Commenting vs. Making

I gained a lot of appreciation for people who make things, and lost a lot of tolerance for people who only pontificate. I found myself especially frustrated with my past self, whose default was to complain and/or comment, then wonder why things didn’t magically get better.

The Tim Ferriss Show - Paul Conti, MD — How Trauma Works and How to Heal from It

Ok, I know posting another Tim Ferriss episode is going to make me look like a fanboy, but I don't care. This episode was flat out exactly what I needed in my life right now.

Dr. Conti and Tim discuss how trauma leads to all kinds of mental disorders like anxiety and depression. They also go over a few ways of addressing trauma.

If you're struggling with your mental health these days, give this episode a listen. I've got the book on my list as well.

The Trouble with Optionality

The shortest distance between two points is reliably a straight line. If your dreams are apparent to you, pursue them. Creating optionality and buying lottery tickets are not way stations on the road to pursuing your dreamy outcomes. They are dangerous diversions that will change you.

By emphasizing optionality, these students ignore the most important life lesson from finance: the pursuit of alpha. Alpha is the macho finance shorthand for an exemplary life. It is the excess return earned beyond the return required given risks assumed. It is finance nirvana.

But what do we know about alpha? In short, it is very hard to attain in a sustainable way and the only path to alpha is hard work and a disciplined dedication to a core set of beliefs. Given the ambiguity over the correct risk-adjusted benchmark, one never even knows if one has attained alpha. It is the golden ring just beyond your reach—and, one must enjoy the pursuit of alpha, given its fleeting and distant nature.

Ultimately, finding a pursuit that can sustain that illusion of alpha is all we can ask for in a life’s work.

Make Fewer Things Matter: My Epiphany From Cutting A Pineapple

The first emphasis in Make Fewer Things Matter is “make.” Things don’t stop mattering on their own. You don’t just ignore them. You do something to make them not matter.

The next emphasis is “fewer.” Some things will still matter, but you reduce the number of them. Make a big list of things you think are important. Look at each item and look for ways to make it not matter.

After you go through everything and you try to make them not matter, you’re left with a few things that truly matter.

Stop Keeping Score

Instead of checking items off a list, the Buddha suggests shining a light on yourself and others. “Dwell as a lamp unto yourself,” he advised his disciple Ananda. He meant that happiness comes from the illumination of your greatest virtues, thus showing the way for other people, and making visible to yourself your true purpose.

Your Thinking Rate Is Fixed

Here’s a secret that might sound obvious but can actually transform the way you work: you can’t force yourself to think faster. Our brains just don’t work that way. The rate at which you make mental discernments is fixed.

Positive Feedback Loops

Notice also that many of these examples will have negative feedback built into them as well: I get a bad grade, my habit app streak ends, I feel embarrassed that my friends know I haven’t exercised for a week, my task list is neverending and makes me feel overwhelmed, my coach might criticize what I did today, I forgot to do the language lesson and feel bad about it.

So if most systems have both positive and negative feedback built in … what can we do?

We have to design a better system.

Essentially, you should start rewarding yourself when things are going well, and have compassion for yourself when they are not. Then, the next day, give yourself a micro-task to accomplish. Reward yourself accordingly and get back on track.

How to Do the Things You Keep Avoiding

Tasks you’re avoiding never leave your consciousness for long. They hang there like clouds, some distance away, watching you.

They’re big and looming, but they don’t move very quickly, so you can always just move a bit further away. You still feel their presence though, and it feels bad.

This metaphor is super helpful for me right now.

How to Free Your Mind From Fear

The thing is when you focus all of your attention on the worst thing that could possibly happen – your body listens.

When you’re pulled out of your comfort zone your hands shake, your voice quivers, not because anything, in particular, IS going wrong, but because you believe it will.

Because if you tell yourself that the world is coming to an end and everything is a disaster, your body doesn’t know the difference.

But what if instead of always mentally preparing for what could go wrong, you focus on what could go right instead?