Categories
Education Productivity

Gall’s Law & System Components

“One essential characteristic of modern life is that we all depend on systems—on assemblages of people or technologies or both—and among our most profound difficulties is making them work.”

Atul Gawande (The Checklist Manifesto)

Systems are everything.

Our body is a system of organs, chemical reactions, and energy. There are a bunch of little integrated things happening within us all the time. Every cell inside our body is a system, every organelle is a system, ever molecule is a system, all the way down to the subatomic level there are systems.

But it doesn’t stop there, we can see systems on the macro level too. Our neighborhoods, cities, countries, and the entire planet are all systems. Systems can even be as big as galaxies, or the universe!

Systems also exist on a conversational level. In some of my other posts, I talk a little bit about how people live in the physical world, but also in the world of conversation. Some of these conversations share our reality. An example of these types of conversations are businesses. “Where is a business?” is a tricky question. The business doesn’t necessarily lie in the people, or the physical headquarters, but in an agreement and understanding between two people. Similar to our bodies and communities –

“Businesses are complex systems that exist within even more complex systems—markets, industries, and societies. A complex system is a self-perpetuating arrangement of interconnected parts that form a unified whole.”

Josh Kaufman (The Personal MBA)

Understanding systems, as an abstract idea, gives us the ability to apply our analysis and understanding to all other systems.

I learned a lot about systems when I was studying chemical engineering and used that knowledge to dive deeper into other fields.

I used my knowledge of systems to help me understand music, mathematics, medicine, social dynamics, education, economics, investing, writing, gaming, and so much more.

Understanding systems help us understand everything. Most systems have the same parts, can be analyzed and improved in similar ways, and follow the same set of rules.

Gall’s Law

“A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. The inverse proposition also appears to be true: a complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be made to work. You have to start over, beginning with a simple system.

John Gall (Systems Theorist)

Most of the systems we’ll encounter are complex. Way more complicated than we know, but according to systems theorist John Gall, all complex systems started from simple systems. This idea became known as Gall’s Law and is extremely useful when it comes to understanding systems.

Every system starts off simple and adds complexity over time.

I’ve watched this happen with the development of smartphones over the years. First, we started with just phones that just did good ol’ phone calls. Then we developed phones that could text, then play music, then browse the internet, then take pictures, then take videos, and now…they can do everything. My smartphone is my camera, periodic table, phone, tv remote, thermostat controller, and an infinite amount of other things.

The bottom line is that my devices are extremely complicated systems that can do a lot of amazing things, but they didn’t start off that way. In the beginning, they were just simple systems that did one thing, and over time we just added one thing here and one thing there and now we have miraculous systems.

I find keeping Gall’s Law in mind helpful when creating new systems. When I’m first starting something I just want to keep it short and simple, then add a little more over time.

How Understanding Systems Can Make Us Rich

I used Gall’s Law to create a money management system that allows me to accumulate wealth over time automatically, rather than constantly worrying about “trying to become rich” or “not having enough.”

The key is to start simple, then make it complex over time. I’m not going to go into too much detail here about how I manage my money (partly because my system has grown to be pretty complicated), but I will share the simple system I started to build my complex system upon. I put a percentage of my money in an investment account, and I don’t touch it. I don’t even have access to it unless I want to wait 3 days. I don’t want to touch the money, because I will need it later to build a more complex system later.

Now I know this doesn’t seem exciting or sexy, but this is how complex systems are built. One thing at a time, over a long period of time.

The key is to start with a simple system.

When I started my blog, I just tried to write 20 minutes every day and release 1 post per week. This is still the fundamental system of my blog today, but I write for 48 minutes per day 5 days a week instead.

When I started my YouTube channel, I just tried to make music for 20 minutes every day and release 2 beats per week. Over time, I started adding beat making videos, links to my beat store, and playlists of other videos. Now, my channel is much more complex than it was when I first started and I would not have been able to create that level of complexity right at the start. Trust me, I tried to and it ended in fire.

Components of a System

So what actually makes up a system?

Josh Kaufman does a beautiful job laying out how to understand, analyze, and improve systems in his book, The Personal MBA, and I highly recommend checking it out. Most of the stuff from this post are from his book. I’ll definitely be adding it to my Must-Read Book List once I get a chance.

