Sunday, September 22, 2019

We are Lemmings

Sometimes it helps to see ourselves not as brilliant magnificent beings who have perfect discipline and motivation but rather lazy, easily distracted,  and weak minded. We aren't always like this and most of us are somewhere in between, and sure it depends on the day, but seeing ourselves as the latter will help us set up helpful systems. Because if we can get ourselves to do what we need to do on our worst days, then we can do it for our best days too.

I keep track of my weight other fitness measurements like body fat percentage, resting heart rate and blood pressure and try to measure it every month. It helps keep me in check; if I notice I put on some weight then I know I need to adjust my diet. I have it on my calendar to do this, but when the time comes I often forget to do it at all. And I'll keep forgetting to do it multiple days in a row. To fix the problem, I had to lower my view of myself. Instead I left clues for myself by putting all the equipment I needed in front of my computer the night before. That way when I checked my computer out of habit first thing in the morning I'd be alerted.

This is similar to the idea of wearing your gym shorts to sleep if you want to start running in the morning or putting your guitar down next to your couch if you want to learn to play the guitar. You have to lower the amount of friction and prime yourself. Lower your ego and think of yourself as a dumb automaton that just goes through the motions (habits) most of the time. That means, when you are in the right state of mind, you need to prep the environment, set down some habit triggers ahead of time for your lazy automaton to execute.

Have you played the game Lemmings? It's kind of like that. If you don't put down a bridge (plan) ahead of time your future lemming self will just fall into the water and die (binge watch Netflix or grab fast food)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

An Example of Me Doing Less

I'm staying a friends place in Canada and he lives in one of those fancy apartments with its own gym. So one day I am doing a my workout and I think. Hey those machines look pretty fancy, maybe I should try out that leg press machine today. After doing a couple reps I start thinking back to what I wrote about longterm fitness goals and sustainability: do less. I talk about how people should think about long term goals; consider being your best 100 year old self.

I don't have a leg press machine at home, so this would just be a temporary. I mean I could go to the gym but I don't because its more efficient for me to not commute and I still get a great workout in. It's good to mix it up now and then but any gains that I'd get from it would be soon lost after I get back home and continue my standard workout routine. The leg press is a more isolated movement so I don't add it to my standard exercise routines, instead I opt for more (time) efficient compound movements.

So I decided to skip the fancy leg press machine and go back to some (bodyweight) squats instead. If I was trying to bulk up I'd definitely want to add more barbell and heavy lifting. But I've done that before and know that the amount of effort lifting and getting enough good calories to build muscle isn't worth it for me.

Everyone has different goals so do what works for you. Like the majority of people, I used to just go to the gym and do whatever seemed popular. But now that my goals are a bit more defined, its easier to adjust my actions to fit them

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Filter vs. Block

It's significantly more work to filter vs block.

Saying yes to the top 1% of things doesn't make it only 1% easier than saying no to everything. It's much harder.

If you are an investor, you can't lower your work by saying you are only going to invest in 5% of the best companies instead of 10% you did last year. The reason is because the filtering is the work. You have to filter either way.

It's easier for you to say no to candy, or alcohol if you decided you don't eat that food.

It's less work to filter your email by setting a filter to catch all email with the word "unsubscribe". But, you might miss something you actually wanted to see.

Choosing to say no to things frees up energy and focus for the things that are more important. But for the very important things, we probably should spend the extra energy that it takes to filter.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Trichotomy of Control

Most people have heard of dichotomy of control:

1) Things we have full control over. (This is usually things closest to ourselves like setting our own goals and values)

2) Things we don't have full control over. (External events. We find more as we move farther from the self)

In this case the wisdom is to focus on your locus of control; the things you do have control over.

But think Trichotomy of control helps us go one step further because really there are things where we have some control over. Now we have:

1) Things we have full control over.

Focus on the things we have complete control over like goals and values. Marcus Aurelius and the stoics believed that by doing this alone, we were in compete control of living the good life. Because having great character was the metric as opposed to external events.

2) Things we have no control over.

Ignoring these is pretty straightforward. It would be a waste of time and energy to worry about these things.

3) Things we have partial control over.

