ideas

In his worthwhile book, The Hapiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt argues that the advantage optomists have over pessimists naturally compounds.

It’s true that the world is structured such that the rich tend to get richer as the poor get poorer, but it’s also true that the happy are likely to grow further happier than the sad.

When it comes to dealing with circumstances which are making them unhappy, “optimists expect their efforts to pay off, [so] they go right to work fixing the problem.”

Even when things fail, they have an inherent understanding that things tend to work out for the best.

When things go wrong, optimists naturally seek out the potential benefits buried within misfortune.

The narrative optimists write for themselves then, is one of constantly overcoming adversity.

Pessimists, on the other hand, live in a world with more apparent risk and less confidence to deal with it.

From the pessimist perspective it’s natural to feel trapped within a narrative wrought with hopelessness; one where bearing the consequences of injust circumstances seems more natural than attempting to change them.

Optimists and pessimists can be dealt the exact same adversity and each write opposing translations.

What’s frightening is that the way each retells the events in their own internal narrative has ripple effects on the remainder of their narrative.

Optimists are more likely to grow from adversity because they can antipate rewards for their efforts.

Pessimists are more likely to be enslaved by adversity because they spend more time managing their pain than resolving their adversity.

This doesn’t mean pessimists can’t grow from adversity. It just means they find it more difficult to do so on average.

“The key to growth is not optimism per se, it is the sense making which optimists find easy.”

Optimist, pessimist or anything inbetween, find a way to make sense of adversity. Come to terms with it. Relish it. Grow.

Fear of success can prove more frightening and even more paralysing than fear of failure.

This may feel counter intuitive, but look closely and you’ll see it everywhere – perhaps even within yourself.

The main reason we fear success is that it implies change.

When we and fail, there is often not much to lose. Usually we end up more or less where we started and the status quo recovers.

But when we succeed, things have to change by definition.

If we’re successful in applying for a new job we may beed to change the way we dress and sleep, we’ll need to develop new relationships and solve new problems. These things are exciting for the same reason that they are terrifying; risk.

Risk comes paired with all change and that risk creates fear, the most immobilising emotional force we experience.

Are you content with the way you fit into the world?

If not, try asking yourself: what am I more afraid of, things going wrong or things never changing?

An eternity of things carrying on the way they are sounds like my worst nightmare.

I’d rather take the chance that changing my course could send me backwards before I move forwards.

We have a cognitive bias towards our own ideas, because we make them.

Partnering with people, or working in teams, is a step towards insuring against that bias.

That’s not to say your ideas aren’t good, you might just have a harder time picking the good ones from the bad ones than someone who doesn’t share your bias.

An even more compelling argument for teamwork is that finding good ideas requires a mass of bad ideas to be had and filtered through.

“The goal isn’t to get good ideas; the goal is to get bad ideas. Because once you get enough bad ideas, then some good ones have to show up.”

Seth Godin

If you’re working with a partner, the amount of ideas you generate doubles. This means you find the good ideas faster, and can work together to capitalise on them.

Don’t be afraid to make ruckus. Be honest when ideas are bad, especially when they’re your own. And commit to the good ones with everything you’ve got.

Some people are under the illusion that they can change another person’s mind by being more ‘correct’ than them.

Usually, this isn’t the case.

At least, being correct isn’t the only requirement to changing somebody else’s mind.

One of the best teachers I ever had later admitted to me that one of her favourite things to do in class was to facilitate class discussions that didn’t feel like they were relevant, even though they were.

Sometimes it’s easier to trick people into learning than it is to actually teach them.

When we learn, it’s usually in one of two ways; either we were already primed to learn, and were open to and anticipating new ideas; or we were made to feel like the new idea is something we came up with ourselves.

This means that if you’re trying to pass on ideas, be it as a coach to your team, a communicator to your partner or and teacher to your children, you have consider;

Does the person I’m speaking to want to understand the idea I have to share?

If the answer is no, it doesn’t matter how right you are. If you can’t find another way to communicate your ideas, they’ll never be received.

Screaming righteously into the ether is all well and good.

But being able to change someone’s mind by helping them rethink their entire perspective on a problem is that’s priceless.

Especially if you can relinquish the credit and empower them to feel like they got there themselves.

“Become the best in the world at what you do. Keep redefining what you do until this is true.”

Naval Ravikant

In both art and business, we are usually defined by those we can be likened to.

We’re lumped into genres or styles, niches and roles.

When competing for success, we are often assigned a category.