If we want to build a simple system, then we have to know what the components of a system are. These 14 components can be found in every system, regardless of what the system does. We can find examples of each component in all industries.

Flow

Flow is easily thought of as the movement of resources through the system. Inflows move into the system. Outflows move out of the system.

Money is a common resource that flows in and out of business systems and water is a common resource that flows in and out of biological systems.

Stock

Stock, in the sense of systems, is a reserve of resources. Stock can be different for each system. For a business, stock can be money waiting to be used. For a restaurant, stock can be extra food in the back.

Slack

Slack refers to the amounts of resources available in the stock. On a personal note, I love slack. Slack isn’t inherently good, or bad. It depends on the system. For me, I’ve noticed that I make better creative work when I have more slack in my stock. I make better music and write better blog posts when I’m not up against the clock.

Constraints

Constraints are what prevents systems from achieving their goal. Israeli author, Eliyahu Goldratt, suggests that all systems always have at least 1 constraint limiting their ability to reach their goal. Eliminate the constraints and performance increases, simple as that.

Feedback Loops

I remember taking a biology class in my 2nd year of college and my professor explaining feedback loops to me for the first time. He said that if we can wrap our heads around feedback loops, then we’ll understanding 80% of biology. He was so right, understanding the feedback loop made learning biology a lot easier, but it also provided a framework for understanding so many other things too.

A feedback loop occurs when the output of a system is also an input. An excellent example of this is with the heart and blood pressure. Blood pressure is an output of the heart, but it’s also one of the inputs as well. The human body needs to maintain a certain blood pressure to survive. If it gets too low, then the heart will pump harder to get it back up. The blood pressure is determined by the heart, but the blood pressure also provides feedback to the heart.

A positive feedback loop is when a system receives feedback and produces more of its output as a result. We can see this in the example with the heart and low blood pressure. The heart is pumping more as a result of the feedback.

A negative feedback loop is when a system receives feedback and produces less of its output as a result. Our bodies also have negative feedback loops (because they’re systems!). Typically when our bodies become hot we start to sweat to cool us down, but if we were to become severely dehydrated then our bodies would stop sweating in order to keep as much water inside as possible. Our bodies will also shut down our ability to pee, just to keep in that water too! The body stops releasing water as a result of the feedback.

Autocatalysis

This describes a system where the outputs are the raw ingredients of the input.

Advertising is a great example of this. We spend $1000 dollars to make $2000 dollars. Now we can use $1000 again to buy more advertisements and make another $2000. Rise and repeat.

After reading a bunch of business books, I realize that a lot of entrepreneurs use autocatalysis type of systems to build wealth.

Environment

This is everything else that that system isn’t. Usually, the system lies within the environment. There is typically some sort of flow between the environment and the system. No system exists in the vacuum…unless you consider the entire universe as a system.

Selection Test

This refers to the environmental constraints that determine which systems perpetuate or end.

The phrase “survival of the fittest” is what people usually think of when they think of selection tests, but “death of the unfit” is probably a more accurate phrasing.

Selection Tests are absolute. If a system cannot adapt to the test, then it fails. If the system can adapt, then it thrives. Simple as that.

Uncertainty

Uncertainty is inherent to all systems. No one knows for sure what will happen in the future. But there is a distinction to be made from risk. The risk lies in the known unknowns, the things we know that we don’t know. Uncertainties are the unknown unknowns, the things we don’t know that we don’t know.

It’s helpful to keep in mind that we process the unknown the same way that we process threats. We literally see and respond to what we don’t know as a threat.

I know it’s hard, but try not to be completely afraid of the unknown.

Change

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882)

All systems have some dynamic quality to them — they are always changing. Knowing this, training ourselves to handle different kinds of circumstances is our best bet. If things are always changing, then we need to be resilient to match.

Interdependence

Some systems are linked to other systems. The more connected the systems are the more failures and delays will affect other systems. When we are dealing with systems, it’s crucial to keep in mind their effect on other systems and the systems that affect it. These connections are also known as dependencies.

The fewer dependencies the systems have, the lower the magnitude of effect on the other systems.

Some systems may not affect each other at all, but are both required to run a larger system. These systems are known as parallel processing.

Here’s a fun thought experiment that gets crazier the longer we think about it — the next time you get on a bus, think about all of the things that must have had to happen in order for the bus to get there on time. I promise, there is always more.

