Good morning, and happy Monday!
In this edition of Idea Surplus Disorder: walk-and-talks, learning and behavior change, the Traffic Test, the Persuasion Paradox, self-effacing solutions, addiction, haircuts vs. tattoos, Apple's original strategy, long-nosed dogs, and more.
Ideas + Insights:
What if your next offsite was a multiple-day walk and talk?
The walls breakdown quickly on a Walk and Talk and by the third or fourth day, you are no longer walking with strangers but seemingly old friends. The transition never fails to astonish me. The magic of walking and talking, of moving your body through a landscape with others, using only your own locomotion, suffering the heat equally, bonding over the endless cycle of sweating, becoming more and more open, more willing to speak what feels “true.”
Learning is not exposure to information; learning is behavior change.
[G]etting the correct information to change our behaviour is not the problem — changing our behaviour is the problem.
Making a habit of approaching new information with the mindset of, "How am I going to change my behaviour in light of this new information?" is one of the most valuable meta-habits that can be developed and accelerates personal growth remarkably.
Do your partners (in life or work) pass Tim Urban's Traffic Test?
The Traffic Test is passed when I’m finishing up a hangout with someone and one of us is driving the other back home or back to their car, and I find myself rooting for traffic. That’s how much I’m enjoying the time with them.
Passing the Traffic Test says a lot. It means I’m lost in the interaction, invigorated by it, and that I’m the complete opposite of bored.
To me, almost nothing is more critical in choosing a life partner than finding someone who passes the Traffic Test. When there are people in your life who do pass the Traffic Test, what a whopping shame it would be to spend 95% of the rest of your life with someone who doesn’t.
What if "procrastinating" by using the internet is really addiction?
The world is more addictive than it was 40 years ago. And unless the forms of technological progress that produced these things are subject to different laws than technological progress in general, the world will get more addictive in the next 40 years than it did in the last 40.
The next 40 years will bring us some wonderful things. I don't mean to imply they're all to be avoided. Alcohol is a dangerous drug, but I'd rather live in a world with wine than one without. Most people can coexist with alcohol; but you have to be careful. More things we like will mean more things we have to be careful about.
Is your strategy too focused on what you think you'll want tomorrow vs. what you want right now?
[W]e know that where we say today we would like to be five years from now is not where we will want to be when we get there. Things will happen between now and then that will affect our goals and objectives. By focusing on what we want right now, we can eliminate that potential source of error."
Apple's original marketing philosophy (from a 1979 internal memo):
We created the impression that Apple was a successful company by advertising like a successful company. We created the impression that the Apple II was a high quality product by producing high quality ads, brochures, manuals, and other collateral materials. We created the impression that Apple was a highly solid company by making and publicizing contracts with large, high credibility organizations like Dow Jones, Bell & Howell, and ITT. We created the impression of being an ‘industry leader’ by arranging for articles to be published on us in major magazines such as Business Week, Time, and Fortune.
Is your next decision a hat, a haircut, or a tattoo?
Most decisions are like hats. Try one and if you don’t like it, put it back and try another. The cost of a mistake is low, so move quickly and try a bunch of hats.
Some decisions are like haircuts. You can fix a bad one, but it won’t be quick and you might feel foolish for awhile. That said, don't be scared of a bad haircut. Trying something new is usually a risk worth taking. If it doesn't work out, by this time next year you will have moved on and so will everyone else.
A few decisions are like tattoos. Once you make them, you have to live with them. Some mistakes are irreversible. Maybe you'll move on for a moment, but then you'll glance in the mirror and be reminded of that choice all over again. Even years later, the decision leaves a mark. When you're dealing with an irreversible choice, move slowly and think carefully.
We should all take a bit less credit for our triumphs and a bit less blame for our failures:
The paradox, then, is that we control nothing, but we influence everything. As chaos theory proves, in an intertwined system, every action has an unforeseen ripple effect. Nothing is meaningless. And that yields a profound truth: that everything we do matters.
The Seven Laws of Pessimism includes this a-ha:
The Law of Self-Effacing Solutions: Once a solution has been achieved, people forget about the original problem (and only see further problems). Since progress tends to cover its own tracks, people often forget the ugliness of the original problem and focus on the residual ugliness of the solution.
What if your organization could have only one advantage over your competition?
If your company were allowed only one advantage over the competition, what would a sales call look like, starting with your 30-second pitch, then dealing with skeptical questions, earning this potential customer’s interest, respect, and eventually money, all with only one advantage?
We do not create or “have” ideas — if anything is doing the creating or having, it is the ideas themselves:
Ideas act as all organisms do—they seek habitats (i.e. minds) that can provide them with the space and resources (i.e. mental runtime, ideas eat the energy that enables action potentials) needed to survive and reproduce (i.e. create new idea-children).
Ideas may also be attracted to particular minds for more specific reasons — for example, an idea may see that other related ideas (members of the same genera or family) have found the mind to be especially suitable, or perhaps the mind is in dire need of a certain idea and therefore will offer it ample resources upon arrival.
Some minds (e.g. those that are dominated by one idea or set of ideas, perhaps a religious or political ideology) provide poor habitat and are avoided by all but the most desperate ideas (e.g. irrational and harmful ideas that can’t find a home elsewhere—this is why conspiracy theories and hateful ideologies tend to congregate in the same minds).
- Rescue Writer helps animal shelters create compelling, AI-aided pet adoption profiles.
- The origins of giving the finger.
- EyeCandy is a database of over 5,000 GIFs representing the very best visual techniques in the world of filmmaking.
- A 1924 newspaper predicted what 2024 would look like. It got some things quite right.
- The NYT's big bet on games.
- Long-nosed dogs live longer.
Words of Wisdom
"Find out who you are. And do it on purpose." – Dolly Parton
"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way... On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." – Arundhati Roy
"Business schools don’t create successful people. They simply accept them, then take credit for their success." – Josh Kaufman
"We are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it." – Seneca
"You can only be a revolutionary when you see the prison walls in the first place.” — Anthony de Mello
“Awareness, not age, leads to wisdom.” — Publius Syrus
"Colors fade, temples crumble, empires fall, but wise words endure." – Edward Thorndike
"We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success." – Henry David Thoreau
“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.” – Kurt Vonnegut