Read. Analyze. Understand. Critique. Build. Repeat. 

Reading is a two-way street. Many of us think that, as compared to writing and speaking which are active undertakings, reading and listening are entirely passive. One is the sender of information, the other the receiver. The mistake here is that both need to be active. Take this analogy from “How To Read A Book” by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren:

Catching the ball is just as much an activity as pitching or hitting it. The pitcher of a batter is the sender in the sense that his activity initiates the motion of the ball. The catcher or fielder is the receiver in the sense that his activity terminates it. Both are active, though the activities are different. If anything is passive, it is the ball. It is the inert thing that is put in motion or stopped, whereas the players are active, moving to pitch, hit, or catch. The analogy with writing and reading is almost perfect. The thing that is written and read, like the ball, is the passive object common to the two activities that begin and terminate the process. 

Reading allows us to speak less and listen more. This does not mean we have to absorb all information as gospel. Active listening and reading is the gateway to better understanding – from understanding less to understanding more. Once we understand, then we can agree or disagree. We cannot have an opinion on a matter in which you do not understand. “I do not understand but I disagree”.

How often do we formulate an opinion without truly understanding? How often do we interject a person speaking by subconsciously formulating a stance on the matter?

Many of our issues with others, be it about politics, religion, school, work, relationships, are from a lack of understanding. A useful tool that can be applied is reframing what was stated in order to solidify comprehension. Thereafter, you can state your position so all parties involved are not caught in a perpetual “that is irrelevant/that is not what I said/that is not what I meant” loop.

“The activity of reading does not stop with the work of understanding what a book says. It must be completed by the work of criticism, the work of judging. The undemanding reader fails to satisfy this requirement, probably even more than he fails to analyze and interpret. He not only makes no effort to understand; he also dismisses a book simply by putting it aside and forgetting it. Worse than faintly praising it, he damns it by giving it no critical consideration whatever.” 

We tend to forget or neglect the fact that our brains are like any muscle in our bodies. One must constantly stress the brain in order for it to grow. This is a lifelong workout. We cannot stop and expect it to stay the same. Although it may be extreme, I like to believe my brain will atrophy if it is not growing. The only divergence in this analogy is unlike our bodies, the mind can continue to grow as we continue to live.

In order to grow, you cannot just read any book. If all you read are books that are within your intelligence, you cannot expect that your mind will be stretched. You must take on books that are beyond you. Unless your brain hurts, you will not learn. It is worse to be literate and not to read than to be illiterate. The latter has an excuse that you do not.

“….a good book can teach you about the world and about yourself. You learn more than how to read better; you also learn more about life. You become wiser. Not just more knowledgeable – books that provide nothing but information can produce that result. But wiser, in the sense that you are more deeply aware of the great and enduring truths of human life.” 

Fire had a profound impact on human civilization. Language can be argued to have had the same impact fire had. Language allowed the best epiphanies to transverse generations and time. Through word of mouth communication, humans were able to form a collective knowledge bank. Every new generation had profound insights that were passed on in order to avoid making the same mistakes others have made for them.

What followed was the ability to write. Writing lets thoughts stick onto a physical object where it could live forever. The cumulative knowledge built could now be stored into physical books where one can reference at any time. One cannot express a huge depth of knowledge through word of mouth as one could compressing it into a physical form. It allowed humans to dive in any field and immerse ourselves despite the knowledgeable not being within traveling distance of our location.

Reading closes this loop. It allows us to obtain the knowledge of previous generations and build upon it. It allows us to travel while staying in place. Think of reading as working on a team. The collective is more powerful than the individual. Two plus two equals more than four. Our duty is to continue to build this collective knowledge.

Read. Analyze. Understand. Critique. Build. Repeat.

 

 

 

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Be Careful What You Become Good At

It most often ends up being the route you continue to take despite whether you intrinsically enjoy it or not. The push significantly outweighs the pull if it does not align with your passion. Society preaches to you that one should do what they are good at.  Praise, confirmation, rewards, and success keeps one idling along despite the divergence from what you want to do and who you want to be.

