Time amplifies

The small choices we make on a daily basis either work for us or against us. One choice puts time on your side. The other ensures it’s working against you. Time amplifies what you feed it.

~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/small-steps-giant-leaps/

I don’t truly know if I’m unique. For me, the only way I can manage to feel as if I’ve enough time in my day is if I’m ruthless with myself about not giving my time away. I’ve spent so many decades feeling harried and busy… only to realize, duh, I did that to myself. I’ve spent so many dark days simply wanting some peace… only to realize, duh, all this craziness, I chose that. Somehow, I managed to slowly let this same idea Parrish mentions seep into my bones. Now I feel like I’m able to relax and simply experience being, through most of my days. Sometimes, I even take naps. My 25-year-old self would be horrified.

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Three habits

The thing about really deep learning is it actually changes the structure of your brain. You are breaking an old pathway and creating a new neurological pathway. […] The three habits I’ve talked about—seeing in systems, taking multiple perspectives and asking different questions. Those are the natural habits of people who are farther along in this adult development path. If we can encourage ourselves to develop some of those patterns in ourselves, and we can be learning those things in ways that create new neural networks, then suddenly, we are living our way into these more advanced forms of development as we are just going about our daily lives.

~ Jennifer Garvey Berger from ~1h 13m into, The Mental Habits of Effective Leaders with; transcript edited for clarity; https://fs.blog/knowledge-project-podcast/jennifer-garvey-berger/

This episode from Shane Parrish’s, The Knowledge Project, podcast is excellent. About two-thirds of the way through the 90 minutes, they start going really deep into mental habits including specifics of how to change one’s mindset. The title of the episode could well be expanded to, …of Effective People.

I’ve been asked how it is that I do what I do, in podcast conversations. Here Berger and Parrish have explained it; Frankly, I better understand how I do it, now having listened to Berger. These three habits she points out are the magic that I use to power my conversations. I’ve always had the habit—my parents would say, “to a fault”—of asking good questions. About 35 years ago, when I became immersed in engineering, physics, computers, and the Internet I perfected the habit—here I would say, “to a fault”—of thinking in systems. And 10 years ago, as I began my journey rediscovering my personal movement, I realized the magnificent knowledge and experience available to me through others’ perspectives.

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Better questions

Sounds like we’re losing our grit. We’ve been brought up to think we’re so smart and clever and that we don’t have to work hard for anything that we just give up when we come against a tough problem. The main difference between innovators and the rest of us is that innovators ask more and better questions.

~ Shane Parrish

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Bonding through movement

Today, a growing percentage of people find themselves alienated from any particular community, without strong bonds to any discernible group. Loneliness is on the rise. More people live alone, remain single or childless, move to new geographical locations on a regular basis, and otherwise fail to develop close ties. This is a shift that is unprecedented in human history.

~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/2020/04/muscular-bonding/

My pull-quote feels pretty obvious. What’s interesting is where Parrish goes in this article. There’s a lot of research and discussion around what happens to us—mentally and physically—when we move together. It’s not simply, “hey that was fun.” There’s a durable bonding that happens when humans move together.

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Deliberate practice

Deliberate practice is the key to expert performance in writing, teaching, sports, programming, music, medicine, therapy, chess, business, and more. But there’s more to it than 10,000 hours. Read to learn how to accelerate learning, overcome…

~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/deliberate-practice-guide/

I was dubious at their title, but this article—a tiny book actually—is exquisite. With an estimated reading time of 43 minutes, there’s a lot in there. For example, it mentions…

There is a place, right on the edge of your ability, where you learn best and fastest. It’s called the sweet spot.…The underlying pattern is the same: Seek out ways to stretch yourself. Play on the edges of your competence. As Albert Einstein said, “One must develop an instinct for what one can just barely achieve through one’s greatest efforts.”

The key word is ‘barely.’

~ Daniel Coyle

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Has anyone read the book, The Little Book of Talent, by Daniel Coyle?

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Not in a vacuum

It can be easy to look at great geniuses like Newton and imagine that their ideas and work came solely out of their minds, that they spun it from their own thoughts—that they were true originals. But that is rarely the case.

~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/2020/04/shoulders-of-giants/

There’s a perennial discussion around creativity that gets described various ways: “Steal like an artist.” “Repurpose what’s been done before.” “Creating new from the old.” I like Parrish’s point, (in the article but not the quote above,) that “geniuses” first mastered the best that others had to offer. Then they go onward and farther to create something new.