Counterparty Risk

Counterpart Risk describes the risk associated with the other party not following through on their end of the deal. Most systems require multiple parties and there are consequences when one party can’t or won’t deliver on what they promise.

If we outsource a task to a contractor and they don’t deliver their end, our entire project will get held up. Spotting counterparty risk is crucial in preparing for potential undesirable events as well as identifying good deals. Finding ways to mitigate this risk helps us keep our plans on track and lowers the chances for our systems to get derailed.

However, counterparty risk tends to increase when people try to plan for them. The best way to deal with counterparty risk is to have a plan of action in the event that the other party does not deliver on their end of the deal.

Second-Order Effects

These describe the consequences of the consequences of our actions, hence second-order. Every action has a consequence, and those consequences also have an affect on other things. Second-order effects are typically difficult to predict, stop, or reverse, but they always exist.

With this in mind, it’s wise to proceed with caution when we make changes to systems, especially complex ones. We may even get the opposite of what we expect.

Normal Accidents

We all know shit happens, and it’s no different in systems. Some days things don’t go the way we want. Especially in systems with high interdependence and complexity. The more interdependent and complex a system is, the more likely an accident is to occur.

Normal accidents can give us enormous insights into system interdependence and possible second-order effects.


Systems are everything and understanding their parts is crucial for building our own.

Gall’s Law shows us that we can create complex systems from starting small and gradually growing over time.

Each of the components I’ve gone over can be found in all (if not, most) systems, and I urge everyone who reads this to find other components of systems if possible. I’m not a systems theorist and it’s more than likely that there are other components I left out. These were the system components that Josh Kaufman went over his book, The Personal MBA, and they are a great foundation for building any kind of system you desire.

Identify these components in other systems. Use these as building blocks to create your own. What we can do with these tools is truly unlimited.

Categories
Education Productivity

The Transition Curve

“You realize that you will never be the best-looking person in the room. You’ll never be the smartest person in the room. You’ll never be the most educated, the most well-versed. You can never compete on those levels. But what you can always compete on, the true egalitarian aspect to success, is hard work. You can always work harder than the next guy.”

Casey Neistat (1981- )

Beginner’s luck — it’s totally a thing. There’s actually an entire pathway that illustrates our levels of competence when we learn a new skill. This pathway easily explains the stages from day 1 to total mastery, The Transition Curve was developed as a result from a study at Cranfield University School of Management.

The study suggests that the transition curve can be applied to the individual and organizational level. So people and companies would follow something similar to this pathway whenever they are learning something new.

The transition curve shows competence and confidence levels over time. This is scientific evidence for the idea that:

At first you’re going to stuck, but if you keep practicing you will get better.

or the age old dictum:

Practice makes perfect.

I found that this curve to be pretty accurate with my own personal experience too. I’ve gone through these stages with multiple skills. It was true when I was learning how to play the guitar, bass, drums, ukulele, produce music, tutor, write, drive, be an EMT…you name it.

Stae Jez Ov Comp Pe Taunce (2019) – Christopher S. Mukiibi

The Stages of Transition

Shock

When we are first introduced to a new activity we are shocked that we encounter something that we are unable to do. It sounds arrogant, but it’s true. It’s surprising to encounter something that we don’t know how to handle. Check out the slight dip that happens right at the beginning of the curve. That’s from the shock. We usually start off decent at most skills, but the shock from being confronted by unexpected circumstances throws us off our game a little bit.

Note – the more unexpected the new skill or circumstance the larger the initial dip in competence

I like to think that we’re pretty tough cookies, and it’s true because most people don’t usually quit during this stage.

Denial

We deny that we’re bad at something and it actually makes us perform a little better but eventually our delusions get the better of us and our competence starts to decline.

Barring the incredibly few exceptions — without hours of deliberate practice and mistakes, we cannot be highly competent at anything. Any skill worth mastering will be difficult and anything difficult will take time to master. Do not let the guise of a slight short term improvement delude you into thinking that you have mastered something.

Awareness of Incompetence

Awareness of our incompetence starts to dig at us. Our confidence and competence plummets. We start feeling worse and worse about our abilities. This is where most people will get trapped and stop practicing a skill. This is where the quitters get off the train.

This stage is where all the convincing excuses will come up. “I’m not a ___ person anyway.” “This is way too hard.” “This is pointless.” “I’m too busy for this.” The list is endless.

