In response to A Hypothesis of Relative Assurance and Chained Wins, Ben Nesvig wrote in with his experience:
"100% agree. I only recently came to this conclusion while analyzing big things I've accomplished in the past and the process.
In high school, my American History teacher said he'd bump anyone up a full letter grade if they could memorize Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream Speech." In his 9 years of teaching, only one student had successfully memorized and recited it to him. The speech, when giving by Martin Luther King Jr, runs about 16 minutes.
I saw this as an opportunity to move from a B to an A. The only reason I thought I could do it is because someone else had. It wasn't a rational decision, as I wasn't a great student then.
After several weeks of staying up late and speaking the text out loud hundreds of times, the last week of the semester came. I pulled the teacher aside while the class was reading and rattled off the speech for 9 minutes straight, word for word. I memorized the whole damn thing word for word.
How was this possible?
I had a very specific goal in mind. I think it's infinitely easier to do harder things if you have a very specific idea of the end result you want. Easier to accomplish the very specific difficult thing than the moderately easy vague thing.
Of course the problem with most people is they have no idea what they want.
Those last three lines are particularly insightful: "I think it's infinitely easier to do harder things if you have a very specific idea of the end result you want. Easier to accomplish the very specific difficult thing than the moderately easy vague thing... Of course the problem with most people is they have no idea what they want."
Thanks Ben, for the insight.
I often find that when I break down a vague problem into a few very specific starting tasks, things get rolling way, way faster.
I wonder what it takes for someone to know what they want specifically. It took me an experience full of this immense need for redemption. The specific end point of that redemption is very specific and therefore fed the fuel.
So many people are lost in their lives, so what will it take to make them find their specific meaning quicker?
Act I: The Discovery of Conflict Invigoration
I recently discovered a phenomenon common among many highly successful people. I'm calling it "conflict invigoration" - this is a personality trait, a mixed blessing and curse. It's the kind of person who can move heaven and earth when inspired, but doesn't do as well when they aren't... and who is always invigorated by a fight.
I first noticed conflict invigoration among a number of the most successful people I knew personally. See, I don't think this is an entirely new observation, but a lot of the people that reach stratospheric levels of success are kind of deranged. You almost have to be, to keep going after you've "won" by every conceivable measure, to work yourself to the bone at the expense of your sanity and longevity and vitality, to neglect so many of the basic human needs and pleasures and comforts.
I saw this trait in lots of successful people, and then I started paying attention to biographies and histories. Indeed, many of the most expansive people in our generation and previous ones are conflict invigorated - they've perhaps always got a baseline of creativity and striving, but it really comes out when a fight breaks out.
"Competition is always a fantastic thing, and the computer industry is intensely competitive." - Bill Gates
I've admired Leo at ZenHabits for years now. I read him every day during my three years in the Peace Corps and now for three years after it. He's one of the reasons I got into blogging in the first place. I've even got a picture of him on my wall of inspirations alongside Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, my Dad, Ben Franklin, Martin Luther King and other awesome people.
So when he asks me for me, I say yes. Of course.
Change Labs Program
Right now Leo is writing a book to summarize all of the amazing things he's learned in creating ZenHabits, one of the most successful blogs of all time. He's testing out the ideas in the book on a small group of people. I volunteered. He wrote back a few months later. Here we go!
I'm excited to share all the awesome things we do here. Our assignments. My learning and much more.