Lead and Be Strong In Your Decision-making

Being strong and firm in your choices and decisions is a valuable skill to master.

It is a skill because in a world that is abundant with options, it can be really difficult to a) choose in the first place, b) be confident that the choice you made is the right one, and c) stick with your decision once you’ve made it and not “flake” on it.

Perhaps more importantly, an opportunity cost of deciding is time and there’s always another option where you could spend it better, spend it elsewhere, or simply to save it.

Because time is indeed a precious resource.

You have probably noticed how the importance of time trickles into and manifests itself in everyday language.

You spend time with people.

You try to find time.

People who would like some of your time ask politely whether you have a moment to spare?

There is no time like the present, so why waste it on trying to decide?

As Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice puts it:

“Time spent dealing with a choice is time taken away from being a good friend, a good spouse, a good parent, and a good congregant.”

You also expend precious mental resources when trying to decide.

In my earlier posts on willpower, you will realise that using up your willpower and decision-making capabilities on one decision means you will have less to use for the other decision.

That’s why Barry urges us to:

“learn to be selective in exercising our choices. We must decide, individually when choice really matters and focus our energies there, even if it means letting many other opportunities pass us by. The choice of when to be a chooser may be the most important choice we have to make.”

And it’s not just trying to make a decision that uses up your willpower, merely thinking about making the decision will have the same effect.

The problem of abundant choice in the world rears its ugly head in the most inconspicuous of situations.

Like on a night out.

In his book Behavioral Economics Saved My Dog, behavioural economist Dan Ariely tackles this topic and comes up with a decent solution.

“When someone asks what do you want to do tonight?, what they are implicitly saying is: What is the most exciting thing we can do tonight, given all the options and all the people involved?

The problem is that figuring out the absolute best solution (the optimal solution) is very difficult.

First, we need to bring to mind all the possible alternatives; next we need to work out our preferences and the preferences of all the people in the group.

Then we have to find the one activity that will maximise this set of constraints and preferences.”

Okay so once you’ve gone through these motions – what’s next?

Ariely suggests:

“To overcome this problem, I would set a rule that limits the amount of time you are allowed to spend searching for a solution, and I would choose a default activity in case you fail to come up with a better option.

For example, take an acceptable good activity (going to drink at X, playing football at Y) and announce to your friends that, unless someone else comes up with a better alternative, in ten minutes you are all heading out to X or Y.

I would also set up a timer on your phone to make it clear that you mean business and to make sure that the time limit is honoured.

Once the buzzer sounds, just start heading out to X or Y, asking everyone to come with you and tell the people who do not join you immediately that you will meet them there. 

After repeating this tactic a few times, your friends will get used to it and you should experience an end to this wasteful habit.”

What you can do

It’s tough making decisions.

But sometimes, among all the options that you’re considering, it doesn’t necessarily matter what you choose.

Dan Ariely explains why:

“The larger point is that once we have spent a substantial amount of time on a decision, and we still can’t work out which option is the best, it must mean that the overall value of the competing options is more or less the same. It is not that the options are identical, but that the difference in their overall quality is hard to distinguish.” 

So if – on a night out for example – you’re having trouble deciding between option A, B, and C which are identical in value then save yourself the trouble and just choose any option.

You’d be surprised to notice that once you’ve confidently made the decision to go to place A and lead the group, that option somehow becomes more valuable because it’s moved the interaction forward.

And your unwavering confidence in your decision and you’re enthusiasm about your choice rubs off on your group of friends.

And more often than not, the choice you made turns out to be the right one.

P.S. Thanks for reading. If you liked this, feel free to sign up to my email list.

Build Your Own Empire

I understand when someone talks about their struggles in trying to escape.

In trying to escape both the physical poverty they were born in to…

And the paralysing self-doubt and debilitating mental poverty that continues to stifle their growth and self-development way into their 20’s and beyond.

In a banned MTV interview with Tupac Shakur, 2Pac shares a powerful message:

When you’re born, usually you’re born into a dynasty or an empire (…) following in your father’s, grandfather’s footsteps. You’re always told “oh your father, your grandfather did this” so we got this, the family heirlooms…

There’s none of that in the outer city. I call it the outer city ’cause we left out. There’s no nothin’.

We didn’t get any family heirlooms, the family crest…all of that stuff that you would think was so important was meaningless. I mean come on – our family crest was cotton (…)

The only thing we could leave behind is culture, is music, dignity, and determination. That’s all we had.

