”Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” – Salvator Dali
Before you start insulting me, let’s make something clear, I’m not talking about relationships. Let me explain myself. We all do things that doesn’t fit in our ideal life. The best examples are eating fast food, drinking alcohol, taking load of caffeine, watching TV, browsing the internet, playing video games or being lazy. The list could be longer, but you see the point. Tuesday, I’ve received my copy Fallout 4 by Amazon. For those, who don’t what I’m talking about, Fallout is post-apocalyptic video games. The game is huge and can easily suck you in for hours. I took my copy and put it aside. I wanted to make a simple experiment. I told myself that would only play saturday (for the whole day) if all the important stuff I wanted do would be done (gym, writing, reading and projects). Without committing myself, I would have easily spend all my free time playing and I’m not joking. To my surprise, I was way more productive that way. What I can see about that…
- My gaming experience was even better because I’ve delayed the reward. I was awaiting that moment all week.
- I wasn’t ashamed to play for my whole Saturday, because everything I wanted to be done, was finished.
- I did way more during my week by avoiding anything related to TV. I felt more satisfied about myself, therefore I was more happy and less stressed.
Cheating can also help you build habits. I love to drink Red Bull. I know it’s bad for the health. I remember in my college years, drinking 2 cans a day. Nowadays, I avoid it as much as possible. The best way that I used to stop was to let myself cheat once or twice a month. I’ve avoided the pain of removing what I like from my life, but at the same I’ve reduce so much the quantity I drink that it doesn’t have significant impact on my life.
Trying to be perfect is impossible. It’s a recipe for frustration. Let yourself deliberately cheat, not too much, but just enough.
“Without change something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.” – Duke Leto Atreides (Dune)
Deep inside, we fear change. We are afraid of going out of our comfort zone. Why do we feel that fear? It’s because what comes next is unknown. We can’t predict the future, therefore we cannot anticipate the chaos and turbulence that could happen in consequence. Still, it’s critical for each individual to embrace change.
Societies has evolved through time with revolutions, inventions, wars, new ideas and big changes. We aren’t where we are today because of stagnation. We are here because some people did it. They went beyond their threshold to make the human race evolve. Without changes, we would still be in the stone age.
It’s the same for each and every one of us. We need to confront fear. We need to go beyond the comfort zone. That’s the only way to grow. Stagnation was never the answer. Make the next chapter happen, whatever it is.
“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” – Isaac Asimov
What I’m about to say will look nerdish. I was checking at a PC game on Steam the other day, Crusader Kings II, for those of you who care about it. For the others, it doesn’t really matter. My friends talked about that game for the past three years. They always told me how much I would like it. A historical game of conquest…well I guess that is exactly the kind of stuff I like! Having a shitty laptop, I told them each time that sadly I couldn’t run the game.
The other night, I saw the demo online. I had a doubt. You know….kind of a “what if” situation. I downloaded the thing. I started the game and…it worked! IT FUCKING WORKED! I sent an sms to my friend telling him that I made probably the stupidest assumption of the decade. He found it very funny. And he told me something like our assumption are most often bad. My first thought was: “If I was wrong about that all the time, what else could I be wrong about?” Here we are.
It made me see that these kind of stupid assumptions can crawl into our brains and affect much more important stuff in our lives than a video game. What if you’re not making the most important move of your life because of that? It’s worth thinking about it.
“They criticize me for harping on the obvious; if all the folks in the United States would do the few simple things they know they ought to do, most of our big problems would take care of themselves.” – Calvin Coolidge
Have you ever search for your keys only to find out they were in your hand? The answer can be straight in our face and we can be blind to see it. What we search can be so obvious, it’s natural to look elsewhere.
A while ago, I was trying to find ways to improve my strenght at the deadlift and overhead press. My first instinct was trying to find shortcuts. Maybe a new supplement could be my savior? Maybe I could add a new assistant exercise to my training? What if I wasn’t stretching properly? You can see where this was going.
