A great blog. One of the realizations that helped me was comprehending that if an insight or epiphany wasn’t actionable (didn’t lead to action) it wasn’t of much value (other than recreational). I have thought way too many deep thoughts, read too many self-empowerment books searching for the non-existent silver bullet (insight) that would allow me to bypass hard work, accumulation of small victories and risk taking.
The traditional barriers/obstacles (time, money, energy, risk taking etc) are to me somewhat secondary to just plain old inertia. But being at the right place at the right time – is that serendipitous luck or something else. You do have to factor into the equation that you are shooting at a moving target (circumstances change and you change) – times stands still for no man… As to the list of things to make you grow I would add that being conversant in the latest findings in neuroscience and positive psychology wouldn’t hurt.
Questions that I’m always pondering: how do you collapse time, how do you accelerate the learning process and how do you achieve instant intimacy/connection. All the above being said you must strive to be the best (in terms of realizing your potential) you can be. If there is a purpose in life, this might be it.
Thanks for the kind words. A bunch of interesting things in your comment.
"One of the realizations that helped me was comprehending that if an insight or epiphany wasn’t actionable (didn’t lead to action) it wasn’t of much value (other than recreational)." -> I think a lot of people are going to dislike that, but there really is something to it. Well, I'll say this - a lot of times you don't know what's going to be valuable later, so sometimes brushing up on not-immediately-actionable things have future value. But overall, I think you're right - focusing on the actionable learning and applying it immediately probably gives you the most bang for your buck in terms of improving and achieving things. If you want to study a topic that isn't actionable, ideally find a way to make it actionable somehow. That'll lead to producing in the real world, and a better mastery of what you're learning.
"But being at the right place at the right time – is that serendipitous luck or something else?"
I believe that Luck Doesn't Exist. Everything is cause and effect, and probability.
If you take 1,000 1-in-100 shots, you're going to hit around 10 of them. Each one, to an outsider, will look really, really lucky. They don't see the 9,990 high upside shots you took and missed. But it doesn't matter. You win anyways. Crediting luck is a bandage for people with wounded consciences. Cursing luck is a painkiller for the weak-minded. Things are. There's no luck involved.
"You do have to factor into the equation that you are shooting at a moving target (circumstances change and you change) – times stands still for no man…" - very good point here. I learned this playing Chess. A common new player mistake in Chess is to threaten an opponent's piece that can move from your threat into a more favorable position.
Instead, you don't attack where the piece is right now, you place attacks where the opponent would like to move that piece, thus ideally choking up their space and tempo and plans. Or, to paraphrase science, "Don't fight the last war again." Things change - you want to be aiming to do things in a way that are going to work when your plans reach maturity, not things that would work is time was frozen right now. Good insight.
"Questions that I’m always pondering: how do you collapse time, how do you accelerate the learning process and how do you achieve instant intimacy/connection."
Good questions. Quick answers:
1. Collapsing time: First, identify where your time is going. Then, gradually elevate time that's going where you want to into better and better things. I categorize my time into "Bad", "Okay", "Good", and "Excellent." I try to over time spend less time in Bad and Okay, and more time in Good. And then also move Good time up into Excellent.
It's hard and takes practice. Time tracking helps a lot, and I do a lot of it. I've found 20-60 minutes in the Excellent category might produce more than 10-20 hours of "Good" time... as crazy as that sounds, very expansive stuff pays off much more than standard maintenance sustaining type work, and standard work pays off much more than goofing off uselessly.
2. Accelerating the learning process: Google "deliberate practice" and read 5-10 articles on it. Also put yourself in situations where you're forced to produce with deadlines, model people who are already achieving at the level you want to, and seek out experienced mentors, coaches, and trainers.
3. Intimacy/connection: Work to truly understand what motivates people beneath the pleasant external side of things. Break ground and do unique things together. You'll bond faster if they're dangerous activities, but that's not really encouraged. Listen more than you talk. Get off smalltalk and talk about more interesting things. Say things that are controversial. Get a reputation for being highly discreet and tactful and more people will be comfortable being open and intimate with you.
"All the above being said you must strive to be the best (in terms of realizing your potential) you can be. If there is a purpose in life, this might be it."
Well said! Very good comment and questions.
I completely agree with you about luck. Some years ago my definition of luck was preparation + opportunity, but now I never think about it at all.
Instead, I have a different opinion about studying just because it might be important one day, perhaps it depends on the goal one has, but I'd rather produce stuff than study something just in case. That's at least the direction I'm aiming at. In this way I still have to study (I would say daily), but I inevitably have to study what I need to get the job done.
I used to think that by working this way I would be trapped and I would never expand my knowledge, on the contrary I've found that by working on real problems I am more encouraged to explore new areas, and I do.
I hear people talk about luck a lot. Straightup - luck doesn't exist.
If you believe in luck, then you believe either: (1) some people consistently defy probability, or, (2) some things aren't a result of cause and effect.
Life is a series of probability. Every day, there's a chance that a given set of things will happen. If you want to have a successful life, expose yourself to as much high-upside low-downside probability as you can. Any given thing you do might not work out, but if you expose yourself to high-upside low-downside, good things will happen. Read books, reach out to people, try to get projects working, keep trying to write and build things, keep learning new skills, keep treating people well.
If you want to fail at life, expose yourself to high-downside no-upside probability. This is short term gain at long term expense type stuff. Cigarettes. Unsecured debt for consumption. Most TV.
You'll keep getting "lucky" if you keep exposing yourself to things with upside and limited downside. If you get an amazing job or contract that you had a 1 in 1,000 chance of getting, were you lucky? No, especially not if you applied and pitched 1,000 other places. If you say, "Ok, I'm going to keep trying to get what I want until I do" you'll get it, as long as it's a positive sum game you're playing.
I think that bitcoins are a big deal. Maybe not this year or next year, but within the next five to ten years, I believe that there's a good chance that they will revolutionize online financial transactions. So I bought some a few months back with the intention of holding them for many years, selling only once each one was worth thousands of dollars.
And yet... I was obsessed with the ticker price of a bitcoin. I had a plugin for Chrome that always showed the current price at the top of the window. On my phone I had a widget to see the price at all times. For weeks, I was never more than a few dozen minutes out of date with the price.
Eventually it occurred to me that I was never going to do anything with the knowledge of the current bitcoin price. If it actually did rise to the level at which I'd be willing to sell, I'd certainly hear about it through other people. So I cut myself off. No more tickers, no more checking the price. My little stash of bitcoins remains encrypted and backed up, and I'll check the price in a couple years.
The amount of access to information that we have is extraordinary. We're so used to it that it's hard to think of it in historical perspective, but we literally have easy access to millions of times more information than people had just fifty years ago. Acquiring this knowledge feels valuable, but often really isn't.