Be skeptical, please. This realization was somewhat shocking to me if it's true, or even partly true.
So. A large amount of my reading of the last month has focused on organization, execution, time management, planning, maxing out effectiveness, and so on. But I started to find something -- the threshold of gains from "theoretical planning" and "theoretical organizing" starts to fall off entirely after a few weeks of it. You 80/20 things and make plans to the best of your knowledge, giving it an hour or so per day, and a long session here and there.
And then after that, there's not much gain to be had from it, and execution takes over...
...or does it?
Well, it does. But just like "theoretical planning," you could also say there's "theoretical execution."
Here you go -- if you want top-notch advisors, make a list of 100 people you'd like as an advisor, and email them sometime between weekly and monthly for the next year. At the end of the year, you'll have at least 10 outstanding advisors or mentors.
Could we agree that this would be a valuable course of action?
If you decided to do it, would you followthrough with it?
I'm guessing... no? Right?
The execution to it is (theoretically) trivial. You write some emails, make some calls. Maybe you have a calendar, checklist, or some sort of organizer. The metrics or statistics would be extremely basic.
And, do you?
No, of course not.
Why? Because the "theoretical execution" -- how to do it -- doesn't matter, so much as the personal bearing down of your own... whatever-it-is that allows individuals to do what they wish they could do.
So my reading started turning to psychology, will, and impulse control...
...and I think I've got a piece of the puzzle here.
It's poorly defined, I understand it poorly, it will be written hazily and not-quite-understood...
...but I think that the actively-doing-things part of the mind does not have a conception of time, and thus impulses feel permanent and total.
It's a little bit weird, but bear with me.
Take food. If you're in carbohydrate withdrawal and desperately want a candy bar or a Coca-Cola or whatever... I think the mind doesn't realize that the anxious craving feeling will pass.
Hence, you eat the candy bar.
Of course, your logical/analytical/planning part of the mind -- we usually refer to this as "you" -- understands that satisfying carb withdrawal does very little for you, whereas having more energy, more clarity of mind, and a leaner and stronger physique would provide more net gain.
But the actually-doing-things part of the mind, I think it doesn't get it.
Likewise, I think when you ponder making a serious outreach effort to someone you really admire -- like, making an actual full-on campaign to get some top-notch advisors -- if you're like most people, and you start seriously considering it, you'll start to get some anxiety and neurosis, fear of embarrassment and rejection, etc.
And, crazy as it sounds, I think the mind believes the feeling is permanent... hence, the idea of making 5-10 cold calls can bring on a sense of full-blown panic.
The last paragraph is not hyperbole -- if you've never made cold calls where you were actually seriously invested in getting the result or outcome, you don't know quite how crippling and paralyzing it can be.
It's irrational and stupid to feel that way. You do a simple Expected Value (EV) calculation, and cold calling is a straightup huge gain.
Here it goes:
Positive result: A big boost to practical utility. Call it +1000
% chance of a positive result: Something above 0. Hence, a big gain.
Negative result: No real change in utility. Call it 0.
% chance of a negative result: A majority of the time, but so what?
You multiply the chance of a bad result by the consequence -- zero bad things happening -- and you get... zero downside.
Yet. The mind doesn't operate like that. The analytical / thinking / planning mind is so much weaker moment-by-moment than the doing-things part of the mind. And the fact that it's an outcome you're invested in, and the anxiety that causes... it permeates the entire universe. When in a panic, the panic is eternal, perpetual, never-ending, and total.
That's nonsense. Logically, that's nonsense. You make the call, you get the result, whatever, no problem. You either win, or you don't, but if you keep doing it you'll win some.
And yet, and yet...
I have no easy answer for this. There's probably a variety of ways to manage this, from environmental changes, to specific individual tactics, to diverting or tricking yourself, to mentally framing it as a game... practice helps, of course, both specialist practice in the habit or skill, and universal practice into willpower and overcoming.
But it's a hell of a thing to overcome. I'm mostly convinced that the key acting part of the mind does not and can not take time into account, which makes it a hell of a battle to stay on track. Anxiety to cold call is permanent and total anxiety to that part of the mind, hunger is permanent and total deprivation and craving, boredom is eternal anxiousness and emptiness...