I think the best way to get through this stage is to know that difficult times are coming and they will pass. Keep practicing and remember that every urge to quit is just a trap preventing us from learning something new.

Acceptance

Once we’ve hit rock bottom, we finally accept that we don’t know how to do this. This allows us to learn as much as we can about it with minimal egoic resistance. This can be a brutal place. Rock bottom is lovely for our growth and development but it feels terrible when we are there and is often hard to recognize too. So that leads me to the question:

Why do we have to reach rock bottom before we start getting better?

There are many reasons. One is to breakdown the ego which can prevent us from taking in new information. Another is because we don’t understand the dangers of our actions. Rock bottom is a natural place, so don’t be spooked once you’re there. We can try to avoid it, but true mastery comes after we’ve risen from the ashes.

I believe some of the lessons to be learned from hitting rock bottom are:

  • humility
  • discipline
  • rigor
  • consistency
  • tenacity
  • there are so many that they need their own blog post…

It’s one thing to read about these lessons or keep them in mind for others, but it is another thing entirely to internalize these lessons from life experience. Go out and make mistakes. Learn as much as you can.

Testing

This is when we start applying the new things we learn, smoothing out the rough edges, and learning from our mistakes.  We start to see the big things that we do which prevent us from being competent and correct them accordingly. We start to toss out techniques or perspectives only held by novices.

If we are tenacious enough to get to this stage, then us could consider ourselves “official” students of the craft. We’ll experience the most growth and strength from this stage and the next. According to Nietzsche, “People do not seek pleasure and avoid displeasure. People seek more power and in the will of that seek resistance. For aiming at a lofty goal and being thwarted in that pursuit builds strength within us.” When we see our actions move us towards a goal we feel happy, but we feel even better when we meet resistance while trying to reach that goal. This stage is filled with opportunities for that level of growth. Our competence is really low here but we feel pretty good striving to be better.

Search for Meaning

Once we get decent at this skill, we start to dissect why certain methods work and others do not. All the hours of trial and error, along with the deliberate practice, gives us a clearer understanding of how to be competent. We use multiple perspectives and experiences to synthesize our results and draw conclusions as to why certain techniques work. Now, we can really develop ourselves strategically within a skill.

Once we know why we are doing something, we are able to apply our knowledge in various situations. My girlfriend tells me that’s what real intelligence is — the ability to apply knowledge in different situations. In terms of The Transition Curve, this stage is a fun place to be.

Integration

In this stage, we have found ways to weave this skill into our everyday lives. We take our competence (consequently raising our confidence) to a place higher than ever when we internalize the knowledge and skills required for mastery. A thorough understanding of strategies, hours of deliberate practice, and a steady foundation of the fundamentals can take us here. This is the ideal stage and where we want to be with everything we learn. It’s the best place to work from. Your skill takes less energy to execute and you are able to maneuver well through complication situations.

So what does this all mean?

There are stages to learning something new, similar to grief or change. These stages are temporary and will pass with dedicated practice and a rigorous commitment to learning.

Learning about The Transition Curve has helped me get some clarity around why I felt like I was on a rollercoaster every time I was learning something new.

Know the tough times are coming. Prepare for them. Meet them with a strong belief in yourself. Work diligently. Master everything.

Categories
Education Uncategorized

Why Education Matters

“A single day among the learned lasts longer than the longest life of the ignorant.”

Posidonius (135 BC – 51 BC)

When I was a little boy my parents taught me to highly value education because it can yield power, money, and a “good” life. But most importantly, value education because no one can take it away from you.

They taught me that my education was one of the most important investments I could ever make for myself.

Because no matter which path I chose, I must get educated. The musician’s education is in the stage. The baller’s education is on the court. The doctor’s education in the classroom and with patients.

As I got older, I saw that education is all of that and much much more.

Education is more than just memorizing y=mx+b or dates in a history class. Education is training yourself to take on a mission worth of your talents and inner greatness. It’s learning how to act when you come across something that you don’t understand or don’t want to do. It is, as far as I know, the key to freedom.

So I worked hard in school. I paid close attention. I took the AP and IB classes. I went to college. Majored in something practical. Graduated. I did what my teachers, counselors, and professors told me and my parents supported that. I wanted a great education and all of the things that came with it.