Andre Agassi’s autobiography “Open” is the epitome of silencing your inner voice in order to attain the success others want of you.

How can you be great at something and lack the love for it all experts claim you need to become successful?

The fear and respect of Andre’s father was a conduit that allowed him to bypass one of the main ingredients we all believe we need for growth and success – passion.

From an early age, his father pushed onto him the dream of becoming the greatest tennis player to have ever lived. He built a tennis court in the middle of the desert and built what Andre called the dragon – a machine that spits out tennis balls unlike any other at the time.

The self-fulfilling prophecy took over from here. His numerous hours of practice at such a young age allowed him to be superior to his peers which in turn came with external claim and recognition. This ultimately led him to begin believing this was his purpose despite his hate for the sport.

We often find ourselves blurring the lines between genuinely enjoying work, a hobby, a craft, etc. with what we become good at. It is easier to convince oneself that you are passionate about something you are great at than to convince oneself of your love of something that you are inferior in relative to your peers.

Take our occupations as an example. We stick with a job for a set amount of years knowing at its inception that it does not align with what we want or who we want to become. We continue to stay for external factors only becoming better at our job because we convinced ourselves those outside forces will outweigh the benefits of finding something that truly aligns with our desires.

But that touches base on another entirely different question. In order to know you what you want, you must know yourself – the toughest feat in anyone’s life and yet we put less emphasis on knowing ourselves than we put in knowing our pets.

As we become entrenched in our lives with our career decisions, relationships, hobbies, crafts, it further toughens the string that we toy with severing. Our potential options for something other dissipates.

It becomes more difficult to leave a job you have been at for ten years than a job you have been at for two. In this case, those external factors such as money, benefits, and relationships toughens the string with time.

Andre’s numerous options declined exponentially to zero as he continued along his tennis path foregoing a high school education and the potential exploration of other careers that could have provided him happiness and equivalent success (reminder: success is subjective).

Strive to find that alignment between enjoyment and success. Be aware of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Acknowledge how deep we are becoming entrenched. Give yourself the time and effort for reflection on the path you are taking and where you want to be. Although you may not know and/or may change as life moves forward, it’s never going to be a perfect time to break free.

Be careful what you become good at. 

 

To Dive or To Walk In

Dice

 

 

Society nudges us to take risks that are statistically not in our favor. On a macro scale, risks keep the economic pendulum swinging in an upward direction.  The birth of innovation and improvements are made by taking the leap. But at what cost to the individual?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Business Employment Dynamics :

  • About 80% (four-fifths) of businesses with employees will survive their first year in business. (The most recent data shows that of the small businesses that opened in March of 2015, 79.9% made it to March of 2016.)
  • About 66% (two-thirds) of businesses with employees will survive their second year in business. (The recent data shows that of the small businesses that opened in March of 2014, 69.4% made it to March of 2016.)
  • About 50% (one-half) of businesses with employees will survive their fifth year in business. (Data shows that of the small businesses that opened in March of 2011, 51% made it to March of 2016.)
  • About 30% (one-third) of businesses will survive their 10th year in business. (The most recent data shows that of the small businesses that opened in March of 2006, 32.8% made it to March of 2016.)

What is even more shocking is that when these numbers are presented, business owners make cases as to why they are different.

Take for example newlyweds. When asked about whether they will eventually get divorced a few years down the line, all state no – I would hope that would be the case. But divorce exists (and at higher rates that may shock you).

Our perception of where we fall in such categories are either from being oblivious to the statistics or genuinely believing in the reasons as to what makes you, your business and/or your relationships different.

But this is not a case for halting us from jumping into arena’s that may not be in our favor. This is a case for understanding the numbers, verifying that you are indeed different, executing on the plan to plow through those hurdles that have caused others to fail, and loving the process of it all.

Society will always be in need of individuals taking risks. Even if we fail, we have added to the denominator of potential successes. The more that take risks, the more ubiquitous triumphs will become. 

Although prolonging a risky venture (statistically speaking – not your biased view of what you think is risky or not) comes with a few drawbacks, doing your due diligence gives you the tailwind that greatly outweighs jumping off the cliff realizing mid-flight, the lake has dried up.