After thinking about it, I concluded that if I wanted to get stronger, I needed to do more strength. As simple as that. I’ve added a few sets of singles (doing the maximum for 1 rep) to each session and after a week I was already seeing a big difference. We often try to find shortcuts, hacks, tips, tricks or whatever. We want to find the easy way to do things, because we want to avoid the hard way.
You want more money? Instead of cancelling your Netflix account, you could just find an another job or ask for a raise. You need to lose weight, drinking Coca-Cola Zero won’t make a big difference. What you need is to eat less carbs period.
We don’t need the new cool apps, the next productivity hacks or that new trendy idea. What we need is to stop bullshiting ourselves for one moment and do what fucking matters.
We love to make predictions. But, clearly we are bad at making them. Take a look at sci-fi books from half a century ago and you’ll see that most of the predictions never happened.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a man was interviewed by the Time magazine. He said this:
Everything that can be invented has been invented.
That man was Charles H. Duell the commissioner of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Shortly after the interview, he resigned from his position.
The First World War was expected to last a few months. It finally last 4 years and around 8.5 millions people died. Making it the most violent conflict in history at that time. Nobody could predict that. And nobody could predict that it would happen again 21 years later.
Nassim Nicolas Taleb explain in Black Swan that we are often mistaking a naïve observation of the past as something definitive or representative of the future.
Last year, Warren Buffet offered 1 billion dollars for correctly guessing all the game of the NCAA March Madness. The result? Not a single soul won.
Most of my and your predictions are dead wrong. You don’t believe me? Start taking notes of every guess you make. You’ll see how bad you are. We have a problem of overrating the success of our forecast.
The end isn’t near. Maybe it is. We have no fucking clue about it. It’s as simple as that.
What is it about.
We are dumb and stupid. Our brains has much more limits than we think. This book explore those psychological limits that are also called “self delusions”. One of them being the narrative bias. It means that we all tell ourselves stories to stay sane. Everything we do and see in life must have a cause and effect. We often try to find meanings in sequences. We are champion of doing that when we study history. The author educate us about a sixteen other ways we fool ourselves. Get ready to read about the sunk cost fallacy, the Benjamin Franklin effect, the pluralistic ignorance and the backfire effect.
Why you should read it.
Knowing that your own brain has limits and changing the way you think can give you huge benefits in your daily activities. Everything in You Are Now Less Dumb can be applied in real life. I think that’s big plus about that book. You will learn about willpower, the importance of clothing, how to be happier, about the paradox of choice and how to take good decisions. Everything in the book is backed by psychological research.
The Bottom line.
Avoid the book if you are already a psychology junkie. It is a pop psychology book, not a PhD thesis. Otherwise, you’ll learn a lot of interesting stuff like I did. It’s easy and fun to read. The stories and the examples are originals. The author mention a good number of interesting sources. You’ll have further reading for a while.
Fun Factor: 8/10
David McRaney is also the author of You Are Not So Smart. He has an interesting blog and podcast of the same name.
“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.” – George Bernard Shaw
I’ve talked recently about the idea that a little knowledge can be dangerous. Knowledge is a fragile thing. We can be 100% certain about something, but in truth being totally wrong. Take a look in the past and you’ll see many obvious examples of what I’m saying.
We thought that the earth was flat and we were wrong. Medical history has a great record of how many stupid beliefs we had. Bloodletting was used as a treatment for almost 3000 years. Why did it persist for so long? Because of the social, economic and intellectual pressures.
The medical field isn’t the exception. We most likely believe in the wrong for many aspects of life. It’s hard to make society change an idea. In the 1980s, saturated fat was seen as bad for the health. The idea is still around today even if we have evidence of the opposite.
The problem isn’t just about what we know and don’t change. It is also about what we totally ignore. We might be doing things that could lead to irreversible damage by our ignorance. You should be aware of that blindness and remember that a Sword of Damocles might be above your head as you read those lines.