I feel as though I’m cheated because instead of me fulfilling my prophecy, I have to start one. Instead of doing a good job and carrying on an empire, I have to build one. 

And that’s a helluva’ job for a twenty-one year old. That’s a helluva’ job for any youngster, male or female, to have to build an empire for your family.

Especially when the odds are that you know that somebody else who lives in the inner city – the real inner city, suburbia – who, when he’s born at 16 he gets a car, [it’s] automatic. There’s money in the bank for college, for Christmas you go for vacation somewhere…”

Skip to 3:17-4:43 to watch the bit of the interview relevant to this post, but I urge you to watch the whole thing. It’s illuminating.

Build an empire

It’s easy to get bitter about not getting the springboard to an awesome life that you deserve or to whine and complain about how easy others have it while for you it’s always been an uphill battle.

You can wallow in self-pity, be bitter or angry about the fact that others get things handed to them with no resistance while you’re constantly struggling – but that’s life.

The gazelle can complain about the lion until it goes blue in the face.

Ain’t nothing gonna change.

Accept it.

Own who you are and where you come from.

Adjust your beliefs to enable you to function in the objective world – not in the idealised, fantasy world of how you wish the world to be.

Because you are not entitled to anything and the world owes you nothing.

If you want something – you have to go to get it.

Though you may have escaped or are still yet to escape the physical poverty you might be living in, you also have the job of having to de-programme yourself from the mental poverty that you were conditioned into from a very young age.

Because you can’t build an empire on shaky foundations.

Develop an inner directness whereby you yourself decide how to live and develop the necessary metal support structures to help you along your way like a strong self-confidence, self-assuredness, and high self-esteem.

Those things don’t come from reading only.

You need action; what you do will change how you think.

And you need to win small victories to climb the mountain.

But it’s definitely possible – you can still build an empire.

You’ll just have to work harder for it.

But the best thing about is that it’ll be your very own.

P.S. Thanks for reading. If you liked this, feel free to sign up to my free weekly newsletter.

Build on Your Strengths (Don’t Waste Time on Your Weaknesses)

This is what Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s right-hand man and investment partner, has to say about building on your strengths.

“You have to figure out what your own aptitudes are. If you play games where other people have the aptitudes and you don’t, you’re going to lose. And that’s as close to certain as any prediction that you can make. You have to figure out where you’ve got an edge. And you’ve got to play within your own circle of competence.

If you want to be the best tennis player in the world, you may start out trying and soon find out that it’s hopeless—that other people blow right by you. However, if you want to become the best plumbing contractor in Bemidji, that is probably doable by two-thirds of you. It takes a will. It takes the intelligence.

But after a while, you’d gradually know all about the plumbing business in Bemidji and master the art. That is an attainable objective, given enough discipline.

And people who could never win a chess tournament or stand in center court in a respectable tennis tournament can rise quite high in life by slowly developing a circle of competence—which results partly from what they were born with and partly from what they slowly develop through work.”

Working on your weaknesses can be a waste of time.

It’s more work than it’s worth. If you don’t have a natural talent for it, why force it?

So:

“Double down on your strengths” – Gary Vaynerchuk

But be careful with how you interpret this advice. 

Some would use it as an excuse not to focus on things they’re just not good at.

For instance, in high school you can’t just forget about studying maths.

You have to be self-aware in assessing how much effort you have to put in to bring that area up to some respectable level.

Sure, this comes at the expense of focusing your energies on your strengths.

But once you don’t need maths (e.g. because you’re going to studying English literature at university), you’ll be able to shift your focus to the qualities you think make you stand out most.

And if you build on your aptitudes enough, your weaknesses won’t matter.

You will have compensated for them.

Build on your strengths because that will yield the most results.

P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to my email list.

Know Thyself: A Psychological Tendency Worth Knowing About

 

Cognitive dissonance is the tension caused by holding two conflicting ideas.

Here’s Nir Eyal, author of Hooked, who perfectly summarises the idea with the aid of an age-old fable:

“In a classic Aesop’s fable, a hungry fox encounters grapes hanging from a vine. The fox desperately wants the grapes.

Yet as hard as he tries, he cannot reach them. Frustrated, the fox decides the grapes must be sour and that therefore he would not want them anyway.

The fox comforts himself by changing his perception of the grapes because it is too uncomfortable to reconcile the thought that the grapes are sweet and ready for the taking, and yet he cannot have them.

To reconcile these two conflicting ideas, the fox changes his perception of the grapes and in the process relieves the pain of what psychologists term cognitive dissonance.”