This brings me to the point that it is not for everyone and honestly, not for most.

We believe we know more than we do. We believe our skills, talents, passion, and view of the world is superior to all others.

Just having an awareness of failure can grant you benefits others do not have.

Warren Buffett’s bet is coming to a close this year. Ten years ago, he bet top hedge fund managers that they would not beat the S&P 500 annualized returns over the course of a ten year span.

S&P

Although a few months are left, the hedge funds have waved their white flags.

This illuminated the fact that we know less than we think we do. 

Warren Buffett’s bet in conjunction with the fact that portfolio managers, when taking into account their fees, prove to be no better and often times worse at producing higher returns than the S&P 500 has pushed enormous sums into index funds.

When on the cliff, if the water levels look a bit lower than the previous time you were on it, how about climbing down and walking into it to confirm that you will indeed survive if you do decide to jump.

And if jumping in knowing the flight itself will be the reward regardless of the end result, at least notify your loved ones that you may need their support recovering from your brokenness. That at least comforts them knowing you were less self-delusional than they had thought.

 

Nonlinearity

 

12

We were taught to believe that in all situations 1+1=2. Each additional unit whatever that may be, provides an equivalent value as the first.

Although counter-intuitive, life has its own rules that contrast our math. 

From the author Nassim Nicholas Taleb:

“nonlinear means that the response is not straightforward and not a straight line, so if you double say, the dose, you get a lot more or a lot less than double the effect”

He illustrates his point in alcoholic consumption. Drinking several bottles a wine in one sitting and none for the subsequent six days is more harmful than drinking one bottle of wine every day (two glasses at lunch and dinner). Every additional glass/bottle will do more harm than the preceding one.

The wine drinking example shows a negative asymmetry – each additional unit increases it’s harmful effect.

A parallel to this concept of nonlinearity is the law of diminishing returns.

Adding twenty-five thousand in compensation to an individual making fifty thousand provides more value than adding twenty-five thousand to someone making two hundred and fifty thousand.

This is at the core of that happiness study floating around – individuals obtain diminishing returns in terms of happiness for every increase in compensation over seventy-five thousand (I, for one, am skeptical of this study but it should be noted if not already known that I am skeptical of most studies).

Let’s look at a case in which the thereis a positive asymmetry.

Each additional exercise rep provides greater value than the preceding one. This is the concept of failure. The more pain, the more gain. This exercising until failure mindset leads to the phenomenon called post-traumatic growth – a positive change experienced as a result of adversity and other challenges in order to rise to a higher level of functioning.

To get the right answer in school, we must abide by the law of addition. Do not lose sense of the reality that life may not be as black and white as that. 

I leave you with Talebs point of nonlinearity in regards to collaboration.

“Collaboration has explosive upside, something called a superadditive function, i.e., one plus one equals more than two, and one plus one plus one equals much, much more than three. That is pure nonlinearity with explosive benefits”

Although I provided examples relating to health, wealth and teamwork, I am positive if you let this fester in your brain you will see its ubiquity.

Use nonlinearity as a tool to understand the effects of what “one more” really means. 

 

 

Showcasing Your Craft

blue-opaque-marbles

Take any craft. How do you expose yourself with the intention of building credibility while maintaining humility?

Does it vary depending on the type? Talented photographers who want to provide value to the world, disregarding their meaning of value, publish/post/market their photos to make that happen.

Take the craft of bodybuilding. Why does this exposure into our news feeds seem different? Why does the latter seem more arrogant and egotistical than the former?

Maybe it’s the sexuality of craft. Maybe it’s because most ruin it for the few – the many who are seeking attention versus the few aiming to build their credibility.

  Credibility – the quality of being trusted and believed in

Attention – notice taken of someone or something

I see a correlation between the perception of one being talented due to a gift and the showcasing being justifiable and the correlation of talent due to hard work and what is viewed as unjust to highlight.