But when pop and circumstance faded out and everyone stopped comparing their post-college opportunities, a subtle disappointment shrouded the moment of reflection when I looked at my degree.

I felt like school has failed me and everyone else too. It was painful to admit, but getting the degree didn’t seem to help me prepare for the world. I was constantly presented with problems that I had no idea how to solve.

 School taught me nothing about:

  • how to apply for a mortgage
  • how to open up a 401(k) or Roth IRA
  • how to buy a car
  • how credit works
  • how to grocery shop
  • how to cook
  • how my own cognitive bias affects me
  • how to find good books
  • how to raise happy children
  • how to get to know myself
  • how to help family members struggling with money
  • how to cope with drug abuse
  • how to live purposefully
  • how to have honest conversations
  • how to be a professional
  • how to navigate our world in terms of the Internet
  • and so many other things!

I forreal could go one forever. I was so upset that I spent nearly two decades in school and came out with about 5 years worth of useful knowledge.

(Side note: while I felt like college didn’t provide me with a worthwhile education, it still grew me in ways that I would have never imagined and I’m so grateful for it. I was thrown in so many different situations [some crazier than most] and I had the opportunity to see the world from many different perspectives.)

I was so hurt when I realized that I was not let down by my teachers but by the momentum of my culture. I was set up for failure and the generation before me couldn’t have seen it coming and prepared me for it.

The world has been changing faster than any other time in human history and the people responsible for teaching me how to act properly had no idea how to do it.

They were responsible for teaching me something that they had no idea how to navigate themselves. Sounds like a lose-lose situation.

In their time, the way to success was through a formal education. While a formal education still has its value, there are many things to consider now with the change of times.

There is a fundamental flaw in the structure of our schools.

School schedules mimic the hours of a typical 9 to 5 job:

  • Start in the AM.
  • Take your 10 minute break roughly 2-3 hours in
  • Patiently wait for the arbitrarily divided units of time to pass….
  • Lunch around the 5th hour.
  • Continue to patiently wait for the arbitrarily divided units of time to pass…
  • Go home.
  • Repeat.

Why?

During the industrial revolution, the school systems were designed to educate as many people as possible in order to employ at the factories that were growing at massive rates. This meant the lil future factory workers got accustomed to their schedule early and were taught enough to function on an assembly line.

This system was effective, and it helped launch the United States of America into an even bigger revolution. There are many names for it (i.e. The Information Age, The Internet Revolution, The Age of The Internet Information Revolution), but what ever you want to call it, it is amazing. Today, not knowing something is a matter of choice. We have the ability to learn anything at any moment. We can know almost everything that everyone else knows. We have the ability to talk to anyone anywhere at anytime (for the most part). We can be anything and faster than ever.

The only problem (well, not the only problem) is that we have used the same educational system since the last revolution.

WE HAVE NOT UPDATED OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM SINCE THE LAST TECHNOLOGICAL REVOLUTION.

I’m not a history buff, but I’m pretty sure it takes a while before revolutions come about and in that while, WE HAVE NOT UPDATED OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM.

We need tools to deal with the new world and the new digital revolution. We need a way to teach adolescents how to build successful lives.

I believe that this responsibility fell onto the schools, but since they dropped the ball, the responsibility falls upon ourselves to go out and seek the education we need and deserve.

“The way you teach your kids to solve interesting problems is to give them interesting problems to solve. And then, don’t criticize them when they fail. Because kids aren’t stupid. If they get in trouble every time they try to solve an interesting problem, they’ll just go back to getting an A by memorizing what’s in the textbook. I spend an enormous amount of time with kids . . . I think that it’s a privilege to be able to look a trusting, energetic, smart 11-year-old in the eye and tell him the truth. And what we can say to that 11-year-old is: ‘I really don’t care how you did on your vocabulary test. I care about whether you have something to say.”

Seth Godin (1960 – )

Utilizing the resources at hand (a.k.a. the internet), I took it upon myself to fill in the gaps of my education in order to not just survive in the modern world, but to thrive in it.

Education is important but our current institutions are not fit in their current state to properly prepare the next generation to thrive.

Sooner or later, parents have to take responsibility for putting their kids into a system that is indebting them and teaching them to be cogs in an economy that doesn’t want cogs anymore. Parents get to decide…

Seth Godin (1960 – )
Jordan Peterson captures a few of the failings in the modern education systems. Starts around 2:23 ends at 5:08.