...and we wonder why people avoid doing useful work, indulge in bad food, and run to distraction! It's a hell of a battle to fight, for the weaker planning/analytical mind, against the doing-things part of the mind which is under the misconception that this moment is permanent and total.
I had to deal with this a lot when I was into pickup. You know that going and talking to a girl has zero downside, lots of upside, but it's a constant battle. Some observations from that point of view:
-- The first three approaches you do every day are going to be hard no matter what. You just have to force yourself to do them. As you say, the brain doesn't realize that the pain only lasts until you walk up and open your mouth. It feels like forever. But once you talk to three girls/groups of girls, subsequent ones are easy. I imagine this would translate to sales calls... force yourself to make three, and then you'll be okay.
-- The more days off in between, the harder it is. Almost exponentially. You can go out every day for week and get some momentum going, but once you take off three days or so, it's like starting all over.
-- I might expand your metaphor to say that it's not that the brain doesn't know that the pain is temporary, it's that it forgets very quickly that it's temporary. After three approaches you feel great and are ready to talk to anyone, but by the next day that part of your brain has totally forgotten that you got over the pain the day before.
Tynan, I think you're on to something here.
I'm a bit of a psych student, and one of my favorite subjects is the *real* differences between the left and right hemisphere.
The left, dominant hemisphere is linear, including verbal skills and time mechanics like planning.
The right, secondary hemisphere is not. It is parallel, relying heavily on pattern matching and associations. It is, for instance, in charge of spacial processing, both visual and imaginary.
This seems to be relevant, particularly the relationship between "quickly forgetting" and the associative nature of the right hemisphere. If these skills are relying on right hemisphere processing, then a linear understanding of the consequence is going to have far less impact than patterns or associations that demonstrate the outcome!
Whoa! Super weird, I was just thinking about exactly this last night. For me, it was the realization that every acute experience of fear I have is just like this.
Usually when I rock climb it's bouldering - low problems that never get high off the ground, cushy pads to fall on, no fear of heights or falling triggered. Last night I went sport climbing, where you go up on ropes and then your belayer lets you down by lowering you on the rope. I went to Vertical World in Seattle, it's a shiny new gym in a giant warehouse so I got about 60 feet off the ground at the highest point.
They have a thing called an "auto-belay", which is a spring-loaded spool of rope hanging from the top of the wall. You clip into that rope and when there's no weight on it, it's pulling up gently to keep the rope snug. When you load it with weight, at first it lets rope out, but like a seatbelt it catches quickly, and at that point it lowers you slowly to the ground.
Two key things about that: you drop a couple feet in free-fall before it catches you. And you have to drop in free-fall: if you try to lower yourself until it catches you, it never will, because you have to load it abruptly for it to catch. You have to drop on it.
I have a strong fear response not to falling but to the anticipation of falling. And the auto-belay made it really clear to me because it's just a momentary jolt, lasts a fraction of a second and then everything is OK.
But when I'd get to the top, the anticipation of that momentary jolt was enough to paralyze me for just a second. I'd think, how can I avoid this? I'd start lowering myself gently to try to sink into it, but then it just gave way, and the flash of fear got worse. The whole time, I knew intellectually, all I have to do is jump and it'll catch me two milliseconds later. And so I would, and my heart would race from that momentary drop.
My realization was that my most acute experiences of fear are extremely short-lived, but they can be so intense they paralyze me. And they're also almost always about an experience that will hardly last a moment, too.
And the only way I've found to get through them is to just will myself through it - the pickup "3-second rule" is the same thing, I think. It's like getting into a cold pool by just jumping in. I'm not being present for the experience. I'm just committing myself and shutting my brain off and going, and then the fear and the shock happen and then it's over.
That bothers me, in a way. I want to be able to go through this stuff in a present way and feel these sensations and not feel like I have to run roughshod over myself just because I'm not strong enough to sit with my own urges and fears. The metaphor extends well: When I'm getting into an icy-cold pool I deliberately do it slowly so that I can feel it all happen bit by bit. I think it helps me realize, in my guts, that everything's OK, and it lessens that fear.