Maybe you were proactive enough to assign yourself the category which best defines you.

This is great news, on one condition;

That you’re the best in class.

If you’re going to allow yourself to be defined by a category, ensure that you’re the best fish in the pond.

When in doubt, dig your own pond.

Don’t be a slightly-above-average animal photographer when you can be the world’s best Quokka photographer.

(Photo: Natalie Su)

Never call yourself a ‘pretty good’ sales assistant when you could be the best speckled beanie salesperson in the state.

Why would you be a writer with a blog when you could be the only young West Australian writer with a BJJ blue belt who publishes original work daily?

(If there’s another one, someone let me know, I’d love to meet them.)

You do you.

I only ask that you do us all a favour and do it brilliantly.

“How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable.”

Seth Godin

Hobbies are things we regularly do for pleasure.

They tend to be fun, nieche activities involving some form of social element. Our hobbies recharge us – in part because it doesn’t matter if we’re bad at them.

Pursuits are like hobbies, except for the fact that gradual improvement is at the core of our enjoyment of them.

Going bowling with your friends for a laugh once a fortnight is a hobby. After a few months, perhaps you’re a better bowler than average. Some nights you might even get lucky and put together an impressive score. But the vast majority of your time bowling would still be considered leisure time.

If you were treating bowling as a pursuit, while you might still have the same fun fortnightly game with your friends, the majority of the time you spent thinking about bowling would revolve around the question;

How can I be better?

You’d find time to practice on your technique, you’d probably invest in your own ball and shoes and you’d study footage of professional bowlers with awe.

You’d be obsessed with progressing and improving, because becoming a better bowler is the fun part of pursuing bowling.

All pursuits require the processing of feedback in order to innovate our approach to the activity.

In bowling, the feedback is clear; you either knocked the pins over or you didn’t.

Until you can score five perfect games in a row, there’s technique to work on.

When you find a pursuit you’re passionate about, there is an intense gratification which sprouts from putting in the work to improve. You bowl to get better at the bowling.

The fortnightly hobbyist has no interest in the intensity or focus required to pursue bowling.

When bowling is a hobby, the fun is showing up. The fun is the bowling.

When it’s a pursuit, the fun is the result of consistently showing up. The fun is the bowling because it’s making you better at the bowling.

Idenfying these patterns in the things you love to do and making clear decisions about what you’re willing to suck at is can liberating and quite valuable.

Pursuits demand tenacity and a refusal to fail. They’re high stakes and hard work, but far more gratifying tham hobbies long term. Pursuits are a commitment to growth.

Hobbies provide a special kind of short term satisfaction which we all crave. They’re low stakes and relaxing. Hobbies are the time where we can give ourselves permission to fail. The results don’t matter because taking part in the activity is it’s own result.

We should all have both hobbies and pursuits, but we should also know the difference.

Here’s two things which are deeply important to me;

Helping people understand what attention deficit disorders look like, how they function, and what someone lucky enough to have one can do to turn their variance into an asset.

Helping people (especially us millennial/Gen Z types) find ways to grow, learn, and reduce anxiety through the dedicated stoic practice of a meaningful pursuit (jiu-jitsu, in my case).

I’m going to be turning one of these into a book.

Perhaps I’ll even end up writing both. But for now, I need to decide which one gets to be first or I’ll bounce between the two forever.

I’m not married to a deadline yet, but I am commited to the outcome.

One book has to die for the other to thrive. If this is going to happen, I need to focus.

I need to make a choice, and I’d appreciate your help in making it.

Which book would you read first (if either)?

Which book are you more likely to champion?

Which book would you gift to a friend?

This is wildly important to me, so I’d appreciate any and all of your thoughts.

You can contact me publicly or privately.

Give me a call.

Let me buy you a coffee.

This is happening one way or the other. I want to do it justice.

Being ‘in control’ is a mindset.

“Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens. Some things are up to us and some things are not up to us.”

– Epictetus

Being in control of things outside yourself is relative to your influence over them, but being in control of yourself requires nothing more than feeling in control. This is a skill, and we can practice it.

Feeling in control requires you to acutely focus solely on the things which you can change.

We can change much more than we usually give ourselves credit. Even in times of hopelessness;

While we may have no control over a a thief who wishes to break into our home, we do have control over how we prepared we are for that possibility; installing security screens, cameras and investing in insurance are all measures we can take to minimise the possibility of disruption.

We also have power over how we react to being stolen from; we can grow fearful, bitter and angry, or we can deal with the problem as best we can, prepare ourselves better in case the circumstance arises again, and move on.