Take for example athleticism. We deem it acceptable for an athlete to showcase his/her craft because we attribute the talent to a gift. We deem a craft unacceptable when we do not have an excuse as to why we are not as talented, other than the justification that we chose to apply our resources elsewhere. The unacceptable is under our control where the acceptable is due to something not in reach. “He’s in the NBA because he’s 6’11” and I am not because I am 6′ ” is more forgiving of yourself than “He/she has 100k in savings because he/she is more financially disciplined than I am and excelled at their respective job”.

This stems from the innateness of humans to compare, contrast and compete.

By creating this chasm between what crafts are acceptable to showcase and which are not, we are inhibiting the talented in their respective field from illuminating their talents – this applies to both what is acceptable and what is not being that this list is not static due to its subjectivity. We are fostering this culture of people being reluctant to expose themselves that could be of benefit to you, others and society. And it may not provide a benefit to you at that present moment, but referring to it should you ever need is of value.

A contractor works in this way. You may not need a remodeling of your bathroom just yet, but the knowledge of one who is talented and aligns with your preferences will be mentally bookmarked for when you do.

Creating this hurdle for people causes society to lose the benefit of talent that was unable to overcome this obstacle.

I am in agreeance with not feeding arrogance and ego but let us take the time to make a distinction between one who is showcasing for credibility and one who seeks attention.

The two are not synonymous. 

 

What It Really Takes

 

Shallow Focus Photography of Gray Asphalt Floor

Piggy backing off my last post in regards to compounding and incrementalism, I feel it almost necessary to discuss a personal anecdote.

I often get inquiries specifically pertaining to diet and exercise due to my commitment to both but not many of those questions go deeper than what people see.

Like all else, most of what can be learned is deeply ingrained in a person’s habits, routines, thinking, discipline, purpose, and passion.

I resent questions looking for the analogous “get rich quick” answer. The prevalence of buying into them is shown in the supplement industry, those infomercials about quickly flipping homes, those gym gadgets that will help you obtain abs in 6 minutes, ad infinitum.  Although most, if not all, do not hold any weight after further research, we fall victim to trying something that has little likelihood of working for the sole purpose of buying into “easy” or “easier”.

Here’s a bit of what I commit to the lifestyle I live:

  • Wake up at 4:30am.
  • Go to the gym six days a week for an hour and a half (two body parts a day with alternating cardio and abs at the end of each session)
  • “Off Day” consists of doing calisthenics and fasted cardio
  • Eat five to six times a day
  • No carbs after 2pm
  • Snacks consist of whole meals
  • Drink nothing but water, tea, and black coffee
  • Cook Sundays and Wednesdays for all weeks meals
  • Rarely drink any alcohol (four times a year with it never exceeding 2-3 drinks)
  • Cheat meal every two weeks – cheat meal consists of anything I eat that I do not cook myself. This even pertains to eating salmon and broccoli at a restaurant. Regardless of the food presented, I assume an excess of butter, salt, and cheap oil was used in cooking the final product
  • In bed by 8:30 pm
  • Opting out of many social events
  • Go for a walk after dinner. During winter, I do calisthenics
  • It’s been seven consistent years and counting – consistent meaning always. I do not use snow storms, vacations, sicknesses, family events, work etc. get in the way. I alter my day to make sure a workout and diet fit in accordingly
  • Work out mostly alone as I have yet to find someone who aligns with my long term view and discipline in this area
  • Whole (real) foods only (refer to my post about healthy eating)

And just as when we are trying to determine what we actually do on a day to day basis when composing/revising your resume, much only coming to mind after a few hours or days, the same can be said about these bullet points.

To think and know that I am nothing and no one in the field of exercising, diet and health should put it in perspective. The commitment, sacrifice, and discipline is mandatory. Do not fool yourself into thinking otherwise.

This is why it is imperative to align your passion and purpose. 

My reasons for living this lifestyle require a lengthy post so I’ll spare you all but I hope this illuminates what it really takes to gain an edge in whatever field you wish to pursue.

Be conscious of your innate desire to judge. Look beyond the end result and focus on retracing the steps one had to take.

That is where you’ll find the true wealth of wisdom. 