When you’re experiencing cognitive dissonance, it can affect you in different ways. I’ll talk about two of the major ways it can influence you in your daily life.

The Experiment

Cognitive dissonance was presented in an experiment by Leon Festinger and his colleague.

Students entered a lab and were asked to do a boring task.

They were bored out of their minds.

After the experiment, the experimenter asked if the student would lie to another participant who was waiting outside to participate. The student was asked to say that the study was in fact lots of fun and not boring at all.

One group of students was paid $20 to lie to another participant.

The other group was paid $1.

What happened?

The students that were paid $20 were fine with lying to the other unsuspecting participants.

They went on and on about how whimsical and enticing the actually boring experiment was.

They felt comfortable for lying just for the money. In other words, being paid that much was sufficient justification to lie.

And when these students were asked later on if they enjoyed the task, they bluntly replied that it was boring.

The students that were paid $1 were different.

Getting paid just $1 to lie to other participants wasn’t enough of a justification to lie.

They did so anyway but the important part about this is that they ended up convincing themselves that the experiment was fun.

After the entire experiment, when they were asked if the experiment was fun, they said that it was.

Why?

The students that were paid $1 had two discrepant thoughts:

“This task is boring” and “I’m being paid just $1 to lie.”

These conflicting, discrepant thoughts caused tension (i.e. dissonance).

To reduce this tension, they fundamentally changed their opinion about the dullness of the task.

They had to because thinking about how only $1 was enough to bribe them to lie was too uncomfortable a thought to have.

Here’s the full experiment in more detail:

Here’s a thought…

The danger about people working in low-paying jobs is that cognitive dissonance may arise in the same manner as it is showed in the following Dilbert cartoon strip:

dilbert-cognitive-diss.jpg
“Dilbert” by Scott Adams

One final, even more realistic hypothetical scenario:

Imagine you hate your job.

But you’re still going through the motions in that job.

Why?

Well, you might start persuading yourself that it’s comfortable, familiar, pays okay, that going to find another job would be too much hassle, and that it’s actually not that bad really.

It’s actually not that bad, really…

Know Thyself

If you’re not satisfied with something in your life, don’t rationalise the problem away.

Now that you know about cognitive dissonance, you are now conscious of the mental gymnastics we are wired to go through and the tricks your mind can play on you if you let it.

Re-wire, de-programme.

Don’t fall for this trick.

Because if you do, ultimately – the joke’s on you.

P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to my email list.

Review: Manage Your Day-to-Day.

Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Focus, Find Your Routine, & Sharpen Your Creative Mind Review

What Manage Your Day-to-Day did for me 

Upon starting whatmybrosaid, I became really interested with the idea of habits, structure, routine, and deep focus. 

I was on the look out for valuable advice and any practical tricks about juggling the various projects and undertakings I had going on.  

I wanted to be the type of person who was able to have multiple projects going on.

I wanted to be the type of person who was getting stuff done and being insanely productive all the while not compromising on time for play.

This book doesn’t offer a productivity system, but it offers valuable insights into the human condition from which these tips and tricks stem from.

And these tips and tricks are pretty universal as they help you tend to various areas of your life without neglecting any. 

It’s the little things.

Like:

Make use of the entire day.

Wake up in the morning.

If you want to improve your creativity, start writing at the beginning of the day.

That context and habits matter – creativity doesn’t just come but it can be elicited (this one was a major thing for me…I even wrote a super popular post about this subject)

Or that energy and willpower are vital things to take into account when planning your workload.

And lots of valuable advice on unplugging and taking the time to recharge so as to restore balance to your life, and why it’s important to find moments of pure solace in the age of hyper connectivity.

The devil really is in the details.

And this book is all about details.

Details that add up to broader picture of overarching success and productivity.

For me it was also a nice bonus that all the book was a joint effort.

That is, different types of writers, from various fields, whether it be from the world of film-making, business, or behavioural economics all used their unique voices and styles to add value to this great book.

By reading so many different, versatile styles, you learn what type of writing you like to read and notice how totally sometimes drastically different styles can still speak to you.

I find this quite cool because you’d have to read a few books in a row to reach a similar conclusion.

What Manage Your Day-to-Day can do for you

This is a playbook of ideas that will help you:

~ Improve your productivity,

~ Tweak your schedule to achieve a better structure in your life,

~ Optimise your work and gain control of your workflow,

~ Create an environment for yourself that would foster creativity,

~ Carve out time and energy for everything you want to do in a day.