What do we do here? One option would be to ignore these things as well. But that would limit our sphere of influence. Instead what is suggested is to think back to our dichotomy again. Focus on the things we do have full control over. This might be mean reframing the problem. We don't have control over if we will win the match, but we do have control over giving our best effort. This starts to sound a lot like Scott Adam's system vs. goals.

Again, simple concept but invaluable. If you are interested in more stoic philosophy I learned about this via A Guide To the Good Life. I thought it was interesting how thinking about the Trichotomy of control help us map our thinking back to the Dichotomy of control.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

I'm Going To...

I've been following some of Naval Ravikant's podcasts (Check out since I really enjoy how he explains concepts in a simple and concise way. The latest one that I heard was on Tim Ferris' podcast explaining what I've been calling trigger words. I've added it to the list

If you say "I'm going to do X..." as in "I'm going to lose the weight." or "I'm going to start that startup." or "I'm going to talk to that girl", you probably will not do X because you are giving yourself an out. You are delaying. If you were really going to do X you would just do it.

And of course it's difficult to do X because that requires suffering and the pain of change. If the pain is too much what you can do is lower what X is. If you can't commit to not smoking then first commit to smoking one less than your usual per day. Then later you can move to the next step.

But be aware that you should be doing it. Saying "I'm going to" is a good sign that its not going to happen or you aren't serious

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Do Less

Recently, I've been doling out advice to friends to do less. Although on the surface it sounds like bad, contradictory advice, I find in practice that it can be rather effective.

Let's take working out and getting in shape for example. I always like to go with a health & fitness example because the problem is universally understood and its a popular problem for most.

What do people usually do when they start off going to the gym?

There is some trigger for motivation. This causes them to sign up for a gym membership. They go hard for an hour each day for a week. They manage to keep this up for a month maybe until life catches up, the motivation is lost, and then they become too busy.

So how can doing less help?

Let's start with why. Peter Attia had a great insight that most people have not drilled down what they want out of their workouts. They have some sort of idea they should or need to go to the gym. But they don't really have a goal. Thats part of the problem. Peter recommends that, unless they are training for a specific sport or something, most people would do well to choose a goal as 'being the most fit 100 year old that they can be'. This changes everything. Because if this is the goal, the steps change completely. You are now focused on the long term. In a 100 year span, each workout is actually pretty meaningless. Similar to compound interest over a long period of time, the intensity of the workout means less, the consistency means a lot more.

I think it was James Clear that said when he was first starting on getting into shape, he would keep his working journal near his bed. If he hadn't worked out that day he would do 10 pushups before going to sleep and write it down. 10 pushups will not do anything for your body. However, it wasn't about the pushups. It wasn't the body he was training as much as the mind. If he did the 10 pushups he would be building a habit and identity; he would be the type of person that would do a workout everyday.

Along with this is the mental aspect of starting. The hardest part is starting. Once you put pen to paper and get some momentum you will probably crank out 500 words easily. Once you get to the gym you will do a workout. We usually don't have a problem doing work, we have a problem starting work. One of the ways to make things easier to start is to remove the barriers to start. Put the guitar right next to the couch, do a shitty first draft. In our case we don't want to expect a brutal workout, otherwise we will feel too tired for it. Instead if we only need 15 minutes for out workout, we have no excuses. Once we start maybe we do more.

The truth is that you don't have the time (its not a priority) to workout. Look at your actions, they are the truth. When you have to work late for work, or you want to join your friend for a movie, that workout doesn't get done - and that might be ok because those are higher priority for us, at least in the short term. So how do we solve this? The answer is to do less. It's not a priority to do a long, intense workout. Instead we need to limit it to the 20 minutes or even 10 minutes a day we can give it. So do less, because if you try to allocate an hour workout each day you will inevitably not be able to keep it up and then you will end up doing zero minutes - equivalent to risk of ruin, which is the worst outcome. But if you only allocate 15 minutes a day, you can probably stick to it. I'd even recommend not going to the gym since that alone might be 15 minutes and removing a commute will remove a barrier to starting. Obviously if you want to become ripped, you need to put in more time and more intensity. But we said our goal is to become a fit 100 year old whose body is not falling apart then we are ok with less.