The truth is we are not going to change our schools overnight, and by no means am I suggesting for students to stop attending school. But, I believe the world and life can be an easier journey as long as we know how to deal with it.

School is an opportunity to train ourselves in the face of things we don’t want to do.

Why we do want to practice doing things we don’t want to do?

Because life is filled with those things. Ask anyone. It is so important to know ourselves as the type of people who can get things done, especially in tough times.

The road to anything worthwhile is filled with hurdles that you don’t want to jump.

˙ǝʌıʇɔǝdsɹǝd uı ǝƃuɐɥɔ ɐ ʇsnɾ ˙ʇɟıɥs ǝɯɐɹɟ ɐ s,ʇı

We should all aim to:

  • read well.
  • write well.
  • think critically.
  • develop our characters.
  • build our best selves.

But our education can’t stop there. I honestly believe everyone should go out and find their own education.

Be disciplined and curious. Don’t stop until you get an answer that satisfies your hunger.

It’s a difficult task but it’s a beautiful journey (and fun too) and I want to help you do that.

If we don’t know where to start we can look to all of the great works that our culture has considered to be great and form our own opinions. Writer, Seth Godin, gives two starting points:

I think we need to teach kids two things: 1) how to lead, and 2) how to solve interesting problems. Because the fact is, there are plenty of countries on Earth where there are people who are willing to be obedient and work harder for less money than us. So we cannot out-obedience the competition. Therefore, we have to out-lead or out-solve the other people. . . .

Seth Godin (1960 – )

It’s my dream that one day there will be actual programs and establishments to help guide youth from being good students to great leaders (I’m trying to build them). But until then, we must make the best of our situations and take charge of what we know.

We can turn this revolution into a second Enlightenment, or at least something similar, in the sense that everyone is synthesizing massive volumes of information and transforming the world for the better. I honestly believe that a person can accomplish what Leonardo da Vinci accomplished in his lifetime in less than 15 years with today’s resources.

But we use most of it for consumption. It’s really a damn shame. We have the means to create a beautiful new world in a way that has never been done before. I want everyone to bring out their inner da Vinci and I believe the way is through a proper education.

Everyone can be like da Vinci, but better. Education unlocks our potential and I hope my content can help at least one person see the true power of education.

Categories
Education Lifestyle Productivity

Understanding Change

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

Lao Tzu (601 BC – 531 BC)

I totally get that it’s possible to write multiple books and courses on how to initiate and facilitate change, but this post is an approach meant to explore our understanding of how our minds deal with change. With this understanding comes the ability to manipulate ourselves into helping us break the habits we don’t want and start the habits we do.

I like to think of change as a function of two separate processes.

The 1st: Knowing what to change into, a.k.a. Setting the Stage

The 2nd: Overcoming the resistance to change.

Setting the Stage

It’s not enough to want to change. You have to know what you want to change into. We can’t change into new clothes without having new clothes.

Two Schools of Thought

When it comes to thinking about setting the stage for change there are two schools of thought that tend to dominate most of the conversation.

The first are people who think they need to change everything about themselves. They don’t know enough and do everything wrong. These people usually don’t want any new undertakings since they see themselves as someone who isn’t capable.

The second are people who think they don’t need to change at all. They know everything and are oblivious to their mistakes. These people are usually arrogant, bite off more than they can chew, and rarely achieve anything substantial.

Most people fall somewhere in between.

How much change do you believe you need to make?

People who think like the former group, may have more to work with than they think and will probably want to focus on optimizing the skills and knowledge they already have.

People who think like the latter group, may want to reevaluate their value structures and ask themselves if they are still working properly. If you think your life is perfect, then they are working just fine, but to be honest no one’s life is perfect so let’s not pretend.

BUT…before you go and change everything, you will probably want to ask yourself:

“If I were to change and get my intended result, what would that do for me?” 

I got this question from Russell Brand and it is great because it gives us the real answer to focus on. Usually it isn’t the good grades that’s going to make us happy. It might be the feeling of accomplishment after completing something really hard or peace of mind knowing that you are doing everything right.

After asking myself this question, I found that a lot of the things I wanted to change about myself had overlapping benefits if they were completed and this helped me focus in on the few things I really needed to change.

