that "Competition is for Losers". While he used that headline to emphasize that businesses need to be monopolies, the statement has alternate interpretations that are true. My experience has been that when you compete, you have much more to lose than to gain.
It is useful to observe others, to learn how you should fine tune your practice but beyond that any form of competition only has negative effects. Being competitive, changes focus from what is in your control to what others are doing, and not only distracts you from being in practice but is also the surest way to surrender your keys to happiness to someone else.
Competition is also the gateway to other negative emotions like jealousy, stress and malice. An easy hack is to think of everyone you are interacting with as your teacher, as someone who has something valuable to help you in your practice. That way, you will have no one to compete with but will instead be surrounded by a tribe of teachers. You erase an artificial scorecard from your mind and will channel all that valuable time and energy to your practice, to mastering your craft and towards leading a fulfilling life.