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.
Two announcements --
1. The Strategic Review is now on Medium.
After many years of consciously choosing not to syndicate TSR, I just made the switch.
The potential downside, as I saw it, is that maybe I'd be more hesitant to cover potentially controversial topics like the Danger Flags series was -- but, what pushed me over the edge is that the newest series, Background Ops, is both incredibly useful and totally mainstream-friendly. That's a winning combination!
So Background Ops #1: Strict Limit is on Medium -- check it out:
I'm always into exploring why good things sometimes happen and sometimes don't. Chief among those is when there's a known best practice that some people follow, and others neglect. Why is this the case?
A couple weeks ago, Taylor Pearson and I wrote about the same topic coincidentally -- I put out Celerity #2: Power Laws and he put out How to Prioritize around the same time.
Taylor's one of the smartest people I know, and so I shot him an email to ask about this. I think his reply is very insightful and he gave me the go-ahead to share it.
"Good stuff. Coincidentally this week's TSR is Celerity #2: Power Laws. Covered similar ground.
I’ve got a number of free and exciting things for you. At Ultraworking, we’re very happy with where we’re at in terms of product and methodology, and we’ve been rave reviews from our customers. We’re now going to be expanding rapidly by doing cool things for people who might be future customers of ours — i.e., you. Even if you never buy anything from us, we’re more than happy to bring people into our orbit, help them work better, and hopefully spread the word about what’s possible.
So, without further ado…
Training, Tools, and the Pursuit of Enlightenment — the Ultraworking Pursuit is launched. Every month, there will be new technology you can integrate easily into your life, and very high-value free trainings for you. Zero fluff, all “do this and your life improves right away” type stuff.
You can join at this link, and you’ll get cool stuff every month.
September’s training is Work Cycles — many of you are already familiar with Work Cycles. It’s a method for buzz-sawing through hard work quickly.
I started a new series on TSR recently, Celerity -- about how to build the character traits of speed into your life. In response to Celerity #1: Frenzied Genius, I got a very nice email from a friend of mine who is both a CEO and an amazing writer himself, asking --
"Really enjoyed reading this. The pace of my life recently has made me lose any inspiration to write - not necessarily a bad thing, and the 10 days you describe are something I hope to have one day. How do you manage to write so much and keep it to such a high quality? Does the stimulus come naturally?"
I wound up writing what turned out to be a long reply, maybe there's some useful points in there for you --
Thank you, and that's a very high compliment from you -- you're one of the most lucid thinkers I know. No flattery there -- you're one of the few people I read and then am reliably genuinely surprised and informed.
How I do it, the obvious stuff:
So, this is pretty cool.
At Ultraworking, we developed a "Work Cycles Generator" to automatically create fresh templates of our work cycles spreadsheets -- a little useful if you're doing Cycles solo, incredibly useful if you're doing Cycles with friends.
Well, Gordon Yoon was a participant on Ultraworking Pentathlon IV, and he started using Work Cycles for coding work at Google. He said, "I'm getting tons of mileage out of the Work Cycles on the daily! Using work cycles at work, for coding… it's been awesome. It's such a powerful tool."
Gordon then coded up automatic graphing into a new cycles template that displays how your energy and morale changes throughout a work session.
Gordon was very kind to share his template, and it's really cool and useful. If you click this link, you can get a copy of Gordon's energy/morale-graphing version of the spreadsheet. Instead of entering high/medium/low as before, you enter how you're feeling on both of those from 1-100, and on the second tab, you'll get a graph of how your energy and morale change over a work session.
I ate precisely 2150 calories yesterday: 65 grams of fat, 199 grams of protein, 192 grams of carbohydrates. Breakfast was two servings of oatmeal with protein powder, lunch was chicken and cheese, dinner was salmon and Ukrainian pancakes.
All of this went in a spreadsheet, along with the times of each meal. At the end of the week, I'll sum and average the numbers of everything I ate this week, and I'll look to ensure calories were 2640 or a little lower. The macronutrients I don't worry as much about, as long as protein is high -- I actually target 222 grams of protein per day -- and fat isn't too low.
Now, I'll be the first to confess: this is actually really, really, really boring.
Upon reading the title, On the Conflict Between Excellence and Will, I imagine some readers might think there was some sort of typo or mistake. After all, a conflict between excellent and will? Isn’t will required for excellence? Doesn’t will create excellence?
You know how this works by now, eh?
Pragma is up on Amazon.
It's free for 72 hours, and will be $7.77 after that -- still a very good value, I think.
If you have any deep-thinking friends who don't read The Strategic Review, by all means feel free to point them to Pragma so they can get a copy -- they'll thank you.
Reviews are highly appreciated. Thanks and I hope you enjoy, learn, and benefit a lot.
Alright, today is an exciting announcement -- applications for GiveGetWin Summer Camp III at UChicago are now open.
Summer Camp will be 10 June 2017 to 25 June 2017 at the University of Chicago's Polsky Exchange. It's all-day, everyday for that time -- intense amount of skills training in entrepreneurship and leadership.
Past attendees have gone on to start their own companies with very high success rates (see the success stories tab on the website), as well as get jobs at established companies like Facebook and a number of fast-growth startups.
Russell Silver, from GGWSC'15, wrote of his experience:
If you haven't joined the third Ultraworking Pentathlon, it's starting this Saturday -- so jump on now if you'd like to get 16 days of peak performance + permanent lessons and levelups in your productivity and workflow.
Details are all here:
Always honored and thrilled to work with you, regards,