One of the nicest benefits about doing science-y and ops-y things in public is that you prompt a lot of conversations with smart people, which makes you smarter in turn.
My friend Mike Johnson -- scientist and philosopher par excellence -- wrote to me recently with some interesting thoughts, and with his permission, I'm sharing them with you.
Mike initially wrote to Kai and I,
"Philosophical digression: I was really struck by Sebastian's question, 'How do you get people to install whatever makes them care about improving their life? How do you get people to start?' -- this seems like the million-dollar question. I also wonder if we could find a good way of understanding the neuroscience of what's going on in the brains of people who are engaged in a self-improvement spiral, vs those who aren't."
"Hey, want to riff on this? What's your take MJ?
I'm so non-neurotypical that I can't even conceive why other people don't improve their lives. You got any ideas?"
And Mike shared these really useful ideas --
"Here are a few thoughts from personal experience:
1. Optimizing the wrong things. For someone with OCD tendencies like me, often the thing preventing me from optimizing something important is that I'm already optimizing something unimportant, but it feels 'wrong' to just give that up. The phenomenology of this is something like, "yeah I think it would be great to go for a walk immediately when I get up, but I also have to check my mobile game and spend my energy, and and I can't do both."
This kinda reminds me of Kegan stages, where going 'up a level' leads to being able to treat what one was subject to (the structure of one's knowing - non-adjustable self-identity constraints) as objects (the content of one's knowing - things that can be dispassionately analyzed and freely manipulated). Maybe people have both a cognitive-intellectual Kegan progression (which is what most people talk about), *and* an emotional-motivational Kegan progression, which is semi-independent?
Can we look at what helps people climb cognitive-intellectual Kegan stages, and try to adapt that for emotional-motivational Kegan stages?
2. System 1 doesn't trust system 2. Improvement happens through coordination between Kahneman's 'system 1' (intuitive reactions) and 'system 2' (deliberative thinking). But I think it's remarkably common for peoples' system 1 to distrust their system 2, based on past data. So when system 2 tells system 1, "hey I've got a great idea for a change we should make" system 1 rolls its eyes and says, "yeah I've sure heard that one before. Your plans have been stupid and have mostly just caused me trouble. Not gonna do it (or not going to keep doing it, if things get tough)." Effective people talk about making plans and just *doing* them. And it works for them, because they've aligned s1 and s2. But there's a hidden dependency here, a negotiation that needs to be figured out.
Techniques that might help:
- start with small changes to rebuild trust;
- try to viscerally feel the results of achieving your goal: give s1 something it can hold on to, an intuitive understanding of what's at stake;
- CFAR and Leverage have various tools for trying to align s1 and s2 like "belief reporting" (trying to figure out what s1 actually believes), "belief propagation" (changing your mind by propagating information from one part of your mind to another), "ugh fields" (indirectly mapping out discrepancies between your world-model / self-model, and stated reason / real reason for your beliefs, by locating statements that are both true and hard to say) etc. I'm not up on all the details of how this stuff works and can't personally vouch for them (they looks useful, but also feel complicated).
As mentioned before it'd be great to tie this stuff in with neuroscience, particularly predictive coding. I don't see how to do that yet though. Will think about it!"
Useful thinking and guidelines, eh?
If you want some more fun stuff on the topic, Kaj Sotala just shared an amazing couple papers on fatigue with me --
Still want more?
If you're not on a Lights Spreadsheet, why not? We've got templates and a best practices guide for you here --
We've got a free training next weekend on how to do Monthly Debriefing and Planning at a high level, in a really practical way. Check it out.
People are really digging TSR on Medium. Background Ops #2: Keystone got a nice response.
Those papers that Kaj shared, by the way, are kind of technical and hard to work through -- but really, really worth it. Hope there's some ideas for you in this post.
Quick verdict - it's a good book, and I think it's worth reading.
Josh Kaufman sent me a message on Twitter a bit back, asking if I'd like a review copy of his book. Indeed, I would, I replied, and he sent me a digital copy.
Before I review the book, let me tell you how I read - when I get a nonfiction book that I'm not sure if I'm going to read, I "fastread" it. That's me starting to skim and move quickly, then I slow down and read in depth when something catches my eye, and speed up after I finish that section.
I fastread a lot of books. Especially reading a in-depth reference book on a topic you already know, I think you can get 90% of the lessons of a book in 30% of the time by fastreading. I typically fastread historical backgrounds about eras I'm very familiar with, thoughts on an aspect of business I know, introductions to technologies I'm already familiar with, etc.
My first thought when I was reading The Personal MBA was that this would be a good book to fastread.
This site is about finding ways to improve your ability to improve yourself. Integral to this is utilising meta-habits; habits that enhance your ability to adopt other habits.
To get started, here are five meta-habits that can serve as a foundation for continuous growth.