 

Compounding & Incrementalism

It’s a fallacy of ours to believe that all success, inventions, and growth happened overnight. It was nothing more than that eureka moment.

But it was. 

It was the compounding of consistent effort. That is what makes the absolute possible.

Many preach, including myself, to rid yourself of all short term thinking for its opposite. To bypass the instant gratification for an increased prize in the future.

But we must be aware the long term is, by definition, an aggregation of short terms.

Alignment is imperative. 

Your short term must and will compound to your long term.

Michael Moubassin’s words on striking a balance:

If you focus just beyond the hood, you’re going to have a hard time anticipating what’s coming. Look too far ahead, on the other hand, and you lose perspective on the actions that you need to take now to navigate safely.

Formulate habits that will compound toward your goals.

I use the term incrementalism when focusing on effort – the belief of change in degrees; gradualism.

Although those swift success stories sell due to the allure of it requiring no effort, upon further inspection, you realize it was actually 10 years in the making.

Investigate every great invention, book, athlete, song and you’ll see the power of incrementalism. The power of compounding.

Time and effort are fundamental. As time ticks away, gradually increase your effort while facing your ultimate goal.

In spite of it not being in sight at first, the stride closer will allow your confidence to compound with the realization that as days, months and years pass, it’ll be within arms reach.

I leave you with this:

If your child asks you to pay him $.01 for doing chores, with each subsequent day of the month that amount doubling, do not take the deal. Do the chore yourself.

 Day 1: $.01
Day 2: $.02
Day 3: $.04
Day 4: $.08
Day 5: $.16
Day 6: $.32
Day 7: $.64
Day 8: $1.28
Day 9: $2.56
Day 10: $5.12
Day 11: $10.24
Day 12: $20.48
Day 13: $40.96
Day 14: $81.92
Day 15: $163.84
Day 16: $327.68
Day 17: $655.36
Day 18: $1,310.72
Day 19: $2,621.44
Day 20: $5,242.88
Day 21: $10,485.76
Day 22: $20,971.52
Day 23: $41,943.04
Day 24: $83,886.08
Day 25: $167,772.16
Day 26: $335,544.32
Day 27: $671,088.64
Day 28: $1,342,177.28
Day 29: $2,684,354.56
Day 30: $5,368,709.12

There’s your compounding lesson for you.

As far as your incrementalism lesson, it takes little Jacob/Sarah an hour to complete the chore on day 1, forty-five minutes by day 20, and thirty-five minutes by day 30.

I guess we all are willing to pay more for increased efficiency right?

Life Lessons Spilt Over From Dieting & Exercising

The reward is lurking behind the pain of overcoming your obstacles.

They consist of excuses, complaints, sacrifices, discipline and long term thinking. Believing life will pan out without overcoming obstacles is congruent to thinking 6-minute abs is the solution. Allow pain to set you on that path to greatness.

Being comfortable saying no.

You know the right and wrong thing to do. Make the right decision. It’s okay to pass on those choices that do not align with your goals.

Feeling comfortable in your own skin will spill over to all facets of life.

I’m not talking about cranking your ego to the extreme here. Instead, be confident that you will obtain the goals you set for yourself.

Being aware of what you know and what you do not.

It is imperative that we drop our ego to do this. Do not let it get in the way of your progress. The more you know, the more you should strive to challenge your knowledge and assumptions to verify their validity.

Shedding weight and/or building muscle is analogous to what you must do at different times in life.

We all need to shed some life weight such as unhealthy relationships, the long dreaded job you go to every day, those terrible habits you’ve been talking about getting rid of. Replace them with robust habits, people, and jobs that align with your better you.

Hard work does pay off.

The physical benefits are visible in dieting and exercising. I can assure you that the benefits of hard work in the professional and social setting are observable if you make an effort to look for them. While they may be more elusive, look back at the former you after making the commitment to work your ass off. If you smile when mentally looking back, you are feeling the results.

Work smart.

We have all seen that guy at the gym who is lifting more weight than his blood vessels can handle but is it doing much if his form is absolutely atrocious? Be dumb and naive. Ask questions. Ask more questions. Try new ways and adapt to what works. Be self-aware of your strengths and weaknesses. This all will be conducive to being efficient and effective. Many times, you can reduce the effort if you are equipped with a better method.