The problem with reacting angrily is that there’s nothing to be gained by allowing those emotions flourish. The thief has been and gone. There is no perpetrator to receive the justice of your anger, so what are you to do with it?

It feels good to embrace negative emotions in times like these. To imagine what you might do if you found the thief. How good you’ll feel if the police find them. You may find yourself playing these scenarios over and over in your mind, your emotion building as the visions become clearer.

But with no way to act on or utilise these feelings, thinking this way is nothing more than self-pollution.

This thinking does nothing to change what happened, nor does it aid in actually realising your imagined capture of the thief.

It’s useless.

We can’t control the actions of others, their reactions to our actions, nor the hand we’ve been dealt in the game of life.

Unless a feeling informs action, you don’t need it. That doesn’t mean that like a stray cat it won’t try to stick around, it just means you should probably avoid feeding it incase it decides to live with you permanently.

Take care not to obsess over things which fall outside the bounds of your control. When we do, especially if the thing scares us, we often wind up ruminating; thinking in abstract circles about how concerned or bereaved we are about a problem, without committing any energy to actually resolving it.

Ruminating about problems is useless, because problems require solving.

Solving is active where rumination is passive. It implies that action is being taken in the direction of a solution.

Nobody cares how worried you are about climate change, but plenty of people care about how you’re planning to vote at the next election.

People value action because it drives progress.

We can take control of our lives by choosing to focus our attention not on rumination, but on actively seeking out problems we have the capability to solve through our own individual action.

Accept everything which you cannot change, focus solely on those things you can, and pursue them with rigour.

There is no more powerful endeavour.

How often do you have moments when you look at someone and think,

“They’re just not aware, are they?”

Like when someone’s staring at you but they don’t realise. Or domineering a conversation, totally unaware that they’re denying you the chance to speak because they’re so focussed on what they need to say.

We all have these blind spots.

I especially struggle with identifying when I’m getting close to overwhelm.

The people around me can usually tell when I’m trending towards overcommitting myself.

Even when they warn me, I rarely act on their advice before it’s too late.

Our minds are tricky that way. We reinforce our own defaults.

Even when told outright that I’m doing something stupid which is bothering those I care about, my mind finds a way to trick itself.

I’m okay. I can manage. They don’t understand. It’s not that bad.

But of course they understand. And if they’ve mustered the courage to initiate that awkward conversation, it is that bad.

We’re hardwired to trust our own thoughts almost blindly, while scrutinising the observations of others at every step. Even those we trust.

This process functions as a form of self defence, protecting us from the deceptions of others.

Unfortunately, it also insulates our own self deceptions; the things we tell ourselves are true not because they are, but because they’re less painful than what’s actually true.

Self deception is a viscous, malignant thing.

We must become aware of what we choose not to see.

Maybe your boss wasn’t being totally unreasonable when she called you out on your performance.

Maybe you’re not too tired to get the exercise you need.

Maybe you haven’t earned that break yet.

And maybe I ought to listen to the people closest to me more often.

If multiple people are shining a light on something which you can’t see, and it also makes you uncomfortable, you’re probably the one with the blind spot.

Ask yourself: Do these people have reason to deceive me?

If, like with my overwhelm, the people shining lights are those who love and care, how does tricking you benefit them?

It doesn’t.

Statistically speaking, they probably aren’t conspiring against you. If it feels like they are, perhaps you’re conspiring against yourself.

When the people who love you rally together to shine a light and you’re the only one who can’t see it, chances are you’re looking in the wrong direction.

Fail to turn around for long enough, and the lights might stop shining.

Try not to risk it.

One exceptional idea is worth more to the world than a thousand average ones.

Exceptional ideas are worth so much because they’re scarce. It’s simple supply and demand.

All great organisations sprout from exceptional ideas.

People who start great organisations are highly rewarded.

How then can you maximise your production of exceptional ideas?

By rigorously engaging with the exceptional ideas of others, constantly and deeply.

When you engage with great ideas, you supercharge your own.

Brilliant thoughts don’t sprout from unwatered minds.

The best way to increase the likelihood that your next idea will change your life is by seeking out exquisite opportunities to learn.

Thanks to the internet, you can learn for almost free.

All exceptional thinkers are exceptional learners. This is no coincidence.

If you’re regularly the smartest person in a room, you’re in the wrong room.

Give your ideas a chance; bury your ego, ask detailed and generous questions, find your exceptional idea, and get to work.