On the whole, this little powerful book will give you a huge productivity boost.

It will open your eyes as to just how much you can accomplish in a single day. 

Why Manage Your Day-to-Day works

An impressive list of contributors shared their hard-earned nuggets of wisdom in this little book.

People like Dan Ariely or Scott Belsky who have enjoyed huge successes in their careers offer tips on how to perfect your routine, implement more structure into your life, or improve your creativity.

It’s all trial tested advice.

They are normal people who share many commonalities with you and me but for some reason excel at what they do.

And these reasons are in here.

If you want to be successful, just model success. 

P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to the whatmybrosaid email list for more posts like this.

Lessons Learnt From Cooking New Recipes

Growth occurs at the boundaries of our capabilities.

As part of my 2016 New Year’s Resolution, I decided to cook a special meal once a week.

These recipes weren’t supposed to be easy or difficult. They were supposed to be challenging. The unknown is challenging. Cooking something new is exactly that.

And one of my first realisations was that cooking well is hard.

It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.

– Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own (1992)

Don’t get me wrong, I considered myself to be a good cook. I knew how to cook a juicy steak. How to cook well-seasoned, succulent chicken breasts.

Through persistent trial and error, I feel I’ve nearly perfected cooking fluffy, flaky white rice.

But ever since I started my challenging myself as a cook by trying to spark up new dishes, me being a ‘good cook’ has become an extremely fluid concept. 

And as you can expect in trying times – I had a few realisations and the first is this:

We might think we’re good in some areas of our lives…

But once we actually put those skills to the test, we realise we have a long, long way ahead of us if we want to achieve actual greatness.

I very quickly realised that I was far away from practicing culinary wizardry.

And the worst thing is that when I failed the first few times at cooking these new dishes – I started doubting myself in every other area of life.

I started thinking what a poor cyclist I am…wh-what has that got to do with anything?

But I just laughed these ruminations off.

It’s very important to be cognisant of such self-deprecating mental gymnastics.

If you’re not, they will hinder your progress, not to mention make you feel lousy.

Being cognisant of these thoughts is super important because, after all – they’re just thoughts.

To paraphrase Eckhart Tolle, you’ll be able to accept these naturally occurring thoughts but detach yourself from them without assigning any deeper meaning or significance to them.

Your brain doesn’t want you to put yourself in challenging situations.

It wants you to make sure you’re passing on your genes or pumping out kids.

It wants you to live a comfortable life, characterised by familiarity, which actually breeds resentment and self-loathing over time.

If you listen to your brain when trying to grow, you will shackle yourself and unceremoniously sentence yourself to a life of monotony.

If you want to grow, you have to be ready for the high emotional spikes and low emotional dips.

For the high highs as well as the low lows. 

Embrace the challenge

Because if you challenge yourself in one area of life, it somehow magically brings up other areas in your life.

I’ve noticed this with my cooking.

In retrospect, cooking a new dish every week positively impacted my health, my social life (sharing the fruit of your labour is the best part) and my exercise regime. 

And on a micro-level, I developed a healthy weekly habit.

It helped me become more organised and disciplined while cooking and these traits spilled into my daily life.

It imposed a structure into my life, and cultivated in me an attention to detail.

Also, (and I concede this may be too nuanced of a point) cooking forced me to delegate more attention to other sensory modalities and not be overly focused on experiencing life just with sight and sound.

Anyway – what’s your challenge for the new year?

P.S. Thanks for reading. If you liked this, feel free to sign up to my free weekly newsletter

Act on Strategy to Get What You Want

Here you are.

Behind you are the roads you’ve travelled.

Some are less travelled, others not taken.

But that’s the past. No need to dwell on it too much; heed the lessons and move on.

“Life has to be lived forwards and reviewed backwards.” – Søren Kierkegaard

You turn around and look forward.

As you look ahead – roads, long and paved with potholes.

A few of them might lead you to some pretty dark alleys.

But then there’s the road you want to take.

But wanting is not enough – you have to walk the walk.

How do you get there?

You have to have a strategy; even the slightest veneer of an overarching strategy can take you far.

“Strategy is the essence of human action—the bridge between an idea and its realization in the world.” –The 50th Law by Robert Greene

You don’t have to know the strategy inside-out just yet.
After all,  you can’t see that far.
But if you can make out something, anything, and you know you are willing to get there – walk.
Walk diligently, purposefully, and consistently towards where you want to be and look forward to the harvest you will inevitably reap from your journey.