It’s all the small things done greatly day after day. 

Incrementalism. Do not fall victim to thinking overnight successes are more prevalent than they really are. Often times, that overnight success was decades in the making.

Compete against yourself. Compete against your yesterday. 

Do not compare and/or compete with others. Put the blinders on so you are unaware of what others are doing. Focus on beating who you were yesterday in all aspects of life. You know when you’re pushing yourself to the limit. Competing against others will raise internal barriers that are difficult to overcome.

You are your own worst enemy.

I am paraphrasing here but there is an old proverb that states if there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm. To accomplish most of your goals, regardless of whether it be physical, spiritual, mental or emotional, the barriers are created by you. Stop yourself from stopping yourself.

Opportunity Cost

Most of us crossed paths with the phrase “opportunity cost” in economics. It is a concept we are all aware of regardless of whether we use that term to coin it.

Its literal translation is the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.

Everything in life has an opportunity cost and it stems from the fact that we live in a finite world.

Time, money and coincidentally enough, opportunities are limited and having an awareness of such will allow you to use them where you will receive the greatest value.

Every single day, every single minute, every single second is an opportunity cost that could be spent elsewhere.

The same goes for all other resources.

My “eureka” moment came from applying this concept to all decisions. This began with small daily purchases to large purchases such as a car and a home to allocating my time to where I would get the greatest return – happiness and value were the main factors.

I understood how a small purchase every day – could be coffee, red bull, lunch – adds up over the year, let alone a lifetime (Do the math. I guarantee it will help conceptualize it). I then took it and ran with it. No need for a car the salesman says “I could afford”. No need to max out or exceed some threshold the loan officer “approved me for” when purchasing a home.

This thinking allowed me to surpass the short term rewards in life to grant me access to what was really valued – travel, financial security, experiences over material items. This led me to remove major barriers and hurdles from the ultimate goal of being financially liberated.

I must mention that it is also quite liberating not playing the “keeping up with the Joneses game”. If you’re playing the game, pull yourself out. There are more fulfilling and rewarding games where a true end is in sight. The former has no end.

Use this concept before making decisions. It often will shed light on your perspective of what is important to you.

Pursue something that will give you maximum utility with the finite resources you have.

Anchoring 

It’s ubiquitous from shopping for cars to negotiating salaries to making compromises in personal relationships to buying and selling homes.

We fall victim to over-weighing initial information as a reference point for future decisions.

We are constantly over influenced by a reference, aka “anchor”, for future judgments.

Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky first coined the term. Today, most of us are all aware of the bias and you can delve more into the research and its effects in “Thinking Fast and Slow” as Kahneman dedicated a full chapter to the concept.
It’s a staple in sales/discounts/promotions. How often have you justified a purchase or felt as if you won a negotiation solely based on what the initial price or terms were? I presume that feeling would substantially diminish if you knew the real value of what you paid or committed to (some advice – anchor first).

We must adjust information to reality. We should consider choices based on their value and begin from zero. Do not let someone’s inflated price of a product/service/decision/idea soak in.

We do this with exercising and it is counterintuitive.
We believe that setting that anchor – is it 10? Lucky guess – will affect our effort to achieve it. This may work when first embarking the fitness train, but how about a few weeks in when that anchor should be a floor, not a ceiling?

It’s a negotiation with ourselves. We anchor based on some pundit’s advice or yesterday’s rep amount and if we attain that goal, we feel that sense of accomplishment. But ask yourselves “could I have done a few more” and if so why did you stop?
As long as you are truly honest with yourself about “how hard” you are working, no anchor will help and many times it stops you from exceeding where you were a few weeks ago.

Before an exercise, do not set an anchor. Focus on the present moment and push yourself to the limit.

Do this day in and day out in all aspects of your life and the rewards are boundless.

Be cognizant of what anchoring is and what it does. Subconsciously it may be hindering you from reaching your true potential and/or may be making you pay a price that is nowhere near its true value.