It works because we overestimate what we can do in a day but underestimate what we can do in a year. It works because it helps us build habits. It helps us lower our barrier to entry and decreases the likeliness of burnout. Particularly for people who struggle with consistency, less is more.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Inspiration is Perishable

I haven't written a post in awhile. It's not that I didn't have any ideas that I wanted to share. I had them. We all have them. I'm inspired for a short while and I make a mental note of writing it later. But when later comes its gone. The reason I got around to it now is because I'm reading through this wonderful post by Naval Ravikant: There is so much gold in there but I'll just touch on this part for today:
"When you have your inspiration, do it right then and there... but sometimes I just hesitate, or I just pause, and it just dies." 
I always thought Nike had the perfect slogan but now I think it could be even more perfect if we add mind the time. If not, it will never happen. So

Just do it, now.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Enjoy the now

We are always striving to be somewhere else. If we are in school we are wishing that we are done with school. When we are working we are wishing for the day when we have enough money to stop working. If we are single we want to be married. If we don't have a house we can't wait until we can afford the down payment.

Which is all fine. But the problem is a lot of us delay our happiness and tie it to the new thing or the new state we will be in the future. We tell ourselves "I'll be happy when..."

But this kind of thinking is a trap. What makes you think you'll be happy when you get to that spot. It might be further along the path but just as before there is another hill in the distance, an even greener pasture.

This Alan Watts video put it beautifully. We keep thinking it's coming, it's coming.. one day we are going to get that success. And then one day we wake up and we are 40 realize, shit, it's not supposed to be like a journey where we are trying to get to the end. It's more like a musical or a dance, where we are supposed to fully enjoy it, every step of the way.

I'm a budding indie developer with very few customers, very little revenue. I'm going to try to enjoy this for as long as I can.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Hidden Costs

Just read this NYT article The Streets Were Never Free which talks about how there is a general perception that the use of public roads and parking spaces is free. For most commodities, when the demand of it goes up, the price of it goes up as well. However, not so for roads. Thus the congestion as everyone wants to use the roads during rush hour.

To clarify, most people do know that the streets are not actually free since their taxes pay for it, however since the cost is not directly paid each time, there is less of a direct association, and thus roads can seemingly seem free.

It reminds me of the recent news of China and India refusing to take America's trash. I think that has built a sense that producing waste is nearly free. People see the $50 that they pay to have their recycling and trash taken but the idea of environmental costs were largely hidden because it was someone else's problem.

Another way to put it is, because of the hidden costs and subsidies people don't have enough skin in the game. The tighter the feedback loop the better. Thus the congestion and the trash in our face will be a good thing long term as we will finally have to face up to the problem. The traffic isn't going to get better on its own. At what point is the 3+ hour commute just not worth it? Hopefully we don't need to wait to see the full effects of burning our plastics and trash before we take action.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Zero To One

Peter Theil wrote of the concept of Zero to One in his book titled the same. Here's the summary (thanks

Doing what someone else already knows how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But when you do something new, you go from 0 to 1.
 This concept explains why I still use my Nexus 5, a 5 year old phone, today. I could upgrade and go from 1 to 1+n (in my opinion n is a small number) but I don't really care. I can do (almost) everything with my current phone as with the latest. The new one is a bit faster, has a later os, fingerprint scanner, etc. Whatever its an incremental upgrade. Going from a non-smart phone to a smart phone was a 0 to 1 upgrade.

It also explains why companies that do go from 0 to 1 are super successful: they are doing something new and don't have competition. Another concept similar to this is Red Ocean / Blue Ocean. Imagine a red ocean where many sharks roam and there is blood in the water. This is like when there is a bloodbath of many companies all competing with each other. Then there is a the Blue Ocean where no companies are. If you successful thrive in the blue ocean than you will own all of it. Companies like Google and Facebook have done this.

However, beware of playing in the blue ocean or going from 0 to 1. Because of survivor-ship bias we don't see all the companies that played in the blue ocean and died because there was not enough opportunity there. Although its incredibly profitable, it also is incredibly difficult and risky. I've heard many recommendations that indie developers should stick to the red ocean because that means there there is a demand, the market is already validated. Indie developers do not have enough resources to work in the blue ocean. Doing this means not creating something new, not going from 0 to 1.

However, creating something completely new even for an indie dev is fun and still can be rewarding. 0 to 1 is an important concept to understand and all entrepreneurs should know where they stand and the tradeoffs.