This is also a great question because I see it as a sort of “cheat code” to life. Instead of focusing on what we think the problem is, we shift our focus to the source of what we want and go after that instead.

I asked myself this question last month when I was confronting my own physical Everest. I’ve always been skinny and I wanted to put on a few pounds to bulk up for summer. So instead of telling myself “I NEED to get buff!” I asked myself “If I were to get buff, what would that do for me?” and I realized that I wanted to get buff to earn the respect of others, feel more confident in myself, and be physically stronger. Spoiler Alert: I didn’t get buff. But, learning this new insight gave me the opportunity to focus on earning the respect of others, feeling more confident, and becoming physically stronger. I’m not saying we shouldn’t accomplish any goal we think we want to accomplish, I’m just saying be crystal clear on why we want to change ourselves.

Overcoming the Resistance

It is difficult for us to change because our pathological tendencies in adulthood were developed as solutions to problems when we were younger. We resist to let go of these tendencies because our identity is developed from these tendencies and we cling to them for self preservation. Therefore, changing requires intense effort for long periods of time and during that time one should expect to feel a gang of negative emotions. The negative emotions don’t mean that we’re on the wrong path, but on the right one.

Whenever we want to change, our brain looks for reasons to not.

According to Ramit Sethi, a NYT Best Selling Author who’s also received his Masters in Sociology from Stanford:

3 Manifestations of Doubt

  1. What if-ing – these can illicit powerful emotions from you but keep in mind that these scenarios are not always valid reasons to give in to doubt “everyone who’s created something valuable — whether it’s an online business, a work of art, even a great speech — faced doubts like these. The difference is, they trusted themselves enough to acknowledge these doubts, then set them aside and took action.”
  2. Slicing the Pie – the next easiest crutch for us to lean on is saying “I don’t have time” or “I can’t afford that” when we all have the same 24 hours in a day and can save money for the things we find important. Pay attention to the VALUE and vs. the cost of something. Keep in mind the cost of missing out as well. Ask yourself “how can I make time for this?” Or “how can I afford this?”
  3.  Alibi-hunting – people love to hunt for an alibi to use to not take action. And once they found an obscure reason not to join, suddenly they felt liberated to justify their inaction. Special Snowflake Syndrome. “I can’t do X because I have this super special situation that doesn’t allow me any freedom to do X.”

When we do something new for the first time we experience cognitive dissonance because our brain thinks we are doing something wrong but over time we will habituate. Anyone who’s tried to brute force change a behavior knows what I’m talking about. Mantras and affirmations helps override this cognitive dissonance. Tell yourself that you are doing the right thing and tell yourself often. There are other ways to hack our mind’s compliance systems.

Six Methods to Engineer Compliance (When Logic Fails Us) according to Tim Ferriss:

  1. Make it Conscious – mindfulness. Be aware and intentional when trying to start a new habit. Accidental habits are usually the worst for us.
  2. Make it a Game – stickiness of 5 sessions. Reward yourself when you get to 5 sessions of a new habits. According to Nike, it only takes 5 logged sessions of an activity to make it a new habit. Go for five. 🖐🏾
  3. Make it Competitive – fear of loss and benefit of comparison. It sucks to lose and its great to win. Adding a competitive element to whatever you do creates a natural Tracking-Loss Aversion dynamic but also brings another person into the mix for accountability. I’d say this is the most effective method Tim recommends.
  4. Make it Small and Temporary – easy and quick. If the new habit is little and doesn’t take much time, then you’ll have a higher success rate implementing it in your life. Anyone can do anything for two weeks but you don’t even have to commit yourself for that long. Just aim for the five sessions and watch yourself make progress.
  5. Lower Your Standards – lower your standards until you can start. Start with micro assignments. Can’t study a whole chapter for math? No worries, just do one problem. Can’t read that book for English? No worries, just read a page. Make the bar so low that starting is cake, then when let the momentum take you. IBM had the lowest quotas in the industry; there is a correlation between low standards and high performance.
  6. Keep Things Simple – I believed that I could handle complex things well and that gave me a competitive advantage since the games I played had a high barrier to entry and I could win but then realized that I’m just fighting myself. “What might this look like if it was easy?” – complexity can come later, but if it is complex at the beginning you will not want to do it.