Slight annoyance with SETT: I have to reload the page in order to write a new comment if I've already made one. Maybe I'm missing something though...
Hyperbolic discounting, as others have mentioned, seems pretty relevant here. It's related to the fine, fine, fine, fine, PANIC! pattern.
How? I guess the long term losses from failing to take rational actions loom less large in the imagination than the fleeting horrors of personal embarrassment.
The best book I came across on it was Ainslie's Breakdown of Will, which was strangely literary.
If you're into drugs, maybe you could experiment with Tramadol. The guys over at Personal Power Meditation are getting a lot out of that when it comes to fear-inducing activities (like pick-up).
In the 8 circuit model of consciousness, the time-aware part of the brain is the third circuit aka the semantic-verbal-dexterity circuit.
The circuits that cause you neurotic behaviors would be the first (bio-survival - what's safe/nonsafe) and fourth (socio-sexual/tribe, aka who's cool and who's not cool). Maybe also the second (territory/dominance - who's above/below). Those circuits really have no conception of time. The third one is the time-binding circuit and is all about keeping track of the past and future.
I liked the metaphor that Chip and Dan Heath used in their recent book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard http://www.heathbrothers.com/switch/. They likened the emotional brain to an elephant, and the logical/rational as the rider. Definitely worth a read as you explore this space.
And you're right that the emotional/impulsive brain doesn't compute relative scale well at all. The cold calls feel 1000s of times more daunting than the payoff of closing a couple deals. I suspect there's some hyperbolic discounting at work there.
I've noticed this myself. My personal theory is that the emotional response (the anxiety, the resistance) originates, and stays in the back of the brain (the limbic system if you prefer) and never makes it to the prefrontal cortex, where it can be combated with logic. The limbic system naturally would have not conception of time, it's just there to assess risk. Therefore for as long as you're considering cold-calling Malcolm Gladwell, the risk remains, and so it stays on full alert.
There's only two effective methods I've found to combat this; 1. To act on total impulse before the limbic brain has a chance to mount a full assault on the plan, and 2. To write down exhaustive lists of risks and objections and address and plot contingencies for each and every one. It's ludicrously time consuming, but writing it down forces the anxieties into the language center of the brain (frontal lobes) and seems to short circuit the anxieties.
Yes, correct. You can make tricks all day long, but ultimately you will have to confront resistance head on. There are two methods that work:
1. Increasing health to improve mood, energy, diligence. Supplements, nootropics, diet, sleep, exercise, sunshine, social time, etc.
2. Meditational tricks to eliminate the experience of resistance. My primary one is praying in tongues in my head, aka glossolalia, which has significant scientific support.
> Meditational tricks to eliminate the experience of resistance. My primary one is praying in tongues in my head, aka glossolalia, which has significant scientific support.
it sounds really interesting. do you have any links?
Yeah, you can click my name and search my blog for tongues: http://www.koanicsoul.com/blog/?s=tongues
The Internal Scorecard
I think there's a tremendous amount of misconceptions regarding achievement, productivity, creativity, ambition, work, work rate, work ethic, and so on.
So I'm thinking of publishing some analysis weekly with examples of what happened in the week, successes and failures, noteworthy events, what I'm reading and listening to, and so on. If it goes well, I can give you a picture of a workweek for me, intermix tactics and techniques, and give you practical guidance about what's working well and what isn't.
Seven years ago, I wrote a post called "How to Be Happy. Always." It's pretty poorly written, but starts off with an important concept-- we live in a society where happiness is the number one priority. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No one really questions that, but maybe we should. Is happiness really the best goal we can come up with?
In the time that's elapsed between when I wrote that post and now, I've thought a lot about happiness, and I still think that maximizing it is a bad idea. But before I get into that, let's talk a little bit about what happiness is.
Happiness is an good state of mind. It allows you to be optimistic, to see the good in people, and to be productive. On the other end of the spectrum, when you're very unhappy, you have a lot of barriers between things like productivity and socialization. Clearly, being happy is much better than being unhappy. It's important to be happy. Is there such a thing as being too happy? I don't think so. I've never seen someone make a mistake because he was just too happy.
So what's my problem with maximizing happiness, then? Well, it's the method, mostly.