If the only thing someone has ever done is sample and remix others’ work… meh. But if someone has mastered some field—art, math, music, whatever—and then recombines and extends, (or pares down or transmogrifies)… then, ok. My distinction feels very close to the, No true Scotsman, logic fallacy, and yet I think it’s a useful distinction.

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Chesterton’s Fence

As simple as Chesterton’s Fence is as a principle, it teaches us an important lesson. Many of the problems we face in life occur when we intervene with systems without an awareness of what the consequences could be. We can easily forget that this applies to subtraction as much as to addition.

~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/2020/03/chestertons-fence/

I’m going to ‘fess up and say that I don’t recall ever hearing of “Chesterton’s Fence.” If you too just went, “who’s what?” then do check out that article.

That said, I’m nervously thinking everything about it—his fence, that article—seems obvious to me. Not simple, but obvious. Any time I find myself with such thinking, rather than stand on my megalomaniac soap box and yell at “those kids”, I instead begin searching for a clear reason for why I know, what I am claiming seems obvious.

In this case, the knowledge comes from learning systems thinking. Somewhere along my way I learned to think about everything as systems of things. I’m always trying to see how this thing is related to, dependent on, and causative of, some other things. Somewhere along my way I found Chesterton’s fence, (but the fence system didn’t include long-term planning for owner identification and so the fence I apparently found wasn’t labeled.)

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How you play

If life is a game, how do you play it? The answer will have a huge impact on your choices, your satisfaction, and how you achieve success.

~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/2020/02/finite-and-infinite-games/

There are of course some games simply not worth playing. (For example, Global Thermonucler War, which is, “[a] strange game. The only winning move is not to play.“) For most of my life I’ve thought of games as something I first decided to do—”let’s play a game!”—and then sorted out what sort of game—board games, tag, charades, etc.. Even sports games worked this way; “I feel like playing baseball…” and then round up my friends, or “I feel like getting good at baseball and playing a lot…” and then join a league. In all the cases, the game itself was the point.

Then, back around 40 when I was busy rediscovering movement, I realized that one could start by having a goal, or an idea one wanted to explore, and then one could deploy games as the vehicle for accomplishing that. On the one hand, it’s still fun to simply play for play’s sake, but it’s empowering to have fun playing while intentionally accomplishing something of your own choosing.

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The library

If you think of your mind as a library, three things should concern you. […] There is no point having a repository of knowledge in your mind if you can’t find and apply its contents (see multiplicative systems).

~ Shane Parrish from, https://medium.com/personal-growth/what-you-spend-time-reading-changes-your-brain-ee2ab4f2aa17#.20s36rpb7

Don’t panic it’s not simply a catalog of library metaphors. There are great points about being intentional about what you choose to put into your brain, what your brain is good at doing, the utility and danger—which I humorously typo’d as “dander”—of filters, and more. I’m going to go in a different direction here however: Rather than trying to figure out how to assess the library of my mind, I’ve been trying to more often let people see what it’s doing. As I’ve said many times, this blog itself is a form of me working “with the garage door up.” …and I regularly reread these blog posts myself to make sure the thoughts still look reasonable after some time sitting on the digital shelf.

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Physical it’s not

This phenomenon—winning or losing something in your mind before you win or lose it in reality—is what tennis player and coach W. Timothy Gallwey first called “the Inner Game” in his book The Inner Game of Tennis. Gallwey wrote the book in the 1970s when people viewed sport as a purely physical matter. Athletes focused on their muscles, not their mindsets. Today, we know that psychology is in fact of the utmost importance.

~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/2020/01/inner-game-of-tennis/

Somewhere I saw a great interview with Gallwey. (Try TouYube?) Some of the insights from his work—for example, that psychology is critical to success in sports—now seem obvious. But 50 years ago, this was not only “not obvious” but was literally unheard of. (Insert my peewee-baseball story from the late 70s. *shudder*) There’s a lot more worth gleaning from Gallwey’s work. Positive thinking doesn’t work! Worse, it’s a hinderance as bad as negative thinking. *gasp* This insight is also 50-years old, but from my conversations with athletes, it doesn’t appear that it’s percolated as thoroughly.

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